Wild Wines: Great Wines Inspired By Nature

Crisp evenings are just around the corner!

Whether you spend the cooler months hibernating under blankets in front of a fireplace or setting up camp underneath a canvas roof, a glass of wine is guaranteed to warm the heart and calm the soul. Here is a selection of great wines you may wish to try this season.

Each inspired, in their own way, by the place we love; The Great Outdoors.

Flat Rock Cellars

Photo credit: Flat Rock Cellars Winery

Open and fragrant, textbook pinot: raspberry-strawberry, leafy. Fine dusty tannins. Juicy. Really pretty wine.  ~ John Szabo

Flat Rock Cellars is based in Jordan, along the Niagara Escarpment. Their Pinot Noir and Riesling both come with excellent reviews online. I picked up a bottle of the Reisling yesterday (on sale!) and might have to get a Pinot Noir after being inspired by Michael Godel saying it “whiffs sweet perfume and late summer Algonquin Park pine forest.”

Any wine that can take me back to a late summer in Algonquin is a winner in my books.

Recommendation: Estate Pinot Noir ($20.20)
Rating: 90 – Natalie MacLean (2014 vintage)
Availability: LCBO


Photo credit: Hinterland Wine Company
Hinterland is fast becoming well-respected as a sparkling specialist…An enjoyable fun sparkler that will please a crowd.  ~ David Brodati

I discovered Hinterland Wine Company while at a local farmers market at Evergreen Brickworks. My friend had recommended the Ancestral because he buys it by the case. I understand why! These sparkling wines are now requested by friends and family,  and have become a staple at holiday dinners.

While I tend to lean toward the Whitecap for its tart flavour, the Ancestral is a perennial favourite and always a hit with the crowd. A great way to start any evening!

Recommendation: Ancestral Sparkling Wine ($25.00)
Rating: 88  – David Brodati
Availability: Winery, post or local farmers markets


 Ghost Pines

Photo Credit: Ghost Pines Winery

The smooth texture makes this a full-bodied and mellow red that’s ready to drink. This is a great barbecue selection. – Christopher Waters, Toronto Sun

The branding and mood of its labels reminds me of so many fall mornings at home when the fog lurks across my parents fields. This wine is named after the Ghost Pines Vineyard in eastern Napa County, where the indigenous grey pines loom mysteriously along the hillsides.

Native to California, the Ghost Pine can adapt to a variety of climates and thrives in various soils, much like grapevines. I’ve yet to try to this wine, but I’m saving one on the shelf for a dark and foggy night this fall.

Recommendation: Merlot ($18.95)
Rating: 91, Natalie McLean
Availability: LCBO


Muskoka Lakes

Photo credit: Muskoka Lakes Winery

What goes better with turkey than cranberries? Winemaker Matt French has to crank up the residual sugar in these to combat the tart acidity of the cranberries, but the result is a pleasing, food-friendly wine.  – Shawn McCormick, Uncork Ontario

Muskoka Lakes Winery was launched with the 2000 vintage of Cranberry Wine. Their initial release was so well received, it sold out in 16 days. The following release of 2000 Cranberry Blueberry Wine sold out in just 4 days. Over the years, many other wines have been introduced, but Cranberry Wine and Cranberry Blueberry Wine continue to be best sellers.

If you’re looking for something a little different for your turkey dinner, this wine might be a lovely addition to your dinner table. Always fun to try something new!

Recommendation: Cranberry ($16.95)
Rating: 88, Wine Align
Availability: LCBO



Photo credit: Ravenswood Winery

Fun fact: Eccentric Ravenswood hosts an annual party celebrating fans who’ve been tattooed with the winery’s logo. Soft and juicy and bursting with ripe, dark berry fruit, this is made for barbecued meats.

On a fall day in 1976, as ravens taunted from tree branches above, Joel Peterson worked doggedly to bring in four tons of grapes before a looming thunderstorm hit. The fruit he crushed that night was used for one of two single-vineyard Sonoma County Zins – the first wines to bear Ravenswood’s signature ring of ravens.

Ravenswood’s “No Wimpy Wines” credo says it all – embrace the bold, abhor the bland. Read their story here.

Recommendation: Old Vine Zinfandel ($18.95)
Rating: 89.75  – Natalie McLean
Availability: LCBO


Burrowing Owl

Photo Credit: Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
This blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is a big wine and very well made. – Rhys Pender, WineAlign

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is one of the most beautiful wineries I’ve yet visited and it produces some of my favourite wines. It’s proprietors, Jim and Midge Wyse, have been members and active supporters of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC since 1993.  Their winery has contributed close to a million dollars to the program through tasting fees at their wine shop. I have a few bottles in storage from a recent trip to BC, including the Athene, which I loved during my visit.

Recommendation: Athene ($44.95)
Rating: 90, WineAlign
Availability: LCBO



20 Bees

Photo credit: 20 Bees Wines

It was a pleasant surprise for the price point – and the label was cheerful enough to brighten even the darkest day! – Tara Leitch

As winemaker, Scott McGregor, says on their site, 20 Bees is a playful brand, created for everyday drinking; they are great on their own or pair well with a casual weeknight pizza date. If you’re looking for a wine to drink when you’re having a friendly night in with friends, this is a safe bet and one that won’t hurt your pocket-book!

