WINE: Harvest Season

Autumn is on our doorstep, a traditional time of harvest, both in vineyards and farmer's fields. The final fruits of nature's bounty lead up, of course to Thanksgiving.

It is the golden time for farmer's markets. They have been running all summer all over the province and will continue until pumpkin time. I always look forward to the last corn, fresh greens, and delicious heirloom beets and tomatoes of all colours. There's nothing like buying from a local grower directly. In the supermarkets, it's hard to even know where some of the fruits and veggies are coming from. Organic growing is now widespread, and what a taste difference it makes.

The new wrinkle in farmer's markets is the sale of Ontario VQA wines. A special two-year project allowing wineries to sell their wines at local markets kicked off May 1 under the auspices of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO).
Fruit wineries had been trying for years to do this, and wineries as well. Always the answer was no. Of course, the commission makes wine producers comply with a number of stringent rules to get their wines in farmer's markets.

The idea was to provide a new outlet, especially for small producers who have limited access to LCBO shelves. The rules mean it is the larger players who qualify. As always, control is the name of the game.

A list of farmer's markets is on the AGCO site, which is helpful in finding the nearest town or city to you bursting with local produce and VQA wines to celebrate your autumn. Go and discover.

Meanwhile we present five wines that recently seduced my senses. They are all available at Vintages outlets on a continuous basis. Enjoy them with your final barbecues and celebratory feasts!

Tawse Sketches of Niagara 2012 Chardonnay
$19.95 (Ontario) LCBO #89037
Rating: 90

The Sketches Riesling is amazing, and this mellow chardonnay is a winner. A bouquet of lemon and lime and flavours of yellow apple and fresh pear with a citrus finish.
Food suggestion: Beer battered fish and chips.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve 2012 Chardonnay
$19.95 (California) LCBO #369686
Rating: 91

A monster seller in U.S. restaurants. Aromas of hazelnuts, buttered toast and yellow apple. The flavours are toasty, with hints of pineapple, mango, and roast apples.
Food suggestion: Perfect with your Thanksgiving turkey.

Beronia Reserva 2008
$19.95 (Spain) LCBO #50203
Rating: 91

Spicy cedar and cherry in the bouquet of this newcomer. Big flavours show black cherry pulp, blackberry, cedar, and blueberry richness. A silky texture, with vanilla on the finish.
Food suggestion: Lamb and yellow pepper kebabs.

7 Deadly Zins Old Vine 2011 Zinfandel
$24.95 (California) LCBO #59311
Rating: 92

Cheeky label for a sinfully hedonistic red. Big blackberry, iodine, cedar, violets and smoked meat aromas with super smooth smoke, vanilla, and lavish black cherry flavours.
Food suggestion: Thick T-bone steaks.

Mitolo Jester 2012 Shiraz
$22.95 (Australia) LCBO #659607
Rating: 90+

Big smoky blackberry, pomegranate, cedar and raspberry aromas with plump plum, black cherry and blueberry flavours. Long, silky, round in style with black pepper notes.
Food suggestion: Lamb lasagna or beef stroganoff.