Canadian Wine at Vancouver winefest: Ontario Pinot Noir


Canadian Wine at Vancouver winefest: Ontario Pinot Noir

ontario pinot noir

This session at the Vancouver wine festival focused on Pinot Noir from Ontario. ‘It’s a difficult place to grow Pinot,’ says John Szabo, who led the session. ‘There are realities to growing Pinot Noir. It is expensive to grow and it doesn’t always work out well.’

Altogether there are 17 000 acres of vines in Ontario, and Pinot Noir takes up just 800 of these, with 650 acres in Niagara and 150 acres in Prince Edward County. So, overall, it’s responsible for 6% of Ontario’s production, with 100-150 000 cases annually and 130 different labels.

Karl Kaiser first planted Pinot Noir here, but the big break came in 1993 with a joint venture between Inniskillin and Burgundian producer Jaffelin that ended up becoming Clos Jordanne, which was for a while the leading Pinot producer in the region. Now there are lots of very good Ontario Pinot Noirs.

The Niagara region has some interesting terroirs for Pinot Noir, with some limestone in the soil. In Prince Edward County, limestone soils are joined by a properly marginal cool climate: the vines have to be earthed over during the winter to protect from cold damage.

Farming Pinot is expensive. Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench reveald that last year his vineyards cost $7000 a hectare to farm for yields of 30 hl/ha. The current Pinot Noir grape price is $2000 per ton, so Harald couldn’t sell his grapes and break even.

These wines were a bit of a mixed bag with some real highlights, and also some wines that didn’t quite get it right. But overall, there’s a lot of very good Ontario Pinot being made.


Norman Hardie Winery County Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
10.9% alcohol. Very fine, bright and direct. Such lively fresh red cherry fruit with some fine spiciness and keen acidity. Finishes bright and with lovely purity. 94/100

Closson Chase Churchside Pinot Noir 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Distinctive cola, tar and rhubarb edge to the cherry fruit nose. Lively, tangy palate with fresh red cherry fruit, some damson and some stewed plum. Juicy finish to this sweet and sour wine, but there’s appeal here. 89/100

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Supple with sweet plum and cherry fruit. Quite elegant with plums, cherries and a touch of raspberry. Nice freshness and acidity here. 91/100

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 Ontario, Canada
There’s some richness to this wine which has some spice and herbs as well as sweet plum and cherry fruit. Finishes a bit sweet. There’s a sweetly fruited richness to this wine, but it’s quite simple. 88/100

Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 St David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
Supple and elegant with real finesse. There’s fresh red cherry fruit, a bit of plum, and a lovely stony, savoury core, coupled with good acidity. It’s light and expressive with some fine herbal, autumnal, dried leaves complexity under the fruit. Delicate. 93/100

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagar, Canada
There’s some sweet and sour character here, with tangy red cherry and raspberry fruit together with some savoury herbal characters. Some chalky unertones. Juicy with a spicy, savoury twist. 91/100

Tawse Winery Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
There’s a distinctive, bright, open red cherry fruit character here: it’s almost liqueur-like and seamless, but very fresh and fruity. Supple, berryish and quite elegant with nice fruit purity and good acidity. 92/100

Malivoire Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagar, Canada
Some warm herby notes here. Quite autumnal and savoury with a warm spicy quality and supple cherry and plum fruit. Nice combination of sweet and savoury characters. 90/100

Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery Locust Lane Pinot Noir 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Generously fruited, with good concentration, and also some elegance and freshness. Sweet black cherry fruit with some plums and firm, slightly grippy structure, as well as some bright acidity. There’s some savouriness here as well as the fruit. 92/100

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Le Grande Reserve 2013 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
This has a really appealing spicy, savoury, slightly cedary character that integrates nicely into the cherry and berry fruit. The fruit is supple and fine with supple red cherry and plum notes. Real elegance and finesse here. 94/100

Trius Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2014 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Cedary, spicy and savoury with a strange, slightly musty edge. Fresh with juicy acidity that sticks out a little. Savoury and mineral. Grippy. 87/100

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Montague Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
Supple and fruity with a slightly minty edge to the fruit. Lively cherries and raspberries with some grippy structure. Lots of fruit here. Lacking elegance. 88/100

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