Canadian Wine Insider – January 2022

The Most Promising New Wineries and Cideries in Canada

By David Lawrason

The annual National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) offers the ideal lens through which to look at new wineries in this country. Awards naturally attract new wineries looking for recognition should they do well, and allow them to privately measure and compare their efforts against established names. So, to follow up precisely on these expectations, and to offer wine fans new experiences, we offer brief profiles of the more successful new wineries in various regions in the 20th competition that was held in Penticton, B.C., just before Thanksgiving in 2021.

I must also clarify what “new” means in this exercise. Newish would probably be a better word, as we are not picking a founding date or “first vintage” date as the basis of inclusion. Nor even entry in the Awards in all cases.

I began the selection by looking at the list of cideries and wineries who entered the NWACs for the first time in 2021. There were 44, out of a total of 260 entered (so 17 per cent were first-timers which is very encouraging and speaks to the growth of the industry). I then eliminated those I knew were established before the last NWAC judging in 2019, plus a couple of new brands that do not yet have their own winery facilities or wines yet released, which will show up in 2022. (This exercise is also about wines being available). There are also re-purposed brands/wineries, and some established names under new ownership. In the end, the selection is what feels “new and available” to me.


I then looked at the results and decided not to profile wineries that did not garner any medals, thinking they would prefer to have another go in 2022 before being highlighted. I have also added two new intertwined wineries in Creemore, Ont., that did not enter the NWACs, but whose repertoire I tasted in late 2021 and in January, 2022. I hope to be in B.C. this spring to visit new wineries.           

So, here’s an alphabetical profiling of the new wineries with pertinent details around history, philosophy and portfolio, with a listing of their medal winning wines.

Chain Reaction Vineyards, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Joel and Linda Chamaschuk left the tech sector in Vancouver in 2017 and moved to Naramata. They are avid cyclists and runners, thus these themes in their marketing. They purchased and in 2019 planted a three-acre site to pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet franc and riesling. Meanwhile they leased the mature four-acre McMillen Vineyard pinot noir and pinot gris site nearby to ramp up production. Their ace move has been hiring veteran Okanagan winemaker Dwight Sick (ex Stags Hollow, owner of Amulet, and winemaker at Moraine in Naramata and now Seven Stones in Similkameen). Chain Reaction Pendulum Pinot Noir 2020 from the McMillen site took a big ten Gold medals at the NWAC2021. True Colours Rosé 2020, Midnight Sparkling 2019 and Tailwind Pinot Gris each took Bronze.

Chain Reaction Pendulum Pinot Noir 2020, Naramata Bench, British Columbia

Commisso at Villa Bacchus Winery, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

There is a rather confusing double branding going on here—with Commisso and Villa Bacchus being somehow interchangeable, and Commisso showing up on the labels. It is a significantly large 32-acre property based on the 75-year-old Commisso farm at the top of the Niagara Escarpment. The winery focuses on small-lot wines, particularly in the appassimento style. The website places significant emphasis on social and corporate event functions. Three wines registered Bronze medals: Commisso Rosso Riserva 2017, Bianco 2019 and Syrah 2017.

Commisso Rosso Riserva 2017, Niagara Peninsula

Creemore Hills Winery, Georgian Bay, Ontario

Not entered in the NWACs 2021, this is a project in the expanding realm of vineyards in Southern Ontario based on the limestone-based escarpment sites in Simcoe, Dufferin and Bruce counties, which are more influenced by Georgian Bay than Lake Ontario. However, these young projects are still buying fruit from Niagara vineyards while their own vineyards mature. This property is owned by Toronto investment consultant Catherine Morrissey and South African ex-pat agriculturalist Stephen Loewy. The hilltop vineyard is planted to Minnesota hybrids led by marquette, the latest new hybrid to be approved by the VQA (and I like the addition of sabrevois, which is doing well in Quebec and Atlantic Canada) with some wines also being made from Niagara vinifera imports. The 2020 and 2021 vintages were made by David Eiberg (see Therianthropy below) and Dave Everett. Personal favourites include the Creemore Hills Winery Estate Rosé 2020 and 2020 Meritage from Niagara fruit.

