No matter who you were pulling for in last night's Presidential contest, if you were on the losing side, you undoubtedly heard more than a few of your disgruntled peeps threaten to move to Canada in protest. Well, before you start packing your bags, we thought it only proper to give you the lowdown on the state of the Canadian wine business -- just because you'll probably need to stock up on warmer clothing for the much-colder temperatures doesn't mean that your wine standards must drop just as precipitously.
If you really think about it, there's nothing much to fear about a move to hang out with the rest of North America. There's killer skiing in British Columbia, innovative cuisine in Montreal and haute couture in Toronto. But wine? We're betting you had no idea the Canucks even had a wine industry and that the chances that you've consumed any of the bottles it's producing are lodged somewhere between "highly doubtful" and "not a chance in hell." Here's a brief introduction to the ever-expanding world of Canadian wine.
There's plenty to choose from: Who knew that there were more than 100 wine producers tucked just north of the Washington State border? The region of Okanagan Valley, British Columbia -- which shares the same longitude / latitude coordinates with far-more-famous wine locale Champagne, France and accounts for some 10,000 acres of grapes and five distinct viticultural areas. Canada's second largest wine producing area is located clear on the other side of the country, in Ontario's Niagara wine region, home to more than 50 winemakers. Canada's most successful varieties? Pinot gris, chardonnay, merlot, syrah and pinot noir -- but winemakers are experimenting with everything from gewürztraminer to cabernet franc.
They make food-friendly wines: Regions with cooler climates (think Piedmont, Burgundy and the aforementioned Champagne) tend to produce grapes with higher acid levels. And higher acid levels in wines make your mouth water when you drink them -- which stimulates your palate and in turn, your appetite. This is why the highly desirable weather combination of warm-to-hot afternoons followed by much cooler evenings that prevails in Canada's top wine producing regions results in wines that complement, not clobber, any foods you might be enjoying with them.
Ice, ice baby: If there is one Canadian wine you're likely to have at least heard of, and maybe even sampled, it's ice wine. These prized dessert wines are made by pressing the highly concentrated must (aka juice, skin and seeds) from grapes that have frozen on the vine -- and by "highly concentrated" we mean sweet -- and then fermenting it into a positively magical elixir. If you're reading this and thinking, "Ugh -- I hate sweet wine," then that's probably because you've never experienced the sheer delight that involves a glass of icewine served with one of its soul mate pairing partners: rich, vanilla cheesecake or classic crème brûlée.
Canadian wines worth checking out: Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2010 ($28) Nk'Mip Cellar QwAM QwMT Syrah 2008 ($35) Hester Creek Estate Reserve Merlot 2009 ($28) Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine 2008 ($49, 375ML)