Wednesday’s Wow! – Generation Seven Gamay Nouveau 2012

Generation Seven Gamay Nouveau 2012 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Bosc family’s (Chateau des Charmes) take on ‘nouveau’ wine, and I think it’s definitely worth snapping up a few bottles.  After all, the holidays are almost here and this is a fun, celebratory wine to share with friends and family – it would also be a great accompaniment to Xmas turkey!

Nouveau Wine

‘Nouveau’ wine is sold the same year in which it is harvested, which means it finished fermentation only a couple of weeks before it’s bottled and ready for purchase.  It’s amazing to think that only 2 short months ago the Gamay grapes that were used to make this fresh, young wine were still hanging in the vineyard!

The ‘nouveau’ or ‘primeur’  style of wine was made popular in the Beaujolais region of France when Georges Duboeuf challenged other nouveau producers to a race to see who could be the first to get their newly fermented wine to the Paris market.  The race was a huge marketing success and in 1985, the third Thursday of November became the official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Tomorrow, being the third Thursday of November, the Generation Seven Gamay Nouveau 2012 will be released at the LCBO, the winery, and the website, for only $11.95.  The label conveniently sports the wine’s own hashtag, #JeSuisARRIVÉ, so you can share your thoughts with others in the Twitterverse about this yummy wine.

Tasting Notes

This wine is bursting with red fruit aromas and flavours – including strawberry, raspberry, plum, and cherry – along with a hint of fresh herbs.  It’s soft and fruity and very quaffable.  Serve it slightly chilled.  This wine is meant to be enjoyed while it is still young and fresh, so it’s best if it’s consumed within a couple of months.

I suspect this Gamay Nouveau won’t last long at the LCBO, so pick up a few bottles to go with your Xmas turkey.  It would also pair well with salmon and trout, baked ham, hotdogs, pizza, and roasted chicken.

This wine was received as a sample.

A Visit to Fielding Estate Winery

Fielding Estate WineryPerched high on the Beamsville Bench in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Fielding Estate Winery’s lodge looks like something that could be sitting on prime lakefront property on Lake Muskoka – from the tall gleaming windows along one wall to the row of Muskoka chairs lining the deck.  On a lazy, hazy summer day, you’d almost think you were there too, if not for the acres of vineyards surrounding the building and the glimmer of the Toronto skyline peaking at you through the trees from across Lake Ontario.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in mid-June when I drove along the winding driveway to the Richie Roberts, Winemaker at Fielding Estate Winerywinery to meet Richie Roberts, Fielding’s head winemaker.  I have enjoyed many Fielding Estate wines over the years, but I had never had the pleasure of meeting the winemaker before.  Following its opening in 2005, Fielding’s reputation rose quickly, and after winning numerous wine awards it was named in the Top 10 Wineries in the 2009 Canadian Wine Awards, just 4 short years after opening.  Riesling and Pinot Gris are their biggest sellers, but they also make top notch Gewurz, Viognier, and Chardonnay, as well as reds from Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah.

Richie, who joined the winery just after the 2007 harvest, is obviously passionate about his work and was happy to talk about the vineyards and his wines.  I inquired about the brand new rows of vines just beyond the deck.  Richie told me that they had just ripped out a patch of Merlot and replanted it with Riesling, a grape that fairs much better in the cooler climate high up on the bench.  Apparently, the vineyard surrounding the winery is mostly Riesling.  Another vineyard, not too far away, but in the appellation of Lincoln Mid-June 2012 vines at Fielding Estate WineryLakeshore, grows other varieties, such as Pinot Gris, Merlot, and Chardonnay.  They also buy grapes, especially Cabernet and Syrah, from vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Right now, the vines are about 2 weeks ahead of normal and had already begun to flower when I visited.  Richie was pleased with the progress so far this season, but admits that the weather is always a worry.  Fielding’s vineyards are not irrigated, but the only time this was a real problem was in 2007 during the few weeks of very hot, dry weather.  The clay soils do a good job of retaining moisture to keep the vines going.

