Why is icewine considered extreme winemaking, and what are some weird, but wonderful food pairings for this elixir? Which Canadian wine regions should you visit next? What unusual things can you do at Ontario wineries?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m being interviewed by Janina Doyle, sommelier and host of the Eat Sleep Wine Repeat podcast.
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- What are the major wine regions in Canada?
- How does Ontario’s weather impact the types of wine that are produced?
- What are the most important characteristics of Canadian Icewine?
- Which types of food pair best with Icewine?
- How does the late harvest time for Icewine present additional difficulties for winemakers?
- What are some of the main attractions of the Ontario wine regions and sub-regions?
- How do the Niagara River and Lake Ontario affect the climate in the sub-region around them?
- Which innovative and environmentally-friendly methods are the winemakers at Featherstone Estate Winery using to protect their vines?
- What are the top grape varieties grown in Ontario?
- Where do I think Canadian wine and wineries will go in the future?
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We have consistently cold weather in Canada. It’s why we’re the largest producer of Icewine. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
I like to say that Icewine, it’s a honeyed elixir, it would be the drink that they serve you as you’re waiting outside the pearly gates to get into Heaven. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Quebec has some marvellous ciders and cider Icewines based on around 50 varieties of apples that they grow there. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Ontario sparkling wines are winning awards and breaking records in terms of how great they are and aging well and all kinds of different styles. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Although COVID has been very hard on the industry, for the wineries I think there’s been some good in that they now offer a much more personal experience. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
About Janina Doyle
Janina Doyle started her wine career in several top-notch restaurants in London, UK, rising from waitress to head sommelier as she completed her WSET diploma. She has spent the last six years creating Eat Sleep Wine Repeat where she offers wine tastings, events and services. She also created the Bromley Wine Society, a local monthly wine group, and her podcast, Eat Sleep Wine Repeat. She is also Brand Ambassador for Ventisquero Wine Estates in Chile.
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Natalie MacLean 0:00
10 out of 10 vintages we will make ice wine. Three to four out of vintages Germany will make ice wine. Exactly. So it’s that advantage of cold. Ice wine needs to be made naturally until the grapes freeze on the vines, and they must be picked at minus eight degrees Celsius or colder. There are stories where the temperature will plunge such that the grapes become marble pellets and they’ve been known to break the presses. They’re so hard. Oh wow. You only get like a drip out of each one. They call it extreme winemaking. You don’t want those little pellets to thaw either. They’ve got to stay frozen because it’s the concentration of the flavour, the dehydration that has happened naturally. That’s where they get all of that luscious elixir. It’s a honeyed elixir. It’s like peach preserves and apricots. It would be the drink that they would serve you as you’re waiting outside the Pearly Gates to get into heaven.
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 180. Why is ice wine considered extreme winemaking? And what are some weird but wonderful food pairings for this elixir? Which Canadian wine regions should you visit next? And what unusual things can you do at Ontario wineries? You’ll hear those stories and more in Part Two of our chat with Janina Doyle, host of the Eat Sleep Wine Repeat podcast. You don’t have to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I do hope you’ll go back if you’ve missed it after you listen to this one. Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Depression, and Drinking Too Much. One of the biggest things to overcome when you’re writing anything, but especially when you’re writing memoir, is not to give your critics, sometimes haters, too much power. It’s easy to let your monkey mind run off with thoughts like that’s a stupid thing to say or why would you admit to that? In my memoir, I’m all in on vulnerability. I’m revealing things I would have been embarrassed to say a few years ago. Things like drinking too much. Being overly competitive. Getting in my own way with perfectionism, which really is procrastination in disguise. It is those admissions of weakness that formed the strongest bonds with someone who reads my work. Not the critic or the hater but the person who says I’ve been there too. I get it. I need to make a daily effort to keep focused on the people this memoir is for, those who actually like my style, rather than those who don’t. It reminds me of the quote that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want, whether it’s writing or working on some other project. You need to have your own back first, to believe in yourself before anyone else will. Have you ever let yourself get in your own way? Let me know. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes and NatalieMacLean.com/180. This is where I share more behind the scenes stories in the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at Natalie@NatalieMacLean.com. Okay, on with the show.
