Backyard Bounty Part 2

One of the things I love about venturing out to Ontario wineries is finding the hidden gems: wines from lesser known grape varieties, small lot production and innovative winemaking, often only sold at the winery. So, this week in part two of discovering our Ontario bounty, I am offering up some wines that I think are worth a drive out to wine country.


Kew Vineyards Marsanne

A white grape varietal from the Rhone Valley in France and rarely seen in Ontario, the 2016 vintage is blended with a bit of Viognier. Similar in style to a bold, oaked Chardonnay the wine has ample fleshy fruit and toast with a vibrant acid backbone to keep it fresh ($19.95). Kew also makes some lovely sparkling wines at reasonable prices.


Big Head Raw Chenin Blanc

Another rarity in Ontario, Chenin is truly one of the most expressive and versatile grapes. This version is wild fermented and unfiltered all done in neutral concrete tanks. The wine is dry with honeyed, woolly, biscuit notes and amazing texture. Truly one of the most interesting wines I've tried ($45).


Trius Showcase Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc

This is a great expression of Sauvignon Blanc that sees a bit of time in oak (like some Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends in Bordeaux). The wine is a winning combination of wild tropical fruit, bright citrus and a hint of toast on the finish, very drinkable and food friendly ($31.95).  Winemaker Craig MacDonald has a few vineyard plots reserved for his labours of love, and pretty much everything I've tried in his Showcase series has been great - especially the Wild Ferment Chardonnay and the RHS Merlot.


Creekside Syrah

Syrah is best known as an iconic wine from the steep terraces of the Northern Rhone Valley in France. Creekside has been making Syrah for about 30 years, which in Niagara terms in a long time! Try the Iconoclast ($25) or the Broken Press ($45) to see what great spicy, meaty, cool climate Syrah tastes like. The Broken Press is a wine for cellaring.


Leaning Post Freaks & Geeks

Winemaker Ilya Senchuk makes a lot of good wine, notably Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and a delicious rosé from Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. He also makes a small amount of more experimental wines - using natural yeasts, no filtration, no sulphites - that are very cool. My favourite of these is the Gamay, the last vintage of which was earthy, textured and utterly gluggable. It is sold out now but hopefully a new vintage will appear soon. In the meantime, try some of his other creative offerings.


Meldville Wines

I will drink pretty much anything winemaker Derek Barnett makes. Formerly the winemaker at Lailey in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Derek now performs his magic under his label Meldville (a virtual winery but also sells at Legends winery in Niagara). I have long loved his bright, lip-smacking Sauvignon Blanc and his nervy Syrah. Derek also makes wine at Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County venturing into unconventional territory with grapes like Malbec and Marquette.


Stratus Semillon

Semillon is most often blended with Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux to create the iconic Bordeaux Blanc and the gorgeous dessert wine Sauternes. Most of the Semillon in Ontario was lost years ago due to our harsh winters, but Stratus has some and with it makes an amazing wine. Dry on the palate but alive with notes of beeswax and fragrant flowers, it is a study in contrast and an intellectual experience ($32). If you are a fan of dessert wines, try their delicious Botrytis Affected Semillon ($35).


We will all be looking for a great escape once we are allowed to venture out in the world again. Why not escape to wine country and find some of your own favourite hidden gems?

Until next time, stay safe and healthy and enjoy your wine.