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Ontario Wine

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Top 5 Ontario Wine Destinations

January 9, 2018
Niagara in winter

In our wine travels, Shawn and I have had the pleasure of visiting so many of Ontario’s best wine regions. We often get asked to suggest our favourites, so here is a brief overview of where we think you should go for an Ontario wine adventure.

Twenty Valley

Angel's Gate WineryWhen friends ask us what wineries to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we often suggest the Twenty Valley area as an alternative. Most of our favourite wineries are found in this cluster of beautiful vineyards just a short drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake and it tends to be a little less touristy than the better known region. Plus, the area is just stunning. Visit Vineland Estates to take home some wine and stop into their excellent cheese shop, pop into Megalomanic for a bottle of Bubblehead and take in the extraordinary view, head over to Tawse to check out some of the best made wines in Canada and then cap it off with a wine and art adventure at 13th Street Winery. Add on to that visit stops at Creekside Estate Winery, Westcott Winery and Fielding Estate and you have a pretty fantastic day of tasting ahead of you – to be honest, there are so many amazing wineries in this region that it’s a great idea to book yourself into one of the area’s many bed and breakfasts so you can enjoy them all.

Norfolk, Ontario

Norfolk County

If you follow me on social media, you know about my love for Norfolk County. It’s a beautiful area that’s earned its name as Ontario’s Garden. Shawn and I had one of our most magical wine adventures when we were invited to take on a Zip ‘n’ Sip experience at Burning Kiln Winery and Long Point Eco Adventures. Spending a night in their gorgeous glamping campgrounds, checking out the stars in the observatory, enjoying lunch on the Burning Kiln patio and taking a zip line tour through the beautiful forest were just a few of the many, many highlights of our visit. Add in a stop at Blueberry Hill for some of their delicious cider (and fresh blueberries in season) and a stop at Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm and you have the makings of one of your most memorable weekends away.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Chateau des CharmesYou knew we’d be including this one, right? One of our favourite things to do in NOTL is to visit during one of the many wine festivals and pick up a tasting pass. Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake tasting passes are an excellent value – offering a wine and food pairing at all of the participating wineries – and they’re a great investment for a weekend visit (I highly recommend getting a designated driver pass if you are taking your vehicle). We recently visited for the Sip ‘n’ Sizzle event, as well as Taste the Season and we can’t wait to return for the annual Icewine Festival. Our favourite stops always include Chateau des Charmes, Ravine Vineyards, Two Sisters, Stratus, and the Niagara College Teaching Winery. Although, to be fair, we often choose our routes based on the pairings offered and that has led to some fantastic discoveries along the way!

Prince Edward County

Angeline's InnShawn and I love PEC so much that we almost bought a house there. What stopped us was the influx of tourists that have taken over this spot since we discovered it years ago. Now it can be hard to get a reservation at our favourite inns and restaurants, but the region is no less lovely to visit (just be prepared to plan way ahead). From Lighthall Vineyards to Huff Estates and everywhere in between, there is no shortage of great wine (and now beer) in the County. You can enjoy great shopping in each of the small town’s that make up the area and create a map that will help you get from Rosehall Run to Hubb’s Creek and out to Three Dog Winery on an excellent Ontario wine adventure.

Lake Erie North Shore

Oxley Estate WineryWant to hit an Ontario wine region a little further afield from Toronto? The LENS region might be perfect for you! It’s a beautiful, scenic area with lots to see and do. Shawn and I stayed at The Iron Kettle Inn in Comber, Ontario and absolutely loved it (you might recognize chef and owner, Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin, from his stint on Chopped Canada) and we had a fantastic time exploring the local wineries – Oxley Estate has a beautiful patio for lunch, as does Viewpointe Estates and the Wolfhead Distillery has great food *and* fantastic spirits. There’s also lots to see and do in the small towns and cities that make up this area. We can’t wait to go back again.

What are your favourite wine regions in the province? Is there anywhere you think we should check out? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below or on social!

Holiday Cheer

Holiday Wine Time

December 10, 2017

So you need a wine for that holiday event – from entry-level to totally unexpected, these four are options worth considering.

Chateau des Charmes 2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
Chateau des Charmes is a favourite of ours and I often recommend their wines to friends who are new to Ontario wine – they consistently deliver at a reasonable price point. This Chardonnay has notes of pineapple, peach and mango on the nose and creamy pineapple and apricot notes on the palate. Such an enjoyable wine with or without food.

