Last week brought a sneak preview of the extensive range and variety of tastes on offer at this year’s wine festival at Blue Water Café.
Behind the scenes, a tremendous effort has taken place to corral a solid representation of Canadian wines for this year’s event. On offer will be tastes from almost every grape-wine producing region in the country. The only omission being Quebec, whose production, while unquestionably heroic, is minimal.
Early fears – in some quarters – that the choice of relative neophyte Canada as the festival theme might not prove to be a potent draw have proven to be unfounded. Out of the gate, sales for this year’s dinners and special event tastings have produced more sellouts earlier than ever.
The spotlight on Canada comes at an opportune time but also at a critical moment in the development of the country’s wine industry. There’s been resistance to come to the festival by a few, born more out of sheer frustration.
There’s no question that the blame for the considerable challenges of what it takes to get wines from different regions into the glasses of all Canadians, regardless of where they live, lies firmly at the feet of provincial politicians.
No doubt there’ll be plenty of platitudes spouted in the coming few weeks about the “coming of age” of Canadian wines, and the considerable spin-off benefits of wine tourism. But the fact remains that, despite efforts of campaigns such as #FreeMyGrapes, many of us don’t get to taste Canadian wines from outside our own regions. And wineries are still not permitted to ship their wares to most corners of the country.
That in part is surely the reason why the Ontario presence will be less than we might have hoped for.
There’s been no shortage of B.C. wines at the wine fest for a few years now. But this will be the first opportunity on any significant scale to compare the quality of Canadian wines from across the country with their global counterparts.
In addition to the Canadian offerings from coast to coast you’ll find plenty more to keep your palate occupied, including a few tastes from some regions you’ve likely not encountered previously.
If you do plan to attend any of the international tastings, given the pace of sales to date, my advice would be to get on it.
Here’s a few worthy wines from coast to coast that can certainly hold their own, and from elsewhere.
Jost Tidal Bay 2015 (Nova Scotia)
Made from mainly L’Acadie Pinot Grigio with Ortega and Muscat. Up-front citrus with a zesty, acid-driven palate and a touch of minerality (90 points).
Chateau des Charmes Gamay 2015 (Niagara)
Red berry notes precede a fresh and vibrant medium-bodied palate with approachable tannins and a clean, lingering end (91 points, $15).
Unsworth Pinot Noir 2014 (Vancouver Island)
Lifted red berries with some earthy notes, light to medium-bodied with good varietal character and strawberry tones with a pleasing savoury edge (91 points).
Garzon Tannat Reserva 2015 (Uruguay)
Forward red berries, spicy notes, cherry, red current and blueberry on the palate, mocha tones with firm tannins, with earthy and tobacco notes through the lingering finish (91 points).
Saint Urbans Hof Old Vines Riesling 2014 (Mosel)
Already developing appealing petrol notes on top, followed by juicy lemon-lime citrus, layered, with a broad mouthfeel through the finish. A real star (91 BCLS $26).
Tim Pawsey writes about wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. firstname.lastname@example.org