2022 Ontario Wine Awards

Photo credit: ontariowineawards.ca

After a 3-year hiatus thanks to COVID, this spring saw the return of the Ontario Wine Awards. There were participants from over 80 wineries and more than 500 of the best VQA wines that Ontario has to offer.

A special award was introduced this year to honour the memory of Tawse Winery winemaker, Paul Pender, who was tragically killed earlier this year. The inaugural Paul Pender Memorial ‘Rising Star’ Award was presented to Alec Baines, winemaker at Hidden Bench Winery.  Alec was selected by a committee of his peers for having demonstrated the qualities that made Paul Pender a winemaker’s winemaker – talent, selfless generosity, mentorship and innovation.

The Winemaker of the Year Award was posthumously presented to Paul Pender.  Tawse was where Paul honed his skills and talents as a winemaker. 

The results of this year’s competition were as follows:

White Wine of The Year

Domaine Queylus La Grande Réserve Chardonnay 2020

Deep golden colour; intense apple and pear bouquet with oak spice and a thread of minerality; medium to full-bodied, with the richly extracted yellow apple and pear flavours carried on lively lemony acidity to a long, lingering finish.

Red Wine of The Year

Peninsula Ridge Reserve Syrah 2016

Deep purple-ruby in colour; cedary, toasty, meaty nose of blackberries and vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, spicy, well-structured and harmonious black fruit flavours. Reminiscent of Syrah from the northern Rhône.

Sparkling Wine (traditional method) Award

Gold

  • Malivoire Bisous Rosé N/V
  • Pelee Island Empress II 2019

Silver

  • Huff Estate Cuvee Janine 2018

Bronze

  • Huff Estate Cuvee Peter F. Huff 2018
  • Queenston Mile Vineyard Blanc de Noir 2017

Riesling Dry Award

Gold

  • Wending Home Estate Vineyards Riesling 2020

Silver

  • Niagara Teaching Winery Balance Dry Riesling 2020

Bronze

  • Strewn Winery Terroir Riesling 2019

Semi-Dry Riesling Award

Gold:

  • Vineland Estates St. Urban Elevation Riesling 2021
  • Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Riesling Wild Cask 2019
  • Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2019

Silver:

  • Redstone Limestone Riesling 2020

Pinot Gris Award

Gold

  • Dim Wine Co. Forged Pinot Gris 2017
  • Big Head Wines Pinot Gris Select 2017

Silver

  • Lakeview East Dell Pinot Grigio 2020

Bronze

  • Konzelmann Estate Pinot Grigio 2019

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Award

Gold

  • Creekside Estate Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2021
  • Burnt Ship Bay Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Silver

  • Palatine Hills Estate Wild & Free White Meritage 2020
  • Ravine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2020
  • Peller Estate Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Bronze

  • Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2019
  • Vineland Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Unoaked Chardonnay Award

Gold

  • Peninsula Ridge Inox Chardonnay 2020

Silver

  • Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

Bronze

  • Ravine Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2021

Oaked Chardonnay (Under $20) Award

Gold

  • Konzelmann Estate Barrel-Aged Chardonnay 2020

Silver

  • North 42 Degrees Chardonnay 2020

Bronze

  • Trius ‘Distinction’ Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2020

Oaked Chardonnay (Over $20) Award

Gold

  • Domaine Queylus La Grande Réserve Chardonnay 2020

Silver

  • Bachelder Wismer-Foxcoft Chardonnay 2019
  • Magnotta Limited Edition Chardonnay 2020

Bronze

  • Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2020

Gewurztraminer Award

Gold

  • None awarded

Silver

  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Gewurztraminer 2020

Bronze

  • Stoney Ridge Estate Gewurztraminer 2019

Dry White Varietals Awards

Gold

  • None awarded

Silver

  • Redstone White Meritage 2020
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Viognier 2020

Bronze

  • Reif Estate Semillon 2020

Roses/Blanc De Noir Award

Gold

  • Malivoire Wine Moira Rosé 2021

Silver

  • 13th Street Winery Gamay Vin Gris 2021

Bronze

  • Henry of Pelham Speck Three of Hearts Rosé 2020
  • Inniskillin Wines Reserve Cabernet Franc Rosé 2020

Gamay Award

Gold

  • Bachelder 52% Whole Cluster Wismer-Foxcroft Gamay 2020

Silver

  • 13th Street Gamay 2020
  • Byland Estate Gamay Noir Owner Signature 2020

Bronze

  • Niagara College Balance Gamay Noir 2018

Pinot Noir Award

Gold

  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2019
  • Closson Chase Pinot Noir 2019

Silver

  • Closson Chase South Clos Pinot Noir 2019
  • Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Pinot Noir 2019

Bronze

  • Locust Lane Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2019

Cabernet Franc Award

Gold

  • Tawse Winery David’s Block Cabernet Franc 2019
  • Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc Réserve 2020

Silver

  • Inniskillin Wines Reserve Cabernet Franc 2018

Bronze 

  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2019

Cabernet Franc Award

Gold

  • Tawse Winery David’s Block Cabernet Franc 2019
  • Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc Réserve 2020

