Taste Ontario 2017

"... Taste Ontario ... a description of the event ... or an exhortation: Come on everyone, Taste Ontario! ..."

media and trade tasting March 6, 2017, in Toronto

“Taste Ontario”. Those words were probably just meant to be a description of the event I attended — a media and trade tasting of 160 currently available Ontario wines. But I choose to think of them as an action statement: perhaps a prescription, such as “you ought to Taste Ontario wine”, a command, as in “you must Taste Ontario!”, or best, as an exhortation, such as  “Come on everyone, Taste Ontario!”

For, believe it or not, there still are wine drinkers who don’t know and taste our Ontario wines, as hard as that may be to imagine. Ignorance? Laziness? A smug certainty that they “know” what’s good and what isn’t? So I’ve chosen fifteen of the wines I tasted that will prove to anyone that they ought to Taste Ontario. All of these are very good wines, all of them hold their own on the world stage, and in some cases, they rank in the top echelon.

By the way, when I exhort people to Taste Ontario there is no implicit reverse prescription against tasting and enjoying wines from outside of Ontario or Canada. The Canadian wine market is a very small segment of the world market, and, by the way, we know that some Ontario wines are world class because we do in fact taste so widely. And when I give a local wine 90 points and more, I assure you that there is no “hometown premium”. From my point of view, the exhortation is a plea to include local wines in your wine experience. If you don’t, you will be missing some great wines!

In three hours of serious tasting, I didn’t get through more than a quarater of the wines on offer. I chose to start with Riesling and Chardonnay, two of the most important varieties that represent local expertise, then got through the sparkling wines, and started on other whites with a sprinkling of Pinot Noirs and Gamays thrown in. Here I’m going to present notes on two sparkling wines, one of Ontario’s finest Pinot Noirs, and then eight Chardonnays and four Rieslings. I’ll let my notes speak for themselves!

7851

NORMAN HARDIE PINOT NOIR 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #208702 • $45.20 • 750ml. • 91/100
Here is another Norman Hardie Pinot Noir, this from Niagara rather than the County, that brings his trademark elegance and finesse. It is medium-depth ruby-red, still showing youthful red on the rim. Bright notes of raspberries, blackberries and perfumed red apples are complemented by a hint of underbrush and damp earth. Crisp acidity and fine, silky tannins define the palate, with the fruit finely etched, and the tannins lingering on the stony finish. Lighter-bodied and perfumed, and oh so delicious!
Tasted 6-March-2017 • NORMAN HARDIE WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7895

FLAT ROCK CELLARS RIDDLED TRADITIONAL METHOD SPARKLING 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Vintages #383315 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 90/100
As Flat Rock's sparkling program evolves, Riddled has been getting better and better, and now the wine benefits from a good five years on lees. The nose is nicely complex, immediately toasty, with white flowers, lemon and tart green apples, but also a hint of honey. Vivid acidity keeps the palate crisp, the fruit is fresh and tart, and the finish has a stony, saline tang. A very good dry Niagara sparkler: pure, linear and mineral.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • FLAT ROCK CELLARS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7897

HENRY OF PELHAM CUVÉE CATHARINE ROSÉ BRUT NV , VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #217505 • $33.84 • 750ml. • 90/100
The Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut is a non-vintage sparkling wine based on Pinot Noir, with between 20% and 30% Chardonnay. It has aged on its lees in bottle for at least 30 months. The wine is a lighter salmon in colour. The nose is fresh, crisp and mineral-driven, with a hint of strawberries, then lemon-lime, crisp red apples and apple blossoms, and just an undernote of toast. The wine is dry, with vivacious acidity that drives the palate. The finish picks up on the toasty element and lingers with crisp fruit and stony minerality. This current release is at the top of its game.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • HENRY OF PELHAM FAMILY EST. WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7941

