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Year in Review: 50 standout Ontario wines of ’22

December 21, 2022

With hundreds of wines having been tasted from all over the province, we’ve once again decided to narrow things down and focus on 50 standout wines tasted throughout the year – some of which were previously included in various feature stories, but most have been added specifically for this year-end review.

As we get set to introduce this year’s list, we should also note that we’ve decided to do something just a bit different than last year. Whereas our 2021 list was solely comprised of wines tasted and evaluated by our editor, Carmelo Giardina, this year’s list includes tasting notes by both Carmelo and contributing editor, Leah Spooner.

Read Also: 50 standout Ontario wines of 2021

As many wines are made in limited quantities and not available in every market (some even released as wine club member only wines), our list of 50 is not necessarily a “shopping list,” but rather a guide to wineries to watch in the future—a reflection of the producers and wines that both Carmelo and Leah have become particularly passionate about. And, just like last year, this is not a ranking. Wines are listed in random order.

If you want to know which of these 50 wines made Carmelo’s final Top 10 List for the best Canadian wines of the year, you’ll need to sign up for the VineRoutes Newsletter and wait for the announcement on December 27th. Already a subscriber? No worries, you’re covered!

These 50 offerings were the most exciting wines of 2022, selected because they were compelling and delicious.


Westcott 2020 ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay

Elevating the excellence of the beloved 2017 vintage, 2020 growing conditions have enabled a wine with seemingly unmatchable, and remarkable structure. On the nose, yellow plum, walnut, pear, and croissant. The palate delivers warm notes of toasted almonds, pear, and lemon zest lifted by Niagara acidity and a supporting mineral vein. Robust, creamy and harmonious. The 2020 vintage has exalted this Reserve Chardonnay to perhaps be Westcott’s finest Chardonnay yet. – Leah Spooner

Le Clos Jordanne 2020 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay

This chardonnay from the Claystone Terrace block is a real standout. It’s a wine that tells a story of its terroir well, known for its mineral dominance, yet lean and restrained style. Right now, the wine is showing a steely nose, still needing more time (in your cellar) to unwind. The wine’s lengthy finish seems to be its defining quality, carrying a distinct chalkiness. Watch this wine unravel like a beautiful flower over the mid to long term. – Carmelo Giardina

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Click the image to review our list of Ontario’s Top 20 Wineries of 2022.

Mason Vineyard 2019 ‘The Matriarch’ Pinot Noir

Wonderfully floral aromas of dried violets hover over dashes of ripe cherry, prune, and earth. A well orchestrated palate showcases balanced acidity that coddles soft ripe fruit and fall leaves. Ripe raspberry, forest, and dogwood notes are well integrated with a pulse of Niagara minerality. A stunning first vintage from Mason Vineyard. – Leah Spooner

Stratus 2019 Syrah

Stratus is a winery with an established pedigree and is very well-known for its assemblage wines, but their single variety offerings are not to be discounted. This syrah is simply stunning. A deep nose of red currant, clove and black pepper, with meaty notes that waft the longer this decants. The palate is classic syrah with its sweet chewy black fruit, peppery tar and savoury black olive flavours. Excellent depth with a lovely rich mid palate that segués into a long-lasting finish. Will reward with some added time in your cellar. – Carmelo Giardina

13th Street Sandstone Gamay

This gamay from 13th Street introduces itself with red cherry, ripe strawberry, earth, and woodsy aromas. The palate presents a lovely balance of fresh and ripe red fruits along mushroom, and mellow earthy notes of tree bark, mineral and soil. Flavours and structure intertwine seamlessly to create a wonderfully elegant and indulgent wine. – LS

Closson Chase 2020 ‘South Clos’ Chardonnay

A standout amongst the many cool-climate chardonnay at the i4C event in Niagara. This Prince Edward County Chardonnay displays delicate aromas of pear, jasmine, and macintosh apple. An ethereal palate of nervy acidity under a thin veil of wet stone with ripe and baked apple. Elegant yet powerful, that closes with a persistent finish. – LS

