Open thread: 20 Bees and local wines
- I’ve only just started learning about wine
- I’m already a complete, unrepentant snob about Ontario wine
My first lesson about wine was, in fact, that most wine from Ontario was crappy. If I was prepared to enjoy horrid wine, then I should dive right in, but I could probably spend less money on better stuff that was being brought in from Italy, France or even Portugal.
Since then I have had my attitudes adjusted, of course. I’ve learned that few places make better ice wine than the Niagara region (Inniskillin makes an Innis-killing if you know what I mean ha ha ha okay I promise never to do that again), and that there’s even a burgeoning wine region popping up out in Prince Edward County. Ontario growers and vintners are tirelessly promoting, comparing and pricing themselves alongside imported wines in order to win over the jaded hearts and minds of locals.
Jaded hearts and minds like mine, despite everything. My experience to date with Ontario wines has been that they are generally more expensive and less enjoyable than their global counterparts, if not openly hostile to my taste buds and extended faculties. So imagine my relative lack of interest when I came across a hardy soul at the free sample area of my favorite LCBO, a group of bottles all around her blazoned with the name 20 Bees.
“Would you like to give them a try?” she offered to me, as I geared up to pass her by.
“Um,” I said.
Before I could go on, she said, “This is a new Ontario wine that’s been put together by a group of growers and a single vintner, with the goal of combining the best of their individual crops into a group of high quality wines. All the grapes are grown in Ontario, making our wines certified VQA, and its lead to some great results!”
“Uh,” I countered.
“And all our bottles are under $11.95.”
Ding! “Okay,” I said. “I’ll try some.”
On display that day were a Baco Noir and a Chardonnay, and if you ask me what a Baco Noir is I’m going to shrug at you and say, “The one I liked the most.” Also available was a Cabernet Merlot, but the Baco Noir was a lighter red wine than I thought it would be, and just I was in the mood for at the moment. I sampled as freely as I was permitted.
“Now,” I said. “There’s something I’m supposed to ask you about the Chardonnay that all my Wine Friends keep telling me about.”
(This is exactly what I said, I swear, and I really do have Wine Friends who are forever trying to steer me away from bottled calamities, explaining to me in terms of noses and legs, as though these are units of measure and not items of anatomy.)
“Yes, it is non-oaked,” she answered. “20 Bees doesn’t use an oak barrel for their Chardonnay, so you don’t end up with that…”
“Horribly acrid, alkaline, burning flavor?”
“…yes,” she laughed. “Actually yes, exactly. So this ends up finishing very smooth, but still having some body to it.”
It was enough to sell me, the value of the wine being doubled by its power to spare me walking any farther into the liquor store. I have since bought the Chardonnay twice more, winning happy reviews from those with whom I’ve shared it. This very night, as I sit down to watch the baseball playoffs and blog about nothing to do with food, I am about to tuck into a bottle of the Pinot Noir, to see whether I really will have to admit to being a fan of Ontario wine.
Even if it is just the one brand.
So what about it, readers? Are you a fan of the local wine, or would you prefer to go unmolested by the local dreck? Can the refined palette endure vintages that cost under a ten-spot? Am I currently tolerating the Welch’s-grape-juice-freshness of (eggghkkkk) this Baco Noir because I (uggghhh) can drink twice as much of it?
Weigh in with your comments!