My Most Remarkable Ontario Wines of 2011

In trying to come up with a “Top 10” or “Top 20” list for wines I tasted in 2011, I found it difficult to put limits on wines I found interesting and/or amazing and/or great values. I’m sure I forgot 5 or 6 (hopefully 2012 will see my blogging with more frequency so it is easier to summarize than trying to decipher my cryptic notes.

Remarkable has a couple definitions, here are two I found:
1. notably or conspicuously unusual; extraordinary: a remarkable change.
2.worthy of notice or attention.

So here are my picks for the most remarkable wines I tasted in 2011. I think you’ll find they all meet one or both of those definitions:

2027 Cellars 2009 Riesling (Fox Croft Vineyard): Most loved wine of the Ontario Riesling tasting I hosted in October. Fantastic example of Ontario Riesling.

Alvento 2004 Elige: When winemaker Bruno Moos decided to clear out the inventory of this at $10 a bottle, I was stunned. Coming home with plenty of this beauty, friends and family alike have been amazed by the wine. And as recently as New Years, I discovered that it just keeps on changing the more time it aerates, bringing out each of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot components. Fascinating wine, unfortunately now sold out.

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 Old Vines Riesling (and Mike Weir 2008 Riesling): Both of these wines were produced at the Chateau Des Charmes winery, and both offer fantastic value (if you can still find them), and great balance of fruit, acidity, minerality.

Chateau Des Charmes 2002 Equuleus: I was lucky enough to attend the Equuleus Vertical tasting in Ottawa where I got to sample this wine. Impressed the heack out of me, as did the fact that the wines going back to 1991 were still holding together. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for the 2010 Equuleus release as I don’t think any of the 2007 is left in LCBO or at the winery (only made in specific years).

Creekside Estate Winery 2000 X Blanc de Blancs:
A first and last sparkler from Creekside, this sat for 10 years on lees and has an unusual bread crust & citrus mouth that is accompanied by super fine bubbles. Very unusual and remarkable!

Exultet 2009 “Beloved” Pinot Noir:
Only tried briefly in the tasting room, this was an unbelievable Pinot from a fantastic year for Pinots in Ontario (and in PEC especially). The high price point ($65) kept all but the serious collector away but fortunately they offer less expensive Pinots and great Chardonnays that are affordable.

Featherstone Estate Winery 2010 Sauvignon Blanc: A heat-beater for sure. Lemon passion-fruit nose, tons of lemon, banana & acid on palate! Very refreshing, and one of the cleanest Sauv Blanc’s I tasted this year.

Fielding Estate Winery 2010 Estate Bottled Pinot Gris & 2010 Estate Bottled Riesling:
Both whites sampled at Tastecamp, and both wines were later purchased in quantity. Both excellent varietal examples at reasonable price points, and continue to showcase the capabilities of Fielding.

Flat Rock Cellars 2009 “The Rogue” Pinot Noir: A red wine varietal made in a white wine style, this almost seems to be chardonnay with the fruit, slight creaminess and minerality. But the palate uncovers the lies told by the nose and you are reminded that this is indeed Pinot Noir.

Hinterbrook 2010 Franc Blanc: Taking Cabernet Franc juice without the skins similar to the process used in the FRC Rogue above, this fuller bodied white kicks out 13.8% ABV. Very unusualy wine for sure – glad I stocked up.

Hinterland 2009 Ancestral: I had read about this wine quite a bit before tasting, but nothing prepared me for the explosion of red fruit that hit my palate. One of the most interesting and unique wines I have ever tasted, and definitely THE most interesting Gamay-based wine.

Jackson Triggs Gold Series Syrah (Delaine Vineyard): Had this beauty in my wine varietals course. I was glad none was available locally as I would have done something crazy like purchase a full case (it is $35)!

Jabulani Vineyard and Winery 2010 Marquette/Shiraz:
I reviewed Jabulani mainly because they are close to my house, but found that the owner & winemaker Tom Moul knew a thing or 2 about making great wine. This blend of local hybrid (the Marquette) and Niagara Shiraz impressed the heck out of me.

Karlo Estates 2010 The 5th Element: Hardly ever seen as a single varietal (and definitely not in Ontario), this is another unusual wine that’s been deftly handled by winemaker Richard Karlo, resulting in a stellar wine.

Lailey Vineyards 2010 Syrah: Although this won’t officially release for some time, if you were lucky enough to try the barrel samples that were floating around various venues in November you got a special treat. Watch for this ~Q2 this year…it is very special wine (same for the other 2010 reds from Lailey).

Muskoka Lakes Wine Red Maple:
Another very interesting wine, this one starts with red cranberries and then adds sweet maple syrup to create a fortified dessert wine that is a rare treat indeed. The cranberries remove any cloying that might come from the maple syrup, cleansing the palate for another sip.

Norman Hardie 2009 Cabernet Franc:
With well integrated fruit, tannins, and oak, this was one of my favourite Cab Francs I tasted this year. A decent price point made it even more attractive.

Palatine Hills 2009 1812 Merlot-Cabernet: My review here covered this one in detail. I loved this inexpensive Ontario red and think restaurants should be offering it instead of the cheap imports (or at least as an option with the imports!).

Rosehall Run 2007 Cooper’s Selection Cabernet Franc: Tasted during the Terroir event, I loved this perfect example oaked in what arguably is the county’s first (in modern times anyway) barrel from the Carriage House Cooperage.

Rosewood Estates 2009 Pinot Noir: First tasted at Tastecamp, I labeled this one of the best value Pinot’s I had tasted yet. LCBO release in September allowed me to once again confirm that statement.

The Old Third 2009 Pinot Noir: I love visiting small, specialized wineries and with only Pinot Noir planted, you know you wont find anything else at The Old Third. I thought the 2008 was stellar and then I tasted this one (what’s better than stellar?). Decent value to hold as well, but unlikely there is any left.

Trius Wines 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon:
Again tasted in my grape varietals course, most classmates did not believe Ontario could make a wine this good at this price point ($15). Very nice varietal example at a great price point.

Vineland Estates 2010 Pinot Meunier: I didn’t know if I should write about the 2009 St. Urban Riesling, the 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay (a steal at $13), or one of the Cab Francs that Brian Schmidt has made Vineland famous for. Yet I chose the Pinot Meunier, because it is fairly rare in Ontario, and this is a great example at a great price point ($18).

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