With the annual grape harvest under way in wine-producing provinces across Canada, there’s increased interest in the wines being made in this country. Certainly, this is a great time of year to visit wineries to get a taste of the excitement during harvest season.
Visiting wineries is also your best bet for getting your hands on locally made wines – in some instances, it’s the only way. The constraints of selling into large liquor monopolies mean most Canadian wines are sold direct from the cellar door or online, a sales channel that grew to meet the demands of consumers who were unable to travel to their favourite wineries during the pandemic.
Many wineries report online sales dropped off as winery tourism has returned, but that only tells part of the story. Provincial liquor laws prevent many Canadians from buying wine – as well as beer and spirits – directly from producers located in other parts of the country. Our appetite for shopping online isn’t going away, but it has arbitrarily been taken away when it comes to purchasing alcohol made in this country.
This week’s recommendations embrace eight bottles from noteworthy winemakers in Ontario and British Columbia. It’s a mix of new and established producers, including exciting releases from newcomers Plot Wines in the Okanagan and Liebling from Niagara-on-the-Lake that are adding to the innovation and quality of products being produced by Canadian grape growers and winemakers.
Flat Rock Cellars Foundation Chardonnay 2021 (Canada), $19.95
Flat Rock’s estate chardonnay is produced with grapes grown in the vineyard surrounding the winery in Jordan, Ont. The fruit is hand-picked and sorted prior to pressing and fermentation in French oak barrels. The wine made in 2021 offers a refreshing and rich style of chardonnay with integrated honey, apple and nutty flavours. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario ($17.95 between Oct. 8 and Nov. 4), $20.15 direct, flatrockcellars.ca, various prices in Alberta, $21.50 in Quebec.
Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2021 (Canada), $37.95
Produced with estate-grown, certified organic pinot noir grapes grown at Hidden Bench’s Locust Lane, Felseck and Rosomel vineyards on the Beamsville Bench, this fragrant and refreshing red wine makes the most of its savoury character. The flavour suggests a mix of juicy red fruit, mushroom and earthy notes, with balance and persistence that add to the appeal. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario, $39 in Quebec.
Liebling Gamay 2022 (Canada), $26
The Oppenlaenders manage four vineyards in Niagara, Ont., two of which are owned by the family, which launched Liebling Wines earlier in June. This light yet flavourful gamay comes from the Creek Road Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which the family planted in 1996. The wine was made by daughter Jessica and the team at Collab Wine and Beverage, a group of Brock University winemaking alumni who assist in the making and marketing of boutique wine, cider and perry brands. This captures the mix of cherry, berry and peppery nature of gamay grown in Niagara, with some added depth and weight from nine months of aging in French oak barrels. Drink now to 2027. Available direct, drinkcollab.ca
Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2020 (Canada), $42.99
This complex merlot-dominant blend is produced from Noble Ridge’s estate vineyards in Okanagan Falls, which include merlot and cabernet sauvignon vines planted in 1986. The ripe and spicy character features fruitcake, tobacco and dried herb notes, with nice texture and some youthful tannins that add to the body and structure. Drink now to 2028. Available direct, nobleridge.com, various prices in Alberta.
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2019 (Canada), $57.95
Produced from a single vineyard overlooking Osoyoos Lake, Osoyoos Larose continues to produce red blends that capture people’s attention. The 2019 blend features merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with smaller additions of cabernet franc and petit verdot. As expected, this is a well-structured wine with complex and intense flavours suggesting plums and currants with oak spice and sage/herbal note. The savoury fragrance and rewarding structure make this attractive now, with the potential to mature in bottle. Drink now to 2029. Available at the above price in Ontario, $57.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $61.99 in Saskatchewan, $63.99 in Manitoba, $55.50 in Quebec, $63.80 in New Brunswick, $65 in Nova Scotia (Bishop’s Cellar).
Plot Thick 2021 (Canada), $34
Okanagan newcomer Plot is a partnership between winemaker Kevin Rossion and marketer Adam Kereliuk, who don’t seem to own vineyards and don’t operate a tasting room. Their operation is based on finding grapes from the small vineyards in the Okanagan to produce a portfolio of expressive red, white and orange (skin-contact white wines). This barrel-fermented viognier and chardonnay blend from 2021 is called Thick, which is as good a way as any to describe its rich and rewarding style. The flavour suggests honey and apricot with some earthy and citrus oil notes. A slight bitterness on the finish adds focus and refreshment to the blend. Drink now to 2025. Available direct, plotwines.ca, various prices in British Columbia.
Road 13 Select Harvest GSM 2020 (Canada), $45
Select Harvest is a new label for Road 13 that keys on grape varieties grown in the winery’s vineyards on the Golden Mile and Black Sage benches in the Okanagan. This is a blend of mostly syrah with 13 per cent mourvèdre and 9 per cent grenache, which shows the pepper and spicy nature of syrah with some structure and juicy red fruit flavours contributed by the supporting cast. The perfume and flavour of this satisfying red wine make it truly stand out. Drink now to 2032. Available direct, road13vineyards.com
Road 13 Select Harvest Syrah 2020 (Canada), $40
Road 13 delivers an expressive and enjoyable style of syrah that shows why this grape variety is a star in the southern Okanagan Valley. This age-worthy example presents peppery and spicy notes that are rounded out by juicy berry fruit flavours. The ripe and rich character is balanced by freshness and structure that will help this mature gracefully in the cellar if you have the patience. Drink now to 2030. Available direct, road13vineyards.com