Brian Preston – The Travelling Sommelier
If you are ever over at Mountain just east of Kemptville, you have to stop in at Smokie Ridge Vineyard and winery established in 2007 where Paul ‘Smokie’ Leblanc, his wife Debbie and their family, grow cold hearty hybrid grape varietals and make a wonderful range of wines.
I have written about Minnesota clone and French hybrid grape varietals which do well in more northern climates away from the Great Lakes like here in Eastern Ontario. The surprise for me was that Smokie ages his wines a few years before he releases them for sale. That makes a big difference resulting in a quality tasting experience when the red wines have had a chance to integrate the tannins and for both whites and reds to develop a smooth texture and more complex and enjoyable tastes. He grows Louise Swenson, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Noir, Sabrevois, Vidal and in some of his blends he includes Chardonnay, Riesling and Merlot from Niagara Peninsula. He uses the ‘sous la lit’ method of winemaking for all his wines which means that it takes multiple rackings and 10 months to make the wines as they are either barrel or bottle aged. There are many choices on his website but I tasted:
Riesling – new this year from Niagara grapes and 2 hybrid varieties, it was clear and bright with aromas and taste of citrus and apple, refreshing acidity, good mouthfeel and a fruity replay on the clean finish.
2014 Smokie’s Leblanc – using Louise Swenson and Frontenac Gris and some Vidal, it was pale golden in colour with a nose and taste of pear and green apple, balanced acidity and dry fruity finish.
2012 Over the Ridge Chardonnay – pale golden colour, fermented in French oak barrels and blended with Frontenac Blanc after 10 months. Smoke on the nose, yellow tree fruit palate with vanilla notes, medium bodied with oak spice and integrated balanced acidity.
2012 Rosie Cheeks Rosé – using oaked Frontenac Noir for colour, Louise Swenson, Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Blanc, it is salmon coloured with a unique and very pleasant nose reminiscent of apple compote, refreshing acidity, it would be a great match with blue cheese. Complex for a rosé!
2015 Cabernet de Montagne -using Frontenac Noir and Sabrevois, it is light to medium bodied, semi-opaque from skin extraction upon fermentation, fruity: ripe cherry, black currant and a touch of residual sweet ripe berries; a touch of oaky smoke from the Sabrevois which matches crackers and Smoke n’ Burn Haico hot sauce (another local product).
2015 Soldier’s Pride Red – Sabrevois, Frontenac Noir with 8% oaked Merlot, this series (they have Soldier’s Pride White too) blends both oaked and unoaked versions of these grape varietals from 2 different vintages resulting in a medium to full bodied and smooth textured wine with rich cherry and plum aromas, a touch of pepper and a clean fruit replay in the dry and medium long finish. Bring on the red meat!
Paul’s handle “Smokie’ originated from his days as a paratrooper in the Canadian Forces and 15% of Soldier’s Pride series wines goes to Wounded Warriors with over four thousand dollars donated to date! He is also President of Eastern Ontario Wine Producers consisting of 16 producers covering all of Eastern Ontario. They are working with the Ontario government for designation as ‘Cold Hearty Hybrids Region’, and with Tourism to develop a wine map for the region which will also reference and partner with Quebec wineries in the Outaouais.