Ontario Wine Guide – Sparkling Wine Treasures

Toronto Life

There's no question that Ontario wine production is growing stronger with new vineyards popping up regularly, and not just in the traditional Niagara and Prince Edward County regions. With the introduction of new vineyards comes a new eye to different varietals and experimental grapes. What has not changed is the eye for most producers to create a wonderful array of sparkling wines. 

Glasses With Sparkling Wine
Ontario sparkling wine production is growing stronger

Labelled as a "New World" producer of wine, Ontario has been creating wine for close to two centuries now. The producers in Ontario's wine regions experience the temperate climates brought by the calming effect of the Great Lakes to satisfy the grape's tender disposition. The soil that nurtures the vine is improved by a wide array of glacial soils. All of this comes together to create a series of rich and complex wines from a relatively mature fruit.

As a result of the accommodating environment, Ontario has become famous for icewine but has developed great-tasting Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Baco Noir too. As well, many of the Ontario wine producers have dedicated a portion of their production to creating sparkling wine, with brilliant results.

"Sparkling Wine" Versus "Champagne"

Sparkling wine may look like Champagne, smell like Champagne, and very well taste like Champagne. Just don't call it "Champagne" around your seasoned wine veteran friends. "Champagne" refers to a specific sparkling wine that's made in the Champagne region of northeast France. Only sparkling wine created in this specific region can take on the moniker "Champagne."

That said, the sparkling wine you find in Ontario is made in the same traditional manner that Champagne is created, by allowing a second fermentation that occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is what gives sparkling wine its effervescence. This is coupled with Ontario's other need for sparkling wine, which is the grapes. Champagne is typically made from a combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two grapes that thrive in Ontario's wine regions. This has allowed sparkling wine production to increase significantly with its quality. The sparkling wine created is very comparable to actual Champagne, containing the same aromas, tasting notes, and of course the bubbles that dance on the palate. These similarities have made Ontario sparkling wines stand out, comparing strongly to their international brethren.

Bottles Of Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine is made by allowing a second fermentation that occurs in the bottle

What do you do when you create a world-famous sweet wine? You combine it with sparkling wine to make something great. Many Ontario wineries now make a unique wine combination known as "Icewine Dosage." Producers of dry and crisp flavoured sparkling wine top up the bottles with a very small dosage of icewine, hence the name "Dosage." What results is an ever-so-slightly sweet wine with the definite flavour profile and character of icewine. Two great Ontario flavours come together to create this wonderful local treat.

Meet the Makers

When talking with some of the Niagara region winemakers about their particular sparkling wine product, you see that each vineyard brings its own approach and skills to create its products. We were able to talk with three Niagara sparkling wine producers and hear how they bring their bubbly into being.

Matthew Speck, Vice President of Viticulture, Henry of Pelham Winery

Though the first vintage for Henry of Pelham's sparkling wine came about in 1999, there was an early attempt previous to that. In that early time, the difficulties in making a quality sparkling wine showed themselves. Says Matthew Speck,

"We had taken a run at sparkling about seven years before that on a very small scale in 1992. It's a difficult process. It's like making table wine in reverse, using the opposite protocols. It's not the easiest thing to take on and do well. When we first tried it, we weren't happy with initial attempts in 1992 so put it (sparkling wine) on the back burner."

Henry of Pelham Winery By Danielle Scott
Henry of Pelham Winery By Danielle Scott

Speck recognizes that it's the fruit composition that is key to a sparkling wine's quality.

"We do Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We always have a fruit composition that retains high levels of acidity and freshness, which is natural for the creation of a sparkling white."

It is this fruit consistently that retains the right balance for sparkling wine. With high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this will reflect in the sparkling wine.

The Pinot Noir became the trigger for the making of sparkling wine. While making their Pinot Noir, they found the harvest was plentiful, which allowed for two rounds of fruit removal. The sensitive Pinot Noir grape then became the suitable baseline for the sparkling product. The vineyard began harvesting the fruit and then renewed their interest in the production of sparkling wine. To do so, they needed expert input on the process, so they sent their winemakers to the Champagne region of France and found a consultant to help with production.

Speck attributes the delicious flavours of their sparkling wine to the process they learned in France.

"It's our commitment to quality and traditional practices and really paying attention to all of the details, right from growing and harvesting to the pressing of the juice, fermenting and bottling. We're a New World region. We have the benefit of being able to pick and choose from wine making styles and techniques. Sparkling was where we really felt that the traditional practices were the best."

