Gewürztraminer

Alsace, a region in north-eastern France that borders Switzerland and Germany, is the home of Gewürztraminer. The region has been passed between French and German control several times since the early 1680s.  As a result, Alsatian culture is a unique mix of French and German influences.

Today the varietal is grown in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the U.S.

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape variety that grows well in cooler climates.  It has a high level of natural sugar and the wine is white and usually off dry.  Gewürztraminer generally contains a gram or two of residual sugar but because of the heightened aromatics, higher alcohol and lower acidity, many of these wines will taste sweeter than they actually are.

The aroma or “nose” will be that of lychee or ‘sweet rose’.  However, it may also have hints of red grapefruit, allspice, cinnamon or ginger.  The flavour will consist of hints of grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, orange or cantaloupe.

When serving with food, Gewürztraminer is a great compliment to duck, chicken, pork, bacon, shrimp and crab.  Highly spiced and aromatic herbs such as cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, madras curry, sichuan pepper, shallots, soy sauce, sesame, almond, rose water, lime leaf, bay leaf, coriander and cumin are a great match.

Gewürztraminer goes well with less stinky and delicately flavored soft cow’s milk cheese and dried fruit, as well as roasted vegetables and veggies with natural sweetness including red onion, bell pepper, eggplant, tempeh, squash and carrots.

Sláinte mhaith

The 2022 National Wine Awards

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) is Canada’s largest and most respected competition for wines which are one hundred percent grown and produced in Canada. Niagara Falls, Ontario was the host of this year’s event, which took place from June 19th to 23rd, with results published on July 29th.

This year’s awards were the first to be conducted since 2019 without the influence or restrictions from the pandemic. 

There were 24 judges who tasted 1,890 entries from more than 250 wineries. The entries came from British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The wines were all served blind; producer, origin, and price were not revealed to the judges. The top medalists were tasted in multiple rounds by many different judges.

The top ten wineries are presented below, along with a listing of their Platinum and Gold medal wines.  For a complete listing of all the winning wines please see the Canadian Wine Awards website, at www.winealign.com/awards.

The 2022 winery of the year is CedarCreek Estate Winery, located in East Kelowna, British Columbia.  The winery first opened in 1980, then known as Uniacke Wines. In 1986 it was purchased by the Fitzpatrick family, who changed the name to CedarCreek, and began planting some of the earliest pinot noir vines in the valley.

Over five years ago CedarCreek embarked on a massive refit converting the family-owned Estate vineyards to organic farming that encompasses every aspect of the winery, from regenerative farming and sustainable viticulture to farm-to-bottle craftsmanship in their wine cellar.  As of 2021, all vineyards were Ecocert certified.

CedarCreek has partnered with local environmentalists to collect native plant seeds from the property – the seeds are used for fundraising, for native plant re-establishment on other sites, and at the boundaries of new vineyards to support biodiversity.

The estate is the home of five Scottish Highland Cows, a flock of chickens, beehives, worm farms and cover crops to create a thriving ecosystem.

CedarCreek was awarded two Platinum Medals, four Gold, eight Silver and five Bronze.

Platinum Medal

  • CedarCreek Platinum Jagged Rock Syrah 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Aspect Collection Block 5 Chardonnay 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • CedarCreek Platinum Jagged Rock Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rose 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Platinum Home Block Riesling 2021, Okanagan Valley

Rounding out the top ten producers for 2022 were the following wineries:

The second-place finisher was Ontario’s 13th Street Winery, who was awarded 2 Platinum, 2 Gold, 7 Silver and 9 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • 13th Street Reserve Syrah 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • 13th Street Premier Cuvee 2015, Niagara Peninsula

Gold Medal

  • 13th Street Gamay 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • 13th Street Blanc De Blanc 2019, Niagara Peninsula

Third was British Columbia’s SpearHead Winery that had 1 Platinum, 7 Gold, 3 Silver and 5 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Spearhead Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Spearhead Botrytis Affected Late Harvest Riesling 2019, Okanagan Valley (375ml)
  • Spearhead Pinot Noir Cuvée 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Spearhead Golden Retreat Pinot Noir 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Spearhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2020, Okanagan Valley

In fourth position was British Columbia’s Mission Hill Family Estate which earned 1 Platinum, 4 Gold and 9 Silver medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Mission Hill Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Syrah 2020, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Mission Hill Reserve Riesling 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2020, Okanagan Valley

The fifth-place winery was British Columbia’s La Frenz Estate Winery which won 1 Platinum, 9 Gold and 8 Silver medals.