Silver

  • Inniskillin Wines Reserve Cabernet Franc 2018

Bronze

  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2019

Merlot Award

Gold

  • None awarded

Silver

  • Konzelmann Merlot Barrel-Aged Reserve Series 2020
  • GreenLane Estate Christine’s Block Merlot 2017

Bronze

  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Merlot 2019

Cabernet Sauvignon Award

Gold

  • Strewn Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Silver

  • Waupoos Estates Winery 2019

Bronze

  • Peninsula Ridge Estate BV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Trius Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Meritage And Cabernet Blends Award

Gold

  • Southbrook Poetica Red 2019

The Foreign Affair Temptress 2018

Silver

  • Magnotta Legacy Limited edition 2018
  • The Foreign Affair Dream 2018

Syrah/Shiraz Award

Gold

  • Big Head Raw Syrah 2020
  • Kacaba Proprietor’s Block Syrah Escarpment 2019
  • Peninsula Ridge Reserve Syrah 2016

Silver

  • Rockway Syrah 2018

Hybrid Red Award

Gold

  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2020

Silver

  • Wayne Gretzky Estates No. 99 Signature Series Baco Noir 2020

Bronze

  • Riverview Cellars Baco Noir 2020

Late Harvest Whites & Reds

Gold

  • Thirty Bench Special Select Late Harvest Vidal 2019

Silver

  • Trius Showcase Late Harvest Vidal 2019
  • Konzelmann Select Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Bronze

  • Strewn Ice-Breaker Select Late Harvest Vidal 2014

Appassimento Red Award

Gold

  • None awarded

Silver

  • Dim Wine Co. Field Select Red 2016
  • Rennie Estate Winery ‘G’ Assemblage 2016

Bronze

  • The Foreign Affair Apologetic 2018

Orange Wine Award

Gold

  • None awarded

Silver

  • Maenad Wine Co. Skin-Fermented Chardonnay 2020
  • Southbrook Skin-Fermented White (Vidal) 2020

Bronze

  • Big Head Amber 2021

Other Red Wines Award

Gold

  • Lakeview Cellars Grand Reserve Red 2017

Silver

  • Lakeview Cellars Malbec 2017
  • Green Lane Estate Malbec 2018

Bronze

  • Creekside Red Tractor Cabernet Shiraz 2019

Vidal Icewine Award

Gold

  • Kittling Ridge Vidal Icewine 2019
  • Riverview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2019

Silver

  • Inniskillin Oak-Aged Vidal Icewine 2019
  • Magnotta Vidal Icewine Limited 2019
  • Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2018

Bronze

  • Lakeview Wine Co. Lakeview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2019

Vinifera Icewine Award

Gold

  • Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2019

Silver

  • Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc Icewine 2019
  • Wayne Gretzky Riesling Icewine 2019

Bronze

  • Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2019

Label Design Award

  • Megalomaniac To Be Franc Cabernet Franc

Sláinte mhaith

Wine From the Canary Islands

Wine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Canary Islands.  The Islands are a popular European tourist destination but they also have a thriving wine industry.

Photo credit: foodandwine.com

Wine production has a long history in the Canary Islands, but the modern era didn’t start until about the mid 1980’s. Since then wine exports have been increasing as more people discover these wines.

The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean about 100 kilometres west of Morocco. The main islands, from largest to smallest, are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa. They are a popular tourist destination because of their subtropical climate.  However, it is the distinctive volcanic wines that have been gaining global attention and critical acclaim over the past 3 decades.

Six of the eight islands, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera produce wine.  The soils vary from island to island, formed by volcanic eruptions, landslides and erosion.  The soil ranges from light stone to very heavy basalt rock.

The climate also varies across the archipelago. The eastern islands consist of older geological formations with lower, more uniform altitude and a dry, desert-like climate. The western islands are higher, steeper and have a greater variation of microclimates.

There are 20 unique grape varieties found in the Islands along with more than 20 new varieties that are currently being studied.  Listán Blanco (aka Palomino) and Listán Negro are the most widely planted grapes on the Islands. Others include white wine grapes Malvasía Volcánica, Malvasía Aromática and Albillo Criollo, along with red wine grapes Negramoll, Vijariego Negro and Baboso Negro. There are a few plantings of international varieties, such as Syrah.  Each of the Islands has its own specialities.

Dry, high-acid whites and light, fruity reds are typical of the Islands but richer, oak-aged options exist as well.

The wine industry is very focused on gaining international recognition based on the unique and ancient grape varieties grown. The aim is for these wines to reach markets where they can gain more exposure and have the opportunity to grow in popularity.

In 2020, around 15 million gallons of wine (51% red and 49% white) were produced in the Canary Islands.

Some of the grapes from the Canary Islands can be found in South America. They were brought there by Spanish settlers in the 16th century.  One of the varieties was Listán Prieto, which can now be found in California (known as Mission), Chile (País) and Argentina (Criolla Chica).