2027 Cellars 2020 ‘King Street Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

Perhaps known more for their quality (and value-driven) chardonnays, 2027’s standout wine during my visit earlier in the year was this pinot! The King Street Vineyard is located in the ‘Twenty Mile Bench’ sub appellation, and a moderate slope of the vineyard ensures a harmonious combination of excellent sun exposure and air flow, producing wines capable of wonderful finesse and structure. This wine has an enticing, candied nose, almost jammy. The mouthfeel is lighter bodied, but wonderfully flavoured. Ripe cherry, currant and vanilla bean come to mind. Well done here, and very much now looking forward to this vineyard’s evolution. – CG

Thirty Bench 2020 ‘Small Lot’ Pinot Gris

From Niagara’s mighty Beamsville Bench sub appellation, this is a top tier bottle from one of Ontario’s prestige producers, Thirty Bench. Bright yellow in colour, this pinot gris has a tantalizing bouquet of honeyed melon, pear and a whiff of rain. Dry on the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied with a richened and textured mouthfeel, all backed with steely and purposeful acidity. Flavours are of melon, spice and brined mineral notes that really give this wine a certain electricity. The finish is of mild citrus and apple. Far from a mere textbook expression, this is an offering that surely ranks among the best in the province, if not the country. – CG

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180 Estate Winery 2019 Gamay Reserve

A small batch Gamay from the Creek Shores sub appellation of Niagara. The aromas are reminiscent of an early summer trail walk – moss, flowers, trees, and blackcaps. Some sweet baking spice as well. Electric acidity carries the palate of gentle tannins, an earth-driven core, and sweet, dried red fruits. Admirable tension as well as balance. – LS

Stratus 2019 Gamay

100% gamay from Stratus Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Delicate aromas of red liquorice, cherry pie, cedar and fall leaves. The palate is savoury with energetic acidity. Notes of cured meat, ripe cherry, cranberry and forest lead to a persistent finish. A serious, and fully satisfying gamay. – LS

Fogolar 2019 Picone Vineyard Cabernet Franc

This single vineyard cabernet franc showcases the unique terroir of the Picone Vineyard, located atop the edge of the Niagara Escarpment in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. Deep garnet-purple with an earthy nose, dried violets, and blackberry jam. Full-bodied on a juicy, structured palate with well-defined and opulent tannin and blackberry. Black cherry, and gamey flavours round out the experience. – CG

Stratus 2020 ‘Unfiltered’ Chardonnay

With a distinct golden haze, given by the inclusion of lees, look for bright and enticing aromas of fresh-cut pineapple and Bartlett pear. Flavours are zesty and tropical, with fresh lime, pineapple and coconut. It’s delicious now, but this is a wine that promises so much more complexity and gravitas in coming years. – CG

Jackson-Triggs 2019 ‘Grand Reserve’ Pinot Noir

An incredibly beautiful nose of fall leaves, red and sour cherry, roses, nutmeg, and dill. These aromas are my love language! All follow on a silky mouthfeel with energetic acidity weaving through the flavours. Vibrant red fruit sends shockwaves through the palate. Pinot precision! – LS

Black Bank Hill 2019 ‘Foxcroft’ Chardonnay

A Chardonnay from the esteemed Foxcroft Vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation. Delicate aromas of walnut, nectarine, buttered toast, and candied lemon. A velvety and plush palate cascades flavours of golden apple, walnut, candied lemon, cedar, and vanilla. Talented oak integration, a poised vein of lifting acidity, and a dusting of chalky minerality towards a persistent finish. This is everything I love about Bench Chardonnay! – LS

Tawse 2019 ‘Limestone Ridge’ North Block Riesling

An organic and vegan Ontario Riesling that opens with aromas of honeysuckle, flint, ripe peach, and lemon zest. Off-dry, with beaming acidity and a core of limestone minerality that cozies in to every breadth of structure here. Expressive and seamless. A beautiful representation of the captivating Twenty Mile Bench terroir! – LS

Bill Redelmeier

Discussing wine with Bill Redelmeier, proprietor of Southbrook Vineyards, while enjoying a few glasses.

