It’s Definitely Time for Ontario Wine!

A couple of very positive events took place in the world of Ontario wine yesterday (and one not so positive).  Firstly, the LCBO launched goLOCAL, a promotion of Ontario produced wine, focusing on VQA.  The second was the first annual Taste Ontario, a trade and media tasting event held at the AGO in Toronto, which showcased 42 of Ontario’s top wineries.  To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.”

I’m very happy to see the LCBO promoting Ontario VQA wines in such a positive way.  I was also pleased to read that Ontario VQA wine sales at the LCBO are up 17.4% in the last 5 months.  All the hype about the 2007 vintage being perhaps the best yet for Ontario wine has undoubtedly helped the cause.  With more and more of the premium reds from the 2007 vintage coming onto the market in the next few months, I’m confident we’ll see even higher sales.  I’ve tasted a few of these highly lauded reds and they are very good.

The first annual Taste Ontario event was a great event. There were several wines that I was very excited about.  Their tasting notes are below.

Now for the not so positive thing.  With so many wonderful wines being produced not just in Ontario, but all of Canada (see my post called, Some Great Wine from British Columbia), I was very disappointed to read in Michael Pinkus’s Ontario Wine Review Newsletter #117, that a British tabloid, the Economist, called Canadian wine “passable plonk.”  I’m postitive that if the author of that offensive remark attended the Taste Ontario event yesterday, or the Sip and Savour tasting in June of this year, he would realize how oh so wrong he was!

Here are the tasting notes for some of my favourite wines from the tasting yesterday.  note: most of the tasting notes are for red wines as that was what I was mainly concentrating on.  But, there were a couple of very good whites that I had to mention.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2006:  An intense nose of sweet vanilla, mineral, and peach pit.  It’s full-bodied with flavours of orange creamsicle, mineral and vanilla.  It has a very smooth, creamy texture and the finish lingers for a long time.  It’s excellent and very expensive at $65.

A Foreign Affair Chardonnay Partial Amarone Style 2007:  made with 20% dried grapes (hence the “Partial Amarone Style”) and aged for 18 months in new and old French oak.  The nose has a beautiful perfume of tropical fruit, sweet vanilla, and hazelnut.  On the palate it is rich and full-bodied with intense flavours of hazelnut and even Franjelica, with vanilla cream and tropical fruit.  It also has a very long, lingering finish.  A very tasty and interesting wine!

13th Street Winery Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2007:  It has pleasant aromas of cherry, sweet red berries and some earth.  It’s very fruit forward with flavours of red berries, especially raspberries, and cracked white pepper.  A very enjoyable lighter-style red.

Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Shiraz/Cab 2007:  My biggest surprise of the tasting was the realization that the Wayne Gretzky wines are really pretty good and a great value!  Who’d have thought a hockey player would know so much about wine?  This wine is a blend of 55% Shiraz and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was aged for 21 months in new and old French oak.  There are aromas of earth, crushed black pepper and dark fruit.  It has firm tannins with the flavours of dark fruit and black pepper following through from the nose.  It’s balanced and has good structure.  It could age successfully for about 3 more years.  Not bad at a good price!

Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007:  Intense aromas of cherry, beet root, vanilla, black licorice, and even a floral note.  The cherry, beet root and earth flavours follow through onto the palate where there are medium velvetty tannins and good acidity, with a long length.  I really liked this wine!

Creekside Estate Winery Butler’s Grant Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2005:  Aged in American oak.  Lots of earth, leather, black cherry and plum aromas.  Spice, earth, and dark fruit dominate the palate.  It’s intense with medium plus soft tannins and a long finish.  Very delicious!

Lailey Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2007:  Aged in French oak.  Aromas of red and black berries, black licorice and some earth.  On the palate there are lots of darker berry flavours with vanilla, earth, and spice.  The firm tannins are ripe and the wine has good balance and structure.  Another excellent Cab. Franc from Ontario.

Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Cabernet/Merlot 2006:  Intense aromas of dark fruit, black licorice, with dark chocolate and a hint of spice.  The same flavours are evident on the palate which is full-bodied with a firm structure and a long length.  A complex wine.  Everytime I tasted it I found something different.

A Foreign Affair Winery Merlot Partial Amarone Style 2007:  Made with 10% dried fruit and aged for 17 months in new French oak.  A little Petit Verdot was also added to give some extra complexity.  This wine has very pronounced aromas of plum, cassis, black and red licorice, dark chocolate, with a hint of sage.  A very complex nose!  The palate isn’t quite as intense as the nose with dark fruit, chocolate, and sage flavours.  The medium plus tannins could use some more time to soften.  It think with a couple of years of bottle age the palate will evolve and be as incredible as the nose.

This is only a smattering of some of the amazing wines I tasted yesterday.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time at the tasting and wasn’t able to get to some other wineries I would have been interested in checking out.  The two hours allotted for this tasting was far too short!

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