A Sparkling Recap of Cuvée 2018!

And that’s a wrap on 2018’s Cuvée Grand Tasting! It’s hard to believe that a highlight of the spring season is now behind us, but reflecting on the experience, we can describe it in one word: sparkling! ✨😍🍾

There’s something to be said about the fact that Ontario winemakers have truly embraced cool climate viticulture. Instead of fighting against the unique, albeit challenging climate, they have embraced it fully and a diverse array of cool climate wines were on display at Cuvée 2018.

Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) hosts the annual Cuvée Grand Tasting (which we’re calling Cuvée 2018 for ease of rolling off the tongue and keyboard). Held on Friday, March 23, 2018 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in the City of Niagara Falls, it kicks off a weekend-long celebration of VQA Ontario wines and local cuisine here in Ontario wine country! What we love about Cuvée is that not only does it celebrate excellence in Ontario winemaking, but it allows winemakers to select and share their personal favourite wines with guests. How cool is that?

With so many amazing wines being showcased, and so many wonderful people to connect with and chat about all things VQA, the night can quickly fly by! Luckily for us, we took advantage of the media tasting beforehand and took down our notes about our favourite sparkling wines being shared by their winemakers! Without further ado, here are our sparkling highlights from this amazing event…

Fielding Estate Winery – NV Brut

With lively, bracing acidity and a zesty citrus character, the Fielding Brut shines. Not only because it’s wonderfully palette cleansing, but rather because it showcases what one can do right here in Ontario! While we’re eagerly awaiting the Sparkling Rosé to return, the beautiful Brut certainly holds its own and was, for us, one of the highlights of the night.

13th Street Winery – 2012 Premier Cuvée

We’re not going to lie, we were so excited about this one! And we certainly weren’t disappointed. With a nose characterized by freshly baked brioche, stewed apples and citrus, the 2012 Premier Cuvée sure did show off the fact that it was resting on its lees for 48 months. A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this lovely sparkling is made in a Brut Nature style, and is oh so elegant!

Henry of Pelham – Cuvée Catharine NV Rosé Brut

We can’t say enough about the Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, which is our go-to recommendation for an Ontario sparkling crowd pleaser. From the beautiful bottle and branding, to the stunning pale salmon colour, to the aromatics (brioche, wild strawberry and citrus), this OG Ontario sparkler continues to shimmer and come out on top even in the face of more and more competition in our local market.

Thirty Bench – NV Sparkling Riesling

What can we say? We love sparkling and try to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s available here in Ontario. Sometimes, a winery and its bubbles sneak up on us and this lovely sparkling is an example! We had no idea Thirty Bench made sparkling, and a traditional method Riesling no less! Riesling can be tricky when handled this way, but Thirty Bench knows this grape very well and as a result, we have a crisp, fruity, yet refreshing and subtly autolytic bubbly.

Jackson-Triggs – 2014 Grand Reserve Entourage Sparkling Brut

Let’s call this one the Entourage for short, ok? 😜 A lovely traditional method sparkling, it’s crisp, approachable and absolutely delicious, offering notes of apple, toast and citrus on the nose and palate.

Kacaba Vineyards – 2016 Effervescence Sparkling

Kacaba’s 2016 Effervescence was another surprise for us! Made from Niagara Escarpment Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, this lovely sparkling is crafted using the charmat method, offering an easy, fresh and fruit forward experience. Perfect as an aperitif!

And, we would be remiss without offering a few highlights of the still wines. Still wines, Sparkling Winos? Yes, it’s true. We do enjoy the occasional wine without CO2. 😉

A few of our still wine highlights:

ICELLARS Estate Winery, 2016 Chardonnay. ICELLARS is a treasure, and this wine hails from the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation, is barrel fermented and aged 12 months in French Oak. A pure delight!

Southbrook Vineyards, Southbrook Estate Wild Ferment Chardonnay. One of our favourite Ontario wineries, Southbrook offers us the Wild Ferment Chardonnay. Complex, rich and a little weird (we like weird, and we mean it in the absolutely best of ways), this wine sings on the palette.

Two Sisters Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Franc. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc, estate grown in Niagara-on-the-Lake, from a vintage that was challenging for many. Luckily, the 2013 was a great year for the Two Sister’s Cabernet Franc, which offers beautiful notes of earth, smoke, fruit and a touch of vegetal.

But there’s a whole lot more than just wine at Cuvée!

One of the amazing aspects of the Grand Tasting is that also honors the talented people who work in the Ontario wine industry, which (according to CCOVI) is valued at $4.4 billion dollars.

A number of awards were given out, to some amazing industry individuals.

The first ever Winemaker of Excellence Award winner was awarded to Angelo Pavan, of Cave Spring Cellars. He was unanimously chosen for his major contributions to the industry, commitment to excellence in winemaking and his support of other winemakers in Ontario and beyond. Angelo was among the first winemakers in Ontario to work with numerous grape varieties and worked to improve wine quality and sustainability in vinifera varieties. He was also a founding member and Chair of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Standards Development Committee and has helped Niagara become one of the world’s pre-eminent Riesling producing regions.

But that wasn’t the only award!

The Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence was presented to Sue-Ann Staff, a talented winemaker with much history in the region. Coming from a long line of grape growers, she is an internationally recognized winemaker who not only has won many wine competitions across the globe, she runs her own winery and is a well known ambassador for Ontario wine on the world stage. Maybe this celebratory moment will inspire Ann to make some sparkling?! We can only hope!

And can we talk about the food?

From local restaurants, to gourmet cheese and charcuterie shops, we were spoiled for choice when it came to finding delicious bites to pair with our bubbles!

And we danced the night away, Après Cuvée!

Following the Grand Tasting, the Après Cuvée Party kept the celebration going with live music from Cuvée’s featured band – The Associates, and featured sparkling wine, Icewine as well as local craft beer and cider stations.

What a night! Nothing short of epic. And we can’t end off without mentioning that a record crowd attended this year’s event! Such an amazing time for local wine here in Ontario. For more information about Cuvée, visit their website, and keep your eyes peeled (and mark your calendars) for for next years Grand Tasting event, happening on March 29th, 2019!