Janina Doyle 5:26
The Financial Times of London said Natalie MacLean is a new force in the wine writing world, a feisty North American answer to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. She can write beautifully about wine. Well, it is true, but she can also speak beautifully about wine. And there is nothing better than getting somebody to talk about a place very close to their heart. And so you should hear and feel the passion today as we talk about wines of Canada where Natalie is from. The majority of the wine comes out of Ontario. So there’s a big focus on this region, alongside icewine liquid gold. But we will touch on the other regions except for BC British Columbia as that was the focus on episode 70 with Canadian Master of Wine Siobhan Turner. So do go back to that one to complete your full Canadian wine overview if you haven’t heard that one yet. Now before we go to wine education time, let me take you to my winery of the week. So of course we are in Canada and I’ve chosen Stratus Vineyards. Now Stratus Vineyards are in the largest of the three sub regions in Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula. So within this there are two regional appellations and then 10 sub appellations. Stratus within the regional appellation Niagara on the Lake so look for that on bottles. Now their winery is an L E. D facility. So that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. And it was the first winery to get this full certification back in 2005. The winery has this gravity fed system, and most importantly, it’s 100% pump free. Now there’s not many wineries that can claim this. So they are all about low energy with a special insulated roof that offers geothermal heating and cooling. They’ve even paved their carpark with a special stone that reduces light reflected heat. They are all about sustainability and the environment and of course that is true of their wines too. So no chemicals used in the vineyards and they work with native plants and indigenous cover crops to encourage biodiversity. All their grapes are hand thinned during the year as they practice low yield viticulture. Then they’re hand harvested, and of course then hand sorted before heading into the winery. They are so focused on having the ripest and most mature grapes that they sometimes leave the red grapes on the vine until December. So talking red grapes, I have one of my favourite varieties the Cabernet Franc. Now this is the parent of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and this is the 2017 Vintage you can get it from Vinum for 28 pounds 85 if you’re in the UK, so right time for me to give this a whirl.
Okay, so as expected with Cabernet Franc, it has a beautiful perfume. I get lots of red currents and like this fresh tobacco leaves and then a little bit of damson and black plum, but is mainly the red fruits. Now as we Cabernet Franc again, it has a kind of slight leafiness. And in a little bit of smoke, I think they’ve put a certain amount of time in oak, you can smell that. And there’s a real cracked black pepper character. Beautiful, beautiful fruits.
All of those notes and aromas they come through on the palate that makes my life easy. However, it’s very old world in style. And when I say that, I mean it’s not too fruity. It’s got a good concentration of fruit, but it’s quite earthy and it’s quite savoury so on the palate and certainly with this finish, getting lots of graphite, wood smoke, tobacco cigar box, these kind of notes. But there’s also certainly a lot more cassis coming through alongside that red fruit presence. A really, really bright wine. Tannins they’re grainy, but they’re pretty medium minus. They’re quite light. And but the acidity is very, very high, really, because I said a really bright acidity. It’s got this Bordeaux edge, but it’s not as heavy. But at the same time it’s chunkier than a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. It kind of really sits in between the two. Is a beautiful, beautiful wine. This would work with roasted red meat, smoked red meats, or you can even pair it with something like a lamb tagine because it has all those kinds of herbs and spices and really merge well with the aromatics of this wine. So if you haven’t already jumped on to the Cabernet Franc train, now is the time to buy your ticket. And whilst you’re waiting in the queue to get that ticket, let’s have a listen to the chat with Natalie. Now. Now you are Canadian, it was obvious that we would need to talk about Canadian wine you’re not allowed to talk about British Columbia because that already got spoken about in episode 20. So that is off the market. But we are going to talk about some of the other regions and the one of the main regions of Canada has not been spoken about. So we are all good. Now. In England specifically, generally, we can only find I think wines from Ontario, which is the largest region. But how does that compare to Quebec and Nova Scotia in terms of volumes and well everything. I’ll hand it over to you now.
Natalie MacLean 11:35
All right, so a few quick stats there 185 VQA wineries meaning Vintner Quality Alliance, which is like our DOC, or our AOC. It’s our appellation of guarantee these grapes come from this place and are made according to certain rules. So 185 wineries have that designation. 1700 acres of vineyards in Ontario. And just to put that in perspective, Ontario, I mean, it depends on whether you’re talking about vineyard acreage number, winery is dollar amount sold, but it accounts for almost 90% of wine produced in Canada, I’d say BC is like, let’s say almost because my math is not going to add up in a minute. But BC is maybe almost 10% And then you’ve got one or 2% in Quebec and Nova Scotia, they’re much smaller. And I think like England, the major wine regions are in the south of the country. It’s where it’s warm enough to make wine. Whereas Quebec and Nova Scotia are much cooler climates. So they’re making mainly from hybrids or German varietals. We’ve got some wineries in like the Prairie provinces and Newfoundland, but they’re making wine from fruit that’s not grapes.
