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Angela's Canadian Wine Night

Canadian wines are an often overlooked category on NZ wine lists, but the quality and diversity are worth taking a second look. 


The main regions of Niagara Peninsula and Okanagan Valley are proving that Canada has a point of difference that goes beyond Ice Wine. After a recent trip to Canada expat Angela Allan revived her palate and transported some unique and distinctive Canadian wines back with her to show to the NZ sommelier association.

The history of modern wine making in the Niagara Region goes back to the 70’s with the formation of Inniskillin winery. Before that the wine scene was dominated by Hybrid varieties and quantity over quality. A short prohibition in the early years of the 20th century put a damper on wine trade and winemaking in BC began ramping up in the 90’s. Canadian wines are still developing and only gaining in quality.

Niagara Peninsula lies between two large bodies of water, Lake Ontario to the north and Lake Erie to the south. These lakes help to moderate the harsh continental climate that can bring freezing cold winters and searing hot summers. Humidity can be a problem in the summer months, while vine death can occur in harsh winters. Vines are located throughout the region with more premium producers choosing the dolomitic limestone soils of the Niagara escarpment.


This prominent outcropping was created by the movement and erosion of glaciers millions of years ago, and is declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Main grape varieties include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Baco, Noir, Vidal, Riesling and Chardonnay. The Vintners Quality Alliance began here from the grape growers of Ontario, as a quality measure to guarantee that wine labelled VQA is produced 100% in Ontario. 

We tasted 3 producers from this region

Hidden Bench - Situated in the Beamsville Bench sub region of the Niagara Escarpment producing quality minded and terroir focused wines from organic grapes. We tasted their estate Riesling and Pinot Noir and were delighted by the concentration and structure of these wines. The Riesling being well balanced with 17g RS/Ltr and laser focused with the Pinot displaying earthy and floral aromas with a mineral backbone.

Pearl Morrisette - Producing wines from the Lincoln Lakeshore, and Twenty Mile Bench sub appellations. Considered minimal interventionist winemaking we tasted the Dix Neuvième Chardonnay and Le Feu Cabernet Franc. The chardonnay exhibits tree fruits and citrus with a rich texture from extended contact with lees. 

Mason Vineyard Colab Chardonnay - A collaboration between two great winemakers- Kelly Mason, and Thomas Bachelder, this wine also comes from the Lincoln Lakeshow Appellation this wine is a blend of their two single vineyards. A rich wine with great structure and ample length.

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is a narrow valley that follows Okanagan lake and several other small lakes. It has a dry climate as it lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range to the west, with the southern part of the region displaying desert-like conditions. The soils are a combination of glacial sediment, alluvial, and gneiss, which are all free draining. Main grapes are Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. We tasted 5 different wines


2018 Blue Mountain Brut Rose Sparkling - This lively Methode Traditionelle wine is made of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay and has been aged for 30 months on lees. Wonderfully refreshing, with brioche and berries on the nose. 

2022 Synchromesh Riesling - with 50 gRS/Ltr you would never know with the powerful acidity and notes of fresh crunchy tree fruits. A perfect aperitif wine

2021 Black Hills CHardonnay - A kiwi wine maker Ross Wise. An elegant and expressive wine with a touch of toasty oak character. Really impressive

2020 Le Vieux Pin Syrah - From the southern Okanagan, a perfect dry vintage to ripen Syrah grapes. Delicious, medium bodied, with a hint of charcuterie and baked plums.

2021 Averill Creek Pinot Noir - This wine is actually not from the Okanagan Valley but the  Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island, which is considered to be a bit of a mediterranean climate. 100% whole bunch fermentation reveals layers of delicious fruit and a savoury complex finish. This wine really impressed the group.


Many in the group had never before tasted Canadian wines, and we were excited, and impressed by the quality. These few producers are certainly ones to look out for, and possibly pay a visit to the rugged and beautiful regions they hail from. We will certainly be looking for them to appear on NZ wine lists in the near future.

What an intriguing lineup:

2019 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling VQA Beamsville Bench

2021 Hidden Bench Pinot Noir VQA Beamsville Bench

2019 Pearl Morissette "le feu" Cab Franc VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

2018 Pearl Morissett "dix neuvieme" Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench

2020 Mason Vineyards Chardonnay VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

2021 Black Hills Chardonnay VQA Okanagan Valley

2018 Blue Mountain Brut Rose VQA Okanagan Valley

2022 Synchhro Mesh Riesling various sites in Okanagan valley

2020 Le Vieux Pin Syrah VQA Okanagan Valley

2021 Averill Creek Pinot Noir, Cowichan Valley Vancouver Island

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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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The School

Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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