Platinum Medal

  • La Frenz Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • La Frenz Malbec Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Grand Total Reserve 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Aster Brut 2018, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Reserve Vivant 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Pinot Noir Desperation Hill Vineyard 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Semillon Knorr Vineyard 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Riesling Cl. 49 Rockyfeller Vineyard 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Cabernets Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Liqueur Muscat, Okanagan Valley (375ml)

The sixth-place finisher was Ontario’s Vieni Estates which had 1 Platinum, 4 Gold, 2 Silver and 9 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Vieni Riesling 2020, Vinemount Ridge

Gold Medal

  • Vieni Cabernet Franc 2018, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Pinot Grigio 2021, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Unoaked Chardonnay 2019, Vinemount Ridge

In seventh position was British Columbia’s Black Hills Estate Winery, with a record of 1 Platinum, 5 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Black Hills Ipso Facto 2020, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Black Hills Per Se 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Roussanne 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Addendum 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Alibi 2021, Okanagan Valley

The eighth spot went to British Columbia’s Fort Berens Estate Winery which earned 1 Platinum, 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 6 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2020

Gold Medal

  • Fort Berens Small Lot Grüner Veltliner 2021, Lillooet
  • Fort Berens Merlot Reserve 2019, Lillooet
  • Fort Berens Merlot 2019

The ninth-place position went to British Columbia’s Bordertown Vineyards & Estate Winery which had 1 Platinum, 3 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Bordertown Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Bordertown Cabernet Franc 2019, BC VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Bordertown Malbec 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Bordertown Syrah 2019, Okanagan Valley

Earning the tenth spot was Ontario’s Thirty Bench Wine Makers with 6 Gold, 7 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.

Gold Medal

  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • Thirty Bench Special Select Late Harvest 2019 (375ml)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

The best performing small winery award goes to the winery with a production of 10,000 cases or less that chalked up the highest aggregate score for its five top-scoring wines.  This year the award was presented to the Okanagan Valley’s SpearHead Winery.  SpearHead 2019 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir took a coveted Platinum Medal.  In addition to this, SpearHead wines received seven Gold, three Silver and five Bronze medals.

Sláinte mhaith

Islay Whiskies

Islay whisky is Scotch whisky made on the Isle of Islay (pronounced ‘EYE-la’), which is one of the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands, located off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is one of five whisky distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law. It is also one of my favourite places, having visited there twice and the desire to return again.

Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

There are nine active distilleries on Islay which measures only 40 by 24 kilometres.  With peat soil, freshwater and homegrown barley all available on the island, it is the perfect location for producing scotch.  It is interesting to note that there is just not one style of whisky being produced on the island but in fact several.

The distilleries along the southeastern coast of the island, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, have a smoky flavour that results from the water from which the whisky is made and from the peating levels of the barley.  My introduction to Islay scotch came from my B & B host on my first arrival on Islay.  Each guest was given a dram as a welcome to the isle.  On this particular day the scotch of choice was a 10 year old Ardbeg.  What a shock that was to my system!  For me, it was like drinking turpentine. However, since then I have gained an appreciation for peaty Islay scotch so I owe it to myself to try Ardbeg again.  Lagavulin, which was introduced to me by my wife’s uncle on a subsequent trip to Islay several years later, has become a personal favourite. On that same trip I was served a dram of Laphroaig by another B & B host, who warned me that the scotch was rather “medicinal” tasting.  His warning did not deter me as I was already familiar with the whisky.  Interestingly, my wife’s ancestors were the original distillers of Laphroaig.

Here is a brief description of the 9 distilleries and some of what they offer:

Ardbeg

Ardbeg produces one of Islay’s peatiest whiskies. It was opened in 1815 but closed in 1981 after falling into disrepair.  In 1997 it was purchased by Glenmorangie who refurbished it and got it back up and running.

The Ardbeg 10 is considered to be complex and smoky.  However, I must admit I have not had any since my inaugural tasting on my first adventure to Islay many years ago. Peat lovers are said to enjoy Ardbeg Corryvreckan and if whisky aged in a sherry cask is to your liking, Ardbeg Uigeadail or the blended Ardbeg An Oa may be for you.

Ardnahoe

Ardnahoe is Islay’s newest distillery, only getting approval for development in 2016.  The first whisky was only produced in the fall of 2018.  Therefore it is only this year that the brew has aged long enough to call it whisky.  Thus it will probably be another few years before you see an Ardnahoe whisky on store shelves.