The Organized Crime 2021 Pinot Gris

Seemingly immune to the rather challenging harvest conditions of 2021, this copper-coloured pinot gris from Niagara’s Beamsville Bench sub appellation seems to deliver year after year. No wonder this wine has such a cult following. To extract that signature colour and aromatics from the skins, about half of the fruit is allowed to macerate for 24 hours of skin contact. The result is a wine with a lifted nose of pear, nectarine, cantaloupe and citrus. The body is rich yet balanced by natural and vibrant acidity, presenting wonderful citrus flavours, especially nectarine, melon and ocean spray. The finish is minerally and clean. – CG

Redstone 2020 Pinot Gris

Another selection from the Beamsville Bench, it’s important to show how a wine can contrast even those from its very same sub appellation. From a superb 2020 Ontario vintage, the nose is not exactly telling, but after allowing this to open up in the glass one discovers some peach and pear, with subtle floral aromatics (thinking honeysuckle). The palate is dominated by refreshing mineral and saline notes, with subtle flavours of citrus, orange and mild grapefruit. Some may consider this to be a mild expression, however I really enjoyed its clean and fresh angle – focusing less on intense acidity and allowing the fruit to express its terroir. – CG

Creekside 2018 ‘Broken Press’ Syrah Reserve

Not to be confused with their ‘Unbroken Press’ Syrah – a much bolder expression of 100 percent syrah grapes – this one gets co-fermented with some lightly pressed viognier skins before being aged in mostly older French oak barrels for 20 months. The added viognier results in the wine being more tame, smoother, and more approachable in its youth (although this could certainly age a decade and beyond). It’s one of Creekside’s most revered bottlings for good reason. Loaded with bright berry fruit on the nose, hints of peppercorn and all-spice, this syrah is backed with a firm structure and focused acidity. A premier wine from Ontario. – CG

Le Clos Jordanne 2019 ‘Jordan Village’ Pinot Noir

Winemaker Thomas Bachelder claims the Jordan Bench, arguably, has the top sites for pinot noir and chardonnay in Niagara. This pinot has complex and enticing aromas of wild raspberry, baked strawberry, fall leaves, cedar, and cinnamon. The palate showcases Niagara terroir beautifully with captivating minerality and edgy acidity. Nice depth and a long finish. – LS

On Seven 2018 ‘The Pursuit’ Chardonnay

A Chardonnay named after “the pursuit” of art and science of making the finest wines. Forward aromas of pear, baked apple, chestnut, and toffee. A creamy, but lively palate with invigorating acidity. Pear, gala apple, and honey weave around encompassing textural acid and minerality towards an exceptionally persistent finish. – LS

Two Sisters 2017 Stone Eagle Cabernet Franc

An enticing nose of ripe blackberries and black currants sets the stage, with tomato leaf, roasted red pepper, and peppercorn lending support. The palate is a wonderful combination of rich flavour and texture. The fruit is wonderfully balanced with textbook herb and spice notes. Undertones of tea leaves and dried herbs add another layer of flavour. It all comes into brilliant focus as the complementing structure of this wine plays out. There’s just the right amount of acidity, supple tannin and warming alcohol, giving this wine exceptional balance. – CG

50 Standout Wines

50 Standout Wines: An aerial view of Two Sisters Vineyards.

Southbrook Canadian Cassis

Believe it or not, this is a fortified bottling made from 100 percent Ontario black currants, and it’s a stunner of a wine. Deep purple in the glass, it oozes mouth-watering aromas of richly flavoured black currant jam, with spice and earth notes playing into the mix. It’s generously flavoured, boasting a sweetness that’s balanced with plenty of lip-smacking acidity. A terrific dessert wine, or perhaps the perfect ingredient in your next cocktail idea. A very respectable 13.5% ABV. This is one of the highlight wines of the year. – CG

