wine wine wine
April 2, 2005 1:38 PM   Subscribe

The restaurant I work at needs to change its wine list. What are some good wines that should be put on our menu, that are available in Ontario (that's in Canada, folks) and that are similarly priced? (note that the prices on the link shown are obviously marked up, so please take that into consideration, as well as being in Canadian dollars)
posted by ashbury to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh, my word... the number of fabulous Ontario wines has to be seen to be believed.

I'm not going to recommend specific wines, as frankly when it comes to wine I'm like that old art critic; I may not know 'good' wine, but I know what I like.

Set yourself up a little tour of the wineries in the Niagara Region. Taste some wines... prices run the gamut from exceedngly reasonable to a little pricy. I particularly like Henry of Pelham, Cave Springs, and (of course) Inniskillin.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2005

Response by poster: A caveat: the wines don't have to be FROM Ontario, just AVAILABLE in Ontario. The restaurant represents international foods, so we would like the wine list to be international as well - South Africa, Australia, France, South America, California, Canada, etc.
posted by ashbury at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2005

Well, I'm not really sure what's available in Ontario, but I would assume that it would be similar to what's available on the East Coast of the US. So, assuming I'm right on that point, here are some that I've been enjoying, and that would probably be of a similar price point at 100% markup:

-Four Vines, which is an old vine Zinfandel from CA. I've been having the 2002, which has a wonderful fullness and jammy, dark fruit quality to it. $12 US retail.

-Sfida, an Italian red from Puglia, which is a combination of 60% Primitivo, 20% Sangiovese, and 20% Cabernet. It's flavorful and well-balanced, but light enough to be quite versatile. $11 US retail.

-"Les Heretiques" from Chateau d'Oupia in the Languedoc. Very easy-drinking but still nice fruit and a little bit of pepperiness. Perfect for pasta/tomato dishes. A bargain at $8 US.

-"La Fleur du Roi" white Bordeaux 2003. Very drinkable, a fair amount of body but none of that gross Chardonnay aftertaste, no excessive oakiness. Some floral notes. $9 US retail.

-Rojo, good full-bodied Cabernet from Chile. $10 US retail.

-Rocca delle Macie, my favorite low-priced Chanti. Praised by an Italian friend of mine, this is produced using the traditional Chanti cuvee and processes. Well-balanced, easy drinking, fun wine. They also have a Riserva for a few dollars more. About $12 US retail.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. I'll post some more if they occur to me. A couple of other things: I would get rid of the White Zinfandel. All White Zinfandels are joke wines. Ech. If you feel the need to have a Merlot, many of the best come from the Veneto region of Italy. Otherwise, you're choosing between crappy factory-produced stuff and high-end too-expensive stuff.

Also, New York state has a bunch of nice Rieslings that are quite reasonable, and IIRC, some good Gewurztraminers.

In general, look for good values from smaller producers, rather than the giants like Rosemount, Beringer, Stoney Ridge; these places do too much to do any of it well. My local wine shop takes great care to look for interesting stuff at a good price and I am eternally grateful to them for it.
posted by lackutrol at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2005

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is one of the best (and I've tried a lot). It's cheaper than better known brands, such as Cloudy Bay, and I think it's better. The 2004 Wither Hills just came out, and it's even better than the 2003. It looks like this Toronto agency carries the 2003, which is also a great wine. But check to see if they've got the '04 yet.

The 2004 comes with a screwcap, not a cork. That's meant to preserve the floral & grassy flavors of the wine better, and to avoid corked wines. Screwcap no longer inevitably means "cheap wine" although your restaurant customers may need to be educated on that.
posted by mono blanco at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2005

From a cheap wine drinker (cheap = better markup anyway):

I'm guessing from the name of the restaurant that a Sangiovese would be nice; I like Antinori's but there are others. It's a lovely wine that isn't as popular as it should be, and my favorite Italian red.

Check out Washington state wines. My surprise at-home (ie cheap) winner is Chateau Ste Michelle Johannisburg Riesling. Like honey in a bottle, but without that dry sweet pucker that I think of when I think of riesling. I'm told the Domaine Ste Michelle sparkling white is also fantastic. Washington is also producing some lovely chardonnays (I don't even like white wine, and yet these keep showing up in my kitchen).

If your menu has an Italian bent, I love Lambrusco, which is a sparkling red. Unfortunately, Riunite is the main Lambrusco brand available in the US, and Riunite has that horrible 1970s cachet ("Riunite on ice - so nice!" heaven help us), but there are other producers. It's a great sell for people who feel obligated to drink red but don't actually like reds - sweet and light.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:19 PM on April 2, 2005

I've seen your restaurant's menu, and suggest that you don't treat the wine list as a standalone thing, but as a pairing to the food. After all, that's what your customers are interested in. Although it's possible to armchair quarterback wine suggestions, I think the best way for a restaurant to choose a wine list is to contact one of your local wine distributors, and invite them to bring some wines into your restaurant for a tasting based on your menu.

