09/06/2019

A passport to Canada

On a hot day in May the English Nose presented her passport at Canada House on Trafalgar Square for a tasting of “some of the very best that Canada’s wine producers have to offer.” 

I quote from The Canadian High Commissioner Janice Charette who drew attention to the Cabernet Franc feature table in her foreword to the tasting and signed off with a delightfully informal, 

“Cheers!”

I have to be honest the Cabernet Franc table didn’t really hit the mark for me. However this caught my eye.

Hidden Bench Estate Winery, Terroir Caché, Red Meritage 2015 

This was gamey, grippy with fresh green tomato notes. It had a somewhat animal appeal. 

Entering the main room, the first side was devoted to Ontario and it looped around Nova Scotia and came back through British Columbia. The wineries listed below were among my favourites.

Ontario

Ontario is a cool viticultural region and the vineyards benefit from the proximity to three of the five Great Lakes of North America. 

I started in the Niagara Peninsula is a sprawling viticultural region in Ontario with a plethora of sub-regions, microclimates and soils in which clay and limestone seem to feature prominently so I was expecting good varietal Pinot and Chardonnay, but hoping for more ‘terroir’ driven wines and I was not disappointed.

Bachelder

Bachelder have vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula

Bachelder ‘Les Villages’ Niagara Reserva Blend Pinot Noir 2016

Pure, light and silky. It is possibly more varietal led… very pinot.. but undeniably delish.

Thomas Bachelder

Wismer West Chardonnay 2016

From sub region of Twenty Mile Bench. This is 800m from the lake on limestone. Peachy and ripe, but also quite compact. Definitely feeling the cooler climate and the limestone here. 

Leaning Post

Also from Twenty Mile Bench comes a pretty Riesling from Leaning Post. Leaning Post is a winery in Winona run by husband and wife team Ilya and Nadia Senchuk who make a basket of grape varieties. I didn’t try them all, but liked the Riesling, Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir. Ilya was a professional winemaker and continues to work as a consultant winemaker while pursuing his dream with his wife and young family.

Wismer Vineyard Riesling 2017

This is picked later into October. It has a little residual sugar, but not too sweet.. really just off dry. It is fragrant, floral and delicate with a lovely balanced freshness.  

Senchuk Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

This was by far the most interesting of their two pinots. It has floral notes, peonies. Juicy on the attack. Lovely silky texture. It is light, elegant and has good intensity. Plentiful crispness. 

Ilya explains it is from their ‘home’ vineyard which lies 800m from the lake and has a more ‘marine’ micro-climate. The influence of the lake is evidence in the later harvest date – about two weeks. The soil has clay with limestone about 1 meter beneath.  

Megalomaniac

I do like a maverick and Sebastien Jacquey with his winery Megalomaniac seems to fit the bill nicely. His edgy Pinot is planted on quite exposed limestone and is not for the faint hearted, but I do like a bit of limestone so it appealed to me.  

Reserve Pinot Noir 2017

This is also from Twenty Mile Bench. It’s quite a heady 14%, but you don’t notice… The soil is just 6-8 inches thick and then onto the limestone. He does a cold soak and 35 day total batting – yes 35 days – quite long. It has the strict tannins you expect from limestone. It like the tension and vitality. It has edge and needs time. 

Narcissist Riesling 2018

A chalky, lively, fresh wine… more on the savoury mineral side.   

His sparking wine Bubblehead was pretty good too. 

Closson Chase Vineyards

Closson Chase Vineyards is in Prince Edward County the smallest viticultural region in Ontario with just 800 acres and 30 wineries. Nick Bertrand (above) was among the pioneers here setting up in an old dairy barn. I particularly liked his Chardonnay and Pinot Gris

Closson Chase K.J. Watson Pinot Gris 2018

This has 45 days on the lees in stainless steel and is good and dry. It’s floral and has notes of lychee. Light, pure, energetic with some bite. The lees give it texture. This is not a complex wine, but it’s very nice.

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2017

Rich, rocky, layering. Strong minerality. It’s a firm and powerful wine. A quality performance.

Tawse Winery

Quarry Road Chardonnay

Quite a rich wine with good mineral layering and quite an intense finish.

Nova Scotia

By the far end the room the Nose found herself in the chilly outpost of Nova Scotia and was in search of buoyancy in the form of  fizz. This is the place for it. This is frontier territory… here the settlers planted vines as early as the C17th. Conditions are challenging. It has a windswept maritime climate and it took tough hybrids to survive. Today braver folk plant trad Champenois varieties to good effect.  There are only about 800 acres under vines with 20 wineries and a quarter of those make sparking wine.

The nose quivered appreciatively over the wines of Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards.

Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards.

The winery is named after the family – ‘Lightfoot’ & the seemingly pretty rare Wolfville soil. I’m told  it makes up only 3% of the region’s soil spectrum. The top soil is glacial till with coarse sandy loam, below this is clay which holds the water well. The farming is certified organic and run on biodynamic lines. They are using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and I was taken with their wines. I wish I had the capacity to try the full range. 

Lightfoot & Wolfville Valley

Blanc de Blanc Brut Nature 2012

Fine boned, energetic fresh and citrus with light leesy notes.

Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut Late Disgorged 2013

This had been disgorged in 2018. Buttery, toasty and inviting aroma with a silky smooth palate of macadamia nut richness with nicely balanced freshness. So alluring and generous on the finish.   

Benjamin Bridge

The hang time is phenomenal in Nova Scotia, where the grapes reach the same sugar levels in November that vines in Sonoma reach in July…while retaining the high acidity. Pretty cool.

Method Classique Brut Reserve 2012

A sophisticated nose and a firm and well structured palate with yeasty notes, light toast, a fine mousse and a pointed finish. Accomplished. 

While I had every intention of working my way through British Columbia I found myself faltering. Tasting through Ontario I had missed lunch and had no reserves to bolster me through the well proportioned reds.. I did try some… I was not going to make it through.  

Just before leaving I made a pit stop at Pentage Winery to taste one ice wine.

REBEL PI

REBEL Pi (private Label) 2016

I stopped as it’s the only ice wine made from Roussanne anywhere.. apparently. Moreover it’s made by new comer to the wine trade Jackie Fast.. as someone also embarking on her own winemaking career, after years as a wine writer I know how difficult it can be to create a niche, so I was happy to take a look.

It was aromatic, floral with a lightish bodied – it’s just 11 percent. A restrained lightly topical lychee palate and sweet of course, but nicely balanced.. delicately delicious. 

And now it was time to brave the crowds on Trafalgar Square once again… and to go back to The High Commissioner’s preface to the tasting book. She concluded “we look forward to hearing your feedback.” 

Well this is mine Janice. Hope it passes muster. 

Cheers!   

www.hiddenbench.com 

www.thomasbachelder.com are imported into the UK by Liberty Wines

www.clossonchase.com

www.tawsewinery.co imported by Folly Wines

www.leaningpostwines.com

www.megalomaniacwines.com

www. benjaminbridge.com imported into the UK by Friarwood 

www.lightfootandwolf.com

www.REBELPI.com