View of the roof from the production area into the tasting room at Fielding WineryThe winery and tasting room are located in an award-winning ‘lodge’ that was designed with landscape and agricultural influences in mind.  The use of wood predominates in the building and I was very impressed with the one long gabled roof that runs from the tasting room right into the production space.  This very long span is made possible by the beautiful exposed beams that support it. The production area has state-of-the-art equipment, including computerized tanks and a climate-controlled barrel room.

Tasting Notes:

2011 Rosé: A blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.  Overflowing with red berries and a pretty floral note.  Dry, refreshing, fun, and very quaffable! ($15.95)

2011 Chardonnay Musqué:  Made from Clone 809.  Pronounced aromas of ripe peach, apricot, melon, ginger, and a hint of cinnamon.  On the palate it’s off-dry with balancing acidity.  A nice summer wine! ($16.95)

2011 Estate Bottled Pinot Gris: About 15% was barrel fermented in old, neutral oak.  Aromas of baked apple and pear, citrus, and melon.  Round and juicy on the palate with a creamy texture and a pleasing fruity finish. ($21.95)

2011 Rock Pile Pinot Gris:  This Pinot Gris has longer skin contact than the Estate Bottled and about 80% was fermented in large, old oak barrels.  Tropical fruit, citrus and spice aromas dominate the nose. Rich and lush on the palate with cleansing acidity and a long length.  Excellent. ($25.95)

2010 Estate Bottled Riesling:  Fresh and delightful with aromas of lime, grapefruit, peach skin, and mineral.  Crisp, clean and off-dry (24 g/l rs) with a mouthwatering finish. Only 10.5% alcohol. ($18.95)

2011 Lot No. 17 Riesling:  Complex and aromatic, this wine shows lime, green apple, melon, dried mango, and mineral aromas.  The good dose of sugar (37 g/l rs) is balanced by the searing acidity.  Long length.  Only 9% alcohol.  ($25.95)

2010 Viognier:  Mostly stainless steel with some barrel-fermented juice.  Quite expressive with aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruit, honey, and spice.  Good concentration on the palate with an oily texture and a very spicy finish. ($25.95)

2010 Chardonnay:  Barrel-fermented and aged 9 months in barrel (35% new French oak).  Aromas of ripe pineapple, smoky baked apple, and butterscotch.  A pleasant toastiness on the palate and a medium length.  ($22.95)

2011 Gamay:  The first Gamay to be produced by Fielding.  85% aged in neutral oak barrels.  A vibrant ruby colour with aromas of fresh cherry, raspberry and other red berries with a touch of spice.  Light enough to be served slightly chilled.  A great summer BBQ wine! ($17.95)

2010 Cabernet Franc:  This wine spent just over 1 year in barrel of which 30 to 35% was new oak.  A combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak was used.  Aromas of cedar, blueberry, roasted red pepper, and spice with a slight graphite pencil note. A good structure with smoky dark chocolate on the palate.  Fair value.  (21.95)

2007 Meritage: 65% Merlot, most of the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Cabernet Franc.  Brimming with spicy, ripe dark fruit – dark plum and black cherry – chocolate, and ground coffee.  Big and full-bodied on the palate with firm velvetty tannins.  I think it’s drinking well now, but it could still use a few years in the cellar. ($44.95)

2007 Chosen FEW:  45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, and 14% Syrah.  Each wine was aged independently in a combination of new and older oak barriques and ‘hogshead’s, before being carefully selected and blended together.  A big, brooding wine with toasty caramel, smoky tobacco, dark plum, black cherry, cassis, and spice.  The tannins are still very strong and could use a little more time to soften and become more approachable.  Cellar 2 to 3 years before drinking – can easily last for 10 more years.  ($59.95)

G. Marquis – The Silver Line

G. Marquis is a new brand from Ontario’s Magnotta winery.  The brand consists of two tiers – the Red Line and the Silver Line.  Although I haven’t had the opportunity to try any, the website describes the Red Line as 100% VQA wines that are soft, fruit-forward, unoaked, and easy-drinking.  The Silver Line is the top tier and is made with hand-harvested grapes from the Stone Road Vineyard located in the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation.  I recently sampled a few wines from the Silver Line – 2008 Chardonnay, 2011 Pinot Noir, and 2009 Vidal Icewine – and I was impressed.  These are well-made, tasty wines at very reasonable prices.

