Taste Ontario 2016 – Part one: Riesling, pinot and cab franc, oh my!

Today was a great wine day. I went to my first trade tasting! After getting back from Taste Ontario 2016, my initial thoughts were:

a) How sweet is it that I am now considered part of the trade!?

b) I really need business cards.

While I was there, I took lots of notes about the wines I tasted, but I also took lots of notes about my first impressions of a trade tasting, from the outsider/newbie’s perspective. I felt a bit like an undercover spy, or an imposter. Luckily, after a few sips of wine I overcame that feeling.


  1. Even though this event gave me the opportunity to practice my spitting technique, originally this section was entitled “Obversations”.
  2. The Ottawa wine world is small. Everyone seems to know each other (hence the feeling of being an outsider). As a result, I observed that the objective of the trade tasting for most is twofold: a) wine tasting; b) networking.
  3. In some ways, it sort of felt like being at a high school dance, except that I didn’t know anyone (i.e. the stuff of teenager nightmares).  There were definitely cliques: the sommelier/restaurant clique, from all the fancy restaurants around town – they tended to move together in packs, tasting together to decide if they wanted a wine for their restaurant’s wine list. Then there was the media crowd – the journalists were pretty controlled while the radio people let loose. And then there were the oddballs – those of us who were there because we’d somehow managed to squeak through under the “media and trade” label.

Wines tasted

By my count, I tasted 42 wines in about 3 hours. Now, I must admit that Ontario is not by any stretch of the imagination one of my favourite wine regions, but I wholeheartedly support the Buy Local movement. And there are certain grape varieties that definitely lend themselves well to our Ontario terroir (namely riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet franc, hence the title of this post). So without further ado, here were my favourites from that crew:

  • Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay – this medium-bodied chardonnay has a beautiful oaky aroma, with a complex flavour profile. I kept getting rose water and orange flower. Lovely! Thomas Bachelder owns a successful trifecta of small craft wineries in beautiful wine regions: Niagara, Oregon and Bourgogne.
  • Coffin Ridge 2015 Riesling Bone Dry – I had a great chat with Nyarai Cellars and Coffin Ridge winemaker Steve Byfield. He explained that Nyarai means “humility” in a South African dialect. And when I asked him how he rated his wines, he did indeed respond very humbly, saying that the wines are exceptionally balanced and food-friendly and allow for the terroir to really shine and express itself. This riesling was maybe one of the best I have ever tasted. It doesn’t have that vinyl plastic taste I find so distracting, and focuses more on the fruity aspects: stone fruit like peach and apricot, as well as apple and a hint of citrus. In my notes, I wrote “Buy this”. I’ll likely take my own advice.
  • Malivoire Moira Rosé 2015 – Malivoire’s Ladybug rosé is a popular Ontario quaff in the summer, but the Moira rosé, made with 100% pinot noir, would be my preferred choice for a sunny day on the patio or out on the water. Sweet floral qualities on the nose, with red apple and candied fruit, yet still dry with medium acidity. My only wish is that they would sell it at the LCBO. I guess a trip to Niagara is in order.

That is certainly not the end of the list, but as you can imagine, I’m quite sleepy. Stay tuned for more thoughts on my first trade tasting, including more of my favourites and lessons learned.

P.S. I would be remiss if I did not thank @NatalieMacLean for alerting me to this event in the first place and getting me on the guestlist!

4 thoughts on “Taste Ontario 2016 – Part one: Riesling, pinot and cab franc, oh my!

  1. 42 wines?? Wow. Yep, the spitting technique does make complete sense.

    Ottawa is a small place and it does tend to be a bit cliquey, so I’m not surprised by your observations. It’s really cool that you were on the guest list though, but you actually approach wine with such dedication that you deserve it!


  2. Pingback: Taste Ontario 2016 – Part deux | Wining with Mel

  3. Pingback: Back to basics | Wining with Mel

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