It’s the dead of winter and you have just finished a particularly gruelling day at the office. Emerging from the building, you are greeted by total darkness, pierced only by the lights of the vast parking lot, which really only serve to illuminate the enormous flakes of falling snow. You thoroughly clear the snow from your car, but as you open the driver’s door that annoying tuft of snow makes its way in onto your car seat. You brush it off with utter indignation. The warmth of the fireplace and red wine seem so far away…
The best way I know to wind down after the slow, painstaking drive home is to light a fire and open one (or perhaps even two) of my favourite Ontario red wines. Here are three red wines of distinction that come from the Niagara region.
Zweigelt is a relative infant in the world of vitis vinifera. The variety was first introduced in Austria in 1922 and to this day it remains the most popular red varietal there. Derek Barnett is a dedicated Ontario vintner who has worked to develop this grape in Niagara for many years. His Lailey Vineyard 2012 Niagara River Zweigelt is definitely a must-taste, and is only $14 a bottle. (Available only from the winery).
The initial nose is heaped with barnyard and dark berry fruit. The wine itself is a truly beautiful dark ruby colour. On the palate you can expect flavours of dark cherry and strawberry. Though typical of this type of grape, the mouth feel did not prepare me for the intense and peppery finish. This is by far the best expression of a zweigelt I’ve tasted to date. Well done, Mr. Barnett, for bringing forth the best flavours from a tough varietal.
Inniskillin will always hold a place in my heart due to the fact that it is one of the founders of our winemaking industry in Canada. In 1974 Inniskillin¸ through the tireless efforts of Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, was bestowed with the distinction of being granted the first post-prohibition license in the region of Niagara. This allowed them to grow grapes for the production and sale of wine.
I recently tasted a 2012 Inniskillin Pinot Noir, as the “heartbreak” grape is one of my weaknesses. Pinot Noir earned this nickname by being not only difficult to grow, but also difficult to turn into wine, often breaking the heart of the winemaker, when, despite his best efforts, he is greeted only with disappointment at sampling time. Thankfully such was not the case with this bottle.
Its colour is a light garnet and by first examination the wine will likely age well for a few more years. On the nose are intriguing tones of mustard, leather and dark chocolate. On the palate the flavours become more minerally, yet showing layers of strawberry and blueberry mingling with the chocolate. This wine displays a full flavoured and long lingering finish of blackberries and vanilla. It is an excellent expression of what a pinot noir can offer.
My personal favourite among the three was House Wine Co.’s 2010 Cabernet Shiraz blend. Known not only for their fabulous wines but also for their brilliant marketing ploys, the Speck brothers continue to deliver superior and innovative products year after year. This wine comes dressed in a boldly contemporary label, styled after a chalkboard, which provides their “house rules” (only one of which I’ve managed not to break here). At only $ 12.95 this is a delicious and approachable bottle of wine.
The colour is dark and rich. Swirling in the glass, it displays an unusually heavy viscosity for a cool climate red. This wine has elements on the nose of a classic French cab, giving off scents of barnyard and mineral. However, the shiraz shines through on the palate with a great balance of ripe red fruits and pepper tones while achieving a lovely soft and velvety mouth feel. Ending with a long, smooth finish, and still bursting with flavour, this beautifully crafted wine is a winner.
To enhance the enjoyment of all different varietals of red wine from around the world I offer you the following tips:
1. Decant, decant, decant.
2. Drink from a good quality glass.
3. Curl up in front of a fire.
If you follow these simple steps you are sure to derive the most pleasure possible from your wine tasting experiences.
So, hopefully you will soon find yourself in your favourite chair, curled up in front of the fireplace with your wine glass in hand. Looking out the window now, you will be able to finally appreciate the slowly falling flakes for all their natural beauty. Embrace the winter with fabulous fireplace reds from Niagara. Cheers!
Kim Miller lives in London with her spouse and two children. This is why she studies the many attributes of wine…