Wine from the Canary Islands is occasionally available in the specialty section of wine stores in Canada.  These wines will be included with the other wines from Spain.

Sláinte mhaith

Malt Whisky versus Grain Whisky

This is an age-old debate among Scotch Whisky lovers.  Before weighing in on the debate, let’s first look at what differentiates one from the other. 

A Whisky that’s made by a single distillery using malted barley and pot stills is a Single Malt.  No other types of grains can be used when making Malt Whisky.

Single Malt whisky is not required to be sourced from one barrel, a particular batch of barrels, or even distilled in one batch. Single malt whisky simply means that the whisky has been distilled, matured and bottled at one distillery. It may come from different barrels, batches and even have different ages. If a whisky is distilled, matured and bottled at a single distillery, it is, and can be labelled a Single Malt whisky.

Grain Whisky on the other hand can be distilled from any type of grain, whether it is unmalted barley, wheat, corn or rye.  They can even use a combination of grains.  It is interesting to note that 100% malted barley Scotch that is made with column stills is considered as a Grain Whisky.

Single Grain whisky, like Single Malt whisky, also denote the origin of the whisky from one distillery alone. Single Grain whisky must be distilled, matured and bottled at one distillery.

Malt whiskies are generally considered superior to grain whiskies because malt whiskies have more character than grain whiskies.  This character comes mostly from the ‘impurities’ that are distilled away in consecutive distillation runs.

Grain Whisky is usually less expensive than Malt Whisky but that is not related to quality. Grain Whisky is generally distilled in column stills, which allows the distiller a continuous production that’s less expensive than batch distillation in pot stills. That reduces the price of blends, in addition to giving them a bit more body.

There is more Grain Whisky produced than Malt Whisky but there are far fewer distillers that make it. There are about 130 active Malt distilleries and the largest one, Glenfiddich, can produce 21 million litres of pure alcohol per year. On the other hand, Cameronbridge, the largest grain distiller, can produce up to 110 million litres per year. It is interesting to note though, that in 2020 the production of Grain and Malt Whisky in Scotland was almost identical.

Scotland has distilleries like Loch Lomond and Girvan that are making inroads with Scotch Grain Whisky.  These distilleries are bottling Grain Whisky that is both high quality and well matured.  Loch Lomond is producing Grain Whisky that has won awards and is well known for its smoothness and distinct light-bodied qualities. It is the first distillery in Scotland to produce both Grain and Malt whiskies at the same time.

So, to answer the question as to which type of whisky is better, Malt Whisky or Grain Whisky, the answer is up to you.

Sláinte mhaith

Wine and Fish Pairings

Photo credit: learn.winecoolerdirect.com

Because there is such a large array of types of fish and so many ways of preparing it, there is a wide variety of wines suitable to serve with fish.  Both the flavour and texture of the fish are key and are often categorized into the following four groups:

  • Lean and flaky mild fish
  • Medium textured fish
  • Meaty fish
  • Strong flavoured fish

Lean and Flaky Mild Fish

Lean mild fish include sole, perch, flounder, tilapia and sea bass.  These fish pair well with fresh zesty white wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay or Chablis, Champagne, Muscadet, Portuguese whites or Greek whites.

Medium Textured Fish

Medium textured fish are considered as flaky fish but are of a firmer and thicker texture than the lean fish.  Some experts would include sea bass in this category in addition to trout, arctic char, haddock and cod.

Wine pairing options to consider include medium bodied oaked Chardonnay, California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, White Rioja, Sémillon, Pinot Gris or Vermentino.

Meaty Fish

Fish considered as meaty include salmon, tuna, bluefish, monkfish, mahi mahi, shark, and swordfish.  The range of wine options increase with this category to include dry Rosé and lighter reds.

Wine pairings include whites such as oaked Chardonnay, Champagne, White Burgundy, Grenache Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris, as well as reds such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Valpolicella.

Strong Flavoured Fish

Strong flavoured fish are oilier, as well as being stronger in flavour.  Included in this category are herring, mackerel, sardines and anchovies.  These fish need to be offset by crisp bracing wines, including both white and chilled red options.

White options include Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, White Bordeaux and Grenache Blanc.  Red wine choices would be Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Preparations and Sauces

The way the fish is cooked, whether it is baked, fried or grilled, influences the wine choice as well.  Further complicating things is the inclusion of other ingredients.  For example, spicy dishes are served best with a wine containing some sweetness in order to offset the heat.  Fish served in a cream sauce is best served with a more acidic wine in order to cleanse the palate.

Curry Sauces

Since curry sauces tend to be a little bit on the sweet side they pair well with wines such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Prosecco.

Herb Sauces

Herb sauces will often contain basil, parsley, dill, chives, mint, cilantro, dill, lemongrass, capers or even cucumber.  Complimentary wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Trebbiano.

Spicy Sauces

Spicy sauces will be made with paprika, pepper, cumin, coriander or chili.  Such fish dishes will pair well with Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling or a red Grenache.