NORMAN HARDIE CHARDONNAY 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #184432 • $39.20 • 750ml. • 92/100
I always consider Norm Hardie's Chardonnays from both Prince Edward County and Niagara Peninsula to be benchmark Chardonnays for Ontario. Time and time again, with all of his wines, Norm manages to produce wines with very modest levels of alcohol and the expected high acidity that accompanies this, and yet is able to coax his fruit to develop inexplicable levels of ripeness given the low sugar levels implied. This 2014 Chardonnay from Niagara has lovely green apple, lemon and white flower notes that nestle in a light vanilla, toasty and cedar-resin frame. Brisk acidity and lower alcohol define the palate, that gains some weight from a leesy creaminess. The oak-derived flavours recede on the palate, replaced by a welling stony minerality that carries into the lengthy finish. Complex, rich, yet firm and slim — a wonderful contradiction.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • NORMAN HARDIE WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7942

NORMAN HARDIE COUNTY CHARDONNAY 2014

Vintages #0 • $45.20 • 750ml. • 92/100
The 2014 County Chardonnay holds up its County heritage to challenge its Niagara sibling for Hardie dominance. It is medium straw with glints of yellow. Bright lemon and yellow apple aromas are edged by notes of hay, vanilla and cedary resin. Vivid acidity defines the palate, enlivening the just-ripe fruit, with the oak-spice and resin notes now just an undertone, adding depth rather than flavour. And that chalky, stony, salty finish shouts out "County!" So alive, fresh and compelling. It will be hard not to drink this now, but please put some away to allow time to work its magic.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • NORMAN HARDIE WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7969

THOMAS BACHELDER WISMER VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2012

Vintages #0 • $44.95 • 750ml. • 91/100
On my previous tasting of this wine, just over a year ago, it was still carrying an attractive smoky-reductive edge. On this tasting — possibly bottle variation or maybe a step or two along in development — my first impression was of modest volatility and a slight oxidative quality, followed by a note of cedary resin and then a focused but delicate core of lemon, apple and green herbs. Firm acidity brightens the palate, with a lactic edge, a creamy texture, and a gentle, toasty-leesy depth surrounding the fruit. It is vibrant, with lots of life and full of intrigue. Drink now, but also again in the next year, two years and three years: what interesting path will this follow?
Tasted 6-March-2017 • LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7968

THOMAS BACHELDER CHARDONNAY MINERALITÉ 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #0 • $22.20 • 750ml. • 90/100
This is Thomas Bachelder's entry level Niagara Chardonnay, and the wine lives up to its name. There is a stony, chalky presence on the nose — I won't say an absence of fruit, because there are delicate notes of lemon, apples and white flowers, and even a light cedary resin — but the fruit isn't the first thing you notice. The wine is dry, with lively acidity and moderate alcohol, well-balanced, simple, direct and linear. And yes, the finish has a lingering lemony, stony and salty character. Mineralité indeed, and a terrific buy either at the SAQ or through the agent
Tasted 6-March-2017 • LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7911

CAVE SPRING CELLARS CHARDONNAY CSV 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Vintages #529941 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 90/100
This Chardonnay is from the Cave Spring Vineyard on Beamsville Bench. It is pale straw-yellow, with a nose that suggests fresh herbs with a hint of spearmint, then lemon zest and juice, green apples and a note of cedary resin. The wine is dry, with fresh acidity and moderate alcohol. The fruit is crisp on the palate, balanced by a creaminess from lees stirring, with light vanilla and resin notes integrating nicely. The finish is dry with a lingering wet stone minerality.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7915

CLOSSON CHASE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2014, VQA Prince Edward County

Vintages #148866 • $28.95 • 750ml. • 90/100
The Closson Chase Chardonnays are becoming more vibrant, with oak treatment refined and gentler, allowing their Prince Edward County terroir (rather than the barrel program) to tell its story. The 2014 Chardonnay is medium straw-yellow, with obvious (but not strident) oaky resin and vanilla notes on the attack, but lemon and yellow apple fruit shining through. The structure is nicely balanced, with crisp acidity, modest alcohol and some creamy richness. A worthy step towards elegance and directness, and I hope that the success of this wine will encourage further steps to follow. Very good indeed.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • CLOSSON CHASE VINEYARDS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7904

