LCBO Vintages release – September 13, 2014 (WVN 200)

Wines of Ontario is the subject of the main feature at Vintages this weekend.

This is a feature not to be missed: it is big, with some 22 wines from 18 wineries on offer; the selection is diverse from both a price and provenance perspective, and the quality is high.

The Vintages catalogue for this release is thick with some 15+ pages of content updating the reader on the factors that contribute to the growing quality and style of wines from the three major growing zones in Ontario – the theme is labelled fittingly, State of the art.

Recent advocacy efforts by Ontario wine producers and the Wine Council of Ontario (WCO) for greater LCBO support for local wines seems to have been effective, as reported in the 2103-2014 annual report of the WCO:

WCO VQA sales trajectory 091213

It is noteworthy that volume growth has slowed recently while value growth continues at a solid pace, a reflection of premiumization of the VQA category.

The sales data reported by the WCO includes LCBO sales ($116 million), winery cellar door sales ($116 million) and exports ($40 million) and direct sales to licensees ($54 million). The three leading export markets for Ontario VQA wines are the USA, China and South Korea. Except for the UK (ranked 8th) and France (ranked 10th) all other countries in the export top-10 are in Asia. Still wines are a growing portion of the export segment,along with continuing growth of Icewine exports.

Recent LCBO data indicates that International-Canadian blends still outsell VQA wines by a large margin. These wines sell at prices which are dramatically lower than VQA prices and are appreciated by many consumers for their predictable character – it doesn’t vary from bottle to the next – and for their simplicity. While we may lament the intrusion ICB wines represent into the market for locally-sourced wines, they are a major force in the local wine market and they are here to stay.

This week’s selection is dominated by some fine Ontario reds and a set of wines that generally will benefit from some time in the cellar. Prices are a little high but all are TWR values!

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012

This is a classic C-F made from biodynamically-grown fruit. It bears the delicate and refined palate feel that is the marker for Ann Sperling’s wines and it has all the taut acid, juicy fruit and light herbaceousness that one seeks in C-F. This is a versatile wine that works well, winter or summer. Year-in, year-out this is one of my favourite Ontario reds.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (Ontario Feature wine)

Ontario, Niagara– VQA Niagara Peninsula Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011

Here we have an early delivery from another Thomas Bachelder project. Thomas is the winemaker at this new, small winegrowing venture, owned by a group of investors, originating in Montreal. The focus of Queylus is on a small number of varieties with the intent to demonstrate the best exploitation of the local terroir on three escarpment sites in the Niagara region. This wine is very fine and an exceptional value, considering its character: juicy, concentrated ripe red cherry and cranberry fruit, bright acid, modest dusty tannins, supple mouth feel and a long finish. This wine is ready now but you should buy a few bottles and lay them down for few years. This is a place to watch.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (Ontario Feature wine)

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara River Lailey Syrah 2012

Last month I took this year’s incoming WSET Diploma class to Niagara for the annual three-day learning excursion. Our last stop on Sunday was Lailey and for me this was the stand out wine in the extended tasting conducted by the redoubtable winemaker, Derek Barnett. Syrah is not an easily-grown variety in our cool-climate and this we proven with the deep freeze that was last winter. The Niagara River growing zone is a warmer place than most in the region and this variety does seem to show its local best here. This is great news as Derek is able to apply the fruit to achieve a good representation of an Old World-style Syrah. This wine reminds me of a Saint-Joseph with its bright blackberry fruit, savoury and earth notes, black pepper and juicy acid. Buy a few bottles of this wine and lay them down for the next 2-3 years. You will be delighted!

Extra dry, red wine – $27.20 per bottle (Ontario Feature wine)

France, Champagne– AOC Champagne Vincent Couche Brut 2002

This is a grower Champagne from the Côte des Bar in the far southern reaches of the region, close to the northern frontier of Burgundy. This maker grows grapes organically and follows biodynamic practices, unusual for the appellation. The resulting wines are known for their sense of place; that is, they are not blended to taste the same from one year to the next. This is an evolved wine with enormous complexity and character. It is intense with toast, brioche, bruised apple, slight oxidation, foamy mousse and sharp acid. The finish is long with lingering flinty minerals. Buy a few bottles for the upcoming holiday season. Exceptional value!

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $49.95 per bottle

USA, Washington State– Reininger Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This wine is another great value from the home of fine Cabernet Sauvignon. You will find concentrated black currant fruit, some mint and earth, firm tannins, bright acid and a long finish. I recommend you cellar this wine for at least the next three years to allow the tannins to soften. This is a well-made wine with sound typicity – amazing for the price.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle

à bientôt…
Copyright © W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014


Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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