Ontario wineries

10 local wines to try this summer in Toronto

Ontario 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.

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