Cloudsley 2018 ‘Glen Elgin Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

A pinot cultivated from vines planted in 1996 that showcases a bouquet of roses, with fresh and dried violets, cranberry, and savoury spices. A silky palate with electric acidity, and earthy beet notes. This wine exudes minerality in the form of graphite, iron and bloody nuances, and concludes with a persistent black tea finish. Such an intriguing wine that I can’t get enough of! – LS

13th Street 2020 Reserve Syrah

Sourced from select vineyards within the Niagara Penninsula, this 100 percent syrah from the highly touted 2020 Ontario vintage displays complex aromas of ripe raspberry, freshly cracked pepper and some smoke. There’s even a scent of crushed rock that comes through. Meat and fatty notes begin to appear after several minutes of swirling and contemplating. The palate is nicely concentrated with flavours of raspberry, black olive, savoury herbs, spice and freshly cracked pepper. Tannins are smooth and the mouthfeel is ultra soft. Acidity is wonderfully balanced despite a higher residual sugar amount than expected (7 g/l). Love the approachability here. – CG

Westcott 2019 ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir

This Reserve Pinot Noir from Westcott Vineyards in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation has a wide array of captivating aromas that include cranberry, fall leaves, freshly cut roses, violets, nutmeg and cloves. It exhibits creamy, sweet and sour cherry that expands across the palate. Packed with bright red fruits, raspberry coulis, savoury mushroom, and a baking spice finish. Structurally balanced, elegant, and completely satisfying! – LS

Redstone 2021 ‘Bistro’ Rosé

This rosé from Redstone is a blend 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% merlot, and 25% Syrah. It begins with a seductive and complex nose of red cherry, dried rose petals, purple plum, and earthy dried cedar notes. The palate delivers ripe raspberries, dried herbs, and baked strawberry, with an underlying vale of minerality and bright acidity. Fresh, with great depth and all-around palate pleasing. Long finish. – LS

Flat Rock 2021 ‘Twisted’ Rosé

Although the Twisted series from Flat Rock Cellars was created to showcase their off-beat styles, don’t discount this wine thinking it’s not high-quality! This rosé is made up of 56% Pinot Noir, 31% Riesling, and 13% Gewurtztraminer. A seriously unique and thoughtful rosé that presents aromas of melon, grapefruit, and strawberry. Racy, riesling acidity on the palate, and complex fruity notes of ruby grapefruit, blood orange, lime, strawberry, and peaches. A layer of minerality comes easy – and wraps up with lengthy finish! – LS

Standout Wines

50 Standout Wines: 13th Street Winery.

Southbrook 2020 ‘Whimsy’ Clone 95 Chardonnay

A delicious expression of the classic Dijon clone 95 that originated in the Cote D’Or in France. Grapes for this chardonnay are grown on the organically farmed Saunders Family vineyard in the Beamsville Bench sub appellation of Niagara. Citrus aromas lead to a rich and flavourful palate of peach, lemon curd and baked apple. Acids are appealingly crisp, and the finish is fresh. – CG

Cooper’s Hawk 2019 Cabernet Franc Reserve

This is a rich, full-bodied red that’s velvety smooth and plush on the mouthfeel. Complex aromas of leather and sandalwood are mirrored on the palate that also bursts with notes of black plums, currants, raspberry and cloves. Tannins are present and firm, but smoothened. The finish is smoky. Drink through 2028. – CG

Kelly Mason & Barb Honsberger 2020 ‘Collab’ Cabernet Franc

A true collaboration between winemakers and land, with half of the grapes coming from Honsberger Estate, and the other half coming from Mason Vineyard. The grapes from both parcels were co-fermented to create an amalgamating masterpiece of the Twenty Mile Bench and Creek Shores sub-appellations. Tomato leaf, tobacco, and candied cherry notes on the nose and palate. Supple, ripe tannins lend to a silky mouthfeel that’s invigorated with energetic acidity from center to edge. Every element of this wine, in flavour and structure, seems to compliment the others perfectly. Don’t miss this one. – LS

