You can’t visit a virtual winery, but these wines are very real—and worth tracking down
It takes a certain amount of insanity and passion to produce and sell a good bottle of wine at a bricks-and-mortar winery. But some of the best wines in Ontario are made by virtual wineries, which have no fixed address or even grapes of their own.
A virtual winemaker purchases grapes from specific vineyards or regions and turns them into wine, under their own niche label, at an existing winery. The practice has existed in Ontario since the 1990s, but the biggest problem for virtual winemakers is that, without a physical presence, most people don’t know that these cult favourites exist. You don’t need to be a wine snob to track down these bottles: their rarity only makes finding them even more worthwhile.
The former winemaker at Niagara’s Le Clos Jordanne has his own label that spans three countries: look for Bachelder in the Ontario, Oregon and France sections of the LCBO. Given his reputation, it’s no surprise that his focus remains on pinot noir and chardonnay.
Availability: Select restaurants and Vintages locations.
Drink this: Niagara Chardonnay; Wismer Wingfield Chardonnay (September 30); Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 (September 30); Saunders Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2013 (October 14).
Shooting some product in the studio today for Nyarai Cellars. Best part… I get to keep them and sample when I'm done. Yum! #nyaraicellars #vqaniagarapeninsula #winelovers #foodanddrink #productphotography #winephotography #commercialphotography #sherrysmithphotography #brantfordphotography #brantfordphotostudio
Nyarai (pronounced na-rye) means “humble” in southern Africa’s Shona dialect, and it’s an appropriate way to describe winemaker Steve Byfield’s wines, which are designed to pair easily with food.
Availability: Select restaurants, online and at Grey County’s Coffin Ridge Winery (599448 Concession Rd 2 N, Annan, ON)
Drink this: 2016 Pinot Gris, 2012 Veritas
Winemaker Derek Barnett is known, from his previous stints at Niagara’s Southbrook and Lailey wineries, for red wines with long ageing potential. But the strength of his Meldville label lies in approachable white wines. Barnett is also the winemaker at Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County.
Availability: Restaurants, Archive Wine Bar, online and at Niagara’s Legends Estates Winery
Drink this: 2015 chardonnay, 2016 sauvignon blanc
Consider this the cult winery within the cult winery: Winemakers Adam Kern and Chris Fornassier are producing a small portfolio of wines from a sliver of space at Niagara’s Pearl Morissette.
Availability: Online only
Drink this: 2011 Testimony Cabernet Franc
2027 wines have been spotted on LCBO shelves—albeit briefly. The Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay that graced the shelves in spring didn’t stay there long. Don’t worry, it will be making a return in September.
Availability: Select restaurants and the LCBO
Drink this: Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2014 (September 2); Queenston Road Vineyard Blanc de Blanc 2013 (September 16); Falls Vineyard Riesling 2016 (September 30); Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 (October 28)