Today, spotlight writers David, Jen, & Mike will join the LCBO on a tour of Niagara Wine country to help launch the 2011 goLOCAL campaign. A program designed to raise awareness of Ontario wines and wineries. Read up as the crew live blogs the day.
LCBO and Wine Country Ontario invite you to ‘go Local’ in wine country, in celebration of LCBO’s month-long Ontario wines promotion taking place from September 11 to October 8, 2011.
Join us, along with special hosts Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto and Astrid Brummer, LCBO Ontario wine buyer, as we travel to Niagara wine country aboard our very own VIA1 business class train car. Breakfast will be served to kick off an exciting day where you will be tasked with the job of “Finding Your Favourite” Ontario wine. Will it be a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Riesling? Upon arrival in St. Catharines, buses will whisk you away for unforgettable wine country experiences.
8:46am by Jen
Just boarded the VIA train. Everyone getting settled in their seats. Loving the internal Go Local signage in the train.
8:55AM by David
Maybe .5% of slogans resonate with me but I buy that the train is a more human way to travel.
9:09am by Jen
9:24am by Jen
Now being served breakfast aboard the VIA Go Local train. Choice of bacon quiche or French Toast. David is right – this is the more humane way to travel.
9:30 by David
Breakfast time: bacon you say? Done.
9:40am by Jen
Ed Madronich from Flat Rock Cellars discussing Cool Climate wines, need for greater pride in ON wines, and his personal favourite – Pinot.
9:54am by Jen
Daniel Speck of Henry of Pelham now speaking about Niagara topography, climate and soils, and impact on ON wines and various sub-appellations, and how this can affect choice of varietal. He's a big proponent for making sparklings in ON.
9:57 by David
Gotta say, via wifi is working like a charm.< /p>
10:02 by Michael
Daniel Speck of Henry of Pelham just finished a fantastic talk. He made a really good point about Ontario being in transition to find the right grapes for the right sites. As he said "Niagara is diverse enough from one end of the other to offer a lot of opportunities."
It's a natural process in every new wine region so expect some transition over the next few years as people begin to figure out what produces the best results consistently.
Also look out for sparkling wine. As he said in a lot of regions it's produced in hot climates and Ontario has an advantage producing wines with crisp natural acidity that makes sparkling wine so
refreshing. No bags of tactic needed.
10:05 by David.
heading generally towards niagara-on-the-lake always reminds me of the war of 1812 (we won) and how badly the American raiders behaved
10:15am by Jen
Del Rollo of Vincor now talking about his favourite wine (Sauvignon Blanc) and his experience with their large network of wineries and vineyards, and his love of Niagara: the food, the focus on local, the culture, the incorporation of the arts, the tourists.
10:20 by David.
All-round nice guy Del Rollo talking sense of place reminds us that local really is about the people behind Ontario wine.
10:34 by David.
We've drawn cards and it looks like Di Caro and I are on Team Crisp & Zesty. Sweet…and zesty.
10:40 am by Jen
Just got the announcement – we're arriving in St. Catherines in 5 minutes. Still a mystery as to which wineries we'll be visiting.
10:57am by Jen
Loaded onto buses in St. Catherines. Next destination…?
11:05am by Jen
Group names = bus name + type of wines we'll be tasting this morning. David and Mike are crisp and zesty, and I'm representing vibrant and refreshing.
11:22am by Jen
Mystery 1 solved: at Hillebrand's Trius! Mystery 2: which wines will we be tasting?
11:35am by Jen
Behind-the-scenes tour of Hillebrand. Lawrence from Peller dropped by to listen in.
11:58am by Jen
Finishing up sipping two Trius sparklings: the Brut and the Brut Rose. Paired with a potato and goat cheese croquette and one with home-made sausage and hints of cinnamon. Next on pour: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (huge tropical notes) and 2010 Riesling. Folks at Hillebrand are multi-tasking; harvest just started today
12:04pm by Jen
Love that wineries play nice. Also being poured is Vineland Estate's 2009 semi-dry Riesling and their 2010 unoaked Chardonnay. Accompanied by explanation from Vineland Estate's winemaker Brian Schmidt.
12:28pm by Jen
Eight wines tasted in total this morning – last two from Peller Estates. First was the 2010 private reserve Pinot Gris. Lawrence, the winemaker at Peller, discussed how he's changed it vs 2005 when Peller was focusing on a different taste profile when it was a more basic, fresher Pinot Grigio. The second wine was the 2010 Peller Family series Chardonnay. One of their largest productions: 50k cases made at $12-$13. Their Chardonnay harvest begins tomorrow.