Bowmore

Bowmore is Islay’s oldest licensed distillery, operating since 1779. The whisky produced by Bowmore is one of Islay’s lightest, making for a sweet and sea-salty flavour. Bowmore produces a variety of different cask types.

Their whiskies include the Bowmore 12 year old which has flavours of honey and lemon. The Bowmore 15 is matured first in bourbon barrels then Oloroso casks for a sherry finish. Finally, for those who like older whiskies there is the Bowmore 18.

I was first introduced to the pleasurable Bowmore 12 by a close friend a few years ago while relaxing at his cottage.  In my opinion it capped off the perfect weekend.

Bruichladdich

The Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddie) distillery operated from 1881 to 1995 and re-opened in 2000.  Today it is one of the island’s most modern and innovative distillers even though their equipment is Victorian and no computers are used in the whisky-making. Bruichladdich also produces Port Charlotte whisky, Islay Botanist Gin, as well as the world’s peatiest whisky, the smoky Octomore range.

Whiskies to try from Bruichladdich include the Bruichladdich Classic 10-year-old “Laddie”, which is an easy-drinking, non-peated whisky and the Port Charlotte 10-year-old.  Both are sweet, salty and mellow.

I stumbled onto the Laddie while in a liquor store quite a few years ago.  There happened to be a display close to the check-out where my wife noticed the pretty blue bottle and thought it would be a nice addition to my bar.  It is now a regular scotch go-to.

I was fortunate enough to be gifted their Black Art a few years ago by my son.  Unfortunately, it was a one-time offering, so I savour it and save it to drink only occasionally to make it last.

Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain (pronounced Boo na hab hain) has produced whisky since 1883. Bunnahabhain doesn’t have that traditional smoky Islay taste.  Instead it is double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

Whiskies to try at Bunnahabhain include the classic Bunnahabhain 12 and the Bunnahabhain 18.  Both whiskies taste of honey and sea salt.   Bunnahabhain also produces Toiteach A Dhà which is Bunnahabhain but with a little bit of peat.

Caol Ila

Caol Ila (pronounced Cull-eela) is the largest distillery on Islay producing up to 3 million litres of spirit a year; though mainly for blends such as Chivas Regal. Except for a brief interruption from 1972 to 1974, Caol Ila has operated since 1846.

Coal Ila produces a traditionally peated Islay whisky.  Having a light smoke, it is one of the more accessible and popular of the Islay whisky distilleries.

Whiskies to try from Caol Ila include the Caol Ila 12-Year-Old, which is sweet and lemony and the Caol Ila 18-Year-Old, which is more smoky and sour.

Kilchoman

Kilchoman ( pronounced kil-ho-man) is Islay’s smallest distillery, opened in 2005. It produces Single Farm Single Malt, a whisky produced entirely on-site.

Whiskies to try from Kilchoman include Kilchoman Machir Bay, a traditional Islay whisky.

Lagavulin

Lagavulin has been in continuous operation since 1816 and produces an intense smoky whisky classic to Islay. The taste of Lagavulin is very distinctive, in part due to its medical iodine smell along with seaweed and salt.

Whiskies to try at Lagavulin include the Lagavulin 16-Year-Old, one of my personal favourites, the Lagavulin 12-year-old and a Lagavulin Distillers Edition.  I enjoy visiting their tasting room where you can relax in a high-back leather chair while sampling their whisky offerings.

Laphroaig

Similar to Lagavulin, Laphroaig also has an intense smoky medicinal taste.  It has been operating since 1815. My most memorable Laphroaig experience was having a dram before dinner while staying at Mingary Castle at Kilchoan on the Ardmanurchan Peninsula, which was originally held by my wife’s ancestors.

The most popular Laphroaig is the Laphroaig 10-year-old, but they also have a Laphroaig 16-year-old and a 25 and 30-year-old.  There is also the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, which is a young whisky aged in old barrels for a sweeter taste.

Whatever style of whisky you like you are bound to find one from Islay that will strike your fancy.

Sláinte mhaith

Ontario’s Sustainable Wineries

The spirit of sustainability in Ontario starts with VQA (see Selecting Canadian Wines from June 22, 2019) in that the wines must be 100% locally crafted with 100% Ontario-grown grapes.  This helps to reduce the environmental footprint.

