I know, it’s been a while since the last post. Life is busy and I’m juggling way too many things, so the blog has taken a hit in terms of updates. I’m super lucky that awesome people like Bill Wittur are still providing great guest posts – like the one below on the recent Taste Ontario event.
Want to taste some great Ontario wine after reading this? Shawn and I are checking out the annual Sip & Sizzle event in Niagara on the Lake next weekend and you still have time to get in on this great event, which runs every weekend in May. We love exploring this beautiful area of Ontario while stopping in at participating wineries to try a sample wine and food pairing. You can learn more (and buy tickets – including designated driver passes) on the Wineries of Niagara website. I’ll be live tweeting our adventures on Saturday, May 19 so be sure to follow along to get our tips on the best pairings.
And now, over to Bill!
Taste Ontario Notes and Recommendations
Early in the new year, the folks with Wines of Ontario bring out their newest releases and vintages and this year I had the pleasure of attending the Taste Ontario trade tasting.
Nearly 50 of Ontario’s best VQA producers were on hand at the Royal Ontario Museum to present some of their latest products and vintages. Most of these wines are either sold directly to the consumer at the winery or, in some cases, are only available for licensees and restaurant owners to sell to their guests.
I’ve done my best to focus on those available to consumers, and will make a note if something is available only at restaurants or the winery (and, if possible, which locations so you can try these wines as well).
Here’s a quick review of some of my favourites. All are recommended buys.
13th Street Winery is celebrating its 20th year of operation in 2018 and their wines are definitely worth trying if you want to expand your range of Ontario selections. They produce most of their wines from the 40 acres of property owned just west of St. Catharines in Niagara, but occasionally source small lots of grapes from other local producers. Many of their products are available at the LCBO, but you can also participate in their Wine Club programs, including the popular ‘Cellar Door’ and ‘Staff Pick’ options.
Premier Cuvée 2012 – If you’re looking for a great ‘celebration’ wine, look no further. This sparkling wine spent a minimum 4 years on lees, or ‘sur lattes’ as the French say. In the case of the 13th Street Cuvée, the dosage added was only dry wine (i.e. no extra sugar), resulting in a very dry, but bright finished wine. Of note is that the final nose delivers very slight ‘bready’ or ‘toasty’ notes compared to other sparkling wines. I enjoyed this feature, as I feel it would match better with a broader range of food on account of the tense acidity coupled with hints of lemon and tart apple. The wine is 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. It can be ordered directly from 13th Street at a retail price of $34.95 per bottle ($29.34+HST licensee).
Meldville Wines is the relatively new project of one of Ontario’s great winemakers, Derek Barnett. Derek helped build the range of products and boost the level of quality with Lailey Wines. He currently balances winemaking duties at Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County and at his own venture, Meldville Wines.
Chardonnay 2016 – 2016 was a tough year for a lot of white wine producers in Ontario, as it was very hot. While most of us were out playing in the water or catching up on our vitamin D, wine growers had to take measures to try to prevent their vines from shutting down from heat exhaustion. Despite this, Meldville’s Chardonnay is a delight. The grapes were sourced from Lincoln Lakeshore, which managed to dodge the more intense heat of 2016. The Chard is 100% barrel fermented in older, 100% French oak barrels. This yields a very subtle oak finish on the wine, but nothing like the exaggerated style you get from mass-produced wines. The colour is a light yellow with a delicious, balanced finish. Aromas deliver notes of stone fruit (peach, apricot) with flavours of citrus and a hint of cream and toffee. The wine is available as a direct order product from the Meldville’s partner site and costs $20.00 per bottle ($16.89+HST licensee). It can also be found at Maple Leaf Tavern and Victor Restaurant at Hotel Le Germain (although that list is quickly growing).
Fielding Estate Winery
Fielding Estate Winery is located on the Beamsville Bench in Niagara. On several occasions, the winery was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 wine producers.
Brut Traditional Method Sparkling – Traditional method sparkling wine is made using the same process as Champagne. There’s what’s called a ‘dosage’ or ‘cap’ of yeast and sugar that are aged with the wine product. This addition to the wine is what creates the bubbles in sparkling wine, much like how yeast and sugar create air pockets in bread. The Fielding sparkling wine is made up of Chardonnay (63%) and Pinot Noir (37%). The result of this blend is a bright and fresh wine with notes of citrus and apple. The bubbles are fine and the finish is very clean and light. The wine retails for $37.15 / bottle ($31.20+HST licensee) and can be ordered directly via Fielding’s website.
Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
The Chestnut Tree Cabernet Franc 2015 – Initial notes are typical for Cabernet Franc wines: dark red, smoke and hints of green pepper on the nose. On tasting this smooth and elegant wine, I got hints of coffee / cocoa. The acidity is controlled and moderate and the mouth feel is a medium body wine that will go great now with foods with just a hint of spice or seasoning (e.g. roasted chicken, sausage, burgers). Expect this to improve over the course of 2-3 years. Retail price is $34.95 / bottle and the licensee price is $29.34+deposit and HST. Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery has a wine club program and orders can be placed direct by visiting their order page.
Reif Estate Winery
Reif Estate Winery is a splendid ‘pit stop’ between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their first vines were planted in 1977, making them some of Ontario’s oldest. The property has grown to more than 125 acres of different varietals.
Chenin Blanc 2016 – 2016 was a challenging year from Ontario producers because many experienced very hot conditions for white grapes. This did not have a negative impact on the 2016 Chenin Blanc from Reif, where the finished product is a shimmering silver-white wine with a hint of residual sugar and balanced acidity and mouth-feel. If someone asks for a ‘summer sipper’, this wine would definitely fit that bill! The Chenin Blanc retails for $19.15 per bottle ($16.75+HST licensee) and is available via Reif’s website.
Chardonnay Reserve 2014 – This is a delicious, balanced Chardonnay that was aged 18 months in French and Hungarian oak, delivering subtle notes of butter cream, apple and baking spice.The retail price is $22.15 per bottle ($19.40+HST licensee) and again is available via Reif’s direct order wine club.
A huge thanks to Bill Wittur for his reviews of this year’s Taste Ontario event! Learn more about Bill on his website: BillWittur.com
Find out Krista’s Top 5 Ontario Wine Destinations!