Janina Doyle 12:45
Okay. A bit like when we spoke about Scotland. There is a definitely a parallel. So what is the climate like in Ontario? Because it’s still really, really cold in the winter, isn’t it?
Natalie MacLean 12:58
Yes it is. I shiver when you ask. Yeah, well, we have consistently cold weather here. It’s why we’re the largest producer of ice wine which we’ll get to in a moment. But we’re very much a cool climate. And I mean, we can have wide wide swings from winter to summer. One of the sub regions of Ontario is called Prince Edward County, it’s the most northernly. And in the winter, they have to hill the vines before winter comes so they push the soil up against the vines. Because if they don’t, if they don’t provide that nice warm, or that protective layer of soil, the vines will die from cold during the winter. They won’t survive. So Niagara a little bit more south in the province is a bit warmer, where they don’t have to do that hilling. But I mean, you know, we’re both on a Celsius metric. Here this week or last week, it’s gone down to minus 40 degrees Celsius, so it can be bitterly cold and it’s consistently cold and we’re crazy but we still live here and love it for other reasons.
Janina Doyle 14:02
We should talk about ice wine because that is actually Canada’s speciality. Now I know still wine is growing, sparkling we might be able to touch on but let’s do ice wine. Because I don’t know if this is still accurate, but I’ve seen statistics over the years that yes, ice wine, ice wine. It came originally from Germany, but around 80 90% of the world’s ice wine is coming from Canada. Now. I don’t know if that’s still true. That statistic.
Natalie MacLean 14:32
I would tend to believe it because it’s consistently cold. So yeah, let’s make it a statistic that’s been verified now, but a 10 out of 10 vintages we will make ice wine. Three to four out of vintages Germany will make ice crackling. So it’s that advantage of cold if you will. And a lot of exports to the UK are icewine and just a few stats there if they’re of interest. Ontario exports about $800,000 Canadian dollars worth of exports to the UK. And that represents 80% of what Canada exports wine wise to the UK. So most of it comes from Ontario. So it’s ice wine. It’s ice cuvée meaning its a sparkling ice wine. But also in the market, Ontario has Chardonnay, Riesling, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, and so on. But back to ice wine, it’s kind of a magical process to make it to harvest it because you can’t just put grapes in an ice box that is fake and it is now trademarked just like champagne is. Ice wine needs to be made naturally until the grapes freeze on the vines. And they must be picked at minus eight degrees Celsius or colder. So often that is on a December, January at midnight. And there are stories where the temperature will plunge such that the grapes become literally marble pellets and they’ve been known to break the presses. They’re so hard. Oh, wow. Yeah. And you only get like a drip out of each one.
Janina Doyle 16:00
No, it’s funny, because I remember a story. I think it’s from Inniskillin, which if anyone who wants to have a legendary producer, everyone in the UK, that’s probably the main one that and Pelee Island. These are the two that you can definitely find in the UK, just you’re quite rightly said it has to be minus eight or lower. But they made big mistakes, I think, you know, at the beginning stages of learning, which is going back to only the 1980s, they were not going back that far. And they would picking out something like minus 18. And at that point, it’s too too cold. And so as you said, like these marbles going into any kind of machine, things are flinging off, and it’s really destructive. So their ideal picking temperature is like minus 10 to minus 12. But of course each winery will have difference of opinion, but minus 80 too too cold. So it’s going to be really tough to get it right the right temperature to pick.
Natalie MacLean 17:00
They call it extreme winemaking. And because you don’t want those little pellets to thaw either as you pick them back to the winery. They’ve got to stay frozen to stay concentrated because it’s the concentration of the flavour, the dehydration that has happened naturally because of the hang time all the way to December, January. That’s where they get all of that luscious elixir. I like to say that ice wine. You know, it’s a honeyed elixir. It’s like peach preserves and apricots. It would be the drink that they would serve you as you’re waiting outside the Pearly Gates to get into heaven.
