Wine Access, November
Ontario producers push for sub-appellations in Niagara, Pelee
Island and Erie North Shore
VQA Ontario recently held a series of meetings with wineries
and grape growers on the creation of "sub-appellations" within
the existing viticultural areas of Niagara, Pelee Island and Erie
North Shore. A two-year study of microclimates and soils, led
by Dr. Tony Shaw of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture
Institute at Brock University, was presented and 11 potential
sub-appellations were identified. Can we expect a rigid French-style
system? "No," said Laurie Macdonald, executive director of VQA
Ontario, "we just want to define the geographic areas right now,"
and she acknowledged that no consensus has emerged that any particular
areas of Ontario are the "best" places to grow certain varieties.
Macdonald said that although the push for sub-appellations came
mainly from producers, "more wineries are using geographical descriptions
other than Niagara Peninsula or Lake Erie North Shore. People
phone us and ask what it means; what are the boundaries of the
Beamsville Bench? The fact is, it's not defined." Macdonald is
hopeful that the ongoing consultation process will go smoothly
and the official designations will be signed into law as early
as next spring.
Ontario VQA stores remain stalled, while Liberals sit on bill
Tim Hudak, a Conservative MPP from Niagara, introduced a private
member's bill at Queen's Park in November 2003 to permit privately-run
retail outlets to sell VQA wines, but the bill has languished.
"Initially I had some encouraging comments from [Liberal] ministers,"
said Hudak, "but almost a year has passed and I've yet to see
any action." Hudak pointed to the successful program in British
Columbia, which now has around 20 stores licenced to sell only
VQA wines, as a model. There are over 250 privately-run outlets
selling Ontario wines, but the number of licences was capped in
1988 in General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs negotiations. Hudak's
bill would create "new VQA-only Ontario wine stores. It would
allow cross-selling of brands, so multiple wineries would be represented
in each store. Currently winery retail stores are limited to selling
only the brands of that particular company." Hudak says he is
optimistic about the bill and that there is strong support from
the wine industry. However, Liberal Minister of Consumer and Business
Services, Jim Watson, said that although he likes the idea, the
trade agreements are crystal clear: we can't favour domestic products.
Watson said that the existing licences were "grandfathered" and
that B.C. had re-defined pre-existing licences, something the
Ontario industry is reluctant to do. "If we could do this within
international law, I'd be the first one there clipping a ribbon
at a VQA store," Watson said. In other words, don't hold your
After nearly a decade at Inniskillin, Philip Dowell heads
back to Australia, and the search is on for his replacement
Inniskillin's winemaker of six years, Philip Dowell, has gone
back to Australia. Billion-dollar powerhouse Southcorp, whose
wines include Penfolds, Rosemount and Lindemans, has been struggling
lately with reduced sales, and offered Dowell the post of head
winemaker at a new venture. Inniskillin's Donald Ziraldo said
"it was a tough decision, and we had a tearful evening before
he and his family left." Ziraldo is confident Inniskillin will
continue to produce noteworthy wines: "Karl Kaiser is still doing
the icewine, but we're going to find someone else for the table
wine. For the 2004 vintage, Dowell surveyed the vineyards, decided
on the fruit to use before leaving, and everything was allocated.
The Inniskillin team will take care of [the 2004] vintage." The
search is underway. "The competition is open to anyone and I want
the best person I can get. If I have to go outside Canada, then
absolutely I will. We hired Philip because his focus was on pinot
noir and chardonnay, and that's still the area we'd like to focus
on, so Burgundy might be an area we'll look at. We're focused
on cool climate wine style." Ziraldo's in no rush, and he anticipates
the new winemaker will not come on board until next year. Hopefully
Dowell's replacement will be able to match his sublime 2002 Reserve
Pinot which, at $18 or so, is an incredible bargain.
Pelee Island Trials Tempranillo
Described as "finicky," Spain's tempranillo grape
gets a workout in Canada's most southerly region
It's the grape that makes Rioja and so it's appropriate that
the southernmost winery in Canada is trying its luck with tempranillo.
Spain's top varietal was rarely cultivated elsewhere until recently.
Now, in addition to plantings in California, Oregon, Mexico and
Argentina, there is a patch of tempranillo on Pelee Island. Vineyard
manager Bruno Friesen said, "we planted in 2001, but we haven't
had a crop yet. They're still a bit finicky." With 500 acres and
the warmest climate in Ontario, Pelee Island Winery can afford
to try new varieties. Grapes currently being tested include shiraz,
malbec, lemberger and bianca, among others. "They may be used
for blending, but if something looks promising, we'll try it as
a single varietal," said Friesen. Kevin Donohue, vineyard manager
at Colio Estates in Lake Erie North Shore, agrees that many reds
do better in that part of Ontario. "Our big reds are superior
to Niagara's. We're generally warmer all year round, but it's
really our longer, warmer fall that benefits those later-ripening
red varieties." Last year, Colio Estates' 2000 CEV Merlot Reserve
won top honours at Les Citadelles du Vin at VINEXPO in Bordeaux
- a first for an Ontario merlot.
Live at the ACCC
The Association of Canadian Community Colleges picks a winner
Niagara College's Winery and Viticulture Technician program earned
a Program Excellence Award from the Association of Canadian Community
Colleges (ACCC), and was honoured last June in Saskatoon. Niagara
College has Canada's only teaching winery and students produced
a chardonnay judged 2002 White Wine of the Year at the Canadian
Wine Awards. "The program's success is a clear reflection of the
quality of the program and our Professor/Winemaker Jim Warren,"
said Niagara College Dean Jon Ogryzlo.