G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake:  Aged for 6 months in French-American hybrid oak casks with a subsequent 16 months in stainless steel.  12.3% abv.  Good complexity on the nose for this price range.  Aromas include creamy vanilla, golden apples, tangerine, crisp lemon, some mineral notes, and a touch of butter.  It’s well-balanced with medium weight, cleansing acidity, and flavours of vanilla yogurt, butter, and yellow tree fruit.  The oak influence is light and well-integrated.  Medium length. There are still a few bottles available in LCBO’s Vintages. Good value at $16.95.


G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake: 6 months barrel aging in new French and Hungarian oak.  13% abv.  A vibrant medium ruby colour, this wine shows aromas of cherry, red currant, raspberry, dried bay leaf, and a hint of smoky oak.  On the palate, it’s elegant and fresh, with medium body, bright acidity, and fine tannins.  The oak influence is there, but it is integrated and doesn’t overpower the Pinot Noir’s natural character.  This 2011 vintage will be released as a Vintages Essentials at the LCBO sometime in late summer or early autumn, but right now there are still some bottles of the 2010 vintage available at Vintages.  Again, good value. I’ve had much more expensive Ontario Pinot Noirs that I have not liked as much as this.  $19.95

G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula:  Aged for 6 to 8 months in stainless steel prior to bottling.  9.9% abv. This wine is a beautiful golden colour with intense aromas of sweet apricot, dried mango and pineapple, and sultana raisins.  It’s luxurious and rich on the palate showing honeyed apricot, citrus, and tropical fruit notes.  The high sugar level (204 g/L) is balanced by the almost searing acidity, resulting in a quite refreshing finish.  Serve very chilled.  Some bottles are still available at LCBO Vintages for $27.95/200 ml.

(All three wines were received as samples.)

Ontario Chardonnay Musqué

Photo by Basheer Tome @‘Chardonnay Musqué‘ is a name that’s appearing more and more on Ontario wine labels – currently there are at least 3 or 4 available at my nearest Vintages store.   “What exactly is Chardonnay Musqué?”, you may be asking.  Well, it’s actually a special clone of Chardonnay.  The term “musqué” can be applied to certain varieties or clones of grapes that means both “musky” and “Muscat-like” and indicates a perfumed or highly aromatic grape.

There are over 40 different clones of Chardonnay, but only two of these can be called “Musqué” due to their aromatic qualities – Clone 77 and Clone 809.  They are generally unoaked in order to preserve the fresh and fragrant aromas natural to the grape.  Several Ontario vineyards are now planted with musqué clones and the grapes may be used as either part of a blend or bottled on their own.  Generally, these wines are best when consumed relatively young.  The aromas of Chardonnay Musqué are reminiscent of Viognier or even Torrontes, and it can be made in a range of styles from dry to a little sweet to quite sweet, sometimes even with a slight spritz.  Enjoy a chilled glass of Chardonnay Musqué on a warm spring or summer day, either on its own or pair it with mild curries, sushi, salads, grilled salmon, and seafood.

Several Ontario wineries are using one or both Chardonnay Musqué clones in their wines.  13th Street’s delicious White Palette uses Chardonnay Musqué as part of the blend, while other producers, such as Chateau des Charmes, Cave Spring Cellars, Vineland Estates, Malivoire, Ravine Vineyard, and Fielding Estates, to name a few, prefer to bottle the clone on its own.