Janina Doyle 17:35
Do you know what? I totally totally understand of course, as well. It’s always so golden. Well, mostly gold in the glass. Unless of course, we’re talking about Cabernet Franc. Let’s stick with the white grape varieties, which I know more about. But yeah, I always get this quite exotic. I don’t know. I’ve always got lots of these really vibrant pineapples as a majority fruit. Really? Tropical fruits. Yeah, it’ funny.,
Natalie MacLean 17:57
Wonderful because people don’t realize because they think of it as a dessert wine. But two things. It can be served at the front of the meal or during the meal. Substitute wherever you might try Sauternes. Exactly, you know like foie gras. I know that’s probably not a exactly politically correct pairing. But wherever you might Sauternes the sweet wine from Bordeaux substitute ice wine, but also iced wine only has about 10% Alcohol. So unlike a quart and fortified dessert wines that have double, you are not going to be asleep on the sofa at 7pm. Right, big bonus. But there’s so many food pairings I mean, you know biscotti, fruit flan, fruit cobbler spicy
Janina Doyle 18:39
Spicy foods. Yeah, absolutely sweet and spicy. So Thai food and Mexican food. Meaty Indian. It’s a great combo. Absolutely. So you can really play with it. But of course, just to point out everybody, sweet wines are considered from 50 grammes of residual sugar upwards. But typically I’d say if I’m right, we’re talking like 250 grammes of residual sugar per litre or something like that it’s in that vicinity.
Natalie MacLean 19:07
Its pretty concentrated because again, the grapes had been allowed to dehydrate, they’ve lost a lot of their moisture. So they just so concentrated and they’ve had such a long hang time on the vine well past the usual harvest for still or dry table wines. So that’s where they’re getting this deep, deep, deep concentration of flavour, sugar, and just beautiful, glorious, expanding flavours as they hit your palate.
Janina Doyle 19:34
But of course, the sad news is, is typically not very cheap, is it? And I think that’s because of the years that you’ve talked about the fact when they’re pressing it, most of its frozen, and they’re only getting out the tiniest bit of juice so that ice doesn’t exist, you can’t use it anymore. So if it was a normal grape where they could get 100% of the juice out, they’re getting what 10 – 15% of the juice out.
Natalie MacLean 19:56
It’s minuscule and not only is the yield low like you know what you get from those little rock pellets. But also because the grapes have stayed on the vines, you know, two, three months longer than usual. They’re really subject to predators like deer, rabbits, starlings are the number one predator of. They love their ice wines or the ice wine grapes, I should say. And there’s been lots of creativity and trying to keep the starlings away. Like if you go around in the harvest time, you’ll hear the bird boxes, and it’s screeching sounds of starlings in distress, because you’re trying to ward off these murmurations just big thick clouds of starlings circling overhead, trying to find a nice feast, and the nets all around the vines trying to keep the starlings away. My most favourite technique was, I went to a winery, Featherstone, which is actually one of my favourite wineries to visit Niagara and I can expand on that, but they had like a cannon that would blast off into the vineyards every so often. The starlings had become so used to the cannon, they were perched along in a little row on the cannon and the cannon would blast they would kind of flutter and come back down, like they found it a nice warm roosting post. It was like almost like giving an index feather to the box maker. It’s like thanks, but no thanks.
Janina Doyle 21:18
Oh, wow. Okay, well, I know so I’ve heard that birds can be a massive problem. But yeah, is netting the probably the most normal way that they tried to keep the birds away from this glorious Winter feast?
It is and they can be quite beautiful at night. I’ve seen Starlight, Blue Moon starlight, highlighting these white nets like they’re almost like ballgowns draped over these vines. Quite beautiful, but it’s quite costly. And it’s not 100% effective. Interesting side bit, I think. Starlings were never native to North America. Some idiot in the 1800s brought them over because he thought that in Central Park, New York, they should have all the songbirds mentioned in Shakespeare’s sonnets. And so he brought the bloody starlings and now like most winemakers consider them rats with wings. They are so predatory.
Janina Doyle 22:10
That’s so funny. Good story. I like that. That’s absolutely brilliant. Yeah, ice wine. And pretty sure the majority like 90% is now growing in Ontario, but there is a little oddity British Columbia as well, which I’m like you’re not allowed to talk about you are in British Columbia, probably a second and then there is a little bit in Quebec and Nova Scotia. Right. Although I’ve heard do they have a different law? I think in Quebec, because it’s just too cold. They can actually cut them in advance and then hang them is that correct?
Not sure what their practices are, because I focus mainly on Ontario and BC. Yeah, but it’s the Quebec is the Eastern Townships which again, is sort of the most southern part you’re gonna get in that province to ripen. But Quebec also has some marvellous ciders and cider ice wines, based on like 50 varieties of apples that they grow there, which is really lovely. And then Nova Scotia is in the Annapolis Valley. I’m originally from Nova Scotia, so it’s just about an hour away from Halifax. You get the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean. And then the Annapolis Valley is this warm dip. And it’s right next to the Bay of Fundy which is the world’s highest tides, they go up and down. But again, the moderating influence of the water just as you do in Niagara, you’ve got Lake Ontario. So you’ve got these little pockets of viability for wine based on of course, geography and climate. Yeah.