11:50 by Michael
A very interesting talk about lees by Jamie Evans of Peninsula Ridge. He likes using lees for the texture and the flavour. He also
has a solera system of the best lees he adds back to the wines. The idea is he can integrate some of the flavors that he's used to build over the years. Also a great tip is that if you aren't after the
nuances of a single vineyard wine look for the winery's $13.75 Sauvignon Blanc which is blend of all five of their best vineyards.
12:01 by Michael
Also there was a great talk about Pinot Blanc as a possible new crisp variety. It's cold hardy, prolific and can provide some great crisp citrus flavors like a Sauvignon Blanc without some of the grassiness. I particularly like it for melon and kernel notes.
Coyote's Run founder Jeff Aubry explained how researchers are starting to believe Pinot Blanc may be the original Pinot. Check the Flickr feed to see how a couple of vines below have mutated back from
Pinot Gris (grey, purplish) in colour and Pinot Blanc green in colour.
12:30 by David
for its awesome length, apricot palate and controlled acidity the sauvignon blanc from Peninsula Ridge stood out for me.
12:40 by David
with notes of popcorn and lemon acidity I enjoyed the straight-up Pinot Blanc from coyote's run. But as always was blown away by the strawberries and blueberry pie nose on the CR 09 Red Paw Pinot Noir.
1:15 by David
Pumped to try food from the el gastro and gorilla cheese trucks.
2:08pm by Jen
At Creekside. Lunch provided by Food Trucks (of course): El Gastronomo (fish tacos, tomato and watermelon salad, and steamed pork buns – of course, I ordered 1 of each), and Gorilla Cheese. Creekside pouring their wines, including their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Shiraz. David went rogue and went with the Laura Red.
3:01pm by Jen
off to our next stop. We've swapped partners – David and I are team vibrant and elegant, and Suresh and Mike are team ripe and smooth. Bets are we're heading to Angel's Gate and they are off to Malivoire.
3:59pm by Jen
starting with whites, and unlike at the other tasting, we're mixing up the wineries. First Angel's Gate 2008 Archangel Chardonnay Sparkling (in blanc de blanc method), then HOP's 2010 Riesling (with their snazzy new label), and wrapping up with Dan Aykroyd's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (unfortunately, he's not here to introduce the wines).
4:10pm by Jen
conversation led by Matthew Speck of HoP highlights the benefits of growing near the lake and escarpment, and how that helps regulate temperature in the area, and benefits to the grape. But more importantly- now on to tasting the reds!
4:35 Pm by David.
for about thirteen bucks I expect to see the Angel's gate gamay on a lot of thanksgiving tables. For fifteen the ghostbuster's cab-merlot is an accessible route to dark fruit, raisiny tannins, and orange chocolate. The HOP family tree red has an enchanting strawberry nose and a very smooth palate.
4:45 by Michael
Our group, Ripe and Smooth, finished-up the day in a manner that made this kid with Burgundian heart truly happy. Winemaker Shiraz Mottiar presented a beautiful 2009 Malivoire Chardonnay. Full of flavours and aromas of beautifully fragrant peach, golden apple, tangerine and a little vanilla, butterscotch and smoke. It was great to taste this Chardonnay, which essentially comes from all estate fruit,bback-to-back with one from neighbouring Cave Spring. The 2009 Estate Bottle Chardonnay was bursting with floral peach, orange blossom,
apricot, golden apple and just a touch of kernel and oak spice that comes through on the finish. 2009 was a great year for aromatic and fruit forward Chardonnay. They just might convert some Riesling lovers. But the wine that haunted me was the Cave Springs 2009 Pinot Noir. This entry level Pinot was complex and made the case for something local winemakers have been saying–this is the vintage for pinotophiles. This Pinot had layers of strawberry, sweet cherry, rose,
vanilla and a little smoke. It also had a bit of the intriguing mineral tensions that keeps you going back for another taste. The cherry and cookie spice finish lingering long after my last sip. Seek it out You won't be disappointed.
5:00pm by Jen
day over. On the bus on our way back to Toronto (visible from Angels Gate winery, btw). Greeted with bags of goodies from The Pie Plate: tarts (peach and sour cherry – delicious) and a cheese and bread plate. Excellent way to end a fabulous day of wine tasting in Niagara.
Two main take-aways from the day: 1) Ontario wineries have been really stepping up their production of sparklings – seems everyone has at least one, and all are talking about its versatility 2) Wineries are focusing more on the mid-range priced bottles ($15-$20); not just on releasing them, but making sure they taste good as well. This is going to be a really exciting next few years in the evolution of Ontario wines.