There are now thirteen Sustainable Winemaking Ontario Certified (SWO) wineries.  These wineries have had to adapt a rigorous, comprehensive program of environmentally responsible technologies and practices.  Certified wineries are audited annually by a third-party in the following 3 areas:

Environment

  • Water conservation
  • Energy efficiency
  • Recycling
  • Reducing
  • Reusing

Economy

  • Production of VQA wines
  • Local material sourcing

Community

  • Community leadership
  • Social responsibility
  • Being a good neighbour

The wines produced by SWO wineries will display a green-leaf logo on the bottle.

Ontario’s SWO wineries are identified in alphabetical order below.

Cave Spring Vineyard (Niagara)

5-3836 Main Street

Jordan, Ontario, L0R 1S0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Cave Spring uses a mixture of grasses to control weeds and erosion in the vineyard.  They also encourage endangered species like the brown bat to inhabit the areas of the vineyard.  The bats help to combat the insect population, eliminating the need for chemical pesticides.

Indigenous yeast is used in the wine’s fermentation process and the winery’s main warehouse is powered by solar panels.

Château des Charmes (Niagara)

1025 York Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake

St. David’s, Ontario, L0S 1P0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Herbicides are never used at Château des Charmes.  Weeds are controlled by mechanically tilling the soil which chops them up and mixes them with the soil turning them into fertilizer.

The discarded stems, skins, seeds and unused grapes are returned to the land as a natural fertilizer.  Composted manure instead of chemical fertilizer is used to replenish nutrients in the soil.

Pest control is utilized only when necessary and, when possible, natural products like sulfur are used in the smallest possible quantities.

The cellars are temperature controlled using geothermal systems.  They are located 9 metres below ground and remain a consistent temperature and humidity throughout the year.

Gray water acquired after washing tanks and barrels is collected and pumped to a clay-lined lagoon onsite. This water is naturally filtered then used to water their lawns and gardens.

Natural cork is used because it is a sustainably farmed product and its production has a much lower carbon footprint than the production methods used to make aluminum screw caps.

The barrels are sourced from Programme for the Endorsement Forest Certification (PEFC) certified forests, utilizing raw materials that are often wasted during the stave milling process.

Flat Rock Cellars (Niagara)

2727 Seventh Avenue

Jordan, Ontario, L0R 1S0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Flat Rock uses geothermal systems to heat and cool the winery.  They make use of gravity wherever possible throughout the wine making process to minimize energy use.  Their Green Roof Patio is located on top of the barrel cellar and warehouse, which is built into the geological structure of the landscape.  This lets Flat Rock take advantage of the naturally insulated underground space to age and store their wine.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate (Niagara)

1469 Pelham Rd., R.R. #1

St. Catharines, ON Canada L2R 6P7

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

The winery has been designed so that the various areas can be heated or cooled independently, often using outdoor air.  The stainless-steel storage tanks have been wrapped in foil-coated bubble wrap.

Henry of Pelham takes part in wetland restoration, biofiltration, reforestation and water conservation.  They also have a community fund-raising program and accept fund raising applications.

Hidden Bench Estate Winery (Niagara)

4152 Locust Lane

Beamsville, Ontario, L0R 1B0

SWO Winery Certified, Certified Organic

Geothermal energy is used to provide heating and cooling for both the building and winemaking processes.  There are also solar panels on the roof of their storage building which help reduce the need for power from the electrical grid.

Hidden Bench was one of the initial consumers of Bullfrog Power, Ontario’s first green electricity company. Bullfrog Power sources its electricity from wind turbines, solar and non-interventionist hydroelectric power so there is minimal impact on the environment.

There is a complimentary EV charging station at the winery which allows their visitors to charge their electric cars while there.

Hidden Bench uses recycled materials wherever possible in its product packaging.

Malivoire Wine Company (Niagara)

4260 King Street East

Beamsville, Ontario, L0R 1B0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Sustainability has been a core pillar of the winemaking and wine-growing philosophy at Malivoire since their inception. They see the winery and vineyard as a wholistic system. They promote biodiversity and a healthy living vineyard that protects wildlife habitat by working to eliminate synthetic inputs.  Soil stability and fertility are important to them.

Pelee Island Winery (Lake Erie North Shore)

20 East West Road

Pelee Island, Ontario, N0R 1M0

SWO Winery Certified

Pelee Island uses a protocol for integrated pest management developed with support from World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF). They are committed to the use of ecologically responsible pesticides and ‘all natural’ island grown fertilizer.

The winery has established a stewardship for a Red Cedar Savannah Forest that is unique to Pelee Island. Restoration efforts have saved this forest from extinction and allowed for new growth, as well as the acclimatization of dozens of unique habitats.  The winery plans to engage a in five-year study that will facilitate the total rehabilitation of this forest.

