Wines of Ontario were featured in this off-cycle release. This release was launched as part of the month-long Go Local event across the LCBO system and a few days before the LCBO Taste Ontario event that I reported on recently.
This release is part of some long-overdue and now concentrated attention being granted to our local winemakers by the LCBO. This focus on Ontario is an encouraging development and I hope this release is the first of many promotions aimed at raising consumer awareness of the quality and value of local wines.
I have one beef with the promotion of this release and this is an aspect brought to my attention by a WVN reader. The release is promoted as a celebration of Ontario wine when in fact all the wines in the release originate in the Niagara region. There are no wines in this release from Pelee Island, Lake Erie North Shore nor Prince Edward County. This is misleading at the least and in fact is very disappointing as it creates the impression the only region of quality is Niagara and also makes less accessible wines of quality from these other regions – regions that already suffer relative to Niagara by virtue of their greater distance from Toronto.
I don’t know whether the wines selected for this release bought their way into the catalogue. Every Vintages release does feature wines that have purchased special promotional consideration such as profiles inside the front cover or inside the back cover, wine of the month and so on. This is okay as these wines have been selected for inclusion in the release through a separate process. In the case of this special Ontario release the wines selected for inclusion may be only those wines that could deliver the minimum volumes for required by the LCBO. In any event, it is regrettable that the release does not deliver what it promises: wines that celebrate the growing success across all the regions of Ontario.
There were 20 wines in this release so it is both a special edition and small. I found a handful of values that I commend.
The first wine is the VQA Niagara Peninsula Unoaked Chardonnay from Lailey Vineyard that I recently wrote about. This is one of the finest unoaked Chardonnay wines made from Ontario fruit and is certainly the best value for money. I recommend this wine to all readers but especially those who don’t appreciate Chardonnay in a heavily-oaked style. This is a wonderfully fresh and complex wine, selling at $16.00 per bottle.
The second wine is a stellar sparkling wine from 13th Street winery, an operation that has been reinvented since it was purchased from the original owners two years ago. Reinvention encompassed relocating the winery from 13th Street to Fourth Avenue in St. Catharines, opening a new tasting room-cum-art gallery on the new site and hiring an accomplished winemaker in Jean-Pierre Colas, formerly of Peninsula Ridge. The old 13th Street established a solid reputation for small-lot wines made with quality fruit and the range was notable for exceptional sparkling wine. I’m pleased to see the tradition continue and this wine – VQA Niagara Peninsula 13th Street Premier Cuvée – is a perfect demonstration of the continuing legacy. This is a bright, complex and elegant wine with a medium body. It has a citrus nose with aromas of freshly-baked brioche. The palate has lime, green apple, toast, steely minerals and juicy acid. The finish is long and clean. Very dry. $29.95 per bottle.
After the Lailey unoaked Chardonnay above we have an oaked edition with the VQA Beamsville Bench Cave Spring Vineyard Chardonnay 2009. This wine is taut and lean, not fat and blowsy in the way of many modern, New World value-priced Chardonnays. The fruit dominates in both the nose and the palate with green apple, lime and lemon, lightly-toasted almond and flinty minerals. The oak is modest in weight so we have a finely-balanced crisp character in the glass. This is an elegant wine made in the classy Cave Spring style. $18.95 per bottle.
The final wine of my short list is the VQA Twenty Mile Bench Gewürztraminer 2010 from Featherstone Estate Winery. This wine shows varietal correctness in all ways: pale lemon colour, aromatic nose, off-day palate with medium acidity, a rich mouth feel and a clean finish. The nose and palate are both intense with spice, lychee, honey and apricot dominating. This is an exceptional wine. $19.95 per bottle.
All in all, this is a good start to what I hope will be regular features on wines from all Ontario regions.
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.