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This is intended to provide discussion on Canadian wines, from where they have been to where we might see them in the future.

Canadian wines have come along way in the past 10 to 20 years. Better knowledge in the wineries, as well as wine making skills have definately benefited us wine drinkers. As well, better grapes are being grown in Canada, and the winemakers are figuring out which varietals do well in our climate and soils.

The current situation in my eyes is prime for us who enjoy Canadian wines. Most wines are still available at very resonable prices, and the quality of some varietals are becoming top notch. Others still have a ways to go.

I believe that most Canadian wines are still marketed and sold in Canada, as the rest of the world still views our wines as second rate or even below average (other than icewines). I believe our current strength are in our white wines, with some red varietals showing great strength.

I believe our future in wine is a good one. Yes there will be alot of people who will disagree with this statement but I will respond with this... 30 to 40 years ago California, Oregon, Washington, Australia, Argentina, and South American (the list can go on) were not highly ranked in the wine world. These regions have all done well, despite many trials and tribulations.

Over the past year I have tried to expand my knowledge of wine mainly focusing on Bordeaux, Australia, Italy and Chile. My other goal was to try as many Canadian wines as possible. With many trips out to the Oakanagan, as well as the many Canadian wines easily accessible in our liquor stores, I have compiled a list of Canadian wines that I recommend people try.

Tinhorn Creek - Okanagan Winery
2000 Pinot Noir: One of the best Canadian wines I have tried this year. I have had 4 bottles on 4 different occasions and this wine always amazes me. Its very complex, with many nuances that never dissappoint. $14-$19CAN depending which province is selling the wine.
2001 Merlot: I had this tonight and again a solid wine. Drank over 3 hours and was still going strong. Good to see it develop struture and continue to evolve during the 3 hours.

Kettle Valley - Okanagan Winery
2000 Kettle Valley Hayman Pinot Noir: I had rated this 94pts and have posted previous notes on it. Very limited production 66 cases and it sure delivered as a top notch wine. Look for future bottles of this.

Mount Boucherie - Okanagan Winery
This winery wins hands down for best white wines that I tasted this year. I had the 2003 Pinot Gris on two different occasions and both times were spectacular. I have also had the 2002 Gewertz which also was a 90pt wine. What takes the cake as best Canadian white wine I tasted in the past year goes to...
2002 Riesling. This was a very fresh and lush wine, that had everything going for it. Lots and lots of fruit, including pear, peaches and grapefruit. Easily a 92-93pt wine. I wish I had more of this but the winery was on their last case when we visited and we only bought 2 bottles. I look forward to more of their wines in the future.

Other notable winery's:
Sumac Ridge: Their white meritage (%80sav blanc and %20semillion) was very good. As well their 1998 unfiltered merlot was a mid to high 80pt wine.
Grey Monk: produces some very good white wines, inculding a nice unoaked chardonnay and a crisp Gewertz.
Mission Hill: I enjoy their Reserve Chardonnay. Its full and complex wine that they have produced on a consistent basis.
Quails Gate: This could be the next Big Canadian Winery. They are doing all the right things and I think in the next few years will be on top of it.

Many more wines and wineries could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. I know there is alot of skepticism with regards to Canadian wines but that is a loss for those people who believe all Canadian wines are inferior. All these wines that I listed are available either in stores in Canada or can be found at the wineries for under $20 or even under $15CAN for most of the white wines. The Kettle Valley wine I listed was approx $30CAN if I remember correctly.

Canadian wine prices are still very reasonable as prices around the world increase. I only touched on Okanagan wines but I know that there are very good wines produced in the Niagra region. I am sure our friends in Ontario can enlighten us on those as the selection is limited in our province.

This has been a long post but I will finish it off with this thought. I will be the first to admit that I tasted some very poor Canadian wines over the past year... but... I also tasted some outstanding wines that ranked in the high 80s and even a few were 90+. Most of these wines are in the $12 to $18CAN price range. Canadian wines are making big strides, especially in the white wine varietals, and eventually will be recognized around the world. Just this past year Wine Spectator did a feature on Okanagan wineries as they know the future for Canadian wines is a bright one!

