From the Cowichan Valley in the extreme west of Canada to the east coast peninsula of Nova Scotia, Canadian wines relative newcomers to the old-world tradition of winemaking are making off with world-class awards.
With a relatively small production run in many areas, prize winning Canadian wines often sell out locally. Is there a winery near you? Find out and treat yourself to a tour.
British Columbia wineries on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan Valley are often small, family-owned vineyards with a high standard and pride in product. Long, hot summers provide a good growing season and award-winning wines.
A hot tip on cool wine:
Canada is one of the few countries with the weather conditions necessary to produce good icewine and, according to Walter Huber of Hainle's Winery (where Canada's first icewine was produced), most of it goes home with foreign tourists.
Canada's oldest wine region is Ontario's Pelee Island, which has this country's longest growing season for wine and spawned our first grape-growing operation in 1866. The Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward Country round out the province's best in wine producing.
Wines of Ontario
Cave Springs Cellars
Inniskillin Wines Inc.
Nova Scotia's short, cool growing season had horticulturists convinced that even the hardiest of wine grapes couldn't produce. Thankfully, a professor of political science, Roger Dial, disproved that theory in 1980 when his Cuvee d'Amur took a gold medal at New York's International Wine and Spirit Competition. Nova Scotia vintners haven't looked back since.
Eight tips for getting the most out of your wine tour:
1. Plan a mix of wineries to tour include small, mid-sized and large wineries to get a different perspective on the wine industry and its offerings. Large wineries are more like to offer structured tours which will give you details about the how-to of wines and wine tasting; smaller wineries often offer you the opportunity to meet and chat with the vintner.
2. Check winery hours ahead of time hours vary and smaller wineries may not be open to tasting/touring year round.
3. Don't plan to tour more than three or four wineries per day.
4. Gear up for the tasting by dressing comfortably and not wearing perfumes or lotions that might inhibit your sense of smell a very important part of the tasting experience.
5. Designate a driver who won't participate in the tastings. All tours and tastings will provide a "spittoon" to pour off any excess wine from your glass. It's perfectly acceptable and even expected that you might not drink everything that's poured for you.
6. Peggy Athans, Executive Director of the British Columbia Wine Institute, recommends you ask the first winery you visit for a box to collect your day's purchases. If it's a warm day consider bringing a cooler to store your wines. Icewines are particularly sensitive to heat.
7. Bring a wine journal to record your impressions and favourites.
8. Ask questions! Winery staff will be happy to recommend wines, wine and food pairing, or talk about the winemaking process.
If you live outside the profiled provinces, check out Wines of Canada at: http://www.canadianvintners.com/index.htm.