In line with our blog’s stated purpose, we’re looking to learn about, promote, and enjoy Ontario wines! Ontario is being recognized more and more for its high quality Pinot Noir, so we thought let’s have a tasting and see how we stack up against the rest of the world!
Pinot Noir Overview
Pinot Noir is grown worldwide but especially in cooler climates, and has traditionally been most associated with the Burgundy region of France. It thrives in cool climates because the lower temperatures allow the grapes to ripen more slowly than they would in warmer climates. In the case of Pinot Noir, this delay contributes more complexity, flavour, and aroma to the wine.
Pinot is known as a fussy grape and can be difficult to grow. It’s sensitive to wind, frost, and soil type, and with its thin skin and the way its grapes grow in especially tight bunches, is prone to rot and fungal diseases. Some winemakers will say that vines produce the best wine when they have to struggle a bit – or they’ll be more explicit, like famous California winemaker André Tchelistcheff: “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir”!
Because of those sensitivities, Pinot Noir is very reflective of its terroir and expresses itself differently depending on where it’s grown. In general, these wines are medium bodied and light in colour with very few tannins. Red fruit (cherry, raspberry) is prominent, and more complex Pinots also demonstrate earthy, “barynyard”, vegetal notes.
With that in mind, and a ~$25 price range, we began hunting for some quality LCBO picks. We chose:
- From Ontario, a small producer we really enjoy from Beamsville: Organized Crime Break-In 2016 ($21.95)
- From Oregon: A to Z Wineworks, Pinot Noir 2015 ($24.95)
- From California: Rodney Strong, Russian River Valley, 2016 ($27.95)
- From France: Saint Germain Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne, 2015 ($22.95)
Here are our blind tasting notes (we tasted them in the order above, but didn’t know that at the time!):
Wine 1 (Ontario):
- Sight: Light red with a brownish hue – very clear.
- Aroma: Raspberry, strawberry, earth and hint of cheese.
- Taste: The wine had a mineral-like taste with earthiness, cherry, and hints of toasty caramel.
- This one was the most complex and we both thought it was the Burgundy!
Wine 2 (Oregon):
- Sight: Bright red, noticeably redder than Wine 1, but still very clear.
- Aroma: Almost smoky, but fruit-forward with cherry and hints of watermelon.
- Taste: Well rounded and juicy red fruit, hint of vanilla, less toasty oak than Wine 1.
- Guessing again Alex thought this was the California Pinot!
Wine 3 (California):
- Sight: Very similar to Wine 2. Bright red and very clear.
- Aroma: Barnyard, moss, minerality, and ripe cherry with some plum.
- Taste: This wine had a strong earthy taste, along with ripe red fruit and a hint of vanilla.
- We both thought this was the Ontario wine!
Wine 4 (France):
- Sight: This wine had deepest hue of red. Darker than the others.
- Aroma: This wine had a very floral scent, with traces of vanilla, raisin and dried fruit.
- Taste: This wine had a unique taste, with some dry woodiness and sour cherries.
All the wines were of good quality. That said, Alex was partial to Wine 1, with Wine 3 a close second, while Erica’s picks were similar: Wine 3, with Wine 1 as runner-up. Wine 1 was, of course, the Organized Crime Pinot from Beamsville – we were pretty impressed to see an Ontario wine perform so well!
Pinot Noir is delicious (not to mention versatile – we paired a glass of our favourite with a slice of pizza for an easy weeknight match made in heaven)! All the wines we tried were great and could stand on their own – we’d recommend any of them if you’re looking for a bottle.
Ontario is producing some great Pinot, which in our opinion stands up to some of the best regions in the world, and at great value too. With time it will only get better.
So who’s going to join us for our next tasting?!
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