Will Canadian Wines Benefit From A Tariff War? Part 1

(TORONTO, ON) – Should we get Canadian wines involved in the tariff war with the United States? Should we boycott American wines in favour of Canadian? The effect of a boycott would be minimal, in the big picture, but it might make Canadians feel they can do something to send a message to Trump and his gang.

Certainly, Canada has all manner of wine, whether it be from British Columbia, Ontario, or Quebec. Of course, each region has its weaknesses, but Canada produces enough excellent wine to give California, Washington, and Oregon a licking if Canadians desired to do so.

Ontario’s biggest import of wines is from California and it was the biggest exporter to Canada in 2017, with $359,002,916 of its juice being lapped up by residents of this province. Perhaps we should take a random sample of each type of wine to reassure ourselves that self sufficiency just might fly.

Both Ontario and British Columbia produce some mighty fine Chardonnay.

The Tinhorn Creek 2016 Chardonnay from the South Okanagan is light gold in colour. On the nose, pineapple, quince, butterscotch, and BC Red Delicious apples. On the palate, nice a creamy smooth, but with a little burn, perhaps due to the 14% alcohol.

Well played, subtle acidity seems to keep the new oak in check.

The end result is a good sipper to discuss the latest Trump incident or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, where more heated discussions can occur over steel tariffs.

A medium length finish keeps the wine perky from its acidity and high alcohol. Like Trudeau and Trump, the best idea is to drink up before their electoral defeat. I’ll leave that up to you to determine. Given the way they have handled immigration policy they may have more in common than we think.

A good Chard. A bit pricey, but worth the extra chunk of change for entertaining those who appreciate good wine. There is no shortage of great Chardonnay in Canada.

(Tinhorn Creek 2016 Chardonnay, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Oliver, BC, $27.95, 14%, 750mL, LCBO #378489, Square Media Group Rating 91/100)

Neither is there a shortage of good Pinot Noir in Canada. In particular, I am thinking of Niagara and the Okanagan. The US holds no Trump card on Canada concerning Pinot Noir.

The 2027 Edgerock Vineyards 2016 Pinot Noir has a ruby colour. On the nose, sweet red cherry, beets, pomegranate, and sweet cranberries. Disciplined indeed. On the palate, tight with sweet red cherry, pomegranate, and rhubarb pie.

You could say the rhubarb is a distinct aromatic component of the Niagara terroir. If you like disciplined Pinot Noirs, this is one for you. This is a bit on the Margaret Thatcher side. Ivanka it is not.

Relatively smooth, but enough tannins and acids to settle down with its fruits until 2020.

(2027 Cellars, Edgerock Vineyard 2016 Pinot Noir, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 2027 Cellars, Vineland, ON, $24.95, 13%, 750mL, LCBO #561035, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)

If you are looking for a more exhibitionist Pinot Noir, I suggest the Okanagan Valley. Its austerity is a bit too much. If I can pay it a compliment, it is what you might expect from a Pinot Noir from Burgundy at the same price point.

Now, we don’t grow Zinfandel in any great quantity in Canada, but you can get a very good substitute in the form of Plavic Maili from Croatia or Primitivo from Italy. What we have, though, is Chardonnay Musqué, which is made from a Musqué clone of Chardonnay.

The Cave Spring 2015 Chardonnay Musqué is very light golden coloured and loaded with peach, apricot, pineapple, and honey. On the palate, gentle acidity and soft and inviting flavours of Muscat grape, honey, ripe Flemish pear and guava. Short and friendly finish.

A good sipper and it might pair well with grilled chicken with asparagus drizzled with sesame seed oil and Hoisin sauce, which you might also want to marinate the chicken in before grilling along with a big squirt of Ontario honey in the marinade for the chicken.

(Cave Spring 2015 Chardonnay Musqué Estate, VQA Beamsville Bench, Cave Spring Vineyard, Jordan, ON, $17.95, 13%, 750mL, LCBO #46579, Square Media Group Rating 90 /100)

Canadian Rosés can deliver big time. The Creekside 2017 Rosé from Ontario is medium pink in colour with lots of smoky sweet cherry, raspberry, cranberry, and rhubarb. Ringfencing the wine is candy cane.

On the palate, some gruffness. The tannins are mild and there is watermelon, raspberry, cherry, and just a hint of pepper.

This is an immediately likeable and well-made wine, good for sipping or with a roast ham or turkey for Thanksgiving. It would also suit stuffed Ontario field red peppers.

(Creekside Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Creekside Estate Winery, Jordan, ON, $15.95, 12.5%, 750mL, LCBO #048819, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

Perhaps the reality is that tariffs are merely negotiating techniques, in which case we need to celebrate something.

We can pop open an Ontario sparkling Riesling from Vieni Estates at a low 9% alcohol level. The bubbles are a bit sparse and far from tiny, which is a tipoff that the wine is made in the Charmat (tank) method as opposed to the Champagne method.

It is light gold in colour with a brisk nose of lemon, pear, guava, and pineapple. Not bad. On the palate, crisp, but not biting.

Quite simple citrus notes, particularly lemon and lime. Short finish.

I suggest serving very well chilled prior to a casual meal, preferably to a crowd not terribly knowledgeable about sparkling wines. Canada can do much better in the bubbly category.

Considering its low rating, a Crémant de Bourgogne would be an obvious better choice.

(Vieni Riesling Dry Sparkling Wine, Vieni Estates, Beamsville, ON, $19.95, 9%, 750mL, LCBO #498519, Square Media Group Rating 84/100)

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen