A Year of Canadian Wines – #TGCWC

For the past year, I’ve been participating in the Great Canadian Wine Challenge. The rules of the Challenge were simple: you could only drink Canadian wines for a full year. There were some exceptions. 1. if you were a guest and the host served something else (even though you brought them a bottle of Canadian wine as a hostess gift), 2. if you were a wine writer / sommelier / judge and you had to drink an international wine as part of your work or 3. if you were out of the country and there was no Canadian wine to be had.

I made it through the whole year within the guidelines. I did receive two bottles of Durbanville Hills wine from South Africa to critique for pairing with chocolate. Now the year is over, I’ll go looking for  these wines in the LCBO. As South African born if not bred, I have an interest in their wine industry, I did get an exemption for wine offered at other people’s houses or events and  finally, I was in the South of France   ( I loved Madiran) for three weeks and the Danube for two so got to sample some very different wines there. Everything else was Canadian.

I started the Challenge off last September looking for affordable wines in Prince Edward County. I  found a selection of these at Sandbanks Winery, Waupoos, Casa Dea, The Grange of Prince Edward,  Broken Stone, Rosehall Run, Huff Estates, Lighthall, and 33 Vines for wines under $20. The prize goes for the best bargain went to the Grange for their Stoneboat white that was priced “cheap” but tasted eminently drinkable for a vin ordinaire or a party wine. Also among the bargains were barrel aged Pinot Noir from Keint-He and Long Dog in the mid twenties and Charnat style sparkling from Hinterland. These were all featured in one of my last examiner.com blogs  Bargain Hunting for Prince Edward County Wines Continue reading


It’s Nova 7 Time – across Canada!

BB winery 3I discovered Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 last spring when I visited Nova Scotia. The friendly folks at Bishop’s Cellar, one of the province’s four private wine stores, described a marketing campaign for the Nova 7 annual release similar to that of  Beaujolais Nouveau.

They told me about  publicity that leads up to its Victoria Day Weekend release and  banners proclaiming “it’s Nova 7 Time!”   festooning an entire wall of their wine store stocked high with bottles of Nova 7. It’s routinely sold out as  the enthusiastic customers rush to purchase a summer supply.

This year Benjamin Bridge, the not so secret weapon of the Nova Scotia wine industry, is taking on the country. With the largest production ever for the small Gaspereau Valley winery, they have 11,000 cases of Nova 7 on their way to market in eight provinces and the Yukon. Only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland  have been left out in the cold. Continue reading

Gewurz Eggs – April Wines

Fermentation EggsThis was going to be my April Fool’s Blog about how Gewurztraminer wine is hatched from eggs. I even had a photo to prove it but last week was so frantic I didn’t get it written.

Several Prince Edward County Wineries make surprisingly good Gewurztraminer Lacey Estates, Sugarbush and Lighthal Vineyards leap to mind but really the climate in Niagara and Pelée Island gives their wineries a better chance of getting the full Gevurz flavour right.

The wine: Carlton Vineyard Outlier Gewurztraminer. 2012  $25
This  Showcase wine is called Outlier because it comes from a patch of Gerwurz vines in a section of Carlton Vineyards where it is surrounded by red wine  vines. It picked late in the season at full ripeness. Continue reading

‘Mazing Muscat

VQA regulations limit the use of hybrid grapes in Ontario wines sold through the LCBO even though the hybrids’ mix of European and Canadian grape varietals makes them very hardy and disease resistant.  The VQA preference is for European vinifera which do well especially in Niagara because of the long hot growing season and short winter.  In Prince Edward County, they have to bury the European vines over the winter to protect them. This year’s bitterly cold winter has damaged a lot of the European vines in Niagara but the hybrids have survived, causing some winemakers to take another look at hybrids as part of their plantings.

Gaspereau Muscat

Gaspereau Muscat

Nova Scotia’s growing season is so much shorter and cooler that they have embraced the science of hybrid grapes and have developed a wide selection of varietals that delight the palate especially  unique citrusy, flowery, aromatic whites that thrive in their climate. Although l’Acadie is the provincial staple, this week’s wine of the week is from a white hybrid that is incredibly versatile. It is wonderful alone, spices up the provincial Tidal Bay appellation wine, is a key element in Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7  and really rocks when blended with Vidal grapes in an icewine.

The wine: Gaspereau Muscat 2011 $19.99
The wine is salmon pink and described as having intense tropical fruit aromas of lychee, passion fruit and pink grapefruit and a touch of fresh mint. Sweet on the nose, the wine is dry with a long grapefruit finish. Continue reading

Golden wine at the rainbow’s end

Crunching themes of versatile winter whites, my favourite wines and Saint Patrick’s Day lead me to one special winery for Wine of the Week #11. Rosehall Run Winery in Prince Edward County, is where Dan Sullivan, whose forbears came over from Ireland in the 1850s, keeps his gold in a bottle.

jcrThe wine: JCR Chardonnay 2011 $29.95.
It was made from  grapes harvested from the oldest chardonnay vines on the estate, barrel fermented. and aged for 14 months in 30% new and 70% spent large French oak puncheons.  The barrel fermentation allowed the lees (spent yeast)  to coat the barrel softening the impact of the oak, giving a creamy taste to the wine.

The owner/winemaker: Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan began as an amateur learning from some of Niagara’s leading winemakers during his days of home winemaking when he bought and pressed Niagara grapes. These days, Dan is a director  of the  Ontario Wine Council  and has been a certified Canadian Wine Judge. His wines, especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs have received international attention.