A few Ontario Chardonnay Musqués:

Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay Musque 2010Chateau des Charmes 2010 Chardonnay Musqué:  Paul Bosc, founder of Chateau des Charmes, chose the particularly fragrant and interesting Clone 809 for his Chardonnay Musqué.  The first 2 rows were planted at Chateau des Charmes in 1993, another 2 rows in 1995, and finally a whole block was planted with Clone 809 in 1999.  Chateau des Charmes first bottled the clone on its own in very small quantities in 2002.  Today, only 500 cases are bottled by the winery annually.  The 2010 Chardonnay Musqué has fragrant aromas of honeysuckle, cherry blossoms, grapefruit, and green apple.  Dry with crisp citrus, mineral, and spicy notes on the palate with refreshing acidity and a lingering finish. ($16.95)  *2012 Ontario Wine Awards Gold Medal Winner in the Unoaked Chardonnay category.*

Cave Spring Cellars 2009 Chardonnay MusqueCave Spring Cellars 2009 Chardonnay Musqué:  This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay Musqué Clone 77, first planted in Cave Spring‘s vineyards in 1984.  The first vintage bottled was 1988.  The 2009 vintage shows pronounced aromas of orange blossom, melon, honey, grapefruit, and ripe apple.  This is a dry wine with zesty acidity and flavours of lemon and grapefruit, peach, and a hint of spice with a lively and refreshing finish. ($15.95)

Vineland Estates 2010 Chardonnay MusqueVineland Estates 2010 Chardonnay Musqué: Showing floral and ripe tropical fruit aromas, Vineland Estates 2010 Chardonnay Musqué is very reminiscent of Viognier.  Loads of lemon and grapefruit zest with soft floral notes, peach and nectarine.  Off-dry on the palate, the residual sugar is beautifully balanceed by the ample acidity.  Exotic fruit flavours, citrus, and minerals burst on the palate with a pleasantly lingering finish.($17.95)

Malivoire 2010 Musque SpritzMalivoire 2010 Musqué Spritz: Made from Clone 809 planted in Malivoire‘s Estate Vineyard in 1999.  This wine is Ontario’s version of Italy’s Moscato d’Asti.  Sweet melon, grape, peach, and floral aromas dominate the nose.  A slight spritz balances the generous dose of residual sugar.  Only 9% alcohol.  Can be paired with light curries and other slightly spicy dishes, but also has enough sweetness to pair with some fruit-based desserts. ($19.95)

Ontario’s Virtual Wineries

“It doesn’t matter where you make the wine, it’s the quality of the fruit,” declared Kevin Panagapka of 2027 Cellars at a recent tasting of 6 virtual Ontario wineries.  This seems to be the general mantra of all the talented winemakers showcasing their wares on that dreary early-spring Saturday in Toronto.  What is a ‘virtual winery’ exactly?  A ‘virtual winery’ has no building, no tasting room, no cellar, no bricks and mortar at all to call its own.  Essentially, the ‘virtual winery’ model is a way for a winemaker to practice his or her craft without having to come up with the astronomical investment needed to build a winery and purchase land.  Instead, they buy grapes from trusted grape growers and rent space from existing wineries and use their facilities, and the internet serves as their retail store.  It’s a model that has been found around the world for decades, but it has increased in popularity in recent years, including right here in Ontario.

Thomas BachelderVirtual winery’ is a term that’s used mainly in North America.   Thomas Bachelder, who makes wine in 3 so-called virtual wineries in 3 different countries, prefers the term ‘micro négoce’ or ‘micro négociant’ instead.  A ‘négociant’ is a wine merchant, usually French, who buys grapes and vinifies them, or buys wine and blends them, and then sells the wine under his or her own label.  Négociants who specialize in very limited-production wines would be ‘micro négociants’. It fits.

