It has been a remarkable year in the evolution of the Canadian wine industry. Some will rant and others argue over the lack of cohesion and togetherness when the idea of a Canadian wine culture is discussed. What is of greater interest, at least in terms of the year in retrospect, is the wines themselves. When the wines are assessed and considered in part or as a whole, who would dare to say there are no great wines being produced?
I have personally tasted nearly 1,000 Canadian wines in 2013. This thanks to friends, colleagues, events, winery visits, LCBO media and vintner tastings, restaurant wine lists and agents. Not to mention the necessary organizations such as The Ontario Wine Society and the Wine Council of Ontario.
There was Cuvée 2013 and the Expert’s Tasting at Brock University. Somewhereness, County in the City, The Riesling Experience, Cool Chardonnay and Taste Ontario 2013 were just a few of the many events to discover the wonders of Ontario and Canadian wine. A summer visit to the west coast opened a window to the wonders of the Okanagan and B.C. Wine.
This was a very difficult list to narrow down. It is based on wines tasted but not necessarily released in 2013, though I did try to focus on more current selections. In the end, these choices are meant to offer both a cross-section and a definitive compilation of what Canadian winemakers do best. That is producing unique, cutting edge and brilliant takes on cool climate grapes. They also match beautifully with the songs referenced in their tasting notes. Here are 13 Canadian wines that rocked in 2013.
CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2010 (318303, $16.95, B.C. 230961, $18.99, WineAlign)
The song: The Rolling Stones, If You Can’t Rock Me
Intensifies in juicy, bright, nearly candied fruit cut by sour patch and blanched nut. Clean, cool Chardonnay and right on. My earlier note, from ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ (but I like wine) is the unoaked result of aromatic Clone 809 combed from the heavier clay-based soils from the St. David’s Bench Vineyard and the silty, mineral rich soils from Seven and Seven Vineyard. Tropical, strutting stunner with “a thousand lips I would love to taste.” Tell Ms. Musqué if you can’t rock me, nothing can. 90 Tasted April 2013 @MBosc From: Hot weekend wines and cool Chardonnay
8TH GENERATION VINEYARD RIESLING 2012 (B.C., $20.90)
From Okanagan Falls bolts rapido from the gate with the ripest fruit (pear, plum) and though there is citrus, it’s really quite semi-dry. At 12.9 per cent alcohol and 24gr/L of residual sugar this may as well be Mosel Trocken Spätlese. Fantastic presence and awesome winemaking from Bernd and Stefanie Schales. Got me by the vines and will be on my table. 92 Tasted July 2013 @8th_Generation From: B.C. Wine: From Vancouver to your table
FIELDING ESTATE CABERNET FRANC 2011 (36194, $21.95, WineAlign)
Sets the pepper mill on speed dial and certainly knows the inside of a barrel but what more could you possibly ask for? Unabashed, unbridled purple goodness. From my earlier note: “…has to be the best yet from Richie Roberts. From a 35-acre Grand Cru (Five Rows) vineyard in the making in the heart of the warmest Niagara locale (St. David’s Bench). Zanthoxylum, capsicum and pencil shaving. Ropy grain, chewy, sylvan charm. On the card at Barque. 90 Tasted March 2013 @FieldingWinery From: Masters wines in purple, yellow and green jackets
QUAIL’S GATE PINOT NOIR 2011 (585760, $26.95, WineAlign)
With a flat-out ambrosial aromatic entry bequeaths extremely ripe, fleshy red stone fruit and a hit of java, hold the crema and the splinters. Toss in some cool eucalyptus to that tincture, perhaps, like De Loach Van Der Kamp. Intimates a Sonoman dream in confected perfume unlike any Okanagan predecessor. This is flamboyant stuff for OV, toothsome, and were it from California I might think it OTT but from B.C., not so. Expertly judged fruit/acid balance and such plush texture. Gobs of fruit with just enough grit to keep it real. “The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots and wonders at our quaint spirits.” 91 Tasted July 2013 @Quails_Gate From: A midsummer night’s chill red wine
HUFF ESTATES CUVÉE JANINE SPARKLING ROSÉ 2010 ($29.95, winery only, WineAlign)
The song: Genesis, In The Cage
100 per cent Pinot Noir grapes is a phenomenal, inaugural genesis effort. More sanguine in colour than one would imagine, this sparkler is wonderfully sweet but also ”turns sweat, turns sour.” Pinot Noir is always potentially so dramatic but who knew it could be like this, like blood swirling in the glass. “Bottled in a strong compression,” with black raspberry, noticeable yeast and impressive finesse. Out of the cage. 91 Tasted May 2013 @HuffEstatesWine From: You can lead a county to the city
NORMAN HARDIE COUNTY PINOT NOIR UNFILTERED 2012 (125310, $35.00)
Cuts a rug with immense, stepping out juicy behaviour. It’s both turntable old-school, astatic in smooth groove rotation, but also digitally forward thinking towards a perdurable future. The nose is Norm’s most intense floral burst to date, with incredible brightness and sparkling acidity in the key of fresh plum. This brings to mind indelible Burgundy, enveloped in PEC’s warm ’12 blanket. Hardie’s measure of consistency abides in a Pinot of parity and undemanding polish. 93 Tasted October 2013 @normhardie From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013
