Ottawa, ON

February 2017

I love tasting wines (obviously!) and am always keen to taste new wines in the Ontario market so I can share any new personal favourite wine picks with fellow wine lovers on social media and via my wine segments on CTV.  Well earlier this winter I had the pleasure of tasting two new Ontario wines from Arterra, a relatively small production wine label based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, which I’m happy to be sharing with you as recommended wines to try.

I tasted the 2016 Arterra Chardonnay and 2016 Arterra Pinot Noir, crafted by the talented winemaker, Marco Piccoli, who is well known for his role as head winemaker at Jackson-Triggs Niagara.  Marco is the winemaker responsible for crafting this new wine label’s premium Niagara-based wines.  They’re currently part way through crafting their third vintage (2017 wines are currently spending some quality time in barrel for a summer/fall 2018 release), with the 2016 vintage having been released last year.  I missed the inaugural 2015 vintage so the 2016 vintage was the first I tasted and from what I tasted Arterra Chardonnay and Pinot are going to be well positioned to earn a spot alongside many of the other premium wines being produced in Ontario.

I also had the opportunity to chat with Marco after having tasted his 2016 Arterra Chard and Pinot.  I wanted to understand his winemaking philosophy for his new premium Ontario wine label, Arterra, in order to see what this internationally trained and experienced winemaker was doing to produce these tasty Niagara wines because when I tasted them they struck me as being not only very tasty but very interesting stylistically and very complex both aromatically and flavour-wise.    So my questions were how did he do it?

Marco in barrel cellar
Winemaker Marco sampling some of his fine Arterra Pinot Noir.

Marco explained his objectives in crafting premium Niagara wines that I’d summarize as focused on being provocative, unique, modern, whilst showcasing the terroir from Niagara’s renowned cool-climate region.  He seems focused on producing unique wines that are complex, elegant, well structured and balanced and above all that appeal to wine lovers with a wide array of preferences.  After all the main point in crafting a style of wine is to make wines that people will love, and it seems like he’s on the right track with these wines.  For each vintage Marco decided to tap into his Italian roots and use the appassimento winemaking method for a small portion (~20%) of the Pinot grapes which contributes to the unique style of Pinot he’s created with the distinct complexity that appassimento winemaking contributes to the final blend.  What Marco managed to do was to create a very modern, fresh, and approachable style of Niagara Pinot.  The style is not Burgundy, nor anything but his expression of a consumer friendly, unique, and modern era Niagara Pinot.  I must say, I like what he’s done!

His 2016 Chardonnay, sourced from the Bench (where many of the finest Ontario wines originate), is elegant, textured, and complex in every way.  A great expression of Ontario Chardonnay.  Although Marco didn’t disclose all of his techniques that he’s used to produce these two tasty wines he did hint at some tweaks to standard viticulture and viniculture practices which shows me that he’s on to something good with this Arterra label.  Having only tasted the 2016 I’m keen to follow these wines over the next few years to see where Marco’s modern and unique style take these wines.

Here are my reviews:

Arterra 2016 Chardonnay:arterra_chardonnay-size-custom-crop-1086x0-e1517428655152.jpg

Very aromatic with expressive bouquets of exotic fruit, sweet Asian pear, yellow apple, wild flower honey, crème brûlée, fresh ginger, and floral blossom.  Elegant and textured, there’s no question this comes from some of the finest vineyards in the Niagara region.  Impressive minerality and golden delicious apple shine bright on the palate complemented with a subtle nuttiness and fresh baked pastries.  There’s a very pleasant and light creaminess which is balanced by the elegant and refreshing structure showing its cool-climate heritage that makes this complex Chardonnay a great wine for enjoying with fine meals and equally suited for enjoying casually with friends on the patio. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2018.  90+ points. Matt Steeves –

Available on-line for $29.95

Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir:AterraPinotNoir.Web11

In its second vintage, the 2016 Arterra Pinot once again benefits from a small percentage (20%) of appassimento winemaking where the grapes were harvested then partially dried for a period of time before pressing.  This takes the already impressive Pinot Noir and adds further textural, aromatic, and flavour complexity, all in a subtle but noticeable way.  The nose shows dark cherry, chocolate, cranberry, plum, clove, sweet herbs, cedar and a hint of sous-bois.  This wide array of aromatic groups mingling together results in a very stimulating aromatic profile.  The palate shows those familiar refreshing Niagara Pinot characteristics yet in a different style, one that preserves the crisp fruit characteristics and youthful tannins, and shows off some dried fruit and spice that opens this wine up to even more food pairing opportunities.  Roasted pork tenderloin with cherry-balsamic sauce comes to mind, just as dark chocolate dipped cherries do too!  An impressive and unique style of Niagara Pinot that I’d highly recommend.  Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted January 2018. 90+ points. Matt Steeves –

Available on-line for $29.95

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Balsamic Sauce