Canada's Top Wineries (April 25, 2002)
Cave Spring Cellars
Situated in the historic old town of Jordan (with a fine restaurant
and inn), Cave Spring has been a leader in the quality revolution
under owners Len Pennachetti and winemaker Angelo Pavan. Angelo's
strength is in his white wines, particularly Chardonnay and Riesling.
His dessert wines (Indian Summer and Riesling Icewine) are some
of the best in Canada.
Creekside Estate Winery
The winemaking is under the watchful eye of a 26-year-old Australian
immigrant, Marcus Ansems, who, in his teenage years, worked the
crush at his uncle's estate Mount Langi Ghiran back in Oz. Dealing
with cool climate fruit he shows a deft hand at elegant Bordeaux-style
blends, Pinot Noir, a lovely grassy Sauvignon and a rich Chardonnay.
Fans look forward to his first Shiraz.
Daniel Lenko Estate
The Lenko family have been grape growers since 1959 and boast the
oldest Chardonnay vineyard in the province. In a mere three years
since the winery was founded Daniel Lenko has won more medals in
competition than most wineries can muster in fifteen – thanks
to the consulting skills of commuting winemaker Jim Warren. Jim
is a small-batch enthusiast who thinks nothing of producing 50 wines
in a vintage, all in extrovert, flavour-driven style.
Henry of Pelham Family Estate
The three young Speck brothers with winemaker Ron Giesbrecht have
found the ideal formula for a medium-sized family winery. Chardonnay
is their forte, both unoaked and barrel-fermented. Ron has actually
made a cult wine of the hybrid Baco Noir; devotees look forward
to each vintage. His best red is a Cabernet/Merlot blend.
Malivoire Wine Company
Ann Sperling is one of the brightest stars on the Ontario winemaking
scene. Given her head by owner Martin Malivoire (whose original
idea was to produce an Ontario rosé to rival Marsannay),
she produces some of the richest, most fully extracted wines on
the market. Her Moira Vineyard Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer are
expensive but worth it and nobody makes a better red hybrid than
her Old Vines (Marechal) Foch goosed with a touch of Cabernet Franc.
The Ontario winery that spearheaded the quality revolution sat back
on its laurels for a few years when taken over by Vincor but with
the arrival of Australian winemaker Philip Dowell, of Yarra Valley
fame, the energy is back. The world's largest single producer of
Icewine also does a great job with its single vineyard Chardonnays
and the winery's concentration on Pinot Noir will result in Ontario's
best if the 1999 Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir is any indication.
Owned by the giant Andrés, Hillebrand continues to operate
as an independent large winery with a decided emphasis on quality
at the top end. Winemaker J-L Groulx with his predilection for Bordeaux
makes a top flight claret-style Trius Red. An advocate of unfiltered
reds and single vineyard Chardonnays that express their terroir,
he also makes one of the driest Mosel-like Rieslings in the Niagara
Norman Beal went to Chablis to hire a "name" winemaker
for his new estate winery. Jean-Pierre Colas, formerly with Domaine
Laroche, has not only brought a sense of style to Peninsula Ridge
Chardonnay, a variety Jean-Pierre has had much experience with,
but has also produced a seamless, exciting Sauvignon Blanc.
Château des Charmes
Paul Bosc Sr. is a fifth-generation winemaker whose studies in Burgundy
and winegrowing experience in Algeria have been a blessing to the
Ontario wine industry. Along with Inniskillin, he can take credit
for the quality of Ontario wines today. His Bordeaux red blends
and his single-vineyard Chardonnays speak to his training in France
(passed down to his winemaker son) and he has gone out on a limb
to plant Auxerrois, Savagnin and Viognier.
The most beautifully sited winery in the province. The property
was formerly owned by the Mosel's Hermann Weis (St. Urbans-Hof),
who planted the vineyard with vines from his own nursery. John Howard
purchased a going concern ten years ago and expanded the vineyards,
making Vineland Estates the destination for agri-tourism (great
restaurant, tasting facilities and a vineyard B&B.). Winemaker
Brian Schmidt is a Riesling specialist (from bone dry to Icewine)
and produces one of the best Gewurztraminers, as well as the most
expensive red Meritage blend in Canada.
