The Ontario Essentials Wine Collection

Written by Gary Killops



I get asked a lot of questions about wine, and the one that I hear most often is “what is your favourite wine?” I don’t have a favourite, and I usually reply that wine is more of an ongoing discovery. I am not committed to one wine or varietal. However, I do have a preference for wines from Ontario.

I have concluded that these people are looking for a recommendation; if I like it, then it must be good and they will like it too.

But taste in wine is puzzling and unpredictable. A wine that I like, you may not. For this reason when I get a call or text from a friend who is at the LCBO asking me to help them select a wine I am very reluctant to do so.

Wine is an unresolved discovery. The LCBO VINTAGES Essentials Collection may help make it a little easier to explore your own wine preferences. This collection offers approximately 130 wines from around the world, sorted by country and region. And the wines are always available, unlike many other VINTAGES products that are only available for a limited time.

According to the LCBO, wines that are selected for the Essentials Collection must meet the following criteria:

  • are continuously available from the supplier;
  • have had repeated success in a number of previous VINTAGES purchases;
  • offer outstanding value;
  • are internationally renowned;have a prior track record in our market.

In other words, they are proven favourites that are always available.

The LCBO has more than 25 Ontario wines in the Ontario Essentials Collection. Many of these wines are available at the medium to large store locations and when not in stock they can be transferred in to your local outlet. This is a good place to make some new discoveries. I have selected four Ontario wines from this collection for you to consider.

BachChard-cropBachelder Niagara 2011 Chardonnay (lcbo# 302083, $29.95)

Winemaker Thomas Bachelder makes Chardonnay in Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara. He started the Bachelder project with the 2009 vintage. Having lived and worked in all three of these cool-climate Chardonnay viticulture regions was his inspiration for the project. The same wine making techniques are used in each region but due to the different terroirs three very unique and different tasting wines have been created. Bachelder wines had only been available in restaurants and on occasion in the VINTAGES section, but are now offered as an Essentials Collection selection.

Bachelder’s Niagara Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine exposing baked apple, pear, and creamy vanilla aromas. Added complexity on the palate with captivating minerality, crisp acidity and smokiness.

This is a fine example of Ontario Chardonnay at a reasonable price!


30BenchReisling-cropThirty Bench 2013 Riesling (lcbo #24133, $18.95)

The winery is located on the Beamsville Bench, a small sub-appellation in the Niagara region and one of the best locations for growing Riesling in Ontario.

At Thirty Bench Winery the focus is on Riesling as the owners believe it is what grows best in their vineyard. Riesling is the signature wine of Thirty Bench. Winemaker Emma Garner loves working with Rieslings and ferments at low temperatures to retain the wine’s aromatics.

Peach, pear and lemon tree fruit notes dominate the flavours. There is a hint of sweetness, and zippy citrus notes provide refreshing acidity. A lovely sipping wine that will also pair well with chicken, fried Lake Erie perch, or sushi.


HiddenBench-cropHidden Bench Estate 2011 Pinot Noir (lcbo #274753, $29.95)

Hidden Bench sets the bar very high with its Pinot Noir, made exclusively with estate grown grapes from the Beamsville Bench VQA sub-appellation of Niagara. The grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and cold-soaked in small lots. Fermentation is done naturally with indigenous yeasts.

Hidden Bench is committed to making quality wines, and any their Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir, a new addition to the Essentials Collection, is being offered at an excellent price. It is silky textured with plush cherry and raspberry notes and that trademark earthy character. A very good example of Pinot Noir from one of Ontario’s best producers.


Trius-cropTrius Red 2012 (lcbo #303800, $22.95)

Trius Winery at Hillebrand has been making wine in Ontario for over 30 years. It is a pioneer of premium Ontario red wines. Trius Red is a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from grapes grown in the Four Mile Creek VQA sub-appellation of Niagara On The Lake.

This is a concentrated and complex red wine with a loaded, savory mouth feel. Appealing dark and red berry fruits, spice and dried herbal notes make this one of the better Bordeaux style blends available. Quite a powerful wine — certainly one of the better red blends I’ve tasted recently from Ontario’s premium 2012 vintage. delights.



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


About the author

Gary Killops

Gary Killops is a CAPS Certified Sommelier who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com