Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley inaugurated his Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines on December 7th at a glittering reception at Queens Park, which included the unveiling of a brand new herald. After the opening remarks, Mr. Bruce Patterson, the Deputy Chief Herald of Canada, of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, stood up and, wearing some serious bling around his neck, explained the process of creating a herald. It's like a coat of arms and everything represents something. The latin phrase EXCELLENTIAM DEGUSTATE means "taste the excellence." The editor in me, who daily fights the inappropriate use of capital letters, deeply appreciates the all-caps.
The maple leaves and the trilliums are easy (Canada, Ontario), but did you know the animal that represents our province is the black bear? I was pleased to learn that: so much fiercer than a beaver.
Because the Lt. Gov. represents our Buckingham Palace-based sovereign, the two bears in the herald wear crowns. Because it's about wine, there are bunches of grapes at the top and silhouetted bottles in the shield. The bottles were obvious to me, but some people went for the inverse, like that young woman/old hag drawing we've all seen, and saw canoe paddles. Which would be very Ontario anyway: Algonquin Park? There are snowflakes too, which represent icewine. We also learned that Ontario is now the world's biggest producer of icewine, beating out the originator, Germany. The bears are also holding amphorae, which makes sense in an ancient Greek sort of way. Or is it a nod to the Danforth?
Nearly a year after serious work on the project started, eleven recipients of twelve awards were honoured for particularly excellent wines. Over 270 wines were submitted and a panel of eight adjudicators, including wine writers Tony Aspler and Konrad Ejbich, waded through and came up with the dazzling dozen.
The wines will now be served at official government of Ontario functions over the next year, which explains why there was no one winner. Between them the twelve wines deliver for every social eventuality, including the most elaborate meal imaginable. Sparkling wine to start? Check. Rose for al fresco canapes in summer? Check. Aromatic white for amuse bouche? Check. Fuller white for richer non-beef dish? Check. Lighter red for elegance? Check. Big red for lamb or beef? Check. Dessert wine for cheese plate (or dessert)? Check.
It really is a well thought out, well put together selection that showcases not only some of Ontario finest wines, but also the great breadth of style Ontario offers.
Hearty congratulations to all the winners - and tasting the wines in the elegant and very high-ceilinged reception rooms after certainly affirmed the validity of the choices. But I want to give a special shout out to Shiraz Mottiar of the Malivoire Wine Company, who managed to snag not one but *two* awards - one for his 2009 pinot noir and another for his 2009 gamay.
Though it wasn't put in such crass terms, the Lieutenant Governor hopes that the herald will be used as a marketing tool. Recipients of the award will be permitted to place the herald on the winning bottles and marketing materials. Think of those English jams with royal seals and "purveyors to..." on their labels. While the merit of the royal connection to judging the quality of wines may be questionable, it's certainly true in this case that a rigorous selection and validation process was undertaken and, it seemed to me, the winners deserved to win.
The Twelve Outstanding Wines
• Huff Estates Winery, PEC Cuvée Peter F. Huff Sparkling 2008
• Mountain Road Wine Company, Mountain Road Vidal Icewine
• Ziraldo Estate Winery, Riesling Icewine 2007
• Magnotta Winery, Enotrium Gran Riserva 2008
• Southbrook Vineyards, Triomphe Chardonnay 2009
• Stoney Ridge Cellars, Excellence Chardonnay 2009
• Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Sibling Rivalry Pink
• Malivoire Wine Company, Courtney Gamay 2009
• Malivoire Wine Company, Pinot Noir 2009
• Mike Weir Wine, Riesling 2008
• Charles Baker, Charles Baker Riesling 2009
• Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Riesling 2010
The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia inaugurated the idea of a royal seal of approval for that province's wines several years ago so credit for the idea there. But, if we're being all monarchy-affirming, the Ontario herald sure is a nice touch.
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