Ontario Wine

By Rick VanSickle

On the Wine Wire this week we look at an interesting marriage of Niagara grape and Toronto grain; we muse about a Pink Revolution; new Social Lite flavours; apple tree giveaway; and re-election of GGO board.

Niagara grape meets Toronto grain

Ontario beer

Collaborations in the craft beer world have become the norm these past few years with small breweries partnering up with other small brewers to make unique brews to feed an ever-growing thirst all things unique and tasty.

Earlier this month, at the Canadian American Beer Festival in Niagara Falls, New York, 40 breweries — 20 Canadian and 20 American — collaborated to make 40 unique collaborative brews. Those special collaborations were available to taste at the festival and subsequently at the host breweries.

Some of the top names in craft brewing in Ontario joined forces with U.S. brewers to produce a wide range of styles in the spirit of co-operation.

Niagara wine

It’s not a new concept and it has spread from brewery to brewery to a wider net that now includes Ontario wineries and cideries. Often the collabs could be as simple as a brewery or cidery going to a winery in Niagara or Prince Edward County and arranging to use older oak barrels that were previously used for wine aging.

Last Thursday, Niagara’s Malivoire Wine Company and Radical Road Brewing Company, a micro-brewery in Toronto’s Leslieville area, released a concoction called Revolution 81.

Radical brewmaster Simon Da Costa and Malivoire winemaker Shiraz Mottiar used Old Vines Foch from Niagara in a Bière de Garde — a French style known for its ageability. 
The ruby coloured strong ale went through 3 distinct fermentations, including the final pitch with a Champagne yeast. Bottle conditioned and 9% abv, it is $22.50 / 750ml and available ONLY at Radical Road in Toronto.

Here’s my review:

Ontario cider

Radical Road/Malivoire Revolution 81 Biére de Garde Old Vines Foch ($22.50 for 750 mL, only at Radical Road, 92 points) — This is an extra strong biére de garde with 9% abv and it arrives packaged in a beautifully ornate, gold-embossed display box. It pours a foamy head from the 750 mL bottle and shows a deep amber colour in the glass. It has a malty nose of smoky, earthy, dark fruits with notes of vanilla and a whiff of butterscotch. It is full-bodied and delicious on the palate, a malty, anise, thick cream and spice profile with enough zip and freshness on the finish to make you go back for more. A substantive beer that will appeal to wine lovers.

What Ontario needs is a
RosÉH! Festival every year

Every winery I visit these days has some sort of pink wine — be it pale salmon, electric magenta, sparkling, bone dry or sweet — they are rolling out as the answer for spring and summer.

I’m a believer. The new wave of rosés are more in tune with the modern palate — delicate, very dry and jam-packed with  a range red berries all leading to a crisp and vibrant finish.

The style lends itself to a huge spring-time party on a designated weekend (or a Saturday) to set the tone for the rest of the warm months. A party that all wineries can get behind in all regions — Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore.

Centre it around a huge, calculated release of pink wines at all wineries (does anyone NOT make a rosé style wine?). Get restaurants involved with perfect spring cuisine matched so brilliantly with pink wines. Include a grand tasting somewhere. Wear pink. Think pink. Drink pink.

The time has come for RosÉH!

Drinking Socially

The inspiration for Social Lite cocktails came to a group of Ontario residents while entertaining guests. While they all enjoyed a drink with friends, they also strived to make better choices.

From the very first cocktails crafted in their kitchen, their promise has never wavered: Social Lite cocktails are made for everyone who loves a delicious drink without artificial ingredients, sugar or added calories. In this spirit, all of Social Lite drinks are made with premium vodka, refreshing sparkling water and 100% natural flavours.

They are also made at 80 calories per can, no more than 4% abv, perfectly dry, gluten free and without any sugar, sweetener or artificial ingredients.

I’ve followed this fantastic Ontario company since its inception and have been impressed with the concept and flavours thus far. Two more have just been released. Here are my reviews (Social Lite is sold in Ontario at LCBO stores and in both B.C. and Alberta):

Social Lite Lemon Cucumber Mint ($10 for 4 355 mL cans, 90 points) — Pretty much what’s on the label … a nose that starts with cucumber and subtle mint and finishes with a squirt of lemon-lime. It’s perky and fresh on the palate with a clean profile of cucumber, lemon and gentle citrus accents. Serve with ice and a slice of lemon on a hot day.

