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waters on wine

There’s a flurry of activity along wine routes across Canada these days as producers unveil new releases. These offerings are typically rosés and aromatic whites from last year’s harvest, but there’s often more “serious” reds and whites, too, wines from the previous vintage that enjoyed extended time in barrel, tank or bottle prior to being introduced to consumers. Adding to the excitement, particularly in the case of the Ontario and British Columbia industry, the 2020 vintages are highly touted for quality.

For wine lovers, this is a great time to reconnect with regions and producers of interest. After two years of limited tasting opportunities and a widespread absence of winemaker’s dinners and festivals, Canadian wineries are heading into the summer season with a sense of optimism. Tasting rooms and wine shops are gearing up to host visitors again, although the accessibility of online sales will continue to be a viable direct-to-consumer sales channel. The pandemic forced wineries large and small to improve their web presence and embrace virtual stores to stay connected with consumers.

This week’s recommendations were singled out while tasting a range of new Canadian wine releases. The lineup includes the latest versions of tried-and-true selections, such as Nova 7 and rosés from Malivoire, Gray Monk and Stag’s Hollow. There are also some newer offerings, including a surprising sauvignon blanc from Prince Edward County that charms with its depth of flavour and rich, refreshing character.

Bachelder Les Villages Bench Pinot Noir 2020 (Canada)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $34.95

This ripe and bright expression of pinot noir is produced from vineyards located along the Niagara Escarpment, including the Hanck, Wismer and Spencer-Morgan sites in Vineland and Saunders in Beamsville. The hot and dry 2020 vintage in Ontario is being celebrated by winemakers. The rich core of red and black fruit, with spice notes, shows the warmth of the growing season without losing its focus or finesse. This should develop nicely with bottle age. Drink now-2028. Available at the above price direct, bachelderniagara.com

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $22.55

Now in its 15th vintage, this low-alcohol (6.5% abv), slightly effervescent, highly aromatic white continues to command a loyal following across the country. The latest release of Benjamin Bridge’s fizzy and fun Nova 7 shows assertive blossom and tropical fruit aromas with a lingering note that calls to mind the soapy character of Thrills gum. The palate is livelier and brighter than the flamboyant aromas might suggest, with the residual sweetness nicely balanced by lime-like acidity, which adds to its drinkability and appeal. Drink now. Available at the above price direct, benjaminbridge.com. The 2021 vintage is also available for $27.79 in New Brunswick, $25.99 in Nova Scotia, $25.96 in Newfoundland, $26.49 in Prince Edward Island. The 2020 sells for various prices in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, $24.71 in Manitoba, $24.95 in Ontario.

Gray Monk Rosé 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 86 PRICE: $19.99

Gray Monk’s popular rosé is always made in an off-dry, easy-to-appreciate style. The newly released 2021 vintage is a blend of cabernet franc, merlot and rotberger, a German grape variety that contributes currant and spice notes that add a different dimension to the aromas and flavours of this flavourful rosé. The palate is honeyed and soft, a little cloying to my taste, but I suspect this will be a hit with visitors to the winery and fans of fuller-bodied rosés. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct, graymonk.com, various prices in Alberta.

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95

A blend of pinot noir and pinot gris from Malivoire’s vineyards in Beamsville, Ont., this is a refreshing style of rosé that’s crisp in character with appealing citrus, melon and berry notes. Vivant is one of three rosés produced at the winery and shows more zest and lively character than the others. This has nice depth of fruit on the palate with a mouth-watering dry finish. Drink now to 2025. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario in at the above price or direct, malivoire.com.

Mission Hill Reserve Meritage 2020 (Canada)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $29.99

Mission Hill launched this Okanagan red with the 2016 vintage, and it has quickly settled in to being one of the standouts of the reserve portfolio. A blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot from estate vineyards on the Black Sage Bench and Osoyoos, this is nicely integrated and shows expressive dark fruit, savoury spice and vanilla notes. The supple texture and lingering finish make this ready to drink. Drink now to 2026. Available in British Columbia at the above price or $30 direct, missionhillwinery.com, various prices in Alberta, $27.99 in Manitoba.

Pelee Island Winery Lola Limited Edition White 2020 (Canada)

SCORE: 87 PRICE: $17.95

The Lola label has proven to be a success for Pelee Island Winery and encouraged the addition of new limited-edition releases. This white blend is a mix of pinot gris, pinot blanc and auxerrois, which makes for an easy-going ripe (citrus and white peach notes stand out) and balanced wine that finishes with a touch of bitterness and lime zest flavours that adds refreshment. Drink now. Vegan-friendly. Available at the above price direct, peleeislandwinery.com

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (Canada)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $28

Widescale interest in chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling wines from Prince Edward County mean you don’t often hear about other varieties that are cultivated. Dan Sullivan and his team at Rosehall Run have been auditioning different European grape varieties, including tempranillo and sauvignon blanc, with successful results to date. The latest release of sauvignon blanc shows an enjoyable fragrant and rewarding character, with a pleasant mix of herbal, citrus and pear notes as part of a round and rich palate, which shows more depth and texture thanks to barrel fermentation and aging. Drink now to 2024. Available direct, rosehallrun.com

Stag’s Hollow Syrah Rosé 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $25

Syrah grapes grown at Amalia Vineyard in Osoyoos were used to produce this dry and flavourful rosé, which benefits from a 1-per-cent addition of viognier to enhance its fragrance and texture. The aroma and flavours reveal a pleasing array of berry and savoury notes, with a juicy acidity that adds refreshment. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price direct, stagshollowinery.com

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