NewsNiagara Wine ReviewsTop Stories

Ontario Wine Report: Corks and Forks is back, Nyarai’s tasty bubbles, our Vintages picks

By Rick VanSickle

In this Ontario Wine Report, we focus on the return of Corks & Forks to Kingston, a new bubbly from Nyarai Cellars and our picks from two Vintages releases.

But first …

Kingston wine festival returns in April

Ontario wine

Corks & Forks – Kingston’s Wine Festival is set to return this spring to showcase great Canadian wines as well as the city’s hospitality and entertainment scene.

The weekend festival is taking place April 21-22 and will appeal to anyone who enjoys discovering new wines and meeting winemakers and wine industry personalities.

“We are delighted to be one of the host hotels for Corks & Forks,” said Stephanie Quick, GM at the Delta Kingston Waterfront Hotel. “I was part of the team in 2019 for the inaugural Corks & Forks festival and saw firsthand the amazing turn out. Kingston continues to grow as a popular destination for culinary experiences – having this wine festival here is a natural fit.”

Corks & Forks promises to be a wine experience like no other in Ontario. There will be something for everyone – from those new to the wine world to those who work in hospitality and love discovering new wines. The Corks & Forks motto is Taste!, Learn!, Discover!

TASTE!: Things will get underway the evening of Friday, April 21 with the Oh Canada Tasting Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Residence Inn by Marriott. This event is the heart of the festival where all participating Canadian wineries will be in attendance pouring samples of their latest products. Most of these wines are only available through the wineries — so it’s like taking a wine tour. An admission ticket to the Oh Canada Tasting Hall provides each consumer with a tasting glass and a sample of any bottle they’d like to try – no additional tokens are required for samples.

LEARN!: On Saturday, April 22, several wine seminars, and master classes will be held in the morning and afternoon at the neighbouring Delta Hotel Kingston Waterfront. Seminars with themes such as Outstanding Canadian Bubbles, the Magic of Wine and Food, and Passionate About Pinot will include wine samples and an intimate discussion with some of Canada’s leading winemakers and sommeliers. Some seminars will focus on different Ontario wine regions as well, like Dig our Roots — Tour Niagara-on-the-Lake and These Wines are E.P.I.C. focusing on the wines of Essex-Pelee Island County.

“I am extremely excited to get back to in-person events with passionate Ontario wine consumers,” said winemaker Marc Pistor of Fogolar Wines. “We have some great new wines in bottle and Corks & Forks will be an amazing showcase for these products. Add to that, the opportunity to share my passion and experience hosting a food and wine pairing seminar, and I can’t wait for this weekend!”

DISCOVER!: On Saturday evening, a special happy hour with winemakers event will be held in the lounge of the Residence Inn while other smaller winemaker dinners will be taking place at various top-notch restaurants throughout Kingston. Tickets for these winemaker dinners will be available through the Corks and Forks online ticket site here closer to the festival.

“By shining the spotlight on Canadian wines throughout the festival, ticket holders will learn, taste and discover the quality of wines that are made here,” says Debbie Trenholm, Founder of Savvy Company and lead organizer of Corks & Forks. “New this year, participants will have the opportunity to buy their newfound favourite wines. We’re delighted to have some of Kingston’s finest restaurants collaborating with winemakers to create special festival winemaker dinner events. It’s the ultimate all-Canadian weekend in one of the top cities in the country.”

Wineries featured at the festival include:

• Backyard Vineyards (Fraser Valley, British Columbia)
• Broken Stone Winery (Prince Edward County/PEC)
• Closson Chase (PEC)
• Creekside Estates (Niagara)
• Dark Horse Winery (Huron County – new Ontario wine region)
• Drea Wines (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
• Essex Pelee Island Coast Wine Country Association (EPIC)
• Fogolar Wines (Niagara)
• Karlo Estates (PEC)
• Keint-He (PEC)
• L’Acadie Vineyards (Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia)
• Lakeview Wines (Niagara)
• Marynissen Estates Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
• Meldville Wines (Niagara)
• Reif Estate Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
• Rosehall Run Vineyards (PEC)
• Queenston Mile Vineyard (Niagara)
• Sprucewood Shores Winery (EPIC)
• Trail Estate Winery (PEC)
• Viewpointe Estate Winery (EPIC)
• Westcott Vineyards (Niagara)

The Corks & Forks festival pass is $89 and includes admission to the Friday evening event as well as one Saturday wine seminar. Tickets for each event can also be purchased separately. You can find all information & tickets for Corks & Forks activities here.