He further explained,

"The trick with sparkling wine is that it's very fresh. It has the bubbles, which give the texture and the balance of the wine. It's very sensitive to defect. The attention to detail is more critical than any other wine we make. That is our commitment to the process year after year. "

Henry of Pelhams</a> Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut
Henry of Pelhams Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut

Henry of Pelham has two sparkling offerings, it Brut and Rosé. Speck says the Rosé has become the more popular of the two. Originally, Henry of Pelham made more of the Brut, but now its Rosé outsells its sister sparkling wine two-to-one.

"The Brut is more traditional, with three years of tirage aging, giving it more bready characters with a full mouth feel."

Many still feel that sparkling wine is strictly for celebratory toasts, but Speck begs to differ.

"Sparking wines are amazingly versatile in terms of food matching. People tend to still view it as a celebratory drink. I'll match sparkling with every stage of the meal."

Speck told us,

"Rosé is my favourite. I like that brightness. Ahead of a meal is probably when I have it the most, as an aperitif. I put it with things that are a lot lighter and fresher. You can pair it with grilled vegetables off the barbecue, white flaky fish, things like that."

Peter Bodnar Rod, Director of Media Relations & Hospitality, 13th Street Winery

At 13th Street Winery, Peter Bodnar Rod says it's the adherence to a strong dependable process that makes their flavourful sparkling wine possible.

13th Street Winery
13th Street Winery

"The original owners decided in 1997 that they would be focusing their energy on wines that they thought had a very long future in Niagara, wines they enjoyed drinking, wines they felt could compete on an international level, and wines that climatically made a lot of sense, locally," he explains.

The Pinot Noir grape has been grown at the vineyard since the early 1970s and replanted again in the 1980s. When the winery felt they had produced exceptional vintages in their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they directed the fruit into a much earlier picking schedule to sparkling wine.

Said Bodnar Rod, "Like in Champagne, the idea for non-vintage Cuvée is to produce a consistent product year-in, year-out so that consumers can fall in love with the product. That's the goal with our NV Cuvée."

In creating its sparkling wines, 13th Street has always have used its excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. While the foundation grapes will not change, the mix of different grape vintages and percentages may vary in order to bring out the consistent flavour of the sparkling wine.

The Grande Cuvée, known as such since 2006, is 100% Pinot Noir grape. It is aged on lees for six years. After the disgorging process, it is assessed for quality and balanced with the appropriate vintage for flavour.

The process tends to produce a wine that leans toward a dryer style, which is something you will notice in its fresh taste and yeasty characteristics. Because of the duration of aging, the wine produces a smaller, more durable bubble, which gives a creamier and longer-lasting mousse.

Premier Cuvee
Premier Cuvee

"We think the Grande Cuvée is as good as anything at that price or more expensive that you can get from any great sparkling wine producing region of the world. It stands on its own from a complexity and refinement standpoint," explained Rod.

Rod described the other available sparkling, the Cuvée 13 Rosé, as very fruit-forward, as you would expect from a top-of-the-line blush wine.

"The Cuvée 13 Rosé is our product that in many respects is more important than anything we make in the bubbly spectrum. Because it's going to be there every year, we make a lot of it and we want people to fall in love with it and make it their house wine."

"When it was released, it had a lot of attitude," Rod remembered. "We wanted to push the Pinot Noir to the front. I love how elegant it's getting. There are no characters standing at the front of the stage taking attention away from the other flavours. Everything is in line with the complexity and elegance of the wine, but it's still a boisterous and juicy Rosé. It's a great summertime wine and will stand up to summertime foods like barbecue and those smoky flavours. It's going through an evolution in the bottle and it's getting better over time."

Paul Bosc Jr., President, Château des Charmes Winery

At Château des Charmes winery, it is a rich sense of family tradition and techniques handed down from generation to generation that provide their wine with excellent flavours.

Chateau des Charmes Winery By Taku
Chateau des Charmes Winery By Taku

Paul Bosc Jr. talks of the basic principles that were handed down from his father at the winery. He explained,

"Three concepts that swirl around sparkling wine production that producers talk about are soil, climate and the human intervention of working with the soil and climate. With sparkling, we talk about those things, but you overlay the human intervention even more. They are wines that do not make themselves, and that's the beauty of them."

Bosc recalled,

"My dad was not only the winery founder, he just flat-out knew more than other people. He's a fifth-generation wine grower. There weren't people like him once upon a time. We've been producing sparkling wine for 25 years and have been doing it before it was fashionable to do so."

Bosc Jr. reiterates the importance of not only growing the right grapes but also committing to the quality of the process. Sparkling wine production takes a big investment in technology and expertise that can scare off other vineyards from making their own sparkling wine. It was Bosc Sr. who had the knowhow and was able to tackle the sparkling challenge head-on. He recognized that, like the Champagne region in France, Niagara's soils were rich with chalk and limestone that help provide sparkling wine with its flavour.

