Exploring the wines of Ontario, Canada


Exploring the wines of Ontario, Canada


Yesterday I took part in a session for LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) product consultants, focusing on Ontario wines. This was held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the vineyards (we started off at Jackson-Triggs, went to Cave Spring, then finished at Flat Rock.) These consultants are the people who work in the government liquor stores as wine advisors, and the goal was to encourage them to take their local wine regions more seriously. We had a couple of masterclasses with Bruce Wallner MS, and my job was to give a talk highlighting the perspective of an outsider (I’ve visited the region a number of times over the past few years). These are my notes on the masterclass wines.

In the morning the focus was on the key varieties: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc for reds and Riesling and Chardonnay for whites.

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling 2015 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Pure, intense and lemony with a hint of grapefruit pith and lovely fresh acidity. Dry with a great concentration of fruit. Lovely purity to this. 91/100 (CA$19)

Redstone Limestone Ridge South Block Riesling 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
10% alcohol, 31 g/litre residual sugar. Biodynamically farmed on limestone soils. Off-dry with a lovely stony edge to the citrus fruit. There’s a hint of melon here, and nice acidity. Showing a tiny bit of nutty development, there’s lots of flavour here. Really expressive with great balance. 91/100 (CA$21)

Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2013 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada
This is powerful and mealy with some nice spiciness. Has a savoury, nutty, cedary edge to the brisk, focused pear and white peach fruit. Lovely freshness with keen acidity. The oak is a bit too prominent at the moment, but there’s lovely freshness. 90/100 (CA$36)

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Peninsula 2015 Canada
11.9% alcohol. So fresh, expressive and refined with lovely spicy mineral notes on the nose. Lovely lemony brightness with a lovely brisk acid structure. This is superbly complex with lovely precision and purity, and a saline edge. Will age beautifully. 94/100 (CA$39)


13th Street Gamay Noir 2016 Niagara, Canada
This has beautiful sweet, vivid fruit. Wild, exotic red cherries and raspberries with a hint of jamminess, but also lovely freshness. So primary and pure, this has a great concentration of fresh, sweet fruit with a bit of crunch on the finish. Very enjoyable with a hint of seriousness. 91/100 (CA$20)

Chateau des Charmes Gamay Noir 2015 Niagara, Canada
Supple, expressive and sweet with a nice juicy brightness to the elegant berry fruits, but also a hint of vanilla and spice. Supple and easy with a generous personality. 88/100 (CA$16)

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
15% new oak. Supple and quite elegant with some nice fine herby notes and red cherries. Has a slight green sappiness that works well with the lovely elegant red fruits. Very drinkable and expressive. Remarkable value for money. 91/100 (CA$21)

Norman Hardie Pinot Noir Niagara Peninsula 2016 Canada
11.2% alcohol. So supple and delicious, with primary red cherry fruit and some spicy structure. Has amazing precision and lovely fruit purity, with a bit of grip under the fruit. There’s a lightness and elegance to this wine that’s delightful, and it should develop well. 94/100 (CA$45)

Calamus Estate Cabernet Franc 2013 Niagara, Canada
Very interesting: there’s a lovely chalky, grainy texture to the sweet but focused blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a nice green leafy edge. Has a smooth mid-palate with nice weight and density. It’s really chalky and quite delicious. Drink now I reckon. Great value. 92/100 (CA$20)


Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
This is beautiful, with real elegance and finesse. There is black cherry and blackberry fruit with nice acidity and spicy structure. So fresh with a bit of raspberry brightness. Really delicious and with potential for development. 94/100 (CA$32)

At lunch we looked at sparkling, Rosé, ice wine and a new category, orange wine. The first two are growing categories, while the ice wine is what put Canada on the international map. The last, orange wine, has just been recognized by the VQA in Ontario, and is at the moment a very small category.