Social Lite Grapefruit Pomelo ($10 for 4 355 mL cans, 91 points) — Love the pure and joyous grapefruit aromas of this new concoction using the ever-versatile pomelo fruit. It shows best on the palate with a gentle effervescence, grapefruit flavours without the associated bitterness and subtle lime notes on the crisp finish. Add a slice of grapefruit on the rim of the glass and serve chilled. Beautiful.

Pommies 6th annual apple tree giveaway

 Pommies Cider Co. is returning for year six of their Pommies Apple Tree Giveaway. Starting April 27.

Pommies will be at select LCBO locations sampling both their Original and Farmhouse ciders. Consumers who purchase 12 bottles or cans of Pommies Original Cider and/or Pommies Farmhouse Cider will leave the store with a gala apple tree. To date, Pommies and the LCBO have given away over 700 apple trees, which have been planted across Ontario.

“We at Pommies are all about giving back, and what better way to give back than to have consumers reap the benefits and harvests from these trees,” said Nick Sutcliffe, owner, Pommies Cider Co. “Now in our sixth year, it has been great receiving photos from our consumers whose giveaway trees are now bearing fruit.”

The campaign not only emphasizes the fact that Pommies ciders are natural products made from 100% local Ontario apples, but it shows just how well apples grow in Ontario and the benefits of buying local.

“Ontario craft cider continues to be a growth segment for the LCBO, and we are proud to support local,” said Mark Wilson, Category Manager, Beer & Cider, LCBO. “This campaign highlights our commitment to support the local business community and encourages green initiatives in support of Ontario’s agriculture.” 

Pommies Cider tastings and tree giveaways will take place at the following LCBO locations:

• Bolton LCBO (30 McEwan Drive E) – Friday April 27, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.  
• Orangeville LCBO (40 Broadway) – Friday April 27, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
• Caledon East LCBO (16000 Airport Road) – Saturday April 28, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
• Ancaster LCBO (737 Golf Links Road) – Friday May 4, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
• Guelph LCBO (16 Wellington St W) – Friday May 4, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
• Fergus LCBO
 (97 Parkside Drive W) – Saturday May 5, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. 

• Oakville LCBO (251 Oak Walk Drive) – Friday May 11, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
• Waterloo LCBO (115 King Street S) – Saturday May 12, 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.  

The heritage gala apple trees that will be given away at each location are approximately three feet tall and one year old. These dwarf variety trees will not exceed a height of eight-feet tall when fully grown. Detailed planting and growing instructions will be provided with each tree. Pommies Cider and Pommies Farmhouse Cider are produced in Caledon, Ontario, and are made from the juice of 100 per cent Ontario apples. They are both gluten free, GMO free, vegan, and contain no artificial flavours or colours and are never made from concentrate.

Pommies Cider is sold in 355 ml bottles in packs of four for $13.50 and in 473 ml cans for $3.25. Pommies Farmhouse is sold in 473 ml cans for $3.25.

(source: submitted press release to Wines In Niagara with minor edits)

Grape Growers of Ontario re-elect Board of Directors

The Grape Growers of Ontario announced that Matthias Oppenlaender has been re-elected as Chair of the Board of Directors for 2018/19. Also re-elected were Vice Chair Bill Schenck, and Directors Brock Puddicombe and Scott Wilkins.

Matthias was first elected as Board Chair in 2016, following six years as Vice Chair. In 2006, Matthias was chosen Grape King by his fellow grape growers as an ambassador to represent the industry at events across the country. Matthias, his wife Monica and their five children live in Niagara-on-the-Lake where they farm over 400 acres of vineyards

Bill Schenck, a fourth-generation grape grower in St. Catharines, has served on the GGO Growers’ Committee and Board since 2009, the same year he was Grape King, and represents the Grape Growers of Ontario on a number of industry committees including the Niagara Regional Agricultural Policy and Action Committee and the Canadian Grapevine Certification Committee.

The Board of Directors involves representation from across Ontario including Kevin Watson, Steve Pohorly and Erwin Wiens of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Jim Morrison and Doug Funk Jr. of Lincoln, Brock Puddicombe of Winona, Scott Wilkins of Amherstburg, and Robert Peck of Prince Edward County.

The Grape Growers of Ontario actively represents the interests of grower and winery members on many issues including working with Nova Scotia, Quebec and British Columbia on a national domestic rootstock program to provide growers with healthy, certified grapevines; and partnering with other organizations to access programs like the $60 million Edible Horticulture Support Program and an enhanced VQA Support Program for our wineries throughout Ontario.

(source: submitted press release to Wines In Niagara with minor edits)