Flat Rock Cellars 2020 ‘Rusty Shed’ Chardonnay

The Rusty Shed represents a barrel selection of estate chardonnays chosen for their full flavoured richness on the palate, textured with the subtleties of oak. When blending the final wine, the winemaking team are looking for something with aging potential that is not only going to be fresh and vibrant today, but also enjoyed for years to come. This has a lovely soft mouthfeel that’s nicely balanced and not heavy-handed with oak (uses 20% new oak or less). A gorgeous lemon curd flavour lingers and follows through to the finish. – CG

Vivace 2020 Merlot

This merlot from Vivace in the Lake Erie North Shore DVA opens with savoury aromas of ripe cherry and ripe strawberry intertwine with milk chocolate and vanilla that follow on the palate. A pleasant balance of vibrant acidity and sweet tannin weave through indulgent flavours of chocolate and vanilla over stewed cherries that keep luring you back for more! A true testament to how well Merlot does from this region. – LS

2027 Cellars 2021 ‘Wismer-Foxcroft Block’ Gamay Rosé

A wonderful exhibit of the quality that can come from a bench gamay rosé in the hands of the right producer! Fresh strawberry and cranberry notes delivered on a mineral-driven base with the most refreshing and balanced acidity. Clean, crisp, and made to perfection! – LS

Southbrook 2019 ‘Triomphe’ Gamay

When it comes to Ontario gamay, this is surely one that continues to be singled out, in my mind. I have enjoyed this gamay consistently over the years, and this 2019 is just so fresh and inviting, with abundant aromas of raspberry, strawberry, and roses. The palate is dry and vibrant, with cherry, raspberry and brambled fruit that finishes savoury. With its fine acidity, it’s a wine that’s a sure bet to complement a variety of dishes. A real joy to taste again. – CG

13th Street 2020 Blanc de Blanc

A traditional method Blanc de Blanc from 13th Street Winery in the Niagara. This sparkling sees 12 months of lees aging, lending a creamy and impressionable mouthfeel. Notes of MacIntosh apple, nectarine, almond, and wet stone. A structure that’s seamlessly balanced and showcases the quality of Niagara’s best attributes. Exceptional. – LS

Reif Estate

50 Standout Wines: Reif Estate Winery

Cloudsley 2019 ‘Wingfield Vineyard’ Chardonnay

This Chardonnay comes from the Wismer family’s Wingfield Vineyard in the Twenty Mile Bench region of Niagara. This excellent site was planted in 1993 with clone 76. Elegant and soft on the palate, this wine really shines with its mineral undertones and orchard fruit flavours of pear, apple and some pineapple. Beautiful salinity notes on the mid-palate and into the finish. – CG

Inniskillin 2019 ‘Montague Vineyard’ Chardonnay

One of the better single vineyard chardonnays for the money, this is a classic cool-climate representation from an esteemed Niagara-on-the-Lake producer. Enticing aromatics of pear and pineapple lead to orchard fruit flavours, subtle salinity and a mineral splash over a soft and light-weight mouthfeel. There’s a hint of caramel on the finish, which is quite nice. – CG

Rosehall Run 2019 ‘JCR’ Pinot Noir

Complex and intoxicating notes of pomegranate, cola, red cherry, cinnamon, fall leaves, and thyme on the nose and palate. Adding to the layered depth comes juicy red fruit, mushroom, and textured minerality. Slight tension on the back palate. A standout vintage of one of my favourite pinot noir year after year. – LS

Last House Vineyard 2020 ‘Hillier Blanc’ Christian Block

This single-block chardonnay from Prince Edward County has an inviting nose of kernel, caramel, golden apple, and baking spice. An energetic and electric palate that holds vibrating acidity. Apricot, lemon curd, golden apple and walnut notes. A sturdy and balanced mineral structure, and complimenting oak integration. Great length on the finish. Pure, energetic, and complex. – LS

