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

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

Sláinte mhaith

Tastings and Rankings

Although the subject of my writing today is on whisky, the same thoughts apply to wine reviews as well.  The beverage is different but the prejudices, influences and considerations remain the same; food for thought.

Photo credit: etsy.com

Taste is subjective; remember the saying “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”?  My own opinions as to preference will vary within reason depending on my mood.  I suggest treating these articles as a curiosity and entertainment, not as gospel.   I read some of the reviews to see how the writer’s opinions may compare to my own.  For the article to have any kind of validity, the author needs to reveal what selections were sampled and how that list was determined.

Before assessing the writer’s results, you need to be aware of any bias the person may have.  If comparing peated whisky with non-peated whisky, the writer may allow a personal bias of whether they are a fan of the smokiness of peat be an influence.  On the other hand, if a group of whiskies were being ranked based on the sweetness and/or peatiness, without comment as to personal preference, that can be valuable to a reader in matching their personal preferences.

Double-blind tastings where the reviewer is unaware of what whiskies are being sampled, as well as the order in which they are presented is best.  That way personal prejudice may be better avoided.   For example, Zach Johnston of uproxx.com was quoted during his review, Scotch Whiskies Tasted ‘Double-Blind’ And Power Ranked, “I had no idea what this was (Johnnie Walker Blue Label). I do feel that had I known it was in the lineup, I’d had sussed it out and ranked it higher. So, this is a pretty good example of how double blinds really push the envelope.”  This is a good example of how a whisky’s reputation or price point can bias opinion on how good a whisky is.

Should price be a consideration?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  In the example above, Johnnie Walker Blue was ranked 6th of the 8 whiskies tasted. It carries a price tag in excess of $300.  The 5 whiskies ranked higher ranged from $100 to slightly under $300.  However, the whisky that ranked last was also by far the least expensive, priced at under $85. 

It is important to make sure that the reviewer is comparing apples to apples.  It hardly seems fair to compare a simple 10-year-old malt with a price point in the $80 range with a 25-year-old that was aged in an ex-bourbon or ex-sherry cask, in the $250 and up price range.  After all, for a difference of $200 or more, there should be a differentiating factor, otherwise why would you pay the extra money?

Finally, if the reviewer is from outside of Canada, the selection list isn’t often completely relevant.  Many of the whiskies are often not available to try.  Therefore, from a practical standpoint, a comparison or ranking of a good sampling of whiskies may be reduced to a comparison of only 2 or 3, depending on accessibility.

However, after all is said and done, reviews do provide a new perspective for consideration and thought.

Sláinte mhaith

The Colour of Wine Bottles

Wine bottles come in a variety of colours but the most common ones come in shades of green, brown, and clear. Winemakers will consider several factors when choosing between the colours of wine bottles to use. The decision will be based on aesthetics (packaging), whether or not to showcase the wine’s colour, the level of required UV protection and any consumer expectations such as traditional European bottling concepts.

Some wines are fermented in the bottle while others are bottled after fermentation. In recent years the bottle size has been standardized, measuring 750 millilitres. Wine bottles are produced, however, in a variety of volumes and shapes.

Many European winemakers base their glass colour selection on tradition.   However, some vintners select a glass colour on visual aesthetics, design and packaging. Others choose a bottle based on the colour schemes associated with the label design or a presentation that fits a certain marketing goal. For example, occasionally you may come across a blue bottle, which is driven by marketing. Flint/clear bottles may also fall into this category because the clear glass is the only way to showcase the colour of the wine.

Photo credit: BruniGlass.com

Producers need to choose between a clear bottle that displays the wine colour or a dark coloured bottle colour that provides UV protection. Wine is sensitive to both sunlight and fluorescent light.  As little as a single hour of sunlight can cause lightstruck, which impacts the flavour of a wine. This can cause wine to taste like rotting leaves, cooked cabbage, leeks, onions, skunk, wet wool or soy.

Certain grape varietals, wine styles, and wines that have more amino acids or hydrogen disulphide (H2S) are more at risk to develop off-flavours. Because of this, sparkling wine is rarely bottled in clear glass. Since aromatic and neutral white wines are delicate, you can taste any off flavours more easily.

Not surprisingly, clear/flint bottles filter the least amount of light, resulting in more light damage than other glass colours. Wines bottled in flint/clear glass are meant for immediate consumption. Tests on white and sparkling wines bottled in flint/clear glass and trials show that citrus aromas in wines decrease and off-flavors increase after only 3.3 – 3.4 hours of exposure to fluorescent lights.