2010 Rose Sparkling Wine
2010 Rose Sparkling Wine

The family's winemaking process has to be followed strictly, even stipulating to the day when grapes can be collected for the best flavour. Bosc Jr., said the region lends itself to sparkling wine, as there is ample Pinot Noir grapes grown. As well, the number one white wine sold in the Niagara region is Chardonnay, perfect for sparkling wine.

"We are seeing the evolution of a true wine culture in this country, both in Niagara and in the Okanagan," he explained. "The number of winery restaurants and music and theatre at wineries, all of this in its own little way is snowballing. The progress has been unbelievable. "

Château des Charmes produces two sparkling wines, a Brut Sparkling Wine and the 2010 Rosé Sparkling Wine. But don't ask Bosc Jr. to pick favourites.

"These are my children," he says. "I don't favour one over the other. What I love about the Rosé is the aesthetics of it, the colour. You don't even have to taste it, it looks great. Its red fruit, its strawberry aromatics. I like it on its own. The brut I treat more as a food wine. I'm crazy about oysters, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon on a crostini. That could be a meal. If my wife kept bringing that out and as long as the Brut is still flowing, I could have two or three bottle of that. It's just incredible. We'll even watch movies and have popcorn with a bottle of brut."

Ontario sparkling wine is fast becoming a favourite for wine bars and restaurants across the city. More and more of the Toronto's sommeliers are turning their heads to local fare and including some wonderful provincial sparkling wines on their lists.

Sparkling Wine
Ontario sparkling wine is fast becoming favourite for sommeliers, wine bars and restaurants.

One of the biggest cheerleaders for Ontario grapes is Anthony Finnocchio at Ruby WatchCo in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood. With founder Chef Lynn Crawford's passion for local ingredients providing great fresh flavours in the kitchen, this love of sourcing local has spread to the wine list. Finnocchio's enthusiasm about Ontario wine is contagious, and he uses this to help educate diners about the sophistication of the Ontario grape.

"Ontario bubbles can get overlooked," he told us. "Once the Ontario bubbly is in their glass, they can see the quality. They can see it is not champagne, it is its own terroir bubbles that come from fantastic winemakers."

According to Finnocchio, many diners are looking for something in an original Champagne style, but Ontario sparkling is very considerate of its origins. Though similar in flavour and texture, the Ontario sparkling wine is still different and unique, and he wants people to embrace the individuality of the wine.

"The style itself is very respectful of the grapes, of what they want to do," he explained. "What goes into that and what comes into the bottle is our own. You can make it in the style, but it is always going to be from us. I think it's important to showcase that."

In many cases, Finnocchio sees that one of the easiest ways to get people talking more about Ontario sparkling wine is to simply let them try it and experience the richness of the flavours themselves. He elaborated,

"You can say, 'You're going to have this, and here's why you're going to enjoy it, and I dare you not to enjoy it.' [Our sparkling wine] is such an absolute wonderful expression of how we can make such high-quality [sparkling wine]. Everyone who's had it touch their lips is so pleasantly surprised. It's nice, but at the same time I'm wondering, 'How can you be surprised nowadays?'"

Finnocchio remains steadfast in his love of the Ontario vines. It is becoming more and more common for sommeliers to find Canadian wines, and sparkling wine in particular, among their fast favourites.

"I'll be moving forward with Ontario. Hinterland, I absolutely love their sparklings."

The challenge remains to get people accustomed to ordering local sparkling wine and not revert to the familiar flavours of Champagne. The ability to boast freshness with respect to the style is what Finnocchio and other sommeliers are hoping will take root.

"Get out there and try something that is homegrown," he advised.

Tiffany Jamison-Horne is the General Manager and Wine Director at Crush Wine Bar in Toronto's Entertainment District. As the procurer of Crush's 14-page wine list, it's fair to say that she is well versed in all things wine-related. What stands out most when looking at her procured wine list is that every category of wine dedicates space to Canadian wines, or as they are termed on the page, "the locals." Jamison-Horne takes great pleasure in showcasing Canadian favourites, and many searching for great Canadian tastes will find some great options at Crush that they won't find in the stores.

Sparkling Wine By Emma Danielsson
Sparkling Wine By Emma Danielsson

"We are avid supporters of the local wine industry and dedicated to introducing our guests to the finest of Ontario's wines," she commented. "Many of these wines are not on store shelves and only available directly from the wineries, so for many of our guests, the best opportunity to enjoy them is here with us."

By dedicating space to Ontario bubbles, Jamison-Horne hopes to raise the profile of Ontario bubbles. She agrees that the conditions in Ontario are perfect to bring out the best in Ontario sparkling wine and hopes to showcase them in the best light possible.

