Re­dis­cover On­tario wines by go­ing to the source

Hop in the car and head to the wine re­gions of Prince Ed­ward County, Ni­a­gara or Lake Erie North Shore


Ihave the op­por­tu­nity to taste wines from all around the world, but it is im­por­tant not to ne­glect the ones pro­duced in our own back­yard. This year I did my­self a favour and booked ap­point­ments with On­tario wine­mak­ers to sam­ple their cur­rent line­ups. It’s good to see and taste how qual­ity is pro­gress­ing, out­side of what the LCBO has avail­able. By go­ing out to lit­tle-known pro­duc­ers, you can see how the prov­ince is do­ing as a whole and which grape va­ri­eties are per­form­ing bet­ter than oth­ers.

On­tario makes great Ries­ling – we al­ways have – but the list of well-made va­ri­eties is ex­pand­ing and now in­cludes ones that might sur­prise you. Pinot Noir and Chardon­nay are do­ing very well, and why not? They are Bur­gun­dian grape va­ri­eties and Bur­gundy has a sim­i­lar cli­mate to On­tario.

The neigh­bour of Bur­gundy is Beau­jo­lais, home to Ga­may Noir, and On­tario is pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing Ga­may. In fact, some of our Ga­mays are out­per­form­ing those com­ing out of the home­land (France). Sauvi­gnon Blanc, Pinot Gris – Pinot Gri­gio, if you are Ital­ian – and the lesser known Viog­nier are fill­ing out the white port­fo­lios of winer­ies quite nicely.

As for the reds, Caber­net Franc has al­ways been an On­tario sta­ple and per­forms well year af­ter year. How Syrah be­came part of the con­ver­sa­tion I can’t tell you, but we sure are glad it did. Syrah goes by an­other name you’ve def­i­nitely heard, “Shi­raz,” and who would have thought On­tario would

ever be mak­ing that heat-lov­ing grape. But Syrah in On­tario is much dif­fer­ent than Shi­raz in Aus­tralia; here, it’s more on the spicy red-fruit spec­trum, less jammy and more el­e­gant, with bal­anc­ing acid­ity. Syrah has def­i­nitely found a home in On­tario and our wine­mak­ers are show­ing it much love.

Now that we’ve cov­ered grape va­ri­eties, let’s look at some of the wine styles be­gin­ning to take firm root. Yes, Icewine has the world’s at­ten­tion, but that’s not all On­tario is do­ing well.

First and fore­most, our sparkling wine can ri­val those from any­where in the world, and I am in­clud­ing Cham­pagne on that list of “any­where.” And if you are into pink, On­tario has you cov­ered from bub­bles to still. You can put those White Zin­fan­del sweet-style pinks in your pocket as dry rosé rules the day when it comes to sum­mer wines of the off-white or less-than-red per­sua­sion.

Fi­nally, this has been de­scribed to me as the “Golden Age” of On­tario wine mak­ing, and that seems about right. We are see­ing wine from two great vin­tages back-to-back start­ing to hit the mar­ket: 2015 is go­ing to be the sleeper of the two be­cause every­one can’t stop talk­ing about how great 2016 was, and thus the ’15s are likely to slip un­der the radar. Don’t let them – you’re sure to be thrilled with both.

So that’s why it’s a great time to dis­cover – or re­dis­cover – On­tario wine. At the mo­ment the LCBO has a de­cent selec­tion, but I rec­om­mend hop­ping in the car for a trip to Ni­a­gara, Prince Ed­ward County or Lake Erie North Shore. Once there you can hire any num­ber of tour com­pa­nies to guide you around for the day.

For those opt­ing to stay home for their tast­ing ad­ven­ture, here’s a half dozen at the LCBO to get you started.


Flat Rock Rusty Shed 2016 Chardon­nay ($26.95 - #1552)

There’s noth­ing sub­tle here. It’s big Chardon­nay from a hot vin­tage, and the acid­ity keeps it from be­ing blousy on the palate: vanilla, ap­ple, peach, apri­cot and hints of but­ter­scotch – great creamy tex­ture in the mouth with del­i­cate spice. I’m pro­claim­ing it the best Rusty Shed ever.

Cave Spring 2015 Caber­net Franc, Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment ($17.95 - #523001)

Twelve months in a mix of Amer­i­can and French oak has re­sulted in smoky-to­bacco and rasp­berry with a pretty cas­sis note and a long fin­ish – great value at un­der $18.

Me­ga­lo­ma­niac Sono­fabitch 2016 Pinot Noir, ($27.95 - #85134)

A ballsy Pinot from a hot vin­tage that has plenty of fruit up-front but also sec­ondary flavours to bal­ance it out: smoky-rasp­berry, leath­ery-cherry along with earth and spice round­ing it off.

Pond­view 2017 Caber­net Franc Rosé ($16.95 - #241802)

A light, bright ver­sion of Rosé with lots of cherry and rasp­berry notes along with some rhubarb to keep that sweet-ish fruit at bay. Def­i­nitely dry and very “crush­able” (as the kids are say­ing th­ese days).

Prince Ed­ward County

Clos­son Chase 2016 Chardon­nay, Vineyard ($29.95- #148866)

Rich, but­tery and creamy on the palate with great weight yet bal­anc­ing acid­ity to keep it fresh. The ap­ple, peach and pra­line notes are a great as­pect of the mid-palate which is just volup­tuous and ad­dic­tively sip­pable all the way to the fin­ish.

Rose­hall Run NV Cer­e­mony Blanc de Blanc ($34.95 - #575696)

It’s so fresh (even though it has 30 months in bot­tle). Ap­ple, lime and fresh bis­cuits that at times seem crois­sant or brioche­like in its rich­ness – plus there’s that acid back­ing. Don’t wait for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion to open this; it re­quires noth­ing more than a Fri­day.

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