“eh” is not a word to use with Canadian wines

Grape production is like most farming – difficult to navigate, subject to pests and weather and just as much an art as it is a science. Wine grapes grow primarily between the 30th and 50th degrees of latitude. 

Canada was not a country that I originally expected to have large areas of wine production. For one thing, I thought that it would simply be too cold and too far at the northern most point of the grape growing latitude. When I think of Canada, I think of frosty cold beers with hockey or hard cider in the frigid winter months.

It only makes sense though that a region just north of Niagara Falls would be a major producer of icewines. On a recent trip to Toronto, Ontario, the wanderlust in me decided that I wanted to explore the area. What a better place to go to than the vineyard rich area of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

To be transparent, I was expecting to see a few small wineries with demonstration vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised to see a bustling grape growing region with over 20 wineries. Niagara-on-the-Lake is listed as Canada’s number one Food and Wine destination by Trip Advisor. I am sure that there is a healthy rivalry throughout the the country so don’t take this ranking as gospel!

I chose Inniskillin winery which is known not only for their wines but, also for chef lead cooking lessons, wide varieties of table wines and icewine flight tastings.

Inniskillin is one of the original estate wineries in Ontario. Vineyards are located in both Niagara-on-the-Lake and British Columbia. This is a relatively young wine growing region with the first varietal – Riesling- having been planted in 1974. The wineries name comes from an Irish regiment, the Inniskillin Fusiliers. Single vineyard bottles of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Pinot Noir were the earliest production quality wines.

In 1984, winemaker Karl Keiser harvested the first icewine from Vidal grapes that are frozen naturally on the vine at the winery.

My husband and I decided to start out our tasting with the single grape varietals and blends.

Inniskillin has 4 classifications of table wines: Discovery, Niagara Estate, Reserve and Single Vineyard Series.

One that caught my attention from the Discovery series was the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay. This is an artisinal wine. The winemaker took the best of both varietals combining the fruit forward flavors of pear, grapefruit and green apple. The blendings are barrel fermented with crisp and easy to drink flavors with mild acidity. A hint of vanilla rounds out this cacophony of fruits. The Inskillin Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay is a fun blend that would pair well with soft cheeses and light summer salads. 

2016 Inniskillin Sauvignon Blanc – Chardonnay
Photo Courtesy of Inniskillin Winery

2016 Inniskillin Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay

When to Drink: Now

Varietal: 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Chardonnay

Food Pairing: Lobster, Cheese

Average Selling Price: $35.00










































Next on the agenda, was the icewine selection that wine lovers come for around the province. We decided to try an icewine flight.

My favorite in the flight was the 2016 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine. Icewine is created from grapes that stay on the vine the longest to achieve maximum sweetness. The Vidal grape is a hybrid of Ugni Blanc and Seibel. The thicker skin is suitable for harvesting late in the season. Fruit flavors of mango and lychee are evident in the Vidal icewine. I chose the version of Vidal that was fermented in stainless steel to emphasize the fruit flavors. This was a smooth, lightly sweet wine that would be served well by itself as a dessert.

2016 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine
Photo Courtesy of Inniskillin Winery

2014 Vidal Icewine

When to Drink: Now

Varietal: 100% Vidal

Food Pairing: Lobster, Cheese

Average Selling Price: $18.28














Our visit ended with a pair of grilled sandwiches at the Inniskillin outdoor cafe paired with a Reserve Chardonnay. A light rain came down briefly and we took shelter under the large table umbrella while enjoying the view of winery visitors in rain coats touring the vineyards. The rain drops lightly hitting the umbrella and patio provided a soothing sound while enjoying the last few drops of a delicious lightly buttered Chardonnay.

Leaving the area, we drove through the back roads sharing them with bike riders touring the various wineries. Visiting this region was a highlight of our trip to Toronto. Don’t shrug your shoulders and say “eh” to visiting this region. The beauty of area, the friendliness of the team at Inniskillin and the quality of the wines make the Niagara-on-the-Lake region a must visit area for icewine lovers.