Clear colourless bottles have recently become popular with white wine producers in many countries including Greece, New Zealand and Canada, as well as for sweet white wines from Bordeaux.

Antique/Dark Green Glass

Antique Green is a darker shade of green that is the traditional glass colour for red wines that need to age, including the red wines from Bordeaux, Rhone and Burgundy, France.  It is also popular in the U.S. as it provides the wine with UV protection from fading or oxidation.

Many white wines also come in dark green bottles in order to reduce the effects of UV light.

Champagne/Vibrant Green

Champagne Green is a vibrant green that is the dominate colour used in the Champagne and Alsace regions of France. It is also commonly used within Germany and Austria for bottling Riesling and in California for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Champagne Green filters out 63% to 92% of UV light.

Dead Leaf/Pale Yellowy Green

The third shade of green is Dead Leaf Green which is almost a light yellowy-green colour. This shade of green provides some UV protection and is traditionally used for white wines. It is one of the traditional glass colours for wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, France.

Wine in a colourless bottle is meant to be drunk right away, not stored and aged.

Amber Brown Glass

Amber/brown glass filters out 97% to98% of the light wavelengths and offers the best UV protection but is rarely used outside of the Rhine region of Germany. If wineries were always basing their decision on the glass that best protects their wine, amber brown coloured bottles would be the most common bottle used.

Final Thought

The choice of colour for a wine bottle depends on several considerations and each winery selects the colour(s) that they feel are right for them and their brand. Their choice is based on their priorities between marketing, tradition, wine integrity or a combination of the best practices in each area. Those decisions impact your wine experience.

Sláinte mhaith

Sugar Levels in Champagne & Other Sparkling Wines

Given that that New Year’s is fast approaching it seems like a good time to talk about sparkling wines; in particular the amount of sweetness in these wines.  Sweetness levels range from super dry to very sweet. Because of this extreme variation, the experts have developed a standardized sweetness scale that has been divided into seven levels.

Photo credit: ScientificAmerican.com

The sweetness level varies due to a step in the wine making process referred to as “liqueur d’expedition” where producers add a small amount of grape must (sugar) before corking the bottle. Since sparkling wine is so acidic, the sweetness is added in order to reduce sour flavours in the final product.

The sweetness scale for sparkling wines consists of the following levels:

Brut Nature (Brut Zero)

  • 0-3 grams (g) of natural residual sugar (RS) / litre (L)
  • 0-2 calories and up to 0.15 carbs for a total of 91–93 calories per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Extra Brut

  • 0-6 g/L RS
  • 0-6 calories and up to 0.9 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Brut

  • 0-12 g/L RS
  • 0-7 calories and up to 1.8 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Extra Dry

  • 12-17 g/L RS
  • 7-10 calories and 1.8–2.6 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Dry (Secco)

  • 17-32 g/L RS
  • 10-19 calories and 2.6–4.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Demi-Sec

  • 32-50 g/L RS
  • 19-30 calories and 4.8–7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Doux

  • 50+ g/L RS
  • 30+ calories and more than 7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of more than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Brut has a fair amount of variation in sweetness, whereas Extra Brut and Brut Nature have focused sugar content. Therefore, if a dryer wine is your preference it is best to select either an Extra Brut or Brut Nature wine.

Something to keep in mind when considering the sweetness of sparkling wine is how little sugar is required to make it taste sweet.  The amount of sugar in these wines is comparatively low to other beverages.

Drink Comparison (sugar levels in grams)

  • 0 g in Vodka Soda
  • 0.5 g in Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
  • 2 g in Brut Sparkling Wine
  • 8 g in Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
  • 14 g in Gin & Tonic
  • 16 g in Honest Tea Green Tea
  • 17 g in Starbucks 2% Milk Grande Latte
  • 20 g  in Margarita on the rocks (made w/ simple syrup)
  • 33 g in Rye & Coke

Happy Holidays!

Sláinte mhaith

Ripasso Style Wines

Ripasso is an ancient wine making technique used for centuries in Italy’s Valpolicella wineries. Ripasso, also known as double fermentation, is a method used to give more structure, body and flavours to the basic Valpolicella wine.  Ripasso is an Italian word meaning “review“, “re-pass” or “go over again“.

Photo credit: VinePair.com

Once harvested in autumn, selected grapes to be used in both Amarone and Recioto wines remain in lofts above wineries to dry for about four months. All the rest of the harvested grapes are squeezed and fermented to make the basic Valpolicella Classico wine.

