Great Canadian Riesling

By / Magazine / October 27th, 2010 / 2

So, does this happen to some of you? Every time you go for a facial, the aesthetician tries to sell you hundreds of dollars worth of skin care products? Guys may not understand, but it happens to me without fail. There I lay, damp cotton circles on my eyes, soft music playing, face steamer puffing away, alone with the aesthetician, and the pitch begins:

“What do you use on your skin?”

I could say $5,000 per ounce cherub spit and it wouldn’t matter. The next line is always the same.

“Hmmm.” Audible frown. “You need to try what I’m using on you today. Just the basics: a cleanser, toner, day cream, night cream and eye cream. And, of course, an anti-aging serum, exfoliant and two masks — one for your eye area, the other for the rest of your face, neck and décolletage.”

But there’s nothing wrong with my skin.

“You need upkeep. Prevention.”

So, why is your stuff better than what I’m using at home?

“It’s from Europe. Paris, actually.”

Mmhmm. So?

“It’s made from the best ingredients.”

Mmhmm. And?

“The whole range is fortified with rare sea minerals that help the skin rejuvenate …” and off she rattles. “And this mask is just what you need. It re-shapes the skin by forming an extensive 3D network on the surface with an incredible lifting and tightening effect.”

Mmmhmm. Will I see a difference in my skin?

“Yes. Over time. If you use it regularly.”

How much time?

“It all depends.”

And it costs how much?

“Well, the whole range is quite reasonable, for what it is. And for you, I would recommend the cleanser, which is $78; the toner, which is $47; the day cream, $143; the night cream, $173; the eye cream, $62.50; the anti-aging serum, $164; and the exfoliant, $76. Oh, and the face mask is $92, and the eye mask is $42.”

The bottles are tiny.

“But you only need very little.”

So, I could buy several small bottles of goo to clean my face for about the price of feeding a family of four for a month knowing full well any change in my complexion — which may or may not occur over time — could not be remotely attributable to any one product if I’m plastering nine on my face, as well as a handful of cosmetics. Yet aestheticians seem to believe the marketing bull they’ve been taught in face-cleaning and toenail-painting school.

I always leave the salon thinking, give me a glass of wine!

In stark contrast to anti-aging lotions, wine offers instant, measurable results. It not only gives you an easy facelift — called, a smile; it makes you and everyone else more attractive. It quickly erases frowns, pursed lips, and the tension that can cause small lines that become deep furrows. Wine is the most powerful anti-aging potion I know. And it’s far more gratifying than any skin cream product or cosmetic. I say, buy the cheapest skin products you can and spend as many of your hard-earned dollars as possible on wine.

If the anti-aging potency quotient corresponds directly with a wine’s pleasure dose, great Canadian Riesling is bottled youth. Rieslings can seem dry, off-dry, medium-dry or downright sweet, but they always retain their acidic nerve, making them excellent cocktail wines, aperitifs, meal accompaniments and after dinner drinks. That means we can drink them from 11 am to 11 pm without pause — but maybe with a slight headache.

With that in mind, I tasted through flight after flight of great Canadian Rieslings and captured the best here, grouped by appropriate hour of consumption — with food pairing suggestions — starting with an 11:00 am pre-lunch tipple.  

11:00 am

Cave Spring Sparkling Riesling Brut VQA 2006, Niagara Escarpment, ON ($25)
White grapefruit, aniseed and baked croissant aromas lead to a crisp, almost chalky-dry palate. Fresh grapefruit mingles with cooked apple before tapering to a deep minerality that lingers on the finish.  
Smoked fish dip

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Larch Tree Hill Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($14)
Ripe peach and orange nose lead to crisp-dry but concentrated almost creamy attack of key lime, lemon oil and a slight floral note. Long dry lime finish.
Scallops wrapped in bacon and grilled

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Riesling VQA 2008, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($14)
Wet stone, aniseed, white peach and floral aromas and flavours finish with a bitter lime twist and hint of sea salt.
Oysters in the half shell

Gray Monk Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($17)
Herb and granite aromas lead to cool steely flavours edged with citrus. Lively, fresh and tangy with a persistent lemon zest finish. Serious but accessible.

1:00 pm

NK’MIP Cellars Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($18)
Yellow plum and lime zest, gentle orange and wild flowers end with an unmistakable grapefruit zest finish. Quite polished with a slippery almost silky texture. Dry.
Fried calamari

Tantalus Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($23)
Bitter lime, white grapefruit, hard green pear, and granite edged with smoky ash and steel. Bone dry. Bracing acidity. Concentrated, complex and long. Very grown-up wine.
Smoked salmon scrambled eggs

Tantalus Riesling VQA 2007, Okanagan Valley, BC ($23)
Petrol aromas and flavours peeking through cool steel, flint, subtle grapefruit and lime. Long, powerful, subtle and dry. Fabulous, austere style of Riesling.
Grilled sardines

Konzelmann Estate Winery Riesling VQA 2008, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($12)
Tart lime and lilac aromas lead to seriously mouthwatering flavours of Granny Smith apple and lime juice before returning to lilacs. Lovely. Off-dry but incredibly crisp, giving the illusion of bone dryness.
Crab ravioli with a cream sauce

Mission Hill Family Estate Riesling Reserve VQA 2007, Okanagan Valley, BC ($16)
Mixed citrus aromas infused with petrol move to a dry, elegant palate. Delicate, refined flavours of verbena, lacy lime and damp herbs with nutmeg on the finish. Dry but round.
Steamed leeks wrapped with Black Forest ham and baked in an Emmental cheese sauce