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you didn't include any wines outside of the okanagan. don't you get anything from ontario is SK?

in my opinion what they lack in obvious fruit they make up for in character. they represent the terrior from where they are made. the beamsville bench is full of limestone and clay rather than sand and more sand that the okanagan offers.
My only comments are:

-I have yet to taste a Canadian red that I would buy (or buy again), but admit that my preference is for (truly) full-bodied reds

-I've not liked Canadian whites much better but liked the Vineyard Estates sauvignon blanc a few vintages ago

-and I still don't get the attraction of icewines, for the price at least

-all of that said, I too have high hopes that when the vines reach a decent age, or the winemakers' skills develop further, that Canada will make wines I want to drink, for a price that I'm able and willing to pay

-finally, having been through several similar discussions here and elsewhere, I encourage subsequent participants in this discussion to remain as civil as possible. Smile
We dont get alot of the ontario wines here other than the icewines. I am hoping to make a trip out this spring/summer to the niagra region and do some tastings then.

I usually take 2 trips a year out to the Okanagan (I'm going again this March) which is why I mention so many of their wines. I wish I made more trips out to the Niagra region to do some wine tours/tastings.

I will say that some of the wines I tried I had to search for them and/or goto the winery to pick them up. But thats no different than waiting years to be put on a mailing list for wines, or spend a few months searching for a specific wine or vintage.

The only downside (or upside for some of us) is that the good canadian wines are still hidden gems, and like every other region in the world, have good years and bad years when it comes to weather etc.

I'd like to support Canadian wineries (Niagara especially) hoping the money I spend will help them make better wine in the future. I have half a dozen Canadian wines in my modest cellar but find (like Bman) that I buy one to taste and then don't buy it again.

I've noticed the prices rising the last couple of years but I rarely find the quality matches the price. The wineries in my opinion are making it hard for me to support them with their high price to quality ratio. The LCBO may be part of the problem of here.

It seems there is a large group of Meritage and Reserve Cabs in the $20-30 cdn range. I have so many excellent wines to choose from in this range so why buy Canadian?

With this said the Niagara region is an excellent area to visit and stay in an B&B, get lunch/dinner etc. I don't come home with more than a few bottles though.
I'm not chauvinistic about Canadian wines and I very rarely drink them.

bman, the Mission Hill 2001 Oculus (Bordeaux blend) is the first Canadian red that has truly impressed me. I'm not good at tasting notes but it is complex, full-bodied, with plenty of fruit and structure - this was the wine to which Decanter gave a very high rating. It was $35 - 40 in stores here (no longer available). Some of the local restaurants had it around $65 - 70 on their wine lists and at that price it is certainly worth a try.

My issue with Canadian wines remains the same as it has been for some time. There is a lot of very good wine available in the stores at much less than Can $35 - 40. The quality of Canadian wine is improving but I'm not sure the QPR is - it may in fact be slipping in comparison to some other parts of the world such as SW France and Chile. Until Canada can deliver QPR wines at particular price points, I'm not going to be buying much of it except for gifts when I'm visiting abroad.

mwaters, I think you and I are making similar points about QPR. I don't think it's just the LCBO - we have the same issue here in Alberta.
Welcome Natalie! Smile I was hoping that one day you'd join in.

Perhaps my issue is with the term "full-bodied". For me, a full-bodied wine is personified by a big Aussie red like the Leasingham Bin 61 or Dead Arm, or a southern Rhone like most top-rated chateauneufs du pape, or amarone. If there's a Canadian wine, BC or Ontario, that can compare in terms of mouth-filling goodness to any of these, I'd love to try them.