"Ontario's wine industry often still struggles for recognition here at home," she explained. "Ontario sparkling wines, which thrive here due to our cooler climate, offer an opportunity to showcase the truly world-class wines being produced in Ontario today."

With offerings from Hinterland and Château des Charmes on the list, others such as the 2011 Tawse "Spark," which is a sparkling blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir grapes, make the list. Also, look for the Cave Spring "Dolomite" Brut, which she pairs with oysters to highlight its crisp fruitiness and mineral notes to match the oyster's brine.

It's hard for Jamison-Horne to pick a favourite, but when pressed, she will relent:

"Personally, I love all things rosé in the summer, so the Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Rosé Sparkling is my go-to patio wine, as well as a great match for Chef Trista's Ontario lamb saddle with green gazpacho and lamb bacon."

That truly sounds delicious.

Where Ontario Sparkling Wine is Made

Sparkling wine in Ontario originates from one of three Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) designations — Lake Erie North Shore, Prince Edward County, and Niagara Peninsula all have sparkling wine VQA appellations, with the Niagara Peninsula further divided into ten smaller sub-appellations. For the most part, the smaller designations are considered part of the larger Niagara Peninsula.

Vineyards Niagara Peninsula
Vineyards Niagara Peninsula

All three of the sparkling wine designation areas are within a three-hour drive of Toronto. The Niagara Peninsula, the largest designation area, is approximately 80 kilometres from Toronto, making it a great day destination for tastings.

These areas provide the grapes with an ideal soil combination of limestone-based shale and clay loam. The necessary growing season for the best sparkling wine grapes requires between 194 and 208 frost-free days, depending upon the appellation.

Across the three areas, there is a total of 15,000 acres of vineyards, with over 130 vineyards creating a wide variety of wines. There are just over 25 of these wineries producing sparkling wine, averaging half a million litres per year (that's around 55,000 cases).

There are two different types of sparkling wine produced in Ontario. The first is méthode traditionnelle, or "traditional method," which is the same process used to make champagne from the Champagne region in France. Following the primary fermentation, blending, and bottling, a second fermentation occurs inside the sparkling wine bottle. A small amount of yeast and sugar is added to the bottle with the blended wine. This produces the carbon dioxide in the sparkling wine to provide it of its effervescence. Traditional-method sparkling wines make up 65 per cent of the overall production of sparkling wine, with a third of that production dedicated to rosé sparkling wines.

Sparkling Wine Production
A second fermentation occurs in bottles after yeast and sugar was added.

The remaining 35 per cent of production uses the Charmat or Cuvée Close method, where instead of bottles, the second fermentation for the wine mixture takes places in stainless steel tanks covered in enamel. The carbon dioxide–rich liquid is then bottled under pressure. Ten per cent of the Cuvée Close production of sparkling wine is dedicated to rosé sparkling wine as well.

Though typically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are used in the production of Ontario sparkling wines, you can also find Riesling, Vidal, and Gamay Noir grapes being used. Where the traditional method relies on a foundation of 47 per cent Chardonnay and 37 per cent Pinot Noir, Cuvée Close sparkling wines have a base of 44 per cent Chardonnay, 30 per cent Riesling, and 11 per cent Pinot Noir. In both cases, the remaining percentage is made up by other grape varieties, letting the vineyard personalize their particular sparkling wine.

Not only are Ontario sparkling wines local and flavourful, but they're also affordable, ranging in price from $15.00 to $60.00 per bottle.

By far the region that supplies the most sparkling wine in Ontario is the Niagara region. That said, there are some high-quality offerings from the Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County regions as well. So many great traditionally made sparkling wines are available for tasting with many organizing events celebrating their wonderful products. Here's just a brief sample of the vineyards to look for when looking for quality sparkling wines and events.

One of the true pioneers of the Niagara wine region, Trius Winery at Hillebrand has been making great-tasting award-winning VQA wine for over 30 years. Using grapes from all around the Niagara Escarpment, the winery makes a very diversely composed wine. A trip to Trius is a delectable culinary event, with a full dining experience available at the Trius Winery Restaurant. Chef Frank Dodd creates a menu that pairs local fresh ingredients with perfectly matched wines for a true sensory exploration.

The Sparkling Wines

Four different sparkling wines are available from Trius. The Showcase Sparkling 2006 is medium in body, but with a subtle, rich flavour that pairs great with yeasty foods, baked fruits, or citrus. Made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, it has been aged for a lengthy time and is able to be enjoyed now or cellared for up to ten years.

