Q&A with U of T alumna and manager of the Niagara-on-the-lake winery, Cattail Creek
It’s been a good year for Roselyn Dyck-Cieszkowski (BSc 1997 New College), manager of her family’s Niagara-on-the-Lake winery, Cattail Creek. The family has been growing grapes for Niagara-region vineyards for more than 30 years, but has never made their own wines – until now. Turns out, they are really good at it. Their Barrel-Fermented Vidal Icewine earned a gold medal at the prestigious Cuvée Awards. Other honours followed for their Off Dry Riesling. Writer Lisa Rundle asked Roselyn for the back story, over a glass of very fine wine.
When did you first begin working in the wine industry? My first full-time job directly in wine was as a “cellar rat” at Inniskillin, doing everything that no one else wants to do: cleaning hoses and vats. The wine business is not as glamorous as people love to think. The job title is a bit of a tipoff. Ha! That’s an unofficial job title. I didn’t know about it until it was too late. But that job made me realize I was really interested in the people side of things.
And how do you find it when people, like me, come in and know absolutely nothing about wine? I’m a sommelier. So when I go to taste any wine, there are all these categories and expectations I bring to it. Your brain can get in the way. But the people who come in and say, “I don’t know anything about wine” are the best people to taste with. They tell it like it is.
You write the labels for Cattail Creek. Is that something you enjoy doing? It’s a real challenge. There are a lot of ways that wine people will describe a wine that to the general population sounds incredibly unappealing.
Like what? New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have been described as having the flavours of asparagus and cat’s pee. There’s a wine called Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush – because that’s the classic description of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But, who would want to drink that? Not even the biggest cat lovers. And manure. The classic Burgundian Pinots have what we call a barnyard smell. I was telling a customer that as I poured him a taste of our Pinot Noir, and let’s just say he was skeptical.
So introduce us to your wines in a more flattering way. If your wines were at a party, what kind of party-goer would they be? The ice wine would be one of the crazier people. A bit of a comedian. With a lot of different facets to his personality. The life of the party.
A guy, hey? Yes. But the Off Dry Riesling is definitely a girl. The stylish one.
What’s her Sex and the City type? Carrie, definitely. Now, the Dry Riesling, she’s reserved. You have to talk to her before she lets you know who she is really.