Donna Paula 2015 Estate Malbec
Trying to find a food-friendly red that everyone can agree on? This Donna Paula 2015 Estate Malbec is a great choice for an earthy meal featuring mushrooms or black olives. It’s got damp earth, fig and black olive on the nose and a savouriness on the palate that’s cut through with notes of plum and dark cherry. Shawn and I both gave this one the nod of approval.

Sperling Vineyards Brut Sparkling
Tart and pretty with loads of green apple, this B.C. sipper is a great option for your holiday party guests—especially if they include wine nerds like me. Made with great care by this family-run operation, Sperling wines are very terroir driven and drinking this lovely sparkler reminds you of beautiful Okanagan Valley vistas.

Ferox 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
I love this wine. It’s expensive, but it’s unique and fantastic – there’s tropical fruit, mango and melon on the nose and it’s much creamier than I expected. It’s an elegant wine with pineapple, mango and peach on the palate – very different than any other Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted (even from Ontario) and I can’t wait to have it again.

 

 

Food & Wine

Bubbles Make Everything Better

October 9, 2017

I was recently asked if I had to choose one type of wine to drink exclusively for the rest of my life—my desert island wine—what it would be. It was a tough question, but my head and my heart kept going back to one thing—Champagne. Not sparkling wine or Prosecco or Cava (although I enjoy all of them in the right circumstances), but the beautiful bubbles that only one region in France can truly perfect. Champagne has always tugged at my heart and on a desert island it would pair well with a diet of fish and mango, wouldn’t it?

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut ChampagneOn my recent trip to Spain I drank quite a lot of Champagne. Starting an evening with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne or their delicious Rosé Champagne was a decadent treat and a perfect way to kick off an evening of Spanish tapas and the bold Tempranillos of Campo Viejo (our hosts for the trip). Sitting in my hotel lobby chatting with new friends and enjoying the nuanced flavours and aromas and the delightful fizziness of well-made bubbles, it’s hard to imagine anything more perfect.

That may be why I found the sparkling wine tasting I attended a few days after my return from Spain a bit anti-climactic. Not that I expected bubbles on the level of the PJ I enjoyed on my trip, but so much of what was on hand was underwhelming. When done well, sparkling wines can be transformative—and they can transform food into an exciting and unique experience. But so many I tasted that evening were overly sweet or dry but lacklustre or overly acidic. Some were, frankly, just unpleasant.

But I hate being *that* wine writer, the one that complains about the cheap sparkling wine after spending a week drinking wines that retail for $70+ at the LCBO (and for good reason, since Champagne is painstaking to make) and there were some standouts at the tasting, so let’s talk about those:

Four sparkling winesPiper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut – OK, so I just talked about reasonably-priced wines and I’m starting with one that retails for $50+, but hear me out – it’s delicious. There’s tart fruit on the nose, the wine is balanced and flavourful and for a celebration (or a night when you just want Champagne), this is a good option.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Rosé Brut – This long-time favourite of mine continues to stand up. It’s well-made and so drinkable. I love the hints of raspberry and apple on the palate and how balanced it is. This is a go-to in our house for celebrations and movie nights when you just want something perfect to pair with popcorn or potato chips (yes, we’re those people).

Labouré-Gontard Cremant de Bourgogne Brut – If you’re looking for a less-expensive, but still dependable sparkling wine, Cremant do Bourgogne often works well and this is a great example of that. With citrus and brioche on the nose, this pleasant, dry sipper had a nice balance of fruit and acidity on the palate.

Jackson Triggs Entourage – This was an unexpected find for me, as I’m not always drawn to JT wines. But the Entourage surprised me with its ripe summer fruit notes and hints of sweetness that were refreshing. Reasonably priced, this is a good option for patios or parties.

Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Les Pierrieres Another stand-out I tried in Spain was the Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Les Pierrieres Champagne, which we discovered at a lovely little boutique wine shop and enjoyed on the last evening of our trip as we wound down from a decadent and somewhat overwhelming meal. It was a wonderful experience to try such a unique Champagne from one of the region’s more avant garde producers and I wish I’d been more awake (in my defense, it was 2 a.m.). Any chance to try a wine from one of the more experimental winemakers in the region is quite intriguing. I know I enjoyed my glass immensely and it gave me much to ponder, as it held so many of the characteristics I love about Champagne, but had an almost earthy quality counterbalanced with pronounced acidity that was delightful and unique. I hope to have the opportunity to taste more of this producer in the future.