Sweet Sauces

Pineapple, mango, orange, teriyaki and sweet and sour sauce are all considered as sweet.  The lighter coloured sauces pair well with a Riesling whereas the darker sauces, such as teriyaki, are well complimented by a Rosé.

Zesty Sauces

These include lemon, lime or vinegar-based sauces that will pair well with light zesty wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, White Bordeaux or Grenache Blanc.

Fish and Chips

A fresh, dry white wine with a high level of acidity is best suited for countering the fattiness of battered fish.  A crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs well, as does a dry Champagne or similar white sparkler.

Raw Fish

If raw fish is your thing, it will pair well with an extra dry white wine such as Muscadet or Trebbiano or a red such as Pinot Noir or Burgundy.

Smoked Fish

Smoked fish, such as salmon or trout, will be a little drier than unsmoked fish of the same species.  Smoked fish will pair well with a vintage Champagne, Sparkling Rosé, dry Riesling or White Pinot Noir.

Sláinte mhaith

The Forgotten Grape of the Loire

The Lignage grape was virtually extinct several years ago.  The last known vine was situated in the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) nursery at Montpellier, France.  Today, the number has increased but there are still well under a thousand vines in existence.

Photo credit: theglamorousgourmet.com

The revival of Lignage is part of a wider project overseen by a local group, the Union for Genetic Resources of Centre-Val de Loire (URGC).  URGC’s goal is to revitalize old grape varieties linked to the local area prior to the phylloxera infestation in the late 1800s. 

Phylloxera is an insect that can damage grape vines by feeding on the plant sap from the roots. It is often described as an aphid-like sucking insect.

Officially, the project is experimental at this point so the Lignage varietal is not listed on any appellation documentation.  Lignage’s history in the region dates back to 1427. It was also known as Macé Doux,  Macédoux, Massé Doux and Lignage de Blois. By the mid 1800s it had become well established in a winegrowing zone known as the Côte des Grouëts.

The variety is similar to Pinot Noir in that it produces a light-coloured red wine.  Having purple skin and a green flesh it can also be made into a white wine.

Not much is known about the wine that Lignage produced but according to written accounts the grapes produced a fine, delicate, lightly coloured red wine with fine aromas and a low alcohol content.  More information should be known by 2024 when the first trial wines are expected to be produced. It is anticipated that by 2028 the varietal will return as an official vine and be available for more extensive planting. 

I look forward to perhaps having the opportunity to try Lignage at some point in the future.

Sláinte mhaith

Ontario Wine Get-Aways

If you ever have the desire to relax and immerse yourself in any of Ontario’s wine regions, an overnight stay at a winery may prove to be ‘the icing on the cake’.  If you would like to consider pursuing this idea, here are some Ontario wineries, organized by region, that offer accommodations at the winery.

NIAGARA REGION

13th Street Winery (Escarpment and Area)

1776 Fourth Avenue

St. Catharines, Ontario L2R 6P9

Celebrating over 20 years of winemaking in Niagara, 13th Street Winery’s mission is to create exceptional wines that reflect the unique terroir of Niagara. They provide a unique blend of wine, food and art. You can experience the tasting bar, wander the sculpture gardens or relax with a glass of wine.

For accommodations, there is a choice of two contemporary houses, both offering private, luxurious accommodations. Both are set amongst the vineyards on the winery estate. Each house sleeps up to eight guests and include a fully equipped kitchen, living room, expansive deck and 3 ½ baths. The Cottage has 3 bedrooms and the Farmhouse has 4. Both are available to book on Air Bnb.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • King’s Court Estate Winery
  • Creekside Estate Winery
  • 16 Mile Cellar
  • 13th Street Bakery & Farmhouse Bistro
  • The Deck at Creekside Estate Winery
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Alvento Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3048 2nd Avenue

Vineland Station, Ontario L0R 2E0

Alvento Winery was established in 2001.  It offers visitors a unique boutique wine country experience. This 13-acre vineyard features an authentic 19th Century barn with a renovated tasting room, as well as unique, luxurious accommodation in the four-room, picturesque Bed & Breakfast.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Di Profio Estate Wines
  • Harbour Estates Winery
  • Honsberger
  • Zinc Bistro at Di Profio Estate Wines
  • The Harbour Patio at Harbour Estates Winery
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Accommodations at Vineland Estates

Cave Springs Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3836 Main Street

Jordan, Ontario L0R 1S0

Cave Spring is located in the centre of Jordan Village. The wines capture the terroir of this prime sub-appellation. Visitors may enjoy an intimate, seated experience in the tasting room, featuring curated wine flights paired with local charcuterie.

