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Ontario Wine Report: Corks & Forks date set, Paws for Oz a success, grapes for sale and Vintages wine picks

By Rick VanSickle

In this edition of the Ontario Wine Report, we have stories on Niagara coming to the rescue of animals suffering from wildfires in Australia, Niagara wines in the spotlight at Vintages Saturday, and a new website for purchasing grapes and bulk wine in Canada.

But first …

Kingston’s Corks & Forks
returns with a Spanish flare

Wine lovers in Ontario take note — the date is set for Corks & Forks – Kingston’s 2nd Annual International Wine Festival.

Ontario wineThis weekend-long wine festival will be held April 24-26 and promises to be a wine experience like no other in Ontario. Not only will the festival showcase Kingston’s hospitality and restaurant scene, the 2020 edition will also shine the spotlight wines of Spain.

“Spain is one of the world’s oldest wine regions and the popularity of its wines is rapidly growing in Canada,” said Debbie Trenholm, President of Savvy Company and Founder of the festival. “Spain makes diverse styles of wines from sparkling Cava to Sherry. Corks & Forks is the opportunity for consumers to try them with winemakers, agents and industry experts as their guides.”

Corks & Forks kicks off with the sound of corks popping off bottles of Cava (Spain’s signature sparkling wine) on Friday, April 24 with Ole! Savour Spain – Spanish Wine 101 – a fun educational evening that treats Festival pass holders to samples of Spanish wines & tapas foods.

During the daytime on Saturday and Sunday, themed seminars and panel tastings will be led by Canada’s top sommeliers and wine experts. These educational experiences quickly sold out last year, so festival organizers have doubled the number in the schedule making even more opportunities for everyone — novices to sommeliers — to learn about the world of wine.

The evening of Saturday, April 25 will see the return of last year’s popular Discover the Wine World Tasting Hall featuring a variety of Spanish, International as well as Canadian wines.

The ever-popular Lunch with the Experts and Winemaker Dinners will take place on Saturday and Sunday. Ticket availability for these events will be announced on the website and social media in the upcoming weeks.

Best Bites of Kingston

Best Bites of Kingston is a new event that will give ticketholders a taste of the culinary talent from the city’s top restaurants paired with a wine from the festival. Ticketholders will vote on the People’s Choice wine and food pairing.

“The response from the inaugural Corks & Forks last year was incredible,” says Megan Knott, Executive Director of Tourism Kingston. “Kingston is a natural fit to host the wine world with our growing culinary scene plus its proximity to Canada’s fastest growing wine region — Prince Edward County.”

Delta Hotels by Marriott Kingston Waterfront and the Residence Inn by Marriott Water’s Edge will be the hub hotels during the festival. Special winemaker’s dinner events will take place at various restaurants throughout the city.

“With the expanded festival programming now running over 3 days, Kingston hotels are creating attractive weekend packages for visitors to enjoy the festival and discover the city,” Krista LeClair, Executive Director of Kingston Accommodation Partners.

Corks & Forks is once again this year offering the hospitality sector an Industry Day with classes and seminars designed specifically for restaurant and hotel staff, food and wine media as well as people wanting to get into the food and wine business.

The day is devoted to professional development and education from certified experts and Master Sommeliers focused on improving wine service, trending wine regions, creating profitable wine list, importance of glassware and tastings of Prince Edward County, Niagara and Spain.

“There’s always delicious wines coming from Spain that are great value,” says Harry Hertscheg, Executive Director of the Vancouver International Wine Festival and certified Spanish Wine Educator. Hertscheg was part of the inaugural Corks & Forks last year and is returning as a seminar leader this year. “Corks & Forks is a terrific opportunity for me to share my passion for Spanish wines along with the fascinating discoveries I’ve made while traveling through their many wine regions.”

Festival Pass is $99 for two people and includes admission to both Friday and Saturday evening events. New this year is the Festival Pass PLUS is $149, which includes all that the Festival Pass provides plus enrolment for a total of two seminars. Tickets can be purchased for seminars only for $40 each.

Passes and tickets are on sale here.

Generous donors and bidders
raise money for animals in Australia

An outpouring of generosity from the Niagara wine community and beyond has helped raise over $15,000 (and climbing) for Wildlife Victoria’s Emergency Response, a group dedicated to rebuilding wildlife shelters and replacing equipment so animal care givers in Australia can continue rescuing and taking care of animals that have been displaced or injured in bushfires.

Karen Black, who runs Indigo Pet Photography in Niagara, wanted to do something to help animals suffering in Australia. She called wine industry friends Meg McGrath (who is from Australia and works at Honsberger Estate), Jennifer Hart (a local wine marketing professional), and connections in the pet photography world, and a plan was quickly hatched to raise money under the Paws for Oz banner.