The winery: Rosehall Run estate winery is owned in partnership by Dan and Lynn Sullivan with Lynn’s brother-in-law Cam  (JCR) and sister Cindy Reston as silent partners.  It is located between Hillier and Wellington on the Greer Road in Prince Edward County. Continue reading

Virtual winery’s debut white

l’Acadie  grapes are a hardy white hybrid ideal for Nova Scotia’s climate. It is the backbone of most of the table wines, blends, and bubbly produced in the province. So incredibly versatile, some winemakers are pushing the limits of what it can do.  My choice for Wine of Week #10  is this oaked l’Acadie  another versatile winter white for March.


L;Acadie Fumé

The wine: l’Acadie Fumé  2010  $.18.99
l’Acadie wine aged in new French and American oak. Described by the winemaker as ‘unlike any l’Acadie Blanc you’ve tried before.”

The winery: The Rafuse Wine Company
A virtual wine company owned by Simon Rafuse. produced on site at  Blomidon Estate Winery facilities and sold at the NSLC and Bishop’s Cellar.

Simon Rafuse Winemaker

Simon Rafuse Winemaker

The Winemaker: Simon Rafuse
Rafuse is the celebrated winemaker at Blomidon Estates winery who wanted to have his own label “Just for fun. It gives me a way to try things out.”

The accolades: Rafuse says there aren’t any yet, but it was getting a lot of buzz among the wine community when I was wine touring in Nova Scotia last spring. Continue reading

Versatile Winter Whites

During this snowy March, I’m reveling in white – beautiful white wines that live in my wine cellar full of memories of a lovely day and a lovely taste. These are my “go to” wines, that have to be replenished and provide an incentive to go wine touring again. This is my choice wine for Week 9 of 2014.

The wine: The Devil’s Wishbone Riesling

The winery: The Devil’s Wishbone
A beautiful old barn winery on County Road 7, near Lake on the Mountain in Prince Edward County, Ontario. It has a spectacular view of Prince Edward Bay. For years it was run as very successful vineyard, its unique terroir produces different flavours in many of the popular vinifera and so were in demand at other wineries for County blends and cuvées.

Paul Gallagher

Paul Gallagher

The winemaker: Paul Gallegher . Paul left a successful business as an accountant in Toronto and started the vineyard in Prince Edward County in 2002 as part of his rehabilitation from a stroke in 1998. Over the years, Paul has been selling grapes to other vineyards but making wines only for his own consumption. In 2011, the barn and the wines were ready to meet the public. Continue reading

Wine to pair with real meals – Week #8

Suggested wine pairings rarely match with real family dinner favourites like Dad’s spicy Italian pasta sauce, Five Alarm  chilli or Friday night pepper steak and chips. Connoisseurs’ favourites like Pinot Noir or Gamay can be overwhelmed by heavy spices, strong sauces, salt and oil. Over Valentine’s weekend, I discovered a gutsy wine that is up to the challenge. It’s my choice for  2014 Wine of the Week #8.

Bergeron Estate  Cabernet Franc 2009

Bergeron Estate
Cabernet Franc 2009

The wine: Bergeron Estate Cabernet Franc 2009 $21.95
Aged in French Oak for 16 months, rich flavours of blackberries, black  cherry,  raspberries, sloes, pepper and spicy tobacco with a dry finish. At five years old, this wine is at its peak.

The winery:  Bergeron Estate Winery
Located on highway 33, near Adolphustown, Bergeron Estates was purchased in 2002 by brothers Ted and Dave Bergeron and opened in 2007. It has been expanding ever since. The tasting room has a lovely adjoining sun room and wide wrap around veranda with a view down to Adolphus Reach. It serves  gourmet pizzas made by Nonna, Dave’s Italian mother-in-law, most weekends year-round and sells a selection of  Estate wines and its Cole Point Cider.

The winemaker: David Bergeron has been learning on the job like many County winemakers. For his first two vintages in 2006 and 2007, Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run was hired as the winemaker, while he trained at his side. Dave has attended winemaking forums at Brock University and in Prince Edward County and  has completed a sommelier certification program from Algonquin. Two years ago, he bought out his brother’s share  and now he and his wife are sole owners. Continue reading

Marquesa Port & Dark Chocolate Week #7

Valentine’s Day is past and I have a plethora of dark chocolate to take me through the cold nights of February,  perfect for pairing with red port. For several years, Karlo Estates‘ Van Alstine red was the signature Prince Edward County port-style wine  but,  these days, there is serious competition.



The Wine:  Harwood Marquesa 2011 $29
This is a port style wine made from a blend of Marquette and Cabernet Franc grapes, aged for 12 months in old  American and French oak barrels. 18% alc.

The WineryHarwood Estates
Opened in 2009 near Hillier, Harwood is a family business run by Don and Judy Harwood, John Rode and Kerry Wicks. The winery is off grid with solar, wood and propane providing their energy sources. Something that proved really beneficial with the power outages this winter. Continue reading

NS Icewine Festival wines

 Instead of choosing one wine this week, I’m highlighting all  the wines being poured at the  Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. This event  is being held at  Domaine de Grande Pré with six wineries taking part  this weekend and next, Feb 8 & 9, and 15 & 16. For the most part, these are wines unique to Nova Scotia, made from varietals and hybrid vines. They are ideally suited for the short Nova Scotia growing season and very flavourful. Each winery is featuring a white, a red and a dessert wine.  Continue reading