Last week I went to Taste Ontario, my very first trade tasting! In Part 1 I talked about the atmosphere and a few of my discoveries in the typical-Ontario-grapes category. Let’s continue, shall we? I know you’re all excited to hear about more of my Ontario favourites.
- Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc 2014: I can always recognize a cab franc because for some reason, it makes me think of green apple Mentos. They don’t sell those here in Canada sadly, but every time I am in Europe or in the States, I pick up a few packs, because they remind me of my childhood summers in France.
In reality, these mentos taste very little like green apple. There is no acidity or sourness to them, they just have a mildly sweet flavour that is perhaps closer to pear than apple. In any case, every time I smell or taste cab franc, that is the flavour that comes to mind. It drove me crazy in wine classes because no one knew what the heck I was going on about with my green apple mentos flavours. Eventually I learned that in the wine tasting world, my green apple is everyone else’s “vegetal” or “green pepper”. Just goes to show how subjective wine tasting is!
Now back to the wine! Vineland offers a typical cab franc: cherry, dark fruit/berries, red apple, with a hint of that nice
green apple mentos vegetal component. One of the flavours typically associated with cab franc is pencil shavings (I know, weird right?). But I didn’t get much of that on this wine.
- Closson Chase Brock Chardonnay 2014:
This is a lovely oaked chardonnay from Prince Edward County. Lots of tropical fruit, banana, pineapple, butterscotch and a hint of minerality. I’m really hoping this will be available at the LCBO this year. Otherwise we’ll have to stop in PEC on our way to Niagara!
- Honourable mention: Château des Charmes Equuleus blend, made of cab sauv, cab franc and merlot. This wine had a wonderful fruity aroma. On the palate, there were dark berries and dark cherry, as well as pepper and alcohol. All very nicely balanced. Beware of the sticker shock though ($40).
The “other” guys
So those are the wines based on grapes that tend to do really well in our cold Ontario climate. But there were a few “outsiders”—i.e. grapes other than riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cab franc—that caught my attention. In fact, it was the viogniers that won me over.
- Nyarai Viognier 2015: I wrote about my conversation with Nyarai winemaker Steve Byfield in Part 1. There is nothing to be humble about with this wine. I looooved it. Had I not had 41 more wines to taste, I would have treated myself to at least 3 sips. But it looks like I am going to have to order this wine directly from this virtual winery (once it’s updated with the most recent vintage, that is). That’s right, while Nyarai sources its grapes from a couple of conscientious vineyards in the Niagara area, there is no physical winery to speak of and the bottles are only available online (and at the LCBO if we’re lucky). Definitely grab this one if you ever see it on the shelves.
- Creekside Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2013: Only 150 cases were made of this beautiful, smooth viognier that was aged in French oak. I got notes of stone fruit with a bit of pear and light citrus. This is not your typical Ontario wine, and it blew my mind a bit that Ontario could make such startlingly different wine styles. Very few bottles left at the LCBO.
- Honourable mention: Closson Chase Pinot Gris 2015: This is a light, refreshing summer sipper with nice peach, melon and honey notes. Not available online but can by purchased individually at the PEC winery or by the case online using the link above.
- Westcott Vineyards – This was one of the last wineries whose table I visited at the event. At this point, the hotel was kicking people out, but the Westcotts were kind enough to let me linger at their table a while so we could chat about their wines (and so I could taste them, of course). I love that each of their wines is named after iconic women of the 1920s (though I couldn’t tell you which ones). I particularly enjoyed the Delphine rosé 2013, a Burgundian-influenced pinot noir/chardonnay-based rosé that will be available at the LCBO this fall (yay!). I also really liked their Estate Chardonnay 2013. This full-bodied white was aged on its lees for a year in French oak, which comes across in toasted notes and tropical fruit. It had really nice body and balanced structure.
- Sandbanks Winery: Sandbanks is an expert in choosing local indigenous grapes that shine in Ontario. I have yet to try one of their wines I didn’t like. Try the French Kiss 2013 or the Mouton Noir 2014.
To close, a lesson learned: never leave your glass by the spitoon at a wine tasting.
I’m heading to the California Wine Fair on Friday, so get your glasses ready—I’m going to have lots of recommendations for you this weekend!
In the meantime, happy wining!