The Cheap and the Cheerful for Christmas - Ontario Wines

Dec 18, 2009

Earlier in the month I recommended a few budget-friendly international wines. Today I'm going to devote an entry to some Ontario wines.

First things first, if you didn't get a chance to read Monique Beech's articles in the St.Catharines' Standard about the 'Cellared in Canada' wines then I have to say check the link. I know Jackson Triggs and Peller  Estates both have cheap wines but unless they're VQA (Vintner's Quality Alliance) they're not a 100% percent Canadian. If you want to support Canada 100%, you have to go the wineries or the VQA section at the LCBO.

But a lot of complaints I hear from friends and contacts is that Ontario wines are expensive. Compared to a cheap Chilean or Spanish wine, yes, they're not typically nine dollars but the thing is these countries have a lot more acreage devoted to vine land.

Ontario and especially British Columbia's wine regions are as far north as you're going to get in North American when it comes to grape growing. In order for the vine to flourish, it needs four seasons. In places like Brazil, there can be numerous harvests but because the vine hasn't experienced a dormancy period, it's very much close to impossible to produce a decent wine (unless you're high up in the mountains).

I am a firm believer in supporting our local economy (even it means spending $12.00 instead of $ what...?).


Chateau des Charmes  'Silver Label' 2006 Cabernet VQA
The French-Style chateau on York Rd is hard (extremely hard) to miss. I remember numerous Christmas afternoons passing the stately winery on the way to my aunt's for Christmas dinner. She served the typical fair (yams, buttery mashed potatoes, mouth-watering pork and turkey) along with Ukrainian perogies and cabbage rolls. During dinner, the guys watched sports, beer bottles in hand while the women, swirling their  wine glasses gossiped in the dining area. We kids traditionally got into trouble, usually doing something stupid in the basement (or nearly breaking a window with a bow and arrow - my bad....).

If you're looking for an easy way to support your Ontario wineries, this wine is a must. This wine is medium bodied with notes of seductive, solemn leather, earthy raspberries and black currants with just a zing of green pepper.

Get out of the Cellared in Canada section and buy this red VQA at $9.95!

Pelee Island Gamay/Zweigelt 'Night Glider' VQA
If you bring this wine to a Christmas dinner or party, you might get a few people asking about the crazy bat on the label (it's actually a Southern Flying Squirrel... poor little guy).

Or... the other question: What the *bleep* is Zweigelt?

Well Zweigelt (or Blauer Zweigelt if you're in Central Europe) is one of the most popular Austrian dark-grape varieties. Dr. Zweigelt crossed Blaufräkisch and St-Luarent, combing the bite of the first with earth elegance of the latter.

The grape ripens early and in southwest Ontario, it's not a bad thing. Some experts feel the grape's name is hampered by the originator's difficult to pronounce name (sf-VAI-gelt).

For $10.95 you can get this dark chocolate, black currant and cherry charmer. Ideal with pasta dashes but would be a nice compliment to hearty stew.

Konzelmann 2007 Riesling VQA
I was a networking event earlier in the month (the same one, if you've read my Wine and Food Pairing for the Holidays entry where our MC jokingly said we all needed to check into AA) where myself and several other colleagues shared a bottle Konzelmann's 2007 Riesling.

It's always a bit more expensive in the restaurant (I won't tell you what we paid) but at the LCBO, for $11.95, you can't resist this pearl of a wine. Apricot, apple, hints of honey and light petrol, this wine is a scintillating dance of flavours, structured but sensuous. 

Best of all, the staff at Konzelmann are some of the best I've ever met. Friendly, knowledgeable and the most enthusiastic bunch next to those at Inniskillin. When I first moved back to Ontario after living six years in B.C., I headed over to Konzelmann. I kept coming back.

When the summer season is back in swing, I'll be back there trying the latest.

I know we had to tighten our spending. It sucks, we're all feeling the pinch. But for those who live in Ontario, it's our home and we make fantastic wines. I'd rather spend $12.00 on a spectacular wine than $9.00 on a passable international. In Ontario, the winemakers here rarely, if ever, make plonk. I think we can be proud of that. 



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My focus is mainly on wine culture, history and education. I love the stories behind wine - the people, places and the regional personalities of the wine-countries around the world.

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