Janina Doyle 23:39
Well it is interesting to see how those to grow. I guess, because yeah, as we realize more varieties and what you can do with them. It will vary. But let’s come back to Ontario because of course that’s where everything is. And anyone around the world, if you’re going to get hold of a Canadian wine, you’re most likely going to be able to get that from Ontario. So there’s like three sub regions within Ontario isn’t there? So what’s the layout? And again, what’s probably the most popular. Popular that’s not the right comment. Well, the largest Yep, gotcha. Largest? Popular? Whatever. Potatoes. Potatoes.
Natalie MacLean 24:13
Mentioned Prince Edward County where they have to hill the vines because it’s so cold. It’s beautiful, though all three regions are gorgeous. And they do have wine routes and places to visit. In addition to the wineries because a lot of wineries have restaurants attached to them. And there’s ballooning and bike riding and inns and country stays and all the rest of it. So lovely, lovely places to visit in all three regions. Prince Edward County is more North versus Niagara. Smaller. It’s newer region and it is the smallest of the three in terms of output.
Janina Doyle 24:45
It is closest to Ottawa isn’t it?
Natalie MacLean 24:47
It is. it is. The capital, the coldest capital on Earth. Colder on average than Moscow.
Janina Doyle 24:53
Yeah. And that’s where you live now. Right? Yes.
Crazy. It’s home now so, and I have a good coat. But there are some wineries around Ottawa. They are very new. And they do struggle a lot with the cold. And so it’s not hugely established, but they’re making progress. But so then as you say, the closest drivetime is Prince Edward County, so that’s probably two and a half to maybe three hours drive. And then Niagara would take six hours drive. It’s past it’s south of Toronto, and going south, and then the furthest south is Lake Erie, North Shore and Pelee Island, where you mentioned Pelee Island winery is one of the largest producers in the province. Pelee Island and Lake Erie North Shore, that whole region is the warmest in Canada. But the largest is actually Niagara, because it’s got that lake effect and it’s a superb region. And if you think of those Russian nesting dolls, there are sub appellations within appellation. So there’s like Niagara on the Lake, Niagara bench, Niagara Escarpment. And then you can go down even further.
Janina Doyle 26:03
There’s twelve in total, right. So they’ve got the two kind of main regions within the Niagara Peninsula, but then within them, there’s lots of little ones. Yep, exactly. But which goes to show though, I always say this, you know, when many people don’t know of a region, and then they find out, there’s will be sub regions. It’s like, Whoa, I haven’t even got my head around the fact that there’s even wine growing here. But it goes to show those sub regions that based on closeness to the lake, and then of course, you’ve got the Niagara River to the east. So Niagara on the Lake, is going to be slightly different. Isn’t it because it’s close to warmer, Niagara is going to have more of that influence. Everyone, water generally moderates temperatures, if your body of water that help tends to, if that’s what you need, is going to help. So of course, the winters are going to be slightly less cold. They’re going to hold on to some of that summer temperatures, and they’re going to moderate it. But at the same time when things are quite warm, they’re going to cool things down. So yeah, so they go everyone if you want to get really wine geeky, you’ve got 12 sub regions in total to pay attention to.
Natalie MacLean 27:08
It’s like a water bottle effect. I’ve heard it described as you say it’s storing up heat during the summer the lake is and the breezes are moderating or mitigating the heat of the summer, and is storing up that heat the water is and then it lets it off in the winter. So the winters aren’t so cold. So it’s got this circular motion of the seasons, where it literally is moderating the temperatures in both all seasons.
Janina Doyle 27:32
Amazing. I’ve seen pictures as well in the winter. And of course, anywhere that has the snow on vines is beautiful as well. So during the summer, oh, And during the summer with the lakes reflecting the sunshine, I can imagine actually. This region in general, anytime the year must be stunning.
Natalie MacLean 27:49
It is. It is. You know, I tend to visit more in the summer or fall because those are gorgeous times to visit. But you know, anytime really, within Niagara itself, there’s even more to do. There’s this very quaint sort of beautiful little old village. There’s the Shaw Festival, the Bernard Shaw festival. So it’s great for literary types as well to combine our books and bottles. And then a lot of the producers that you can get in the UK you can visit here you know whether it’s Andrew Peller, Cave Spring, Domaine Queylus, Henry of Pelham, these are all labels that do make it to the UK but you can come visit them here while you’re here.