The Estate House at Cave Spring Vineyard is a stunning Victorian-style farmhouse located at the heart of the vineyard. Nestled high on the Beamsville Bench of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario, it offers some breathtaking vistas of Niagara wine country. It is a fully equipped, self-catered rental with many of the region’s top estate wineries within a 15-minute drive and hiking on the Bruce Trail literally on your doorstep.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Di Profio Estate Wines
  • Honsberger
  • Stoney Ridge Estate Winery
  • 2027 Cellars
  • Inn On The Twenty Restaurant
  • Jordan House Tavern
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Commisso Estate Winery (Escarpment and Area)

564 Kemp Road East

Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B2

Commisso Estate is a 32-acre estate winery and Bed & Breakfast located on the 75-year-old Commisso farm at the top of the Niagara Escarpment in the heart of wine country.  The winery focuses on premium, small-lot VQA wines, particularly Appassimento wines and big bold reds.  Situated amidst lush vineyards and breathtaking gardens it is also the perfect venue for corporate events and private functions.

The property includes beautiful landscapes, acres of vineyards, gazebos, a pond and other attractions to make any occasion truly memorable. The hospitality suites provide the option for overnight stays and the wine boutique will showcase wines produced from the vineyard as well as feature small-batch wines from local vineyards.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Angels Gate Winery
  • Organized Crime Winery
  • Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery
  • London Born Wine Company
  • London Born Winery Restaurant
  • The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge
  • Vieni Estates Wine & Spirits Bed and Breakfast

Vieni Estates (Escarpment and Area)

4553 Fly Road

Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B2

Vieni means “come” or “welcome” in Italian and that is just how they want you to feel – welcomed and at home at Vieni Estates. The winery is situated on a diverse 175-acre estate on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. In addition to their fine wines, Vieni Estates offers traditional Italian-style sparkling wines, Icewines, grappas and spirits distilled from the many fruits of Ontario.

You can stay at the beautifully updated Bed & Breakfast, where every room has a stunning view of the vineyards and 30 acres of protected forest along the Niagara Escarpment.  You can unwind and relax poolside, visit the winery or discover the property and enjoy a picnic by their pond, or hike the Bruce Trail.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Cave Spring Vineyard Tasting Room
  • Rennie Estate Winery
  • Kew Vineyards Estate Winery
  • The Restaurant at Redstone
  • Megalomaniac Food+Drink
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Vineland Estates Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3620 Moyer Road

Vineland L0R 2C0

For over 30 years Vineland Estates Winery has offered an unparalleled wine and food experience within a setting of breathtaking vistas and welcoming warmth. Vineland is passionately committed to authenticity and excellence in all things and has been singled out as a top producer of award-winning Riesling and Cabernet Franc as well as locally sourced cuisine.

Vineland Estates Winery operates two accommodation options adjacent to the estate vineyards. The Bed and Breakfast Cottage and Estate Guest House both provide great experiences.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Vineland Estates Winery
  • Kacaba Vineyards and Winery
  • Tawse Winery
  • Ridgepoint Wines
  • The Restaurant at Vineland Estates Winery
  • Ridgepoint Wines Restaurant
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY

Casa-Dea Estates Winery

1186 Greer Road

Wellington, Ontario K0K 3L0

This picturesque property was the first winery on Greer Road and is now one of the largest wineries in the County. The 65-acre vineyard is planted with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. They are focused on making VQA wines from 100% County grapes. Enjoy Italian cuisine at La Pergola in the summer. There are also banquet facilities for your dream wedding, including outdoor ceremonies.

Their guest house, the ‘Casa del Silenzio’, is located at the winery, just steps away from the vineyard, tasting bar and patio restaurant. Rent it for two nights (minimum) or a week and experience ‘The County’. Casa del Silenzio also makes the perfect addition to a wedding at Casa-Dea, providing accommodations for the bride, groom and wedding party.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard
  • Rosehall Run
  • Traynor Family Vineyard
  • Sandbanks Estate Winery
  • La Condesa
  • Drake Devonshire
  • By Chadsey’s Cairns Farmhouse
  • Huff Estates Winery

Huff Estates Winery

2274 County Road 1

Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0

In addition to the winery, Huff Estates has an inn and art gallery. You may sample their wines in the tasting room; have lunch overlooking the vineyard and discover contemporary Canadian art in the Oeno Gallery and stay at the luxurious Inn at Huff Estates.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Sugarbush Vineyards
  • Karlo Estates
  • Broken Stone Winery
  • Closson Chase
  • La Condesa
  • Drake Devonshire
  • The Waring House

Three Dog Winery

1920 Fish Lake Road

Picton, Ontario K0K 1W0

At Three Dog Winery they strive to become a gathering place for the community where you not only want to enjoy a glass of wine but gather to dine with friends. On weekends enjoy live music and wood-fired pizza on the patio. Their wines are award-winning, affordable and easy drinking. Just 15 minutes off Hwy 401, they have 6km of hiking trails – plenty of room to walk your four-legged friends.  You can also book your stay at the Vineyard Loft which overlooks the vineyard.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Black Prince Winery – Canadian Vinegar Cellars
  • Amanda’s Vineyards
  • Waupoos Estates Winery
  • Huff Estates Winery
  • The Inn at Lake on the Mountain Resort
  • Hartleys Tavern
  • Three Dog Winery – Vineyard Loft
  • Merrill House

