Wines In Niagara

A local perspective

Month: October 2010 (page 1 of 4)

Ontario wine store opens in China

Editor’s Note: The Ontario government today announced an Ontario wine store opening in China. What follows is the press release.


A new Maple Leaf Wines store is now open in China.  Minister of economic development and trade Sandra Pupatello and minister of tourism and culture Michael Chan attended the official opening of Maple Leaf Wines in the city of Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s Henan Province.

The owners of Maple Leaf Wines will feature Ontario wines including the
award-winning Pelee Island Winery’s table and ice wines to Chinese consumers.

Ontario is taking proactive steps to market its tourism, business and financial
sectors in China.

Working to attract international investment and attracting more Chinese visitors is
part of the government’s five-year Open Ontario Plan to strengthen economic growth and create jobs for families.


“More of our friends from China will now experience a bit of Ontario with the
opening of Maple Leafs Wine in Henan.  China’s Approved Destination Status with
Canada will permit Chinese visitors to explore Ontario’s natural beauty, dynamic
cities and warm culture.  This will help support the tourism industry and create
jobs here in Ontario.”

– Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture

“Ontario has more than 150 wineries producing a variety of wines that are
recognized around the world for their quality and taste.  Ontario has a vibrant
trade and business relationship with China and we are proud that China is promoting the Maple Leafs Wine Store, which will be offering Pelee Island Winery wines.”

– Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade


• For 2009, Ontario’s goods exports to China were valued at $1.64 billion, an
increase of almost 58 per cent since 2005.

• By 2012, visitors from China are expected to grow an average of 20 per cent in
Ontario to an estimated 111,000 visitors.

• Approximately one million tourists visit Ontario wineries each year.

We need the Wine Council to support VQA

Sometimes you just have to give your head a shake.

How are we going to move forward in this backwards province of ours if even the people who are paid to move it forward seem to be shrug off any kind of an attempt to bring progressive thinking to the table?

What we could have in Ontario

What we could have in Ontario

I’m talking about the Ontario Wine Council, or Wines of Ontario as they now want to be known, and some rather underwhelming comments this week in the local St. Catharines newspaper, The Standard.

The newly elected mayor had just announced that one of his goals for a better downtown core, part of the much-needed revitalization plan, was to bring Ontario’s first VQA-only wine store to St. Catharines. It would be close to the Niagara Wine Route, which will be re-routed through St. Catharines in the coming years after an aggressive plan to rejuvenate St. Paul Street with a huge performing arts centre with Brock University as its partner.

Mayor Brian McMullan seemed excited about the prospect of the progressive move for a VQA-only store in the heart of wine country, something that has been a long-time coming. Is there a more perfect place for this kind of all-inclusive wine store? A test for the rest of the province?

The idea was pretty much deep-sixed by Hillary Dawson, president of the Wine Council, in comments made to Standard report Monique Beech.

“One thing I know about (McMullan) is that he’s always thinking big,” said Dawson.
“Frankly, if the government was looking at expanded opportunities (for Niagara wineries), we’re not looking for just one (store),” she went on. “It would be for a much broader application. A single opportunity there is not what we’re going to be actively engaged in.”

VQA B.C. wine stores logo.

VQA B.C. wine stores logo.

Ah, thanks, for that Hillary. Thanks for your support. And here we thought it was the job of the wine council to be pro-active, to move projects forward, not to sit back and watch the world go by and shoot down ideas as they rear their heads. It begs the question: What are you going to actively engaged in? Or better yet, what have you actively engaged in? We keep hearing about the things you don’t want to do and never the things you want to do.

It’s that kind of thinking that has kept Ontario in the back waters of civilization in terms of wines sales to consumers. It is that kind of thinking that has moved us to the bottom of the barrel in terms of innovative thinking when it comes to access to Ontario VQA wines. The LCBO cannot put nearly enough of the wines Niagara or Ontario makes on its shelves. The only other option is for consumers to get in their cars and travel from winery to winery picking up what they want. That’s just not right or practical. There has to be better access to Ontario wines.

