Beyond Ontario’s official wine regions (Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lake Erie North shore, and Prince Edwards County), there are three emerging regions that are worth considering when buying wine i.e Toronto north, Simcoe, and Georgian.
Of the three, Simcoe is the most promising, mostly due to its favourable location in the eastern part of the Lake Erie, and the terroir.
The eastern Erie shore near Long Point, where the summers are slightly warmer than nearby Niagara, has been steadily gaining recognition and is expected to become Ontario’s next designated viticultural area within the next decade.
A few decades ago Simcoe was tobacco country and had a flourishing community. Tobacco leaves were dried in kilns and sold to cigarette manufacturers. When Brazilian and Chinese tobacco undercut Simcoe produce, farming suffered a great deal and was forced to adapt to economic conditions.
Grape growing was one option, and many tobacco farmers planted vineyards, albeit with hybrid grapes i.e vidal, chambourcin, marechal Foch, Seyval blanc, and others. Unfortunately, they failed to attract sufficiently large groups of consumers and now vitis vinifera varieties are gradually replacing hybrids.
Riesling, charodnnay, gewurztraminer, savagnin, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay musque, cabernet franc, pinot noir, merlot, regent, and syrah seem to be suitable.
Bunches are kiln-dried (much like the appassimento technique employed in Veneto for amarone wines) achieving high levels of sugar resulting in elevated alcohol levels and more flavour concentration.
Some wineries flavour their wines with aromatic herbs (lavender), and a few make fruit wines using apples, peaches, raspberries, strawberries and other suitable fruits.
Recently, Wine Writer’s Circle Of Canada members had an opportunity to taste the wines of the following wineries:
Bonnieheat Estate – Lavender Icewine using as base vidal (hybrid created by Jean Louis Vidal using ugni blanc, and rayon d’or). Well-balanced, high in alcohol and complex with underlying lavender aromas.
Merlot Reserve, 2011, Smoke and Gamble Winery – has a mouth filling quality due its high alcohol 15 ABV. It was produced by kiln drying bunches to concentrate sugar levels.
Villa Nova Estate Winery Aenigma, 2012 a blend of regent (a German red hybrid) and cabernet sauvignon. It has a distinct fruity aroma, with a pleasant underlying acidity and refreshing aftertaste.
Dover Vineyards Frisky Beaver, 2010 a blend of chardonnay, chardonnay musque, gewurztraminer and sauvignon blanc. Aromas of citrus and melon waft out of the glass. Light in texture, off dry, with a lingering finish
Vidal, 2012, Quai du Vin Off dry, well-balanced, aromatic, and offers layers of flavours. Long and pleasant finish
Burning Kiln Winery is the largest, and the best known of all in Simcoe.
All writers in the group tasted the whole portfolio of the winery.
The following were the best:
Hose and Boot Riesling, 2012, 88/100
Table Gang Gewurztraminer, 2012, 87/100
Chenin Blanc, 2010, 90/100
Stick Shaker Savagnin, 2012 89/100
Broken Needle Rose, 2012, 88/100
Prime Pinot Noir, 2011, 88/100
Cabernet Franc, 2012, 90/100
Kiln Hanger The Sequel, 2010, 91/100
Strip Room, 2012, 87/100