A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 886: Rootstock 2023

Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Award winners

Sunday, June 25th: Up at 5:30 am to take the GO train into Toronto. Tony Garcia, Director, George Brown College Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts, invited some of the speakers at the college’s annual wine symposium, Rootstock, to visit three wineries in Niagara by bus. Andrew Jefford, tomorrow’s keynote speaker, was meant to join us but his flight from France was cancelled and he routed through Mexico City! Of course, his luggage did not arrive with him, and he had to borrow clothes from Michael Fagan (it is not the Michael Fagan who intruded into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace in 1982, but Michael Fagan, the College’s beverage consultant).

Our first stop was Peller Estate, where we donned parkas and were ushered into the Icewine Cellar room, which is kept at 10 below zero. Here we sampled a Vidal Icewine.

Vidal Icewine in Peller’s ice cave

Then on to Stratus for a tasting of the following wines: Stratus Chardonnay 2022, Chardonnay 2021 and Chardonnay 2021 Unfiltered and bottled with lees (all three made in Amphorae). Three Stratus Gamay next – 2022, 2021 and 2020 – followed by three Stratus Cabernet Franc fermented in amphorae, 2022, 2021 and 2020. Next, Charles Baker Vinemount Ridge Riesling 2020 and 2013 before sitting down to lunch prepared by Ryan Crawford, chef at Ruffino’s and Bar Bea in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Stratus menu

Eating irons supplied to each guest

Dip dip egg

Stratus White 2021

Homestead Farm salad

Ontario beef striploin

Torta di ‘Niagara’ Santiago

With the lunch, we were also treated to the wines of Namratha Prashanth, who would be speaking at the Symposium on the theme of “From India to Bordeaux: a winemaker’s journey.” We tasted her white and red wine under the Solicantus label – a 2020 white from Entre-Deux-Mers and a Bordeaux blend from Blaye.

Namrata Prashanth tasting her white Bordeaux

Solicantus white

Solicantus red

Our final stop was Cave Spring Cellars, where winemaker Gabriel Demarco led us through a tasting of the following wines:

  • Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs N/V
  • Riesling Estate 2020
  • CSV Riesling 2020
  • CSV Riesling 2019
  • CSV Riesling 2016
  • Chardonnay Musqué 2020
  • CSV Chardonnay 2020
  • Pinot Gris 2020

…and then the foot-trodden red wines: Gamay Estate 2020, Pinot Noir Estate 2021, Cabernet Franc 2020 and Cabernet Franc Estate 2016.

Cave Spring tasting

Cave Spring winemaker Gabriel Demarco

Monday, Jane 26th: took the Megabus into Toronto to attend the wine symposium, Rootstock 2023 at George Brown College, 300 Adelaide Street East. Andrew Jefford, Chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards, in borrowed clothes, delivered the keynote address: “The Business of Wine in the new global economy.”

Andrew Jefford delivering the keynote speech

Namratha Prashanth spoke next about her winemaker’s journey from India to Bordeaux. After a coffee break, Kate Venugopal, International Marketing Sustainability Specialist at the California Wine Institute, gave her talk, “Wines on a mission: how to communicate sustainability to the consumer and why it matters.”

Kate was followed by George Soleas, President and CEO of the LCBO. Then we broke for lunch. The students had prepared a stunning array of cold dishes.

George Brown lunch

George Brown lunch

George Brown lunch

After lunch I attended a tasting presented by Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble, “Niagara Wine Over Time,” featuring venerable wines from the Canadian Wine Library at Brock and the participating wineries.

Niagara Wine Over Time tasting

This tasting was followed by a blind tasting of Niagara Rieslings, conducted by Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner, titled, “Riesling Deep Dive: Understanding Ontario Wine Appellations.” We tasted a dozen Niagara Rieslings from the 2020 vintage from a range of sub-appellations.

  • Flight 1: Rheingau Germany, 2020 (Producer unknown); Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Cave Spring Vineyards, 2020 Estate Riesling
  • Flight 2: Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Wending Home Estate Winery, 2020 Estate Riesling; Prince Edward County, Ontario, Casa Dea Estates Winery, 2020 Riesling; Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, North 42 Degrees Estate Winery, 2020 Dry Riesling
  • Flight 3: Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, 2020 Estate Riesling; Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Riverview Cellars Estate Winery, 2020 Riesling
  • Flight 4: Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Dobbin Estate Winery, 2020 Estate Riesling; St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Five Rows Craft Wine Inc., 2020 Riesling
  • Flight 5: Niagara Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Adamo Estate Winery, Lepp Vineyard 2020 Riesling; Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Niagara College Teaching Winery, 2020 Riesling
  • Flight 6: Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Charles Baker, 2020 Picone Vineyard Riesling; Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Bella Terra Vineyards, 2020 Riesling

On Seven Chardonnays and Pinot Noir

The Honourable Elizabeth Dowedeswell

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, in partnership with the Ontario Wine Awards and George Brown College, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. The Lieutenant Governor presented the awards at a ceremony during the annual Rootstock Wine Symposium, a showcase for the best of Ontario VQA wines, at George Brown College.
Winners of the 2023 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines which were all available for tasting. The top-scoring wines in the Ontario Wine Awards were tasted again by an independent panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers to gain this award. The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell presented the winemakers with their awards.

  • Megalomaniac Bubblehead Limited Edition Brut
  • Trius Winery Showcase Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2020
  • Big Head Wines Chardonnay Stone 2022
  • Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2021
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir La Grande Réserve 2018
  • Sprucewood Shore Winery Merlot Hawk’s Flight Reserve 2020
  • 13th Street Winery Gamay 2021
  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
  • Ravine Cabernet Franc 2020
  • Thirty Bench Wine Makers Wild Cask Cabernet Franc 2020

I was very touched to receive a certificate that there will be a scholarship in my name: The Tony Aspler Award for Excellence in Wine Studies.

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