Bachelder 2020 ‘Wismer-Foxcroft’ Gamay Noir Niagara Cru 52% Whole Cluster

In comparison to the 33% whole cluster – which comes across fruitier and iron mineral – this 52% whole cluster expression from Thomas Bachelder is much more savoury, with softer mineral tones (think crushed gravel). It’s a step up in my opinion. A more complex wine with depth and layers to it. – CG

Rosewood 2018 ‘Neptune’ Riesling

Seductive aromas of honey, toffee, baked apple, ripe pineapple and buttered toast. The palate comes in chardonnay-like with an oxidized style…creamy and soft with toasty nuances, toffee, baked apple, until blazing lemon lime acidity swoops in and refreshes the palate. A salted lemon lengthy finish. It’s hard to put this one down! – LS

Redstone 2019 Syrah

One of the hallmark wines coming from this winery, the Redstone Syrah is very consistent with its quality each year. Aged 18 months in French oak, this is beautifully structured with flavours that match a style from the Rhone Valley. One can expect black currant and violet on the nose and drying herbs, pepper, and fruit flavours on the palate. Approachable in its youth but will also benefit from mid-term aging. Very food friendly. – CG

Southbrook 2019 Estate ‘Witness Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon

A compelling cabernet, but what makes this even more interesting and enjoyable is the ability to taste this expression after tasting the winery’s ‘Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon. There are differences, and it’s more to do with where the vines for this wine are situated on the property vs. any winemaking style – though the styles do vary slightly. Blackberries, black cherry, menthol and sweet spice aromas waft from the glass. Flavours are rich, with blueberries taking centre stage, but there’s also an earthy core to this wine that offsets those fruitier notes. Aged in French oak barriques for 19 months before blending and bottling. – CG

Malivoire 2020 ‘Wismer’ Cabernet Franc

This cab franc by talented winemaker Shiraz Mottiar exposes compelling and complex aromas of violets, purple licorice, blackberry compote, bay leaf, and crushed raspberry. It delivers a bright and juicy palate with mouth-puckering acidity along black raspberry and blackberry flavours. Earthy notes weave through structured tannins. Long finish. – LS

Featherstone 2021 Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Featherstone has created a fantastic example of why I think Sauvignon Blanc is Ontario’s underdog grape. On the nose, this wine displays attractive mango, peach, guava, starfruit, and green pepper. Tropical notes of starfruit, guava, lime, and peach hover above a clean and refreshing mouthfeel with balanced acidity. Extra long finish! – LS

Reif Estate 2020 Riesling Reserve

This dry style shows fresh fruits of lemon, pear and apple, and lemon zest aromas. The acidity is balanced and crisp with hints of orange peel and lime coming through on the finish. Soft, delicate mouthfeel. A lovely riesling from a very good Ontario vintage.  – CG

Del Gatto 2018 Pinotage

This Prince Edward County Pinotage blew me away. It had everything I love about South African Pinotage – dark, earthy, savoury notes that you can almost chew, but it was coupled with bright red fruits that were beaming with county acidity and minerality. An exciting tasting experience, and a great wine! – LS

Bachelder 2018 ‘Wismer-Parke’ Pinot Noir

Aromas of red currents and roses, on a bed of iron and blood. Mineral center, and black cherries expand to a frame of integrated black tea tannin. Long finish. A wine by one of our best winemakers, from one of our best vineyards…what’s not to love? – LS

Leaning Post 2019 ‘The Fifty’ Pinot Noir

The pinot noir from Leaning Post winery always grabs me. Intriguing mineral aromas, struck match, dried cranberry, and cedar. An ethereal palate of savoury, dried red fruits and fig. It’s light yet detains mystery and depth. This wine encompasses Niagara pinot noir at every angle. – LS

Southbrook 2020 ‘Estate Witness Block’ Cabernet Franc Rose 

Beautiful aromas of strawberries and watermelon. On the palate, it’s dry, yet fruity, with its cran-cherry flavour and grapefruit finish. Its texture and complexity is a result of the wine aging on its lees in barrel for six months prior to bottling. This adds a certain roundness to the wine, making it an excellent choice to pair with a wide selection of lighter foods. Certified organic and biodynamic. – CG

 

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