Newsletter #276 - The State of Ontario Reds – A Commentary/Observation

26 Jan 2017

 Newsletter #276 

January 26, 2017


  • WineReview: The State of Ontario Reds – A Commentary/Observation

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Latest Videos

  • Ontario Wine UpdatesRe-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

  • Grape Guy Events:  Make The Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

WineReview:  The State of Ontario Reds – A Commentary/Observation

Welcome back fellow Ontarians, I trust you had a great and restful holiday, drank plenty of great wines, got your fill of friends and family, caught up on those lost hours of sleep and received all you wanted … and now an official welcome to 2017.

It’s going to be a very interesting year – sure our collective gaze will be cast south of the border: who wouldn’t be interested in the mess going on down there? But there are also interesting things happening right here at home, and while wine may not be at the top of everyone’s mind, as say energy and gas prices, there are still some issues to be discussed.

I’ll start with a good news story:  for the first time this year I actually overheard the following said by the staff at a grocery store; “We’ll need to get that cleaned up in the wine section.” I almost forgot where I was.  Was I dreaming? Was I out of the country? Nope that was right here in Ontario; and while I didn’t stop everything to go check it out, it was eye-brow raising to hear it … I still believe it will take Ontarians awhile to get fully out of the LCBO-exclusivity mindset for wine, but we’ll get there; it is a step forward.

Sadly over the holidays I was also reminded of our backward thinking:  A winemaker called me just after the New Year to wish me the salutations of the season, then asked if I had seen the LCBO’s 2015 annual report summary (found here). Buried deep within this one page document (3 pages printed), amongst the dollars the LCBO had brought in (1.451 billion), Ontario’s continuous growing love for California wine (up 11.5%), the continued decline of the Aussies (down 2.7%), and the cliff dive of South Africa (down 6.5%) were the numbers for Ontario wines, which provided me a variety of “moments”.

A good moment … Ontario sparkling wine is booming, up 10.6% and if you’ve tried Ontario bubbles you’ll know this number is set to grow even higher.  Thumbs up.

An indifferent moment … Pinot Grigio continues to have its day in the sun, up 29%, while Chardonnay and Riesling are modestly up, 8.5 and 6.2 % respectively, showing that Ontario wine drinkers continue the move away from interesting wines and into bland trendy ones.

A disturbing moment … International Canadian Blends continue their rise, with expected growth of 6.5%, while VQA wines will only move up 4.4% - is this something we should really be cheering about? Or the LCBO backing?  This means that 100% Ontario wines are still being outpaced in growth and sales by the inferior, non-descript foreign/domestic blends that continue to haunt us and stymie the growth of quality, terroir-driven wines in this province.

An eye-opening moment … The willingness of the Ontario wine industry to look backward to “drive the industry forward” continues unabated with this declaration in the LCBO report:  “VQA red wines’ growth was driven by Baco Noir, which accounted for 20.5% of red growth …”  Huh?  Really?  If someone were to ask you what the bestselling/fasting growing red variety in the LCBO is would Baco Noir have been at the top of your list?  Mine would have included Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir or even Gamay – but Baco?  

Look, with all due respect to Henry of Pelham, who can’t possibly account for the full 20% growth, this means Baco is being made, or sold, as quality wine through LCBO channels and is dominating all other varieties – and that is downright depressing; with all the quality wines being made in this province, Baco Noir continues to be king … Sigh.  The counter argument is, well that’s only at the LCBO; but sadly these numbers translate to the wineries cellar doors.  Case-in-point:  over the Christmas break I was at one winery who poured for me their first ever attempt at Baco, and I was appalled that a quality wine venue would stoop so low as to now include Baco on their wine list, but I was told, “That’s what people want.”

I disagree with that statement - I just don’t think they know better.

Look my talks with people about Baco usually go something like this
Them:  “I love Baco”
Me:  “Really? Whose Baco do you like?”
T:  “I love Henry of Pelham’s Baco Noir”
M:  “Have you had Baco from anywhere else?”
T:  “No just Henry of Pelham.”
The conversation usually ends there, but what I really want to do is slap them upside the head and say, “You don’t “love Baco”, you like Henry of Pelham Baco, there’s a difference.”

People, we have got to stop believing that all Baco is created equal, Henry of Pelham have found themselves a niche, and it works for them – but just because they make good Baco doesn’t mean everyone else in this province does, nor should it be driving the Ontario red wine train in the LCBO.  It’s time to stop leaning on the Baco-crutch and move on to the quality wines Ontario is producing from the noble red varieties; let Henry have their niche, it works for them, and they do it well, but don’t be fooled into believing that all Baco is the same.  Because once we decide that Baco reigns it’s only a matter of time before more and more producers are testing the waters with their version of this grape.

