Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Wineris To Watch For In 2023

 During the last several years I've tasted a large number of exceptional wines. Here are the ones that have consistently pleased me and continue to increase in esteem! Sadly, a number will not be easily accessible to Ontario consumers. I have indicated possible distributors such as the SAQ ( Société des alcools du Québec) or winery direct! Countries are in alphabetical order.
Bodega Weinert (Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza) 
                                           Iduna Weinert
I first came upon Bodega Weinert in 1978 and immediately fell in love with the wine that showed amazing complexity and quality. Through the years the wine has never failed to impress me whether it it the Carrascal brand, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux Blend. Iduna Weinert is the very capable (and lovely) owner. Winemaker Hubert Weber continues to make superb, age worthy wine, time and again. (Case For Wine Agency, Pickering, Ontario. 
Pizzato Vincola (Vale dos Vinhedos, Bento Goncalves)
Gregarious and passionate, Flavio Pizzato is descended from Italian immigrants what came to Brazil in the late 1800's. Flavio founded his winery in 1999 and has transferred his passion on to his wine--making rich Cabernet, superb Chardonnay and outstanding Merlot. His Concentus blend of Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a favourite. (SAQ, Quebec)
Eastern Townships
The best kept secret in the world for both scenery and wine is the area known as Quebec's Eastern Townships located between the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the American Border. In fact, from some of the higher elevations can be seen the Appalachian Mountains of Vermont. Two wineries make my watch list for 2023! 
Cep d'Argent (Magog)

              The Brothers Scieur, Francois and Jean Paul!
Located by the shores of the Magog River, this was my initial introduction to the wines of Quebec. The brainchild of Denis Drouhin, it is now owned by two sixth generation champagne makers, Francois and Jean-Paul Scieur who learned the art from their parents in Etoges, Champagne. Using their wine making knowledge they produced phenomenal sparkling wine and "still" wine  from French Hybrid grapes. Their Marechal-Foch is excellent and traditional method sparkling wine is to die for! (SAQ) 
Vinoble de L'Orpailleur (Dunham) 
French winemaker, Herve Durand bought a unique property in Dunham, Quebec in 1981. He was joined by French viticulturist, Charles-Henri De Coussergues, entertainer/organizer, Frank Furtado and media consultant/legal/contractual specialist, Pierre Rodrique as co-owners of a winery that has become a major player in the province by not only fine vinifera style wine but also accommodating the needs of the business community and operating a superb restaurant. In 2022, the winery celebrated 40 years of making fine wine. Try some of the Cabernet Francs or Chardonnay but make sure you try other blends also!  (SAQ)  
British Columbia
Orofino Winery (Similkameen Valley)

                         Orofino owner Virginia Weber
If there is one Canadian winery that epitomizes excellence, it is the Orofino Winery in British Columbia's Similkameen Valley. I first "discovered" Orofino when I was writing my book "Rendezvous for Dinner" and was so very impressed with it. I had the pleasure of further experiencing Orofino's wines when, in 2009, I tasted its wines when filming the wine show, "Adventures in Wine Country". Presently, I have been enjoying the Red Bridge blend as well as the reds Syrah and Zinfandel. These wines never disappoint. Owners John and Virginia Weber are proud and passionate wine makers and their wines can only grow in reputation. Presently these wines are not available in Ontario so contact winery direct in British Columbia for information.
Tawse Winery  (Vineland
            Tawse Vineyard in Vineland (Niagara)
Non intervention, passion, organic, healthy vines are part of the philosophy for the great award winning wines made at Tawse. Moray Tawse loved Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay so he purchased six acres of land in Vineland and in 2005 opened a "state-of-the-art" winery complete with geo-thermal filter and a wetlands bio filter. The rest is history! The 115 acre winery produces some exceptional wine---much of which is available at the LCBO or direct from the winery on Cherry Avenue in Vineland.

Ziraldo Estate Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)


             Dr. Donald Ziraldo at Ziraldo Estates

The awards, honours and accolades pertaining to icon of Canadian and International wine and Order of Canada inductee, Donald Ziraldo, would fill several books. Suffice to say that after co-founding the first winery (Inniskillin) to be issued a winery license since 1929 and establishing what was to become the first boutique winery in Canada, he became known as the ambassador of Canadian wine.  In 2006 he founded the Ziraldo Estate Winery making first class Ice-wine as well as having established Ziraldo Prosecco in Valdobiadenne, Italy. (Soon to be available at LCBO) With other Ziraldo projects expectations are high that this is not the end! Donald Ziraldo possesses Honourary Doctors of Law Degrees from both Guelph and Brock Universities! To be watched! 


Dao Region

The Dao wine region was one of the most under-rated wine regions whose time has now come to pass! It makes magnificent wines ---many for long aging. With vines over one hundred years of age and a tradition that goes back centuries Dao offers many styles of wine that please many tastes. The movement here is in the cultivation of local varieties--many of which were endangered. Natural wines with little manipulation and/or interference is becoming the rule and a number of strong minded winemakers 

defy the odds and establishment to make some majestic wine.  Surrounded my mountains and close to the ocean influences, This area is showing what human ingenuity, patience and working with nature can produce!

                                           Joao Tavares de Pina
Quinta da Boavista/Joao Tavares de Pina Wines (Penalva do Castelo)    

Quinta da Boavista under the direction of Joao Tavares de Pina has produced some of the finest wines in Portugal. The organically maintained vineyards that lie sheltered by nearby Granite Mountains alon with the Nearby Atlantic Ocean, are fortunate enough to have mild winters and moderate summers. Here, the deepgranite/clay and schist soils produce superb grapes such as Jaen, Touriga Nacional and Pinheira (also known as Rufete).

Joao makes sure his land has a rich biodiversity. Along with the natural forests of oak and eucalyptus, he has clover, grasses, lavender, wild flowers and chamomile.  

Joao strives to make wines of great intensity and expression. He practices old world methods which are the basis of his method of non interference in the production of his wine. He does not even till the soil for fear of affecting the biodiversity.

Joao believes in a strong ecosystem where nature takes its course. His wines reflect this natural trend. He would be first to tell you that in spite of the "natural wine craze", he has been following that path before the phrase was ever thought of. 

" I make wine that I like to drink!"  This is his motto!

In addition to his classic wine, he has planted many endangered and almost extinct indigenous vines. Joao is a rebel! He follows the beat of his own drum and, quite frankly, it looks good on him! It is those like him that progress to show the world how great wine can be made. More should do it! (SAQ)  

Quinta dos Roques (Abrunhosa do Mato)

                                                Quinta dos Roques
In the early 1980's the decision was made to move ahead with plans of revamping a Quinta whose wine was, until then used for private consumption. Luis Lourenco upgraded his winery's vineyards and added grape varieties, mechanization and new methods of viticulture to old practices. The 35 hectares of vines now include 75% red varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Jaen,  Tinto Cao, Tinta  Roriz and Alfrocheiro, The remaining 25%  are white with such grapes as Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Bical,  Cerceal and Gouveio (Verdelho).

Presently, production is delivered to 15 countries including Canada, Japan and the United States.  The wines are spectacular in their concentration and elegance. The Alfrocheiro is my favourite but each single variety and blend makes this  Quinta one to seek out. (SAQ)

In my next blog, I will discuss several other wineries that need to be seriously watched in 2023! Stay tuned for Part Two of Wineries to Watch For In 2023!