With investments in renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, recycling, water treatment facilities, composting, bio-dynamic sewage systems and organic farming, Pelee Island Winery plans to lead the way as an environmentally safe community.

Pillitteri Estates Winery (Niagara)

1696 Niagara Stone Road

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, L0S 1J0

SWO Winery Certified

As family farmers, Pillitteri know the importance of buying quality and locally sourced products. They support the economy of their local community which provides the best opportunity to purchase a quality product at the best price.  That is why Pillitteri Estates Winery has chosen to produce 100% locally grown wines that come from grapes grown in their community.

Reif Estate Winery (Niagara)

15608 Niagara Parkway

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, L0S 1J0

SWO Winery Certified

There are no details regarding sustainability practices provided on Reif’s website.

Southbrook Organic Vineyards (Niagara)

581 Niagara Stone Rd.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, L0S 1J0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified, Certified Organic, Biodynamic, & LEED Certified

Southbrook understands the importance of organic and biodynamic viticulture and focuses on the soil, water and ecosystems for producing their wine.  Their certifications include Demeter, ECOCERT Canada, LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Sustainable Winemaking Ontario, and VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance).

Organic agriculture uses natural inputs. It uses less water, less energy, no synthetic pesticides, no chemical fertilizer, no bioengineering and no genetic modification. Organic agriculture results in more biodiversity, conserves more water and improves soil health. The entire 150-acre property is certified organic and biodynamic.  

Southbrook’s hospitality pavilion became the first winery building to receive the Gold level of LEED.  Natural light prevails in the hospitality pavilion, while the floor-to-ceiling double-glazed windows control temperature transfer. The walls are thoroughly insulated, while deep roof overhangs give added shade to the building. Indoor water usage is controlled by automatic and low-flow fixtures. Externally, there is a bioswale with native wetland plants to break down pollution from stormwater draining off the access road and parking lots.

Southbrook gives back to the community through donations of facilities, labour and wine.  They have committed tens of thousands of dollars to charity.

Stratus (Niagara)

2059 Niagara Stone Rd.

Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, L0S 1J0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified, LEED Certified

In 2005, Stratus was the first winery in Canada to earn LEED certification (see my post on LEED Certification in the Wine Industry from October 23, 2021).  They recycle vine trunks and cuttings using a technique called pyrolysis, which processes green matter into biochar by heating it in an oxygen-reduced self-contained chamber.  The biochar is then added to the compost pile and eventually circulated back into the vineyard.

Strewn Winery (Niagara)

1339 Lakeshore Rd.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Strewn’s web site indicates that the winery is a certified sustainable winery but provides no other details.

Vineland Estate Winery (Niagara)

3620 Moyer Rd.

Vineland, Ontario, L0R 2C0

SWO Winery & Vineyard Certified

Vineland’s sustainability efforts have included switching from conventional to LED lighting.  Timers and motion sensors have been installed. Equipment has been upgraded to be more energy efficient.

Water usage has been reduced as a result of changing their cleaning procedures and changing to low-flow water taps where possible.  They have also taken other measures to reduce wastewater and waste in general.

From a community perspective, Vineland supports fair wages and working conditions.  They also support several charitable organizations through their Legacy and Game Changer programs.

Final Thoughts

Although the number of sustainable wineries in Ontario is increasing, the vast majority are still not sustainable.  Given the seriousness of our environmental challenges, the wine industry, like so many others, still has a long way to go before we begin to see a real positive impact. 

Sláinte mhaith

Wine for a Summer Picnic

With summertime fast approaching it will soon be time to focus on going to the beach and picnics.  The recipe for a great picnic is great weather and food and of course, wonderful wine.   A good picnic wine will be refreshing, balanced, and will pair well with the foods you pack. A picnic should not require a lot of fuss and muss.  The focus should be on sharing good food and wine with family or friends.  If it requires a huge amount of time and effort to prepare, the outcome is probably not worth the effort.

Photo credit: foodbankwma.org

One thing not to do is consider a picnic the same as a barbecue.  The wines that pair well at a barbecue are not necessarily the same ones that work well at a picnic. Barbecues are all about bold and spicy where picnics are more about a broad spectrum of lighter fare. Most of the foods served at a picnic will be cold and on the lighter side.

Common picnic foods include things such as potato salad, cold fried chicken, cheeses and crackers, charcuterie, fresh bread and fresh fruit. Wines best suited include cool, crisp, whites, rosés or very light reds.

