With provincial borders in this country so close to dissolving, with the simple act of bringing alcohol from province to province about to be de-criminalized, it’s time for everyone to bone up on their Canadian wines — ALL Canadian wines.
Soon, oh let it be soon!, we will be able to order anything we want from anywhere in Canada we want and enjoy it whenever we want. How civilized.
Last week provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled that the restrictions on bringing alcohol into New Brunswick from other provinces for personal use violates the Canadian Constitution’s free-trade provisions.
Gerard Comeau of Tracadie, N.B., had been charged with unlawfully bringing in 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from Quebec, where he could buy them at a lower price than in his home province. New Brunswick law limits the amount people can bring in to one bottle of liquor or wine, or 12 pints of beer.
After the ruling, the federal government was quick to respond, according to a CBC news report:
“The federal government remains committed to working with provinces and territories to strengthen Canada’s internal market, including through a comprehensive renewal of Canada’s Agreement on Internal Trade,” Stéfanie Power, a spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada told the broadcaster.
New Brunswick is not unique in Canada. In Ontario, where the liquor landscape is governed by an iron-fisted monopoly called the LCBO, residents are restricted to what they can bring back from other provinces in terms of alcohol. And wineries in most other provinces (but not all) cannot freely send their products over provincial borders to consumers.
Most expect the landmark New Brunswick decision will be appealed a higher court and will someday end up being heard in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Conservative MP Dan Albas, critic for Interprovincial Trade and Labour Mobility and a champion for Canadian VQA wines, told the CBC that because trade between the provinces is protected by the constitution, the federal government should refer the case to the High Court now to ensure the issue is settled properly.
“I hope this case puts heat on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to come to a consensus and see a new agreement on internal trade,” said the MP for Central Okanagan/Similkameen/Nicola. “I also hope that provinces back away from spending lots of money to protect their provincial monopolies.”
Albas’s private member’s Bill C-311, which became law in June 2012, made it legal for people to bring wine across provincial borders subject to import regulations in the destination province.
He says it is time for all parties in the House of Commons to get together and modify the Agreement on Internal Trade, signed in 1994, to finally end trade barriers within Canada.
So, in honour of a brighter day coming for accessing wines from across this great country of ours, we present wine reviews from three fabulous B.C. wineries, including JoieFarm (which also has two of its wines being released at Vintages later this month), Monte Creek Ranch and Township 7.
We also run down the results from the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society’s 2016 British Columbia Best of Varietal Wine Awards last week.
This Naramata Bench producer in the Okanagan Valley consistently turns out some of the best wines in B.C.
Proprietress Heidi Noble, above photo, has crafted a stellar lineup of spring wine releases from the 2015 vintage despite what she calls the “most challenging vintage” of her career.
“It was early, it was hot, it was big,” she said. “JoieFarm had opened its tasting room to an overwhelmingly positive reception. I was tired, had separated from my husband and business partner of 14 years, and I bought our winery (and was about to produce its 12th vintage.)”
Noble said she was motivated by the passion to make wine, and with everything to prove, “I put my head down and my five feet of terroir and went into beast mode.”
Come harvest, Noble and her new crew took in 230 tonnes of the “ripest, most phenolically mature and tasty grapes I had ever experienced while continuing to welcome guests to the farm well into October,” she said. “It was the perfect vintage … if you were on your game.”
Judging by the results below, Noble and her team were definitely on their game.
Here’s what I liked from the spring release, plus what’s being released at Ontario Vintages stores this month:
JoieFarm Rose 2015 ($21, 91 points) — A blend of Pinot Noir (70%) and Gamay, this just-right rose style shows a bright pink hue and has an expressive nose of raspberry, rhubarb and strawberry with a subtle hint of herbs. It’s perfectly dry on the palate with a range of red fruits including red currants, cran-cherry and strawberry with refreshing and mouth-watering acidity. Delicious.
JoieFarm Muscat 2015 ($23, 92 points) — An exciting and unique nose of peach, star fruit, lime and grapefruit with a subtle anise note playing in the background. The sweetness works well with a broad range of exotic fruits and is balanced somewhat by the freshening, natural acidity.
