Article by Thomas Reid
For reasons of logistics, economics (and politics), only a handful of Niagara wineries are represented on the shelves of the LCBO. A couple of corporate wine heavyweights have carved themselves a niche attached to the grocery store giants, but this is more a benefit of convenience to the consumer, rather than offering additional choice.
There are so many world class Niagara wines not available anywhere else but the wineries themselves, and therefore they are often unknown to the wine drinking public in their own backyard. Chances are good that tourists to the area have visited more wineries in Niagara than the average resident. Therefore, we have decided to seek out Niagara’s best wines under 20 bucks that you can only find at the cellar door. With no agenda but finding the highest quality wines for $20 or less, we will bring you one wine a week that is worth the short drive to the cellar door.
For the first wine (not available in the LCBO), we have discovered Big Head Wines’ 2015 Riesling. One of Niagara’s very best varietals, it is perhaps no surprise that our first selection is a Riesling. It’s a hearty varietal that is well suited for both our (potentially) hot summers and our typical harsh winter. It is also less affected by poorer growing seasons (cough.. 2017.. cough!) so, from one vintage to the next, you are bound to find plenty of fantastic Riesling options here at home.
Some wine drinkers tend to avoid rieslings due to their residual sweetness. Fortunately for us, Niagara boasts a wide variety of dry and off-dry styles to choose from too. I am far more likely to lean towards drier riesling, but ultimately it’s all about balance (acidity vs sweetness). If you have a steered clear of riesling in the past because of a tendency for sweetness, do yourself a favour and revisit the varietal starting with those labeled as dry.
Big Head Wines’ 2015 Riesling is right up my alley. It is technically an off-dry, but on the dry side of that category. It is refreshing and tart, with a lovely balance of acidity. Lime zest and green apple on the nose, with a hint of minerality on the finish.
For those looking to pair with food, this is a light (and relatively low alcohol) wine, so avoid anything heavy. It would match well with local Tomatoes and fresh Mozzarella drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.
Full disclosure, Big Head Wines doesn’t have many options that fall into the $20 and under category, however, there are plenty excellent value options between $21 and $23, including a fantastic 2015 Dry Riesling and a 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay ($21 each). Be sure to try the reds too!
Big Head 2015 Riesling ($19)
- A.B.V. 11.1%
- R.S. 18 g/l
- T.A. 5.74 g/l
- Fermentation: 6 months in stainless steel
Location 304 Hunter Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0