It’s harvest season in the vineyard — a culmination of the work that began in the winter months with the pruning of the old vines, leaving just a few for spring budbreak; from these buds new shoots grew. From the shoots, vines developed and on those vines bunches of grapes grew and slowly ripened.
Winemakers and vineyard managers nervously study the weather forecasts, trying to determine the optimum day to pick their grapes. It is stressful, and you can sense the tension and anxiety with the decisions that must be made. The vintage relies on their call to harvest the grapes. A heavy rain just before harvest can be a problem, as it dilutes the grapes. Picking the grapes too early may cause a wine to have a bitter “green” unripe taste. Waiting too long to harvest grapes can cause a wine to lack that crisp acidity, and to be flabby. Every year the harvest is different and brings unique challenges. This is one of the reasons why wine vintage is important (especially to a wine geek). No two vintages will ever taste the same.
Witness the hustle and bustle of the grape harvest by visiting Ontario’s wineries during September and October. Our province has three designated wine regions: Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore & Pelee Island.
Thanksgiving Day is the second Monday in October. The traditional feast of roasted turkey and fresh local vegetables offers a good opportunity to open a few of those bottles of wine that you picked up while visiting some of Ontario wineries. No single wine pairs perfectly with the harvest feast. It’s such a complex meal consisting of different flavours and tastes, so I suggest having a few different wines available for Thanksgiving. Here are four surefire wine styles to look for at Ontario wineries, which will pair well with any Thanksgiving dinner.
Sparkling Wine — Bubbly is good for any celebration. The carbonization and high acidity of this wine style offer versatility. Pairing well with turkey and the trimmings, spicy dishes and even sweet desserts.
Colio Estate Vineyard’s Lily Sparkling is what will be on our table. This award-winning wine is made from riesling grapes. A great value at $16.95.
Chardonnay — Ontario produces excellent chardonnay wines. The cool climate and limestone-rich vineyard soils add complexity to the wine. Look for chardonnay that has been lightly aged in French oak barrels. The oak introduces vanilla or butterscotch, spice and clove notes to chardonnay that pairs well with Thanksgiving dinner.
The 2013 cruX Chardonnay from Exultet Estates in Prince Edward County is my recommendation for Thanksgiving dinner. This is a rich, full-bodied wine, with tasty complex flavours and just a hint of oak. At $39 it’s not for every budget, but this is class in a glass.
Rosé — Rosé is often considered a summer sipping wine, but a dry rosé with good acidity can offset the salty and savory notes of the dinner. Consider a dry rosé or one with not too much sweetness for better pairing results.
Niagara’s Malivoire Wine Company 2014 Ladybug Rosé ($15.95) is a tasty blend of 63% cabernet franc, 21% gamay and 16% pinot noir. It’s zesty, silky smooth and fruity. Open before dinner as an aperitif and continue to enjoy with dinner. You might be surprised how well this will work!
Pinot Noir — This is the most versatile red wine, and it has a place at every Thanksgiving dinner. Lighter than cabernets, the low tannins and moderate acidity make pinot noir very food-friendly. Look for an Ontario pinot from the same vineyards that produce top quality chardonnays.
The 2012 Paradox Pinot Noir from Niagara’s Rennie Estate Winery will be on our table this Thanksgiving. I spent a weekend in Niagara visiting wineries and tasting only Pinot Noir. The Paradox stood out from the rest. It is an elegant wine that will go the course of any Thanksgiving dinner. Grape grower Graham Rennie stated, “The 2012 is my favourite pinot noir since our first vintage.” Rennie Estate Wines are available for purchase at Malivoire Wine Company ($40).
Happy Thanksgiving. Cheers!
Gary Killops is a certified wine geek who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com
Here are a few online resources to help you plan day trips and weekend wine getaways this fall: