By JOHANNA READ
Whether you’re a local or just visiting Canada, you’ve probably realized that there are some great Canadian wines. Check out the Canada section in any wine store, or visit a local winery, and be prepared to be impressed. While growing conditions in Canada are somewhat cooler than those in much of the rest of the world, Canadian vintners have used this to their advantage. Great Canadian wines have complex flavours, focused structures and excellent aging potential.
But how do you choose something that’s both delicious and affordable?
Enter Natalie MacLean. She calls herself a “wine cheapskate, hunting for the $12 bottle that tastes like $30, or even the $30 that tastes like $100”. She publishes Canada’s largest wine website and is a certified sommelier and a wine writer with four James Beard Foundation awards to her name. Natalie’s entertaining new book, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, includes tips on how to find fabulous bargains on wines from around the world. You can also download her free Wine Picks & Pairings app for your smartphone.
I asked Natalie for her advice on some top Canadian wines to match with local foods—at the best prices. Here are some of her favourites, from east to west (for more details on the wines, see Natalie’s reviews online):
- L’Acadie Vineyards Sparkling Wine Prestige Brut, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. Terrifically toasty with bright green apple and lime aromas. Superbly crafted. Buy a case for all your celebrations, and open a bottle tonight to make it a celebration.
Pair with: fresh Atlantic Canada seafood or shellfish. $25 | 90 points
- Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider, Eastern Townships, Quebec. Richly layered flavours of ripe Granny Smith and golden delicious apples, apricot and cinnamon. A wonderful substitute for icewine with dessert. This is apple pie in a glass. Yum!
Pair with: Quebec cheddar cheese, foie gras and fruit flan. $29.95 | 90 points
- 2009 Inniskillin Chardonnay Winemaker’s Series Three Vineyards (VQA), Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. Lovely balance with terrific mouth-filling richness and vibrant zesty notes of Asian pear and toasted almond. Full-bodied but not heavy. Very, very satisfying.
Pair with: Ontario quail or free-range roast chicken.$17.95 | 90 points
- 2008 Jackson-Triggs Meritage Niagara Estate Gold Series (VQA), Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. Classic blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc: the best of Jackson-Triggs. Dark, fleshy ripe berry aromas with smoke- and mocha-infused finish. A whopper of a wine ready for serious steaks. Delicious!
Pair with: Ontario beef or grilled rack of lamb. $24.95 | 90 points
- 2008 Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Chardonnay (VQA), Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Wow—packs a sensory punch with gorgeous aromas of ripe peach, smoke, butterscotch and toasted hazelnut. From one of Canada’s best wine producers across the board.
Pair with: BC planked salmon. $19.95 | 90 points
- 2008 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Merlot (VQA), Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Juicy with wonderfully plush plum aromas. Full-bodied and smooth with notes of red berry and cedar. Aged for 12 months in barrel.
Pair with: BC grilled lamb chops or pasta with carbonara sauce. $17.99 | 90 points