The winners at the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada were revealed earlier this week, highlighting the best wines produced in this country.
Administered by wine review website WineAlign, over 1,300 Canadian wines were submitted to the competition. Judges tasted the wines blind, assigning scores to each and determining which wines advanced to the final rounds. From there, gold, silver and bronze awards are doled out, with precious few (14 this year) attaining a platinum award.
And while plenty of fantastic wineries raked in the hardware, it was top honours -- the Winery of the Year award -- which surprised some.
For the first time, Peller Estates Niagara winery earned top honours at the awards, with four wines getting gold awards and one, the 2012 Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc, taking home a platinum award (full results here).
While most people might typically associate the name Peller with less expensive bottled-and-blended/cellared-in-Canada wines, Andrew Peller Limited in fact owns a bunch of great Canadian wineries, including Trius and Thirty Bench in Niagara and Sandhill and Red Rooster in the Okanagan valley.
In addition to the many wineries owned by the Peller company, Peller Estates Niagara produces good-quality VQA wines from a number of different grape varieties. Wines in the Private Reserve line typically sell for between $18-22, while the premium Signature Series wines retail for between $30-100, with icewines occupying the higher end of that price point.
Unfortunately, most of what we see bearing the Peller name in Manitoba is the cheap stuff -- non-VQA wines made with grapes from pretty much anywhere in the world and assembled on our soil.
Of the 28 Peller wines on the Manitoba Liquor Marts website, for instance, all but five are cellared-in-Canada wines, with four of the five VQA wines from Peller's B.C. property. (The lone VQA Peller Niagara wine here is a sparkling wine with a dollop of icewine that sells for just over $32.)
Last year's Winery of the Year honours for the competition went to Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. Like Peller, it's a big winery (albeit from B.C.), but its name is typically associated with VQA wines, so it wasn't as much of a surprise when they won.
Here's hoping Canadian wineries will phase out cellared-in-Canada wines entirely, focusing instead on making great wines from fruit grown here in Canada.
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In honour of Week 2 of Folkorama, here's a global taste of some nice summer sips...
THWAITES CRAFTY DAN TRIPLE C GOLDEN ALE
(United Kingdom -- $3.45/330ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
The 'triple C' refers to the three types of hops used in this golden ale -- Chinook, Citra and Centennial. Deep copper in colour and with a frothy white head, the grassy, citrus notes from the hops are front and centre on the nose, with light toasted malt and caramel notes coming through as well. It's a medium-bodied, fairly rich golden ale, with the crisp hops providing focus that counteracts the rounder, toastier notes. Tasty. 4 stars
TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8
(Belgium -- $4.48/330ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Pale brown and hazy in colour (think the colour of iced tea) and with an off-white head, the nose on the Rochefort 8 is complex: raisin, herbal, caramel, anise, toffee, vanilla and toasted-oat aromas are all in there (figuratively speaking, of course). It all comes through beautifully on the palate, but the beer's surprisingly dry, with soft but lengthy effervescence and a whopping 9.2 per cent alcohol level that's not evident/overpowering. One of the most complex, balanced beers I've tasted in some time. 5 stars
SANTA ANA 2013 RESERVE TORRONTES
(Mendoza, Argentina -- $11.95, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Very pale straw in colour, the Santa Ana delivers some pretty aromatics with decent intensity: peach, tangerine, spice, fresh floral and marmalade notes all come through. It's a light-bodied white, with ripe stone fruit on the palate and a fair bit of spice -- in fact, more acidity and less herbal/spice notes would make this wine seem just a bit fresher. Still, a decent summer quaffer. 2 1/2 stars
MONEMVASIA 2012 "300" WHITE
(Laconia, Greece -- $19.95, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A 50-50 blend of indigenous grapes Assyrtiko and Kidonitsa, the 300 white is somewhat muted aromatically, with pear, toasted nut, chalk, red-apple skin and leafy notes. It's a light-plus bodied, un-oaked white that shows its complexity on the palate; green apple and pear notes work well with a chalky, almost-salty note that brings a Mediterranean sea breeze, so to speak. Corny, I know, but this wine is sneaky good -- the perfect olive/tapas white. 4 stars
SHAYA 2012 VERDEJO
(Rueda, Spain -- around $23, private wine stores)
Made from old-vine Verdejo grapes, the Shaya shows focused green apple, melon, lime and lighter perfume notes on the nose. It's dry and light-plus bodied, with the greener fruit flavours coming through nicely with added peach and light spice notes that flesh things out a bit. Try with grilled seafood -- I'm thinking salmon with a mango salsa. 3 1/2 stars