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waters on wine

The exterior of Bartier Bros. winery in the Okanagan Valley, B.C.Bartier Bros/Handout

Optimism is riding high for the quality of wines that will be produced as the annual grape harvest is under way in vineyards across the country. This is the best time of year for visiting wineries because you get to see all that expensive equipment in use and experience the excitement and intoxicating aromas in the air.

Even if a trip to wine country isn’t in the cards, this is also an excellent time to take stock of new and current Canadian wine releases. Many of the best bottles continue to be limited-release wines that are available directly from the winery or online.

I’ve included some of my current favourites to order for home or office delivery. (I suspect I’m not the only one planning ahead for Thanksgiving.) After a rapid increase in online sales during the height of the pandemic, wineries are reporting more moderate sales figures, as wine lovers revert to shopping in person.

Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc Cerqueira Vineyard 2020 (Canada), $29.99

Rating:88 /100

Founded in 2009 by Don and Michael Bartier, Bartier Bros. operates from its B.C. estate vineyard on the Black Sage Road between Oliver and Osoyoos. A blend of cabernet franc with 9-per-cent merlot, to add depth and texture, this flavourful red is smooth and nicely balanced. The mix of ripe dark fruit and savoury notes add to the appeal. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in British Columbia or direct, bartierbros.com; various prices in Alberta.

BH Brut (Canada), $55

Rating:94 /100

Winemaker Ross Wise continues to improve the portfolio at B.C.’s Black Hills Estate, adding layers and complexity to the flagship red, Nota Bene, and creating exciting new products like this stellar sparkling wine. The first sparkling release centres on chardonnay and pinot noir from the 2018 vintage, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle and extended aging with the yeast in the bottle to contribute richness and toasty notes. The finished bubbly is refreshingly dry and checks all the boxes – acidity, autolysis, balance, fruit – for top-notch sparkling wine. Drink now to 2030. Available direct, blackhillswinery.com.

Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 (Canada), $36

Rating:92 /100

The latest release from Closson Chase shows a growing comfort with the cultivation of pinot noir in Ontario’s Prince Edward County and its handling in the winery. A blend of fruit from two estate vineyards, this is a ripe and bright expression, with juicy berry, smoke and herbal notes. This is nicely layered and balanced, with a structure that suggests this will improve in the cellar. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, clossonchase.com.

Featherstone Estate Winery Pinot Grigio 2021 (Canada), $17.95

Rating:88 /100

Made in an easy-going and fruity style, this pinot grigio has a peachy/copper colour from the grape skins. When ripe, the pinot gris (a.k.a. pinot grigio) grape variety ranges from greyish blue and brownish pink in colour, which can make a pinkish colour wine. (Producers often remove that colour to bring a clear white wine to market that doesn’t confuse consumers.) In this case, skin contact was encouraged to add fragrance and texture to this wine, which has a touch of sweetness to counter the astringency that comes from grape skins. Drink now. Available at the above price in the winery’s home province of Ontario or direct, featherstonewinery.ca.

Le Clos Jordanne Village Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $27.95

Rating:92 /100

The reinvention of Le Clos Jordanne continues to pick up speed, with the addition of new labels based on pinot noir and chardonnay grown in specific vineyards in Ontario’s Niagara region. (New additions to the lineup will be unveiled this month.) The 2019 Village Chardonnay is a blend of different barrel fermented wines from grapes grown in three vineyards in Jordan. The result is a creamy textured, refreshing white with complex toasty, citrus and pineapple notes that truly satisfy. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price or $24.95 direct, leclosjordanne.com.

Monte Creek Living Land Series Chardonnay 2020 (Canada), $22.95

Rating:91 /100

Located in B.C.’s Thompson Valley, Monte Creek has been collecting top medals in competitions and earning solid scores with wine writers, but their label didn’t match the quality and sophistication of the wine. Sporting a smart new label, this is a stylish white wine that sommeliers and wine lovers should be happy to place on their table. Made in a dry and vibrant style, this is an elegant chardonnay with concentrated yellow apple and citrus flavours rounded out by subtle oak toast and spice. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price; various prices in Alberta.

Tantalus Riesling 2021 (Canada), $30.99

Rating:92 /100

Tantalus Riesling remains in the upper echelon of Canadian wines you must know. It’s made in a distinctively pure style, with an inviting mix of floral and fresh fruit aromas that makes a wonderful first impression. The palate shows wonderful tension between the concentrated citrus notes and vibrant acidity as well as complexity from stony, salty and floral notes that carry through to the lingering finish. Drink now to 2032. Available at the above price in British Columbia, $27.83 direct, tantalus.ca; various prices in Alberta.

Tawse Growers Blend Cabernet Franc 2019 (Canada), $29.95

Rating:90 /100

A blend of cabernet franc grown in vineyards across Niagara, this conveys the freshness and fragrance of the grape variety. The mix of flavours shows the coolness of the growing season, with cranberry, cherry and berry fruit accented by savoury, spicy and cedar notes. The lean, high acid and dry style mean this is best enjoyed with a meal. It could be enjoyed with a variety of grilled meat entrees, especially lamb chops, or charcuterie boards that extend to terrines and patés. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario or direct, tawsewinery.ca; $29.15 in Quebec.

Township 7 NBO Blue Terrace Vineyard 2019 (Canada), $43.97

Rating:90 /100

Township 7 has a large portfolio of consistently well-made, enjoyable and age-worthy wines. This robust and rewarding cabernet and merlot blend stood out in a recent tasting. NBO is an abbreviation of North Bench Oliver, where Blue Terrace Vineyard is located in B.C. The style is savoury and sweet, with herbal, cedar and dark fruit contributing to the richness and depth of flavour. Drink now to 2029. Available at the above price, direct township7.com.

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