Waupoos Estate Winery

3016 County Road 8

Picton, Ontario K0K 2T0

Waupoos is the oldest winery in Prince Edward County and has a wide selection of award-winning wines. The winery features boutique shopping with chocolate and gelato, a petting zoo and fine dining experience in the full-service Restaurant overlooking beautiful Prince Edward Bay. Accommodations are available in the 1900 Century Farm House. The Farmhouse is a beautifully restored century home situated on the 100 acre grounds of Waupoos Estates, with breathtaking views of Prince Edward Bay and the vineyards.  A 2 night minimum stay is required.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Amanda’s Vineyards
  • Three Dog Winery
  • Black Prince Winery – Canadian Vinegar Cellars
  • Huff Estates Winery
  • Waupoos Estate Winery Restaurant
  • The Inn at Lake on the Mountain Resort
  • Merrill House

NORTHERN AREA

Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery (Georgian Bay)

599448 2nd Concession North RR1

Annan, Ontario N0H 1B0

Situated in Grey County, Coffin Ridge has a modern tasting room that opens to an elevated deck overlooking Georgian Bay and the vineyard. Carefully researched winter-hardy varieties flourish here, with hybrids like L’Acadie Blanc and Marquette gaining critical acclaim. Visit the winery to try their Riesling Bone Dry or Back From the Dead Red blend VQA wines.

An overnight stay at the Resting Place will give you access to a gorgeous and tranquil escape from the norm, including a games room, theatre, gym, pool, hot tub and a library as well as various sitting areas overlooking the vineyard and beautiful Georgian Bay. 

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Georgian Hills Vineyards
  • The Roost Wine Company
  • Adamo Estate Winery
  • Windrush Estate Winery
  • Bruce Wine Bar Kitchen
  • Barrhead Pub & Grill
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites

Schatz Winery by Hessenland Inn

72981 Bluewater Hwy

Zurich, Ontario N0M 2T0

Schatz is Hessenland Inn’s winery, located on the Lake Huron Shores nestled between Bayfield and Grand Bend, offers a unique combination of history, innovation, and European elegance.

Also onsite is Hessenland Inn & Restaurant which serves a locally sourced menu.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Cornerfield Wine Co.
  • Dark Horse Estate Winery
  • Maelstrom Winery
  • Alton Farms Estate Winery
  • Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro
  • The Little Inn of Bayfield
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites

LAKE ERIE NORTH SHORE

Burning Kiln Winery

1709 Front Road

St Williams, Ontario N0E 1P0

Rooted in the agricultural significance of tobacco and Norfolk County, Burning Kiln offers a vision of this emerging VQA region’s bright future. The picturesque winery is a repurposed tobacco pack barn overlooking Long Point Bay on Lake Erie, close to some of the best vacation areas and beaches.

You can book a stay at the Farmhouse located at the vineyard. The 1865 home has been fully restored to its original charm.  The house is situated at the highest point of the estate providing picturesque views of the surrounding winery.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Front Road Cellars
  • Smoke & Gamble | Frisky Beaver
  • Hounds of Erie
  • Ridge Road Estate Winery
  • The Combine
  • Barrel Restaurant
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites
  • Vieni Estates Wine & Spirits Bed and Breakfast

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Irish Whiskey Single Malt Vs Single Pot

If you have ever shopped for Irish whiskey you may have noticed the term ‘Single Pot’ on some of the labels.  Is single pot the same as single malt? Not exactly; single malt means all the liquid in the bottle was made from a single type of malted grain at the same distillery. Single pot is only legally produced in Ireland and is made with both malted and unmalted barley. The reason for this is the unmalted barley adds a unique character to the whiskey. The taste of a single pot has more distinct spiciness, more of a weighty, grainy texture and funky cereal flavour that isn’t as present in other types of Irish whiskeys. It has more depth.

To complicate matters further, up until 2011 single pot whiskeys were labeled as “Pure Pot Still.” If you find this description on a label you have come across a “vintage” bottle.

At present there are only a couple of brands out there making Single Pot Still Whiskey for commercial purposes. The category became less popular in the 20th century when Scotch began to dominate the marketplace.  However, with the resurgence of classic drinking habits in the 2000s, it’s becoming more popular.

The more popular single pot whiskeys include:

  • Redbreast 12 Year Old – It is a brilliant amber colour with complex aromas of floral, honey, sweet fruits and lime.  It is full-bodied and robust with a creamy mouth-feel and flavours repeated from the nose followed by an enduring finish reminiscent of butterscotch.
  • Green Spot – With clove, apricot and oak toast aromas and flavours of cedar, clove, apple and ginger. The long finish has spicy notes of clove, nutmeg and ginger.
  • Yellow Spot – Matured in three types of oak casks, it has aromas and flavours of caramel, spice, honey and ripe tree fruit. Nutty, dried fruit and toasted oak notes linger on a long finish.