Note: Corks & Forks provided information to Wines in Niagara for this post.

A tasty new bubbly from Nyarai Cellars

Nyarai Folklore 2021 ($24, 90 points) — This sparkling blend of Vidal Blanc, Muscat Ottonel and Chardonnay was inspired by the spumante wines of Italy. Steve Byfield, who is the winemaker/owner of the Nyarai brand, said “this wine was crafted in gratitude of the struggle, sacrifices and hardships endured by our ancestors.” Byfield is black and officially released this wine during Black History Month in February. The wine can be purchased online here.

Such a lovely, fresh nose of lemon, orchard fruits, a touch of herbs with a vigorous mousse in the glass and on the palate. Subtle flinty minerality emerges on the palate to go with all that lovely fresh cut citrus fruits, apples, peaches and a zingy, lifted finish. An everyday sparkling wine that offers great value.

Our Niagara wine pick from Vintages’ Cellar Collection

From the newly named Cellar Collection, formerly called Vintages Classics Collection that is a monthly online release of top wines from around the world) features only one wine from Ontario, a gorgeous Pinot Noir from Domaine Queylus. Ordering went live yesterday (March 2). Go here to order.

Here’s what we can recommend:

Domaine Queylus winemaker Kelly Mason.

Domaine Queylus La Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2016 ($70, 93 points) — Sourced from top parcels and blocks at Neudorf Vineyard (previously called La Petite Colline and used for Le Clos Jordanne), it has a complex and interesting nose of brambly red fruits, subtle spice, forest floor, mushrooms, highly perfumed, intense, and minerally. It’s simply wonderful on the palate; such a pretty Pinot with delicate red fruits, herbs, polished tannins, depth, minerality, integrated and fine oak spice notes and finesse through the finish. Can cellar but quite attractive right now.

Our picks from the Saturday release at Vintages stores

The twice monthly release at Vintages stores, formerly called New Arrivals, also gets a name change to New Release Collection. Here’s what we can recommend:

Leaning Post Cuvée Winona 2020 ($29, 91 points) — This is a blend of 61% Merlot and 39% Cabernet Franc all sourced from Niagara-on-the-Lake that spent 18 months in French oak (mostly used barrels). Interestingly, the Cab Franc portion was fermented in concrete with the rest fermented in stainless steel. It has a big, heady nose of dense black cherries, blackberries, black currants, rich barrel spice notes and subtle earthy/savoury accents. It’s bold and sassy on the palate with tannic grip and a firm structure with a range of dark berries, wild raspberries, licorice, eucalypt, fine oak spices, toasted vanilla bean, and a lifted, long finish. An impressive, bold red offering that can cellar 5+ years.

Rockway Vineyards Gamay Noir 2019 ($19, 89 points) — A lighter-bodied and joyous Gamay with an inviting nose of wild raspberries, plums, black cherries, and subtle earthy/spicy notes. It packs a punch on the palate with its fruit-packed array or red berries on a smooth texture with nuanced spice note and a mouth-watering finish.

Stoney Ridge Pinot Grigio 2020 ($18, 88 points) — The fruit is sourced from the Garrett Vineyard in the Four-Mile Creek sub-appellation. It has a ripe nose peach, melon, apricot, and nectarine. It’s a ripe Grigio on the palate with bright orchard fruits, subtle sweetness, and zesty citrus balancing everything out on the finish. Great summer sipper.

Stoney Ridge Small Lot Chardonnay 2019 ($25, 90 points) — Sourced from 100% hand-harvested Chardonnay grapes from Four-Mile Creek, this wine was barrel fermented in 100% new French oak barrels with regular stirring of the lees. The wine was further aged on its lees for 12 months in barrel. This lovely Chard has a spicy, rich nose of baked pear and apple, lemon tart, vanilla bean, and tropical fruit notes. It has a creamy texture on the palate with ripe orchard fruits, flinty notes, toasty vanilla, lemon curd and elegant oak spices with a vibrant finish. Old school Chardonnay with bold flavours and mouth-watering acidity.

Also released but not reviewed by Wines in Niagara:

• Creekside Iconoclast Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2020 ($23)
• Hare White Blend 2020 ($20)
• Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020 ($25)
• Reif Reserve Gewürtraminer 2021 ($20)
• Southbrook Triomphe Organic Riesling 2021 ($23)
• Creekside Red Tractor Cabernet/Merlot 2020 ($18)
• EastDell Black Label Cabernet/Merlot 2017 ($25)
• Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2019 ($48)
• Stratus Gamay 2021 ($29)