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Ontario Pinot Noir: Search for the “Holy Grail” Of Ontario Pinot Noir

Yes I have had some very good Pinot Noirs from Ontario but I have also had some clunkers. Generally speaking, I’ll go to British Columbia and Oregon for consistently quaffable and affordable Pinot Noirs. And their prices will not bankrupt you like many Burgundian Pinot Noirs.

Why not start with a VQA Prince Edward County from Closson Chase.

It is ruby coloured and a bit weak kneed looking.

I’d say vastly overpriced!

On the nose it is very elegant and light. Very bright young cherries and raspberries. A tiny hint of mocha!

On the palate very light and deft. Not a whole lot of depth and complexity. If I can categorize this wine in banal terms, I’d say a Saturday afternoon wine after raking the leaves and recycling the summer plants. There is a bit of cherry and strawberry but like many PEC wines it is a bit austere. A decent sipping wine and would go well with grilled trout and salmon.

(Closson Chase Vineyard 2016 VQA Prince Edward County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, Closson Chase Limited Partnership, Hillier, Ontario, $ 34.95, 12.3%, 750 mL, LCBO # 00145818, Set The Bar Rating, 89/100).

Feature photo courtesy of IMDP.

One producer of Pinot Noir I can rarely quibble with is Flat Rock Cellars in Niagara. Why not check out their 2018 Pinot Noir?

It has a dark ruby colour.

On the nose some fairly intense black cherry and raspberry. A dusting of milk chocolate at the edges. This has the edginess of a semi-aggressive Pinot Noir which is a whole lot better than a diffuse and watery Pinot Noir or one with no real Pinot Noir taste at all like so many lower end French Burgundians.

On the palate it just can’t quite deliver on the elegance or on the power equation. It rather stumbles around trying to decide its identity. It is like a neutered dog Pinot Noir. Entirely drinkable in some crowded venue like a bar or wedding but it just saunters about nonchalantly. A disappointing effort from a very high-quality producer of Chardonnay and Rosé. And not being Italian wine critic like Luca Maroni I can’t give this a 99 rating!

A short finish. Good with a BLT sandwich assuming you can hunt down some local tomatoes.  I have two left! Drink now.

(Flat Rock Cellars 2018 Pinot Noir VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Flat Rock Cellars Ltd, Jordan, Ontario, $21.95, LCBO # 00001545, 13%, 750 mL, Set The Bar Rating, 87/100).

Cave Spring is known for their Rieslings but that does not stop them from trying their hand at Pinot Noir. This is a 2017 Pinot Noir. Its light ruby colour looks a bit like a Pinot Noir invalid.

On the nose there is both black cherry and blackberry. There is just the right amount of oak used here.

On the palate no tannic undertones. The fruit had faded into the intensive care unit and the result is a rather soulless Pinot Noir. I mean lighter Pinot Noirs can mean very subtle elegance but in this case just another hallway corridor patient languishing in the Ford Nation. Worth a try for your own wine education. If you really want to shell out $17.95 go ahead but few returns on this wine!

(Cave Spring 2017 Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Cave Spring Cellars, Jordan, Ontario, $17.95, LCBO #00417642, 750 mL, 12.5%, Set The Bar Rating 84/100).

This is becoming a bit discouraging but given my experience with Pinot Noirs not unexpected. We need a winner! Surely there must be one in Ontario.

Our next adventure is an Angel’s Gate Pinot Noir 2016 which is a VQA from Beamsville Bench.

A light ruby in colour.

On the nose black cherry and blackberry with perhaps a bit too much oak. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape and oak is fine but older oak and not too much please. The oak in this baby is just on the edge of excessive.

On the palate the oak stays in the corner and we have some nice black cherry, motor oil and blueberry. Scratchy tannins indicate another 3-5 years in the bottle might harmonize the contents of the bottle.

Perhaps I am caught up by the Pinot Noir hype but that hype ain’t happening here in Ontario and at this price point not in Burgundy. Drinkable but hardly a Pinot Noir goddess

I’ll stay safe and say drink with s stuffed Ontario trout with oyster mushrooms wokked with oyster sauce and vodka. Serve with Basmati rice on the side.

(Angel’s Gate Mountainview Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Angel’s Gate Winery Limited, Beamsville, Ontario, $30, LCBO # 131210 750 mL, 13.5%, Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

Can we reach a 92/100 rating?

This is getting a bit tiring so I’ll keep on trudging ahead this time with a Henry of Pelham 2017 Pinot Noir.

In colour light ruby.

On the nose moderate beams of black cherry, black cherry and raspberry. The oak is cleverly integrated.

On the palate it has a slight kick so it is far from elegant. However it is somewhat soft and discrete which is what many a Pinot Noir should be. Simple notes of black currant, beets, cassis and black cherry. Its finish starts as a trot but develops into a gallop with a bit of pepper and juicy cranberry at the end. I think this would suit Vietnamese grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass, fish sauce, sunflower oil, brown sugar and soy sauce.

I am not jumping up for joy but at the end of the day a very good Ontario Pinot Noir.

(Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2017, VQA Shorthills Bench, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, St. Catharines, Ontario, $ 24.95, LCBO # 268391, 750 mL, 13.5%, Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

At this point I am feeling like the characters in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” riding pretend steeds and looking for the Holy Grail. I am not quite sure for Pinot Noir it exists in Ontario. Drinkable for sure. Exciting? Not so sure.

One last attempt to cross the bridge and give the right answer to the prophet.

This time from Queenston Mile we have a VQA St David’s Bench VQA 2017 Pinot Noir. A rather newbie winery in my experience!

A black cherry coloured Pinot Noir rather than a more delicate ruby coloured meeker Pinot Noir?

On the nose very relaxed yet concentrated black cherry permeated with ultra ripe raspberry. And its all sprinkled with Nestlé Quick powder.

On the palate very even tempered unlike the hotheads and nut cases in our federal election campaign. Nicely measured black cherry, beetroot, raspberry pie and roasted field Red Sheppard peppers. This ain’t no buck a beer Pinot. The oak ageing is parfait! The finish is relatively short. From an Ontario perspective I can picture Andrea Horwath sipping this with some locally raised rainbow trout at home outside her union cronies who might not know the difference between a Gretzky Merlot and a Stratus Red. For some name means everything but for me this newbie delivers!

Now I usually suggest trout and salmon with Pinot Noir but in this case I am going to cross the Monty Python Bridge and risk being thrown off and suggest this Pinot with rare lamb marinated in home made pesto and slow grilled on the BBQ. Not to brag but I had a bumper crop this year and made 15 batches of pesto which when you add up the extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, organic pine nuts and labour costs turns pesto into a luxury!

(Queenston Mile Vineyard 2017 Pinot Noir, VQA St. David’s Bench, $40, LCBO # 10138, 12.7%, 750 mL. Set The Bar Rating 92/100).

I am thinking this is about as good as you’ll get in Ontario for Pinot Noir.

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