I think the term ‘terroir négociant‘ also aptly describes this growing group of winemakers.  Some time ago, Jancis Robinson, wrote an article called “Burgundy’s New Breed of Negociants,” in which she calls these smaller, quality-driven merchants ‘terroir merchants‘, as “they are every bit as passionate about squeezing terroir, or a sense of place, into a bottle as those who run the best small domaines” (Jancis Robinson).  While Jancis is referring to a special group of winemakers in Burgundy, I think this also applies to the owners of our very own ‘micro negociants’ here in Ontario.

The 6 winemakers who gathered at Canoe in Toronto on Saturday, all proudly spoke about hand-selecting the healthiest grapes and minimal intervention in the winemaking process in order to bring out the full expression of the grapes and the unique terroir of the vineyards.

Bachelder Wines

Thomas Bachelder makes wine in 3 different wine regions – Oregon, Burgundy, and Niagara.  He buys organic grapes wherever Bachelder Chardonnays 2009possible and rents space in wineries to make the wines.  In Niagara, he makes the wines out of Southbrook Vineyards.  One day he hopes to go to bricks and mortar and own his own domaine, but right now he’s happy as a micro négociant.  He’s dedicated to illustrating the unique expression of the 3 different terroirs he works with so he’s made all 3 Chardonnays in the same way – “It’s not only Meursault that can show terroir,”  he says.  To read my full tasting notes on Bachelder’s 3 2009 Chardonnays, please read “Bachelder’s Trio of Chardonnays”.  (I highly recommend all 3 Chardonnays.)

Charles Baker

Charles BakerCharles Baker is one of the original ‘virtual wineries’ in Niagara.  His wine (he only makes Riesling) is made at Stratus and his grapes come from the Picone Vineyard and, since 2010, the Ivan Vineyard.  He now has 7 vintages under his belt with 2005 as the inaugural vintage.  Right now he is only interested in making wine with Riesling.  When asked, Charles did say that if he had a winery, he would be interested in working with Gamay, but that he certainly has no plans to own his own winery right now.

Riesling 2010 Picone Vineyard:  (11.5% abv., 18 g/l rs.)  2010 was a very warm vintage so this wine is a bit broader than the other 3 in the line-up.  There’s a pretty floral note with lots of mineral, lime and green apple aromas.  The acid is crisp, even for a warm year, with flavours of peach, mineral, and green fruit with a touch of smoke on the finish.

Riesling 2009 Picone Vineyard:  (10.5 % abv., 27 g/l rs.) 2009 was very cool and wet until the autumn when the sun shone for about 6 weeks, saving the vintage.  The grapes had already captured relatively high acidity which shows through in the wine. Aromas of petrol, smoke, wet stone, and citrus.  Nervy and tense on the palate with a good dose of residual sugar to balance the high acid.  Really good.

Riesling 2005:  Very much alive and kicking!  Still lots of fruit on the nose – green apple, lemon/lime – with aromas of petrol and wet stone.  The palate is beginning to show signs of maturity with yellow apple, sultana raisins, earth, and petrol.  Off-dry to balance the acid.  A wine with lots of character.

Nyarai Cellars

Steve Byfield of Nyarai CellarsNyarai, made by winemaker and owner Steve Byfield, used to be made out of Calamus, but they have recently moved over to Diprofio Wines.  Nyarai began in 2008 with grapes from the 2007 vintage and quickly became known for crisp, flavourful Sauvignon Blanc.  Steve also makes other white wines using Chardonnay and Viognier, as well as delicious red blends.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc:  30% was fermented in 5 to 6 year old barrels.  This wine has aromas of fresh hay, grapefruit, mineral, citrus, and gooseberry.  Crisp and juicy on the palate with a long length.  Another great Sauvignon Blanc from Nyarai!

2010 Viognier:  100% stainless steel.  Medium intensity with notes of honeysuckle, orange zest, peach, and apricot.  A creamy texture with very great acidity for a Viognier.  Long finish.