I brought up my dire concerns at a recent gathering of wine friends and someone remarked, “That could never happen.” Yet many said the same thing about Hitler and Trump.  Don’t let Baco Noir be the destiny of the Ontario wine industry.  Resist.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Chateau des Charmes 2015 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ ($17.95) – W, L
When I learned that Chateau des Charmes puts no oak into their Gamay ‘Droit’ I started to kick myself – I had all these great older vintages of Droit that should have been drunk upon release, or at least within a few years; so here’s my newest recommendation for this wine: buy lots of it, don’t hold onto it, instead drink and guzzle all you can as soon as possible, it’s a delicious beauty loaded with sweet cherry at its core with wisps of white pepper and a great fruit to acidity balance.  Drink. Drink all you can and savour how wonderful this wine is, while it is young and fresh.  Price: $17.95 – Rating: ****+

Diamond Estates 2014 Chardonnay, McMichael Collection – Group of 7 ($14.95) – W, L
It’s an unoaked Chardonnay that really delivers on fresh fruit with peach, apple, pear and lively acidity; finish shows off that gentle fruit-sweetness and delicate citrus. Price: $14.95 - Rating: ****

Henry of Pelhem 2014 Baco Noir, Old Vines ($19.95) – W, L
I got the chance to try the newest incarnation of Baco in the Henry of Pelham line-up, and while Baco still is not my grape of choice (by a long shot) this  2014 Baco Noir, Old Vines ($19.95) has real wine character, which makes me proclaim: the Speck brothers have done it again - taking this lowly, unimpressive grape and turning it into a proper wine (folks this truly is a skill):  blackberry, cassis, mocha, black cherry, with a nice hit of spiced black-cherry and acid on the finish. I would also like to remind you that if you like Henry of Pelham Baco, and it's the only Baco you can name, you are NOT a "Baco fan" you are a Henry of Pelham Baco fan, there's a distinction there.  Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****+

Malivoire 2013 Merlot, Stouck Vineyard  ($34.95) – W
A classicly made smooth and silky Merlot aged in a mix of French and American oak (20% new). You’ll find a mix of blue and black berries along with black cherry, mocha and spice on the long luxurious finish.  Malivoire has found something special in the Stouck vineyard, especially when it comes those Bordeaux varietals.  Price: $34.95 – Rating: ****

Tawse 2013 Pinot Noir, Tintern Road Vineyard ($44.95) – W
Those who are already enamored by Tawse Pinot Noir will love this wine – the rest of you will also enjoy this beauty, though there’s an element of you who will be more floored than others.  There’s a hint of smoke amongst a mix of red and black fruit, white pepper; plus some tannins and acidity that brings a nice balance to this wine. The one’s who will be floored are those that only think of Tawse for Riesling, Chardonnay and Sparkling … the rest of us knew they did a great job with Pinot too.  Price: $44.95 - Rating: ****

Trius / Hillebrand 2012 Merlot, Showcase – RHS ($40.00) – W
RHS stands for Right Hand Side, which is where these grapes are located in the vineyard. There seems to be a creamy blueberry sensation that sits at the core of this wine; there’s also some smoky, gritty tannins surrounded by chocolate (on the nose) and baker’s cocoa (on the palate), plus there are elements of cassis, plum and white pepper.  Price: $40.00 - Rating: ****

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

Wine Meme of the Month ...

The Weekly Wine Video Series: A Recap of the Latest Videos

The Weekly Wine Videos
Every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Wine Videos

Video #200 - Marynissen 2014 Gamay Noir, Platinum Series (Niagara)
Video #201 - Creekside 2012 Broken & UnBroken Press Syrah (Niagara)
Video #202 - Pelee Island 2012 Vinedressers Chardonnay (Lake Erie North Shore)
Video #203 - Strewn 2012 Merlot Comparison (Niagara)


International Wines Series ... 

Prats & Symington 2011 Prazo de Roriz (Portugal)
Amastuola 2011 Primitivo (Italy)
Wente 2013 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Subscribe to the YouTube channel by clicking here

Ontario Wine Updates Re-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again: Pillitteri 2007 Cabernet Franc
Taste it Again: Coyote's Run 2009 Red Paw Pinot Noir
Lost & Found: Inniskillin 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve
A Canadian Inspired Birthday
Taste it Again: Rosewood & Thirty Reds
Taste it Again: Calamus 2007 Meritage

From the Cellar (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added


PODCAST:  Two Guys Talking Wine
Join me and my co-host Andre Proulx as we discuss all things wine, and sometimes we're not afraid to go off topic
Episode 27 - Talkin' 'bout a Year End Tasting
Episode 28 - Talkin' Constellation Sale


Vintages Release (blog)
January 21, 2017 - Available Now
January 7, 2017 - Available Now

 GRAPE GUY EVENTS Spotlight:  Make the Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

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Want to become a partner in Grape Guy Events? Contact Michael Pinkus directly.

OntarioWineReview’s bi-weekly newsletter is devoted to the love, enjoyment and promotion of the wines of Ontario and the wineries that make them.

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