Irish whiskey single malts include:

  • Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt – Aged ten years in used bourbon barrels, it has aromas of ripe pear, toasted oak, caramel, citrus peel and white pepper. On the palate it is warming with a light sweetness and medium body. Flavours of tree fruit, caramel, citrus and toasted almonds play on a long finish.
  • Writers Tears Copper Pot – It is deep gold in colour with orange accents. There are aromas of citrus, honey, apple, vanilla and malt, as well as flavours of caramel and citrus peel along with oak and pepper.  It is medium-bodied and fruity with a long-lasting finish.
  • The Sexton Single Malt – It is bright golden in colour with warming aromas of toffee, marzipan, citrus, allspice and hints of dark chocolate. There are flavours of dried fruit and oak which is a result of ageing in Oloroso Sherry casks.  The finish is smooth and supple with a kiss of sweetness.
  • West Cork Single Malt – Matured in bourbon barrels and finished in calvados casks, it has notes of dried fruit, vanilla, pear, almonds and apple. A medium-bodied and fruity palate leads to a long finish.
  • Teeling Single Malt – It is aged in five distinctive wine casks creating fruity aromas with hints of toffee, vanilla, herb and floral notes. It has flavours of caramel, spice and tropical fruit with a lengthy finish.
  • The Temple Bar – It is distilled in copper pot stills and matured in American oak barrels resulting in a well-balanced dram. There are aromas and flavours of zesty citrus, cinnamon, honey, nutmeg and vanilla. It is full-bodied and flavourful with a lengthy finish.

The descriptions of each of the whiskies were paraphrased from the LCBO website descriptions.

I have tried all 3 single pot whiskies and many of the single malts and my favourite is the Green Spot single pot.  Unfortunately, it is only imported from Ireland once or twice a year so it is only available on a very limited basis.

Redbreast is produced by the same distillery that makes Jameson.  When I visited the Jameson distillery in Dublin a few years ago I was told that Redbreast is created in the traditional style of Irish whiskey as it was made over a hundred years ago. It is said to be popular with Irish Whiskey traditionalists. 

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Wine Prices On the Rise

The price of wine has remained fairly stable during recent months and has not been impacted in the same way as the price of gas and food.  However, this is soon about to change.

Photo credit: mlive.com

As you have seen at the gas pump, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has caused a surge in gas and oil prices.  These increases have impacted the cost of wine industry supplies.  Increases of 20% to 45% have occurred on the cost of bottles and boxes over last year.  The war has created a great deal of volatility and unpredictability to the glass bottle industry.

Oil prices have surged 70% in the past year and with transport costs rising, barrels, bottles, cases and wine labels are all more expensive.  But so far the consumer has not felt the impact.

Very high Inflation is severely impacting the price of supplies such as glass, corks, labels and cardboard. Labour and energy costs have skyrocketed.

With grapes being harvested only once a year and wine reaching the market through a rather complex multi-faceted distribution network, price pressures have not yet reached store shelves. However, when they do, the effects of inflation, which is currently around 6%, supply chain issues (see Dry Times Ahead from January 22), a small 2021 global grape harvest and a surge in demand will mean consumers should prepare for a significant increase in wine prices.

Historically, wine isn’t as volatile as other consumer goods, so has been less subject to price fluctuations. From 2004 to 2021 inflation increased at a rate of 2.11%, while wine prices only rose by 0.73% during the same period. 

Wine producers have been doing their best to deter price increases especially given the impacts from the COVID pandemic which they are now struggling to recover from.  Unfortunately, costs are continuing to increase and many distributors have already absorbed the higher transportation costs. Operating expenses have reached the point where they can no longer be absorbed by producers.

The greatest impact will be seen on imported wines.  The cost of shipping containers and freight has increased by more than 100%.  Adding to the problem is the impact of the small harvests in France’s Burgundy, Loire and Provence wine regions.  The only saving grace will be the competition within the wine industry which will keep the increases moderate.

The high consumer demand for wine is also having an impact on price.  In particular, wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Rioja and Napa will be most affected. Wines from these regions may increase by 20% to 25% within a year.

Domestic wines will be impacted as well though probably not to the same extent as imported wines.  It is expected that these wines will see a minimum of a 10% increase in price.

Will this inflation last?  Some financial experts don’t think so while others are convinced it will.  In either case the most optimistic timeline is that the current conditions will remain throughout 2022 and 2023.

In any event it is believed that competition will keep runaway pricing in check. Wine is different from most other consumer goods in that there are options available at every price point and there are a lot of wine choices available.  This will help keep wine prices as low as possible.

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Argentina’s Bonarda Grape

Bonarda grapes are pretty much unique to South America’s Argentina, where, after Malbec, it is the country’s most produced varietal.  It was first introduced in Argentina in the 1800s.  It is not the same grape as the Bonarda from Italy.  The Argentinian varietal is actually named Douce Noir, which originated in Savoie, France.

