Monday, March 17, 2014

The Secret's Out: Discovering Canadian Wine

There's more to Canada than bacon, seafood, beef, and dairy, and the secret's out...

The Embassy of Canada recently organized a wine cocktail reception showcasing a selection of premium Canadian wines at the Makati Shangri-La's Sage restaurant and bar. Hosted by Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder, guests from media and the beverage industry were given exclusive access to a selection of red and white wines from Canada.

"Canada boasts of high-quality grapes, excellent growing conditions, and investments in world-class wineries that have contributed to the growing success of Canadian wines both at home and abroad," said Ambassador Reeder in his opening remarks. "As we bring Canadian wines closer to the Philippines, we are proud that Canada is garnering well-deserved attention worldwide as a wine producing country." Canada's wineries continue to grow with increasing popularity both in Canada and abroad, as wine production has more than doubled since 1995 with wine shipments reaching more than $700 million annually.

Blessed by an ideal climate for the slow maturing of grapes resulting in the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, the wine-producing regions of Canada are the world's best kept secret. Ontario and British Columbia are the main wine producing regions of Canada, contributing 97% of Canada's total production. Long known for its sweet and distinct icewine, Canada's red and white wines are rapidly gaining worldwide attention and popularity. Wineries have also emerged in Quebec and Nova Scotia, offering yet another distinct taste of Canadian wines. The Embassy of Canada presented several labels for the reception, starting with refreshing and crisp whites, including Coyote's Run Pinot Noir Black Paw, Henry of Pelham's 2011 Chardonnay 2011, and 2011 Pinot Grigio; and bold reds featuring Lailey Vineyard's 2010 Syrah, Calamus Estate Winery's 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coyote's Run 2010 Merlot Red Paw, and an effervescent sparkling Cuvee Catharine Brut from Henry of Pelham.

As the staff at Sage arranged the wine glasses and chilled the whites and sparkling wine for the reception, Daniel Blais, a Canadian and the hotel's head sommelier and director of beverage, proudly ensured that everyone's glasses will be filled with wine from his homeland.

Canada is best known for its unique icewines, ranked as some of the world's best dessert wines. Canada's unique climate adds a distinct sweetness, with production carefully regulated to ensure quality. The grapes are carefully hand-picked and pressed while still frozen when sugar concentrations are at its peak, resulting in its signature smoothness and richness. It is this subtle layer of sweetness that gives Canadian wines a distinct profile, and one I enjoyed in all the wines featured at the reception.

Our experience with Canadian wines begin with Coyote's Run's Pinot Noir Black Paw, a refreshingly crisp white with hints of earthy black cherries and strawberries balanced by a subtle spice. Grapes grown on Coyote's Run's Black Paw Vineyard benefit from the high water and heat retention of the rich clay loam, combined with the sun-drenched summers and cool, lingering autumns ensure a balance of acidity and sweetness. Perfectly chilled, Coyote's Run's Pinot Noir Black Paw is light and clean yet full of robust flavors.  

Henry of Pelham's 2011 Pinot Grigio was served next, refreshingly fruity with hints of melon and cranberry, and a subtle layer of sweetness making it smooth and easy and a joy to sip.

Henry of Pelham's 2011 Chardonnay, another light and crisp white with more pronounced fruity hints of apples and grapefruit. The combination of soil, climate and exposure to sun combine for the slow maturing and leisurely ripening of the grapes, with just the right level of sweetness that give Canadian wine a distinct character. 

Then, the first of the reds were served, starting with Lailey Vineyard's 2010 Syrah, with full and robust flavors of blueberries and currants. Deep, bold and and intense, tempered and balanced by a delicate sweetness.

Ambassador Neil Reeder then gathered the guests for a toast with Henry of Pelham's Cuvee Catharine Brut, a refreshing sparkling wine. Named after winery's family matriarch, Cuvee Catharine Brut is light with a citrusy hint of lemon for clean, sharp flavors. And with each sip, one can't help but appreciate the amount of work, dedication and passion behind each label.

After the toast, Calamus Estate Winery's 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was served, a deep and bold red with noticeable hints of blackberry and plum, finishing with a subdued spice for a little kick.  And lastly, we were served Coyote's Run's 2010 Merlot Red Paw, made with grapes harvested from the iron-rich Red Paw Vineyard, with its rich fruity flavors. The reds featured bolder flavors, tempered by a mild layer of sweetness.

Along with the wine, Sage restaurant and bar served their signature small plates, including seafood and stuffed vegetables, enough reasons to go for another glass of one several Canadian wines.

And desserts too, perfect when paired with the crisp and refreshing whites. It's always a joy to experience to new flavors, and discovering Canadian wine is definitely one of those experiences. While the bottles featured at the reception are not yet available locally, neighboring countries in the region are already enjoying the availability of Canadian wine, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia. Hopefully, this will soon change as Canadian wine will be made available in the country. "Wine consumption in the Philippines has shown reasonable growth over the past years. From red to white to sparkling to ice, Canada offers premium wine products that can certainly address the Filipinos' growing appreciation for wine," Ambassador Reeder added.

There's definitely more to discover from Canada, and Canadian wines deserve a much closer look. The secret's out...

For more information, please contact Mr. Carlo Figueroa, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy of Canada, at 857-9026 or email at

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