And may I add: Mmmmm, garlic!
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2005

I second SteveInMaine's suggestion.

For inspiration in selecting your wine list, check out Best Cellars and Aureole's eWineTower.

Food & wine pairing sites are worth exploring:
Allied Domecq's Food & Wine Pairing
Andrea Immer's Pairing Tool [you can sign-up for a free 24-hour trial period]
Sutter Home's Food & Wine Pairing Wheel
Wine Spectator's Food & Wine Match [requires paid membership]
posted by ericb at 4:37 PM on April 2, 2005

You should be listening to Les Vandor on the Ontario Today phone in.
posted by Chuckles at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2005

Damn, he is the legal guy... Argh... You want the wine guy, I'll dig him up in a minute...
posted by Chuckles at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2005

Konrad Ejbich!

Sorry about all that...
posted by Chuckles at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2005

Quails' Gate, an excellent small family winery, has won all kinds of awards for their wines, including BC Winery of the Year, 2004. They should be available in Ontario.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:58 PM on April 2, 2005

Yuu might look at NatDecants, a great wine newsletter by Canadian wine writeer Natalie Maclean. Itd probably has suggestions for wines that are availabe in your area. Back issues are available on her">website.
posted by gleenyc at 7:08 PM on April 2, 2005

Please include at least one organically produced red. I can't be the only person who's discovered that whereas many red wines give me a headache, organically produced ones don't.
posted by zadcat at 7:43 PM on April 2, 2005

Zadcat, it's likely the tannin content that's causing headaches. Lower tannin reds (try pinot noir) should help. Organic is a classification based on federal guidelines, many "sustainably grown" wines are not labeled organic due to bureaucracy as opposed to practice.

Ashbury, I feel for you. Canada charges 100% tax on imported wines, it must be tough finding decent affordable wines for your list.
posted by cali at 1:02 AM on April 3, 2005

Try Leaping Lizard's Merlot. It's liquor store price is about US$12 (and that fits with the markup and currency translation I see on your menu). It's from California.

I'm not sure whether it's available in Ontario. Antiquated liquor laws in the States make distribution of any wine spotty.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:38 AM on April 3, 2005

It may not be the tannins that give the headaches, but the added sulfites. All wine has naturally occuring sulfites, but most producers add sulfites as a preservative. If you can find wine without added sulfites, it helps dramatically - or, at least it does for me! YMMV. It's a sticky topic these days, and there is much conflicting evidence. Organic wine does not mean that there are no added sulfites.
posted by fionab at 6:42 AM on April 3, 2005

While I can see wanting an international list, local wines are cheaper, no import taxes, etc. I'd take a good look at Ontario wines to fill up the list. As dirtynumbangelboy suggested, the Niagara region is bursting with wineries, and many of them making intriguing, unique wines that will spice up that wine menu. As to specifics, I'd recommend pretty much any white from Pelee Island winery (I don't drink red, sorry, or chardonnay really).

If you're looking for something really interesting, try Jost wines from Nova Scotia. The Habitant Blanc is harsh and biting and absolutely delicious (and very cheap). Though, I was just looking at the LCBO site and I can't tell if you can get that one here or not, sorry. It's a good winery in general and is of slightly more interesting provenance than another California chardonnay.
posted by livii at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2005

My favorite wine recently has been a Burrowing Owl cabernet franc. They're in BC. Apparently the '03 comes out in May.
posted by juv3nal at 2:32 PM on April 3, 2005

From the wine list it looks like you're targeting an LCBO retail price of about $10 - $15 - assuming a std. 250% markup. recommendations? (all reds, by the way)

Yellow Tail - a nice, very drinkable Australian, shiraz with a striking label that will look good on the table and which retails for about $11, I think.

Sangre de Torro - a Spanish table wine (no particular varietal). It's got a little plastic bull on the neck which is simultaneously tacky and charming. Really consistent, palatable dry red. I go back to this again and again. $11.

Chateau de Gourgazoud - french minervois la viniere. $16 retail but worth the extra few dollars. Yum. Yum.

Montecillo - spanish crianza. About $13 but consistently good particularly if you like 'em dry.

If you're willing to invest in a red that's only temporarily availabe (it's a Vintages rather than a regular lisitng) try Italian Maculan Cab. Sauvignon for $16.
posted by kaymac at 7:46 PM on April 3, 2005

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