While the grapevines are still slumbering in winter hibernation, Canadian winemakers are readying new wines for release and preparing for the months ahead. For many, there’s tremendous anticipation to welcome back tourists with the onset of warm weather.
Figures shared by Wine Growers Canada state domestic wineries welcomed an estimated 4.7 million visitors in 2019. While direct-to-consumer wine sales increased dramatically during the lockdown periods of the pandemic, online orders have slowed as liquor stores, restaurants and tasting rooms have reopened.
Buying direct remains the best – in some cases, only – way to access wines from top Canadian producers. Small estate and boutique wineries cannot provide the necessary volume to supply, for instance, the 669 LCBO stores or the 400-plus grocery stores in Ontario that can sell wine. Some wineries are able to sell through the LCBO’s Vintages program, usually through a short-term offer of a wine that’s marketed by the board for retail and online sales, but it’s a competitive space – with limited tenders for Canadian wines each year – and generates less profit per bottle compared with what wineries make by selling independently.
A visit to local wineries in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia or elsewhere, gives you the opportunity not only to buy at the source but learn about the processes and factors that contribute to the style of wine you appreciate. For anyone planning upcoming wine tours, here are some current favourites to watch for. Depending on the rules governing wine shipments to your province, you can grab choice Canadian wines by ordering online for home and office delivery.
Bella Terra Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (Canada), $19.95
This bright and refreshing sauvignon blanc comes from a Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard maintained by the Puglisi family since 1974. It’s a vibrant and citrusy white that would be a great aperitif or oyster wine. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, pondviewwinery.com
Kacaba Vineyards & Winery Proprietor’s Block Syrah 2019 (Canada), $35.15
One of the earliest champions of syrah in Ontario, Kacaba continues to do well with the grape variety. Made in a dry and savoury style, this has an appealing peppery fragrance with dark fruit and cedar notes. It’s nicely concentrated with serious weight and complexity. Drink now to 2027. Available direct, kacaba.com
Haywire Chardonnay 2021 (Canada), $29.99
There’s a new look and momentum behind the scenes at Haywire, which was launched in 2009 as one of the labels coming out of Okanagan Crush Pad. The custom crush business has wound down and the Summerland facility expanded and rechristened as Haywire Winery. It’s nice to see this concentrated and creamy model of chardonnay, with citrus, nutty and cereal notes continue to be a strong point. Drink now to 2026. Available direct, haywirewinery.com
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet/Merlot 2019 (Canada), $47.95
Henry of Pelham’s winemaking team can comb through the best parcels of fruit and then the best barrels in the cellar to craft this flagship Bordeaux-style red blend. The cooler 2019 vintage makes this a somewhat leaner style, but it’s a serious wine with great definition and ripeness. Still very youthful, this needs time to reveal its full potential. Drink 2024 to 2032. Available in Ontario at the above price or $44.95 direct, henryofpelham.com
Hester Creek Old Vine Merlot 2020 (Canada), $29.99
Old Vine in this instance refers to 50-year merlot vines from Block 2 that are part of Hester Creek’s impressive legacy on the Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan. This is a rich and impressive red with ripe fruit and perfumed cedar and sage notes (a signature often seen in southern Okanagan red and white wines). A plush texture adds to the wine’s relaxed charm. Drink now to 2028. Available at the above price direct, hestercreek.com, various prices in Alberta.
Icellars Reserve Red 2019 (Canada), $34.95
Adnan and Elif Icel are responsible for Icellars, a Niagara-on-the-Lake estate winery which focuses on producing robust and concentrated red wines in Ontario. In a cooler and wetter growing season like 2019 that meant picking cabernet sauvignon in early December weeks after other wineries had harvested their icewine grapes. This ripe and complex cabernet sauvignon-dominant blend (25 per cent merlot and 3 per cent malbec complete the blend) shows that patience paid off. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario at the above price or $35 direct, icellars.ca
Malivoire Small Lot Chardonnay 2021 (Canada), $24.95
Made primarily from chardonnay grown at Malivoire’s Moira Vineyard, this rich and textural white wine shows a lively and refined character. True to the established house style, the focus is on fruit flavours (not oak-derived toast or spice) as part of a dry and nicely integrated expression. Drink now to 2026. Vegan friendly. Available direct, malivoire.com
Meyer Family Vineyards Chardonnay McLean Creek Road Vineyard 2021 (Canada), $37.99
Chardonnay continues to be a strong suit for Meyer, which produces an exciting range of single vineyard expressions from estate vineyards in the Okanagan. Planted in 1994, the McLean Creek Road Vineyard surrounds the winery and tasting room in Okanagan Falls. It’s made in a bright and engaging style, with ripe and vibrant fruit rounded out by toasty and spicy notes. Enjoyable now and promises to mature gracefully. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price in British Columbia, $32.26 direct from mfvwines.com, various prices in Alberta.
Township 7 Merlot 2020 (Canada), $29.97
A blend of merlot grapes grown from vineyards in Oliver and Naramata contribute to the rich and rewarding character of this enjoyable merlot. The core of dark fruit flavours is enhanced oak spice and savoury notes. Its juicy fruit character is nicely balanced by freshness. Drink now to 2028. Available at the above price in British Columbia and direct, township7.com.
Upper Case Pinot Gris 2021 (Canada), $24.99
Upper Case is a new addition to the Okanagan wine scene, operating its tasting room as part of the District Wine Village north of Oliver while tending to three vineyards in the southern Okanagan. Pascal Madevon, who came from his native France to start Osoyoos Larose, is the winemaker overseeing an extensive portfolio of red, white and rosé wines. This complex and layered pinot gris, with its intriguing mix of fruit, honey and earthy notes, is broad as opposed to concentrated. A zesty finish keeps the balance right. Drink now to 2025. Available at the above price direct, uppercasewinery.com
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