At the end of January or beginning of February the semi-dried grapes for Amarone and Recioto are squeezed and fermented together with grape skins. Once the fermentation is complete the grape skins are removed and wine is then stored for ageing.

The Valpolicella wine that was fermented back in the fall is then put over these Recioto and Amarone skins which, being still full of un-fermented sugars, starts a second fermentation. These skins still contain aromatic compounds and tannins that are transferred to the Valpolicella wine.

Valpolicella Ripasso shares the freshness and lightness of basic Valpolicella wine but has more of the structures and flavours of the more expensive Amarone.  This is kind of a happy medium between the other two. There is cherry fruitiness of a classic Valpolicella but it will have more tannins and flavours from the dried grape skins; providing flavour of darker fruits, spice and leather and will have a longer finish.

Valpolicella Ripasso wine will be identified in one of several ways.  On the label beside the words ‘Valpolicella Classico DOC’, will appear an additional description such as Ripasso, Double Fermentation or Second Fermentation.

You can count on the wine being a medium bodied wine, fruity and having tertiary flavours and aromas.  Some will have flavours similar to a basic Valpolicella wine, while others will be closer to an Amarone wine.  Each vintner has their own style of making it as they use varying percentages of fresh to dried grapes.  It is worth while trying several different ones to find your own preference.

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Does Price Influence Taste?

Studies have shown that there is a common perception that the higher the price of a bottle of wine, the better the taste and the more enjoyable it is.

Image credit: Fix.com

During one of these studies the participants were provided with incorrect information regarding the price of the various wines tasted.  It was discovered that the participants found that an inexpensive wine was far more enjoyable when it was believed to have a higher price.

The study took place at Switzerland’s University of Basel where 140 participants were provided with six different wine samples which they had to rate for pleasantness and intensity.  Three of the samples provided no price information while the others displayed a price; a low, a medium and a high price.

The three wines indicating price had none, one or two of the wines incorrectly priced.  The mislabeled wines were either four times higher or four times lower than the actual price.

When the price of the wine was not displayed the study showed no difference in the pleasantness rating, irrelevant of the actual price.  However, the mislabelled wines showed that the level of enjoyment was directly related to the indicated price.  Low-cost wines displaying an erroneous high price were found to be more enjoyable than the true higher priced wines.

In another study researchers used MRIs to scan participants’ reactions while tasting deceptively labeled wines.  The research indicated that as the label price increased so did the enjoyment of the wine.  During a subsequent study the same results were achieved.

The studies also showed that decreasing the displayed price of an expensive wine did not affect the overall rating for its pleasantness.  However, when the price was deceptively increased most participants preferred the wine more.

Even when one wine has a legitimate higher price it should be kept in mind that the higher price can often be attributed to being produced by a prestigious winery or vintner, being a rare vintage, being produced from exceptionally old or historic vines or wines consisting of varietals that are not in abundant supply.  None of these reasons necessarily noticeably impact the flavour or quality of the wine; food for thought when perusing the aisles of your local wine merchant.

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Ontario’s Movers and Shakers for 2021

With COVID-19 finally starting to loosen its grip over the country and the hopes that people will be able to begin moving more freely again, I have put together my 2021 list of wines to watch for.  Not all of these wines will be available at your local wine store; some can only be purchased online or directly from the winery. 

One significant indicator of which wineries are making an impact is usually the Ontario Wine Awards.  However, COVID-19 caused the 2021 awards to be cancelled.  The 2020 awards were conducted virtually but the organizers decided to forego the 2021 awards with the exception of the ‘Winemaker of the Year Award, which will be announced sometime during the summer.  A second indicator is the National Wine Awards, which for 2021 has been deferred from June to October.

Selecting a list of top wineries is very subjective.  Depending on the reviewer, ratings may be based on any or all of:

  • Customer visit experience at the winery
  • Overall service of the winery
  • The winery facility and amenities
  • The variety of wines offered for sale
  • Price point
  • The quality of the wine

For the purposes of this review I have based my opinions on my interpretation of recent trends, the wineries successes, and the quality of their wine, their wine-making practices and what makes them stand out above their competitors at the present time.  My list is presented in no particular order.

Rosehall Run Vineyard, Prince Edward County

Having won the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards “Red Wine of the Year” for its 2018 ‘JCR Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard’ I am looking forward to seeing what Rosehall Run will do this year.  I was fortunate enough to visit The County last fall and taste this prize winner, as well as bring a few bottles home.  Based on last year’s performance, I would think that this year’s Pinot Noir release will be worth getting a hold of.

