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Colio Estate's Carlo Negri

Lake Erie North Shore (DVA)

Colio Estate Winery on a Winning Streak in its Silver Anniversary Year

Winemaker Carlo Negri is bringing deserved recognition to the Lake Erie North Shore appellation

by Adam Dial
May 12, 2005

Colio Estate Winery in the Lake Erie North Shore appellation is in the midst of its Silver Anniversary Celebrations, a distinction that few other Canadian wineries can boast. More remarkable than this, however, is that every vintage since opening in 1980, has seen Carlo Negri at the helm of winemaking at Colio. At this quarter century milestone, Colio and its winemaker seem to have come of age, their wines winning accolade after accolade in 2005.

Back in February, the 'Wine Judges of Canada' and Larry Patterson (aka. the Little Fat Wino) conducted a major blind tasting, pitting Ontario Cab-Merlots against 4th & 5th Growth Bordeaux at Brock University. The tasting panel of 51 qualified judges was unable to distinguish the classified growths (all from good vintages) amongst the 16 wines included in the competition. What was most surprising was that the outright winner of the competition turned out to be the 1999 CEV Carlo Negri Signature Cabernet Merlot!

Just a few weeks later, Carlo’s talents were again singled out at the “2005 Cuvée Awards”, where his peers in the industry selected both the 2002 CEV Merlot Reserve and the CEV Carlo Negri Signature Meritage for gold medal honours. The Merlot Reserve also won the additional distinction as being the best overall Ontario Merlot. To top it off, Carlo was the recipient of the “Tony Aspler Award of Excellence” at Cuvee’s awards ceremony.

There was plenty of buzz about Colio and Carlo when I arrived for judging duties at the recent 25th annual All Canadian Wine Competition in Windsor. When the dust finally settled (under the splash of 900+ wines!) once again it was Colio that impressed, taking medals in several categories, including best of class for the CEV Pinot Grigio. I decided it was time to have a closer look at the Lake Erie North Shore appellation, which has long played second fiddle to the steady stream of excitement emanating from the Niagara Peninsula. New Brunswick wine writer Craig Pinhey and I caught up with Carlo Negri at the Colio facility in Harrow.

Let it be said that Carlo Negri is a modest man of few words, preferring to let his wines articulate for him his passion and dedication to his craft. As we tasted our way through a flight of reds in the CEV signature series I noted that there was a distinctive mark, or signature as the labels imply, across the line up. Common to all these wines was a degree of natural ripeness fashioned into stylistic elegance. I find these wines distinctly different from their counterparts from the Niagara region, where a more temperamental terroir poses different challenges for the crafters of excellent wines.

The question is, was this signature the inscription of the man who made them, or perhaps it was the identity of the place finding expression through the wines? Indeed I had noted a similar character and style in wines from other winemakers in this region, suggesting that this thread of commonality in the wines of Southwestern Ontario’s two appellations (LENS and Pelee) may in fact be the signature of the region, as opposed to any one particular winemaker.

For me, this is what makes Carlo Negri’s CEV series of wines so impressive -- that a winemaker with so many vintages under his belt is content to keep his ego in check and allow the wines to develop as they were intended by the local terroir. As if scripted, the night after my visit to Colio, yet another tribute was bestowed upon Carlo Negri….“Winemaker of the Year” at the 2005 Ontario Wine Awards. Congratulations Carlo, and thank you for bringing to the fore the distinctive taste of Lake Erie North Shore.


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