Photo credit: NatalieMaclean.com

It was initially used to add colour and a fruity flavour to Argentinian-produced blends.  However, it has since been found that it can stand on its own as a single varietal.  The key to using Bonarda on its own is to use grapes only from the more mature vines. There are plantings that are over 100 years old.

Bonarda grapes mature well in oak barrels and the resulting wines are characterized by complexity and spice with great structure and medium-full body.  The wine will have hints of plum, cherry and fig.  The colour is deep and dark. There is a medium level of tannins which allow it to be cellared for five to ten years, though it is ready to drink when it is released from the winery.

Bonarda will pair well with grilled pork, roast chicken or even grilled salmon.

If you haven’t tried it before, Argentina’s Bonarda is worth seeking out at your local liquor store.  Who knows, it may become your next favourite medium-bodied red wine.

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Wine Barrels

A wine barrel has become one of the most recognized symbols associated with wine. As a society we have romanced the wine barrel to the point where we have turned it into tables, benches, planters and candle holders.  Case in point, I have two barrels in my wine cellar as leg supports for a table and I have a candle holder made from a barrel rib on my bar.

Photo credit: winemag.com

The Romans discovered that oak could be more easily bent into the traditional barrel shape than palm wood; the oak only needed minimal toasting and a barrel could be created much faster. Oak was also the most abundant in the forests of continental Europe and its tight grain made it waterproof.

The Romans learned that oak has a tendency to soften and smooth the flavour of wine and provide it with a more complex taste.  Slight toasting of the wood added scents such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice or vanilla, as well as flavours such as caramel, vanilla or even butter.

Today wine barrels are made from a variety of materials; European oak (often referred to as French oak), American white oak, stainless steel, aluminum and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic.  These barrels typically come in 3 standard sizes:

  • Bordeaux type – 225 litres
  • Burgundy type – 228 litres
  • Cognac type – 300 litres.

Barrel aging is the main element of what is referred to as the élevage process, which is a French term meaning “raising” or “upbringing”. This is what occurs to the wine between fermentation and bottling.  The wine’s élevage can last for a few months to many years, during which time the wine’s flavours integrate and mature.

The winemakers’ choices during the aging process include how long to age the wine for and how much to manipulate it. which has a major impact on the taste of the finished product. One of the most important choices is what type of barrel to age the wine in.

When oak barrels are manufactured they are toasted over a fire to either a light, medium, or dark toast level. New barrels with a light toast will give lots of vanilla and caramel notes, while a darker toast will give smoky, roasted aromas.

An oak wine barrel’s age and size affect the amount of oak flavor that will be transmitted to the wine. Smaller barrels impart more oak flavor because they allow more contact between the wood and the wine. Oak barrels lose their flavour compounds with use so they must be replaced every few vintages.

In addition to adding oak flavours, new oak aging changes the tannin structure of red wines. Tannins from the wood barrel transfer into the wine, giving it a stronger structure. This contributes to a wine’s aging capability, or longevity in the bottle. The wood also helps stabilize the tannins from the grape skins, giving them a silkier texture.

After a few years of use, the oak will no longer provide flavour or tannin to the wine. The older barrels still allow for slow oxygenation, so they can be used to age wine that needs to mellow without the addition of oak flavouring.

Oak influences both red and white wines by adding the aroma of:

  • Vanilla
  • Caramel
  • Baking spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
  • Coconut (especially from American oak)
  • Dill (especially from American oak)

Red wines may also present additional aromas of:

  • Smoke
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Toffee
  • Burnt sugar

Steel barrels, on the other hand, add no flavour to the wine.  Steel simply stores the wine for a few months while it stabilises and the grape flavours integrate. Steel barrels also don’t let any oxygen come into contact with the wine. This kind of aging helps wines retain the fresh fruit aromas that disappear when exposed to oxygen.

Stainless steel aging is used for wines that would not benefit from the addition of oak flavours or the softening effect that oak has on tannin. It is used for white wines not having tannins to manage. Stainless steel is the usual choice for aromatic and semi-aromatic white grapes including:

  • Albariño
  • Unoaked Chardonnay (often aged in oak as well)
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Grüner veltliner
  • Pinot grigio
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon blanc

For red wines, stainless steel is a good choice for lower tannin, fruity grapes such as:

  • Baco Noir
  • Gamay
  • Grenache

Red wines aged in stainless steel are straightforward and juicy, with no oak flavours obscuring the flavours of the grapes.

Stainless steel aging is significantly less expensive than using oak because unlike oak barrels, steel barrels can be reused indefinitely and are much easier to clean. Stainless steel aging also takes less time than oak aging which saves winemakers crucial space in the wine cellar.

Since oak barrels can be used only two or three times for the purpose of adding flavour to the wine, the cost of buying new barrels is built into the higher prices of oak-aged wines. Some producers try to mimic the flavours of oak aging by adding less expensive oak chips to wines that are aged in stainless steel vessels. Oak chips add vanilla and spice notes but have no effect on a wine’s texture like oak barrels do.

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