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Niagara Wine Wire: Pillitteri releases ‘Team Canada’ wine for Olympics, plus top VQA wines at Winetario and our picks from Vintages release

The Canadian Olympic Committee announced a six-year partnership with Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara, which will serve as the official wine supplier for Team Canada.

Note: Also in this report, we have a preview of top recommendations for Niagara wines being released at Vintages Saturday, plus government invests in long-term growth of wine and grape industry and how to get tickets to taste top Ontario Wine Award wines

COC says the partnership, which will run through to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, will focus on co-branded licensed wine products.

“The Pillitteri family is driven by its pursuit of excellence, a value deeply rooted in the Canadian Olympic family,” said David Shoemaker, COC chief executive at the announcement at the winery last week.

Niagara wine
Charlie Pillitteri, right, with David Shoemaker, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee ,and Brittany MacLean, bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics in swimming.

“The COC is thrilled to announce this historic co-branded wine partnership, the first of its kind in Canadian Olympic history.

“Here’s to a world-class winery supporting our world-class athletes.”

Wines from Pillitteri will be served at Canada Olympic House, as well as at other COC-owned events.

As part of the agreement, the Pillitteri family has agreed to donate $1 of every bottle sold from their Team Canada wine collection to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. COF aims to support the next generation of Canadian athletes.

Products distributed through Canadian liquor boards, including the launch of a Team Canada Icewine, will be in-market at a later date.

“The Pillitteri family and everyone at Pillitteri Estates Winery is thrilled and excited to be a part of Team Canada,” said Pillitteri Estates Winery chief executive Charlie Pillitteri.

“We have always followed our Canadian Olympic athletes with excitement and enthusiasm and now to be able to help them excel in their sport on the world’s biggest stage is an honour.

“The launch of the Team Canada Wine Collection represents a big step forward in our 25 years of winemaking. It exemplifies our commitment to producing award-winning wines and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.”

The collection will consist of a red and white wine, with bottles are available at the Pillitteri Estates Winery store based in Niagara-on-the-Lake and online. The Team Canada Red 2017 is a classic take on a Cabernet Merlot blend, while the Team Canada White 2017 is an easy-drinking blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. Both sell for $15.

Taste the top VQA winners
from the Ontario Wine Awards

The Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at George Brown College, in partnership with the Ontario Wine Awards, is hosting Winetario on Monday, June 24.

Mingle with other wine-lovers in the Grand Atrium at 300 Adelaide Street East and savour 16 award-winning vintages from the 2019 Ontario Wine Awards, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1995 by Order of Canada Recipient Tony Aspler, the Ontario Wine Awards recognize Ontario VQA wines for their varietal quality, distinction, and brilliance in 27 categories at the Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal levels. Awards are also given out to honour the Winemaker of the Year, White Wine of the Year, Red Wine of the Year, Wine Journalism Award, and Best Label Design.

Today, the Ontario Wine Awards boast the participation of over 80 wineries and more than 450 of the best VQA wines that Ontario has to offer. The awards pay homage to the hundreds of small businesses, farmers, restaurateurs and the thousands of wine and hospitality professionals whose livelihoods contribute to a prosperous Ontario.

Date and time
Mon., 24 June 2019
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts
300 Adelaide Street East
Grand Atrium
Get tickets here

Canadian government invests
in long-term growth of wine
and grape industry

Ontario wine

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, was at the Konzelmann Estate Winery last week to announce more than $2.3 million to the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN).

The CGCN will receive the funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriAssurance program to create a network of certified, virus-free grapevines that Canadian grape growers can plant in their vineyards to ensure the long-term viability of the Canadian grape and wine sectors.

As part of this project, CGCN will catalogue and assess existing samples from nurseries and grape growers across Canada. A database will then be used to trace back every vine produced through this program and planted in a grower’s vineyard back to the mother plants. This will help the CGCN keep Canada’s vineyards virus free.


“Canada’s vineyards have become an important part of our national economy. With this funding, the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network will help ensure that growers have access to high-quality, locally-sourced grapevine stock to keep their fields healthy and prosperous.”

