Friday, August 05, 2011


Strewn Cooking Class

Monday, September 19 at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel is the tasting event of the fall for Ontario wines - from ‘35 of our top wineries’ according to LCBO’s Vintages. 

There are almost 600 approved wines in Ontario and 105 of these will be available for tasting as well as purchase during the event - as long as supply lasts. Sixty-six of the 105 wines are labelled VQA Ontario, VQA Niagara Peninsula or VQA Prince Edward County (PEC). The remaining, thirty-nine from 19 wineries, are labelled VQA of specific terroirs in the sub-appellations of Beamsville Bench, Lincoln Lakeshore, Creek Shores, Twenty Mile Bench, the large regional VQA of
Niagara Escarpment  (consisting of Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench, and Beamsville Bench) and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Four Mile Creek, Niagara River and St. David’s Bench.  It may be an opportunity to identify differences in terroirs of these regions or perhaps their winemakers. There are no wines labelled VQA Vinemount Ridge which has a unique soil composition compared with other areas.

A new name to me was VINTAGE INK, a virtual winery belonging to Constellation Corporation and bottling at the VQA Niagara Peninsula level and an $18 price point.
Snooth has minimal information on VINTAGE INK and its operation in California. Locally Rod Phillips has rated the Chard and Merlot-Cab in his blog Winepointer #64.

But I digress… My interest is in ‘Natural’ wines. 
The September issue of Decanter has a column covering the controversy around this non-interventionist approach for winemaking . The main ‘antagonists’ are Isabelle Legeron (ThatCrazyFrenchWoman)  founder of the Natural Wine Fair in the UK who drinks only Natural wines and  Liberty Wines (UK)  chief  David Gleave MW, born and educated in Canada.   Only a dozen of the 80 Ontario wineries openly espouse adhering to a ’bio’ viticulture - and I’m not aware of any that are in Ms. Legeron’s cellar ;-)

Secondly, I’m interested in how the terroir of each vineyard or sub-appellation is captured in a wine and therefore exclude the generic VQA levels. Optimistically when  the VQA designation shows a specific area the winemaker will have retained the characteristics nurtured in the grapes without ‘enhancing’ the product un-Naturally. 

From these points of view I reviewed Vintages TASTE ONTARIO! wines:

  • There is no obvious indication as to if or which wines are Natural - meaning I didn’t dig to find out if this information is available on the 19 winery websites and it's not part of Vintages website or event release. 
  • Of the thirty-nine wines with a specific sub-appellation fourteen are below $20, fourteen are in the range $20 to $30, five are between $30 to $40 and three (Closson Chase Chardonnay, Lailey Old Vines Pinot Noir and Stratus Red and ) are in the mid forties.
  • These thirty-nine consisted of seven Riesling, nine Chardonnay, eight Pinot Noir - there are five red blends and the rest are split: a Chenin Blanc, 2 Gewurztraminer, a Pinot Gris, a Sauvignon Blanc, 2 Bubbly, a Cab Franc and a Shiraz. 
My budget limits any purchases to the $10 to $30 range - but why taste wines either I’ve tried as part of this blog or could be purchased at an Outlet in the future? My interest is then limited to the eight above $30 and it would be increased significantly if several other wineries had been included:  Hidden BenchDaniel LenkoPeninsula RidgeCalamusOrganized CrimePillitteriStrewnKonzelmannMarynissenCharles Baker2027Nyarai to name a few. Perhaps next time. Is there a rationale for excluding wineries: size of the venue? a winery or LCBO mindset or lack of significant return? simply a lack of SKUs? or ?

Conclusion (mine): The event is more for the City After Hours walk-around-and-taste crowd or a (modest) Night-on-the-Town. It's also an opportunity to try Ontario wines during a Meet-and-Greet with colleagues or to update a past experience with some current day Ontario wines. Perhaps you have your own conclusions?

My opinion, Ww

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