This small, uncompromising enterprise produces some of the biggest
(sometimes over-the-top) wines in Canada. Rigorous bunch thinning
and late harvesting are the secrets here. A winemaking team produces
blockbuster Chardonnay, fleshy Riesling and concentrated Bordeaux
varietals as well as a blended red.
Wineries to watch: Cilento,Thirteenth Street, Pillitteri
In a mere six years Roger Dosman has established an enviable record
for his small portfolio of wines grown on his 10-acre vineyard in
the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island. His strength is in Pinot
Gris and Pinot Noir. The name Cowichan is an aboriginal place name
meaning "the Warm Land".
Blue Mountain Vineyard
A picture-book winery set amid mountains and lakes, Blue Mountain
produces some of the most sought-after wines in Canada. Maverick
owner Ian Mavety refuses to join VQA but makes astonishingly good
wines across the range – Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir
as well as Chardonnay and traditional method sparklers.
Burrowing Owl Vineyards
Owner Jim Wyse wooed winemaker Bill Dyer away from Sterling Vineyards
in Napa to help set up this new gravity-feed facility in 1997, built
on the site of the former LeComte winery. The vineyard, a plateau
on the side of a mountain, is in a spectacular setting. Burrowing
Owl, a 10,000-case operation, concentrates on four varieties –
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris – with
newer plantings of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Formerly called Uniacke Cellars, one of the original cottage wineries
in British Columbia, CedarCreek was purchased in 1986 by Senator
Ross Fitzpatrick. Winemaker Kevin Willenbour, who spent 10 years
at the Louis Martini Winery in Napa, put the winery on the high
road high in 1998. His successor, Thomas di Bello from Washington
State, continues the quest for quality. The best wines are the Platinum
Reserve series, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Their Estate Select label is not too shabby either.
Alex Nichol and his wife Kathleen run this bijou operation (1,200
cases) nestled below the granite cliffs of the Kettle Valley Railway
and above the sweeping majesty of Okanagan Lake at Naramata. The
wines, grown in a former alfalfa field, are hand-crafted and hard
to get, especially the concentrated Syrah – a variety Alex
introduced into the Okanagan Valley.
Vincor's flagship label in British Columbia has been reaping medals
in local and international competitions, thanks to the talents of
winemaker Bruce Nicholson – not only for their Icewines (still
and sparkling) but for Red Meritage and Shiraz. A joint venture
with Groupe Taillan will produce a Bordeaux blend in future, using
all five varieties, called Osoyoos-Larose – an unwieldy combination
of the local Indian name and Taillan's Château Gruaud-Larose.
The Okanagan's oldest winery, dating back 70 years. Winemaker Howard
Soon has spent 22 years there and in the last decade has been given
his head to produce some impressive wines. His Artist Series line
of wines features bargain-priced varietals of good quality, graced
by the label paintings of quadruplegic artist Robb Dunfield, who
holds the brush in his mouth. Soon's Sandhill Cabernet Franc is
also worth tracking down.
Harry McWatters founded B.C.'s largest estate winery (i.e., a winery
allowed to produce up to 50,000 bottles of wine a year) in 1979.
Owned by Vincor International, the winery is located in Summerland
and is actually carved out of three holes of the former Sumac Ridge
Golf & Country Club. Red and White Meritage are the best wines
here, as well as the sparkling Steller's Jay and Pinot Blanc Icewine.
The most dramatic winery in Canada in terms of architecture and
innovation. A Mondavi look-alike with its own bell tower and cavernous
barrel cellar, Mission Hill is the brainchild of entrepreneur Anthony
von Mandl, who has ruffled feathers up and down the valley with
his penchant for the extravagant gesture. But the wines, under the
care of New Zealander John Simes, live up to the image, especially
Chardonnay, Shiraz and the red Oculus blend.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Winemaker Sandra Oldfield, a UC Davis graduate, takes an unrelentingly
Californian approach to her wines, including the use of American
oak barrels. The result is an engaging style of fruit-driven wines,
especially in Merlot, although her best-balanced products are white
– Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Wineries to watch: La Frenz, Poplar Grove, Black Hills,
Fairview Cellars, Stag's Hollow.