Ontario’s Big Week

Ontario’s Big Week

Grange of Prince Edward Trumpour’s Mill 2006 Pinot Gris ($16.95, 86 points, winery only)Prince Edward CountyLook closely at the fine print. This is among the first labels bearing the name of the world’s newest wine region—Prince Edward County. On Monday, the county’s VQA status became official at ceremonies held at Waupoos Estate Winery. This recently released gris from young vines in the Grange’s Isabel Vineyard needs another three to six months bottle aging, but is showing typical Alsatian (not Italian) style peach, almond, musk and lemon pinot gris aromas. Its light, crisp mineral-driven frame is typical of county wines—promising gris indeed. This wine will be coming to Vintages in September, and is, in the meantime, available at the winery.

It’s been a huge week for homegrown wine around the shores of Lake Ontario. On Monday, the Ontario government officially announced that Prince Edward County is a Designated Viticultural Area under VQA regulation. This came two days after the Artevino Wine Awards presentation and gala dinner in Belleville where Huff Estate Winery was named County Winery of the Year and received the Jonathan Welsh Trophy for its performance. On Tuesday, Torontonians had a chance to taste the best of the Ontario Wine Awards at SIP in the Distillery District. Also this past weekend in Niagara the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticultural Institute held a three-day symposium at Brock University in St. Catharines. As well, the New Vintage Niagara Festival got underway, running until June 17. And oh yes, the third week of June is also Ontario Wine Week. Phew! It’s all enough to make you want to just sit on the deck with a glass of rosé.

I couldn’t possibly be at all these events, but I have had several opportunities to pour through Ontario wines in recent weeks. So allow me to celebrate the month’s bounty by writing up a few favourites below.

I must first convey how important Monday was for Prince Edward County, when Ontario cabinet ministers, local officials, grape growers and winemakers assembled in the vineyard at Waupoos Estate Winery (first planted in 1993) to hear that the region had joined the global network of legislatively approved wine regions. In Ontario, VQA is the governing body; in France it is AOC (Appellation d’origin contrôlee); in Italy it’s DOC, etc. The point is recognition and legitimacy, and for wine drinkers it means finally having the assurance that when it says Prince Edward County on the label the wine therein really comes from the county. For almost a decade, having to ask about grape source in county tasting rooms has been an awkward issue for both consumer and winemaker alike.

On a very similar June day back in 1999, I first visited the county, and, on the very spot at Waupoos Winery, I tasted my first 100% county wine with proprietor Ed Neuser. It was a 1998 Vidal, and it was very good, and from that moment I knew the region had a signature that was all about finesse, and that it could—and very likely would—emerge as a quality wine region. On Monday, they handed out poster sized maps of the new PEC DVA showing 15 wineries (three more opening in the weeks ahead). The maps were signed by the politicians who rubber-stamped the process. They should have been signed by all the people who have invested and sweat so much over the past ten years and actually have put Prince Edward County on the map.

Said Richard Johnston, chairman of the PEC Winegrowers Association: “In eight short but challenging years, we have gone from being dismissed as preposterous dreamers trying to grow fine wine in an impossibly cool climate, to heralded winegrowers using innovative viticultural techniques.”

Here are a dozen Ontario Wine Award and Artevino winners that I personally recommend. Look for them either at today’s SIP event, their respective wineries, or at www.winerytohome.com:

Flat Rock 2006 Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard, NiagaraOWA Silver, 90 points, $19.95, www.winerytohome.com

1. Flat Rock 2005 Gravity Pinot Reserve, NiagaraOWA Gold, 90 points, $29.95, winery

2. Rosehall Run 2005 Chardonnay RRV, Prince EdwardArtevino Gold, 90 points, $24.95, winery

3. Rosehall Run 2005 St. Cindy Pinot Noir, Prince EdwardArtevino Silver, 90 points, $34.95, winery

4. 13th St Premier Cuvee Brut, Niagara OWA Gold, 89 points, $28, winery

5. Fielding 2006 Gewurztraminer Reserve, NiagaraOWA Gold, 89 points, $22, winery

6. Creekside 2005 Chardonnay Reserve Butler’s Grant Vineyard, NiagaraOWA Bronze, 89 points, $18.95, www.winerytohome.com or Vintages June 23

7. Peninsula Ridge 2005 Fume BlancOWA Silver, 88 points, $26.95, www.winerytohome.com

8. Huff Estate 2006 Rosé, Prince Edward Artevino Silver, 88 points, $14.95, www.winerytohome.com

9. Mountain Road 2003 Chardonnay Reserve, NiagaraOWA Gold, 88 points, $26.15, winery

10. Sandbanks 2006 Riesling, Prince EdwardArtevino Gold, 87 points, $16.15, www.winerytohome.com

11. Reif 2006 Chenin Blanc, NiagaraOWA Gold, 87 points, $18.95, winery

12. Coyote’s Run 2006 Pinot Gris, NiagaraOWA Silver, 87 points, $18.20, www.winerytohome.com