White wine options include Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc which are dry, crisp, herbal whites that are ideal for summer sipping. They won’t overpower picnic food.  Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc are fruitier but still light and perfect for a picnic. They are bright, acidic and loaded with crisp citrus fruit and minerality.

A dry Riesling with crisp acidity and light mineral flavours will pair well with spicier foods such as charcuterie.  Moscato d’Asti is a lightly fizzy white with apricot and almond flavours that will pair well with fruit and salads.

A freezer sleeve that slides over a standard 750 ml. bottle will keep your wine chilled.

Rosé or blush wines are versatile. They should also be served chilled the same as whites. These lightly acidic wines offer fruit flavours such as melon, strawberry and red fruit qualities that pair well with cheese and crackers, seafood, salads or cold chicken.

Light red wines with less alcohol, such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Beaujolais would be good choices for a picnic, particularly charcuterie and cold cuts. While these wines don’t need to be served chilled, they should not be overwarmed so transporting them in a cooler would be a good idea.  Set them out about 10 minutes before serving.

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Following the Irish or Scottish Whisky Trail

Now that we seem to be slowly moving beyond the ugly shadow of COVID-19, people are starting to think about overseas travel once again.  If you are planning to journey to Ireland or Scotland here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to head down the whiskey/whisky trail.

Photo credit: topwhiskies.com

If you visit a distillery or two or six along the way and decide to purchase a sampling to bring home, I suggest selecting one that is not available at home.  Why cart a heavy fragile bottle around on your travels if you can conveniently purchase the same thing at your neighbourhood liquor store?  I make a point of sampling those that are not readily available at home and purchase one of those.

Another thing to keep in mind is the duty on any alcohol you plan on bringing home.  Generally, you are permitted one 750 ml. bottle per adult traveller without having to pay import duty on your return home.  I have the advantage of my wife not being fond of whisky so I get to choose a bottle for her to bring home as well.

Never go into a pub in Scotland and ask for a “Scotch”.  If the server is polite he or she will simply stare at you with a blank look on their face.  However, they are as equally likely to respond with a cheeky “Scotch what?” or something more sarcastic.  Scotch whisky in Scotland is simply referred to as “whisky”. Instead, ask for a whisky, or better yet, check out the selection and order it by name. With 130 distilleries in Scotland the selections available will often vary by the region you are visiting.

The same holds true in Ireland where all whiskey is Irish whiskey. Save yourself a ribbing and order your choice by name.  When in doubt you will find that most pubs in the Republic of Ireland will have Jamison’s, pronounced ‘Jămĭsŏns’, or if you travel to Northern Ireland Bushmill is a safe bet to order.

My father would not be very happy with me but I prefer Irish pubs over their Scottish counterparts.  To me they are much livelier and the people less reserved and more friendly. The pubs in both countries are full of character and natural charm. 

Finally, there seem to be many more beer options in Ireland than in Scotland though Scottish whisky options far exceed whiskey choices found in Ireland.  However, I am not going to weigh in on the Scotch Whisky versus Irish Whiskey debate as to which is better.  I like both; my preference is determined by my mood.

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Rosé With a Difference

Now that the warm weather is here it is a great time to crack open a bottle of Rosé.  Pale Rosé is by far the most common and thus the most popular type of Rosé but there is a second less known, darker Rosé.

Photo credit: winefolly.com

Darker Rosés can have a fuller body and a greater concentration of flavours.  They may be more complex and structured, making them able to pair well with a wider array of summertime foods.

The most common types of red wine grapes used to make Rosé are Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and Pinot Noir.  The skins are generally exposed to the wine for only a short time. Where some red wines ferment for weeks at a time on red grape skins, rosé wines are left for just a few hours.  However, when making dark Rosé, only dark-skinned varietals are used, such as Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon.  The grape skins are also exposed to the wine for a longer period of time in order to gain more flavour.

Where light and medium bodied Rosés pair well with cheese, creamy sauces and dips, savoury canapés, mezes and tapas, darker Rosés will go well with smoke and char flavours of grilled meats and vegetables, as well as full-flavoured sauces.

The occasion for serving Rosé varies by type as well.  Light or medium-bodied ones are best served chilled and lend themselves well to sipping while relaxing at the cottage or in the backyard.  Darker Rosés, on the other hand, fair well served chilled, at a backyard barbecue.

Whichever Rosé you prefer, now is the best time of year to sit back, relax and enjoy a glass.

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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

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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.

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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.

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