Going Local with iYellow Wine Club

The iYellow Wine Club goes local
Photo by iYellow Wine Club

Fall has officially arrived. The weather seems to have changed appropriately on schedule. This is an exciting time - back to school, back to work...back to routine. More importantly, it's harvest!

Looking back to the lazy days of summer, my thoughts take me to Sunday August 12th as 44 eager iYellow Wine Club members borded a bus in downtown Toronto to escape to beautiful Niagara wine country.  Having recently returned from a whirlwind trip throughout Burgundy and the south of France, I was due to head to another wine destination, even just for a day.
Barrel cellar at
Chateau des Charmes

Tasting room at
Some are still surprised when they learn that wine is even produced in Ontario.  Not only is wine produced here, it's pretty darn delicious. This is a flourishing industry that is continuously growing every year and the wines are gaining more acclaim locally and abroad. Cool climate grape varieties such as riesling, chardonnay, and pinot noir being the most celebrated.  You can't expect to be tasting a wine that's identical to a wine from another place in the world. Similar? Reminiscent? Sure. You are tasting Ontario and the "typicity" of its terroir. I recently read an article by John Szabo and he made great points about how we should be looking for wines that are typical to a region. He used the word "typicity" throughout and I put a lot of thought into that one word. Ontario is not California. Nor is it New Zealand or Germany. Ontario is...well, Ontario. What's that song that we always hear on tv: "Good things grow, in On-ta-rio".

The iYellow tour was co-hosted by Taylor Thompson, wine director for the Toronto Ritz Carlton. He offered a great dose of entertainment mixed with information. Learning can be fun! The day's activities, other than the funny commentary between Angela Aiello and Taylor, included a tour and tasting at 3 wineries, lunch, and some good ol' fashioned field trip shenanigans.

Sheltered from the rain
Vines at Vineland
These tours are a terrific way to be introduced (or re-acquainted) to the region. Not only are you driven around all day, lunch is provided and you are essentially treated to VIP tastings at each winery. It takes the pressure off trying to plan your own excursion, especially if you've never been to the area.  I love hopping on a bus and letting the day unfold. It kind of reminds me of school field trips, just more fun and with alcohol (oops, I didn't say that).

The "iYellow Loves Local" fall tour schedule:

Sheep at Southbrook
Hey Stu - yeah I'm talkin' to you!
Saturday September 29th
Saturday October 13th
Saturday October 20th

For more information and to purchase tickets:

Vineland Estates
production area
Our first stop was at Vineland Estates. The tasting, led by Taylor himself, was held inside the production area. A delicious boxed lunch was provided afterwards after our salivary glads were sufficiently lubricated. This was no ordinary boxed lunch - it was deliciously on the gourmet side and we were allowed to eat it anywhere on the grounds. We grabbed some leftover bottles from the tasting and headed outside to enjoy our meal next to the vines. If you're ever at Vineland, do plan to eat at the restaurant. If the boxed lunches were any indication of the quality of the restaurant, you won't be disappointed. It has a great reputation among both visitors and locals. The most talked about wine of the tasting was the 2009 St. Urban Riesling. The 2011 Elevation St. Urban Riesling is now available in stores. www.vineland.com

Michelle Bosc and the
iYellow group in the
barrel cellar

Chateau des Charmes
Pinot Noir 2010
Our next destination was Chateau des Charmes where Michelle Bosc herself was the guide. After a sparkling wine reception, we were taken out into the vineyards and into the production facility. Even though the rain had decided to make an appearance, it didn't last long and by late afternoon, the sun was back out shining. My favourites of the tasting were the 2010 Pinot Noir and the 2010 Equuleus. The Equuleus is a wine of structure. Only created in the best of years, it is a Bordelaise blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. The Pinot Noir highlighted the wonderful qualities that can arise from cooler-climate vineyards. www.chateaudescharmes.com

A short clip with Michelle Bosc, whose family owns and operates Chateau des Charmes.
In this video she explains why Ontario can successfully grow grape for wine production.

Angela Aiello discussing
with owner of Southbrook,
Bill Redelmeir
The final stop was Southbrook Vineyards.
2011 Triomphe
Cabernet Franc
Small in size, it's Canada's largest organic and biodynamic winery. It doesn't use synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizer, or genetic modification. Think of biodynamics as extreme organic practices that are on the mystical side. The winery itself is an interesting piece of architecture. You can't miss it as you drive along the main road into the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Bill Redelmeir, owner of Southbrook, took us out into the vineyards to talk about biodynamics and how this viticulture practice translates into the wines. One such example is the use of sheep on the property. Their waste, as they munch away on the vine foliage, is used as fertilizer. There must be something to this alternative form of agriculture because the wines were really enjoyable. www.southbrook.com

Bill Redelmeir explaining biodynamics and the sheep named Stu. www.southbrook.com/biodynamics

Join the conversation!
The LCBO has recently launched a campaign to promote local wines with the slogan "People are Talking". A highly visual website, with a large focus on social media, was launched a few weeks ago. www.lcbogolocal.com

Chateau des Charmes
Equuleus 2009
Join the conversation and share some of your favourite Ontario wines on Twitter with the hashtags #lcbogolocal and #vqa.

This release of Vintages magazine features the wines of Ontario. If you haven't picked up a copy of the free bi-weekly publication, you can pick one up at your local LCBO or view it online: www.vintages.com

Southbrook Whimsy!
2010 Chardonnay
To showcase all that Ontario has to offer, Spotlight Toronto is doing a feature called "30 Days of Ontario Wine":

Tomorrow morning I'm putting my stamp on harvest 2012. I'm headed back out to FlatRock Cellars to help out with the sorting of riesling that are to be harvested.

Watch out grapes - I'm coming for you.