2010 Red Blend barrel sample. To be named “Cadence”.  This wine is still in barrel (all old oak) and the blend has not been finalized, but it will contain Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  This very young wine has aromas of lead pencil, chocolate, plum and other dark fruit.  A little white pepper on the palate in addition to dark fruit, mineral and spice.  The tannins are still young and quite fuzzy, but should soften with more time.  I’m looking forward to trying the final wine, as there is lots of potential here!

100 Marks

Made by Jeff Hundertmark, winemaker at Marynissen, these wines are made under Marynissen’s licence and Jeff rents space from his employer to make his wines. 100 Marks Wine While Jeff says that he doesn’t focus on any particular grape or style of wine, he makes wines that Marynissen doesn’t produce.  He doesn’t label his wines varietally because he wants people to focus on what’s in the bottle, not on what’s on the label.

White Merlot 2011:  (100% Merlot, 11% abv, 24 g/l rs)  The grapes were all hand-harvested and pressed right away.  Any pink that leached into the juice from the Merlot grapes settled out through the winemaking process and now this wine is a pale lemon colour.  Very fruity aromas of peach, pear, almost like fruit cup syrup.  Very light and easy drinking with a soft sweetness.

2010 Red: (91% Pinot Noir from St. David’s Bench, 9% Gamay from 35 year old vines in Four Mile Creek)  Notes of campfire smoke, toast, vanilla, and dark berries.  A sturdy structure with good acidity and firm, but ripe tannins.  Good length.

2027 Cellars

2027 Cellars Queenston Road Pinot Noir 2010Kevin Panagapka is the winemaker and owner of 2027 Cellars and he rents space out of Featherstone Estate Winery to make the wines.  He began this virtual winery in 2007 and makes single vineyard Riesling (except 2010), Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, as Kevin believes these are the best grapes for Niagara’s climate.  Kevin admits that he owns a virtual winery because he can’t afford to build one, but he claims he would like to one day.  He only makes a tiny amount of wine which typically sells out very quickly.

2011 Fox Croft Vineyard Riesling:  (11 g/l rs., 9 g acid) A complex nose of wet stone, ripe peach, green apple, citrus, and tangerine zest.  The zesty acid is balanced by a little residual sugar and ripe fruit flavours, a touch of petrol, and wonderful Niagara minerality.  Long length.

2010 Queenston Road Pinot Noir:  This wine underwent a wild fermentation, a wild malolactic fermentation and is unfined and unfiltered.  It was aged in 30% new Burgundian oak and 70% old oak.  Overflowing with aromas of smoky cherry, cranberry, earth, spice, and pink blossoms.   A very silky texture with sweet vanilla, ripe cherry, mineral, and dark spice flavours that linger forever.  Fantastic!

Leaning Post

Ilya and Nadia Senchuk named their virtual winery ‘Leaning Post’ after the posts found at the end of each row of vines that supports the wires on which the vines grow.  LeaningLeaning Post Wines Post is also a reference to the support of friends and family that the couple have had to lean on in order to make their dream of owning a winery a reality.  Their goal is to take unique single vineyard sites in Niagara and turn them into distinct, terroir-driven wines.  In 2011 they purchased a property in Winona which will eventually become the site of their real bricks and mortar winery.

2009 Foxcroft Riesling:  The grapes were picked very late – on Nov 2 and 3 – at 22 Brix.  The wine spent 15 months on the lees. (13 g/l rs, 10 g acid, 12.5% abv.)  Complex aromas of petrol, grapefruit, green apple, peach, mineral, and smoke with a slightly floral note.  Delicious and juicy on the palate with a long length.  Finishes quite dry despite a little residual sugar.  One of my favourite wines of the tasting!

2009 Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir:  32 year old vines.  Grapes were picked October 28 and the wine spent 14 months in 40% new French and 60% 5 year old French barrels and underwent a light filter.  This wine is brimming with aromas of cranberry, rhubarb, cherry, beetroot, and smoked meat.  Tannins are still a bit firm so decant if drinking now, or cellar for a couple of years.

2010 Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir: (barrel sample). This wine is still in barrel and Ilya said he’s not sure yet when it will be bottled.  Being from a warmer vintage, this wine has riper, richer fruit than the 2009 with lots of ripe cherry, currant, strawberry, spice, and smoked meat aromas.  Fine tannins and a silky texture.  I’m looking forward to the finished product.

Sparkling Icewine – Uniquely Canadian

A frozen bunch of Vidal grapes for IcewineEverybody knows that Canada makes the best Icewine in the world.  We did not invent Icewine – it is believed the first Eiswein was made in Germany in the 1700s – but year after year, we produce fabulous Icewines that garner numerous international awards.  However, Sparkling Icewine was invented in Canada and is uniquely Canadian.  

The story of sparkling Icewine goes back to 1988 and Canadian wine writer Konrad Ejbich.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Konrad a few days ago and he was eager to tell the story of how it all began…

Back in 1988, Konrad was given a box of half bottles of tank samples of 1987 vintage Inniskillin Icewine.  He put the bottles in his basement with the intention of drinking them soon.  Three or four days later, he noticed a small stream of liquid trickling across his basement floor.  After a short investigation, he found that one of the corks had blown right out of the bottle and that a few of the other corks had started to work their way out.  Knowing that these were tank samples that had not been filtered and that presumably still contained some viable yeast, Konrad guessed that a second fermentation had begun.  Curious as to what may happen, he tied the remaining corks down and waited.  Not too long afterwards, the pressure built up in the bottles caused one of them to explode, so Konrad poured the remaining Icewine into much stronger Champagne bottles (after consuming the original contents), tied the corks Icewine grapes still in the vineyarddown again and waited some more.  At Christmastime, Konrad opened a bottle and tasted the wine.  In his own words, “It was amazing!  It was softer, richer, creamier, and foamy.  It had a mellow texture and was not quite as sweet.” 

For a while, Konrad had dreams of making a business out of crafting his own Sparkling Icewine and selling it to the world.  He imagined riches and red Ferraris.  He sat on the idea for a few years.  In 1996, realizing he had no way of making his dream a reality, he wrote a column in Wine Tidings Magazine describing his discovery and putting a challenge out to winemakers to make sparkling Icewine on a commercial level.  If they were successful, all Konrad wanted in return was a case of the wine.

In 1997, Magnotta was the first winery to make an Icewine sparkle with their release of Sparkling Ice.  This wine was Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewineartificially carbonated and was not allowed to be labelled as VQA as there was no category for this style of wine.  They were also not permitted to use the term Icewine, hence the name Sparkling Ice.  This wine has been very successful for the company and they have won numerous awards for the wine.

Then, after extensive research and experimentation by Inniskillin‘s co-founder and winemaker Karl Kaiser, Ontario’s first VQA Sparkling Icewine was released with Inniskillin’s 1998 vintage, just in time to celebrate the Millenium.  This wine was made with Vidal grapes and using the Charmat method where the second fermentation creates bubbles which are captured under pressure in a sealed stainless steel tank.  The Vidal Sparkling Icewine was such a huge success, that they continue to make this unique wine.  

Pillitteri Vidal Sparkling IcewinePillitteri Estates Winery has also released a few sparkling Icewines using the Charmat or Cuve Close method.  They currently have the 2004 Sparkling Vidal Icewine available at the winery that sells for $60/375 ml.  While Inniskillin has only made a Vidal Sparkling Icewine, Pillitteri has also had a 2008 Cabernet Sparkling Icewine that they are now sold out of.  

Food Pairings

Sparkling Icewine are the most food friendly of all the Icewines as the bubbles cut the sweetness of the wine allowing a wider range of pairing choices.  Pair Sparkling icewine with spicy dishes,  rich cheeses with strong flavours, such as blue cheeses, grilled scallops and a fruit sauce, chicken satays with a peach dipping sauce, or with fruit based desserts or creme brulee.