2027 CELLARS WISMER VINEYARD - FOXCROFT BLOCK - CHARDONNAY 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Vintages #421362 • $22.95 • 750ml. • 90/100
Released through Vintages in the March 18, 2017 release. The wine is a lighter straw colour with glints of yellow. Some obvious oak spice and hints of resin introduce aromas of lemon, yellow apple and toast, with a slightly leesy note. It is dry, with bright acidity that keeps the fruit on the palate fresh and vibrant, contrasting nicely with a creamy richness that suggests some lees stirring, and focuses the finish into a crisp and stony firmness. Elegant and refined. Delicious now, but with even more potential from several years of cellaring to settle and integrate the oak influence. Niagara acidity wins the day for sure.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • 2027 CELLARS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7929

HENRY OF PELHAM ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench

Vintages #268342 • $22.54 • 750ml. • 89/100
The Henry of Pelham Chardonnay comes from the rare south-facing vineyards on the Short Hills Bench. The wine is medium straw-yellow, with fairly obvious oak-derived resin and vanilla notes, followed by green herbs, a hint of spearmint, and bright lemon, green apple and melon aromas. It is dry, with crisp acidity that nicely modulates the underlying oak influence. The fruit and herbs are fresh on the palate, and the finish is lengthy. This drinks well now, but another year or more in cellar will allow the oak to integrate, and add to the harmony and elegance. Henry of Pelham continues to provide a compelling value with this label.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • HENRY OF PELHAM FAMILY EST. WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7912

CAVE SPRING CELLARS RIESLING CSV 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench

Vintages #566026 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 91/100
This is my first taste of the 2015 CSV Riesling, and I found it fascinating. It is very pale straw. The nose is currently tight and closed, with a nuance of Riesling rubber-mineral, later opening out to show white flowers, lime juice, green apples, underripe pears and honeydew melon. The wine is almost dry, with high, firm acidity that informs the palate with a stony, mineral core. The fruit clings to the edges and a lime-apple residue lingers on the chalky finish. This wine is all coiled within itself, and needs some more time to relax and expand. But what potential!
Tasted 6-March-2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7905

2027 CELLARS 2027 CELLARS FALLS VINEYARD RIESLING 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge

Vintages #294041 • $18.95 • 750ml. • 90/100
This is a dynamic, youthful Riesling from 2027 Cellars. The wine is very pale straw, with bright aromas of apple and peach blossoms, then lemon-lime, red apple, honeydew melon and white peach. It is off-dry, with vibrant acidity that gives the fruit a crunchy liveliness on the palate, and dries the finish that lingers with peach, lime, wet stones and chalk. A lovely array of aromas and flavours, and a fine value.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • 2027 CELLARS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7925

FLAT ROCK CELLARS RIESLING 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Vintages #43281 • $16.95 • 750ml. • 89/100
This Riesling is made from estate fruit. It is very pale straw in the glass, with notes of fresh herbs, peach blossoms, white peaches, red apples and lime juice on the nose. It is medium dry with low alcohol, and the very bright acidity brings the palate to life, keeping the fruit flavours crisp and tart, and drying the finish that lingers with impressions of peach, lime and wet stones. A very good value, easy to approach, but with some underlying substance and minerality.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • FLAT ROCK CELLARS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



7923

FIELDING RIESLING 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #146761 • $15.95 • 750ml. • 88.5/100
This Riesling is very pale straw in colour. The nose is restrained but relatively complex, with hints of mineral-rubber underlying notes of apple blossoms, lime, green apple and white peach. The wine is off-dry, with high acidity that masks the residual sugar, so the palate is crisp and linear, with a little apple on the stony finish. All-in-all a slim, elegant and dryish style with understated fruit. A great value.
Tasted 6-March-2017 • FIELDING ESTATE WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Recommendation



Santé

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