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Ontario, Wine Country

with Christopher Reckord
Thursday, July 19, 2012

At three hours and 45 minutes flying time to Toronto, the Niagara Peninsula Appellation of Ontario is perhaps the closest major wine region to Jamaica. On a recent trip to a Technology Conference in Toronto, I stayed a couple of extra days to soak up parts of the Ontario wine scene.

About 98 per cent of the premium wines in Canada are produced by grapes grown primarily in two provinces, Ontario and British Columbia. There are seven designated Viticultural Areas (VA) located in the southern areas of the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. (The provinces of Québec and Nova Scotia have areas in which grapes are grown, but these are not as yet officially designated as Viticultural Areas). Ontario has four primary Viticultural Areas or appellations of origin: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County.

The Niagara Peninsula

The Niagara Peninsula is just over an hour's drive from the Lester B Pearson International airport and is home to just over 100 wineries. Most of these beautiful wineries offer guided tastings for a small fee, some host special events that feature their wines, others offer their wineries as special events destinations, others have event-added restaurants. During our short wine and winery tours(a "wine tour" is a trip in which you visit a number of different wineries, while a "winery tour" is a guided walk through a single winery) organised by family friends Dr David Henry and his lovely wife Cathy, our tour guide and designated driver, we visited Calamus Estate Winery, Thirteenth Street Wine Corp, Vineland Estates Winery Ltd., Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, John Howard Cellars of Distinction(Megalomaniac), Konzelmann Estate Winery and enjoyed a Shakespeare production in the vineyards of the Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery.

The wines

Icewine, the sweet, luscious and intensely flavoured dessert wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine, has put Canada on the wine map, but wines can be made from approximately 60 varieties of classic European grapes grown in Ontario. Among the main white varieties are Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Reds that have shown promise in recent vintages are Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I also found a number of wineries producing wines from the French hybrid - Baco Noir. I really liked a number of the refreshing, crisp white wines made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer either as a single varietal or as a blend. Most of the late harvest wines and Icewines were really very good.

There really is a lot to see and do in the Niagara wine regions(the falls are just a few minutes away), so if you are planning to visit Toronto this summer, do take a day trip out there. It's really a lot of fun!

Chris Reckord - Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. Follow us on twitter: @DeVineWines @Reckord

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