Celebrate with Canadian Wine on Canada Day

Maple LeafWe thought we would have some fun this Canada day and asked our critics to pick one of their favourite Canadian varietals, explain why they choose it and include a few excellent examples.   What better time to drink Canadian wine then when your toasting Canada’s 145th birthday.  Drinking local has never been easier, or more enjoyable!

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Cabernet Franc – Janet Dorozynski

Cabernet Franc is one of Canada’s most interesting red grapes and definitely the red Bordeaux grape variety that is best-suited to our shorter growing season, even though it is often over-shadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Characteristic herbal and floral notes with a touch of spiciness are typical for well-made Cabernet Franc, with flavours trending towards red pepper, rather than green pepper, in riper vintages. In Canada, Cabernet Franc produces elegant cool climate wines and has shown that we can produce numerous very good wines from this grape. Notable producers include Featherstone, Tawse, Thirty Bench and Stratus in Ontario, along with Burrowing Owl, Pentage, Hester Creek and Tinhorn Creek in British Columbia.

Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2010

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2007

Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Franc 2008

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Pinot Noir – David Lawrason

The thin skinned, petulant and generally difficult red grape of Burgundy has long been a favourite, not because every pinot is a glorious taste sensation, but because its variations are so markedly different; each expressing something about where it is grown. With pinot, the fun is in the chase, and Canada has emerged as a great place to be a pinot hunter. First it generally expresses a cool climate, Burgundian style of pinot. This is not a quality statement in itself, but in cooler climates the wines are lighter and more easily reflect their origin. I love good pinot from Oregon, California, New Zealand and Australia too, but in Burgundy the nuances are incredible. Canada provides a similar cool climate mirror, and it is now very obvious to me that there are different pinot terroirs here – sub regions within the Okanagan, on Vancouver Island, different pockets within Niagara and Prince Edward County, and Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.  Where next? How about the escarpment hills above the Beaver Valley near Collingwood, or the south-facing slopes along Lake Ontario between Cobourg and Brighton. In Canada, the pinot story is only in its first chapters.

Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula

Inniskillin 2009 Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula

Norman Hardie 2010 County Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Riesling – Sara d’Amato

Riesling has a lot in common with Canadian national identity. First, it is one of the noblest varieties on the planet, and like Riesling we are a country renown for our elite exports in the likes of Christopher Plummer, Karen Kain, and Leonard Cohen. It is also one of the most age-worthy varietals out there and like Riesling, Canadians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, prolonged by our (albeit, underfunded) universal health care system. Riesling is incredibly nervy and dynamic, just as we are a thriving, scientifically progressive nation advancing both stem cell research and robotics. Last, we are incredibly expressive of our home soil – no explanation needed.  And if the above reasons are too much of a stretch for you then consider that Canada produces some of the most exceptional Rieslings in the world, which ought to be a source of national pride.

If that’s not enough to make you crack open a bottle of this plucky diva of a varietal, then here is one final pitch: fireworks. Riesling is a perfect embodiment of a pyrotechnic display in bottle as it is bright, vibrant, has tremendous tension and a great capacity for inspiring awe. This delicious wine with star power and shock value is sure to thrill on this most patriotic of nights. My top picks include:

A traditional, sweetened to perfection style:

Rosewood Natalie’s Süssreserve Riesling 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Canada’s iconic Riesling made by Niagara’s Riesling specialists:

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2009, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

One of the most consistent and well-priced selections at the LCBO:

Henry Of Pelham Reserve Off Dry Riesling 2009, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Steve ThurlowChardonnay –  Steve Thurlow

Ontario it seems is one of the best places in world to produce fresh pure chardonnay. Our cool climate and relatively short growing season suit this grape well. Moreover as stylistic preferences have shifted from big rich honeyed heavily oaked wines to fresher lighter hardly oaked wines, Ontario is better able to perform.

In recent years the quality has improved and the 2010 vintage was especially good for chardonnay such that there are several well-priced wines in the LCBO stores.

I have chosen two that are great value and widely available. The first is un-oaked and the second is so lightly oaked that it is tough to tell the difference. So pick up a few bottles of both and enjoy lightly chilled with all manner of dishes.

Coyote’s Run Unoaked Chardonnay 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada $13.95

Jackson Triggs Black Series Chardonnay 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada $11.95

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Who to Party With on Canada Day  – John Szabo

Consider these two Niagara wines: 2010 Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay $21.95, made by Ann Sperling, and the 2010 Ravine Vineyard Meritage $24.95, made by Ann’s husband, Peter Gamble. Both Peter and Ann are fervent believers in the superior results produced by biodynamical farming. Southbrook is Canada’s first Demeter-certified winery, and Ravine will be certified for the 2012 harvest, but has been practicing the methods for almost four years now (Ravine has been organic since the beginning). Ann’s chardonnay is a reflection of the warmer 2010 growing season and the Niagara-on-the-Lake sub-appellation, with it’s rich, soft texture and sweet caramel and baking spice flavour – a more new world style example that will appeal broadly. Peter’s Meritage is a terrifically juicy, vibrant, lively and stylish red blend, with a fine balance of ripe but grippy tannins, juicy acid and modest, sip-all-afternoon 12.5% alcohol. Together they’re a great pair to party with.