Creemore Hills Winery Estate Rosé 2020, Georgian Bay, Ontario

Da Silva Vineyards and Winery, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

While De Silva is not a new venture but an evolution, the distinctive, classic and effective labels herald a new start. The Da Silva family landed in Naramata from Portugal in 1955! The first venture into winemaking was with the Misconduct Wine Co. Ten years later Richard and Twylla Da Silva are unveiling a new look, with a brand identity that reflects their evolution, winemaking and family history. The winery focuses on age-worthy small-lot wines centered on 11 vineyards from Naramata south to Osoyoos. The reds tend to long barrel regimes common to Portuguese winemaking. The home property in Naramata features a tiny, highly regarded eatery called simply The Kitchen. Da Silva shone at the 2021 NWACs, with a gold for Da Silva Chenin Blanc Hidden Hollow Vineyards 2020, silver for Outwash Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, and bronze for Fume Blanc 2020, Chardonnay 2020 and Cor de Rosa 2020.

Da Silva Chenin Blanc Hidden Hollow Vineyards 2020, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Fox & Archer Wines, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

The first, essential clarification is that this new winery is not connected to Foxtrot, also of Naramata. Fox & Archer Winery is a five-acre property owned by wife and husband Diane Fox and Tyson Archer. The organically cultivated pinot noir, malbec and merlot planted vineyard is on one of the highest elevation sites in Naramata, on a rocky south facing slope. It was purchased in 2016. As the website explains it “we have optimal sun and wind movement, and the slight temperature variance from the higher elevation helps keep the acid balanced on the warm days during the ripening season.” Well something is clearly working well as all five wines entered took silver medals: Fox & Archer 3 Blocks Pinot Noir 2019, Creekside Pinot 2018, Creekside Pinot 2019, Mountain Pinot Noir 2018 and Malbec 2019.

Fox & Archer 3 Blocks Pinot Noir 2019, Naramata Bench, British Columbia

Horseshoe Found Winery, Similkameen Valley, B.C.

It seems that owners Pavel and Michaela Horak are relying on more than horseshoes to succeed with their micro-winery located in Cawston. Of Czech descent, they bought the land in 2006 and started from scratch, planting and tending by hand, and farming by organic principles. They opened the winery in 2020. They have planted viognier, gewurztraminer and morio muskat, with white bottlings being blends thereof. The only red is an interesting, evolved Horseshoe Found Pinot Noir 2018, which captured a silver medal at the 2021 NWACs. At a recent WineAlign tasting in Toronto, I was intrigued by the direction of their whites—White Horsehoe 2020, White Muse 2020 and MuscGewurz 2019—each aromatic, yet rich and dry, and very much in a tradition of central European winemaking. A very earnest property that adds to B.C.’s diversity—much as Joie Farm did in the 2000s.

Horseshoe Found Pinot Noir 2018, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

Loch Mor Cider Company, Prince Edward County, Ontario

As winner of Cidery of the Year at the 2021 Nationals, Loch Mor (Great Lake in Gaillic) has burst onto the rapidly growing cider stage in Canada. I was delighted by their win, but not surprised as I was buying their ciders at a farmer’s market in my High Park neighbourhood of Toronto last summer, and loving them. Sara and Gary Boyd (a Manitoban and Irishman) met as students and lived in the U.K., often travelling Europe’s cider regions. Their quest to make cider in North America, with a detour in Texas, ended in Prince Edward County in 2015 when they planted 3,300 cider-specific apple trees “to create the traditional, dry cider we enjoyed drinking in Europe”. Their orchard is on limestone bedrock, the same soil that as gives County wines their character. The first harvest was in 2020. All five ciders entered in the 2021 NWACs took medals, with Loch Mór Cider Untamed being named Cider of the Year. Pommeau Fortified Barrel Aged Cider took a Silver while Savvy Pomme Sparkling, Harrison Danforth Road and Lagan’s IPC each took Bronze.

