Whether you are looking for something to sip while wrapping presents, a perfect pairing with your holiday meal, something to uncork on New Year’s Eve or a gift for your boss, the eatdrink Holiday Wine feature is here to help! Our focus this year is on delicious, affordable and local. ‘Tis the season to support our Ontario growers and producers!
A favourite wine road trip this time of year is to Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville, where the building is decorated for the holidays and the selection of off-list LCBO wines is certainly worth the drive. (Although their sales reps will also make deliveries to London-Stratford)
The Vinedressers series is what Pelee calls “the best of the best” and some, such as Vinedressers Cabernet Sauvignon, Red (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Lemberger), and White (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay) are available at some LCBO outlets. The series includes Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc Viognier. They are all under $16 and provide smooth, ripe, full fruit flavour. The Red is rich with a shaved chocolate finish. These are crowd pleasers that are a step above your house wine but still affordable. The elegant gold label celebrates Pelee’s historical connection to winemaking on the Island, going back to the 1800’s.
Ontario shines with rieslings which is especially great news during the holidays as the fabulous floral, honey and fruit flavours go well with a variety of cheeses, sushi, poultry, ham and, if you are like us, the Chinese food you order on New Year’s Eve. Some wine drinkers shy away from rieslings, thinking they will be too sweet. Certainly, German rieslings are known for their sweetness. The Ontario (and New York State rieslings) vary from dry to sweet and are wonderful for sipping or at parties where cheesy, spicy treats, and charcuterie are on offer. Try the Cave Spring Estate Riesling from the Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula which is dry, clean and refreshing. Cave Spring also offers a Medium-Dry Riesling and Dry, both LCBO listed for under $15. If you like lobster or crab at Christmas, and are not crazy about chardonnay, this is your wine!
The great thing about riesling is that nearly every Ontario winery offers it — from Prince Edward County to the EPIC trail near Windsor. The vibrant acidity of the wine combined with pear, apple sweetness makes this a “can’t miss” purchase for white wine drinkers — even for those who say they only like dry! Check out listings like Flat Rock, Featherstone and Fielding.
House wines are important at Christmas when the neighbours come over, your cousin drops by or you want to uncork for yourself while baking, wrapping gifts or watching some favourite Christmas shows. Palatine Hills Estate in Niagara-on-Lake has some fun and delicious wines like their 1812 series. For $13 you can have a Cuvée first place award winner with the Merlot Cabernet, which is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. Palatine also offers a new white blend, Quattro — as the name implies it contains four grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay. This is a nice sipper and goes well with a variety of cheesy snacks! For a lighter, drier house white give Singing Moon from Pelee Island a try. This Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is a crowd pleaser and under $13. Formerly known as Alvar, Pelee Island changed up the label to a more attractive blue, aimed at the younger audience. But these Singing Moons appeal to all ages and budgets.
If you’re looking for a nice gift in the $20 range consider Chateau des Charmes Old Vines wines. The Cabernet Merlot is estate grown using the best grapes, hand selected on the property. Chateau des Charmes is also known for its Pinot Noir which is also offered in the Old Vines series — estate grown and handled with care by winemaker Paul Bosc. Another interesting gift is Ontario bottled mead. This honey based wine is not quite as sweet as late harvest and is nice to sip with desserts — which we tend to have plenty of during the holidays! Rosewood Estates in Niagara is owned by third generation bee growers who first brought mead to the Niagara area. They offer five different meads ranging up to $40 a bottle. It is light and lovely and if you can afford it go for the sleek 2007 Ambrosia for a truly unique gift.
Holidays are not complete at our house without Buck’s Fizz on Christmas morning and more of the bubbly on New Year’s Eve. While we were spoiled by enjoying champagne caves in California this year, we do support our Ontario wineries for “sparkling” wines — especially if it is going to be mixed with orange juice or tippled late on December 31st. Secco, from Pelee Island, won me over several years ago. It is light, crisp and not too sweet. The bubbles rise rapidly in the glass. Enjoying it makes me think of my friends in Australia who taught me to enjoy sparkling at all times of the holidays.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
JANE ANTONIAK is a regular contributor to eatdrink — particularly the drink side. Jane is also the Manager Communications & Media Relations at King’s University College, London.