When people take me to task for my lack of loyalty to Canadian wines, I say that I'm sure that many Canadian wines appeal to people who like that style of wine, but (from the ones I've tasted to date) it's not a style that I'm crazy about. Few cold climates yield truly full bodied wine, and Canada's is probably no different. But I'd love to be proven wrong, and I will try the next "full-bodied" red that is offered by Vintages from any of the wineries that you recommend.

BTW, I spoke to you at the Ottawa Food and Wine Show (no doubt one of many!), but I'm the one who suggested that you drop in to these Forums to check out the discussion, as I thought you would enjoy it. Whether you remember or not, we're glad to have you here, hope that will stick around, and hope even more that you might participate in our next local offline. We are only two "regulars" here from Ottawa, but friends from elsewhere come to town sometimes, and we have tasted some wonderful wines and made very good friends with fellow winelovers. You would be very welcome to join us.

And if anyone is inclined to flame Natalie for including a link to her website, please don't. It's non-commercial, and more importantly it's a great site, with useful recommendations on all sorts of things, including the monthly Vintages release.
i think that the problem with ontario wines is that we're trying to be everything to everybody instead of just being who we are! Confused

What I mean is, we're trying to ripen varieties like cab sauvignon, syrah, etc and the fact remains that we can only do that about once every four years or so('98, '02 are the two most recent).

we have to stop planting varieties that don't suit our climate. when was the last time you were offered a german shiraz? oh you haven't?Eek quelle surprise. that's because they can't ripen it there and neither can we.

we can grow excellent riesling and chardonnay every year. why not get behind these varieties instead of making crappy diluted bord. blends. we can ripen pinot noir but i have yet to taste a pinot that i'd but over a burgundian, californian etc etc.

the sooner we realize what we should be growing here instead of what we wish we could the better off we'll be. and yellow tail drinkers be damned.

rant over. feeling better. Wink

welcome nat-decants, i've received your newsletter for some time and look forward to your participation on this board and others.(i also saw you joined ebob.)
Hi Natalie.

Few here would have any problem with you posting a link to your website, and I think that you can already see that the Ontario contingent is very pleased to see you participating. In the past, some others have challenged posters posting their websites, but I'd be surprised if that happened to you. Still, I thought that if anyone was tempted, I'd try to discourage it if I could.
I don't see the problem with Natalie posting a link to her website. I mean, it's just disclosure of her job. Besides, some producers post the name of the winery they work for/own/etc.

Anyway, I'm not a fan of Canadian wines for the most part. I will say the best one I had, however, was the 1998 Pillitteri Cabernet Franc Family Reserve from magnum a couple years ago. Very tasty stuff - I'd give it an 88.

As was stated by someone above, I just can't justify spending $40+ on a bottle of Canadian wine that will be, more often than not, mediocre. I can buy something that is better quality, suits my palate more, etc, from other regions.
If it comes to canadian wines, I don't have much experience, but I did like the Mission Hill Oculus 2001 & Qual's Gate Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2002 (while I'm not a big pinot fan). Mnt Boucherie indeed makes lovely whites, but not too special (tough I did like there riesling icewine).

I've also tasted some stuff from Okanagan Valley that was called PORT, but I've never tasted something more disgusting then that crap Eek
Welcome to the boards Natalie...

The few Canadian reds I have enjoyed have been the 1998 Sumac Ridge Pinnacle, 1998 Ch. Des Charmes Equuleus, and pretty well any vintage from Malivoire's Ols Vines Foch.

I tried the Stoney Ridge Cab Franc Reserve this past weekend and was dissapointed. At $29.95, the second bottle I bought will be going back.
While I agree that prices for top reds at many Canadian wineries have gone over the top, there are still many good values to be found in Niagara and B.C.

Like SirIsm, I'm a fan of 13th Street and Lailey - though the latter is guilty of overpricing. In particular, the Premiere Cuvee from 13th Street (Funk label) at around $26 is a terrific deal. They also make a very nice reserve Gamay and reserve Pinot Noir.

bman, have you tried Malivoire's Old Vines Foch (as mentioned by oakville_al) or Henry of Pelham's Baco Noir reserve, each around $22-24? They're a little more tart than most full-bodied reds from the New World, but they are respectably mouth-filling - especially in the current 2002 vintage - and cost a bit less than the now-$25 Bin 61.