What are your favourite bubbles? Are you all about Champagne too or do you prefer something sweeter? Maybe you love dry Ontario sparklers or go crazy for a good Cava? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social!

 

Food & Wine

Summer Wine Adventures

August 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes Old Vines Riesling

How is it that August is more than half over? I feel like I’ve barely had a moment to really enjoy summer and it’s already starting to slip away. Looking back, though, there have been some pretty fabulous summer wine adventures over the last few months and I’m excited to share a few of those with you today!

B.C. Wine Time

Checkmate Little Pawn ChardonnayIt’s not easy getting B.C. wine in Ontario – especially not the best of the best, which is typically produced in lots too small for the LCBO to bring it in and far too expensive by the case to have it shipped to you. That’s why the recent Trailblazers & Terroir event in Toronto was such a treat. Four B.C. winemakers shared their stories – and their wines – in a structured tasting that featured some of the top B.C. wines. Many of them will be popping up in better restaurants soon and the opportunity to enjoy them by the glass is worth taking. My personal favourites were the Checkmate Winery 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay with its cream, green apple and lemon on the nose and rich, creamy palate featuring notes of orange, vanilla and a hint of baking spice. I found the oak perfectly balanced and this would be a delicious food-pairing wine. I was also impressed by the aromatic and floral CedarCreek 2016 Platinum Viognier, which had big, bold flavours and would go very well with anything spicy.

Martin's Lane Pinot NoirFor the reds, it’s hard to choose. I loved the earthiness of the Martin’s Lane 2014 Pinot Noir, which would be a lovely wine to pair with anything mushroom-based. I also really enjoyed the CedarCreek 2013 “The Last Word” red blend, which features Merlot and Cabernet Franc with just a hint of Malbec. There was cherry, bramble and spice on the nose and a nice blend of earthy, spicy fruit on the palate.

Overall, I enjoyed all the wines featured in this tasting and will continue to be wistful in my hopes that B.C. wine becomes more available here one day.

Easy-Drinking Ontario

Coyote's Run Pinot NoirI had the opportunity to sample a number of Ontario wines recently and I’m happy to share that there are some great options available as we head into the fall. My personal favourite? The Chateau des Charmes 2014 “Old Vines” Riesling with petrol and pear on the nose and pear, green apple and just a hint of creaminess on the palate, this was eminently drinkable and an example of just how good Ontario Riesling can be.

I immediately wanted to try the Coyote’s Run 2016 Pinot Noir as soon as it arrived because I love Ontario Pinot. With its earthy nose featuring wet soil, black cherry and bacon this is a very food-friendly wine. It has lots of savoury notes that lends it well to mushroom-based dishes and hearty fall pastas. The Coyote’s Run 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is very typical of Sauv Blanc on the nose (fresh cut lawn, green apple, a few tropical fruit notes) and gooseberry and yellow apple on the palate. I found it a little acidic for my tastes, but Shawn enjoyed it.

Almanac White BlendWe were also able to sample the Grange of Prince Edward Almanac Red and Almanac White recently. These entry-level wines are an affordable introduction to PEC wine. The red blend is a little heavy on the Gamay for my tastes (not my favourite grape, I know, I know), but it’s well-made and easy-drinking. The white blend was more to my personal tastes and is a nice patio wine – perfect for late summer patio drinking.

Boxed Wine for the Win?

Bota Box Cabernet SauvignonRecently, the LCBO started stocking international boxed wines and that’s seen an overall improvement in quality that’s well-worth noting. Because it’s usually less expensive wine, it’s not always going to be a go-to for me, but I get that for some people cheap, sweet and hot are selling points (and I’m not kidding when I say that at all – I work with a few of them), so I wanted to highlight two I recently tried that were pretty decent. The Radio Boka boxed wine from Spain was actually quite enjoyable. For a party, it’s a great value and while it’s sweeter than I prefer, I think it would go over really well with a crowd that’s not as wine snobby as yours truly.

And Bota Box invited me to a truly fun event where I got to try a few glasses of their boxed Cabernet Sauvignon under the stars while enjoying BBQ and an outdoor viewing of The Princess Bride. It was a lot of fun and a reminder that you can still have a great evening with a picnic wine that might be a little sweeter and hotter than your palate prefers. I have recommended both of these boxes to friends whose tastes run in this direction and I don’t think they will disappoint.

What have you been sipping this summer? Do you have a favourite boxed wine? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social.