Recommendation: Cabernet Merlot ($11.95)
Rating: 81 – Tara Leitch

Availability: LCBO


Three Rivers

Photo Credit: Three Rivers Winery
Mainly Merlot and Sangiovese, with aromas of ripe blueberries, vanilla and cola. The palate has an interesting blend of cola, vanilla, baking spice, cherry and ripe berries. Well-structured. ~ Jane Staples

I’ve recently discovered the great wines of Washington through a course I’m taking at George Brown College. I was taken aback by their quality and value and Three Rivers fits right in there.

Established in 1999, Three Rivers Winery has been producing handmade wines from the remote Columbia Valley AVA in Eastern Washington. Their name comes from three of the most prominent rivers in Eastern Washington: Columbia, Snake and Walla Walla.

Recommendation: Red Blend ($20.75)
Rating: 89, Wine Enthusiast
Availability: LCBO


Smoking Loon

Photo credit: Smoking Loon Winery
A fruity, ready-to-drink Cabernet with moderate oak and well-balanced flavours. – Sarah D’Amato, Wine Align

Smoking Loon wines are crafted on a very simple premise: good wine doesn’t need to take itself so seriously. Originally named for Don Sebastiani’s love of cigars and his father August’s passion for water fowl, Smoking Loon offers an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek approach to enjoying wine.

I’ve been drinking Smoking Loon for a couple of years now (mostly the Zinfandel) but broke into the Cabernet Sauvignon this year and quite enjoyed it!

Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95)
Rating: 87, Wine Align
Availability: LCBO


Frisky Beaver 

Photo Credit: Frisky Beaver Wines
A great crowd pleaser, this wine offers excellent value for money and promises to please at picnics, BBQ and other special occasions.  – Jon Steeves

I can’t help but smile every time I see this brand of wine. It’s so playful and fun. I tend to pick this up every once in a while for Friday nights with a movie. I laughed at some of the swag they have on their website too.

If this wine is a baby maker, they sure have an appropriate onezie for the result. I’ve only had the their reds, but the whites have great reviews and I just noticed they have a sparkling wine now as part of their collection.

Recommendation: White Blend ($13.95)
Rating: 85, Wine Align
Availability: LCBO


The Wolftrap


Photo credit: The Wolftrap Wines
 Yet again this well made blend of Rhone varieties delivers a lot for the money with a degree of elegance. – Steve Thurlow, Wine Align

When the farm was founded, the Franschhoek valley was far wilder than it is today – as a wolf trap they once discovered goes to show. Today, their mountains are still alive with indigenous animals, including the majestic leopard. No evidence of wolves has ever been found though.

Wolftrap wine was created to remind us of the mysteries and legends of days gone by. The Wolftrap is a rich, deep red blend that includes Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier.

Recommendation: Syrah Mourvedre Viognier ($13.95)
Rating: 89, Wine Align
Availability: LCBO


Moraine Cliffhanger

Photo Credit: Moraine Estate Winery

Really nice BC blend. Strong field berry aromas along with some coffee. Very approachable, soft tannins, good fruit, and a very soft finish. – Mike Benson, Vivino

The signature bench lands of Naramata expose a face of the clay that can be seen below Moraine’s vineyard, and this exceptional landscape contributes to the creation of fresh, elegant, fruit-driven wines of distinction.

I loved Naramata Bench. I missed Moraine when I visited, but can attest to the beautiful landscape and the incredible quality of wine made there. I will always yearn for the sight of the sunrise on the Bench, and wines like Moraine bring those memories flooding back.

Recommendation: Cliffhanger Red Blend ($24.95)
Rating: 88, Wine Enthusiast
Availability: LCBO


Porcupine Ridge

Photo credit: Porcupine Ridge Wines
Blackcurrant and wild blackberry flavour richness on the nose and palate, with a gorgeously smooth texture and full-bodied weight. Nice cedar and underbrush notes on the finish. Perfect for hearty meat dishes. Nice price, too.  – Natalie McLean

Porcupine Ridge is proudly named after the Crested Porcupine, a most unique and fascinating inhabitant of their farm. They are also involved in its conservation through the Porcupine Quest research project. This range of delicious, everyday wines is a firm favourite on tables throughout the world – offering great value and superb drinking.

Recommendation: Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.95)
Rating: 87, Wine Align
Availability: LCBO


Howling Bluff

Photo credit: Howling Bluff Estate Winery

This fragrant and expressive pinot noir is a testament to the single-minded dedication that the Smiths have lavished on their small patch of Naramata terroir. – DJ Kearney

I visited the Okanagan last fall, sadly just after many of the wineries closed for the season. Howling Bluff had been on my list to check out, but had to get placed on the list for when I return. It’s been winning lots of awards and I’ve even considered joining their club for access to their Pinot’s.

Located within one of the world’s best wine growing regions, on the Naramata Bench in B.C.’s bountiful Okanagan valley, Howling Bluff is a family-owned estate winery that takes pride in growing their own vines and producing small lots of remarkable wines.

Recommendation: Summa Quies Pinot Noir ($35.00)
Rating: 91, Micheal Godel
Availability: Select locations and by membership


This list caters heavily to those living in Ontario. I tried to find wines that were widely available, but it’s hard! I’m sure I missed some great ones.

If you think of any, please let me know!  I would love to hear about them! 

Wild and Found

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