Yes, Niagara is famous for its ice wine, but it also produces balanced, quaffable table wines at increasingly fetching prices. For a crash course on the region’s cool-climate vino, here are three excellent bottles under $20.
Flat Rock Chardonnay 2013
Chardonnay used to be the number one choice when ordering a glass of white wine. Then crisp Sauvignon Blanc and pallid Pinot Grigio knocked it down the charts. The way Jay Johnston has been making Chards at Flat Rock Cellars it deserves the top spot again. Shining gold in the glass, a gentle swirl reveals aromas of baked apple and ripe melon. There’s just enough oak treatment to give it a hint of smoke and a buttery finish, but it doesn’t bonk you over the head like some Chards (I’m looking at you, California). Fresh, balanced and delicious, pour this beauty with pan-seared scallops, pork chops or roast chicken.
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2014
Considered one of the top wineries in Canada, Tawse has won more awards than Sidney Crosby. Their entry-level Riesling often brings home the hardware, as it’s consistently a downright ripper of a wine. Winemaker Paul Pender is a magician at balancing sugar and acid to create lip-smacking sweet-sour tension that makes your mouth water for more. Delivering orchard apple aromas, citrus flavours, and a racy finish, this is Niagara in a glass. At 10% alcohol, it’s an ideal lunch wine with grilled cheese, and it’s a refreshing alternative to beer when ordering Chinese, Indian or Thai.
Malivoire Gamay 2014
Gamay, the workhorse grape of Beaujolais, has found a spiritual home on the Niagara Peninsula. It’s not widely planted – light reds are still a tough sell to the general population – but for those in the know, Ontario Gamay is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet. Malivoire gives the grape more attention than most, and the latest vintage is a prime example of what it has to offer. It’s bright and juicy with red berry flavours, zippy acidity and a hint of cracked pepper on the finish. Chill lightly, and serve alongside beet and feta salad, grilled salmon, or rare beef tenderloin.