Trius Brut
Trius Brut

The Trius Brut is an award winner, with gold medals and championships in sparkling wine categories locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. The citrus notes that this sparkling wine brings make it not only delicious as an aperitif wine, but it can also stand up to stronger meal pairings like fish or pork. With its refreshing crisp taste with a lingering finish, you'll want to enjoy it now or after a short cellaring period up to two-and-a-half years.

The Trius Brut Rosé is another Trius sparkling wine that comes with a crowded trophy case. Winner of double gold in 2013's All Canadian Wine Championships, this rosé sparkling wine is the colour of a rose petal with notes of wild strawberry and crabapple. Use this offering for celebrations. No bridal shower, anniversary, birthday, or wedding reception should be without this. This wine pairs perfectly with hearty breads and lighter cheeses.

The limited-edition Showcase Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is another delicious offering. Created from a single grape and aged for 12 months, this is a light-to-medium-bodied sparkling wine with a dryness that suggests citrus notes and a crispness of green apple. This is another great aperitif wine. Enjoy this sparkling wine on its own with appetizers or pair it in a meal of vegetable dishes or lighter fishes. Drink now or cellar for up to five years.

Sparkling Wine Events

Trius offers you a daily Sparkling Wine Tour and tasting that you can take Monday to Friday at 2:00 PM or Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 PM. The tour takes you to the Trius underground sparkling wine cellar to witness the sight of 300,000 bottles of aging sparkling wine while you hear about how the wine is made and the awards that have been won. You can purchase this for $15 per person or become a Trius Wine Club Member for free admission.

Special Wine Events
Special Wine Events

Winery Details

Location: 1249 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, L0S 1J0
Phone: 800.582.8412
Website: triuswines.com
Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Family-owned and -operated, the Château des Charmes wine making tradition spans seven generations, beginning in the Alsace region of France. From a family collective of farmers and wine makers, Paul Bosc Sr.'s great-great-grandfather established wine land in the then-French colony of Algeria around 1840. Paul had become the general manager of the largest and most successful wine cooperatives in Algeria, the Cave Cooperative de Marengo. However, the Algerian independence of 1962 saw the immigration of resident French citizens to other countries. The family eventually found its way to Canada.

Brut Sparkling WIne
Brut Sparkling Wine

Bosc Sr.'s great-great-grandfather then began working in Quebec at the provincial liquor control board, where he was in charge or dumping defective wine. One Ontario vineyard that was consistently being dumped caught his eye. The winery in question was Château-Gai. Believing he could help, he contacted the vineyard vice president and landed a job as their oenologist — on one condition. The vice president stipulated that Bosc work in their Toronto store for three months so that he could learn English.

Moving the Canadian wine from the traditional and native labrusca variety, he began experimenting with classic European varieties. He also convinced the Canadian wine industry to adopt an estate winery model, where the entire wine production is done on the winery property. Bosc's pioneering spirit has helped sculpt Canadian winemaking into the industry we see today. His family continues to create great wines in his tradition to this day.

The Sparkling Wines

Using the traditional method from the family's French roots, Château des Charmes has two stand-out sparkling wines that are sure to please your palate and pair well with food at your next gathering and celebration.

The 2010 Rosé Sparkling Wine combines the traditional grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes are among the first grapes picked in season and hand-selected. The rich pink colour comes from the Pinot Noir skins remaining in the fermentation process. Aged for a minimum of two to three years on the lees, the winery uses the practice of "Recently Disgorged" (RD). RD sees the removal of frozen yeast sediment that is collected in a pot at the neck of the inverted bottle near the end of the second fermentation. This attention to detail creates a wonderfully vibrant wine. It's perfect for drinking on its own or accompanying a wide range of flavours from mild (like smoked salmon) to the spicy (like chicken satay). For cheese pairings, look to asiago, romano, and parmigiano-romano.

The Château des Charmes Brut offering is another classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir combination, also aged on the lees and using the RD practice. You'll find citrus notes with hints of toasted bread. The texture is a creamy offering with a dancing effervescence from the bubbles. It pairs well with basic foods like popcorn to canapés both savoury and sweet. Its smooth approach also pairs well with softer mild cheeses like Brie.

Sparkling Wine Events

Winegrowing tours are available every day at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM for English guides. Tours are also available in French at noon and 11:15 AM in Japanese. Days without tours are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

Chateau des Charmes Niagara
Chateau des Charmes Niagara

Winery Details

Location: 1025 York Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, L0S 1J0
Phone: 905.262.4219
Website: http://www.fromtheboscfamily.com/
Hours: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day except statutory holidays

Established in 1988, the winery is family-owned by Paul Speck Sr., his wife, Bobbi, and their sons, Daniel, Matthew, and Paul Speck, Jr. The land the vineyard resides on was deeded by the siblings' great-great-grandfather Nicholas Smith, a United Empire Loyalist who fled from Pennsylvania to defend Upper Canada. The property still holds many of the fixtures from the early days. The tasting room and wine boutique at the vineyard were originally a carriage house built by Nicholas's youngest son, Henry, in 1842. The name of the vineyard comes from a joke made at the expense of the British Prime Minister at the time, Sir Henry Pelham, and from then on, Henry Smith was then known as "Henry of Pelham."

When creating the foundation for their wine, the family ripped out the existing Concord and Niagara grapes, replacing them with vines from the Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir varieties. It is the foundation of these new grapes that give Henry of Pelham their distinctive and rich flavours for their wines.

Henry of Pelham Vineyards
Henry of Pelham Vineyards

Paul Sr. has sadly passed away in 1993, but his sons continue to run the winery with the same standards of excellence. Testaments to this great history is the flavours found in the Henry of Pelham sparkling wines.

The Sparkling Wines

Named after Catharine Smith, the widow and matriarch of the family, married to Henry Smith, the Cuvée Catharine series of sparkling wines is bottle-fermented with a substantial aging process. Two non-vintage wines and a vintage make up this collection that should not be missed.

The Cuvée Catharine Brut is an award-winning traditional-style sparkling wine, with two Canadian gold medals to its credit. Secondary fermentation occurs for at least two-and-a-half years on the lees. It is intended to be drunk upon purchase, but it can be cellared for up to three years. Tender seafood like smoked salmon and oysters pair well with this offering.

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Sparkling Wine
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Sparkling Wine

Another non-vintage sparkling wine is the Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, which is also made in the traditional style. Here, the focus is on the Pinot Noir grape in the Pinot Noir–Chardonnay mix, where the Cuvée Catharine Brut focuses on the Chardonnay. This Pinot noir focus gives the wine a wonderful blush. You can enjoy this wine for cocktails.

The vintage sparkling wine offering is the 2008 Estate Blanc de Blanc "Carte Blanche" sparkling wine. The wine comprises 100 per cent Chardonnay grown from the Short Hills Bench. Also going through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, the wine is aged for 54 months on the lees. The flavours in the wine progress gradually, growing stronger with every sip. Look for notes of toasted bread, citrus, and green apple.

Sparkling Wine Events

With the booking of a private tour, you will enjoy a sparkling wine tasting with four other wines showcased by the vineyard. You'll also enjoy learning about the history of the winery and tour the property and cemetery (weather permitting). The cost is $20 per person to a maximum of 50 people per group.

Winery Details

Location: 1469 Pelham Road, R.R.#1, St. Catharines, ON, L2R 6P7
Phone: 905.684.8423
Website: http://www.henryofpelham.com/
November 1 to May (Victoria Day): 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day
Late May (Victoria Day onwards) to October 31: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day

13 Street Winery (Niagara)

One of the newer wineries in the Niagara Peninsula area, 13th Street Winery has a firm commitment to excellent wines, which goes a long way to explain its decently sized offering of sparkling wines. The winery was founded in 1998, and the winemakers focused on sparkling wine in the traditional method, with a further focus on Gamay. Owned by Doug and Karen Whitty, they brought in winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas in 2009, who brought with him a vast array of experience from his birthplace of Chablis, France, and his ten years in Niagara.

Wineglass In 13 th Street WInery
Wineglass In 13 th Street WInery

The winery has expanded production, with a new production and hospitality facility created in the fall of 2009 allowing the company to further create and showcase its array of notable sparkling wines.

The Sparkling Wines

A true vintage, the NV Cuvée 13 Rosé is a sparkling wine created in the traditional method. It is one of the showcase wines from 13th Street that has won awards since it was introduced in 1998. Focusing on the Pinot Noir in the Pinot Noir–Chardonnay mix, they are mainly from the 2010 vintage. It is the Pinot Noir that enables the fruity richness in the wine with the Chardonnay giving the wine structure. Aged on the lees for a full 18 months, the bubbles are smaller and compacted. This wine drinks perfectly on its own or paired with light shellfish or smoked fishes in a cold presentation. Also try with berries with aged balsamic vinegar.

Cuvee 13 Rose
Cuvee 13 Rose

One of the flagship sparkling wines from 13th Street is the 2007 Grande Cuvée, the rarest and most expensive of the offerings. This wine is produced only two or three times per decade in small batches. Made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, it is produced without the skins, making for a brighter wine. In the final blend of the wine, it is bottled with a blend of the base wine, yeast, and sugar known as liqueur de tirage, creating the iconic sparkle in the wine. Look for a bright lemony colour with bubbles formed in a steady bead. Look for smelling notes of wet rock, green apple, fresh butter, and bread. Pairs perfectly with poached turbot, Dover sole, smoked salmon, oysters, and caviar. Feel free to drink now or cellar for three to five years.