Dawson wants a “broader” application for VQA-only stores and supports the ridiculous idea (in my opinion) that we first convince the province to allow fine-wine stores that would sell a mix of international and domestic wines and “not violate trade rules.” I love that line — not violate trade rules. Ah, Hillary, they do it out in B.C., and now in nearly every other province in the country … everyone’s doing it, so, what the hell does that mean? We can’t have Ontario wine stores because Chile would get mad. Let’s get a grip here. That’s not going to happen. And, you know what, let’s take care of the people here in Ontario before we worry about wine regions in the rest of the world.

I would suggest a trip for Hillary Dawson to get on out to B.C. and see for yourself what’s going on outside of the GTA. While we sit around and yak about VQA only stores, they’re doing it out there and have been successfully for quite a while.

BC VQA wine stores carry the widest selection of B.C. wines available in the world. Some stores stock as many as 500 separate wines. There are now 19 BC VQA wine stores across British Columbia selling BC VQA wines exclusively.

And it all started right there in the heart of wine country, the first VQA only store in the Okanagan Valley, exactly what the mayor of St. Catharines wants to do.

It’s not like we don’t have exclusive private stores already in Ontario. Vincor and Peller Estates (mainly) run 300 private stores to sell its own wines across the province. It’s time to level the playing field. And we need the wine council to lead the charge or get out of the way.

So, please, let’s get to work. Let’s make some changes around here. Be a champion of change, not a barrier. Get some positive thinking going. Be upbeat. Passionate about where you can take us. Move us forward and away from  this province’s antiquated liquor laws into a new era of modern thinking.

You can start right here in St. Catharines with the first all-inclusive VQA wine store in Ontario.

Niagara Pinot Gris tasting puts variety in whole new light

By Rick VanSickle

It all started as a simple, innocent mention on Twitter by a Niagara wine lover who was lamenting the fact that he was not the world’s No. 1 fan of Pinot Gris.
Mike Di Caro’s “tweet” touched off a flurry of responses that led to a promised tasting of Niagara’s best Pinot Gris. (You can read Mike’s thoughts here.)

Tasters gathered at Crush Wine Bar in Toronto for Pinot Gris tasting.

Tasters gathered at Crush Wine Bar in Toronto for Pinot Gris tasting.

The whole notion of Pinot Gris, versus Pinot Grigio, is merely stylistic. Pinot Gris, a style popularized in Alsace, France, is generally a more interesting wine when made with a little weight, often a bit of residual sugar and varying degrees of oak fermentation and aging (the oak aging is not part of Alsace wine making, and is more of a New World style). Pinot Grigio is more light and fruity, made for backyard sipping on a hot, summer’s day and made popular by Italian wine makers as well as in California, which grows more of this variety than anywhere else in the world.

But it is exactly the same grape, so it can be confusing for consumers who just don’t know what they’re getting into when they go shopping for one or the other.

Pinot Gris is not exactly a widespread in Niagara — only 900 tonnes were picked in 2009, down from 1,200 tonnes the year before. Compare that to Chardonnay, 6,300 tonnes, and Riesling, 5,400 tonnes, and you get the picture — it’s niche market where only a few dare to go.

But those who have taken the challenge are making some pretty stellar wines. Rich, textured, bold and interesting Pinot Gris that go beyond your average white wine.

To prove that point, we gathered up 17 different Pinot Gris, including three from the Okanagan Valley, two from Alsace, France, and the rest from Niagara, for a tasting conducted at the Crush Wine Bar in downtown Toronto recently. A dozen wine lovers — sommeliers, winery staff, winemakers, writers, bloggers and knowledgeable consumers — were all invited to taste, talk and tweet to the world what they liked or didn’t like about this fashionable variety.

Richie Roberts, winemaker at Fielding Estate Winery in Niagara, took time from the harvest to sit in on the tasting. He makes one of the finest Canadian Pinot Gris, Rock Pile, and has a soft spot for this grape.

Roberts explained that Pinot Gris grows quite well in Niagara but can be difficult if you don’t pay attention to it.

“It’s a lot like Pinot Noir. It’s very finicky. It starts to break down fairly early so it’s difficult to hang it late,” he told us.

But getting it right has paid off for Fielding, which makes both the Rock Pile and a regular cuvee.

Richie Roberts talking at #tastegris from LCBO on Vimeo.

