Niagara Wine Reviews

VQA wines take rightful place at new Glendale store

WHAT: Glendale Avenue LCBO store
WHERE: 343 Glendale Ave., St. Catharines
SIZE: 14,000-square-foot store and the largest selection of VQA wines in the province.
ONTARIO SECTION: A large corner section of local brands, called Best of Ontario, is arranged by grape variety, not brand, which is unique to the LCBO. Virtually every VQA wine sold in the LCBO system, about 300 different wines, available at the store. That compares to about 150 Cellared in Canada wines that are also sold at the store in a different section.

By Rick VanSickle

Not one to praise our government’s LCBO monopoly, one of the few throwbacks to the dark ages of Prohibition left in North America, and the culprit for a lot that is wrong with the Ontario wine industry (how’s that for an intro?), but it would be remiss not to mention the new Glendale Avenue store that opened in St. Catharines recently.

Before the Glendale Avenue purveyor of booze came along, the best we had in Niagara was the Fairview Mall location, a source of much embarrassment with its disappointing Cellared in Canada display the moment you walk into the store, casting a shadow over the modest VQA section in behind it. 
 The large display of CIC wines ropes in unsuspecting wine buyers who likely don’t have a clue that they’re buying mostly foreign wine.

The situation is made even worse by the store’s management which thinks it’s OK to sprinkle in a little VQA (100% Ontario wines) with the CIC wines as noted recently with Reif, Inniskillin and Pelee Island VQA wines proudly displayed in amongst the French Cross and other blended wines. 
 The most satisfying response is to just avoid the store entirely, which is now a lot easier with the Glendale location up and running. 
 Glendale has what is easily the largest selection of VQA Ontario wines in the world.

The Best of Ontario section, which only includes VQA wines, is clearly marked and isolated from CIC wines. There is a dizzying array of brands available and arranged by grape, which is a unique attribute at this store. Some super-premium VQA wines are in the Vintages section. 
 Though local wineries in Niagara would much prefer you visit in person to get the full selection of VQA wines, this new store goes a long way to putting good, Ontario wines into the hands of consumers. If they can’t make the trek to wine country, at least they can

Shop for something special to take home for dinner. 
 A few new releases to enjoy:

Fielding Estate White Conception 2008($19, winery only) — Winemaker Richie Roberts does a nice job with his first mutli-white blend from the winery. Pinot Gris, Chardonnay Musque, 
 Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay all make an appearance in this eclectic white. It’s a complex wine with quince, zesty citrus and light toast and spice. It is vibrant and fresh on the palate with a touch of spice.

Fielding Estate Riesling 2008 ($16, winery only) — This represents everything that is great about Niagara Riesling with a generous nose of citrus zest, apple, orange peel, honey and lime that all follows to the palate adding a subtle bead of minerality.

Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling2008 ($30, at the winery or the Vintages Oct. 10 release) — Thirty Bench has created a wonderful trilogy of single vineyard Rieslings all with distinct character. The Triangle (1 /2) shows white peach, orange-melon, sweet citrus and mineral notes on the nose. It’s slightly off-dry with sweet-tart fruit on the palate and layered with honey and zest. 
 The Steel Post () is drier on the palate and is marked by sharp citrus notes, acid and a wonderful bead of minerality. The Wood Post (1 /2) is a blockbuster. It’s all about the minerality, the quince, the white peach and white flowers all neatly stitched together on the nose. This is a layered, complex wine that combines citrus, wet stone and grapefruit flavours all leading to a long, long finish.

Cave Spring Merlot 2006 ($17, winery only) — A fully integrated red from the Niagara Escarpment that’s ready to drink now with earthy-spicy notes on the nose followed by red berry fruit. It shows ripe, intense raspberries on the palate with bits of spice, smoke, tar and licorice.

Thirty Bench Red 2007($24, winery, Vintages) — A Bordeaux-style wine with currants, cherries and interesting herbs and spices on the nose. It’s a big, fruity, mouth-filling red with lovely cherry-cassis fruit to go with fine oak, spice and a touch of eucalypt on the smooth finish.