2020 was not the first time Rosehall Run has received an award.  Their recognized achievements go back to 2006 and they have even had their wine included on the menu for a Royal visit.

Angels Gate Winery, Niagara

Winemaker Philip Dowell was named 2020’s ‘Winemaker of the Year’ at the Ontario Wine Awards. Dowell has a simple philosophy on winemaking; it’s all about balance both in the vineyard and in the actual wine. It’s about bringing together the ‘terroir’, ‘elevage’ and ‘typicity’ of wine. The ‘terroir” is the character of the grape from a specific vineyard site; ‘elevage’ is the progress the wine takes through the cellar during its maturation; and ‘typicity’ is the distinctive vinous character each wine has.

Angels Gate Winery produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Shiraz.

Karlo Estates Winery, Prince Edward County

Karlo has rebounded after some struggles following the 2014 death of its founder and winemaker, Richard Karlo.  Karlo has redeveloped its vision, which is to promote sustainability and show that it is possible to be respectful of the planet while producing award-winning wines. Karlo was the first certified vegan wine in the world. Not only is the wine in the bottles certified vegan but all the vineyard practices are vegan as well.

Personally, I am a big fan of both the Van Alstine white and red Port, as well as their Quintus which is made using Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The Picone Vineyard, Niagara

The Picone Vineyard was a complete mystery to me prior to their winning the White Wine of the Year award at the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards for their 2017 ‘Charles Baker Riesling’.  The vineyard is small, only 10 acres.

In addition to the Riesling, they produce Fogolar Cabernet Franc, which is made from a one-acre block with prized vines that are 30+ years old.

Being committed to enhancing the environment by using sustainable practices in their winery and vineyard, the Wine Council of Ontario has certified Picone for sustainability management of their vineyard.

Interestingly, the owner, Mark Picone, is an internationally trained chef.  As well as owning the winery, Mark is a Chef Professor at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute.  What better way to showcase his wine than by pairing them with his own food creations.

Picone Vineyard may be small but it seems to have great future potential to become mighty.

Final Thoughts

Obviously these are not all the good wineries in Ontario, in fact far from it. However, these are the ones that caught my attention this past year.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will find any of their offerings in your local wine or liquor store.  However, if you find yourself in either the Niagara region or The County, visiting these wineries could be a fruitful (no pun intended) experience. Most of the wineries offer online ordering as well.

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Red Varietals Grown in Canada

Photo credit: WinesInNiagara.com

This week I conclude my review of the grape varietals grown in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.  The focus is on red wine grapes grown in these 3 provinces.

Baco Noir

Baco Noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety created by Francois Baco.  In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of North America, such as British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in all 3 Canadian provinces and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in these regions.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon making a bright, pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France and Spain, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, British Columbia and Ontario.

The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be a full-bodied wine with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates like Canada, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can be accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages.   In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olive notes while in very hot climates the currant flavours can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side.

Castel

The grape was created in 1953 by Ollie A. Bradt, at what is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Ontario. The grape is hardy, early-ripening and disease resistant.

De Chaunac

De Chaunac is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety used to make red wines. The grape was named after Adhemar de Chaunac, a pioneer in the Ontario wine industry.

De Chaunac is known to have a very vigorous growth habit and good resistance to mildew. It is grown in varying amounts for wine production across northeastern North America, especially in the winegrowing regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.

Gamay

Gamay is a purple-coloured grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley of France.  It has often been cultivated because it makes for abundant production.  It is grown in all 3 of the Canadian wine provinces.

Leon Millot

Léon Millot is a red variety of hybrid grape used for wine. The variety was named after the winemaker and tree nursery owner Léon Millot.  The grapes are grown in Nova Scotia.

Lucie Kuhlmann

This is a Kuhlmann hybrid variety, with growing and ripening characteristics similar to Leon Millot and Marechal Foch, though less widely grown. The wine, like Leon Millot, is capable of deep colour with a pronounced berry-like fruitiness. Wines made from Lucie Kuhlmann tend to have a slightly firmer tannic structure compared to Leon Millot.  These grapes are grown in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Malbec

Malbec is a purple grape variety that creates a dark red intense wine with robust tannins.  In addition to being bottled on its own it is also commonly blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux blend or is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.

In addition to France, Malbec has become an Argentine varietal but is also becoming popular in British Columbia and Ontario.

Marechal Foch

Marechal Foch is a hybrid French red wine grape variety. It was originally known as Kuhlmann 188-2.  The vines were imported to North America in the mid 1940s, where it was subsequently renamed Marechal Foch in honour of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War.