Inniskillin Two Vineyards Riesling VQA 2008, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($18)
Mixed wildflowers on the nose lead to pronounced fruity flavours of pineapple and ruby grapefruit with lime-squirt acidity. A dry, clean, fruit-juicy rendition.
Warm goat cheese on mixed greens with a lemon and oil dressing

Pillitteri Estate Winery Select Late Harvest Riesling VQA 2008, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($25)
Very intense. Tropical with mango and pineapple. Rich and fleshy with lemony freshness. Intense and balanced dessert wine with a long pineapple finish.
Tropical fruit salad

Pillitteri Estates Winery Icewine Riesling VQA 2007, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($50)
Grapefruit sherbet, white cherry and lemon notes flood the senses, finishing with honeyed grapefruit zest and a long lemony finish. Great spine of balancing acidity.
Angel food cake with freshly whipped cream

3:00 pm

Cave Spring Riesling Icewine VQA 2007, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($60)
Seriously unctuous wine with intense baked apple with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a long honey-apple-spice finish.
Roquefort and walnuts or homemade apple pie

5:00 pm

See Ya Later Ranch Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($15)
Don’t be fooled by the flying-dog-with-a-halo critter label or the cutesy name, there’s nothing fluffy about this wine. Lime oil, crushed rock, struck steel and cinders.  Intense, serious, complex, concentrated, long and cool.  Stunning buy. Off-dry with balanced acidity.
Tuna carpaccio

Tawse Wismer Vineyard VQA 2008 Riesling, Lakeview Block, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($25)
Lemon lime sorbet nose and palate with an attractive bitter twist and stony core. The bottle says off-dry but any sweetness is completely hidden beneath taut acidity. Very classic, well-made Riesling.
Deep fried coconut shrimp

Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling VQA 2008, Steel Post Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, ON ($30)
Stylish and classic. Concentrated extract makes it accessible while plunging mineral complexity makes it interesting. Finishes tight, clean and dry. Fabulous palate cleanser.
Pork dumplings

7:00 pm

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Okanagan Estate Riesling VQA 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC ($22)
Amazing nose that reminds me of, oh, I don’t know, angel’s breath, maybe? A study in seamlessness, subtlety, balance and finesse. Powerful yet elegant, rich yet beautifully toned, dry wine that flits from lemon curd to lemon blossom, lime zest to cool stone. World class.
Broiled lobster tails basted with sea-salted butter

Inniskillin Bruce Nicholson Legacy Riesling VQA 2008, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($30)
Shimmering lime purée edged with white flower and pear notes and a long mineral finish. Dry. Seductive.
Honey roasted ham and roasted potatoes

Kacaba Vineyards Riesling VQA 2009, Niagara Escarpment, ON ($18)
Rich, ripe, seriously mouth-filling wine with medium-dry flavours of tropical fruit — melon, pineapple, passion fruit and lemon. Zippy acidity and persistent pineapple and lemon finish. Great value.
Pad Thai

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling VQA 2008, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON ($17)
Bracing acidity balances lush sweetness with bushels of fruit. Dried apricot, baked red apple, and mixed tropical fruit salad. Ripe, concentrated.
Red grapefruit drizzled with honey

Charles Baker Stratus Riesling VQA 2008, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON ($35)
Lemon lime sorbet with a tight mineral core. Sweet wine, though not as succulent as a late harvest. Finishes dry.
Pound cake

Lailey Vineyards Riesling Select Late Harvest VQA 2008, Niagara River, ON ($25)
Poached stone fruit and Bartlett pear succulence with balancing acidity. Stylish and well-made.
Plain cheesecake

9:00 pm

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine VQA 2007, Okanagan Valley, BC ($60)
Orange sherbet nose leads to lush orange, tart Gala apple flavours with a hint of praline on the finish. Very clean, well-made wine with bracing acidity.

Mission Hill Family Estate Select Lot Collection Riesling Icewine VQA 2006, Okanagan Valley, BC ($80)
Butterscotch flavours and aromas nuanced with cooked apple, poached pear and a hint of nut before a long butterscotch finish.
Roasted nuts and baked Brie


Wine book author and critic Carolyn Evans Hammond first fell in love with wine during her first trip to France many moons ago when she picnicked in the vineyards of the Cotes du Rhone. Now she makes wine accessible with her witty and light approach to the topic. Carolyn’s latest book, Good Better Best Wines: A No-Nonsense Guide to Popular Wine, is the first book to rank the best-selling wines in North America by price and grape variety, with tasting notes and bottle images (April, 2010, $12.95, Alpha Books). Within weeks of release, it soared to #1 wine book at and the #2 one at and remains a bestseller to this day. It’s available at bookstores everywhere. Watch the trailer at Her first book, 1000 Best Wine Secrets, is a compilation of trade secrets designed to illuminate the topic and help wine drinkers make more satisfying wine choices. It too is a bestseller, earning critical acclaim and international distribution (October, 2006, $12.95, Sourcebooks, Inc). As well as an author, Carolyn’s reviews and critical articles appear regularly in Taste and Tidings magazine, she has talked about wine on radio and TV throughout North America, and has contributed material in such eminent publications as Decanter and Wine & Spirit International in the United Kingdom, as well as Maclean’s in Canada. She issues a weekly newsletter, publishes a blog, runs a Facebook wine club, twitters, and conducts seminars and private consultations. Constantly learning, Carolyn spends much of her time tasting wine and meeting with winemakers and industry professionals. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers in the UK and the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada; she holds a Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in the UK; and she earned a BA from York University where she studied English and Philosophy. She has lived in many cities in North America and Europe, and now resides in Toronto, where she was born.

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