By Holly Bruns
Since its resurgence in the 70’s, Ontario wine has been improving with certain consistency. Easier to access and more affordable than ever, the trend has been towards quality, working with the terroir (basically the land and weather patterns), and exploiting the grapes that thrive in our marginal climate: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay. This is a great time to be drinking locally and that does not preclude our own Ottawa environs. While we are not exactly Napa North, the Ottawa Valley is home to a growing wine industry. To date, there are six wineries all within one hour’s drive from downtown Ottawa.
Local winemakers have found an innovative solution to creating a viable wine industry in an otherwise inhospitable climate: they grow cool-climate hardy hybrids that have been bred to withstand our harsh winters. These are unfamiliar grapes like Sabrevois, Frontenac and Marquette. Then, they work with growers from Niagara to get the fruit they want and proceed to blend a little of what is grown here with a little of what is grown there resulting in something completely unique. That’s not to say there aren’t some wines on offer that are created wholly from Ottawa vineyards. Frontenac Gris is proving to be worthy of a single varietal wine. Fortified wines are popping up, and are usually made with the local hybrids, as are some lovely, crisp whites.
If you are interested in a weekend drive, Domaine Perrault is perhaps the closest vineyard, located in Navan and a quick thirty minute jaunt away. Bring a lunch and the sommelier on staff will pair a wine with your meal. Jabulani recently opened their doors in Richmond. They have eleven acres planted and Tom Moul, the owner/winemaker, is a charming host. VanKleek Hill is the latest addition to the wine route with capacity to produce just over 21,000 bottles a year. Le Vignoble du Clos Baillie is over the provincial border in Aylmer; a working fruit farm they also produce an apple ice wine, and in Chesterville, Domaine du Cervine makes a white, a red, a rosè and a dessert wine. Head to Oxford Station to Green Gables Vineyard where the atmosphere is fun and the wines are aptly labeled Wild Woman White and Oxford Station Libation.
These wineries are open to the public in the summer months. On a warm day there is nothing better than sitting on the patio, enjoying the pastoral view, and having a sample of something crisp, refreshing, and completely local.
VanKleek Hill Vineyard: http://vankleekhillvineyard.ca/
Jabulani Vineyard and Winery: http://jabulani.ca/index/index1.htm
Domaine Perrault: http://domaineperrault.ca/
Domaine du Cervine: http://cervinenglish.voila.net/
Green Gables Vineyard: http://www.greengableswinery.ca/
Le Vignoble du Clos Baillie: http://www.quebecvino.com/
Holly Bruns is an accredited sommelier with degrees from Algonquin College and the Wine Spirits & Education Trust. She lives in Ottawa and is the drinking force behind the successful blog: Wine Out Loud.