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
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
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
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
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 Chteau 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
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%
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
Currently in stock: 2002 OSOYOOS
LAROSE Sold Out Presently
has been at the forefront of the birth (some say rebirth) of the Canadian
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
Currently in stock: 2002 Riesling Ice Wine
(list $90) SALE $79.99 (375ml)
2002 Vidal Ice Wine (List $60) $49.99
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
Currently in stock: 2002 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine
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
Currently in stock: 1999 Riesling Ice Wine $54.99
1999 Chardonnay/Riesling Ice Wine $59.99 (375ml)
LA FACE CACHE DE LA POMME CIDERY
property is the work of a film producer, Franois 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
The cidery was founded in 1994 and has quickly become famous around the
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
Currently in stock: NEIGE "Cidre de
Glace" $32.99 (500ml)