Monday, May 23, 2011

A Wine From Canada… Really? Niagara Winemakers Seek Respect on the World Stage

 The first of our reports from TasteCamp North, a special Niagara wine event on both sides of the border for international wine writers.

I can’t be the only person who is more familiar with the wines from France, Chile, Spain, Italy and Australia than with the wines of our northern neighbor. It’s simply much easier to stroll into a wine shop and bag a wine from the Loire, let’s say, than find a Chardonnay from the Niagara Peninsula, which is thousands of miles closer.

It’s a crying shame. The wine industry in Ontario has grown and matured for nearly 200 years. The fruits are now apparent in glorious wines that cover a wide spectrum, world class wineries and skilled winemakers that are trekking to this up-and-comer on the world stage. Oh yeah, the Americans are also taking advantage of the spectacular terroir with the growth of the Niagara USA wine region.

Chateau Des Charmes Vineyard
Ontario wineries take advantage of a temperate climate, enhanced by the diversity of glacial soils and the moderating effect of the Great Lakes, to produce mature fruit and complex wines. Ontario wine country is located similar in latitude to southern France. The daily temperatures fluctuate providing conditions for balance between acidity and fruitiness.

Some observations.
  • The Niagara wineries offer an outstanding variety, not just ice wines. Get ready for some outstanding Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Meritage blends in addition to great Cab Franc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
  • Many of the wineries are huge operations but unknown to us since the wines aren't widely distributed in the U.S.
  • Some of the winery buildings are architectural masterpieces with a tendency toward clean, modern lines. The winery tasting rooms range from wine country casual to world class showrooms.
  • No one went hungry at TasteCamp
  • You will enjoy a top shelf wine tasting experience. Forget cheap industrial glasses or (gasp) plastic. Most wineries we visited served samples in high end crystal stemware including Reidel.
  • Much of the wine is pricey with costs of $35 to $45 Canadian very common. Sixty-nine percent of a wine’s price in Canada is taxes. It is one way the country funds its health care system.
  • The quality wines are just the “cherry on top” of a great wine country experience that includes superb scenery, cultural events and top tier restaurants and dining.
More TasteCamp reports will follow. In the meanwhile,these two links will serve to whet your appetite.
Wine Country Ontario
Niagara Wine Trail USA

Special cellar tasting at Vineland

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