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.

Wednesday’s WoW! – Family Tree Red 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula – by Henry of Pelham

Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2009My apologies for not posting a Wednesday’s WoW for a few weeks, but I’ve been in London, England and couldn’t tear myself away from sightseeing and eating to get it done.  This week’s WoW, Family Tree Red 2009 – by Henry of Pelham, is an approachable and tasty Ontario red blend at the very reasonable price of $18.95.  This VQA wine from the Niagara Peninsula is available at Henry of Pelham winery and in Vintages at the LCBO, but you may have to move quickly before it’s all gone.

Henry of Pelham has been an important player in the Niagara wine industry since its first vintage in 1988.  Family Tree is the latest label for Henry of Pelham, and it begins with this wine from the 2009 vintage. I think it’s a hit.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from Henry of Pelham’s own vineyards, as well as vineyards owned by other family and friends.

Tasting Note

Family Tree Red 2009 – by Henry of Pelham is an unusual blend of 43% Merlot, 26% Syrah, 19% Pinot Noir, and 12% Cabernet Franc.  This wine is brimming with aromas of dark and red fruit – plum, blackberry, cherry – spice cake, black pepper, and smoky bacon.  It’s slightly tangy and savoury on the palate with a medium body and soft tannins.  Ripe fruit, spice, and a hint of ground coffee linger pleasantly on the finish.  Best consumed within the next 2 to 3 years.  Pair with BBQ’d burgers, your favourite meatloaf recipe, or smoky ribs.

VQA Ontario Wine

Wine has been made in Canada for some time – longer than most people think. Winemaking practices were brought to this country with the arrival of the first European immigrants. In 1866, the first commercial winery, called Vin Villa, was established on Pelee Island, but for a long time it was believed that vitis vinifera, the European grape varieties that we are most familiar with today, would not be able to survive the harsh Canadian winters, so grape growers and winemakers relied on indigenous grape varieties, such as Concord and Niagara, and a few hardy hybrids.  Most of the wine was quite mediocre and much was fortified.

Fast forward to 1974, when a man named Donald Ziraldo and his business partner Karl Kaiser, were granted the first winery licence since Prohibition.  Their goal was to make high quality wines from locally grown grapes, mostly vinifera.  Their winery, Inniskillin, was founded and tha ball started rolling.  Soon after, many other wineries with similar goals began to appear:  Chateau des Charmes, Newark (now Hillebrand), Reif Estates, St Urbanshof (now Vineland Estates), Cave Spring Cellars, Collio Estates, Pelee Island Winery, Henry of Pelham, Konzelmann Estates, and others.  The list continues to grow today.  As of this year there are 123 wineries making VQA wine in Ontario.

In 1988, the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) was established in Ontario to help promote the province’s wine. At first it was a voluntary organization, but in 1999 the VQA Act was passed by the legislature of Ontario, making VQA Ontario the designated wine authority. There are now legal consequences for violating the Act.  VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) Ontario is the province’s wine authority making sure the consumer gets authentic wine made in the regions indicated on the bottle.

Sense of Place

Wines bearing the VQA logo come from specific appellations, or wine regions, called Designated Viticultural Areas (DVAs). The appellations indicate a sense of ‘place’ or, what the French call, “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.

The so-called “Old World” wine producing nations in Europe have been talking about terroir for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Canada has really only been making quality wine for the last three or four decades and it takes time to discover what different pieces of land can contribute to a wine. The recent addition of the sub-appellations in the Niagara Peninsula is an indication that differences in terroir are being recognized. VQA Ontario describes sub-appellations as being “identified after a lengthy technical study identifying common and unique traits related to geology, soils, topography, climate and growing conditions” (  Canadian winemakers and viticulturalists are also beginning to identify the unique characteristics of even smaller parcels of land (ie: single vineyard sites), and we’re seeing more and more single vineyard names printed on wine labels.

In Ontario, there are four Designated Viticultural Areas (DVAs) that may be named on the label of VQA wine: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island, and Prince Edward County. Within the Niagara Peninsula there are two Regional Appellations: Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Escarpment.  The 10 sub-appellations of the Niagara Peninsula are:

  • Beamsville Bench
  • Creek Shores
  • Four Mile Creek
  • Lincoln Lakeshore
  • Niagara Lakeshore
  • Niagara River
  • Short Hills Bench
  • St. David’s Bench
  • Twenty Mile Bench
  • Vinemount Ridge

VQA Standards

 There are standards and regulations that a wine must meet in order for it to be designated as VQA. The wine must be made entirely from grapes grown in the specific appellation named on the label, and they must be produced to a set of production standards. The wine must also pass a taste test by a panel of trained tasters. The grapes used must be vitis vinifera varieties or from an approved list of hybrids, such as Baco Noir and Vidal. The ripeness level of the grapes at harvest, winemaking techniques, labelling, and sensory and chemical criteria of the finished wine are also strictly regulated.


From April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, 2,295,362 nine litre cases of VQA wine were produced in Ontario.  Over 93% was still table wine, 3% was Icewine, and just 2.5% was sparkling, but it’s interesting to note that the production of sparkling wine increased 197% in the last year (there are some excellent Ontario sparkling wines out there). Chardonnay is the top producing VQA varietal wine at 20% of total production with Riesling a close second at 17%.  Cabernet Franc is the top producing red variety at 11% of total production, followed by Merlot at 10%.  Vidal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir are all tied for 5th place at 6% of total production. (All stats are from the VQA Annual Report 2011 which can be found at the VQA Ontario Resources Library).

Cellared in Canada

While wines bearing the VQA symbol are a guarantee that the grapes are 100% from the DVA named on the label, wines that are simply labelled as ‘Cellared in Canada’ are made mostly of bulk wine imported from such places as Chile or California. In Ontario, wineries producing this type of wine are required to use at least 30% domestic wine in the blend. The term ‘Cellared in Canada’ can be very misleading for consumers as many believe they are purchasing 100% Canadian wine, when in fact, they are not.

Look for the VQA Logo on the Bottle

In order to be sure that you are purchasing wine produced from 100% Ontario grown grapes, look for the distinctive VQA logo (see above) either on the neck of the bottle or the back label. Only then will you be guaranteed that the wine is truly made from Ontario grapes.

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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