Taste Ontario: Wines + Event Make Spectacular Blend

Taste Ontario Ottawa 1“The evening function for Taste Ontario in Ottawa was beautiful. The Westin outdid itself with food stations all around the ballroom interspersed with ice sculptured bar tables and tree stands. The majestic Chateau Laurier was lit up in the background outside the room-length floor-to-ceiling windows. Music and mingling. Eating and drinking. My favourite pairing of the night was the sauteed shrimp in a rich cream sauce with the Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2011.

The event gave us a chance to talk one-on-one with the owners, representatives and winemakers at some of the best wineries in Ontario. Heather WallAt the Closson Chase table, I not only got to sample their delicious Chardonnays, but I also got a little history lesson on wine in Prince Edward County.

Did you know that PEC was making wine in the late 1800s, but during the Prohibition era all the vines were ripped out? PEC has been catching up ever since re-planting. And doing a great job!

Another standout for me was wine of Thomas Bachelder. The Pinot Noir was amazing. It’s reminiscent of his days at Le Clos Jordanne fame. He now makes wine not only in Niagara, but also in both Oregon and Burgundy. Impressive.

I came away with a real sense of pride in our Ontario wine industry. We need to see that pride reflected on more of our restaurant wine lists in Ontario. More VQA wines please!” – Heather Wall

“When 50 wineries show up in your town offering to pour their pride and joy it’s an occasion you don’t want to miss.  The Taste Ontario event held at the Westin was a great opportunity for OnMatt Steeves2tario winemakers to showcase their portfolios to prospective buyers, and highlight some of the terrific products being produced right here in Ontario.  Extra special having many of the key Ontario winemakers present given the fact they’re right in the middle of harvest season and beginning to make their 2013 wines back at their shops.

There were many delicious wines being poured in each category from the lighter aromatic whites, to the full bodied reds, and of course Canada’s prized ice wines too.  The only thing lacking today was time.  Too many great wines being poured by knowledgeable and passionate staff and far too little time to sample them all.

In the video clip above, Ed Madronich, owner of Flat Rock Cellars, explains his two styles of pinot noir and what makes them different. These are some of my favourite wines.

Of the wineries I visited, each had at least one wine that stood out, and many had several if not all.  A decent number of Ontario’s icon wines were being poured too and as always they were outstanding in their fruit concentration, structure, and degree of refinement.

Equally as impressive were the number of value priced 2nd wines which several wineries are offering now.  Often these wines are offered exclusively to restaurants, however, some are available at the wineries too.

Regardless, worth keeping your eyes peeled for these wines when you visit your favourite local restaurant. Hope to see LCBO and the Ontario wineries continue teaming-up to host more of these events throughout the year.” – Matt Steeves

“With 44 wineries being represented and more than 150 wines to sample and enjoy, Taste Ontario was truly a special event to attend here in Ottawa.Nick

This was a unique opportunity to meet some of the passionate people behind the wines and to be able to learn and understand some of their methods in producing them. This was a great showcase of what Ontario has to offer!” – Nick Onischuk

Derek Barnett, wineamker at Lailey Vineyards, explains the differences between the 2007, 2010 and 2012 vintages, and which one was his favourite in the video above.

“Taste Ontario 2013 was a fantastic night showcasing how far Ontario has come in producing consistently high quality wines; both everyday wines and wines that could cellar for a decade or more. LCBO Vintages pulled off a fabulous event with food and wine.

Some of the highlights included the “Expressions in D” Riesling collection from Vineland; a controlled experiment that showcased the effects of terrior on wines. The vinification of this three-wine collection was exactly the same except for the soil in which the grapes were grown: one in gravelly soil, one in sandy soil, and one in loamy soil. The effect that soil can have on the same grape is pronounced.

Another stand-out winery for me was Lailey vineyards. Their expression of two tricky grapes, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, were outstanding. Without care, the resulting wines can be harsh and under-ripe. The Cabernet Franc 2011 and Sauvignon Courtney FloodBlanc 2012 both showed pronounced aromatics of rich fruits, spice, and floral that knocked my socks off.

The final highlight for me was Malivoire. This Niagara winery has pioneered a very eco-centric and natural approach to winemaking that both respects the land the wines come from, as well as producing a consistently high quality wine at an affordable price. The Malivoire Gewurtztraminer 2011 is a powerfully aromatic wine of lychee, mango, pineapple and rosewater; and their Gamay is a Vintages Essential that is consistent, crowd-pleasing, and versatile.

Norm Hardie, winemaker at Hardie Vineyards in Prince Edward County, talks about how the 2013 vintage is going so far and what he expects from these wines in the video above.

To top the night off, the LCBO team did an ode to the wine that put Ontario on the map: Icewine and how versatile the sweet treat can be.

The features included Icewine paired with spicy dishes, sparkling Icewine with salty blue cheese,  Icewine and pomegranate cocktail, Icewine and creamy and savoury mushroom appetizer, and a decadent Icewine and dark chocolate pairing.

A delicious way to end off a fabulous night!” – Courtney Flood

The Taste Ontario 2013 event was an excellent opportunity to explore some of the highlights of Ontario wine without leaving Ottawa. It was great to be able to taste so many Mark Sokolowskidifferent wines in a number of styles – many new and exciting (auxerrois, anyone?) – and to speak with some of the winemakers who were able to attend. There was a genuine sense of pride in the air, exuded by winery reps and tasters alike, and an overwhelmingly positive vibe to the whole event. With some new favourite wines and interesting people met, I can hardly wait for the next event!

Norm Hardie’s wines were impressive as always, and his 2012 County Chardonnay Unfiltered may have been my favourite of the afternoon. I love the use of natural yeasts and that tasty-almost-toasty quality his wines have from extended contact with the lees. The Cattail Creek 2012 Riesling was also a stand-out, being zippy and zesty, long and lingering – just what I love from Ontario Riesling.

I tasted almost exclusively Pinot Noirs for reds that afternoon, and two very notable (and different) wines are at the forefront. The Grange of Prince Edward County 2009 Select Pinot Noir had all kinds of raspberry and chocolate notes going on, displayed no tartness and had great body – a real treat from a solid PEC winery. As well, the 13th Street Pinot Noir Essence 2010 was excellent: the fruit, oak, and acid come together beautifully to make this Pinot sing a long and spicy song. Mark Sokolowski

“Our team above has done an excellent job summarizing the event, and some of their favourite wines. The excitement about Ontario wines was palpable in the room … and it was a huge room!

My personal favourites were the Pinot Noirs from Flat Rock Cellars, Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder; the Pillitteri Exclamation Cabernet Franc; the Reif Gewurtraminer; the Closson Chase Chardonnays; and sparkling wines from Thirteenth Street and Jackson-Triggs Entourage.

I’ll be adding my reviews to the site over the next few days, as will the team. Here’s to a great show!

You’ll find all of the Taste Ontario wines poured in both Ottawa and Toronto posted on the site here. You can also see the bottles in stock at your closest LCBO stores, or the winery contact where you can order directly.” – Natalie

Ed talks about how he comes up with the whimsical names for Flat Rock Cellars.

Taste Ontario OttawaTaste Ontario 3You can read about the Taste Ontario Wine event in Toronto here.

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