Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES September 14th: Diving Deeper into Ontario Wine

Diving Deeper into Ontario Wine

By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo MS, Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

At this time of year, as harvest draws near, VINTAGES always features local Ontario wines. And it has thankfully come to the point in the industry’s evolution that promoting local can be done confidently, with overall quality much improved, if not universally improved (which hinges more on individual wineries and winemakers rather than the place the wines come from).

I have never been a proponent of promoting lesser quality Ontario wines just because they are local; which does no one any good at all in the long or short run. So we simply present our recommendations below based on quality and not value.

VINTAGES is not quite in the same position politically. As I have explained before, as an Ontario government agency with what is essentially still a monopoly on retail shelf space, it has to be seen to provide fair opportunity to all, as well as to be price conscious. So some wines they have chosen will inevitably be average quality and value.

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With this release, VINTAGES casts a wider net and captures some very good to excellent and interesting wines. It also provides more insight into the Ontario’s wine regions and winemakers than ever before (with noted omission of Prince Edward County). And rather than gush purple patriotic prose, there is an attempt by VINTAGES magazine to actually educate and articulate what Ontario wine is all about.

With our full team of critics returned from summer meanderings for this release, we present our picks below. I have expanded my reviews on each wine, with an eye to trend-spotting and providing other hopefully interesting backgrounder insight. And a reminder that you can also buy these same wines (and many others that the LCBO does not carry) from the wineries direct and/or on-line from their websites at the same price. And the wineries, not the provincial treasury, make more money that way! You can decide where you would rather invest.

Buyer’s Guide September 14th: Ontario Sparkling & Whites

The Roost Bunch’a Trouble Sparkling Brut Rosé 2017, VQA Ontario ($24.95)
David Lawrason
The new Georgian Bay wine region is centred on Beaver Valley where apple orchards have flourished for generations, and apple cider is now a hot item. It does not yet have enough vineyard acreage to qualify for VQA, but with large new plantings afoot on sloping Niagara Escarpment sites on the west side of the valley (providing some east-south-east exposure) I do believe VQA will come. It is a cooler region based largely on winter hardy hybrids like the red Marquette, which achieved VQA status just weeks ago. The Roost is a new, tiny winery located on a hillside, just beyond the sleepy hollow-like village of Red Wing. I have not visited but I have tasted their early efforts and I am impressed by the winemaking. Others are reviewed on WineAlign. This is a very pale rosé bubbly with a soft, sweet peach, strawberry jam nose, and just a bit grapy. It is light to mid-weight, nicely delicate, fresh and off dry. All kinds of charm if not great complexity
John Szabo – This is a perfect aperitif-style bubbly. Serve in regular white wine glasses (not flutes), and move past the slightly funky nose to the attractively bone dry and crisp palate, full of crunchy and tart red fruit, cranberry, sour cherry and the like, with a squeeze or two of lime. I like the delicacy and the genuine tartness.…


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And that’s a wrap for this edition. A very busy period of public and trade tastings begins next week, so we will very likely see many of you out on the circuit. In particular I am looking forward to receiving my September WineAlign Exchange case later this month. If you have not yet subscribed to this most excellent program – and yes I am biased – please check it out here.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview