Let's Go Local

A few days ago someone said to me: "Ontario makes wine? I didn't know that."

Enjoying a glass local flavour in the
Jackson Triggs vineyard.
Go Local everyone!
I'm used to people from other countries being surprised when I tell them that Canada has a flourishing wine industry. The common statement I hear is "Isn't Canada too cold to make wine?" Bless their hearts. They also think that Vancouver is a short car ride from Toronto, failing to realize how vast and diverse this country actually is that we live in.  I suddenly became very excited to introduce this person to our wonderful wine industry.  I'm sure that they weren't prepared for my long detailed information session. It's a good thing we were in a small confined space. :)

iYellow supports Ontario wine!
I'm very pleased that the LCBO is doing the Go Local campaign. Ontario wines have had a stigma associated with them for a long time, as not being very good. This is so not true! Fortunately this misconception is disappearing from public opinion. We're lucky to have so many wines from around the world available to us but even luckier knowing that we too make world class wine right here in Ontario. Finally there's a much needed push to promote and support our local talent. From grape growers to wine makers. If you go to California, you're encouraged to drink Californian wine. If you go to France, you will no doubt have mostly French wines available to you. Yes, the wine industry here in Canada, specifically in Ontario, is extremely young at just over 30 years. In a very short amount of time, we've risen to create some fabulous examples of what can be done here with local grapes. Our wines can stand proudly on the international stage, many with the medals to prove it!

The talented Andrzej Lipinski!
Ontario has four appellations, or grape growing regions:

Niagara Peninsula
The most well known and established grape growing region in the province.  This region is further subdivided into 10 sub-appellations each with a unique characteristic that comes out in the finished wine.

Prince Edward County
Ontario's newest appellation. Cool climate with a foundation of rich limestone.

Lake Erie North Shore
With so much sunshine, it has ideal ripening conditions to make full bodied wine.

Pelee Island
Canada's most southerly grape growing region and enjoys a long growing season.

Winter scene at Legends.
Although mostly known around the world for our icewine, we also produce some delicious still and sparkling wine. Wines from Ontario vary from elegant and complex to fruit forward and fun. Our wines showcase the location where the grapes were grown...our "terroir".  That's what wine is supposed to do -  represent the land it is from.
Harvest season.

What is terroir?
"The combination of location, soil, topography and climate - as having direct influence on both the character and quality of wine grapes" - www.vqaontario.com

Living in Toronto, I'm fortunate to be very close to the Niagara region. What makes this area so wonderful for grape growing is really two-fold: Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment.  The lake gathers warmth throughout the summer months. The breezes coming off the lake provide a constant flow of warmer air from the lakeshore to the base of the Escarpment. In the fall and going into winter, this warm air raises the land temperature. The growing season is extended and the vines don't freeze during the cold months of winter. Did you know that the Escarpment was formed during the regions glacial history? This same glacial history is also what gives the region its complex soil compositions.

Thirty Bench.
 Grapes at Inniskillin.
Because of this unique growing area, certain grape varieties do very well here: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc.

These past two weekends I had the chance to partake in the iYellow Wine Club tours into one of the Ontario wine regions - Niagara. I usually go on my own but this was a great way to taste *a lot* of wines in one day. It's harvest time and wine country is at its busiest! This is always the most exciting time for me. I wonder what harvest 2011 will bring? While the world anxiously awaits the delivery of the much talked about Bordeaux 2010 wines, I'm excited that the 2010 Ontario wines are starting to hit the shelves.
Ed from Flat Rock Cellars.

Chateau des Charmes.
It's so important that we support our local producers to continue the growth of our industry. Did you know that Ontario has over 125 wineries? That number will only continue to grow. From larger production facilities to small boutique operations, we have many diverse wineries and wines.  I've met many passionate people in all aspects of the wine industry. From wine makers to wine agents. All of them have one thing to say - Ontario wine is only getting better each year!

Daniel Speck from  Henry of Pelham.
With the creation of, COVI (Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute) at Brock University, Ontario is recognized around the world for its research and development of cool climate wine making.

When you're in the store searching for a new local Ontario wine to try, or reaching for your favourite, make sure that VQA is listed on the bottle. VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance and it ensures that 100% of the fruit in the wine that you're buying is grown in Ontario and that it meets stringent quality standards. It ensures that what's on the label is what's in the bottle. Many bottles also now have a sticker on their neck that says "100% Grown by Grape Growers of Ontario".

 I highly recommend making a trip out to one of our wine growing regions and discovering for yourself what makes Ontario wines so great! You won't be disappointed!