Janina Doyle 28:27
Who did you mention? A winery of yours that you were not of yours that you had a wonderful experience on you can talk about?
Natalie MacLean 28:33
Okay, so it’s called Featherstone and it’s owned by a husband and wife and it’s an adorable, tiny winery on the Niagara Escarpment. So they don’t like starlings either and Louise. Does anyone really? Apparently, no, they’re just like non grata. But Louise, the wife, is a falconer. And she has trained a falcon to chase after the starlings. Yeah, so it helps a lot. It’s all very natural, but it’s also how the Falcon eats. Every spring, they bring in all these baby lambs. And the lambs they’re only tall enough to eat the nice grasses and they’ll eat naturally that leaf canopy near the bottom of the vines, but they don’t like the grapes because they’re not ripe and they’re too high up for them. But these baby lambs are so adorable. They call them lamb mowers, because they reduce their environmental hoof print. I mean the puns go on. So I went to visit all the lambs at the lamb farm where they get the lambs. And there was a woman there, her last name was Shepherd, but anyway, there was
Janina Doyle 29:41
Totally destined to work there.
Natalie MacLean 29:44
I know, right? But they had this big male sheep, I guess, a ram. And he had his hoofs up tall. He was being very alpha male. And as we passed him, you know, I was asking, what is that sheep named? Oh, I forget what you call them, but it’s. She said, he’s from Alberta. He thinks he’s hot stuff but he was there to mate with all the female sheep.
Janina Doyle 30:07
So clearly he was hot stuff.
Natalie MacLean 30:09
He was hot stuff literally. And then I asked her later when I got back to the winery – it’s just so beautiful there and the wines are gorgeous. Their Rieslings are just I think the best among the best in Ontario – . I said, well, what happens with the lambs at the end of the season? She goes well we don’t talk about that. But she’s just laughing. The reason we don’t name the lambs, it’s the circle of life. They go to one of the best restaurants in the region and they have a snout to tail kind of food and wine pairing. So the lambs some of them not all of them go to this grand feast in the fall of lamb dinner anyway, sheep dinner.
Janina Doyle 30:46
Well, as you said Circle of Life.
Natalie MacLean 30:49
Circle of Life. Yes. They were happy in their youth.
Janina Doyle 30:51
They were roaming, roaming as lamb mowers. Brilliant. Okay, so people need to come actually to this winery, the best time would be in the spring then and they can see the little lambs.
Natalie MacLean 31:00
Oh yeah all the lambs and the hawk. All the animals. It’s a working farm. I think that’s why I loved it so much. It’s like, people have this thing about wines. You know, it’s fancied up farming, it’s not even fancied up. It is a farm. These are working firms in most cases, and it’s not glamorous, but it’s wonderful. Beautiful.
Janina Doyle 31:19
I need to come I need to come. So in terms of grape varieties, we’ve mentioned Riesling. Is Riesling probably the number one white grape variety growing for still wine?
Yes, I’d say Riesling and Chardonnay. Cool climate Chardonnay has made a comeback around the world. You know, we’re done with ABC – Anything But Chardonnay, the overwrought fruit bombs. So I would say the two Riesling probably does lead, but I think the Chardonnays we make here are crisp and steely. Think more of Chablis than Chardonnay. Yeah, exactly. But with our own signature, so, yeah, I would point to those two whites being very much the signature of Ontario white wines.
Janina Doyle 32:01
And then red. Would it be Cabernet Franc?
Yes. Excellent. Excellent Cabernet Franc, but also Gamay, the grape of southern Beaujolais ,and Pinot Noir, the grape of Northern Burgundy. Because they’re cool climate, they do well here and so those grapes, if we put them all together, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, maybe occasionally Pinot Meunier. We also make great, great sparkling wines.
Janina Doyle 32:27
Right? And, again, Ontario is is leading for the sparkling wines.
Yes, Ontario in Canada would lead sparkling wines. Now all the other regions make them. Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and BC because of the cool climate. But yeah, they’re winning awards. And I mean, just breaking records in terms of how great they are and ageing well, and you know, on the lees, all kinds of different styles.
Janina Doyle 32:54
Beautiful, beautiful. And I remember reading in Lake Erie North Shore, which you mentioned is a little bit warmer. There is actually some Merlot and like Cabernet Sauvignon growing there because it is that little bit warmer. So that separates that a little bit from lower down in the Niagara.
