Speaking up for Canadian Wines

The Canadian Wine Report – February 2016
by David Lawrason

So what do you think of this new Wines of Canada logo? It has been developed by the Canadian Vintners Association and regional associations to give a graphic face to Canadian wine. Nothing fuels debate like a new logo (or Canadian flag back in the day). Just ask those who created this one. It’s been months in the making.

Wines of Canada LogoI am delighted to use it to lead off a new monthly column discussing and debating Canadian wine. Yes, sure, it will discuss British Columbia wine, Ontario wine, Quebec wine and Atlantic wine. But all will be considered within a Canadian context. It will be a place where Canadians will get to know each others’ wines, where visitors to Canada and perhaps buyers of Canadian wine can learn a lot more about the diversity this country offers.

It will not be a rah-rah-Canada promotional tool. We already have our share of self-appointed blogging promoters – of VQA, of this region or that region, of this grape, of that wine style. I am thankfully Canadian, and increasingly proud of Canadian wine. But I am also very fond of wines from around the world – and I consider them equals. So you will never hear me put other places down as a way to prop Canada up. And I firmly believe Canadian wine can and will succeed on an equal footing with imported wines – and should receive no preferential economic or regulatory benefit. That kind of insecurity must go.

This column will be a place that shares important wine news, comment and debate from the provinces and the capital. It will educate, and talk about advancements. It will focus on achievements in the bottle, and the achievers. It will probe and prod where advancement is lacking. It will take to task Canada’s rusted legislative machinery that stands in the way of wineries doing their best and making a fair wage; machinery that prohibits Canadians from enjoying our wines barrier-free from coast to coast. It will take on anyone holding Canadian wine back out of economic or political self-interest.

It will encourage any event, publication or initiative that seeks to put Canadian wine collectively in front of audiences in any part of the country. There is only one such event that I am aware of – Gold Medal Plates – which raises funds for Canada’s Olympic athletes through a series of cross-country culinary competitions where chefs work with Canadian wine. It reaches about 500 people in each of ten cities. There was once a great initiative in the 1990s called Canada à la Carte that, flush with the excitement of the new VQA program, toured Canada as a food and wine road show. But there has been nothing like it since. The best consumers can hope to find would be wines from B.C, and Ontario under one roof at various wine shows, or maybe on the very rare restaurant wine list.

National Wine Awards of CanadaI am entering into this column partially to consolidate a focus on Canada in the latter part of my career, but it is not at all a new mission. Back in the late 1990s I began to write about Canadian wine from a national perspective in the Globe and Mail. In 2001 I teamed up with good friend Anthony Gismondi to create the Canadian Wine Awards which lives on today as the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. At the same time we created the Canadian Wine Annual, which is now defunct but replaced by online directories like the Canadian Vintners Association’s www.wine411.ca. In 2008 I signed on with Gold Medal Plates because its purpose is to promote excellence in Canadian sport, food, wine, and music. And this year I began teaching a Canadian Wine Scholar certification course offered by James Cluer of Fine Vintage, Canada’s first Master of Wine. It has run in four cities to date – Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Kelowna – filling classes out of the gate. There is an appetite to taste nationally and understand the larger picture.

And it is in the classroom where the discussion of Canadian wine is best. I am stunned by how little and how few students in Toronto and Vancouver know about the wines of the other’s province – let alone the wines of Quebec and Atlantic Canada. And I am always annoyed by the inevitable debate and pronouncements about which provinces wines are best. Quality is not a regional issue – it’s a state of mind and experience by the winemaker. The only way to beat regional chauvinism is through education that creates a desire to explore.

This space will also feature other WineAlign writers who are every bit as interested in Canadian wine as I am. It will discuss themes arising out of the 2016 National Wine Awards, which are being held in Penticton in June. The Nationals are the best possible avenue to learn about Canadian wine via an objective study of what’s in the glass. Next month I am going to discuss Canadian wine and how it works with what is on the plate. In 2015 approximately 100 Canadian chefs selected Canadian wines for their Gold Medal Plates creations. What they chose and why is very informative.

Canadian Wine Reviews

And meanwhile, you can read about ten recently reviewed wines that deserve your attention. They are wines I have used in the Canadian Wine Scholar program. All are identified by their specific location (if known) followed by VQA Designated Viticultural Area (DV) or broader regional designation. Knowing the province is less relevant to me, and up to you to explore.

For those of you on Twitter, I’ve created a separate account called Lawrason’s Canada – for reviews & comments on Canadian wine. Follow @LawrasonW if you are interested.

Tantalus 2013 Old Vine Riesling, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley

Stratus Red 2012, Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

Henry of Pelham 2010 Carte Blanche Brut, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013Stratus Red 2012Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine, Carte BlancheSalt Spring Pinot Gris 2014Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014

Salt Spring Island 2014 Pinot Gris, Gulf Islands

Jost 2013 Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia

Stanner’s Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir, Hillier, Prince Edward County

Culmina 2012 Hypothesis, Okanagan Valley

Stanners Pinot Noir 2013Culmina Hypothesis 2012Averill Creek Pinot Noir 2010Rosehall Run JCR Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2013Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2013

Averill Creek 2010 Pinot Noir, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island

Rosehall Run 2013 JCR Chardonnay, Prince Edward County

Fort Berens 2013 Cabernet Franc, Lilloet, Fraser Canyon

Editors Note: You can find David’s complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. You can also explore the wineries of Canada on WineAlign here: Canada’s Winery Regions