The Niagara Peninsula, bordered by Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and further protected from icy, northern blasts by the escarpment, is an island of warmth mild enough to ripen wine grapes. Taking advantage of this took effort and imagination, however, and it’s easy to forget how recently the Ontario wine industry has stepped on to the world stage. For example, Paul Bosc of Chateau des Charmes planted the first entirely vitis vinifera (the wine vine) vineyard in Ontario only in the 1970s.
The Ontario wine industry’s success has likely been helped by global warming. In the next 50 years, the world’s cool climate regions, like Ontario, will benefit from the projected 2 degree celsius rise.
Continuing his pioneering efforts, Paul Bosc was the first to bring Chardonnay Musqué to Ontario. It’s a wonderful, indeed musky, aromatic clone of Chardonnay from the Maconnais area of Burgundy. The Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2006 (640516) $16.95, lives up to its name with a lovely apricot, musk nose, and a nice viscosity on the palate.
Martin Malivoire and Moira Saganski created the important Malivoire Winery in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of Niagara in 1995. Though 2006 started warm and well, around harvest there was a cooling off. Shiraz Mottiar, Malivoire’s obviously talented winemaker, did a wonderful job with the winery’s Gamay (591313) $17, though. The nose is intensely fruity with the hint of banana that is classic for this variety. On the palate, there’s spice and vanilla to complement the fruit.
Finally, there’s the widely admired sparkling wine from Henry of Pelham, Cuvée Catharine Rosé (616441) $29.77, which for ten dollars less than the least of champagnes, delivers all the fruit, mineral and yeast that one could hope for.