Conference Preview: Northern Reaches – A Time to Shine for Canadian Wine


Today we have a conference preview from Jordan Cowe, CWE. Jordan, a favorite presenter for SWE’s SWEbinars and conferences alike, tells us about his session titled Northern Reaches: A Time to Shine for Canadian Wine.

The sun is setting over the water and the temperature is dropping bringing a bit of relief to a 100°F day in the vineyard. Sitting here, surrounded by Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is hard to believe that we are in Canada. Where I am, at Canada’s southernmost point, I’m on the same latitude as friends out in northern California, and there region I am in charts heat units that compare to those of Napa Valley.

Canada might be associated with the frigidly-named icewine, and many Americans cross our border expecting snow and polar bears–but our growing regions aren’t nearly as cold as most people think they are!

Growing wine in Canada is complicated; every step of the process is at the will of Mother Nature and what she gives us. Year after year we learn more and more about how to handle nature’s surprises and to produce wines that are now rivaling the best from around the world. The summer of 2015 was unusually cool throughout Ontario, yet patience and knowledge allowed some growers to continue ripening all the way through November–this produced outstanding wines that may serve as a benchmark vintage for quality.


This success followed the winters of 2014 and 2015 where we saw the coldest temperatures in about 30 years. Such low temperatures (negative 30°) would spell disaster for most regions, and while we suffered losses, precise vineyard practices and modern technology have allowed many of our vines to survive and our vineyards to continue.

The wine regions that dot Canada from coast to coast have faced similar problems. Out in British Columbia on Canada’s west coast, the regions closer to the coast can suffer the effects of mild and rainy summers while on the other side of the province the Okanagan valley can be a hot, dry near-desert like growing environment. If you cross the country to the Atlantic Provinces you find relentlessly driven producers in Nova Scotia finding small pockets of land that are just right for grape growing and, against all odds, are producing absolutely outstanding sparkling wines and dry white wines.

For all the things that are said about Canadians, the one that is always forgotten is our resilience and determination in the face of winter.


As a nation, we are very well-known for our outstanding, centuries-old beer and whisky industries; so, in comparison, our wine industry is an infant. Gaining our first international awards and recognition in the early 1990s and only recently showing up on anyone’s radar, Canadian wines are still largely unknown. From Chardonnay and Riesling in the whites to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and more in the reds, Canada is producing outstanding wines that next to nobody has tried.

Take the opportunity to join Jordan to taste and learn about some of the hidden gems produced in this only sometimes frozen corner of the world at this year’s SWE Conference. Jordan Cowe is a Certified Wine Educator from Canada’s Niagara Region. A lover of the unusual and misunderstood areas of the wine world he is right at home in with Canadian wines which continually give him an opportunity to break expectations and expose students and guests to something new. Jordan’s session will be held on Saturday, August 13th at 10:30 am.


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