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Canadian Riches

Text Charles Borden
Photos Konstantin Provorov

The cork on the bottle of Dan Aykroyd wine, produced at Lakeview Cellars on Canada’s Niagara peninsula, is branded “Made from 100% Snob Free Grapes.” Jokes aside, Aykroyd’s Vidal Icewine won the 2008 Wine of the Year at the Ontario wine awards. We had a chance to try this award winner and many other Canadian icewines recently at the Canadian Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Ralph Lysyshyn, and courtesy of wannabe importer VinoCanada and its representative Phil Cheevers.

Canadian icewines have become the rage in recent years, and the Niagara Peninsula is the principal source, though icewine is also produced in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Icewine is said to have its origins in 18th-century Germany as Eiswein, produced when a winemaker sought to salvage a wine from grapes frozen in the vineyard.

The combination of the late harvest of grapes after a deep freeze and quick pressing while frozen serves to concentrate the sugars in the must. Canadian standards call for a very high sugar level of 32 degrees of brix (a measure of sugar concentration — still wine grapes normally are harvested at 21 to 25 brix). At a harvest temperature of under -8 degrees Celsius, the grapes are “hard as marbles,” but the rules require pressing while frozen. Water is extracted as ice crystals leaving the concentrated flavored juice. A finished Canadian icewine will have at least 100 grams of sugar per liter.

The wines we tried were all from Ontario, which means the Niagara Peninsula, west of Niagara Falls, where the long escarpment that produced the falls also shelters the vineyards from fall and winter’s worst. Vidal is the grape of choice in this area, though we also tried icewines made from Riesling, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Vidal Blanc is a French hybrid that has long thrived in Canada.

We finished the evening with a sparkling icewine and a pair of apple icewines. Wineries represented included Reif Estate, Pillitteri Estate, Vinland Estates, and Lakeview. Very rich and complex, Canadian icewines will also be expensive when they hit the Moscow shelves — they retail around the world priced at USD 100 and up for a .375 liter bottle. Expect well above that in Moscow.

Passport Budget Wine Selection - Ortega Rating System

Rated by Charles Borden

Wine ORS Description Where Price
 Hardy Stamp Series Cabernet/Merlot 2006 (SE Australian) 4-  Full bodied and fruity - classic Cab/Merlot SedKon 339
Barton & Guestier Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (Cotes de Gascogne) 3+ Clean and crisp though a little short on fruit and flowers Magnolia 339 
Terra Mater Estates Zinfandel-Shiraz 2006 (Chile) 3+  Hearty but unusual grape blend. Zinfandel detectable through more powerful Shiraz. AzVkus  437
 Fanagoria Cabernet Sauvignon (Krasnodar, Russia) 3+ French varietals planted 1997, fly-in Austrlian winemaker. Spritzy and fruity. Good slightly chilled.  SedKon  449
 Spier Discover Red 2005 (South Africa) 4-  Pinotage-Shiraz blend. Medium body, dark ruby, dark berries and plum, good value. AM  271

Supermarkets: Azbuka Vkusa, Sedmoi Kontinent, Magnolia, Auchan, AM


Natalia Zorina

Bruce Gardener

James and Kim Balaschak

Geoffrey Cox, John Ortega, Patrick O’Dolan

Laura Bridge
 

Elena Baldanova, Peter Pettibone

Ralph Lysyshyn, Ambassador of Canada in Russia

Phil Cheevers


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