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.

Sláinte mhaith

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.

Sláinte mhaith

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.

Sláinte mhaith

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.

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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.

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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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