Tasting Note

Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine:  A beautiful golden yellow colour with streams of tiny bubbles rising to the top of the glass.  Pronounced aromas of ripe yellow stone fruit (apricot, nectarine, peach), fresh pineapple, honey, and a touch of cinnamon.  A luxurious and creamy texture with enough acidity and effervescence to cut through the sweetness.  A very long length.  Available at the LCBO for $69.95/375 ml.

Related Articles:

It’s All About Icewine!

Sensational Sparkling Wine from Ontario

Bachelder’s Trio of 2009 Chardonnays

Bachelder 2009 ChardonnaysThomas Bachelder, former winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, has released a trio of Chardonnays from 3 different wine regions around the world – Burgundy, Oregon, and Niagara.  Why were these areas chosen?  Well, Niagara and Oregon have cooler climates similar to Burgundy, Chardonnay’s ancestral homeland, and since Bachelder wanted to showcase cool climate Chardonnay at its finest, these were logical choices.

Thomas has lived and worked in all three of these regions at some point in his winemaking career.  He does not own vineyards or wineries in these regions; he rents space in other wineries to craft these regional wines.  Please click here to see Konrad Ejbich’s interview with Thomas Bachelder.

An Education in Terroir

This project is a true education in terroir.  Although there is no direct English translation for this French term, “terroir” can be thought of, very simply, as the whole natural environment of a vineyard site. It refers to the soil, topography, climate, and even grape varieties and viticultural practices. The various types and combinations of each of these factors is unique to each site and is believed to contribute to the flavours, aromas, and style of the wine. The terroir of a particular place cannot be replicated elsewhere.


Bachelder made each wine exactly the same way in order to illustrate the unique terroir of each region – the only thing different is the ground the grapes were grown in.  The grapes are not from one specific vineyard, but were sourced from a number of good vineyards in each region, organic wherever possible.  Wild yeasts were used for fermentation and then the wines were aged for 16 months in older oak barrels. The oak is subtle and integrated and does not overpower the natural aromas and flavours of the Chardonnay grape.

All three wines were released at Vintages at the LCBO on Saturday, February 18, but the Oregon wine was pulled off the shelves temporarily.  Read “Tartrates in Wine – Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay” to find out why.  I didn’t open the wines until I was able to open all three of them together and could taste them side by side.

Bachelder Bourgogne ChardonnayBachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009:  A bit tight with delicate aromas of lemon/lime citrus, yellow apple, white blossoms, wet stone, and a chalky, steely character.  The  rather austere minerality follows through onto the palate where there is a zippy acidity and a long length.  This is the most austere and flinty of the three Chardonnays (definitely Old World in style), but no less delicious.  I think this is my favourite of the three.  A great food wine.

Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009:  Sweet, ripe fruit aromas of pineapple, peach, and citrus, with vanilla, minerals, and a very slight nutty note.  Rich and creamy on the palate with notes of sweet vanilla, caramel, and ripe yellow fruit, and a long length.  A style for those who like a rounder, creamier texture in their white wines. This is certainly more of a New World style, but it still retains the tension typical of cool climate Chardonnay, with a slight tartness on the finish.  While it’s very different from the Bourgogne Chardonnay, it’s without question a very pleasurable wine.

Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009:  Stylistically, this Chardonnay lies somewhere between the Burgundy and Oregon examples.  It has the both the acidity and minerality of the Chardonnay from Burgundy, as well as some of the fruit flavours of the wine from Oregon.  This wine is full of citrus, tree fruit, wet stone, and spice aromas.  I also found a touch of smokiness – not sure if that’s the limestone soils the grapes grow in or the judicious use of oak.  This wine has a firm structure and a long length.  Very delicious.

All three of these wines are worth the $34.95 price tag at the LCBO.  If you can splurge a bit or have some wine-loving friends coming over, then I recommend you buy all three and taste them together to really get a feel for the unique terroir of each region.

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