By Rick VanSickle
Oh, how we love our country. The staggering beauty, the people, the food, the culture, our music, our attitude, our four glorious seasons. And our wine. Our delicious, homemade, world-class, 100% Canadian wines.
So, on this Canada Day weekend, we count down the reasons why Canadian wines rock.
1) The diversity. Our wines are multi-dimensional. We are not pigeonholed into one style or a few varieties that do best in our climate. We make it all. From world-class Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs to red blends, white blends, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Gamay, Syrah/Shiraz and everything in between. Our winemakers are not afraid to test the boundaries in our harsh conditions. And they are getting better and better with each passing vintage.
2) The attitude. You can walk into any winery in Canada (there are exceptions, of course) and you just feel welcome. Belly up to the bar and a friendly and knowledgeable pourer is swooning over every sip and answering every question. Like what you taste? Take a bottle home with you. There are no snooty attitudes here. Trust me, itâ€™s not like in a lot of the more established wine regions in the world.
3) The availability. There are not many places on Earth where you can hop into your car (if you live in Niagara) and drive in pretty much any direction and have at your disposal whatever wine pleases your palate. I feel very lucky indeed to be able to jump in my car and drive for 10 minutes to pick up a bottle of great wine just because I can. Itâ€™s just like buying a loaf of bread (only better).
4) The events. Pick a weekend or any day during the summer and chances are some winery is putting on a dinner, tasting, retrospective or even roasting a pig all in celebration of the fermented Canadian grape. Add to that the Vintage Festival, Icewine Festival, Grape and Wine Festival and the dozens of other special weekends and functions and you can virtually count on something to do all year long.
5) Our wines. So many of our wines are now able to compete on the world stage. Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and bubbly (from Ontario), Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, bubbly (from Prince Edward Country), all of that and add Syrah and Pinot Blanc (from the Okanagan) and you have one pretty good lineup of wines that we do extremely well.
6) Our sweet wines. No other wine region does late harvest and icewine like Canada. With strict conditions in place to guide winemakers and assure quality, our greatest wine export has always been known around the world. But we have to start appreciating these lovely wines right here in our own backyard. With tonnage slipping dramatically, we need to find a way to put more of these wonderful wines into the glasses of Canadians.
7) The people. There is a long list of people in Canada involved in the winemaking business. They are hard-working farmers, some of whom have abandoned their comfortable day jobs, all chasing the same dream of making fabulous wines from locally-grown fruit. Often you will find them at the winery pouring wines for customers and only too eager to discuss their wines on a one-to-one basis.
8) The food. It goes with wine and when you combine good local food with good local wine, it can be magical. Niagara, Prince Edward County, the Okanagan, Lake Erie North Shore and all the other emerging wine regions have one thing in common â€” an amazing culinary industry that has grown up with local wines. I canâ€™t think of a better afternoon than sitting on the patio at Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine in old Port Dalhousie on a hot summerâ€™s day with a locally-produced charcuterie plate and a chilled bottle of Fielding Estate Rock Pile Pinot Gris (or any great Niagara wine). It just doesnâ€™t get any better than that.
9) The views. Have you been to a Beamsville Bench winery? How about Vineland or Jordan? Have you looked out onto Lake Ontario from Konzelmannâ€™s upstairs tasting room or sat outside on Chateau des Charmesâ€™ back patio? What about Ravineâ€™s back deck cafe or any one of Vineland Estateâ€™s decks or at Calamus, Flat Rock Cellars or sat on one of those comfy Muskoka chairs at Fielding Estate? Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about.
10) Getting better. Our Canadian wine regions are growing and the wines are just getting better and better. We are no longer a curiosity in the world of wine. We are a force to be reckoned with and will continue to win new friends with proper marketing and leadership.
So, as we celebrate another fine birthday this weekend, toast it with a nice glass of 100% Canadian-made wine.
Speaking of Canadian wine, hereâ€™s one to enjoy right now:
Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Franc 2007 ($35, winery only, 4 stars) â€” The hits just keep on coming from the 2007 vintage. This lovely wine, from the limited-edition Southbrook collection, has a pretty nose of dark cherry, cassis, vanilla and spice. Quite fruity on the palate with cherry, tobacco and lightly sprinkled with spice. Not overly oaky at all, just pure fruit pleasure.