Wineries across the country are stocking their shelves with newly released wines in anticipation of the summer season. The assortment includes crisp whites and rosés produced from last year’s harvest, as well as some complex red, white and sparkling wines that have been aging in winery cellars to reach maturity before release.
Tasting rooms hope to see a return to prepandemic traffic levels as they welcome back tourists and local wine lovers for their busy season. Based on the overall quality of the early releases I have tasted from vineyards in British Columbia and Ontario, there are a lot of exciting options.
This week’s recommendations feature eight selections that I really enjoyed from wineries in Ontario and the Okanagan. Most are available strictly from the winery, a few have listings with provincial liquor stores in addition to availability through the estate wine shop or online sales. A mix of new styles and old, the diverse lineup includes a stylish rosé made from sangiovese and a quintet of provocative whites made from riesling and sauvignon blanc as well as unexpected grapes such as trebbiano and marsanne.
Covert Farms Pinot Blanc 2022 (Canada), $20.70
Located in Oliver, B.C., Covert Farms is a 650-acre estate which includes organically certified vineyards and an expansive fruit and vegetable growing operation. This crisp and refreshing pinot blanc is a great introduction to the winemaking style, which respects the flavour that comes from the harvested grapes and shies away from using new oak barrels or other winemaking tricks of the trade to enhance or alter that taste. Look for apple and citrus flavours with some earthy notes from aging on the lees (the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation). Drink now to 2026. Available direct, covertfarms.ca.
Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2021 (Canada), $24.95
When Flat Rock planted its vineyard in Jordan, Ont., in 2001 and 2002, pinot noir was a major focus, representing 50 per cent of the acreage. Those grapes are used to great effect to produce one of the most consistent (and affordably priced) Ontario pinots. The 2021 vintage is true to the house style: highly aromatic, with bright and concentrated red cherry and berry fruit and spice notes. Impressive texture and balance make this approachable now, but suitable for aging. Drink now to 2029. Available at the above price in Ontario or direct, flatrockcellars.com, various prices in Alberta.
Hester Creek Old Vine Trebbiano 2022 (Canada), $24.99
Old vine in this instance refers to a 1968 planting of trebbiano vines in what is called Block 16 of Hester Creek’s vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. The age of the vines makes this a sentimental favourite, but the true excitement comes from what’s in the glass. The mix of floral and candied lemon aromas make a nice first impression, while there’s more richness and ripeness to be found on the palate, with peach and citrus flavours that are concentrated and refreshing. Drink now to 2025. Available direct, hestercreek.com.
Kew Marsanne 2019 (Canada), $19.95
This is the seventh vintage of marsanne from Kew Vineyards on the Beamsville Bench in Ontario, one of the few producers of this Rhône grape in Ontario. A small addition (7 per cent) of viognier was added to enhance the fragrance and flavour, while eight months aging in French oak puncheons (larger 500-litre barrels) contributes to the creamy texture. This is a dry white wine with a rich and ripe character that’s marked by toasty and spicy notes that add to the citrus and apricot flavours. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (Canada), $25.99
Leading British Columbia winery Mission Hill continues to enhance its approach to sauvignon blanc, adding richness and structure to the vibrantly fruity style of wine. The winemaking team employs stainless-steel tanks, concrete eggs and oak barrels to have different blending components to dial in on the desired flavour for this reserve tier offering that’s made with grapes from organically certified vineyards on the Black Sage Bench and in Osoyoos. Drink now to 2026. Available in British Columbia at the above price or $26 direct, missionhillwinery.com
Sandhill Sangiovese Rosé Block No C9 2022 (Canada), $30
Sangiovese grape vines were introduced to the Sandhill estate vineyard on the Okanagan’s Black Sage Bench in 1999. The harvested grapes were usually used to produce rich and savoury red wines, but the past three years that crop has been used to produce a satisfying rosé. The latest release offers an appealing mix of citrus and melon flavours with floral accents. This is a rosé with layers and serious structure that makes it a refreshing style to bring to the dinner table or stow away in the cellar to enjoy in a few years. Drink now to 2027. Available direct, sandhillwines.ca.
Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Riesling 2021 (Canada), $22.95
Thirty Bench built its reputation on producing juicy and enticing models of Niagara riesling like this one. There’s always a generous mix of peaches and lime juice dominating the flavour profile of this off-dry white wine that has plenty of racy acidity to balance the sweetness. This is incredibly balanced and focused, a brilliant expression of riesling that’s ready to drink. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario or direct, thirtybench.com.
Township 7 Seven Stars Polaris Sparkling Wine 2019 (Canada), $39.97
Since trading Niagara for the Okanagan in 2014, winemaker Mary McDermott has helped turn Township 7 into one of Canada’s most exciting sparkling wine producers. The Seven Stars portfolio includes six different sparkling wines, including Polaris, which is made from 100 per cent chardonnay, from vineyards in Oliver and Naramata. The 2019 vintage bubbly presents a bright and refreshing character with toasty notes that add richness and complexity to the lively and citrussy flavours that carry through to the fresh finish. Drink now to 2026. Available direct, township7.com.