It's a little difficult to tell by looking out the window, but Ontario is slowly inching into spring. The days are lighter and longer, there are more people on the streets, and as I write this, the snow appears to be melting away for good. The collective palate has become tired of full-bodied reds, but it isn't quite ready for Sauvignon Blanc and rosé. Gamay is the perfect transition wine. It's bright, fresh, and floral, with sour fruit and often herbal notes that evoke revival and growth.
There has been much debate over whether Gamay should be one of the future focuses of the Ontario wine industry, because the truth is, it does very well here. The problem is, so does Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. These are much more marketable grapes that carry the prestige of some of the best wine regions in the world. Gamay is a bit of an outsider, but for now it will be happy adding depth to the portfolios of Ontario while offering wine drinkers great value.
Here are three great Ontario Gamays that will happily ease you into spring:
Trail Estate 2014 Gamay - This bottle has been one of my favourite wine discoveries of the year. It's vibrant and tart Gamay, with gorgeous perfumed aromatics—fresh herbs and black pepper. It's a blend of grapes from Prince Edward County and Niagara (65% and 35%) and there were only 98 cases produced. ($25.95, 13% alcohol.)
Grange of Prince Edward 2011 Gamay - The Grange is the source of some of the best Gamay in Ontario, especially on the lighter and prettier end of the spectrum that Prince Edward County does so well. Keep an eye out for their fantastic passetoutgrain-styled blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay—you'll know it because it only comes in magnums and it has a hand-drawn bunny on every bottle. ($20.95, 13% alcohol).
Tawse 2014 Gamay - After only their fourth vintage making Gamay, Tawse has become one of the masters of the grape in Niagara. The wines manage to balance the bright tart fruit with darkness and earthiness. There is a little more structure and tannin here than the previous two. ($18.95, 12.5% alcohol).
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.