So it is that time of the year when people start asking me what Ontario wines they should buy for their Christmas dinner. Yeah, sure…you can buy cheaper plonk from elsewhere, but every litre of Ontario wine purchased puts $12.29 back into the local economy. And the cool climate of Ontario gives us the perfect conditions for producing some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. So let’s try local this holiday season, and put some money into the hands of the farmers and winemakers of this great province.
Here’s a short list of inexpensive Ontario wines (all but one available in the LCBO even) that will pair with some common meals this time of the year. There are lots of other great wines available at Ontario’s small wineries…so if you want to do something small and artisan, don’t rule them out (and contact me if you want some ideas). And don’t forget that if you call them now, most wineries can still ship wines in time for you to receive them before you sit down to your festive feast.
I’ve made it really easy for you to find these too – just click on the LCBO or Vintages number and it will take you to a listing of stores that carry the wine (including pictures where they have them). Note that occasionally for regular list products, the LCBO may have slightly different vintages as the 2010 stock is replaced with 2011, etc. but the notes should be similar.
In no particular order then, here are some suggestions:
Huff Estates 2008 Off-Dry Riesling (Vintages 155606) $17.95: I’m a huge fan of off-dry Rieslings and this one has lemon-lime and stone fruit on the nose and palate, with hints of honeydew melons and floral notes. The crisp acidity keeps the residual sugar in check, and the finish is mineral driven, with a palate-cleansing tartness. While this wine would work with turkey dinner (especially for those that like a little sweetness in their wine), you could also pair it with anything spicy, or those goat cheese based hors d’oeuvres you’re serving as appetizers.
Muskoka Lakes Cranberry Wine (LCBO 609701) $14.95: What? A fruit wine? You bet. What goes better with turkey than cranberries? Winemaker Matt French has to crank up the residual sugar in these to combat the tart acidity of the cranberries, but the result is a pleasing, food-friendly wine. A bouquet of floral notes on the candied cranberry nose leads to a burst of cranberry in the mouth with crisp acidity that both refreshes and cleanses the palate of the sweetness. (Muskoka Lakes also makes a White Cranberry wine that is equally food-friendly.) Pare with turkey, chicken, or ham.
Mike Weir 2009 Pinot Noir (Vintages 75) $19.95: One of the last to release of Ontario’s fantastic 2009 Pinot Noir collection, this wine has been worth waiting for. The nose is primarily cherry, raspberry, and red currants, with a lovely earthiness and a light mineral component that reminds me of graphite. There’s hints of coffee and milk chocolate there too, but so slight that they come as an afterthought. Served somewhat cool, this wine’s palate is dominated by cherries and black raspberries, and just the hint of tart cranberries. Light cigar box notes from the oak become more influential as the wine warms, bringing out more vanilla and sweet spice notes. Pair this with lamb, beef stroganoff, mushroom risotto, or a vegetarian nut loaf.
Malivoire 2011 LadyBug Rosé (Vintage 559088) $15.95: Made from Cab Franc, Gamay Noir, and Pinot Noir, these wines are elegant and food-friendly even though most people don’t think of drinking Rosé in the winter. The nose and palate are dominated with red fruits (raspberry, cherry, red currants) and there are some interesting herbal notes added to the palate. Pairs with just about anything, works exceptionally well with ham.
Tawse 2010 Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay (Vintages 89037) $19.95: This is a well made and well priced Chardonnay. With ripe red apple dominating, there are light smoky, toasty notes with vanilla and spice from the oak treatment. The palate adds a nice tropical twist, and a great acidity typical of Ontario wine makes this very food friendly. This will pair nicely with your turkey dinner with all the fixings (stuffing, mashed potatoes with butter, etc.) but I really like it with my favourite turkey leftover recipe – turkey pot pie.
Vineland Estates 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay (LCBO 669374) $12.95: Although I think this is a great refreshing patio wine that I keep around all summer, it is very food friendly. As December moves into January and we all start thinking we should get out of hibernation mode and eat a little lighter, this is the perfect food pairing wine. Also great with appetizers you’ll be starting your entertaining with. This wine is crisp green apple and lemon-lime on the nose. The palate is similar but adds notes of sweet red apple, pear, and finishes crisp with lemon zest.
I know…you’re saying “Where’s the beef?”. Looking for something a little meatier this season? Try one of these:
Creekside 2010 Shiraz (LCBO 66654) $15.95: With brooding (yes I did say “brooding”) dark fruit dominating the nose, there is also characteristic black pepper notes amid the smoky vanilla notes from the oak. The palate turns more towards fruit more tart than the nose indicates, with plums, some red current, and light cherry notes dominating. Try with any red meats, or sip in front of the fire after a tree-cutting event.
Fielding Estate Winery Red Conception (LCBO 189183) $18.95: I’ve had several different vintages of this wine and I can’t tell which one the LCBO has but it is likely 2009 or 2010 by now. A blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Syrah, this wine exhibits characteristics of all three varietals – damson plum, black cherries, cassis, and some nice spicy notes from the Syrah. With well integrated oak, the wine picks up some mocha, sweet spice, and cigar box notes. Great acidic core keeps it fresh and makes for great food pairings. We’ve had it with tomato-based pasta dishes, pizza, burgers, and roast beef.
Jabulani 2010 Marquette/Cab Sauv Barrel Select $22: Winemaker/owner Tom Moul selected specific wines for his “Barrel Select” designation, leaving them in oak for a full 18 months. This bold wine exhibits notes of roasted red pepper, strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. On the palate I found milk chocolate and cherry, sweet spices, and those nicely integrated tannins again added a nice mouthfeel. Long black cherry & cassis finish. Drink with hard cheeses or rare meats. Available at the winery (8005 Jock Trail Road, just west of Richmond) and they are only open December 15/16/22/23 from 11am-4pm. If you go, check out the Jeripigo dessert wine. For a complete review of their wines from last summer, check here.