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WINES OF CANADA

The average wine consumer around the planet probably does not consider Canada as a wine producing country, but there are wineries all across the vast Canadian countryside.

As most Americans think of Canadians as hockey-playing, beer drinking, ear muff-wearing people who say "eh" and "aboat" all the time, few would imagine there's much wine-making going on north of the U.S. border.

The wine regions of Ontario have made inroads in the market with various sweet wines.  These various "ice wines" are made from grapes harvested late in the growing season when the fruit it literally frozen on the vine.  Many vintners also produce dry table wines in this area.


At this time the most prominent region seems to be the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.  

We've tasted a number of really good wines from this area, but the wines have yet to make much of a dent in the California wine market.


Production, for the most part, is rather small.  There are wine companies in Australia and California which produce more wine in a year than the entire production of the Okanagan Valley wineries combined!

Many vintners have strong demand for their wines in the local market, so exploring other markets is not being done by many vintners.

We recall tasting dozens of British Columbia wines at a trade tasting in San Francisco a couple of years ago.  Even though many wineries were searching for distribution representatives in our market, few seemed to follow up and actually ship wine to California.

Many of the wines we tasted were competently made.  Some were complete and nicely styled.  Others seemed hollow, shallow or empty.  The wine industry is still young in the Okanagan Valley, so the future is certainly bright.

One of our wine-tasting cohorts was in Canada during the summer of 2005.  Here's an excerpt from her tasting report:

I spent four days touring 34 of the 134 wineries in the Okanagan valley and had a terrific time.  It is spectacularly beautiful up there, especially the Naramata Bench where the vineyards flow down from the hills and almost touch the gorgeous Okanagan Lake.  

Everyone is friendly, the wines were inexpensive and surprisingly good -- not to mention low in alcohol - which I find very appealing.  Virtually no one charges to taste wine.  They make excellent Merlots, which was a surprise, and virtually no one makes a single varietal cabernet, except for Inniskillin, who made a great one.

 

We have a few wines from north of the border.

OSOYOOS LAROSE
Some people liken this to a joint-venture such as Opus One in Napa.

Osoyoos Larose combines the energies of Vincor, owners of Canadian and California wineries (amongst others) and a Bordeaux wine company, Groupe Taillan, which owns Château Gruaud-Larose.

The property comprises some 60 acres of land near Lake Osoyoos in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley.  The first vines were planted in 1999 on gravelly terrain.  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc comprised the first parcel.  In 2000 they planted more Merlot and some Petit Verdot and Malbec.  A third site parcel was planted in 2001 on a clay and sand site--Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon.  The rootstock and vine selections came from France and they've planted the vines in a dense format.

The first vintage was 2001.  It may have been a landmark wine for the Okanagan Valley, but struck us as a bit weak and rather shallow.  You could see what they were trying to achieve, but hindered by young vines, the wine fell short of our expectations.

The 2002 vintage is currently available and we find this to be a far more interesting wine.  Tasters looking for "gobs of fruit" and a wine full of power will probably be disappointed.  On the other hand, if you have a grasp of classic Bordeaux, this wine is worth trying.  

The harvest in 2002 began towards the end of September, with Malbec being the first variety picked at 25 degrees brix.  The other grapes came in at 27 degrees brix (this is a measure of sugar) as late as mid-October.  The wine was matured in 60% brand new oak and 40% once-used cooperage. 

The aromas are reminiscent of cedar and dark fruits, much like a nice Bordeaux.   It seems to have nice structure, so we won't be surprised to taste this in 2010 and find it's really satisfying.  

Currently in stock:  2002 OSOYOOS LAROSE
Sold Out Presently





INNISKILLIN

Inniskillin has been at the forefront of the birth (some say rebirth) of the Canadian wine industry. 

The company was founded in 1975 on the Niagara Peninsula.  One of the founders, Donald Ziraldo, was in the plant business, owning a nursery.  An Austrian fellow, Karl Kaiser, bought some vines from Ziraldo and eventually made wine from these hybrid varieties.  

The two applied for a winery license and were granted this in 1975, the first new license since 1929!!

Today Inniskillin is at the forefront of the production of Canadian Ice Wines, as it has been for many years.  The winery is part of Vincor, a large, multi-national wine company with holdings in California (R.H. Phillips), Washington (Hogue), Australia and New Zealand.  

The Ice Wines have been magnificent and wonderfully sweet.  They even made a sparkling ice wine!  

Today Inniskillin has a second facility in the Okanagan Valley and makes some interesting table wines.  We can special order some of those for you.  

Currently in stock:  2002 Riesling Ice Wine  (list $90) SALE $79.99 (375ml)
2002 Vidal Ice Wine (List $60) $49.99 (375ml)




JACKSON-TRIGGS

This is another horse in the Vincor stable, Triggs being one of the corporate big-wigs at Vincor.

Jackson is a research scientist who became Triggs' partner when the two worked for the Labatts brewing company in its wine division.  

Jackson-Triggs, like the Inniskillin brand, has vineyards in both the Okanagan Valley and Niagara regions.  

We have a delicious, sweet, aromatic Ice Wine made of Gewurztraminer.  It's deep, a bit oily on the palate and intensely fragrant.

Currently in stock:  2002 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine $52.99 (375ml)





PARADISE RANCH

This Okanagan winery started out as a vineyard company, selling fruit to other wineries.  In 1997 they began to vinify their own grapes and produced a small amount of sweet wine.

Curiously, they sold off their vineyards and today only make wine.  The company buys grapes from its original vineyards, along with fruit from other independent growers.

We have a couple of deep, rather sweet and fat ice wines from Paradise Ranch.

One is made entirely of Riesling, the other is a blend of Chardonnay and Riesling.

Currently in stock:  1999 Riesling Ice Wine $54.99 (375ml)
1999 Chardonnay/Riesling Ice Wine $59.99 (375ml)



LA FACE CACHÉE DE LA POMME CIDERY

This property is the work of a film producer, François Pouliot.  

It's located in Quebec and offers a bit of a twist on cider-making as well as a twist on ice wine.

The name of the property translates to "The Hidden Side of the Apple."  

The cidery was founded in 1994 and has quickly become famous around the wine world.  

The product we have in the shop is called "Neige" (Snow) Cidre de Glace.  The apples are picked in the fall and held until pressing time.  Just before Christmas the apples are pressed and the juice is set outside in small tanks.  Thanks to freezing temperatures during the winter, the juice starts to freeze, separating the sugar and essence from the water.  When the juice is properly "separated," the must is brought into the cellar and fermentation is initiated, taking as long as six or seven months!

The resulting wine is very appley.  I bought a bottle of this wine as a curiosity and poured it "blind" after a wine-tasting.  A couple of people noted the intense, appley aromas and Bob guessed it to be some sort of Calvados-like product.    It's the sort of sweet wine you can match with baked apples or a Tarte de Tatin, for example.  Despite its relatively high level of residual sugar, the correspondingly high acidity keeps this from having a cloying or syrupy finish.

Currently in stock:  NEIGE "Cidre de Glace" $32.99 (500ml)



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