Sparkling Wine Events

Once a year, 13th Street runs a sparkling wine tasting designed to break the stereotype that sparkling wine should be reserved for special occasions. Local wine experts are brought in to talk about the sparkling wines from the vineyard and explain how you can allow yourself the everyday pleasure of sparkling wine.

13th Street Winery Events
13th Street Winery Events

You'll also enjoy the 13th Bakery and Marketplace that sells homemade desserts and jams along with other delicious treats.

Winery Details

Location: 1776 Fourth Avenue, St. Catharines, ON L2S 0B9
Phone: 905.984.8463
Website: http://www.13thstreetwinery.com/
Winery – Monday to Saturday: 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, June through October: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Bakery – Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, June through December: Monday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Andrew Peller came to Canada from Hungary in 1927 with a dream that Canadians would experience and appreciate wine in the same way as Europeans. His original winery purchase was in the British Columbian Okanagan Valley. As the western Canada vineyard took a solid root, his attention was drawn to the east. Andrew and his brother, Joe, purchased the Niagara winery property in 1969.

With over 50 years of experience, the Peller family continues to pursue the original dream of Andrew Peller — to create a wine of superior quality. Having won both national and international wine making awards, they have shown that their products are a force to be reckoned with.

The Sparkling Wines

The Signature Series Ice Cuvée sparkling wine is one of the most awarded wines for the vineyard, with accolades won both nationally and internationally. The wine is created in the traditional method, with Chardonnay providing the focus in the Chardonnay–Pinot Noir mix. The wine is also created in the "dosage" method, where the vineyard's ice wine is added to give a burst of flavour to this off-dry sparkling crowd-pleaser. Look for notes of apricot, yeast, apple, and honey, with tastes of tropical fruit and a pink grapefruit finish. The flavour is durable, able to accompany salty appetizers or stronger fares like spicy Asian foods or Indian curries. Drink immediately or cellar for up to three years.

Rose Cuvee Peller Estates
Rose Cuvee Peller Estates

Another award winner is the Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé, also done in the traditional method. Here, there is still a principal focus on Chardonnay, with 55 per cent of the wine coming from this varietal. Pinot Noir makes up 35 per cent of the wine with an addition of Cabernet Franc for the remaining 10 per cent. The wine is also done in a "dosage" method. The combination of grapes and the ice wine come together to create a sparkling wine with very fine bubbles and the pink hue of salmon. Look for a bouquet of fruits like strawberry, peach, and watermelon, with a taste of red berries and currants. You'll also find a slightly spicy note at the end. A wonderful celebration wine, enjoy with appetizers, grilled fish, light chicken, or pork dishes. Feel free to cellar for up to three years.

Sparkling Wine Events

Tastings are available throughout the year during opening hours. Sparkling wine is available, as is the entire suite of the winery's grand offerings of reds and whites.

Winery Details

Location: 290 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Phone: 905.468.4678
Website: http://www.peller.com/
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Opening a winery in 1980 doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but Colio Estate Wines are the recipients of the first winery license in the Lake Erie North Shore region since prohibition. With this, they jump-started interest in the region for wine making once again. The area used to be one of the largest grape-growing areas in Canada, and with this move, it re-established the Lake Erie North Shore as a viticultural area.

Colio Estate Wines By Sharon Drummond
Colio Estate Wines By Sharon Drummond

In this relatively short time, it has won over 400 medals in domestic and international competitions for its production of table, late harvest, icewine and, of course, sparkling wine. With production of over 400,000 cases of wine per year across all varietals, it's very plain to see that this winery cares about the grapes it produces. Sharing the same latitude as northern California and the Tuscany region of Italy definitely helps.

The Sparkling Wines

Colio produces its sparkling wine using the Cuvé Close method, and the CEV Lily is a wonderful result of that method. Made with 100 per cent Riesling grape, it provides sweeter notes than other Ontario sparkling wines and brings the Riesling colour of pale straw throughout. You'll smell citrus and bready notes with a punch of green apple that carries through to the taste. You'll also taste stone fruit and hints of apricot. Pair it with lightly prepared fish, chicken, and seafood.

Girls Night Out Rose
Girls Night Out Rose

Colio's most famous line, Girls' Night Out, also has a sparkling wine, again using the 100 per cent Riesling. With this one, the notes are more floral, with hints of lilacs and Bartlett pear with citrus notes on the nose. The taste is lively, with a racy tartness that is cut with the bubbles. Great on its own or paired with light meals.