Loch Mór Cider Untamed (375ml)

Loch Mór Cider Untamed (375ml), Prince Edward County, Ontario

Locust Lane Estate Winery, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Occupying one on the great vineyard vistas in Niagara, amid a community of esteemed Beamsville Bench wineries, Locust Lane is the latest incarnation in what was formerly the Mike Weir winery, and before that, Eastdell. The marketing focus on events and culinary continues at this venue with chef David Nganga at the helm. The vineyards have fine exposition and the installment of Jeff Innes as winemaker seems to be paying off with two silver and three bronze medals. Jeff began his career at Grange of Prince Edward in Prince Edward County in the 2000s and has been plying his craft at Palatine Hills in Niagara Lakeshore. I have always liked his understated, honest approach. Borne out here by Silver for Locust Lane Cabernet Franc 2019 and Chardonnay 2019. Bronze for Fumé Blanc 2020, Sparking Rosé 2020 and Sparkling Riesling 2019.

Locust Lane Cabernet Franc 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Rainmaker Wines / Second Chapter, Black Sage/Golden Mile, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

I have co-joined Rainmaker Wines and Second Chapter for this exercise because they are cut from the same cloth as projects by Kim Pullen, veteran B.C. producer and previous owner of Church and State. Rainmaker is located on the Black Sage Bench, involving some former Church and State vineyards Pullen has retained, with a compelling Rhone varieties focus. Second Chapter is just across the valley to the west on the Rattlesnake Vineyard on Golden Mile Bench, more focused on Bordeaux varieties. With other recent acquisitions, the two properties encompass about 20 acres. The sum total of their NWAC accomplishments is very impressive indeed! Rainmaker took four medals. Rainmaker Wines The Architect Malbec Syrah 2018 took Gold, Motivator Syrah Rainmaker Vineyard 2018 took Silver, and The Titan Cabernet Franc 2018 and The Activist Roussanne 2019 each took Bronze. Second Chapter’s three Silver medals went to Second Chapter Malbec Rattlesnake Vineyard 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon Second Chapter Vineyard 2017 and Merlot Rattlesnake Vineyard 2017; Bronze went to Roussanne Second Chapter Vineyard 2018 and Cabernet Franc Foundation Vineyard 2017.

Rainmaker Wines The Architect Malbec Syrah 2018, Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia

Second Chapter Malbec Rattlesnake Vineyard 2017

Second Chapter Malbec Rattlesnake Vineyard 2017, Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia

Red Horses Vineyard, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

This is a coming together of the Fortin family to create a vineyard and winery within the city limits of Oliver in the South Okanagan, and the result is a successful three-acre site focused on cabernet sauvignon—not the easiest variety. In 2008 Rod and Pat Fortin purchased the property between spring-fed Tucelnuit Lake and the Okanagan River and converted it into a vineyard. Their son Tim and his wife Eileen, who met at culinary school, purchased the adjoining property in 2016. Together with sons Kelsey and Taylor, Tim and Eileen planted the Mountainview vineyard, and built the winery facility and wine shop. Red Horses Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 each took Silver medals at NWAC2011. Talk about small specialists.

Red Horses Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

S’Milka Vista Vineyards, Similkameen Valley, B.C.

The S’milka Vista property sits on an exceptionally rocky bench on the east side of the Valley, garnering more later day sun. It was planted in 2008, but has come under new direction with the ownership of the Minglian Group, a Vancouver development company. Three Masters of Wine well known in B.C.—James Cluer, Marcus Ansems and Geoffery Moss—weighed in as consultants and steered the recent opening of the winery and tasting room. Minglian is also behind a sister winery called Terralux that is under construction in West Kelowna on a ten-acre chardonnay vineyard, and earmarked to open this year. The S’milka Vista Vineyards Viognier 2017 took Gold at NWAC2021, the 2017 Syrah took Bronze (my score in January, 2022: 91) both older vintages from Okanagan fruit. Huge potential here!

