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All that glitters is … Rosé; plus reviews for Culmina and Monte Creek in B.C., Garage D’Or cider and Vintages highlights

Niagara Rose wine

By Rick VanSickle

Are you ready for a great big sea of pink? I’m getting the feeling that Rosé wines are about to hit their zenith on the Canadian wine scene, that point in which saturation Maximus is reached.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing … I suppose. There is certainly a style for every palate, from pale salmon, subtle and dry to electric pink, red fruit overload and sweet. Rosé wines have no rules; no one agrees on a style, everything and anything goes.

Plenty of wine writers are critical of certain styles, but who are we to judge? If a winery can sell a sweet, over-the-top Rosé and keep customers coming back for more, why would they change? Their job is to sell wines, not kowtow to critics.

The end result? We will see every conceivable style of Rosé imaginable hitting store shelves this spring as the sun shines brighter and the weather turns warmer.

B.C. Rose wine

On a purely personal level, the Rosés I tend to drink are subtle in nature: dry, refreshing and leaning toward lighter pink hues in the glass. Low alcohol is a must, because I like to quaff Rosé in the hot sun and I prefer to walk a straight line when I’m done. But, I take a lesson from my daughter, a 19-year-old (soon to be 20) who adores the Rosé style of wine but prefers the sweeter versions with bolder flavours of ripe red fruits. She rejects the dry, subtle Rosés.

Therein lies the conundrum of Rosé and the reason in a country with no defining style or rules to adhere to, there are myriad ways to bottle a pink wine.

Here’s one I tasted recently that checked all the right boxes. Plus, in this post, reviews for B.C.’s Monte Creek Ranch, a funky new cider from Garage D’Or in Niagara and highlights of local wines being released at Vintages on Saturday.

Best Canadian wineCulmina R&D Rosé Blend 2016, Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley ($19, 91 points) — The R&D on the label represents the “Research and Development” that went into the creation of the estate winery on the Golden Mile Bench. Or, it could be a tribute to Culmina proprietor Donald Triggs and his twin brother Ron “who showed the same investigative spirit growing up on the farm in rural Manitoba.” Whichever you believe, this blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is a delight, a drink-this-on-the-patio-all-day kind of Rosé with a pretty nose of summery red berries, wild flowers and citrus that is subtle and fresh. The fruit is succulent on the palate with a creamy feel that highlights the strawberries, raspberries and hints of lemon and lime. Everything is in harmony here, even the hint of sweetness that works well with the ripe fruits that linger through the finish.

Monte Creek Ranch,
Thompson Valley, B.C.

B.C. Wine

The winery, established in only 2009 and opened in 2015, 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 are some spring wines I can recommend from the new releases:

Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up White 2016 ($15, 88 points) — A floral nose with pink grapefruit, lemon, lime and peach from a blend of Frontenac Blanc, Viognier, La Crescent and Riesling. It’s made slightly off-dry with a vibrant core of citrus and orchard fruits with a zesty, fresh finish.

Monte Creek Ranch Chardonnay Reserve 2015 ($25, 90 points) — A gorgeous nose of pear, apple, biscuit and barrel spice notes. The palate shows elegant toasted oak spices to go with ripe pear, apple skin and uplifting citrus notes through a fresh finish. A nicely balanced Chardonnay.

Monte Creek Ranch Riesling 2016 ($17, 88 points) — A nose of lime, grapefruit and peach. There’s a nice tug of sweet and tart citrus on the palate with peach notes that lead to a crisp finish.

Monte Creek Ranch Rosé 2016 ($17, 87 points) — Made from 100% Marquette, the nose shows ripe raspberries, cherries and strawberries. On the sweeter side on the palate with a basket of red fruits and a touch of earth and bramble.

Monte Creek Ranch Ranch Hand Red Reserve 2015 ($30, 91 points) — This blend of Merlot, Frontenac Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon is quite lovely with a deep red colour and a nose of ripe cherry, cassis, clove, spice, earth and toasted oak spices. It’s rich and ripe on the palate with a range of fruit that’s not overpowering, but rather well-balanced with stylish oak spices, smooth tannins and length on the finish.

I spy a cider,
so I sat down beside her

Ontario craft cider

Garage D’Or Spy P. Eh. Cider, Niagara (at various pubs, 91 points) — Like all the “garagiste” style of ciders produced by Brian Yeo and partner Gavin Robertson, they come quickly and then disappear from taps just as fast and then they are on to their next crazy concoction. I truly hope these guys speed up the business plan and get some of these ciders in bottles and in a retail environment so a wider range of cider lovers (like me!) can get their hands on them. The label art alone is worth the price of admission!

The Spy P. Eh, is described by the D’Or folks thusly:

So here is something new for you. Spy P. Eh is a loving tribute to IPAs in cider form. We barrel-fermented 100% Spy juice with a Vermont Ale yeast generously given to us from the fine folks at High Road Brewing (go drink all their Bronan IPA, it’s delicious!). We then dry-hopped with a blend of Amarillo, Citra, Cascade, and Chinook hops. The end result is something nice and juicy.”

My sample of this arrived at a prearranged pick up spot (first day of patio season at Oast House, woo-hoo!) in a silver can (as usual) and marked “Spy” with a Sharpie on a piece of green masking tape. Later, I cracked that puppy on my front porch.

Such a bright and cheerful nose of pure apple and hops, a beautiful marriage with zero conflict — no yelling and screaming about the dishes, no whose-turn-is-it to-cook” and no hogging the sheets — just apples and hops sharing life, living for the moment. On the palate it’s fresh, lithe and eminently drinkable with flavours of fresh-picked apple, a squirt of citrus, underlying hops and spruce needles with a gentle effervescence.

Get a glass soon at these pubs:

•Pub on the Hill — Fonthill
• The Wooly — Guelph
• Arabella Park — Kitchener
• The Bent Elbow — Kitchener
• Bru — Oakville
• Her Father’s Cider Bar — Toronto

Niagara wines at Vintages Saturday

Not a huge selection of local wines at the Vintages release on Saturday, but here are some recommendations.

Vintages wineFielding Estate Red Conception 2015 ($19, 89 points) – Black fruits abound, both on the nose and palate. Lush black cherry, blackcurrants and spice notes push through the middle and into the medium-long finish backed up by lip-smacking acidity. Drinking well now but will develop over the next 3- 4 years. (Michael Lowe review)

Top Ontario wine

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.

Featherstone Rose 2015 ($16, 88 points) — Made from a quartet of red grapes with at least half the fruit Cabernet Franc. The nose is bold with rich red fruits in a bright and cheerful style. It’s made with just a touch of sweetness and shows a basket of red fruits that are ripe and sassy.

Also released, but not reviewed:

  • Henry of Pelham Cabernet Icewine 2013 ($40 for 200 mL)
  • Vieni Momenti Extra Dry Sparkling Rose ($17)
  • Featherstone Four Feathers 2016 ($15)
  • Flat Rock Chardonnay 2015 ($19)
  • Coffin Ridge Back From the Dead Red 2015 ($19)
  • Wildass Red 2013 ($20)
  • Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Cabernet Rose 2016 ($15)