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Eat & Drink

10 local wines to try this summer in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / June 18, 2013

Ontario wineriesOntario wines have now long outlived the bad reputation that they had a decade ago for being overly priced and decidedly vegetal in character. Pair that with the growing push toward locally sourced products, and you now see a far more pronounced Ontario presence on wine lists at Toronto restaurants. I suspect, however, that not everybody's been won over. And, in fairness, there's still a lot of crap out there at shudder-worthy prices. But if you know a few wineries to look for, there's a lot to like about drinking local(ish) wine this summer.

Here's a list of some of my recommendations, based mostly on taste but also to some extent on availability. It's completely subjective, of course, but a good place to start if you're looking to try out wines made in Toronto's proverbial backyard. If you're a fan, it's probably worth considering a trip to visit the wineries themselves.

Thirty Bench Riesling 2012, $18.75
Thirty Bench does Riesling very well, and although the single vineyard offerings come with a bit more cachet, the standard bottling is every bit as good available in greater supply. Look for a combination of orange citrus and lots of mineral notes. Purchase via the winery or at the LCBO.

13th Street White Palette 2011, $14.95
Head winemaker Jean Pierre Colas loves to blend varietals and does so to great success with this vintage, Composed of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Musqué and Viognier this is an intriguing wine that's fresh and fruit forward. Available via the winery or after June 22nd at the LCBO.

Featherstone 2012 Black Sheep Riesling, $16.95
This wine is named for the vineyard sheep who eat away at the low-hanging leaves on the Riesling vines, which helps expose the grapes to sunlight. It's a great idea, but wouldn't be worth talking about if the wine sucked. Good news! It doesn't. Available via the winery or at the LCBO.

Fielding Estate 2011 Rose, $16.15
There's lots of Ontario rosés to choose from, but Fielding's version gets my vote on account of the Cabernet Franc in the blend, which gives the wine peppery notes against its more obvious fruitiness. Available via the winery or at the LCBO.

Hinterland Whitecap 2012, $22
I wanted to keep the majority of these wines under $20, but it's easy to make an exception for this sparkling wine from Prince Edward County. Think of this as Ontario prosecco, and bust it out on a special occasion. Available via the winery.

Huff Estates 2012 Pinot Gris, $19.95
As I mentioned last week, most wine drinkers tend to associate Prince Edward County with Pinto Noir and Chardonnay, but this is a standout Pinto Gris built around a combination of sour citrus and minerality. Substitute this as a pairing with salmon instead of Chardonnay for something a bit different. Available via the winery or at the LCBO.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Pinot Noir, $15.95
There's no rule against drinking red in the summer of course, but if you want to keep things light, try chilling this Pinot Noir down a few degrees. It's (relatively cheap) and fruit-forward (think cranberries), but it's got a great bouquet. Available via the winery or at the Wine Rack.

Rief Estate Gamay Noir, $13.15
This is another one to drink on the cooler side (like 14 or 15C). Similar to a Beaujolais (yep, gamay is the grape), this is an easy drinking wine with lots of sour fruit notes and lively acidity. It'll pair up well with casual food on the barbecue or on its own. Available via the winery.

Tawse 2012 Quarry Road Estate Gewurztraminer, $24.95
I'd be a goof not to put a Gewurztraminer on this list, if only because it's one of those wines that holds up well against spicier foods and Asian cuisine. There's tons of honey and sweet citrus on the nose, and as a bonus it's certified organic and biodynamic. Available via the winery.

Hidden Bench 2010 Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard, $40
OK, so this one might be harder to find (I think there's a bit left at the winery itself) and it''s the most expensive on the list, but it's as close as you're going to get to an Ontario Cult wine, a fact which is underscored by its presence on Momofuku's wine list. A combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, it's hard to fathom that this wine was produced 45 minutes away from Toronto. Available via the winery (maybe).

Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our wine-soaked adventures.



Gabriele Janes / June 18, 2013 at 03:16 pm
Excellent list. I highly recommend the Tawse Gewurtztraminer,
Jeff / June 18, 2013 at 03:25 pm
Not sure I would call Niagara "local" but I do agree, some great wines on your list.
Gabriele Janes / June 18, 2013 at 03:26 pm
I'll suggest another personal favourite summer sipper to the above list: 2012 Carpineto Dogajolo Rosato (limited quantity left at some Toronto LCBO locations) - XD rose, Italy, $13.95.
Gabriele Janes replying to a comment from Gabriele Janes / June 18, 2013 at 03:27 pm
Yes, I know it's not from Ontario ......
seanm replying to a comment from Jeff / June 18, 2013 at 05:36 pm
Relatively speaking, when it comes to wine, I'd consider Niagara to be local. Most wines travel thousands of kilometres, but Niagara is within 150km of downtown Toronto producing some fantastic stuff. It's not really feasible to grow grapes within Toronto city proper...
agowgow / June 18, 2013 at 09:03 pm
if you get the chance i highly recommend making the trip down to 13th Street Winery in Jordan. It is by far my favorite winery in the area. Not only do they have great wines, but they have light lunches served on the veranda, excellent service, a small shop filled with artisanal/local edibles, and great artwork on display.
Rory replying to a comment from Jeff / June 18, 2013 at 11:06 pm
I'd call Niagara local when you consider wine is a global international business.

The borders only exist locally, not internationally if someone in the UK is buying a Niagara wine its known as Canadian. Just like the wines at the LCBO they're grouped by Country not by local area or region.
Frank / June 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm
Ontarians are finally relaxing and not feeling the social pressure so much to constantly put down local wines as an assumed sign of sophistication. Wines have not changed so much in a decade, but local drinkers have become a bit more savvy instead of eschewing local for cheap imports. And yes, Niagara wines are "local" to Toronto in the same way Napa or Sonoma wines are "local" to San Francisco.
dwlkdjf; replying to a comment from Frank / June 19, 2013 at 12:32 am
I have yet to have a good glass of Ontario wine. And I try to buy local. Sorry, but Niagara just doesn't compare to a similar priced bottle I can get from France, Italy or Australia. Again, I have tried many local wineries but they just can't compete.
Xavier replying to a comment from dwlkdjf; / June 19, 2013 at 08:14 am
I'd put an Ontario white against a similarly priced bottle from anywhere.
the lemur / June 19, 2013 at 09:24 am
Pinto Noir? Pinto Gris? What?
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