Black’s plan included uniting 29 pet photographers from Canada, the U.S. and Australia who are donating their professional pet photo services for a minimum $50 donation. In conjunction with that, a wine auction was held at Angel’s Gate Winery on the Beamsville Bench with bottles of donated wine and other wine-themed items that raised over $4,500.

Some of the highlights of the silent auction at Angel’s Gate included:

• A magnum of 1998 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Cab-Merlot sold for $300
• Two rare 1998 Vineland Estate wines (both from Rosomel Vineyard and the first wines in Ontario to cap $100 at release) provided from Vineland winemaker Brian’s Schmidt’s personal collection went for $500
• A mixed case of 12 library Chardonnays from i4C from around the world went for $450 (one of the wines, the Echeverria R.S.T. Chardonnay from Chile, was made by Thomas Bachelder and  Victor Rivera, both pictured above at the auction)
• An Indigo Pet Photography session sold for $440

There were other iconic wines, including a bottle of 2005 Chateau d’Yquem (looking forward to this beauty), a 1991 Penfolds Bin 707, magnums of Domaine Queylus and Malivoire and collections from Sperling Vineyards (Okanagan) and Featherstone (Niagara) that drew plenty of interest from the bidders.

Photographers wishing to join the Paws for Oz initiative are still welcome to do so and can contact Black through Facebook or Instagram at Indigo Pet Photography.

Those interested in booking a pet photo session can contact a participating pet photographer near them – contact information is listed at here.

Once your session is booked, you’ll receive a link to donate directly to Wildlife Victoria. Your appointment will be confirmed once you forward the receipt to your photographer.

Anybody unable to book a session but still interested in helping can also donate directly to the cause through the website.

Vintages Niagara wine picks
(plus treats from the
Okanagan and Italy)

The Vintages release on Saturday features a nifty Brut Rosé from 13th Street and a well-aged Pinot Noir from Ridgepoint. Also in this report, we review a bold red from B.C. and a Rosso Veneto from Italy to consider.

13th Street Cuvée Brut Rosé ($30, 90 points) — The blend for this “vintage” of the non-vintage Rosé is nearly an even split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a splash of Gamay for “visual effects,” and a low dosage of sugar that keeps this refreshing sparkler fairly dry (10 g/l). On the nose, look for aromas of strawberries, cherries, rhubarb and a touch of brioche and minerals. 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. “It appeals to everyone for any occasion,” winemaker JP Colas says.

Ridgepoint Wines Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, 90 points) — It’s such a treat for consumers when wines are held back for release with some bottle age, such as this lovely Pinot Noir from the spectacular 2012 vintage in Ontario. It has a gorgeous nose of dark cherries, cranberries, cassis, cedar and attractive barrel oak spice notes. It’s nicely balanced on the palate with a smooth entry that highlights a bevy of savoury red fruits, bramble, some dark fruit accents and spice all delivered on a long, long finish. Drinking perfectly right now but can cellar 3+ years.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine ($29 for 200 mL, no vintage given)
• Palantine Hills Riesling 2016 ($18)
• Frogpond Farm Organic Gamay Noir 2017 ($17)
• Henry of Pelham Three of Hearts Rosé 2018 ($20)

A bold red from the Okanagan

See Ya Later Ranch Major’s Block Red Blend 2016, Okanagan Valley ($23, Vintages, 88 points) — This is Shiraz-dominant blend from the Okanagan Valley includes Merlot, Petit Verdot and a splash of Zinfandel with 14 months of oak aging in American and French barrels. It’s robust and spicy with notes of dark plums, black cherries, anise, campfire smoke, black currants and cocoa. It shows a deep garnet colour in the glass with thick, caressing tannins that highlight a range of mostly dark fruits, black peppercorns, cloves, spice, licorice and juicy, balancing acidity. Serve with peppercorn steak, prime rib, lamb, venison or even aged cheese.

An Italian treat

Ca’Del Sette Vini Appassionante 2016 ($20, Vintages, 90 points) — This Rosso Veneto IGT smartly priced red is made from late-harvest, partially dried Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and shows black cherries, raspberries, plums, jammy dark berries, earth, sweet spice notes and mocha on the nose. It’s more open-knit on the palate with a juicy range of red and dark berries, savoury spices, mocha notes, a plush texture through a smooth finish. A treat with grilled red meats. Recommended to decant for a bit before drinking on its own.

New grape and bulk wine website

Canada has a new industry platform.

Fine Vintage just launched of a new platform where you can post advertisements to buy and sell grapes and bulk wine. Listings are free.

Visit the site here.

On the new site you can post ads to find buyers of vineyards, grapes, bulk wine and shiners.

You can also post your ad confidentially if you wish. There are no fees, no commissions, and you deal directly with the buyer/seller, says MW James Cluer.