JoieFarm Pinot Blanc 2015 ($23, 89 points) — A harmonious nose of citrus, apple and minerality that excites the senses. It’s juicy with a touch of sweetness that highlights the apple and other orchard fruits all delivered through a polished, clean finish.
JoieFarm Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2015 ($23, 91 points) — The minerality is more expressive with each passing vintage of Joie’s “Chablis-esque” Chardonnay, which is crucial, in my opinion, for a stripped down, unoaked version of this varietal. It shows a range of citrus and apple notes with that lovely and fresh river-rock minerality. The apple is ripe on the palate with sharp lemon and grapefruit that pops on the finish.
JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2015 ($24, 90 points) — A proprietary six-grape blend with Gewurztraminer doing the heavy lifting. It has a spicy nose of nutmeg, ginger, creamy pear, tropical fruits and grapefruit. It has gorgeous mouth-feel and juicy acidity on the palate with a broad range of exotic fruit and spicy lychee, grapefruit and guava.
Joie wines coming to Ontario’s Vintages stores in May:
JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2014 ($24, Vintages May 28, 88 points) — The grapes: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Schoenberger. All that adds up to a spicy nose of exotic tropical fruits, ginger, lychee and lime. It’s bright and refreshing on the palate with guava, spice, white peach, lime, grapefruit and a touch of honey.
JoieFarm Pinot Noir 2013 ($25, Vintages May 14, not reviewed)
Monte Creek Ranch Winery
The winery is located in B.C.’s picturesque Thompson Valley, just a 10-minute drive outside Kamloops City limits, and farms grapes from two vineyards – Lion’s Head Vineyard on the north side of the valley and Monte Creek Ranch Vineyard on the south side where the winery resides. Some fruit is also sourced from the Central and South Okanagan – consisting of varieties that are not well suited to the Thompson Valley region, or are varieties that are currently planted in estate vineyards but are not yet in production.
Here’s what I liked from the new releases:
Monte Creek Ranch Riesling 2015 ($17, 88 points) — A nose of citrus, apple, grapefruit and a touch of honey and spice. It’s well balanced on the palate with juicy grapefruit and quince and offers a dry impression from the judicial acidity.
Monte Creek Ranch Frontenac Gris 2015 ($15, 87 points) — Interesting nose of citrus, apricot and orchard fruit. It’s sweet on the palate with a ripe range of fruits that light up the palate.
Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up White 2015 ($15, 88 points) — The nose shows fuzzy peach, grapefruit and pear. It’s made off-dry with ripe and juicy peach and citrus notes on the palate. A nicely balanced summer sipper.
Monte Creek Ranch Rose 2015 ($16, 87 points) — Made with 100% Marquette, this summer staple has a subtle nose of raspberry, strawberry and a touch of pepper spice. Quite sweet, but loaded with juicy red fruits.
Monte Creek Ranch Ranch Hand Red Reserve 2014 ($30, 90 points) — A blend of Marquette, Merlot, Frontenac Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon that sees 16 months of oak aging. It has a lovely nose of smoky red fruits, charred oak spices, earth and licorice. The tannins are soft on the palate to go with earthy dark and red fruits, anise, attractive oak spices and all lifted by bright acidity. Could age this 5+ years.
Township 7 Vineyards and Winery
Founded in 2000, Township 7 has two B.C. wineries, one situated in the scenic Fraser Valley and the other on the picturesque Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.
The Vancouver winery is located in the south Langley countryside in a quaint building reminiscent of the many riding stables in the neighbourhood. Named after this historic community of south Langley, its original name in the late 1800s was “Township 7” — the cottage on our property is an original building from the 1930s.
In the fall of 2003, a second vineyard property was purchased on the Naramata Bench. The Okanagan wine shop is surrounded by seven acres of vines on the Naramata Bench with views of both Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake.
Here’s what I liked from the new releases:
Township 7 Vineyards and Winery 7 Blanc 2015 ($18, 89 points) — An aromatic blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling with a spicy nose of lychee, grapefruit, peach, melon and ginger. Very clean and vibrant on the palate and just a touch off-dry, it shows apricot, lychee, juicy grapefruit topped with brown sugar and balancing acidity. Spring/summer sipper.
