Ontario’s Movers and Shakers for 2022

Here is my list of who I consider to be the Ontario wineries of notoriety for 2022.  My opinions are based on several factors: the winery’s performance at both the National Wine Awards and the All Canadian Wine Championships, environmental and sustainability practices of each winery, and my own personal impressions.

By far these are not the only good wineries in the province, they are merely the ones that especially caught my attention this year.

I have listed my choices in alphabetical order and have included several of each winery’s 2022 award winning wines. 

Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery (Ranked 17th at National Wine Awards)

Since 2010, Hidden Bench has followed organic practices, and since 2013, all their estate vineyards have been certified as organic.

At Hidden Bench they believe that the highest quality of grapes and wine can only be achieved by avoiding the use of systemic chemical insecticides and fungicides. Since 2015 they have extended their organic certification into the winemaking processes and as of 2016, most wines carry the Pro-cert certification on their labels. Although becoming an organic certified winery has raised costs significantly, they believe the peace of mind and health of those who enjoy the wines and vineyard is well worth the additional costs they embrace.

Part of their philosophy is to have the smallest impact possible on the environment. They have instituted several initiatives to help reduce the footprint and assist with the recovery of the environment.

Hidden Bench uses geothermal energy to provide heating and cooling for both their building and winemaking processes.  They have also installed a 105 panel/23.5kW solar array on the storage building which reduces their reliance on the electrical grid and works to be energy cost neutral on an annual basis.

Recycled materials are used in product packaging wherever possible. They also only package their wines at the point of sale to reduce the associated environmental impact.

Hidden Bench’s 2022 award winning wines include the following:

  • Hidden Bench 2016 Blanc de Blanc Zéro Dosage
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard Unfiltered
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Pinot Noir Felseck Vineyard
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Terroir Caché
  • Hidden Bench 2020 Chardonnay Unfiltered

Hidden Bench last appeared on my annual list in 2020.

Malivoire Wine Company (15th at National Wine Awards)

Malivoire was named Winery of the Year at last year’s National Wine Awards and earned 6 Gold, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze medals at this year’s event.

For over 20 years Malivoire has become a base for innovation, creativity and sustainability.  They are proud to be Certified under Ontario’s Sustainable Winemaking Program.  They promote biodiversity and a healthy living vineyard that protects wildlife habitat. They conserve water and energy in both the vineyard and winery, recognizing the vital importance of natural resources.

While always receptive to new practices or tools to improve their wine, Malivoire recognizes that as a quality-of-life product, wine’s traditions are treasured by many as essential to their fullest enjoyment of the experience. Malivoire has evaluated emerging farm, vinification and bottling techniques, while remaining dedicated to the concept of wine as a natural product.

Malivoire chooses not to use quick-fix chemical solutions to vineyard challenges. Experience has shown that synthetic treatments, while effective in the short term, can cause long-term complications. Natural obstacles can be remedied effectively with natural solutions so the vineyards will thrive without causing deterioration to their surrounding habitat.

Malivoire’s 2022 award winning wines include:

  • Malivoire 2021 Farmstead Gamay
  • Malivoire 2021 Gamay Concrete
  • Malivoire 2021 Le Coeur Gamay
  • Malivoire N/V Bisous Brut
  • Malivoire NV Bisous Rose

Peller Estate Winery (14th at National Wine Awards)

Peller Estates consistently produces fine quality wines.  They earned 7 Gold, 4 Silver and 3 Bronze medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.   Their wine portfolio features four collections: Andrew Peller Signature Series, Private Reserve, Family Series and French Cross.

This year’s award winners include:

  • Peller Estates Winery 2018 Cabernet Franc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2018 Signature Series Vidal Blanc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2019 Oak Aged Vidal Blanc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2019 Signature Series Riesling
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Private Reserve Gamay Noir
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Private Reserve Merlot
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc
  • Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Sur Lie Chardonnay

Potter Settlement Artisan Winery

Potter Settlement is very small but it has been making great strides to create high-end, quality wines.  They produce more than a dozen different wines, most of which are made with grapes grown on the Tweed property.  The winery only purchases grape varieties that can’t be grown onsite (because of the cool climate) and they never buy finished wine.  If the grapes are not grown on site, the wine label will indicate where they were grown.

It is one of the northernmost vineyards in Canada, where the temperature is known to drop to -27o C during the winter.  However, being further north has its benefits, as the soil is rich in minerals.  

Potter Settlement is a marriage of rustic, old-world charm with up-to-date winemaking techniques. They respect tradition but strive for progression when creating their wines.  The winery promotes organic farming, as well as the use of solar and geothermal energy. They strive to be considerate and respectful of their surroundings. Potter Settlement consists of 10 planted acres of vinifera, hybrid, and VQA-recognized grapes.

Several of Potter Settlement wines are uniquely crafted adhering to historic processes, specific European yeast, or barrels made of uncommon woods.

This year’s award winners include:

  • Potter Settlement 2019 Cabernet Franc
  • Potter Settlement 2020 Cordova
  • Potter Settlement 2017 Marquette
  • Potter Settlement 2017 Pinot Noir
  • Potter Settlement 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé

Redstone Winery (18th at National Wine Awards)

Redstone is a new addition to my Movers and Shakers list.  They earned a Platinum, 2 Gold, 3 Silver and 4 Bronze medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.

In 2009, Moray Tawse, owner of Tawse Winery, purchased what was formerly the Thomas and Vaughan Estate Winery. Redstone got its name from the red clay soil and large stones that exists throughout the vineyard.

The 38-acre estate vineyard is farmed organically and is perfect for maturing late-ripening varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is also Pinot Gris on the property. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay varietals are grown on the recently acquired Limestone vineyard.

Fostering the health of their vines and the soil they grow on requires a labour-intensive and hands-on approach. The yields are kept low by cluster thinning to ensure that all the energy of the vine is focused in fewer grape clusters which then become more concentrated in flavour. The grapes are hand-picked to select the very best fruit.

They practice organic farming, which feeds the vines and controls diseases without the use of synthetic insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers. They have chickens that feed on bugs, sheep that eat the lower vine leaves to expose the grapes to the ripening sun and use horses instead of tractors whenever possible to help prevent soil compaction.

Redstone’s list of award-winning wines for 2022 include:

  • Redstone 2018 Cabernet Franc Redstone Vineyard
  • Redstone 2019 Bistro Gamay Noir
  • Redstone 2019 Bistro Riesling
  • Redstone 2019 Brickyard Riesling
  • Redstone 2019 The Club Riesling

Thirty Bench Wine Makers (10th at National Wine Awards)

Thirty Bench Wines was awarded Best White Wine of the Year at the All Canadian Wine Awards for their 2019 Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard wine.  At the National Wine Awards they received 6 Gold, 7 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.

The vineyard’s location beneath the Niagara Escarpment provides a longer season that allows grapes more time to ripen and cooler nights that help intensify flavours. All Thirty Bench wines are made exclusively with grapes from their own vineyards. Their vines are hand cropped and thinned to produce very low yields to create exceptional quality and an intensity of fruit flavour.

The commitment to “Small Lot” winemaking means many of their wines are made in extremely limited numbers.

2022 award winners include the following wines:

  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Wild Cask ($32.00)
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Special Select Late Harvest
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Small Lot Pinot Noir
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Winemaker’s Blend Cabernet Franc
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Winemaker’s Blend Riesling
  • Thirty Bench 2021 Winemaker’s Blend Rosé

Next week I will present this year’s list for British Columbia wineries.

Sláinte mhaith

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