Natalie MacLean 33:10
Yeah, they can produce warmer reds. You know, if we have a warm vintage, it’s great. But generally year in year out, you’ll get warmer reds like Colio Estates down there produces some really great reds and Pelee Island, of course, a big producer. Yes, yeah.
Janina Doyle 33:25
But in terms of the icewine just coming back to that, of course. I see Riesling, Vidal, which is the hybrid which just does nobody’s doing that as a still wine, are they because it just suits,
Natalie MacLean 33:38
It suits icewine. There are a few who do it still, but it’s a small percentage. Some are making orange wine like Southbrook Estates makes a marvellous orange wine out of Vidal. Anne Sperling. Rockstar winemaker I mean, she’s just led the charge for biodynamic and organic winemaking in Canada. She also owns a winery in BC Sperling Vineyards, has consulted with her husband in Nova Scotia Blomidon Vineyards. So she’s really led the way and established the world’s first orange wine appellation here in Ontario VQA. But yeah, but for Vidal it tends to be floral, a thin skinned grapes so it does wonderfully well as an ice wine. My personal preference though is Riesling for the basis of ice wine because it has that silver seam of acidity that balances the sweetness and enables ice wine to age longer too.
Janina Doyle 34:30
OK and of course for anybody you know, is a wine that can age with the sugar with the acidity is more about preference though you know, we exactly like still wine it will get darker in colour. It will get more honeyed. It will get a little bit maybe smoky. But you’ll just get richer and the more fresh aromatics will start to change. So if you like it fresh, you can drink it young but you can lay it down and enjoy it much. Precisely. So it’s ice wine Riesling, Vidal and Cabernet Franc are the three that I see is. I think Cabernet Sauvignon is being used as well in ice wine. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 35:07
So we do get those red ice wines and Gewürztraminer as well as sometimes a basis and people are, I mean, there’s been experiments with Chardonnay as the basis and so on, but the other big ones can be Riesling and Vidal and then to a lesser extent the red based grapes.
Janina Doyle 35:23
And in terms of we mentioned Vidal is a hybrid. So for anyone, it’s just it’s a crossing of two different vitis plants. So, vitis vinifera is the plant that we you know, our Chardonnays and our Cabernet Sauvignon all the grapes, you know, but in America, Vitis Lambrusca and America and Canada has always been that’s been kind of the main vitis plant. Is that still planted in Canada? Are people making any wine from Vitis Lambrusca?
Natalie MacLean 35:48
Ah, oh gosh, I’m not sure I tend to focus on all the wineries that are the classic vinifera grapes. You know, one of our big hybrids though is Baco Noir.
Janina Doyle 36:00
I have no idea what it tastes like and what it is, but I’ve seen Baco Noir on many different bottles on line not in front of me.
Natalie MacLean 36:07
Yeah, Henry of Pelham is the star maker of Baco Noir. There are a number of other producers who do it very well, but they’ve made a real name out of their Baco Noir, like they really stand for it. And Baco is a full bodied red, it’s smooth. I don’t know how to describe it, a bit like a Syrah a little bit like a Cabernet. But it has these dark, fleshy ripe fruit, berry flavours. It’s great with grilled meat, it’s a great one, especially the way they make it.
Janina Doyle 36:37
And quite clearly as a hardy grape variety that can handle terrorists and cold. So this is a hybrid. This is obvious, right? Yes. Okay. Baco Noir, everybody. That’s amazing. Okay, right. So, I mean, what’s the future, in your opinion for Canadian wines, wines of Ontario? What do you think?
Natalie MacLean 36:55
Probably like England, there’s so many new wineries springing up every year. And when I say bigger, I don’t mean bigger companies, but just more diversity. Lots of little tiny boutique wineries. More experiences when you go to the winery like Andrew Peller, or Peller estates, you can go down into the ice wine lounge where it’s minus eight degrees. They give you a parka. And it’s a nice and you taste ice wine. And then afterwards, you can go up to their splendid restaurant and have a fine dinner. And there’s just lots of experiences when you visit these regions that are really fun. So amazing. Yeah. So lots of tourism I see in the future. More and more great restaurants, and more and more boutique wineries experimenting, and just even traditional wineries knowing more and more what works. I mean, we’ve got a lot of experience. Now we’re still considered a relatively new region. But I mean, there’s just decades and decades of experimenting with soils and climates in grapes, that they’re really perfecting the wines that we do well.
Janina Doyle 37:56
Perfect. And if people come is that you said obviously, most of these wineries are open to visitors and they have their restaurants and have wonderful cellars and experiences. Are there specific wine routes in place? Like if people came? Is there. Yeah, okay. Is there? Yeah. Niagara Peninsula wine route or?