Township 7 Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, 88 points) — The nose shows gooseberry and citrus with subtle grassy/herbaceous notes. It’s mellow on the palate with grapefruit and herbs that’s friendly through the finish.
Township 7 Vineyards and Winery Muscat 2015 ($18, 90 points) — Lovely, stylistic nose of ripe tropical fruits, citrus rind and spice. It’s dry on the palate with stone fruits in a fresh, lively, crisp style with spicy undertones on the finish.
B.C.’s Best Varietal Wines
The Okanagan Wine Festivals Society announced the results of the 2016 British Columbia Best of Varietal Wine Awards last week.
The competition featured 24 different varietal categories with a record total of 567 wines entered in the competition. Within each category, the judges narrowed the selection down to 122 finalists with one overall clear winner being declared the best in each category.
New this year, a Best in Show was chosen by the 15 judges.
Originally founded in 1994 as the “Winemaker’s Awards” with three red and three white wine categories, the competition has evolved significantly since that time with this year’s awards witnessing over a 200% increase in entries over the past decade.
The contest is open to all licensed British Columbia wineries that use 100% fruit grown in the province. An exceptional aspect of the judging is that judges are chosen from the trade including sommeliers, restaurateurs and recognized wine media from across western Canada and features a unique judging process that allows each panel of judges to evaluate all of the wines in any given category enabling a direct comparison for selecting the best wines.
“There is so much to be learned about the relationship between varietal, vinification and terroir when you blind taste all the same region’s varietals against each other. To taste 60 of them side by side, with the ability to re-taste if necessary is a very special exercise. We really got to see who was pushing the envelope of winemaking in B.C. and tasted the full gamut of what was available stylistically,” said Alistair Veen, sommelier, chef, and co-owner of Tap Restaurant, and 2016 B.C. Sommelier of the Year.
“It’s always an honour to taste the best of the best in B.C,. it inspires us to continue sharing these delightful wines with our patrons and guests.”
This year’s judging was held on April 7, 2016 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Center.
Here are the winners of the 2016 British Columbia Best of Varietal Wine Awards:
Wine of the Year St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery – St. Hubertus Vineyard Riesling 2013
Best Cabernet Franc Tinhorn Creek Vineyards – Cabernet Franc 2013
Best Cabernet Sauvignon Black Sage Vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Best Chardonnay CedarCreek Estate Winery – Estate Chardonnay 2014
Best Dessert Style Wine Golden Age Meadery – Hearth and Fire Mead
Best Gewürztraminer Wild Goose Vineyards – Mystic River Gewürztraminer 2015
Best Icewine Inniskillin Okanagan – Dark Horse Vineyard Riesling Icewine 2012
Best Merlot Tinhorn Creek Vineyards – Oldfield Series Merlot 2012
Best North American Hybrid Monte Creek Ranch Winery – Frontenac Gris 2015
Best Pinot Blanc Evolve Cellars – Pinot Blanc 2014
Best Pinot Gris Arrowleaf Cellars – Pinot Gris 2015
Best Pinot Noir Ciao Bella Winery – Pinot Nero 2014
Best Red Meritage Blend Cabernet Dominated Cassini Cellars – MAXIUMUX Collector’s Series 2012
Best Red Meritage Blend Merlot Dominated Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery – Obra Prima 2010
Best Red Blend Bordertown Vineyard & Estate Winery – Living Desert Red 2013
Best Single Red Variety “Other” Sandhill Vineyards Esate Wines – Small Lots Barbera Sandhill Estate Vineyard 2013
Best Single White Variety “Other” Township 7 Vineyards & Winery – Muscat 2015
Best Riesling St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery – St. Hubertus Vineyard Riesling 2013
Best Rosé Perseus Winery – Pinot Noir Rosé 2015
Best Sauvignon Blanc Therapy Vineyards – Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Best Sparkling Gray Monk Estate Winery – Odyssey Rosé Brut 2012
Best Syrah / Shiraz Bench 1775 – Syrah 2013
Best Syrah Based Blend CedarCreek Estate Winery – Senator’s Red 2013
Best Viognier Black Hills Estate Winery – Viognier 2014
Best White Blend Arrowleaf Cellars – Snow Tropics 2015
The full list of finalists is available here.