Most of my blog posts have dealt with wine reviews, highlighting a specific wine and/or region. However, while looking through this list of wines recently it became clear to me that I’ve been drinking more and more Canadian wine. As a Canadian I’m proud to be able to try and write about these wines, but it occurred to me that there’s not a lot of knowledge about the wines being produced across our vast country. There are certainly a lot of great producers, but for me 5 producers have really stood out. I drink their wines regularly and in many cases have posted reviews or made posts about them on Instagram. To be sure there are going to be countless other great Canadian wines that I won’t be featuring, nevertheless, I’m hopeful that this will provide a good starting point for those looking to sample some of the best Canada has to offer.
Benjamin Bridge located in Gaspereau, Nova Scotia is producing hands down some of the most interesting cool-climate sparkling wines anywhere in the world. The climate here rivals Champagne for being on the edge in terms of grape growing. Their wines are crisp, mineral and expertly crafted from just ripe organic fruit. The winery experiments with delicious mixes of local grape varieties and vitis vinifera for its non-vintage blends but sticks to the Champenoise Trifecta of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for its vintage wines. This winery will be one to watch in the coming years as their wines just seem to be getting better and better. The 2012 Benjamin Bridge Brut Methode Classique is available now and drinking beautifully, with 4 years on lees this wine displays richness along with the saline freshness that is so typical of these wines. Available in limited quantities across Canada these wines are worth searching out.
This Prince Edward County (PEC), Ontario based winery is making waves for its incredible Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wines are often compared to their French/Burgundian counterparts. These wines speak of their terroir as they’re produced with little outside intervention, the calcareous limestone soils in the County are not altogether different than those found in Burgundy, nevertheless these wines maintain their own personality and a certain vivacity that is hard to deny. Hardie also produces excellent Niagara based wines as well, however they’re generally in a more opulent style. My favourites are definitely from PEC with the Chardonnay being my favourite regularly bottled offering. I say regularly bottled offering because in the best years a special “Cuvee L” and/or other unique Cuvee wines are often released in limited quantities, combining the best of the Niagara and County fruit. These wines while not inexpensive are reasonably priced and often punch well above their weight in terms of quality.
Quails’ Gate is owned by the Stewart family, who’re entering their third generation as winemakers in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. This experience combined with excellent vineyards, the best of which being close to Lake Okanagan, help to provide the backdrop for some truly delightful and elegant wines. From funky wines like their Old Vines Foch to some serious, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay these wines are no joke. As a Syrah lover, my favourite Quails Gate wine that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy is their The Boswell Syrah, their Rieslings and Chenin Blanc are also a favourite of mine, both of which are great with a variety of poultry, fish, cheeses and vegetables. Their reserve and exclusive wines are great but even the everyday wines are worth a serious look. Readily available in Canada and at some fine international retailers.
Cave Springs is a Niagara winery that produces four-tiers of wines from a wide range of grape varieties. While I’ve had many of their wines, including some really tasty Pinot Noir and Chardonnay it’s their top-tier Riesling that truly stands out. If you’re a Riesling fan than you need to try Cave Springs Riesling CSV. This wine rivals many of the great German Rieslings in quality at a fraction of the price. Look for the 2012 or 2015 vintages, both of which are delicious and have the potential to age for years to come. Don’t believe me? Wine Enthusiast recently rated the 2015 vintage as one of the best wines of 2017 with further great reviews from Wine Spectator and Wine and Spirits Magazine. At $30 this wine is an incredible deal and one I would pick up a case of in a heartbeat. Their wines are available at most Canadian retailers and some fine international ones.
Pearl Morisette is making some truly unique wines, despite having only tried the Cuvee Metis (Pinot Noir and Cab Franc blend) and Cuvee Mon Unique (Gamay) I can say with certainty that Francois has made his little slice of the Niagara terroir shine. If you have the chance to try his wines Francois aims to make minimal-intervention wines with little to no sulphur, whole clusters and wild yeast… you get the picture. His approach is all about experimentation and letting the grapes speak for themselves. His wines are anything but conventional, but in a good way. These wines are well worth a look. They’re only available in small quantities, primarily at the LCBO in Ontario but also at other liquor boards and fine retailers. I’m looking forward to trying more Pearl Morissette wines, hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m heading to Niagara in 6 weeks so hopefully it won’t be long.
Best of the Rest
Just wanted to give a shoutout to some other fabulous Canadian wineries.
Tawse is a family-owned organic and biodynamic winery based in Niagara. It has been voted Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016 at the Canadian Wine Awards.
Domaine Queylus With Thomas Bachelder, Canada’s 2009 “Winemaker of the Year” at the helm it’s no wonder that this winery is starting to come into its own. The winemaker at the former Le Clos Jordanne is now strutting his stuff at Domaine Queylus and producing some beautiful wines. I personally love their Pinot Noir, but then again I don’t think I’ve met a Pinot I didn’t like.
Burrowing Owl is hands down one of the most well-rounded wineries in terms of quality. All of its noble variety wines are highly regarded and have received numerous accolades in Canada and abroad, including scores in the 90’s from Wine Enthusiast. Their Merlot and Malbec are particular favourites of mine.