Home > Cabernet Franc, Experiences, Travel, wine, Winery > Experiencing Wines of Canada

Experiencing Wines of Canada

Coming back to the memories of “ahh-so-distant-by-now” our Canada vacation (it’s been almost a month!), I need to share my wine experiences with you. You might remember two earlier posts (you can find them here and here), which I prefer to refer to as “picture reports”, which gave you the visual expression of the food and some of the wines in Canada. However, we had an opportunity to spend some time in one of the Canadian wine countries, surrounding the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake – and it was an eye-opening experience for me.

Until this trip, my idea of Canadian wines was very simple – Icewine. I knew for a while that Canada makes some really famous Icewines, which compete with German and Austrian Icewines. Outside of Icewine, my only reference were wines of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York (general direction of Canada). While I wouldn’t claim that I visited a mass amount of wineries in Finger Lakes, in a few places we visited the only drinkable wines were Rieslings, and all the red wines were plain bad. Therefore, these were my expectations for Canadian wines.

I decided to start from the winery with the name at least I heard of – Inniskillin, and of course, the only wine I knew “of fame” there was an Icewine. As a side note, I want to mention that the winery had a playroom for kids – which is a very important factor in letting adults enjoy wine tasting, even during family vacation. The first wine we tried was 2010 Two Vineyard Riesling – very clean, good tropical fruit expression, all paired with beautiful acidity, a nice finish. This was a great start of the tasting. The next wine completely blew me away – the 2009 Legacy Series Pinot Gris. First, I didn’t expect Pinot Gris to be produced in Canada. But is not the main factor. Very complex, with explicit minerality and spicy bouquet on the palate, this wine still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.

After having a great start with the whites, my level of expectations increased for the reds – and rightfully so. 2009 Montague Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir was very nice, varietally correct with a precise expression of smokiness and red fruit. Again, I would never expect to find a Pinot Noir of such clarity at a winery located so high up North – but I did. 2009 Shiraz Cabernet had perfect acidity, good minerality, just the right balance of dark fruit. 2009 Cabernet Franc was simply my favorite red wine – perfect, very balanced, with clearly expressed green peppers and explicit minerality (you might think that I’m abusing the term – but minerality was one of the key characteristics of all the Inniskillin wines we tasted, so I can’t help myself but to call it out).

As you might expect, sweet wines were next. We are not talking about some arbitrary late harvest wines – we are talking about Icewines, which have the highest sugar concentration out of all sweet wines, as the grapes are ripening on the vines until the frost reaches –8°C (about 17F) – then the grapes are harvested while being frozen and pressed right away – which yields a tiny amount of super-concentrated grape juice – this is why the wines are called Icewine (also such a low yield explains the high price of the Icewines). First, we tried the 2010 Sparkling Vidal Icewine, which was very light and delicate. 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine was a real star though. I have to mention that Inniskillin was the first winery to produce Icewine from the red grape. Also, Inniskillin worked together with Riedel, the leading wine glass maker in the world, to produce a specially shaped Icewine glass that enhances the aromatics of the Icewine.

Going back to Cabernet France Icewine, it was incredible, one of the best ever dessert wines I ever tried. Why am I saying that? Balance. Ultimate Balance was the first and foremost characteristic of this wine. Beautiful balance, perfect lingering acidity, and literally unnoticeable sweetness – great wine. All in all, it was an outstanding lineup of wines at Inniskillin, I can’t recommend highly enough each and every wine I tried.

Next stop we made at the Cattail Creek Family Estate winery. One of the reasons to pick that particular winery was the fact that they have a few wines with the grapes I didn’t have before, like Chardonnay Musque, or different Riesling clones. I’m glad we stopped by, as we found more great tasting wines, plus most of the wines are made in very small quantities, so many are available only at the winery itself. First, we tried 2008 Catastrophe White, which was perfectly refreshing, with good acidity and a good amount of white fruit. Then we tried 2009 Catastrophe Red, which had very good balance, nice red and black fruit expression, soft and pleasant. It is interesting to note that Catastrophe wine series labels depict real cats who lived at the winery. Last but not least was the 2009 Chardonnay Musque – very nice, with good acidity, good reflection of what Chardonnay is, good subtle tropical fruit expression, more as a hint. This was yet another great experience.

Our last stop was Chateau des Charmes. This winery had the most impressive building of all:

The wines here were also very impressive. We started with 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling (I wanted to experience “old vines” Riesling) – and to my complete surprise, this Riesling had a Petrol nose! I was always under the impression that Petrol nose is a property of only German Rieslings – and here we go, Riesling from Canada with full classic German Riesling expression. In addition to the Petrol nose, it also had very good fruit, medium body and perfect balancing acidity. Next were more of the very impressive Pinot Noirs. 2007 Pinot Noir had a beautiful nose, and lots of tannins on the palate – it was unusually muscular for the Pinot Noir, probably in need of a few years to open up, but still, it was very good. 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Pinot Noir was also very big and powerful, with a clean smoky nose, but also needing time as the previous wine.

Last but not least was 2008 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’, which happened to be a clone of Gamay and therefore it accounted for an additional grape for my “counting grapes” project. This wine had a very unusual herbaceous nose, and was nice and light on the palate – definitely a food-friendly wine.

That concludes the Canadian wine story, as we didn’t have time to visit more places. But even based on this experience, if before I knew of only Icewines from Canada, now all the Canadian wines are squarely on the “to find and drink” list for me – and I highly recommend that you will make an effort to find them and try them as well. The challenge is – I didn’t see that many Canadian wines on the shelves of the wine stores here in Connecticut. Oh well, hopefully, we can change that. Cheers!

  1. October 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

    If I find Canadian Ice Wine in Munich then I will buy some. I assume though that it’s going to be hard to find..

    • talkavino
      October 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

      well, yes, this might be a problem. According to wine-searcher, it is sold in a few places in Germany, but definitely the cost is absolutely prohibitive… May be one day you will travel to Canada : )

    • October 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      I hopefully will 🙂 I’ve seen much of the United States but have never been to Canada.

      • talkavino
        October 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm

        So now I gave you a reason to correct that : )

  2. August 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

    As you know, I’m from Canada- west side of the country though. I aim to get down east and visit the Canadian wine counterpart to the Okanagan wines I’m more familiar with. I’m happy to hear of the open mind you had with your tastings! I recently tasted the 1998 Chateau de Charmes late harvest Riesling my cousin had stashed away. I was totally blown away.mostly because of the age of it. I’ll be blogging about it soon! Cheers!

    • talkavino
      August 24, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      We had a great experience in Canada – it is too bad those wines are not available in US, they were really good. And Chateau de Charmes is magnificent, worth a visit on its own.

  1. December 27, 2011 at 8:40 am
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  3. May 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm
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