The Colio Viva Spumante is a celebration of the Asti Spumante wine, bright and vibrant and calling on a wonderful blend of the grape varietals found on the Colio vineyard. You'll find great familiarity with this wine's frothiness and softness. The taste comes with the off-dry fruitiness that you would expect from a Spumante. Perfect for any celebration, the sweetness also accompanies spicier entrées and Asian dishes.

Sparkling Wine Events

Tours are available from January to April by appointment only.

From May to December, tours are conducted daily at 2:00 PM. Feel free to contact the winery for other times.

Winery Details

Location: 1 Colio Drive, Harrow, ON, N0R 1G0
Phone: 800.265.1322
Website: http://www.coliowinery.com/
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Sunday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Hinterland Wines has one thing on its mind, and that is sparkling wine. It began planting vines in 2005 with the desire to make a wine that would have consistent quality year after year. Given the growing climates of Prince Edward County, this is a difficult feat. Growing temperatures fluctuate, but at least the soil is a constant. The grapes that grow provide a flavour well suited to blending and bring consistency in their elegant sparkling wines. Because their only focus is sparkling wines, you'll find a wide array of tastes and methods that come together to make these superior sparkling wines.

Hinterland Winery
The Hinterland Winery

This winery uses the red Limnio grapes that grow on the rugged terrain common to the Prince Edward County area. The white grape, Muscat of Alexandria, is also used to bring a delicious sweetness unrivalled by other grapes. These old-world grapes brought to a new world winery provide a wonderful marriage that spans centuries and proves delightful.

The Sparkling Wines

The Ancestral 2013 Method Ancestral is the only ancestral-method wine made in Canada. It is a spritely Gamay Noir produced using the same methods used in the Bugey-Cerdon region of France. The ancestral method gives the wine its effervescence in the first fermentation and not in the second as with traditional method–made sparkling wines. The wine picks up its pink colour by pressing the entire grape. Enjoy aromas of red berry pie with more berry and pink lemonade in the taste. Great as an aperitif, it also pairs nicely with desserts and cheeses. It is also able to stand up to spicy Indian and Asian dishes.

The Blanc De Blanc Method Traditional 2011 is made, as the name implies, by the traditional method, with carbonation occurring in the second fermentation. The wine picks up its name "Blank de Blanc" because it is derived only from very special Chardonnay. It is stored in barrels for eight months and then placed on lees for the secondary fermentation. In so doing, a fruity creaminess is created with a hint of acid. Enjoy it now or cellar for up to 12 years.

A new offering from Hinterland is the Lacus 2012 Method Charmat, made entirely of Cabernet Franc grapes. The essence of the Cabernet Franc is there, but brought up a level, drinking as a dry rosé with fantastic bubbles. You'll find it both savoury and supple. To the nose, you'll find hints of ripe raspberry, red pepper jelly, and floral notes. Its heartiness from the stronger grape lets it pair brilliantly with meats. Pull this wine out at your next barbecue — especially if you're making pulled pork or other saucy summer treats. Take this wine to food pairings you never thought imaginable with a sparkling wine.

Rose 2011 Method Traditional
Rose 2011 Method Traditional

The perfect hand-picked Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes provide excellent acidity and sugar levels for the Rosé 2011 Method Traditional. What results is a perfectly balanced wine, strong on aroma and great on taste. You'll find strawberry and toast aromatics with similar strong notes on the tongue with a clean, dry finish.

The Whitecap 2013 Method Charmat is a wonderful mix of complex flavours that are easy to drink with a fresh acidity at the end. Floral in nose, their winemaker compares it to a walk through a Hawaiian flower garden. This is a very versatile wine, able to be used in many applications. You'll find it going great alongside oysters, shellfish, white meats, pasta, and cheese.

Lacus 2012 Method Charmat
Lacus 2012 Method Charmat

Sparkling Wine Events

Though there are no specific events, you are able to visit the winery seven days a week. However, you may want to call in advance during severe weather, as the winery will close in those instances.

Winery Details

Location: 1258 Closson Road, Prince Edward, ON K0K 2J0
Phone: 613.399.2903
Website: http://www.hinterlandwine.com//
Hours: Monday to Friday, 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

4 thoughts on “Ontario Wine Guide – Sparkling Wine Treasures

May 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm
WineAlign says:

Set the Find Wine filter “Wine = Sparkling” and “Region = Ontario” and you’ll find so many great ones!

June 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm
Paul Speck says:

I like Trius sparkling but you need to measure Cuvee Catharine against Champagne at less than 1/2 price [jun 5]

June 11, 2014 at 9:25 am
Christoph B. says:

Ever tried Parisian red wine? I’m not snobby or judgmental but In my honest and personal opinion It tastes great compared to Ontario Sparkling wine :P

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