Ontario Report

Wine Access, December 2005

Winery boom
The Ontario wine industry roared ahead in 2005: further to openings we've already covered this year - Stratus, Flat Rock, Tawse and Fielding in Niagara, and Closson Chase in Prince Edward County - yet more wineries opened or will soon in Niagara and Erie North Shore.

Hidden Bench is new, but their vines are anything but: "this year the Rosomel vineyard's riesling are 30 years old and the merlot 27," said owner Harald Thiel, adding that a number of award winning wines have come from that vineyard. Winemaker Jean-Martin Bouchard, originally from Quebec, trained in Australia and Alsace. People are confident about Hidden Bench: 120 or so buyers have pre-reserved the first wines due for release in September 2006. I

n Erie North Shore, grape growers George and Mary Jane Smith opened Smith & Wilson Estate Wines at the end of July. Off Highway 3 and overlooking Lake Erie at the westernmost edge of the viticultural zone, the Smiths tend sixteen varieties and produce half a dozen wines themselves. They will sell their 5,000 case production themselves, so you'll have to visit to sample their baco noir, gamay-merlot, vidal or gewurztraminer, all VQA.

Near Windsor is Viewpointe Estate Winery. John Fancsy converted his brother's farm into a vineyard and bought more property in 2000. They will produce 10,000 cases eventually from their vast range of grapes: how about viognier, tempranillo, auxerrois and pinot gris as well as the usual suspects? Don't look for them at the LCBO, however, they're selling locally and in the metro Detroit area. Fancsy said the stores there are "very receptive. In Michigan, I can place my wines in selected stores, where I don't really have that opportunity with the LCBO."

Three new wineries will open next year in Erie North Shore: Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, Muscadere Vineyards and Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, all in Harrow.

VQA Ontario update
The sub-appellations plan was approved by the VQA board and members earlier this year, but a ministry shuffle means it was still not enacted as law by press time. Responsibility for the VQA was moved to the new Ministry of Government Services, so a whole new crew of bureaucrats had to look at planned changes. VQA Director Laurie Macdonald is confident it will soon be law.

As of the March 31, 2005, 78 members offered 843 VQA wines. But approval is no rubber stamp: 204 submissions were denied the right to use the VQA label. The agency also conducted 137 audits - random inspections to ensure compliance. Chardonnay remained top varietal, but VQA shipments were down 21% because of crop shortages, especially among the reds, thanks to the previous year's nasty winter. As a result, the annual report stated, "no production trends can be gleaned from this year's data." .

Ontario's finest Shiraz
Malivoire Winery, known for cool climate grapes like pinot noir, chardonnay and gewurztraminer, has added Shiraz - Shiraz Mottiar, that is. Malivoire's new winemaker took over the reins from six-year veteran Anne Sperling in time for this year's crush. Sperling stayed on as an advisor - "she has a lot of experience and the picking date is probably the most important factor at harvest," said Mottiar. Mottiar, from Fergus, Ont., earned his promotion after five years at Malivoire. "Honestly I have to credit my name for getting me into the wine business," he said. "Friends would say 'we had a bottle of you last night' when I was twenty, twenty one. My family were not wine drinkers - Shiraz is a Persian name." Mottiar is also among the first alumni of the CCOVI program at Brock University: "The timing was bang on. I'd been considering oenology at UC Davis or in Australia, but when I learned that Brock had started a program I applied there."

Using grapes he grew himself on a Beamsville property he owns, Mottiar released his first pinot gris at the Niagara Wine Festival at the end of September. "I am very pleased with it - it was a beautiful season last year." New French oak fermenters were introduced for the pinot noir, but Malivoire has no plans to grow shiraz according to Mottiar, who is not convinced of the viability of the grape in Niagara: "There's only room for one Shiraz in this region," he said.

^ top