Marechal Foch ripens early and it is cold-hardy and resistant to fungal diseases. The quality of wine produced is dependent on the age of the vines, and the flavour profile associated with many new-world hybrid varietals is much reduced in comparison to wine made from older vines.

Today Marechal Foch is grown in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Marquette

Marquette is a blue/black-berried variety introduced in 2006 by the University of Minnesota in the United States. Marquette is the cousin of Frontenac, a well-known French-American hybrid.

Marquette is promising for cold-climate producers in North America, and a number of plantings have been established in Minnesota, Vermont, New York and Nova Scotia.

The grape has high sugar levels and moderate acidity. Marquette wines are typically medium bodied, with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries. In some cases more complex aromas such as tobacco and leather may also be exhibited, with spicy pepper notes on the finish.

Merlot

Merlot is a dark blue wine grape variety that is used by itself, as well as a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes it a popular grape for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals.

While Merlot is made around the world, there tends to be two main styles.  There is the International style that produces inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit.  The second style is the Bordeaux style where the harvesting of the grapes takes place earlier to maintain acidity. This style produces more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries.

In Canada Merlot is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Mischurnitz

This vine is from Eastern Europe but is now being grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. In 1983 a wine from Nova Scotia was voted the ‘best wine of Canada’ in a blind competition to supply the Canadian Embassies around the world. More recently two other Nova Scotia wineries, Jost Vineyards and Sainte Famille, are making notable wines with Michurinetz.

This extremely cold-hardy and vigorous vine typically produces red wines with tannic strength. The grapes also typically have extremely high natural acidity, and low sugar levels.

Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape that is mainly used in classic Bordeaux blends. It adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend. Petit Verdot has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into a single varietal wine. It is also useful in ‘stiffening’ the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.  It is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape that is grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates.  It is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot noir is now used to make red wines around the world. Regions that have gained a reputation for red Pinot Noir wines include Oregon, California, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the wine regions of Canada.

When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, there is the potential to develop more vegetal and barnyard aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.

Syrah

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.

The style and flavour profile of Syrah wines are influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown.  Moderate climates tend to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint and black pepper. In hot climates, Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of licorice and earthy leather.

Syrah is used as a single varietal, as well as in blends. It can be found all over the world from France to Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California, Washington, British Columbia and Ontario.

Zweigelt

Widely planted in Austria, Zweigelt vines have made inroads in Washington and the Canadian wine regions of Ontario and British Columbia.  There are some plantings in Hungary. In the Czech Republic it is known as Zweigeltrebe and is the third-most widely planted red-grape variety, comprising approximately 4.7% of total vineyards. It grows in most of the wine regions in Slovakia and now in Belgian and Polish vineyards.

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Wine and Cheese to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

A study has been completed suggesting that the foods you eat can have an impact on your cognitive ability in the future.  It suggests that eating cheese and drinking red wine may actually improve your brain’s cognitive abilities  Diet has long been considered a marker for our health later in life and studies have shown a link between diet, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Photo credit: gourmetcheesedetective.com

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, analyzed data over a 10-year period from 1,787 people between the ages of 46 and 77 in the United Kingdom. The researchers specifically looked at participants’ ability to think quickly, as well as their diet and alcohol consumption over time.

Researchers found that certain foods and drinks, including red wine and cheese, seemed to have protective effects against cognitive decline. Moderate consumption of red wine and cheese was found to have the best correlation for participants who had no genetic risk of developing cognitive diseases.  However, the experts caution against going overboard. The researchers were able to explain up to 15.6 percent of the variation in cognition over time.  They did go on to say that they were only able to see what the participants were eating and drinking during the 10-year study.

Though the findings are encouraging from a wine lover’s perspective, the researchers did say you shouldn’t load up on wine and cheese just yet as more research is needed.  They warn that the correlation does not equal cause. We shouldn’t leap to the assumption that drinking wine and eating cheese lowers our risk of cognitive decline over time as the study did not examine which components in cheese and wine were beneficial. Further clinical trials would be needed to determine if explicitly changing diet could impact brain health.

Diet and exercise remain as the two most important things that a person should manage for body health and brain health.  Doctors say that active people with good body weights are far more likely to retain good brain function, regardless of genetics.

Regarding the link with alcohol in this particular study, doctors warn against being too zealous. All things should be consumed in moderation.  While it’s nice to think that modest red wine consumption could have benefits, it’s also important to remember the harm that can result from over-indulgence.  However, it is good to know that eating cheese and drinking wine in moderation has potential benefits beyond just helping us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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