Canadian Wine for Summer

Klaire McCallum and Christine McFarlane

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Canada Day on July 1st always heralds the official kickoff to summer’s plentiful festivities, and reminds us to soak up what has to be some of the most fleeting (albeit best) summer weather found anywhere in the world.  While Canada Day has indeed come and gone, it got us thinking about all of the delicious fermented beverages our beautiful country has to offer and thought we would share some of our favourites with you.

Tawse Brut Cider - Niagara, Ontario $23.50 (all in)

To kick off our Can-Con focus, we’re starting with a cider that happens to be made by an organic and biodynamic producer from the Niagara region focused on creating terroir-driven, ecologically-minded wines.  In 2014, harvest was so poor there was talk in the region of buying fruit from our neighbours to the south in order to stay afloat. Instead, winemaker Paul Pender decided to turn to local orchard fruit producers for support. With tanks full of apple rather than grape juice, the first vintage of Tawse Cider was born. This bone dry cider is intriguing in its complexity. It is aged on its lees (residual yeast) and finishes the fermentation process in bottle, which leads to a intensely crisp cider chock full of zesty apple and yeasty pastry-shop notes. This unfiltered cider is a wonderful pairing for seafood or fire-grilled veggies.

Bella "Cavada" Gamay Rosé - Naramata, BC $50

Bella Wine Ltd. is a British Columbian producer that is unique in that it produces only vineyard specific sparkling wines made from either Chardonnay and Gamay Noir.  The “Cavada” Gamay rosé boasts notes of Rainier cherries and orchard fruit, placing this wine’s origins clearly in the British Columbian interior. Made in the traditional method, usually associated with Champagne production, this wine has the complexity of the more classic sparkling wine regions, with a healthy dash of charismatic rogueness.  With well-defined structure and a playful peppery quality, Bella Cavada Gamay Rose is both cerebral and fun. The bright, tart flavours of wild strawberry and rhubarb make this wine a perfect backyard sipper.

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 - Gaspereau Valley, NS $30

Nova Scotia’s most famous winery - Benjamin Bridge, focuses on the production of cool climate sparkling wines. Often compared with the climate and style of wine found in the Champagne region, Benjamin Bridge has gained expertise from several high profile wine and champagne experts.  The Gaspereau Valley, a sheltered area near the Bay of Fundy, is perfect for growing grapes with bright acidity and a distinct aromatic profile. The highly sought after “Nova 7” focuses on highlighting Nova Scotia’s unique terroir and the grape varietals that flourish there.  This includes a blend of muscat varietals - l’Acadie, Ortega and Geisenheim (grape varietals you are almost sure to hear of only in Nova Scotia). The resulting wine is light, electrically spritzy, and full of refreshingly zingy tropical notes. With a low ABV of only 7.5%, this fruity sweetness of this very Canadian wine is perfectly balanced with juicy acidity.

Sperling Amber Pinot Gris - Kelowna, BC $28

Sperling Vineyards has one of the longest wine histories in our young country. Credited with being one of the pioneers in the Okanagan wine trade, Sperling is a family run operation that has consistently kept up with the times. Their latest endeavour focuses on wines made from younger fruit employing unique methods of production. Sperling Vineyard’s Amber Pinot Gris is made from organically and biodynamically grown grapes that are then fermented with indigenous yeasts, no additions, and no filtration. Rather than fermenting solely clear pressed juice, this Pinot Gris uses whole grape clusters and stems in fermentation, which leads to the rich amber hue of this unique wine. The Amber Pinot Gris is a dry, savoury, and citrusy wine that is a fantastic pairing for many styles of food from BBQ’d chicken to salty cheese.

Nichol Cabernet Franc - Naramata, BC $41

Nichol Vineyard is one of the first three vineyard sites planted on the Naramata Bench.  Since the beginning, Nichol has prioritized grape quality, minimalistic winemaking practices, small production and grape quality over flashy labels and marketing.  Grapes for the Cabernet Franc come from 13 rows of vines planted in 1989, and all grapes are grown within less than 900 metres of the winery. This wine is youthful and vibrant, with a supple medium body and distinctive freshness.  Because of the thoughtful approach to winemaking, you can be sure this is like no other Okanagan Cabernet Franc you’ve tried before. Firm tannins and flavours of dark red fruits, garrigue, dill, sage and savoury berries make for some seriously tasty juice.  

Burrowing Owl Athene - Osoyoos, BC $52

Burrowing Owl is located at the North end of Osoyoos Lake, one of the highest rated grape growing sites in all of Canada.  The focus at Burrowing Owl has always been on protecting the surrounding ecosystem and finding balance in the wines mirroring the life flowing through the land adjacent to the winery.  Athene is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah, and is by far the most full-bodied and structured of our list. 2015 was a legendary season in the Okanagan. Between the long growing season and the warm and dry autumn, grapes were able to ripen perfectly.  Bursting with cassis, vanilla, tobacco, plum, leather and baking spice, this wine is not for the faint of heart, and has the ability to accompany the juiciest of steaks, or to warm you up under the stars on a cool summer night.