— David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“Ontario’s wine and grape industry is an important part of the agricultural landscape and a key player in creating good jobs for our middle-class across the province. This investment will help our grape growers maximize their yields and quality of their grapes so they can continue to meet growing demand for our world-class Canadian wines.”

— Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines

“Local grape growers are major contributors to the Niagara economy. I am pleased to be able to work together with our partners at the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network to ensure local growers have access to quality genetics, and can continue to produce high quality grapes.”

— Vance Badawey Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre

Quick facts

• The Canadian Grapevine Certification Network is a Canada-wide not for profit organization comprised of members from Canada’s four provincial grape growing associations. It’s mission is to ensure high quality, certified disease-free grapevines in Canada.

• The CGCN is a collaboration between the Grape Growers of Ontario, the British Columbia Wine Grape Council, l’Association des vignerons du Québec, and the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia.

• Canada’s wine industry generates revenues of $1.2 billion and employs over 5,600 people. Exports of wine in 2016 equalled $133.6 million.

• The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector.

• The AgriAssurance Program, under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, supports projects, at the national level, to help industry develop and adopt systems, standards and tools to support health and safety claims about Canadian agricultural and agri-food products.

Niagara wines shine at
Vintages release Saturday

Here are our recommendations for Niagara wines being released at Vintages on Saturday/

13th Street Cuvee Rosé NV ($28, 89 points) — Made predominantly with Pinot Noir with a splash of Gamay for “visual effects,” and a low dosage of sugar (7 g/l) that keeps this refreshing sparkler fairly dry and fresh on the nose with aromas of strawberries, cherries and rhubarb. It has a dry, refreshing feel on the palate with a vigorous mousse that gives bounce to the bounty of red fruits through a super-charged finish.

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2017 ($22, 88 points) — This “unoaked” Chardonnay is barrel fermented but aged in stainless steel. It is one of the nicer unoaked Chardonnays out there and is more about the minerality and freshness than the spice notes. The nose has fresh aromas of apple-dominated quince and some citrus and tangerine. It’s creamy and fresh on the palate with notes of apple, lemon curd, minerals, tangerine, citrus rind on a zesty, vibrant finish.

Queenston Mile Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 ($35, 91 points) – A warm 2016 vintage and 12 months in French oak barrels, half of which were new, led to this overt and expressive Chardonnay from the estate vineyard. The nose shows rich aromas of poached pear, baked apple, toffee, buttered toast, cream and vanilla oak spices. It’s a full-on Chard in the mouth, a lush, creamy and spicy mix of apple, pear and citrus accents that is altogether juicy, round and textured with medium+ acidity on the finish.

13th Street Gamay 2017 ($20, 90 points) — 13th Street takes its Gamay game seriously, with no less than three single-varietal (two single-vineyard) wines made with this versatile grape in the portfolio. Gamay is enjoying a surge in popularity in Niagara and 13th Street has always been at the leading edge of the Gamay Renaissance and this every day version of the grape is one of the reasons why. It is quintessential Niagara Gamay with a savoury and bold nose of red plums, bright cherries, brambly raspberries, smoke and a dab of cassis. It’s vibrant and punchy on the palate with ripe plums, anise, red berries and cassis to go with soft tannins and finesse on the finish. Highly gulpable red that will keep your guests happy and satiated all day long.

The Organized Crime Break-In Pinot Noir 2016 ($22), 90 points) — So, a hot vintage called for a gentle extraction and only 20% new oak for fermentation and aging. It has a bold nose of dark cherry, cassis and rich spice notes. It’s ripe and loaded with spicy cherry, raspberry, dryextract and fairly decent acidity to keep it vibrant on the finish.

Other Niagara wines being released Saturday, but not reviewed:

• Chateau des Charmes Blanc de Blancs 2015 ($35)
• Lakeview Cellars Riesling Icewine 2016 ($35 for 200 mL)
• 13th Street June’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 ($22)
• Fern Walk Rosé 2018 ($17)
• Megalomaniac Pink Slip Rosé 2018 ($20)
• Southbrook Triomphe Organic Cabernet Franc Rosé ($20)

Note: Some of the information for this post was provided by other sources.