PELLER ESTATES CABERNET FRANC ‘SIGNATURE SERIES’ 2010 ($40.20, winery only, WineAlign)
The song: Frank Zappa, Joe’s Garage
Has got the funk in dark and dank waves. Top-tier barrel selection out of Four Mile Creek, this one is tight, tense and ready to jam with “a Stratocaster with a whammy bar” in Joe’s garage. Saw through to 100 per cent Malolactic fermentation after 20 months in barrel. If you are jonesing for Cab Franc, don’t miss this player. 91-92 Tasted March 2013 @PellerVQA From: A long and winding tasting road
PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE DIX-NEUVIEME CHARDONNAY 2011 303602, $40.00, WineAlign)
A child of a hot and dry summer, a stress-free winter slumber and a non-invasive spring awakening. Sets out lean, tight and mean, but the dry extract invites spicy, stone fruit and an emergence of tropical lushness. Can there be another specimen that so rightfully defines Pearl Morissette, the top of the Bench or Niagara as a whole in 2011? 93 Tasted July 19, 2013 @PearlMorissette From: Nine big November best buy wines
BURROWING OWL SYRAH 2010 (73072, $41.95, B.C. $39.99, Alberta $44.99, WineAlign)
The song: The Beatles, Dig a Pony
This Syrah will cure so many ails. Vouchsafe for a pepper-laced, plasmic mouthfeel, a maroon liquid pewter party of rocks and stones in the mouth. Playful and childlike, digs a pony, playing and offering really good fun. Does its own Okanagan thing becuase “ev’rything has got to be just like you want it to.” 92 Tasted October 4, 2013 @BurrowingOwlBC From: Nine big November best buy wines
STRATUS WHITE 2006 (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)
Was a “great recovery year,” after the winter damage of ’03, ’04 and ’05. A cool vintage, which required careful picking. The Sauvignon Blanc driven ’06 has the highest melon component, not to mention Boxwood. Yet that rose/floral/honey medicinal note is even stronger. Not over the hill at all and developing a graceful white wine character. Very French with late acidity and verve. Remarkable. Love this one. “This is a style of aged wine where I want to go,” says J-L. Nutty finish. 93 Tasted September 2013 @Stratuswines From: Select tasting through the years of Stratus Red and Whites
HIDDEN BENCH TÊTE DE CUVÉE CHARDONNAY 2009 ($45, winery only, WineAlign)
From Big wines from California and the Bench from HB’s oldest, most highly regarded and meticulously maintained vines shows ravishing and refined restraint in elegance. Warm pineapple and mango coagulation jarred by the vintage’s piercing acidity and immense length. Head of the class, rings the bell, nails the lecture. 93 Tasted March and May 2013 @HiddenBench From: Around the world in eight Chardonnays
BACHELDER WINES PINOT NOIR LOWREY VINEYARD 2011 (361816, $44.95, WineAlign)
The Song: Bruce Sprinsgteen, Blinded by the Light
Defies logic in laying out the welcome mat. Fleshy St. David’s fruit, relentless aromatics, a glue of tannins pushing on the pedal. From my earlier note in Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013 “springs eternal from an ocean of cranberry and an island of spice. The somewhereness of this St. David’s vineyard can’t be denied, and in the hands of Thomas Bachelder the extraordinary happens. I am simply blinded by the light, by the weight and the weightless gravity. By a sweetness that just isn’t sweet, like exotic red fruit that knocks you sideways upside the cerebral cortex. Not to mention an iron madness that “plays that song with the funky break.” 94 Tasted Oct. 10 and Nov. 6, 2013 @Bachelder_wines From: Vineyards, winemakers and their sense of place: Bachelder and Leaning Post
BENJAMIN BRIDGE BRUT RESERVE MÉTHODE CLASSIQUE 2007 (275396, $74.95, NSLC 1012526, $74.79, WineAlign)
The song: The Jam, Town Called Malice
Peter Gamble struck gold with this Gasperaux Valley, Nova Scotia Sparkling Wine project. This Bridge comes from ”radically and frighteningly low yields” (3/4 ton per acre, as opposed to the new 6 ton world of Champagne). The ’07 is spun so fine and endowed with a prominent and great leesy nose, along with baking biscuits and lemon purity. To taste there is zest, white pepper and ultimately this is streamlined and refined. A Gamble style that will integrate in ’08 the idea of emulating grower’s Champagne. One will find no holes and no holds barred, in tension and in ease. Like Iggy Pop, Paul Weller, Brandon Flowers and David Bowie rolled into one, a thin white duke with a lust for life in a killer town called malice. Eight some odd cases of the 2005 are still floating around in the monopoly’s system so keep an eye on the labels. You just might get lucky. Price tag, $75? Cost, “priceless.” 93 Tasted November 2013 @Benjamin_Bridge From: Crack open these Canadian made apolitical wines
Good to go!
[…] the end of last year my column 13 Canadian wines that rocked in 2013 reviewed what Canadian winemakers do best. “That is producing unique, cutting edge and […]