Niagara this Week August 8, 2012
“That’s excellent” — with that, Liet. Gov. David C. Onley endorsed the choice of the selection committee for his 2012 Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines.
Onley was speaking about the 2007 Reserve Meritage from Vineland’s Kacaba Vineyards, but he certainly enjoyed the other three vintages he, along with delegates from 30 countries, sampled Thursday. The wine was selected along with 10 others, all from Niagara’s wine region, out of 258 from 73 VQA wineries.
“This is just the best of the best,” said Onley of the 11 winning wines, which were selected by a blind tasting by 14 of Ontario’s leading wine experts and sommeliers.
The award program was started last year after consultation with industry stakeholders including the Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario, the Grape Growers of Ontario, VQA Ontario, the Wine Council of Ontario, and the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College. The competition recognizes the best wines submitted regardless of vintage or variety. Instead of the typical ‘best of per varietal’, this award celebrates the ‘best of per competition’. Meaning there is no best red or best white, but the best of Ontario’s wines, Onley explained.
The 2007 Reserve Meritage is Kacaba winemaker John Tummon’s favourite. A gold winner at both Cuvee and the Ontario Wine Awards, as well as winemaker’s choice at Cuvee, the vintage is described as full-bodied and complex with an array of aromas ranging from dried fruit, black licorice and espresso. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvingnon and Merlot, all grown the old fashioned way, meaning everything is done by hand from removing leaves to harvesting, at the Vineland vineyard.
“This is a truly Ontario blend,” Tummon explained to Onley, his wife, Ruth Ann, and about 30 members of the Consulate Corps. from countries including the United States, Australia, Italy, Peru, Chile. Afghanistan and Indonesia. “I am very, very proud of this wine. It takes longer to age and come together and marry ... It’s my favourite wine and I am very proud of this award.”
And while being recognized by the Lieutenant Governor as having one of the best wines in Ontario is a great honour for winery owner Michael Kacaba, it’s about more than recognizing just his winery.
“We welcome him on behalf of all other wineries similar to us in Ontario,” Kacaba said while waiting for Onley’s arrival Thursday morning. “This initiative in promoting and recognizing Ontario wines is really, really appreciated.”
Kacaba said the 2007 Meritage “exemplifies what we’re capable of down here in the cool climate, viticulture area.”
The recognition from the Lieutenant Governor comes just after another major coup for the winery — becoming the first Ontario winery to win best red at the Canadian Wine Awards, a category that has traditionally been won by wineries in British Columbia.
The program, said Onley, was created to promote Ontario wines as world class wines.
“It is about recognizing Ontario wines for excellence,” he said. “To help the wineries spread the word by offering the name of the Lieutenant Governor.”
Onley and the delegates stopped by two other Niagara wineries Thursday, prior to the awards ceremony which took place at Queen’s Park Thursday night. In no specific order, the winning submissions for the 2012 competition are: Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut NV (Cave Spring Cellars); Ravine Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Franc Picone Vineyard 2010 (Ravine Vineyard), Stoney Ridge Estate Winery Excellence Chardonnay 2010 (Stoney Ridge Estate Winery); Riverview Cellars Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 (Riverview Cellars Estate Winery); Flat Rock Cellars Sparkling Brut VQA Twenty Mile Bench 2007 (Flat Rock Cellars); Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2010 (Malivoire Wine Company Ltd.); Kacaba Vineyards Reserve Meritage 2007 (Kacaba Vineyards); Tawse Sketches Riesling 2010 (Tawse Winery); Konzelmann Estate Vidal Icewine 2010 (Konzelmann Estate Winery); Thirty Bench Riesling 2011 (Thirty Bench Wine Makers); Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2008 (Inniskillin).