Flat Rock Riddled Sparkling 2010 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
12 g/l dosage. Really lively and bright with citrussy acidity and some toasty richness. Lovely sweet fruit with quite a high dosage evident, but the acidity means the wine can carry the sweetness. Finishes sweet and appealing. 90/100 (CA$30)

Jackson Triggs Entourage Brut 2014 Niagara, Canada
9 g/l dosage. Lovely fruit here with a slight pithy edge and nice pear and citrus fruit, with subtle toast. Has lovely weight and a bit of sweetness on the finish. Very attractive and generous. 89/100 (CA$30)

Huff Estates Cuvée Peter F Huff 2011 Prince Edward County, Canada
10 g/l dosage. Powerful and complex with toast, quince, baked apple and nuts. Very rich, bold and showing lots of autolytic character, but avoids heaviness. Lots of flavour. 91/100 (CA$40)

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2016 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Pale salmon pink in colour, this has lovely smooth texture in the mouth, with a sort of stony minerality. Dry and appealing with pear and red cherry fruit. Has lovely balance. 90/100 (CA$20)

Megalomaniac Pink Slip Rosé 2016 Niagara, Canada
Full pink colour. Sweetly fruited and jellyish with lovely spiciness. Very expressive and pretty with a bit of spiciness. Lovely sweet fruit here. 87/100 (CA$20)

Featherstone Estate Rosé 2016 Niagara, Canada
Fruity, rounded and cherryish with nice sweet jelly-like fruit. Full pink in colour, this is really pretty and accessible. 86/100 (CA$16)

Lake View Cellars Vidal Ice Wine 2015 Niagara, Canada
Sweet and appealing with lovely melon, apricot and tangerine notes. Really concentrated with a jellyish edge to the fruit. Has great balance and richness, and is really accessible. 90/100 (CA$22)

Peller Estates Vidal Ice Wine 2014 Niagara, Canada
Complex, lively and sweet, with nice candied citrus fruit, melon and table grape. Sweet, concentrated and balanced with high acidity offsetting the sweetness. Very lively and appealing. 92/100 (CA$27)

Southbrook Skin Fermented Vidal 2016 Ontario
9.8% alcohol. Skin-fermented whites is a brand new category in Ontario, and was launched in July. Full gold colour with spicy, phenolic, grippy notes. Structured with some marmalade, spice and fresh lemon notes, with firm tannins. So distinctive and quite extreme, with a savoury personality. 90/100 (CA$30)


The afternoon session focused on blends and also grape varieties not in the big five.

Fielding Estate Bottled Pinot Gris 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Has a bit of colour. Dry and stony with refreshing citrus, pear and table grape. A little bit smoky. Attractive and refreshing with a hint of tangerine on the finish. 89/100 (CA$22)

The Hare Wine Co. Crown Land White 2016 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
A blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Floral, textured and pretty with lychee aromatics and nice grape and pear fruit on the palate. Refreshing with a hint of spicy sweetness and nice weight and balance. 90/100 (CA$18.50)

Stratus White 2013 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Semillon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a twist of Viognier. Rich and spicy, with pear and peach and vanilla notes. Has some cedary savouriness. Has a combination of sweet ripe fruit, a bit of grapefruit freshness, and also quite a bit of oak. 88/100 (CA$38)

Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2015 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
13.5% alcohol. Spicy and a bit meaty, with sweet berry fruits. A bit chunky with some grip under the substantial berry fruits. Structured. 88/100 (CA$16)

Creekside Estate Syrah 2013 Niagara, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Fresh and peppery with a minty, black pepper character imprinting on the lush sweet black fruits. Has some grip. Very distinctive and peppery, and great value for money. 89/100 (CA$16)

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2015 Ontario, Canada
13% alcohol. Aged in American oak. Lovely vivid, intense berry fruits with some floral notes, a bit of tarry grip, and some spice. A little bit smoky, but some lovely spicy berry fruits here. Has edges, in a nice way. 89/100 (CA$25)

Pelee Island Winery Meritage Vinedressers 2012 Ontario, Canada
Very spicy with some mellow berry fruits. Has a bit of grippy structure. Sweet with a soft edge to the berry and cherry fruits and hints of earth and spice. Nice weight and structure. 88/100 (CA$25)

Malivoire Stouck Meritage 2013 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
12.7% alcohol. Lovely weight here: supple and smooth but with some structure hiding under the ripe cherry and berry fruit. Has hints of spice, coffee and chocolate, but the fruit is the dominant theme. Structured and fresh. 92/100 (CA$25)

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2012 Short Hills Bench, Niagara, Canada
14% alcohol. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc. 60% new oak. Dense and rich with structure, and rich, vivid, chunky blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, together with some mint and spice. Chunky and bold. 89/100 (CA$40)

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

1 Comment on Exploring the wines of Ontario, CanadaTagged , , , , , ,
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

One thought on “Exploring the wines of Ontario, Canada

  1. Sometimes Malivoire produce a very good Cab Franc. Not listed on their website but one to look out for.Very limited quantity.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top