Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

8 from 36 Canadian wines

Henry of P Riesling 2017
2017 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Henry of Pelham

Yesterday I was at a small tasting of Canadian wines in London. The event brought back memories as restaurateur and writer, Stephen Barrett was at the tasting. Stephen and I had been on a memorable Canadian press trip way back in 1996 – July I think it was, although it might have been June. We made our separate ways to Vancouver, met up there and then caught a small plane up to the Okanagan Valley. Once we climbed out of the vicinity of Vancouver we flew over completely barren land with no apparent sign of life or habitation – a wilderness. It wasn't until we approached the Okanagan Lake and Valley – some 220 miles to the east – that we saw renewed signs of civilisation.

After spending a few days in Okanagan, we headed back to Vancouver to catch a plane across Canada to Toronto. Here we visited the sole eponymously named winery on Pelee Island and a number around Niagara.  All in all it was a fascinating visit when the Canadian wine industry in its modern form was still in its relative infancy.

My choice:   
From the tasting I have picked out eight wines that most impressed me. Overall I thought that the whites – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling – were stronger than the reds. Among the whites I found the Rieslings to be far and away the best, most interesting and complex wines. My guess is that these Rieslings will age attractively.

Starting with the 2017 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula from Henry of Pelham, which was one of the wineries that we visited back in 1996. This 2017 has attractive peachy aromas, crisp crystalline palate with good length that includes a touch of salinity at the end.  Trade price: £9.04 and distributed by Wine Rascals.

Redstone Riesling
2016 Limestone Vineyard South Riesling, Redstone Winery, Niagara 

Redstone Winery is seeking distribution in the UK. Their 2016 Riesling certainly deserves distribution with its peachy, lemon and lime flavours, attractive texture and good length and power. Ex-cellar price: $9.00 CAD.

Charles Baker Riesling
2016 Picone Vineyard Riesling, Charles Baker, Niagara 

The 2016 Picone has expressive, seductive floral and lime aromas, texture and good length with a touch of sweetness in the finish. Potential to age. Trade price £20.80, distributed by Bibendum.

Haywire SB
2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Haywire Waters & Banks,
Okanagan Crush Pad Winery

Christine Coletta, one of the people involved in the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, organised our itinerary in British Columbia back in 1996. Their Sauvignon Blanc has grassy aromas and is richly textured, complex and with good length. Trade price £16, distributed by Graft.

Peller Ice Cuvée
Ice Cuvée Classic, Peller Estates, Niagara

This sparkling wine from the Peller Estates has an interesting twist as its dosage is ice wine, which is very much a Canadian speciality. The addition of the ice wine naturally gives this sparkling wine both some sweetness and a round texture with a touch of honey. A crowd pleaser, though I suspect that to my taste I would enjoy the first glass but quite probably find that subsequent glasses cloying.  Trade price: £21.56, distributed by Enotria.

Henry of P Baco
2018 Baco Noir, Niagara, Henry of Pelham

It is always interesting to taste a grape variety that you encounter only rarely. In this instance, Baco Noir, a hybrid that is popular in the US North East and Canada but rarely encountered in France nowadays. Dark, densely coloured the 2018 has mouth-filling, slightly rustic fruit with leafy aromas and good freshness in the finish. Probably best drunk young to enjoy its dark fruit, Trade price: £9.04, distributed by Wine Rascals.

Painted Rock Syrah
2015 Syrah, Painted Rock, Okanagan  

This powerful dark and dense Syrah from the Painted Rock winery in the Okanagan Valley was for me the best of the Canadian reds that have distribution in the UK. It has concentrated and powerful black fruits and length. Still youthful it would benefit from more time in bottle.

There were several unexciting Pinot Noirs included in the tasting that I didn't think offered value for money, especially as they would hit the shelves at well in excess of £30 and, of course, even more on a restaurant wine list.

Mission Hill CF
2016 Cabernet Franc, Mission Hill Family Estate, Okanagan

There were several Cabernet Francs included in this tasting, this example from Mission Hill, a long-established – 1966 – Okanagan winery was easily the most convincing with textured black fruits along with delicacy, structure and good length. I would keep this a little while longer in bottle to soften further. I found most of the other Cabernet Francs in this tasting had their fruit crushed by harsh tannins.  Surprisingly for a long-established and well reputed wine estate Mission Hill is looking for a UK importer. The cellar price of this wine – $45 CAD – may provide a clue.

Ice Wines
There were also a number of ice wines to taste. I opted to taste four – all made using different grape varieties. It was a timely reminder that the concentrated acidity in these wines makes them these cloying than similarly rich sweet wines. I enjoyed all four that I tasted – Vidal  (Henry of Pelham) trade price £11.43 (200 mls),Wine Rascals. Cabernet Franc (Inniskillin) £50.70 trade (375 mls) Liberty. 2017 Riesling (Peller Estates) trade £33.96 (375 ml) Enotria. Finally the most interesting, complex and unlike the other three from the Okanagan Valley: a 2016 Roussanne (Rebel Pi) trade £55 (375 ml).

Wineries with distribution showing their wines: 
Bachelder, Henry of Pelham, Inniskillin, Le Vieux Pin, Norman Hardie, Okanagan Crush Pad, Painted Rock, Pelee Island Winery, Peller Estates, Quails’ Gate Winery, Stratus, and Westcott Vineyards.

1 comment:

Bob Rossi said...

Very very interesting, as I've made many many visits to Niagara Peninsula wineries, since my niece and her husband live nearby. I found this statement especially interesting:
"Overall I thought that the whites – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling – were stronger than the reds." Many years ago, after the first couple of visits, I said that I thought that wineries should give up, or deemphasize, red wines, since the whites were so much better. However, over the years great strides have been made with red wines, and they're selling very well. I still think white wines there are better, but reds have done very well.