O’Leary wines win the night – #LCBOgoLocal – Aug 7, 2012

Last night, alongside a number of my Twitter and Blogging friends, I attended a tasting for a line-up of Ontario’s next wines to be hitting the LCBO shelves in mid September.  It was cool because it was a pre-tasting for wines that haven’t hit stores yet.  A sneak peek into the direction the Ontario wine industry is headed.  Plus I will always jump at the chance to support the local wineries and the “buy local” movement of both food and wine.  With 19 Ontario wines to try and hosted by the LCBO, Ed Madronich (winemaker at Flat Rock Cellers) and Dan Sullivan (winemaker at Rosehall Run) I was flattered to be invited and happy to attend.

What the LCBO is doing is they are getting behind Ontario wine in a big way.  These wines will hit store shelves on September 16th and will be supported by the “People are Talking” campaign.  The Ontario wine industry wants to be more involved in social media and is recognizing that those with some Twitter influence, who largely support Ontario wine anyways, can be big allies for them in helping grow the market and bring more Ontario wines to the masses.  So under the hashtag #LCBOgoLocal we tasted and tweeted all night long, and at the end of it all the “People are Talking” campaign has my full support.  I would also encourage you to keep looking out for updates on the campaign on the LCBO website.  In the weeks leading up to the promotion you just might find a few video clips of yours truly speaking about Ontario wines.

But the reason it has my full support is not because I was part of last night’s festivities.  It has my full support because I firmly believe that Ontario wines are still undeveloped with so much for the everyday consumer to discover.  We are barely a blip on the world stage in production and consumption, but our winemakers are producing quality wine across all regions.  I believe in the next 5-10 years Ontario will make major strides in both quality and quantity of the wine being produced and will continue the push to become one of the top wine regions the world over.  Our tourism will see the benefits and the wine industry will be better for it.  Personally I am happy to be involved in it all, because at the end of the day all of us will benefit because as consumers we will continue to have access to wine of increasing quality and decreasing prices… and who wouldn’t want that?

This is all evidenced with the wines hitting the shelves next month.  We sampled 19 wines and only 4 of them were over $20.  These Ontario wines are made to be approachable for the everyday consumer as the theme for this release seems to be easy drinking wines, made to be drank now (not put in the cellar), loaded with ripe fruit flavours that can appeal to even the most basic of wine consumers.  I may have missed just a couple pictures but here are the photos of what we sampled. (Click on any image to view a larger size or to view the entire gallery)

What should you buy?

1)      I was blown away by the O’Leary wines, both the Chardonnay ($14.95) and the Cabernet Merlot ($14.95).  Yes the same O’Leary that is famous for his role on Dragon’s Den.  In partnership with the folks at Vineland Estates (winemaker Brian Schmidt already producing fantastic wines) Kevin O’Leary branches into the wine world with these releases.  I didn’t know what to expect however I declared on Twitter following the tasting that the O’Leary wines won the night for me, and I stand by that.  Brian even tells me that Mr. O’Leary was actively involved in the production of the wines so full points on that one as well.

2)      The Sandbanks Baco Noir Reserve ($19.95).  To be honest I didn’t want to like this wine.  I have not been the biggest Sandbanks fan in the past and I am also not the biggest fan of Baco Noir.  So the fact that this hits the list is a big testament to this wine.  It was great, is very easy drinking, and would go very nicely for those out there that consider themselves white wine drinkers but want to get into red wine.

3)      Lakeview Cellars Riesling Reserve (Vintages, $16.95). A very nice and fairly elegant Riesling for this price point.  It also showed a candied nose without being overly sweet somehow.

4)      Rosehall Run Liberated ($15.95). A very easy drinking Chardonnay/Muscat blend.  This wine is loaded with peach and ripe, fresh acidity, with a nice lingering finish.  This would be a nice summer wine for out on the dock at the cottage.

5)      Andrew Peller, Ice Cuvee Rose Signature Series (Vintages $34.85).  Ok this was the most expensive wine on the evening by a landslide, but I strongly recommend it if you want to spring for $35 bottle.  It’s a Rose sparkling wine that went down so easily.  Perhaps the next time you are put in charge of buying some bubbly for a special occasion you will consider this one.  Still a better price point than most French Champagnes.

You know what… the Ontario wine industry is fun.  There is little to no snobbery out there.  Ed and Dan embodied such a passionate and approachable personality and were so eager to talk about their product showing more enthusiasm then is demonstrated by most.  That comes across in this batch of wines.  They are fun.  They are approachable.  But at the end of the day they are also quite good.  Ed started the evening with a 20 minute rant about the future of Ontario wines.  In that speech he said “We are always innovating and getting better… because we have to.  We have to meet the LCBO’s extremely high standards, which is unique to our industry.” This is a good thing for the quality of wine you will see from Ontario.  So forget about California, France, Italy, and Australia for awhile and get behind #LCBOgoLocal.

– Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

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2 thoughts on “O’Leary wines win the night – #LCBOgoLocal – Aug 7, 2012

  1. Great review!! We worked hard on O’Leary Fine Wines – thanks for your kind words! Kevin will be signing bottles at the LCBO in Summerhill this Thursday, October 4 I hope we’ll see you there!

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