Here are some of the highlights from the tasting:

Fielding Estate Rock Pile Pinot Gris 2009 ($26, sold out, 4.5 stars) — I’ve reviewed this wine before, and it’s always a pleasure to sip. Ripe Bosc pear, apple and creamy-spicy notes on the nose. It’s a big and delicious, slightly off-dry Gris that invigorates the palate with apple, melon, pear and cream notes all supported by juicy acidity.

Creekside Pinot Gris.

Creekside Pinot Gris.

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Gris 2007 and 2009 (2007 is a library wine but the 2009 is $30 at the winery, 4.5 stars) — Nice to try a slightly aged Pinot Gris beside the fresher version. I scored the 07 higher than the 09, it just had such perfect weight and balance. Both wines have lovely pear, apple, melon, toast, and vanilla notes with wonderful mouth feel and texture. Pure elegance.

Five Rows Craft Wine Pinot Gris 2008 ($25, just moving into the 2009 vintage, winery only, 4.5 stars) — Small production wine and typical of the best Gris being made in Niagara — tropical, apple, pear and honey notes that shows some structure on the palate, and a promise of aging beautifully.

Stoney Ridge Excellence Pinot Gris 2009 ($23, winery, 4.5 stars) — This wine was also previously reviewed here but scored high in the tasting and impressed the tasters. Such a gorgeous nose of melon, sweet citrus and apple crisp in a ripe and full-bodied style. More acid than some others we tried.

Creekside Pinot Gris Reserve 2007 ($25, winery, 4.5 stars) — A weighty Gris with apple-custard notes to go with melon, moderate acidity and a honey-kissed finish.
Creekside Select Late Harvest Pinot Gris 2007 ($24 for 375 Ml, winery, 4.5 stars) — Super fine nose of sweet peach, apple and apricot with wild honey and a wonderful viscous feel on the palate.

Alsace Pinot Gris.

Alsace Pinot Gris.

Some other Niagara Pinot Gris to try (all rated 3.5-4 stars): Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Pinot Gris 2009 ($19), Fielding Estate Pinot Gris 2009 ($19), Hillebrand Artist Series Limited Edition Pinot Gris 2008 ($19), Riverview Pinot Grigio 2009 ($15), Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008 ($18).

The Okanagan Valley’s Pinot Gris was generally finished in a drier style but the tasters were impressed with the three examples of this grape from the west coast. All rated 4 stars including Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2009 ($17), 8th Generation Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009 ($20) and the sweeter Wild Goose Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009 ($26).

The treat of the tasting was the Alsatian Zind Humbrecht Clos Saint Ubain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru Tokay Pinot Gris 1992 in magnum. This is where Niagara could be headed, but Alsace has about a 400-year head start of growing this variety in France. Such amazing poached pear, lanolin, caramel and integrated wild honey and spice. A blockbuster!


Niagara next stop for TasteCamp


TasteCamp North Event to Shine Spotlight on Niagara Wine Country in 2011
Third Annual Event Will Include Wineries in Canada and the United States

View from the porch at Flat Rock Cellars in Niagara.

View from the porch at Flat Rock Cellars in Niagara.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO, CANADA, October 28, 2010 — Tonight, New York Cork Report Executive Editor Lenn Thompson and the co-organizers of TasteCamp 2011 announced that Niagara wine country — on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border — will host the third annual hands- and boots-on event for wine writers May 13-15, 2011. The announcement was made live on Twitter and at Chateau des Charmes, site of the first grand tasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

TasteCamp 2011 will be an exploration of Canada’s most established and prominent wine region, and one of America’s newest and most dynamic, including everything from the famous wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake to the terroir-driven wines on the Niagara Escarpment, as well as organic/biodynamic wineries, vineyard walks, grand tastings and wonderful food including the popular BYOW dinner at Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine, one of Niagara’s best local-produce restaurants. Attendees will stay at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa. The complete program is still being finalized. Details will be published as they become available.

Sign from TasteCamp in Finger Lakes

Sign from TasteCamp in Finger Lakes

What differentiates TasteCamp from other events and conferences geared toward wine writers and bloggers is that it’s a largely self-funded. Attendees pay their own way and participate in TasteCamp out of a genuine interest to learn more about the region, its wine, its terroir and its people.