I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned Blue Mountain out of the Okanagan. They make excellent, balanced, food-friendly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (among other things) for $20-25. Hard to find though.

So, no need to spend $40+...but you do have to be picky.
I tried the much heralded Henry of Pelham's Baco Noir reserve a vintage or two ago and was much underwhelmed. To me, this is just medium-bodied, nowhere near full-bodied. I found it tart and thin and unpleasant. But then again, my thing is full-bodied reds. No doubt many people who like baco noir liked this wine, but I didn't, especially paying over $20 for it.
Horton, you need to understand that Bman is really partial to his Aussie wines. He likes 'em ripe, extracted and in-your-face. Razz

I also agree with Jump's comments. Niagara is no place for reds. Okanagan, maybe. I should qualify my comments by saying that I haven't tried many Canadian reds lately because I got tired of vegetal nose and green, stemmy wines.
thanks for the warm welcome guys and gals! you've mentioned some outstanding wines... just wish they were more available in the stores... then again, small is beautiful so I suppose it's a trade-off... I whole-heartedly support stickig to what we're good at... riesling in particular but I am a believer in pinot noir for Niagara... the Okanagan though is the place to be (and drink) going forward... love their big reds like Oculus
I agree with what Natalie says above. Perhaps New Zealand points the way forward for Canada, in the way they concentrate on cooler climate varietals like sauvignon blanc and pinto noir. Aside from the southernmost parts of BC, perhaps Canada should do the same, and forget about trying to make cab sauvs and other "big" reds.
I agree that I have yet to taste a very good Cab Sav from Canada. On the other hand there have been some good pinot's as well as some good Cab Franc's and some different types of meritages from the Okanagan. They usually have a higher Cab Franc, Merlot blend with a little cab sav added in. Its not Bordeaux or Cali but why does it have to be. I know the south Okanagan can consistantly reach 30-40C or 85-100+F. Wineries just need to figure out what grows well in the different regions.

I've had some nice Canadian wines red and white, at tastings. When it comes to the liquor store, though, with some exceptions the wines I like tend to be significantly more expensive than e.g. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Australian, or other wines which I like as much or more.

The exceptions (good QPR), I really like some of the Kittling Ridge wines (e.g. their Riesling-Gewurztraminer blend, about $10), or their ice wine/brandy blend (less cloying than ice wine, like at least one previous poster I don't particularly appreciate normal ice wine).
Hey Natalie! I too subscribe to your informative newsletter.

I have tried hundreds of Canadian (mainly Ontario) reds and generally will only buy Malivoire Old Vines Foch (every year since it's inception in 1998) and a few Thirteenth Street reds.

I really like Thirty Bench's high end wines but for $40-50 a bottle, I can find much better values from other regions.

Beyond that, I buy a few icewines and my wife loves the Jalapeno infused icewine from Crown Bench. Sounds gross, but it has a cool taste that grows on you and is great to cook with.
I love these threads on Canadian wine. I myself love BC wines(very poor selection from Ontario here)What I appreciate about BC wines is how they have improved so much in such a short time, and yes we still have a way to go, but what is coming out of the Okanagan these days just gets better and better(my mother in law lives in Oliver, B.C., neddless to say we visit often)winerys like Stags Hollow and their merlots, Jackson Triggs and their shiraz, I would rate 89-90 and still in that $25.00 range. I agree that cab sauv is darn near impossible to ripen in Canada, but they way the industry is moving ahead with varietals that grow well here is to commended ie: Sauv blanc, pinoit gris esp Grey Monk Odessey, guewertz,even some chard's, ect, shows that maybe not right now, but soon wines from the Ok valley will be recognized for their quality just as Wash state was.

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