100 Mile Drinking...
Over the holidays, I read "The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating." I love the idea and it makes total sense...and I already buy food at farmers' markets as much as possible. The other side though, is wine. We drink a lot of wine and are much more familiar with old world producers.
So in aid of local drinking, what are some Ontario wines that I should be looking for? Are there any real "finds" that people have enjoyed?
To get the ball rolling, last time I was at the LCBO, I found a Chateau de Charmes (St. David's Bench) 2005 Viognier ($18.50, I think). It was excellent and I'm sorry I didn't grab two, as I'm told that it was a limited release and all gone, except for at the Laird/Eglinton and Queen/Coxwell locations... I'm currently drinking a Jackson Triggs Gewurztraminer, which isn't half bad...but I think that they import some or all of the grapes, so that's cheating...
What are other people's favorite Ontario wines and why?
Out of what's available at LCBO stores, I tend to go with Henry of Pelham Baco Noir and ice wines, Peller Estate ice and late harvest wines, and Cave Springs whites. I tend to avoid the Ontario reds at the LCBO otherwise.
If you have the opportunity to actually travel to NOTL and visit the individual wineries (ones that don't produce wines in large enough volumes to supply to the LCBO), I would highly recommend Stratus and Tawse. Stratus does a very well-balanced red and interesting ice wines, and Tawse does some lovely and complex reds (in particular, their 2005 cab merlot blend is fantastic, as is their 2005 reserve chardonnay). However, be forewarned that at Tawse, they have a "Ninety nine to one" Lincoln Lakeshore pinot which is made of 99% imported grapes (French) and 1% Ontario grapes, which doesn't fit your 100-mile requirement -- however, the story behind it is that it was Tawse's way to protest and bring attention to the VQA regulation of what qualifies as "local wine" (i.e., that even having just 1% of local grapes will still qualify you as a local producer, which Tawse thought was absurd). Both Stratus and Tawse are on the pricey side, but I like to support Canadian businesses so I personally bit the bullet.
Also good are Flat Rock Cellars (2005 Gravity Pinot is lovely, as is the 2006 "Twisted", which is a unique blend of gewurtz, reisling and vidal), 30 Bench (nice 2005 Terroir Cache meritage and smooth reislings).
re: Tawse and grape precentages: Is that the VQA rule or maybe an LCBO policy? Genuine question not rhetorical, but I had thought VQA designated Ontario grapes.
"VQA is your assurance that the wine you choose is made from 100% grapes grown in Ontario and its unique viticultural areas. All VQA wines are verified to confirm their origin and tested to ensure they meet a rigorous set of quality standards."
expanding on junipers story.. it's a little more complicated than that:
"This is a first cru French Burgundy brought into the winery to mix with some Ontario pinot noir during the laxed restrictions of the 2005 vintage (where 1% Ontario fruit could be mixed with 99% foreign fruit to make “Cellared in Ontario” wine - not VQA, which is always 100% Ontario fruit). Moray Tawse went over to France and convinced one of the 1iere cru houses to sell him 99 barrels of pinot noir. Their pinot usually sells, in our market, for well over $100.00 a bottle, so at $58.00 it's a steal for Pinot drinkers. Tawse then added the one Ontario barrel making it the 99 – 1 blend. Tawse is a fierce supporter of Ontario viti and vini culture, but decided to take advantage of lax laws to bring attention to this one-percent absurdity."
I can let Juniper respond - however it's an 'Ontario Government' rule.
Indeed VQA must be 100% local (although even that was a close call as many participants were lobbying to drop the %).
It's "Canadian" wine that only needs to be 1% local. Hence the Tawse wine qualifies for the much lower Government taxes on Ontario wines vs "Imported" wines.
Most 'canadian' wines use imported product (usually from South America) so, for example, you could theoretically buy a 'Canadian' Cabernet Sauvignon, which might be 99% Chilean wine, for much less than the originating 100% Chilean wine. The difference would all be taxes.
The Tawse '99' is 99% a Burgundy from Morey-St-Denis (2005) and sells for $30 + per bottle less than the 'theoretical 100%' wine would sell for in Ontario.
But that shows the farce that is 'Canadian' wine - not VQA which is not affected in any way.
BUT - the mere fact that this does cause confusion (as evidenced here) shows how misleading the current regulations are.
I second the recommendation of visiting Niagara and strongly second the Tawse recommendation. Did a tour of the winery at Tawse over the holidays and it was great.
It is too bad that due to the draconian, price-fixing, government liquor regulations the very best Ontario wines don't make it to the LCBO. That being said, I've never done too badly at the LCBO when buying Ontario if I stick to VQA and to the traditional cold-weather varietals including Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay.
Give Inniskillin late autumn riesling a try.
I liked it so much I bought a case from their main location in Niagara on the Lake
I love the "F" wineries: Fielding and Flat Rock.
Other than that Thirty Bench rieslings and Clos Jordanne chard & pinot are outstanding. Unfortunately, most of the best offerings are onlt at the wineries.
i love the strewn gewurtz-riesling blend. a similarly friendly white is Flat Rock's blend called Twisted. the vineland estates riesling was pretty nice too. at the wine show, my partner tried the MIKE WEIR chard and liked it.
for reds, there's the HOP Baco mentioned above, and I'll put in a word for the Peller Estates Baco too. The Cave Springs Gamay 2005 is pretty stellar, and i liked the 2004 Flat Rock Pinot, but i don't know if it's widely availible.
and, do go to the wineries if you can. I loved FlatRock (very personal, interesting, hands on) and Stratus (architecture and "green" factor). you can find a run-down of my summer weekend in Niagara/Jordan/Beamsville here: