Earlier this month I was in beautiful Ontario, Canada near Niagara Falls. In additional to the spectacular falls and sun-filled days with no humidity, the area offers multiple vineyards and an active wine scene. I was able to visit three of the vineyards on assignment for WashingtonExec.
Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of ice wine, which is a dessert wine made from grapes that are harvested after freezing on the vine. The sugar in the grapes does not freeze but the water does, resulting in a concentrated, sweet wine that when made well also retain a high level of acidity. About 75 percent of Canadian ice wine comes from Ontario.
Ice wine wasn’t the only wine these vineyards produce by a long shot, however. My first stop was Peller Estates, where I sampled a wide selection of wines. The 2012 Cabernet showed some promise but was too young to drink now – even the server agreed. Personal favorites were the 2012 Gewurztraminer – aromatic, spicy and tart – and the 2013 Riesling, which offered a nice balance of bold sweetness with plenty of acidity to balance it out.
Peller also makes an amazing ice wine produced from the Cabernet Franc grape. It explodes with the flavors of strawberry and rhubarb and is delicious, but is special occasion priced at $90 for a 375ml bottle.
Next stop was Trius. They offered a similar varietal selection, also offered a premium Cabernet Franc ice wine. This one was also delicious but heavier and thicker tasting than the Peller.
My favorites here were the 2012 Pinot Gris and 2012 Riesling. The Riesling was the light style of the grape, a bit fruity but light and smooth. The Pinot Gris was very dry, extremely crisp and refreshing.
Inniskillin was my last stop. The largest and most broadly distributed of the three, Inniskillin is well known for its ice wines. I sampled a flight of three 2012s made with different grapes – Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. My favorite was the Riesling, very sweet but integrated and not over the top.
I also sampled an Inniskillin 2012 Reserve Riesling that I thought the best still wine of the day. It has beautiful citrus and apple flavors while also being very balanced and clean tasting, a beautiful white wine (and this from a red drinker). I’d recommend it the next time you’re looking for a more interesting white wine option.
I wish I had more time than half a day to more fully explore the Ontario VQA (the Canadian equivalent of the French appellation system). I’m sure there are exceptions, but I did not taste an impressive red wine at my three stops. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir don’t seem to be as good a fit for the Canadian climate as the aromatic whites.
Since greater Washington, D.C. is one of the top wine consuming areas in the country, I’ll bet a lot of you know Canadian wines already. For those that don’t, they can provide a refreshing change as we head into the dog days of summer. Enjoy!
Christopher Parente is the founder of StoryTechConsulting LLC, a content marketing firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. StoryTech Consulting helps B2B and B2G companies tell their own story and promote it directly to their target audiences. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a top 100K web site in the United States as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.