It is no wonder that the world has started to notice Ontario wines. As seen in this week’s release at LCBO Vintages (September 15), we have much to be proud of. The recent count at the end of 2011, there were just over 130 wineries in Ontario. And I noticed many new wineries in my recent trips to Niagara and Prince Edward County this summer.
And there is a great buzz amongst wine lovers across the province who are being constantly amazed with the wine made in their own backyard. Read some of these discoveries on www.lcbogolocal.com or on follow the tweets on #LCBOgoLocal
Most winemakers agree that great wine starts in the vineyard and it’s the soil content that places Ontario wines on the international map. We often see tasting notes on Riesling that mention the zippy minerality in the wine. This is largely due to the soil. Last fall, I spoke at a seminar at the “Taste” festival in Picton and I learned there were over 10 different soil types in Prince Edward County alone. Talk about a challenge for the winemaker.
Ontario wineries produce largely wines made from the Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. With these varietals, sometimes blended with other less known ones, come some great sparkling wines. The Peller Estate Ice Cuvee Sparkling Rosé, (featured this month at Vintages $35.95) was a winner of a gold Medal at Wine Access 2011 Canadian Wine Awards. Hinterland Winery in Prince Edward County specializes in sparkling wines and most wineries feature a sparkling wine. I recently tasted the Fielding Estates and13th Street “sparklers” which I can only describe as “seriously yummy”.
Niagara’s Stratus Vineyards is the world’s first winery to be given the coveted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green certification. Southbrook Winery’s “Framboise” can be found at the prestigous Harrods in London, England. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth requested 6 bottles of icewine during her Jubilee Visit to Canada in 2002 from Canada’s Icewine Specialists at the Royal DeMaria Winery in Beamsville. Ontario produces 75 % of all Canada’s ice wine which can be risky business since production requires the availability of a large enough work force to pick a whole crop within a few hours, often on a moment’s notice.
Niagara’s Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery is Canada’s first fruit winery specializing in wines made from 100% Niagara Peninsula grown tree fruit and berries. We even have a winery that, thanks to its location on Pelee Island, offers a Bird Observatory and another winery that offers tastings in an old caboose, not to mention the one in a converted convent. Many Ontario wineries also have taste-rooms in original homestead barns some of which are architecturally signficant dating back to 1815.
Every year, the serendipity excitment of finding new wine takes me on the Ontario journey. We need not look further than our own backyard. The following wines illustrate that Ontario has it all. I hope you agree.
Cheers and Enjoy,
VQA Beamsville Bench,Niagara Peninsula
$15.95 (Vintages #246579) 13% alcohol
This clean refreshing beauty just glistens in the glass. The Chardonnay Musqué is a clone of the Chardonnay grape which means a completely different taste from the latter. While it has aromas of white blossoms, the grapes were vinified in stainless steel that give the wine some grapefruit and green apple flavours. It is slightly off dry, smooth and supple all the way through to the minerally finish. It has solid medium body that could carry you from the appertif to desert, not to mention a thirst quenching sipper on its own.
VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula
$18.95 (Vintages #294041) 11% alcohol
Pale in colour and almost watery in appearance, my first introduction to Falls Vineyard is a delicious one. I adore a light coloured wine. The Riesling is slightly herbaceous, lots of wet stone flavours that are typical in a Niagara Riesling with that pinch of lemon lime citrus that take your taste buds on a salivating roller coaster. It is light bodied, a lovely end of summer drink to enjoy with a field tomato salad, some coarse salt and a French stick. Get those taste buds moving !
VQA Niagara Peninsula
$19.95 (Vintages #193482) 13.5% alcohol
Winemaker Derek Barnett has created an elegant labour of love with this Chard. Think of ripe but crisp yellow apples, a pinch of lemon, a tad buttery but fresh, medium bodied with a slightly caramel finish. Perfect for some baked or grilled tilapia and asparagus and a little soft artisan cheese to finish. It is a beautifully balanced wine, a good price point for this quality and I would be proud to serve this Chardonnay to anyone. A great all season Chardonnay.
$16.95 (Vintages #64618) 13% alcohol
Nothing like a bright ruby red wine that shows off aromas of sweet and sour cherries. Only 694 cases produced so do grab one while its on the shelf. It is slightly vegetal, red berry flavours, with a hint of green pepper and tobacco with grippy tannins (this is a good thing). A fabulous bbq wine to have with meaty burgers or kebobs.
$24.95 (Vintages #461699) 13.5% alcohol
I remember having a prof in Sommelier school that said Baco Noir was only good for making jelly. I wish I could find him now to prove him wrong. The wine is dark and inky with aromas of raspberries, cherries and wood smoke. Slightly vegetal with ripe chewy tannins that lend interest to the wine and give it a long lingering finish. Would be fabulous with some sausages or pasta to soak up the bone dry tannins.
Grand Total: $96.75
The Ontario wines from this release were a really hard pick. I could have listed all Chardonnay’s but knew that would be uninteresting for you as the shopper. Who besides me would like a basket of Chardonnay wine? I also like to showcase as many Ontario wineries as possible and plan to do so again next month. Some may also be from this release to help talk “turkey”.
If you do however happen to win the lottery, I tried an Inniskillin Riesling Icewine ($69.95) that won the 2012 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines and a Gold Medal for Best Vinifera Icewine at the The Lieutenant Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. The honeyed pear and baked apple flavours with just the perfect balance of acidity was really over the top. I’m trying to think of a special occasion that could warrant such a splurge but there are so many Ontario wines that I want to put in my basket, that one will have to wait.
Happy sipping on the remainder of our summer days and nights. Julie