Exactly. And there’s an organisation called Wine Country Ontario, which is kind of like the wine council for Ontario. They produce a really terrific map of all the wineries and you can get it online as well. I’ll send you the link for that. You need it for your show notes. Yes, but they have a lots of resources on their website. I have all the wineries on my website as well, so that folks can find out you know where to go. And of course, if you’re visiting there now or in the summer, you want to plan out your visits because with social distancing, it may ease up completely. The wineries are open for visitors. But sometimes you do need to make an appointments just because of the social distancing aspect.
Janina Doyle 38:54
But they are open and they are waiting.
Natalie MacLean 38:57
And it’s a more personal experience. I think in some ways. Although, you know, COVID has been very hard on wineries and restaurants. For the wineries, I think there’s been some good in that it’s a much more personal experience. Often now you make an appointment like you would at a restaurant. You sit down and taste. It’s leisurely. You’re not fighting at a tasting bar with a throng of people. And sometimes even the winemaker will come over and talk to you or somebody will guide you through. You might be doing some food pairings. So it’s a more personalised experience now.
Janina Doyle 39:27
Beautiful, okay, you’ve inspired me to come. Amazing. So you have to you’re so passionate, like you think you are my new inspiration. On TV, writing books, and of course your podcast. And so you’re fantastic. remind everybody again, where they need to go on your website so they can find out about all your online courses and your books and everything that you’re doing. Where do they need to go?
Natalie MacLean 39:52
Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you Janina and for the plugs. So my website is Nataliemaclean.com. So it’s a N A T A L I E M A C L E A N. I also wanted to mention that I am working on my third book, I think I mentioned it briefly. It’s a memoir, very different from the first two books, but I am looking for beta readers, or as you might say, beta readers. So if any of your listeners or if you yourself. I think I might have to. I would love input on that. It’s more of a serious story about being a woman in the wine industry for the past 20 years. But wine is all through it is still wine soaked for sure. So if anybody wants to reach me either through my website NatalieMacLean.com, email me Natalie@NatalieMacLean.com. And the website is where you’ll find my podcast Unreserved Wine Talk, the previous two books, my online food and wine pairing courses and all the stuff. All the things.
Janina Doyle 40:50
Everything. That’s lovely. Thank you ever so much. It’s been a pleasure. And quite clearly we should do this again sometime.
Natalie MacLean 40:56
We really should. How’s Monday?
Janina Doyle 40:59
Perfect. I’m free. Anytime.
Natalie MacLean 41:01
I can’t wait for you to come over here. I’m going to you know, tell the folks at Wine Country Ontario, they need to encourage you strongly to get over here.
Janina Doyle 41:09
I think that sounds like a plan. Thank you have a beautiful day, on Monday and then on Tuesday.
Natalie MacLean 41:17
All right. Bye for now.
Janina Doyle 41:20
Do let me know where you are in the world. And if you can get hold of Canadian wine. Now after listening to that chat I really hope that is available to you. Now I’m often quoting authors and writers so why not, quote Natalie Maclean herself to finish off this episode, and she too has a few quotes to be found on the internet. One that she so eloquently said was, while wine may be only a drink, it is also one of the most complex sensory pleasures we enjoy. It is as cerebral as it is sensual. And it requires a lifetime to appreciate it.
Natalie MacLean 42:03
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Janina. In the shownotes you’ll find my email contact the full transcript of my conversation with Janina, links to her podcast and website, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the shownotes at Natalie MacLean.com/180. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at Natalie@NatalieMacLean.com. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Laurie Budd who graduated from the prestigious UC Davis enology programme. She and her husband own Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles, California. She is also the host of the podcast called Exploring the Glass. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 21, go back and take a listen. A Chat with author John Mahoney on whether wine is the source of civilization. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Unknown Speaker 43:15
Who was the first person that made wine? I was taught that civilization has established itself from say Babylon or Egypt. We go back to the time of Christ. That’s 2000 years everything else is BC. And everybody thought that one was 3000. Then they say well, no, it’s probably four even 5000 years old. But two places established it that was incorrect, University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania. Both of them did research and found out that is well over three, four or five thousand years old. They’ve proven and actually have done scientific testing to prove that wine production is probably seven and a half to 8000 years old. Wow. My research took it further and I’m saying that we started with wine right after the last ice age.
Natalie MacLean 44:03
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps an Ontario sparkling wine.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.