January 12th, 2017/ BY Michael Pinkus

Vidal is not a garbage-y grape!

I recently heard Vidal described as a “garbage-y grape”, so when the editors of Quench approached me about what grape I’d like to highlight in this year’s “living local” issue, I jumped at the chance to find out just how “garbage-y” Vidal actually is. And while Vidal might not have the prestige of Riesling, Chardonnay or (gasp) Pinot Gris these days, it still makes some of the most expensive wine found in a half bottle made in Canada (Icewine). To call it “garbage-y” seemed to me a bit of a disconnect. So I thought it best to talk to those who make it and find out their opinion on the matter.

“I enjoy Vidal and what it offers,” says Sue-Ann Staff, winemaker for her eponymous label Staff in Ontario. “When made well and with respect it is elegant, fruity and very enjoyable.” Her 2015 Lavelle’s Vidal (reviewed below) shows a real playfulness, both on the palate and in the name: “[the wine was] named after my grandfather who loved everything sweet, including caramels, boxes of chocolates and women.”

Sweet is sadly how most people see Vidal being made, as a sweet dessert style wine, but it can also make some serious dry wines: “We have long been promoters of this workhorse grape for making unpretentious, dry table wines and at friendly price points,” reports Darryl MacMillan, Sales and Marketing Manager for Pelee Island Winery (Ontario). In his opinion “[it is] vitally important in introducing new people to the VQA Ontario category.”

Out west it’s a double-edged sword according to two wineries who had two very differing philosophies about what to do with the grape.

“It is a quintessentially Canadian wine … this country pioneered it. It is not simply an imitation of something that has/had already been done in Europe or elsewhere in the world.”

~ Winemaker Manuel Zuppiger

Stag’s Hollow purchased a vineyard in 1992 planted with Vidal and Chasselas, their first two wines were Vidal-based because that was all they had to work with, but it was always their intention to rip it out in favour of more serious grapes. Owner Linda Pruegger takes the story over from there: “In about 2002, we gave our customers a heads-up that this would be the last vintage of our Vidal as we were going to replant [the vineyard] to Sauvignon Blanc; it had become the most popular wine in the tasting room so many expressed their disappointment that we would no longer have it. We re-thought our decision and ended up inter-planting Sauvignon Blanc into our Vidal block. We rebranded the Vidal to ‘Tragically Vidal’ because at that time most of the Vidal was pulled out of the Valley.”

And since that time there has been a real attitude change towards the grape: “[Today we see it as] a perfect wine for summer tourists passing through the Okanagan … we have even planted more vines in a new vineyard to increase production to make it more [widely] available.”

On the other hand, Arrowleaf specifically planted Vidal in 1999 for the production of Icewine and Late Harvests because “[it] is a quintessentially Canadian wine,” says winemaker Manuel Zuppiger. One we should be fiercely proud of because “this country pioneered [the wine] it is not simply an imitation of something that has/had already been done in Europe or elsewhere in the world.”

But Manuel also recognizes the grape has an uphill climb for respect: “It is a hybrid grape variety and therefore it sometimes gets snubbed in favour of more ‘serious’ offerings, but its wines never show any of the supposed shortcomings of a hybrid grape.”

With the kinds of respect being paid to the grape: more plantings, naming after beloved family members, gateway wine to the VQA category, it’s hard to label it “garbage-y.” Instead it might just be what Manuel Zuppiger called “the quintessentially Canadian” grape.



Quai du Vin Vidal 2015, Ontario ($12)

If the floral and beeswax notes don’t impress you just wait for that delightful pineapple finish.

Pelee Island Vidal/Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc 2013, Ontario ($10.95)

Dry Vidal can develop a beeswax note along with floral but this one also possesses apple and orange zest all balanced with nice acidity.

Niagara College Teaching Winery College White 2013, Ontario ($11)

Vidal and Chardonnay make pretty good bedfellows; this simple wine has floral, apple skin and herbal notes with peach pit and apricot on the finish.

Southbrook Connect White 2014, Ontario ($15.95)

A real kitchen sink blend that begins with Vidal then adds Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; the nose proves to be nondescript due to all those grapes but the palate has pear, orange zest, citrus, peach and pineapple to spare.

Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2015, British Columbia ($16.99)

Pour this blind and you’ll swear it’s Gewürztraminer or at least Gewürzt-esque with its floral/violet/rose petals along with Bosc pear and spicy finish.

Niagara College Teaching Winery Balance White 2012, Ontario ($12)

Grapefruit zest/pith with lemon drop and beeswax, considering its age it is still delightfully drinkable.

Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2014, British Columbia ($16.99)

This version is Riesling-like with its sweet pear, peach, apple, apricot and mineral/stoniness; good acidity on the finish and some of that signature Stag’s Hollow spiciness also shows up for good measure.

Rockway White 2015, Ontario ($12.95)

Vidal and Riesling make a beautiful baby together: gentle sweetness with pear, apple and peach with hints of peach pit on the finish – lively, delicious and delightful.

Sue-Ann Staff Lavelle’s Vidal 2015, Ontario ($15.95)

Sweet yet with apple and pear – it’s simple and tasty with nice acid balance for easy drinking enjoyment.

Rockway Vidal Spritz Patio 9 2014, Ontario ($12.95)

Think of this as Ontario’s version of Moscato with its notes of pétillant bubbles – sweet peach flavour with apple show up on the finish but it’s well balanced so as not to come off too sweet.

Three Dog Winery Dog House White 2014, Ontario ($12.95)

This basically dry version brings back the beeswax and floral side of Vidal adding apple to the mid-palate and finish.

Pelee Island Lola NV, Ontario ($13)

This Vidal-Chambourcin sparkling wine made in the Charmat method is sealed under screwcap for easy access: raspberry-strawberry and floral notes take center-stage with a nice peachy mid-palate.

Rockway Rosé Spritz Patio 9 2014, Ontario ($13.95)

This off-white version of Vidal adds Cabernet to the mix and has a light and lively spritziness which helps to enhance the strawberry, floral, raspberry and even a tart/spicy finish – quite refreshing.

Pelee Island Late Harvest Vidal 2013, Ontario ($11.95)

As the name suggests this late harvest gives the wine a slight sweetness of floral, apple, pear lightly kissed by wildflower honey, all with a long finish.

After working at several elite wineries, David Stasiuk settled in as winemaker at Rockway Vineyards.
Winemaker Gavin Robertson has a unique opportunity at Niagara College Teaching Winery. He crafts each vintage alongside his students.

Rockway Late Harvest Vidal 2013, Ontario ($15.95)

Another beauty from Rockway; this sweetie is delicately sweet with apple, peach and pear compote all touched with a dollop of honey.

Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014, Ontario ($79.95)

The best of two worlds collide: sparkling wine and Icewine – imagine pineapple, apricot, peach and honey with a nice fizzy bubble all with a butterscotch-caramel finish, and did I mention the bubbles?

Rockway Vidal Icewine 2013, Ontario ($29.95)

Keeping with their established theme of delicate sweetness, here honey-peach-apple-pear and pineapple syrup meld together beautifully all with well-balanced and great cut-the-sweetness acidity.

Arrowleaf Vidal Select Late Harvest 2014, British Columbia ($21.90)

Well made Select Late Harvest is worth its weight in gold, this Arrowleaf proves why: delicate with nuances of honey drizzled over apple, pear and apricot cocktail; subtle and not too sweet – very balanced with sweetness and acidity.



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