Ed. Note: In 2004, Glen and Mary Frederiksen headed for the Great White North — specifically, Canada’s Ontario province — to sample wines at a handful of estates. As we continue to update the Wine Lines review archives (a project that now is estimated to be completed around 2023, give or take), we bring you Glen’s notes from that trip… along with links to the now-posted reviews.
By Glen Frederiksen
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
The renaissance of winemaking in Ontario, Canada, began three decades ago when founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser established Inniskillin Winery in mid-1975. Theirs was the first winery license issued since 1929. Since then, more than 100 other wineries have established themselves in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, and greater Ontario.
Part of the Vincor worldwide stable of wineries, Inniskillin remains at the forefront of top-drawer Canadian wine producers. Both Ziraldo and Kaiser remain at the helm and strive to continually improve the quality of their wines.
Using 1920s barns that trace their beginnings to Frank Lloyd Wright designs, and building down into the earth, Inniskillin presents as a laid-back, one-with-the-earth facility. But don’t let that fool you. While pricey, these were some of the best wines overall that we tasted on our trip.
We were honored to have owner Donald Ziraldo sit with us as we sampled the Reserve level of Inniskillin wines. Ziraldo is passionate about his wines but, more than that, driven to incorporate the wine industry into the surrounding community. One recently replanted section of the vineyard is dedicated to the Canadian Olympic team, and was planted by present and former Canadian Olympians. The proceeds derived from these vines go to support the Canadian Olympic athletes.
Ziraldo has been an ambassador for Canadian ice wines around the world. The Inniskillin Icewine World Pastry Team Championship event, held in 2004 at the Rio Suites Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., is just one of the ways that he is getting the word out.
Here are my tasting notes:
2002 Inniskillin ‘Founder’s Reserve’ Chardonnay, Ontario, Canada
2002 Inniskillin Pinot Noir, Montague Vineyard, Ontario, Canada
2001 Inniskillin ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Franc, Ontario, Canada
2002 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine, Ontario, Canada
2002 Inniskillin ‘Oak Aged’ Vidal Icewine, Ontario, Canada
Vaughan, Ontario, Canada
They proudly proclaim that they are “Canada’s most award-winning winery.” The better news is this: Their pricing is significantly lower than the other Canadian wineries that have spread out into the global wine market.
One thing that I found fascinating is that, while they make a broad selection of Canadian-grown wines and spirits, they also import juice from around the world and make wine from this. Among the world regions represented are Argentina, Australia, California, Chile, Italy, Romania and South Africa.
These wines are generally clean, crisp and refreshing, and made to be consumed with food.
Owners Gabe and Rossana Magnotta have done a superlative job in bringing affordable, drinkable wines to the Canadian people.
We dropped in unannounced at their tasting room cum retail wine store in Beamsville. Here are the tasting notes:
2003 Magnotta Winery ‘Trionfo,’ Ontario, Canada
1996 Magnotta Winery ‘Millennium’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Ontario, Canada
2001 Magnotta Winery ‘Select Late Harvest’ Vidal, VQA, Ontario, Canada
1998 Magnotta Winery ‘Gran Riserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Ontario, Canada
2002 Magnotta Winery ‘California International Series’ Chardonnay
2002 Magnotta Winery ‘Chile International Series’ Carmenere
2002 Magnotta Winery ‘Gran Riserva’ Blanc Fumé, Ontario, Canada
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Founded by Don Triggs and Allan Jackson, this winery has grown in little over a decade to be one of the major players in Canadian wine production. Their state-of-the-art winery is poised to significantly increase its yearly production numbers. Rather than grow all of their own grapes, Jackson-Triggs instead relies on long-time area growers for their harvest (grown, of course, under Jackson-Triggs’ careful supervision).
The dessert wines are already world-class, and the reserve level of the still wines is getting pretty close.
With daily tours of the facility, a summer concert series, and a user-friendly tasting room, this is a must-see destination on the Niagara Peninsula.
My tasting notes:
2000 Jackson-Triggs ‘Method Classique’ Sparkling Wine, Ontario, Canada
2002 Jackson-Triggs ‘Proprietor’s Grand Reserve’ Chardonnay, Ontario, Canada
2001 Jackson-Triggs Meritage, Ontario, Canada
2001 Jackson-Triggs ‘Delaine’ Pinot Noir, Ontario, Canada
2002 Jackson-Triggs Riesling Icewine, Ontario, Canada