S’milka Vista Vineyards Viognier 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Therianthropy Wines, Georgian Bay, Ontario

This most curious new venture didn’t enter NWAC2021. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of their name and ethos at this point. Google it and make of it what you will. Toronto sommelier Tim Reed Manessy is one backer as well as Mark Cuff of The Living Vine, a highly regarded specialist and importer of organic, biodynamic and natural wines in Ontario. The winemaker is UC Davis-trained David Eiberg, formerly a financial consultant who has obviously seen the light. His first vintages were made at Creemore Hills Winery (see above) while the Therianthropy winery and currently leased vineyard are being developed, likely in Creemore as well. The intent is low intervention/natural wines, primarily as a negociant, sourcing from sites throughout Ontario. The wines are edgy and I really like their energy, complexity and depth. As in the natural wine universe, flavours may not be for all, but this portfolio avoids being outrageous or bizarre. Therianthropy The Negotiant Cabernet Franc 2020 is a personal fave, others include gamay, chardonnay and a skin-fermented white blend, or orange wine.

Therianthropy The Negotiant Cabernet Franc 2020, Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Union Libre Cidre & Vin, Montegerie, Quebec

Set in the rolling landscape of Dunham south of Montreal, Union Libre was established in 2010, but Sylvie Chagnon and Ernest Gasser took over in 2016, tripling the orchard and vineyard acreage and making a real go of it. In 2020 Sylvie sadly passed away, and Ernest has planted new vineyards in her honour. There are 5.7 hectares in production with vines protected from winter temps by thermal geo-textiles spread atop the vineyards. The summer temps are equivalent to Niagara, but winters are always the issue in Quebec. Yet they eke out success, led by an incroyable Gold medal for Union Libre Gewurztraminer 2020, Bronze for Rosé 2020 and Seyval Vidal 2020 white blend. Their heavily leesy Chardonnay 2020, which I tasted post-NWAC, did not medal but I admired its complexity and structure.

Union Libre Gewurztraminer 2020, Montegerie, Quebec

Wending Home Estate Vineyards & Winery, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Huaying Feng and husband Jianneng Li emigrated to Canada from Guangzhou, China, specifically to found an agricultural enterprise, first checking out B.C. properties then in 2018 finding an established vineyard planted in the 1980s in the Creek Shore appellation of the Niagara Peninsula. Huaying enrolled in viticultural studies at Niagara College taught by veteran Niagara winemaker Ron Giesbrecht (ex Henry of Pelham). She asked Giesbrecht to become a winemaking partner at Wending Home, to which he agreed. The site grows several varieties, including auxerrois and ehrenfelser used in a blend, but stalwarts like riesling, cabernet franc, pinot gris and sauvignon define the portfolio. Interestingly the winery, which was built last year, utilizes 30 clay vessels imported from China, which are adding textural sophistication. They took four Bronze medals at the NWAC2021 for Wending Home Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Chardonnay 2020, Cabernet Franc 2019, and a 2020 white blend called Wending North. I subsequently tasted with higher thumbs up to the Sauvignon Blanc (90pts) and Cabernet Franc (91pts).

Wending Home Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula

Wesbert Winery, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

The Joubert family, originally from South Africa, founded Wesbert Winery in 2019. There is not a lot of depth and background offered on their website in terms of vineyards and winemaking, but they did take three medals in the NWAC2021 with a silver medal for their Wesbert Winery Merlot 2019 and bronze medals for 2020 Sparkling Rosé and 2020 Viognier. This property, which includes a guest house, deserves a next-chance visit and expanded profile, and perhaps a taste when you encounter them.

Wesbert Winery Merlot 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

And that’s a wrap. Hope you have enjoyed this real-time look into Canada’ very current present and future. There is a lot going on across our land, and having just finished reading a wonderful history of Ontario wine called “When Concord Was King” by pioneering Niagara winemaker Jim Warren, there is way more depth and background to our current evolution as a global if small wine nation than most people would ever have dreamed. Which is the topic of an upcoming Canadian Wine Insider.

And wineries, the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada are coming up fast in Niagara this June. Start thinking about what you want to enter!

David Lawrason

VP of Wine