A common misconception, oft quoted by local wine deterrents, is that buying local wine means paying more for it. While most good VQA wines do fall above the $10 price point, there are plenty under $15 and even more under $20 that run circles around any of the cheaper imports with funky names and labels. With wines like these, we think it’s pretty easy to support our local wine producers and still come away with a quality wine experience. Here is a list of a dozen wines under $15 that we think represent some of the best of what Ontario winemakers can do.
VINELAND ESTATES SEMI DRY RIESLING VQA
LCBO 232033, $ 13.95
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: This is one of the LCBO’s best deals for Riesling. A balanced wine with floral notes forward and grapefruit on the finish, this wine shows the Riesling grape’s potential flexibility with additional hints of peach and apple. We love how easy it is to find this wine in the LCBO, and how it’s even easier to drink.
HENRY OF PELHAM BACO NOIR VQA
LCBO 270926, $ 13.95
This wine was one of my first discoveries in the world of affordable VQA. An easy-drinking red, this wine has a smoky, velvety texture that is pervaded by ripe fruit flavour and a good finish. This is a great wine for pairing with a mixed meat or multi-course meal, and is my go-to gift for dinner parties. The Speck Brothers from Henry of Pelham have also cornered the affordable blend market with their Sibling Rivalry blends, but you knew that already, didn’t you?
ROSEWOOD ESTATES GEWURZTRAMINER VQA GTM
LCBO 132951, $ 14.10
This wine is proof that Ontario’s finest wines don’t have to come a premium price. This prizewinner is an aromatic wine that opens on the nose with perfume and lychee. A characteristic spice exists on the palate, but it’s the sweetness that carries this wine, with flavours of soft honey and peach pits. Gewurtz is a classic partner for spicy food, and this wine is no exception, but it would also do well with mixed cheese platters, pairing equally well with soft or hard cheeses.
ANGELS GATE SUSSRESERVE RIESLING VQA
LCBO 620104, $ 14.15
Oh, Sussreserve, the oft wronged Riesling, but sometimes, so right. This German-style realization of Riesling can be at once cloying and unappealingly sweet, or, done right, can have just the right amount of fruit and citrus to make the summer wine of your dreams, and the Angel’s Gate is just that sort of wine. The nose is all fruit, and the taste carries this with an is off-dry crispness. I quite enjoy sipping this wine on its own as a aperitif, but it would be fun with dessert as well.
SANDBANKS ESTATE BACO NOIR VQA
LCBO 110049, $ 14.95
This wine is always a hit amongst our circle of friends – at one party, 3 different people brought some to share! Sandbanks is one of the first Prince Edward County wineries to make it big on the LCBO shelves, and we’re happy to sing the praises of this party-friendly wine. It’s as big of a body as you’ll get from a County Baco, with lots of wild fruit flavour. There are soft tannins with a warm, toasty oak finish, and just a bit of chocolate.
ROSEHALL RUN CHARDONNAY SUR LIE VQA
LCBO 111914, $ 14.95
This is a ripe, fruity chardonnay. It’s got a good medium weight on the palate and we like the combination of tropical fruit with just a bit of floral perfume and nuttiness to the nose. Another great bargain from the County, it’s a different kind of Chard that is more crisp citrus than buttery oak. This wine would agree well with a chicken or pasta dish, particularly one with a cream-based sauce.
SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007
VINTAGES 117556, $ 14.95
I wrote about this wine for a previous “Wine Wednesday” column, and I’m happy to sing its praises again. With a grassy, earthy, yet citrusy nose and a palate of citrus with touches of green bean and asparagus, it’s a great example of the breadth of Sauvignon Blanc as a varietal. Southbrook is on the vanguard of sustainable winemaking in Niagara, and at this price point, the Triomphe Sauv Blanc is a great wine for shellfish, cheese, or, let’s be honest, just because.
TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA ROSÉ 2009
VINTAGES 172643, $ 14.95
This line of accessible wines can be found pretty much everywhere at the LCBO, and we couldn’t be happier. The Sketches Riesling ($18) is easily one of our favourite releases of the year, and the Rose is up there too. It’s very delicate and refined, light in colour, with notes of strawberries and flowers. If I were less progressive, I’d say it’s great wine for an afternoon wedding or baby shower. Instead, I’ll say it’s great anytime you want something soft, flavourful yet unobtrusive.
CAVE SPRING RIESLING OFF DRY
LCBO 234583, $ 14.95
From one of Ontario’s oldest and most respected wineries, particularly makers of Riesling, this wine is a balanced between citrus fruit sweetness and characteristic Niagara minerality. With perfect crisp acidity, and a medium-length finish, this is a positively refreshing white wine. While Cave Springs makes many single-lot and premium Rieslings with price points above this one, we’d be perfectly content to sip this all summer long.
COYOTE’S RUN UNOAKED CHARDONNAY VQA
LCBO 26740, $ 14.95
I must admit a bit of surprise at the number of chardonnays I’ve managed to include in this list, but no list of great affordable Ontario winemakers would be complete without Coyote’s Run. Their 5-Mile white blend was one of our favourite discoveries of the spring, and this Unoaked Chard is an equally appealing summer sipper. Aged in steel rather than oak, there’s a lot more fruit (apple, pear) than butter to this Chardonnay, though there are touches of bready yeast to the finish. It’s a great transition to red wine if you’re planning an evening of tasting, or great “in” to chardonnay for haters of the grape like me.