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Atlantis Rising: A new Niagara winery featuring icewines and ciders set to open doors on July 1

It has emerged slowly but surely from the flat lands of Niagara’s portion of the Lake Ontario shoreline between Vineland and Beamsville.

Just off the North Service Road, the sign is now a familiar sight from the QEW: “Niagara Atlantis Wines,” painted in stark white on apple red letters stretching across the width of the big, shiny building that promises quite the experience inside.

It is the brainchild of John Kocsis (top photo), a multi-million-dollar project that has thrown more than one curveball at the grape grower in past could of years. But on July 1, Kocsis and his family are throwing opening the doors to one and all to experience the Atlantis Niagara winery with wine and cider tastings, a barbecue and plenty of Kocsis’s favourite rock and roll music playing all day long.

There is no doubt Kocsis has pumped a lot of money into Atlantis Niagara. The wraparound patio alone seats up to 500 people, and the interior, with 8,000 square feet of space, is equally impressive with a huge island bar that cost upward of $100,000 alone.

Throughout the tasting room there are Atlantis-themed furnishings (a lot of palm tree decorations!) and expensive LED lights that illuminate the bar (and pond outside) at night. Kocsis has installed state-of-the-art speakers and large wide-screen HD TVs around the inside of the facility that will show and play a steady diet of whatever music the occasion calls for.

Kocsis has also proudly hung a series of black and white photos of his family, who immigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1956 during the Hungarian revolution.

In 1969, the Kocsis family purchased the home farm, which was 15 acres. Since then, the family expanded to over 100 acres on five separate locations, including two parcels on Lake Ontario, one of which now sits Atlantis Niagara.

Kocsis bought the 18-acre site where Atlantis stands in 2010 and the property next door, which is just over 21 acres.

It turned out to be a smart decision as Kocsis lost 85% of vines he had planted over 80 acres in the in the brutal winters of 2014-15 at the original property and vineyards in Lincoln-Lakeshore.

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Holiday wine tasting with Atlantis Niagara

Imagine arriving at a picturesque vineyard in Ontario – horses are grazing in the distance, a pond with a fountain gently gurgles and a hovercraft is waiting to pick you up for an aerial view of the vines below.

You then hop aboard a speedboat and zoom across the lake – Niagara Region farmland and wildlife abound. Along the way, you indulge in tasting one, or maybe four, glasses of sweet wine. The entire day is a sensory experience that starts at the tip of your tongue and flows down to your toes. And the next morning, you wake up without the slightest hint of a headache.

This is the vision for Atlantis Niagara’s upcoming tourist destination, an innovative approach to getting Canadians excited about drinking local, all-natural wine from Ontario. Located in Beamsville, the luxury winery has been specializing in making premium ice wine without any added chemicals for the past four years. With the momentum behind their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, they plan to combine sightseeing and sipping for wine connoisseurs and adrenaline junkies alike.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to visualize the grounds as a bustling tourist destination when we pull up to the production facility on a cold November day. But as soon as owner and winemaker, John Kocsis, and his wife greet us, the passion behind their business is clear. The family takes a hands-on approach to growing their grapes in premium soil, working the fields, vinifying the juice and even designing the artwork for their bottles.

The large warehouse is outfitted with wine presses, barrels and all the components for a night of wine tasting. In the corner sits an enormous speedboat, the same one that Kocsis plans to use for his tours in July.

But tonight, it’s all about the wine. Fitting for a Friday, Kocsis describes Atlantis Niagara’s offerings as “sweet, easy to drink, party wines.”

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A sweet treat from Atlantis Niagara, and an awkward moment with the owner

Awkward. I had come to taste a 2011 Cabernet Franc “specialty ” wine that Niagara’s newest winery had in tank and was getting ready to bottle.

John Kocsis, a Beamsville grape grower (and now winemaker) in the Lincoln-Lakeshore appellation, invited me to taste the wine he made, as he says, “through a process I remembered from my parents’ and grandparents’ days.”

So I ventured over to the winery fully expecting an icewine as I thought Kocsis’s brand Atlantis Niagara Red Ice was all about sweet icewine.

So, there I was with a glass of his new “specialty” wine in hand and I’m sniffing and swirling and tasting and spitting and the only thought in my head is, ‘wow, this isn’t even sweet enough to be an icewine.’

It was only slightly off-dry with a copper colour, high in alcohol (15%) and highly acidic … but just not sweet. As I said: Awkward.

When he asked what I thought, I was dumb-founded. “Ah, well, maybe when the acid settles down the sweet fruit will emerge in this icewine,” I stammered.

angelorossi“Icewine? That’s not icewine,” Kocsis said. “That’s my new wine. I call it Angelo Rossi.”

Once that awkward moment passed, I could breathe a little easier and try and appreciate what exactly was in my glass. And I wish I could tell you.

It was Cabernet Franc, all right, but made in a rose style (but not saignee) in that it had some, but minimal, skin contact. It showed a rosy-copper glow in the glass, aromas of raspberries, cherries, violets and some darker cassis and currants.

It’s unfair to judge the wine before it’s even bottled, but the flavours were nice on the palate even with the heat of 15% alcohol and disjointed acidity.

It’s different, sort of along the lines of Hinterbrook’s Franc Blanc, but Kocsis won’t say what makes it different or what process his recipe goes through. “I’m just not telling anyone,” he says with a hearty laugh.

It seems to involve an elaborate hand filtering system and the crucial point at which he stops fermentation, but that’s purely speculation.

Kocsis is going to bottle the wine under the Angelo Rossi label. Rossi, from Niagara Falls, is Canada’s first cranberry glass manufacturer with seven generations of family glass blowing and over 50 years of experience. Rossi is the founder of the original Rossi Glass from Cornwall and has relocated to one location only at 4680 Queen Street, Niagara Falls.

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