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The Other Oscars

It's the 24th annual Cuvée Awards this weekend. The winemakers of Ontario have chosen among themselves the winners in a number of categories - the big prizes are "best white" and "best red", but then many grape varieties have their "best", and there's a "winemaker of the year" chosen as well. Winners will be announced on Friday.

It's often referred to as the Oscars of the Ontario wine industry.

At a preview last week atop the First Canadian Place, I got to try a selection of contenders. Generally speaking the rieslings were the most consistently good and there were some great sparklers too - Ontario just keeps getting better with the bubbly.

My Top Three

Tawse Winery Sparkling Rose 2009 ($39.95, winery only)
Fresh notes with darker notes of red berries and some yeasty/lees-y notes. Great dry feel on the palate, good bubbles, lemon notes, medium bodied & fresh.

Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2010 ($30, winery only)
Lovely riesling nose with aromatic notes of floral, lemon and lime. Fresh and fairly dry on the palate, which has some mineral notes, good acidity and a great finish.

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2009 ($29.95, winery only)
Great nose with lots happening: white flowers, lemon/lime and a mineral note. Smooth and medium bodied on the palate, there's more mineral and citrus, and a good finish.


Other Notables

Mike Weir Estate Winery Sparkling Brut 2008 ($24.95, winery and Vintages)
Great sparkling value here - quite fruity nose with lots of apple and some honey notes. Slight sweetness on the palate, which has wonderfully tiny bubbles. Good acidity, smooth feel and a nice mineral note.

Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Viognier 2010 ($29.95, winery only)
Aromatic notes of viognier are expressed well here with floral/perfumed hints over peachy notes and a hint of tropical. On the palate the fruit all feels very ripe and there's even a nutty note. More floral, lemon and white fruit, then a lovely finish.

Colio Estate Small Lot Shiraz 2008 ($24.95, winery only)
Ripe and sweet red fruit on the nose, which also has a lovely peppery Rhone-style note. On the palate it's very smooth, with lots of ripe red berry fruit and a nice spicy/peppery finish.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2009 ($35, winery and Vintages)
Fresh nose with lemon fruit. Good acidity, more lemon and a nice hint of toast/smoke on the palate. The feel is fresh and there's a nice puff of smoke on the finish.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery Excellence Chardonnay 2009 ($35, winery and Vintages)
It's a bit cheeky to name your wine "excellent" but in this case that's not far off the mark. Fresh nose with plenty of lemon and apple fruit supported with nice oak notes, well integrated. Dry and lemony on the palate, the oak is a bit more evident, with woody notes then butterscotch on the finish, which is nice.

Rosewood Estates Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 ($40.20, winery only)
Muted nose with dark cherry fruit and a hint of wood. On the palate the acidity is high, more oaky notes emerge, with tobacco joining in. The fruit edges to sour cherry and the finish is good - a cool year pinot for sure.

Peller Estates Winery Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($19.95, winery only)
The only one of my top picks under $20! This one's got a darker nose with ripe cherry fruit and an earthy hint. Smooth and clean on the palate, which has moderate tannins, good acidity and a nice finish. Cab sauv can work here in warmer years!

Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean's List Cabernet Franc 2009 ($27.95, winery only)
The kids have turned out a decent cab franc here. Integrated nose with dark berry fruit and nice tobacco notes. Fresh and smooth on the palate, which has woody notes, higher tannins and acidity, and lighter than expected fruit. Nice cab franc finish with herbal notes.

The Cuvée Awards
Organizers will put on a glitzy gala spread at the huge Fallsview Casino complex in Niagara Falls and the winners will be announced. The region's top chefs and restaurants will turn out terrific food and many wineries pour samples of their product.

What to expect food wise? How about this for creative: compressed salmon served with beetroot sponge and goat cheese ice cream; braised veal cheek with creamy polenta and gremolata; and Icewine sous vide duck with butternut squash, piacerre and bacon. Featured chefs include Jason Parsons of Peller Estates and CITY TV and the Dairy Farmers of Canada will be serving up Ontario artisan cheeses.

It's a lot of fun and the locals get dolled up and enjoy the big night out. It's a Niagara weekend getaway, only flashier and fancier than usual...

The Gala is only one part of the weekend’s festivities, which also include the Cuvée en Route passport touring and tasting program. For $30.00 per person, you can visit participating wineries and expect a welcome and sample wines and snacks at each one.

For ticket and event information, details about Cuvée en Route, overnight accommodation packages and event announcements, see www.cuvee.ca


 

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