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I recently received letters from readers searching for a guide to Ontario's top wines. As a critic, I am inundated with lists, award announcements, various buying guides, you name it. Unfortunately, there is no single source revealing all of Ontario's award winning wines - at least until now.
Trying to get an overview, my assistant and I worked through the results of five key competitions, all of which focused on Ontario wines. Having personally participated in a number of these, I am well aware of the limitations of the end results, which tend to reflect group consensus rather than a consistency of a single palate.
Another problem with the results is that some wineries refuse to enter their wines. This happens when they don't have sufficient volume, meaning that the wine sells out regardless of the award. In other cases, it is fear of having the reputation of a wine damaged - i.e. coming up with only a bronze medal for a high-priced reserve. I have also been told that non-entry is due to the inconsistency and unreliability of some of the fee-based judgings.
In 2007, there were a total 394 awards - 23 from Artevino, 24 from Cuvée (gold awards only), 72 from the Ontario Wine Awards, 102 from the All Canadian Wine Championship and 173 recently announced awards (representing 44% of the total) from the Canadian Wine Awards.
What makes the results so surprising is the lack of consensus. Of the actual 339 award-winning wines, 287 (85%) got awards in just a single competition. A total of 49 (14%) got awards in two competitions, while only three wines (1%) got awards in three. In fact, only 20 wines (6%) received the same award in two competitions. Not a single wine got an identical award in three or more of the competitions.
It is also worth noting that when it comes to gold awards, results vary from Cuvée (100% gold) to the All Canadian Wine Championship (39% of their awards) down to a measly 9 golds (5%) from the Canadian Wine Awards. Readers wanting to investigate these results can download our Wine Awards Canada summaries sorted by wine type or by winery on my website. You will find it useful when ordering an Ontario wine from a restaurant wine list.
Trying to actually buy the award winners, however, isn't going to be easy. Many selections are now gone and/or vintages have changed. For example, of the sole four wines that received two gold medals virtually nothing remains. Only remnants of the double-gold Henry of Pelham 2005 Reserve Chardonnay (252833) at $14.95 linger on the LCBO general list shelves. It has been replaced with the still youthful 2006, which doesn't seem quite as appealing.
Looking for a great sparkler? Try the Cuvée gold medal Cave Spring Cellars 2004 Brut (49981) an October 12th Vintages unpresented in-store discovery, which as of last Wednesday was still available in 32 stores at $29.95. Dry, crisp and gently toasty, this 100% Chardonnay is made in the traditional Champagne method.
Also at the LCBO is one of only three wines to get three awards, Peller Estates Ice Cuvée (53199) at $30.15 along with 10 bonus airmiles. This méthode classique sparkler has a small dosage of icewine. It's effervescent, very gently sweet, ripe melon flavours make it wonderful holiday aperitif. It also works perfectly with soups and appetizers.
Of course, many first class wines are never entered meaning that they reside undiscovered at the wineries. From Peninsula Ridge, for instance, I recently tasted two terrific whites. The first was Peninsula Ridge 2006 Fumé Blanc, which is fairly rich and very tangy with yellow grapefruit and buttered toast flavours. A bit too big for seafood, it should work well with roast turkey. It is being released this Saturday at the winery (or via internet sales) at $26.95.
As for the much deeper yellow coloured Peninsula Ridge 2006 Reserve Viognier, this is a landmark effort with wonderful extract and loaded with toasty, warm brioche and spicy, ripe melon and candied grapefruit peel flaviours. Norm Beal says that a small release will take place at the end of January at $49.95 a bottle.
To help you buy the best, readers can download my 176 Vintages release tasting notes for the entire year (click here to see the fully linked pdf). They are listed from the most recent release and linked to the LCBO website meaning that it it is a breeze to check availability. As for the four-page Ontario summary of 2007 Wine Awards Canada (339 listings) - click here to see the awards sorted by type of wine. To see the awards sorted by winery click here
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
use our Tasting
Notes Database: click
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