Wines of OntarioIncrease your selection of Canadian wines
Wine culture is here. You see it every night at your bar and in your retail store. Your guests snap up value wines from the south of France and Italy, eastern Spain, and pretty much everywhere in the southern hemisphere as well.
However, they are also loyal supporters of BC wines (even at a premium price) and are keen to support the wines from their home country. Additionally, wine lovers are always on the hunt for something new. And to celebrate our nation’s 150th birthday, why not make that something ‘new’ a little something from somewhere else in Canada? Say Ontario?
Presently, there aren’t too many choices. Ontario’s reputation as a pioneer and senior statesman in the Canadian wine world hints at this being as good a place to start as any. They have the capacity to reliably supply export markets. They have enough depth and range of quality, styles, and price levels to satisfy all types of consumers.
In 2012, the BC government allowed shipments of wine made from Canadian grapes purchased for personal consumption from other provinces to BC. Ontario doesn’t really have any laws restricting the practice. And in democratic countries like Canada, if something isn’t expressly prohibited, it is assumed it is permitted. The results are that consumers are seeing more and more Canadian wines from outside BC and they are curious about them. They want to buy and try them and share them with their friends. This sounds like an opportunity to me.
Ontario Wines Available in BC
There are a few Ontario wineries represented in the BC market by any number of importers. Ask your various reps if they have any other Canadian wines in their portfolio. If they don’t supply Ontario wines, ask them to recommend someone they know who can help you out. It strengthens their relationship with you, makes them a valuable resource, and creates a mutually beneficial opportunity for all involved. If there are specific wineries that your customers are asking after, contact them via their websites and ask who represents them in BC. WinesofCanada.com is a good resource. They list and provide links to a surprisingly large number (almost 250 in Ontario alone) of Canadian wineries and the site allows search by province and region. According to Wine Country Ontario (winecountryontario.ca/media-centre/ontario-wine-available-outside-ontario) the chart below lists all the wineries that presently have representation in BC:
Angels Gate Winery
Black Prince Winery
Cave Spring Cellars
Château des Charmes
Closson Chase Vineyards
Diamond Estate Wines
Fielding Estate Winery
Henry of Pelham Family Estate
Pelee Island Winery
Pillitteri Estates Winery
Willow Springs Winery
Ontario Wine Regions
There are three primary regions further subdivided into 16 sub-regions as recognized by the Ontario arm of the Vintners Quality Alliance (www.vqaontario.ca).
1. The Niagara Peninsula is shaped by the natural wonders of the Niagara Escarpment and the majestic Niagara Falls. The Niagara Peninsula provides ideal cool-climate conditions for wine growing. Its diversity has resulted in the identification of 10 sub-appellations.
2. Lake Erie North Shore stretches along the warm, shallow waters of Lake Erie. Vines in this southerly appellation enjoy the most sunshine in Canada, providing excellent ripening conditions and full bodied wines.
3. Prince Edward County borders Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. This appellation–Ontario’s newest wine appellation–is surrounded by water and features a rich terroir dominated by stony soils.
Wines Showcased at VIWF
Lately thousands of wine lovers had a chance to taste the wines of Ontario as there were a number of their wineries represented at this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival. They demonstrated that there are quality wines being produced at a price that consumers will find appealing. Some highlights were Le Clos Jordanne, Bachelder, Domaine Queylus, Hidden Bench Estate Vineyards & Winery, and Trius Winery.
Tawse also made an appearance. They make an amazing Reisling and sumptuous Meritage. The Meritage is expensive, but it’s a top-end red from one of the country’s most ambitious estates. A classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a smooth, soft core of berry and dark chocolate infused with sweet pipe tobacco, earth and vanilla. It gives Napa a run for its money at 2/3 the price. It’s perfect with beef or lamb roasts and is opulent all on its own.
Another standout was Closson Chase, which is based in Prince Edward County in eastern Ontario, but the grapes hail from Niagara’s Beamsville Bench district. These are fabulous wines from world-class grape grower and winemaker Deborah Paskus.
Colio Estate Winery was there pouring some gems from their Lake Erie North Shore appellation.
Also in attendance was the powerhouse that is Château des Charmes. They have an imposing estate on the Niagara landscape, and it remains a family-run affair. They have built a reputation for consistently producing good wines at affordable prices. Other producers at the Vancouver International Wine Festival included Norman Hardie Vineyard and Winery, Inniskillin Niagara Estate, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, Pelee Island Winery, and Pillitteri Estates Winery.
So consider offering your patrons something different from right here at home. I think it’s good to keep things in Canada. Let’s grow our own wine economy and culture by supporting our fellow hard-working Canadians whose dedication and skill have helped make this country the best place on earth for the last 150 years.
Tim Ellison is a Canadian Certified Chef de Cuisine and Sommelier with almost a half century of experience in the hospitality industry. Currently, he is the Director of Food and Beverage Service at The Vancouver Club.