The Savour Stratford festival, especially the signature Sunday grand tasting, is foremost about celebrating local food. Having just finished its fifth year this unique and award-winning culinary festival continues to impress by capturing the quality of the fresh local ingredients the region is producing as well as its warm hospitality.
For the grand tasting Stratford-area chefs and restaurants are partnered with local Perth County famers and food producers to celebrate and showcase the special things that are possible when great local farmers and chefs come together. But as great as the food is on its own Savour Stratford has always recognised that a great culinary experience is made into an exceptional one when you have the right local craft beer and wine to pair with your food. So with that in mind 10 Ontario wineries joined the 34 culinary teams at the grand tasting on a chilly autumn-like day and poured a diverse range of great wines to complement the bounty of Perth County.
Here is a list of wines that we enjoyed at the tasting and where you can find them to try a glass for yourself.
2011 Coffin Ridge L'Acadie Blanc
Availability: Winery. Sold out but next vintage should be available in late winter/early spring
Based out of Grey County where the summers are hot and the winters can be harsh and cold, this winery has chosen to focus on a line-up of modern winter-hardy hybrid grapes like Marquette, developed by the University of Minnesota's viticulture program and L'Acadie Blanc, developed locally at the Vineland Research Station. Despite that local connection, Coffin Ridge is the only Ontario winery to make L'Acadie Blanc, (it's widely grown in Nova Scotia to much acclaim), and that's a shame because it can produce delightful, refreshing whites. Coffin Ridge winemaker Steve Byfield, who also makes his own wines under the Nyarai Cellars virtual label, has garnered a well-deserved reputation for crafting beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. That's exactly what you'd swear this wine is in blind tasting. Full of white grapefruit, tropical gooseberry, lemon and lime with a tinge of fresh-cut grass on the end, this wine is wonderfully refreshing. With its electric acidity, it went beautifully with fresh vegetable-packed dishes like the zucchini, goat cheese and tomato combination of Scott Saunder's Rollin' Roasters and Neubrands Country Produce team. Unfortunately this wine is currently sold out but you can look forward to the 2012 vintage in time for next spring.
Behind Chardonnay Aligoté is Burgundy's other white grape and for that reason it tends to get overshadowed. But not at Chateau des Charmes, where the Bosc family has been growing it since 1978. This version from the warm 2010 vintage, retains its signature crispness and bright refreshing flavours which should appeal to those that like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. But thanks to some ripe fruit and lees stirring, it also has a texture with hint of creamy fleshiness that should appeal to those that love the body of a barrel fermented Chardonnay, but not necessarily the oak flavours—it's unoaked. It's a very pretty wine full of fragrant floral notes and citrus, Royal Gala apple, Asian pear and white peach. With its slightly fleshy undertones and refreshing acidity it worked nicely with the Foster's Inn and Lassdale Farm team's pork empanadas.
2010 Rosewood Merlot
Merlot in Ontario is a bit of an enigma. Instead of being the grape that softens and add a richer body to the classic Meritage blend, Merlot, and not Cabernet Sauvignon, is often the grape that provides the tannin and structure to a red blend. Sometimes that tannin and firm structure can be surprisingly strong and overtake the fruit to become the wine's dominant characteristics. So when you come across a local Merlot that exhibits some serious finesse, it's a delight. The rich, juicy black fruit including: currant, black plum, blackberry and black raspberry leap from the glass. When you take a sip that medley of ripe black fruit is what hits you first and stays strong before it's joined by a touch of vanilla, oak spice and cocoa on the finish. It also possesses some nice balanced freshness from its great acidity. Most importantly though, there's just enough young tannin to provide the fruit a frame and to stand-up to a hearty meat dish like the Aboriginal Culinary Concepts and Palace Hillside Elk Farm team's roasted elk dish.
2010 Tawse Grower's Blend Cab Franc
Tawse has quietly developed an interesting and compelling line-up of Cabernet Francs. This Grower's Blend is the entry level wine to that line-up, but that doesn't make it any less serious. In fact it's great value for a well-crafted Cab Franc. The wine has flavours of ripe red raspberry and red currant along with a subtle touch of herbal sage, smoky cedar and even a little graphite on the finish. With it's fresh acidity and medium tannins and body, it's a wine that has the meatiness and finesse to work along side the flavour-packed, but delicate dishes like the The Local Community Food Centre's smoked fish, golden beet and corn crepe.
2010 Nayrai Cellars Cadence
Availability: DiProfio Winery retail store or online
This is a bit of an idiosyncratic take on the classic Ontario Meritage blend. The big difference is Syrah is actually the dominant grape at a little over a 1/3 of the blend with Cabernet Franc being the next major player at a ¼ and just about equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot forming the rest. The Syrah's perfumed black pepper really comes through initially, before it melds beautifully with the plum, blackberry, black cherry and raspberry and then remerges on a spicy finish. The flavours are bright and bold without being overly extracted or jammy. Its balance body, tannins and acidity make for confident and elegant red that captures the ripe flavours of that vintage without going over the top. It went wonderfully spicy-porky flavours of the Pazzo Ristorante and DeWetering Hill Farm team's Italian-style sausage.
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.