Ontario wines

By Rick VanSickle

And so it begins … the big crush of wines, spirits and ciders hitting LCBO shelves for the holiday season.

The release at Vintages stores on Remembrance Day is the first of many leading up to Christmas. So shop until you drop, if you are into that sort of thing, or find yourself on the sidelines by the time Christmas actually rolls around.

We lead our recommendations for Ontario products with a new and remarkably seasonal cider from Pommies. We also have recommendations for a fine icewine, great bubbly and a series of wines we found highly gulpable. So, buckle up and get into the Christmas spirit even though it’s a long, long way from Jingle Bells.

A festive Ontario cider

Ontario cider

Pommies Cranberry Cider ($3.60 per 473 mL can, LCBO, 5.5% abv, 91 points) — I think of Christmas and matching with turkey and fixings when I smell and sip this new cider from Ontario’s Pommies family. It’s a blend of fresh-pressed juice from Ontario apples and cranberries (I believe sourced from Bala) and infused with cinnamon and nutmeg. Such a lovely nose of ripe apple, fresh cranberries and subtly integrated baking spices that is all perfectly balanced, nothing too dominant. It’s just delicious on the palate with a playful tug of sweet and tart apple and cranberry and underlying nutmeg and cinnamon spice. It’s vibrant with a gentle bubble and all together festive from stem to stern. A perfect complement to what’s on the Christmas dinner table and for those looking for a gluten-free, GMO-free, vegan alternative to holiday refreshments.

Ontario wines at Vintages Saturday

Niagara wines

Tawse Chardonnay Icewine 2013 ($36 for 200 mL, 94 points) — Sensational oak-aged sweetie that will have you rethinking icewine. A powerful nose of peach compote, grilled pineapple, tropical fruit and layers of exotic spice. It is thick, rich, complex and silky on the palate with peach cobbler, pineapple, marmalade, caramel and nutmeg-cinnamon spice that’s all balanced out by racy acidity. As noted, just sensational.

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010 ($35, 92 points) — This is a traditionally made 100% Chardonnay sparkler that is aged on the lees for 5+ years in bottle before disgorging last spring. It’s fermented and aged in neutral oak barrels prior to blending and tirage in the spring of 2011 with a dosage of 12 g/l is added for balance. All that and finished with a cool crown cap for easy access. Not a lot of wineries are going to all this trouble for a well-made sparkling wine, but we are going to start seeing a lot more of them as the category gains traction with consumers. It possesses a lovely nose of brioche, yeasty-toasty notes, soft lemon and creamy apple with a mousse that starts vigorously then mellows into a gentle bead. It is fresh, lively and complex on the palate with pear and apple flavours, bright and zesty citrus and electric acidity driving the back end.

Chateau des Charmes Paul Bosc Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($25, 90 points) — Paul Bosc Vineyard is a historic plot of land consisting of 60 acres of vines. It’s a rare south-facing vineyard that was planted in 1983 and 1984 with the first harvest in 1988. This Chard is delicious with a nose of creamy pear, warm apple pie with cinnamon, vanilla and toasted spices. It’s lovely on the palate with a caressing texture and creamy orchard fruit that is both voluptuous and poised through the finish. A comfortable, generous wine.

Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2013 ($18, 87 points) — The nose opens with aromas of rose petal followed by a melange of citrus. On the palate there’s a solid core of juicy lemon-lime supported by stony mineral notes. Medium-dry, punctuated with firm acidity, this wine will pair nicely with creamy or hard, salty aged cheeses. (Michael Lowe review)

Foreign Affair Dream 2013 ($30, 90 points) — A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot with 15% of the fruit dried appassimento style for 3-4 months and then aged in three types of oak for 26 months. It’s rich and layered on the nose with dark cherry, thick raspberry, cassis, cocoa and spice. It’s complex on the palate, big in fact, with concentrated red fruits, fine tannins, licorice, plums and length through the finish.

Also released, but not reviewed

• Rosewood Mead Royale Honey Wine 2015 ($17 for 500 mL)
• Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Icewine 2014 ($80 for 375 mL)
• Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2015 ($19)
• Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Prince Edward County ($29)
• Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($25)
• Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($24)
• Reif Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2015 ($19)
• Rosewood Estate Sussreserve Riesling 2016 ($16)
• North 43 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($17)

Wines released from B.C.

• Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling NV ($31)
• Dirty Laundry Riesling 2014 ($20)
• Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2013 ($49)

Vintages flagship stores only

• 13th Street Sandstone Vineyard Gamay Noir 2014 ($30)
• Quail’s Gate Stewart Family Chardonnay Reserve 2015 ($44)

A pair of new wines from Henry of Pelham

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($20, Vintages Nov. 25, 88 points) — Henry of Pelham never fails to deliver a delicious Chardonnay at all price points. This “estate” version is sourced from the winery’s Short Hills Bench vineyards and has an elegant nose of apple, pear, spice and underlying lemon accents. The pear and apple notes on the palate are married to lovely oak spices and kept lively with racy citrus acidity through the finish. A solid Chard at a great price point.

Henry of Pelham Cabernet Icewine 2015 ($40 for 200 mL, 92 points) — Made from 100% Cabernet Franc frozen-on-the-vine grapes picked at 36 Brix and fermented/aged in stainless steel tanks. The nose shows intense brambly raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb and cherry notes. It’s silky, unctuous and layered on the palate with wonderfully sweet and luxurious cherry/strawberry fruits, subtle herbs and lifted by generous acidity to keep it somewhat balanced on the finish.