The concept for TasteCamp from the start was to take writers who know little or nothing about a region and completely immerse them in it for three days. They taste a lot of wines, visit estates and meet dozens of winemakers. It’s not about just showing them the best. It’s about showing them the complete picture, said event creator Lenn Thompson, who also founded the New York Cork Report .

Quebec-based TasteCamp organizer and wine blogger at The Wine Case, Remy Charest said, “From the moment I attended the first TasteCamp in Long Island wine country in New York, in 2009, I was hoping that we could get the event to Canada. Even though I’m from Quebec, it was obvious to me that Niagara should be the first Canadian stop for TasteCamp.”

View in Finger Lakes from TasteCamp 2010

View in Finger Lakes from TasteCamp 2010

Fellow organizer Rick VanSickle of Wines In Niagara, attended last year’s TasteCamp in the Finger Lakes wine region and added, “I was shocked as a participant at TasteCampEast in the Finger Lakes last May. The energy of the independent bloggers and writers, the Tweets, media, blogs and buzz during, after and continuing to this day was something I had never seen before. An honest assessment of entire region that was simply a coming a age for the Finger Lakes. Imagine what we can do in Niagara.”

TasteCamp is an opportunity for the host regions to show off all that they has to offer — to a group of keenly interested writers. Morgen McLaughlin, President of  the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, one of last year’s sponsors, said TasteCamp 2010 was a tremendous success for the Finger Lakes.  “Having bloggers and journalists visit the region, many of them for the first time, generated significant media coverage and excitement among the wineries.  We hope that TasteCamp makes a quick return to the Finger Lakes in the coming years.”

Suresh Doss, publisher of Spotlight Toronto and co-organizer for TasteCamp 2011 event concurred, saying “This is a unique opportunity to show Niagara’s terroir and the potential of farming in this region.”

Pouring at a grand tasting during TasteCamp 2010

Pouring at a grand tasting during TasteCamp 2010

Follow the Latest updates on TasteCamp 2011:

* On Twitter: #TasteCamp

* On the Web:

To participate as an attendee, contact Lenn Thompson (

To participate as a sponsor, contact Suresh Doss or Rick VanSickle (

Media and interview requests:

Lenn Thompson, TasteCamp Founder

Melissa Dobson
Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing

About TasteCamp

The concept for TasteCamp is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.

Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world would love to get their wines in front new audiences, it can be a challenge. With TasteCamp, the new audience comes to them.

This is not a junket — attendees pay their own travel expenses — including for their hotel rooms and meals. Through generous sponsors, some meals may be deeply discounted.

Info on the Niagara Region:

Ontario Wine Council

•  VQA Ontario

Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake

20 Valley wines

Wines In Niagara

•  Spotlight Toronto

Music + wine a beautiful thing at 13th Street Winery

A Fall Music & Wine Experience at 13th Street Winery

The Windermere String Quartet will be playing an evening ‘mini-concert’ of five classical pieces which have been selected to match five wines and five hors d’oeuvres that 13th Street Winery has chosen. Chef Oscar Turchi will be preparing canapes.

Windermere Quartet

Windermere Quartet

13th Street did a similar event in Toronto as a fundraiser for this amazing, world class quartet who play all their music on period instruments giving the music a very authentic and rich sound.

“It’s amazing how a delicate, vibrant sparkling wine can dance in your mouth alongside a light airy violin concerto, or the richness and complexity of a dark brooding red seems right at home beside a moving, cello-based Beethoven piece,” said Peter Bodnar Rod, marketing manger at 13th Street.

“I am, in fact, delighted with the kind of sensory experience so many wineries are working so hard to promote in addition to the wonderful wines they make, whether it be music, food or even fine art in the form of sculpture, paintings or artful gardens,” he said.

Here are the details of the event:

The eventA Fall Music & Wine Experience at 13th Street Winery

Five Exquisite Quartet Movements inspired by…
Five Delightful 13th Street Wines matched to…
Five Delicious Canapes From Chef Oscar Turchi

Featuring The Windermere String Quartet On Period Instruments

Friday, November 19 at 6:30pm
Only 60 Tickets Available $49 + HST
Call 13th Street Winery at 905.984.8463 to reserve your space

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