This ain’t no run of the mill master class. On an early May morning in downtown Toronto, they congregated, coffees in hand. Winemakers, writers, educators and sommeliers hailing from far and near — all here to learn and to share knowledge about how Burgundy’s most temperamental offspring is grown and made into wine in both New Zealand and Ontario — in a one of a kind, all day boot camp on Pinot Noir


Steered by John Szabo MS, UK based wine author Jamie Goode and New Zealand based Cameron Douglas MS, attendees put their palates to the test by blind tasting two dozen different Pinots — as it turned out — twelve were from New Zealand and twelve from Ontario. (view the wines here)


But while comparisons of the regions were inevitable — “The Pinot Affair” wasn’t intended to be a Pinot showdown. The session was engineered for ‘deep diving’ into winemaking techniques with an emphasis on the use of stems and full bunches in ferments as well as sub-regional variations. Giving extra muscle and excitement to the dialogue — was the presence of numerous winemakers (a total of 12 at my count) from each region, who tasted along and shared their insights and discoveries along with those leading the session. Here’s what some of those participating had to say:



On Terroir:


“Pairing the fine Pinot Noirs of New Zealand with those from Ontario was a natural fit — two new world, cool climate areas specialized in the grape. It was an exceptional day of learning and sharing, comparing and contrasting in a collaborative, not competitive platform. It was enriching for both NZ and ON wine winemakers, and especially for the trade who attended the two master classes, who gained a deeper understanding of what makes great pinot, and where to find it.”

John Szabo MS


“Why New Zealand and Ontario Pinots together? There are some parallels: both industries entered their modern eras in the 1970s, and both are cool climate wine regions.”

Jamie Goode


“People always talk about how Burgundy has had a thousand years to refine their prime terroir. I don’t believe that – I think Burgundy probably did it in two generations – I put the same pressure on us to find the great single vineyards (in Ontario).”

Thomas Bachelder, Winemaker Bachelder Wines 


“It’s not unreasonable to expect that terroir exists but terroir is a bit like a Russian doll. There are regions within the regions and even within those — more regions still.  The more alcohol consumed — the deeper and more meaningful these conversations become”

Jamie Goode



On Winemaking:


“The natural dudes have elevated the use of whole bunch techniques...The use of whole bunch or stem inclusion can aid in physiological ripeness and can provide complexity and smoother tannins but also acid reduction, colour reduction and sometimes a green leafy smell. Anything that’s raw, uncooked or messy is not what Pinot is about. Always look for a savoury component”

Jamie Goode


“When ‘whole bunch’ is used there will be an intracellular reaction to a greater or lesser degree. This can add lift, prettiness and youthfulness to the bouquet before the stems effect is noticed. Producers who control this effect by the percentage of ‘whole bunch’ in their Pinot Noir ferments tend to produce more complex wines.”

Cameron Douglas MS


“I thought overall that Ontario showed incredibly well alongside New Zealand. We have some really incredible wine being made here and its great to showcase it among so many interested people.  I think perhaps the biggest thing we have going for us in Ontario is the acidity, subtlety and balance that our Pinot Noirs show.  Those I believe are our biggest strengths.  And now that we are starting to properly explore our sub-appellations and individual vineyards I feel we are really starting to showcase our various terroirs in much more comprehensive way.” 

Ilya Senchuk, Winemaker, Leaning Post (Niagara)


“The most surprising discovery for me was probably that NZ wines were bigger than the Ontario wines. Central (Otago), as we know has very intense flavours but I somehow expected a similar trend from the Ontario wine. I enjoyed their elegance and more Burgundian nature. The biggest “love moment” for me was the nose on the Malivoire Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017.”

Erica Crawford, Proprietor, Loveblock Wines


“The thing that struck me the most about the tasting was the difference in the level of tannins in the New Zealand and Ontario Pinot Noir — much higher in the New Zealand Wines! Coming from Prince Edward County I’m more familiar with a less tannic style, so it was interesting to see the more extracted side of Pinot Noir.”

Colin Stanners, Winemaker, Stanners Vineyard, Prince Edward County



On tasting Pinot Noir:


“It’s sometimes like a triangle in your mouth – you get all the sharp points”

Paul Pender, Winemaker, Tawse Winery


“I always taste a Pinot Noir three times. First to is ready the palate for the wine by reacting with saliva and removing the coffee or tea or bagel or a previous wine; the second is to actually taste and process the wine; the third is to ensure I did not miss anything and think about completeness, harmony and finish”

Cameron Douglas MS




Where North Meets South


Seminar 1 – Stems & Berries


Flight One: Marlborough


Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016 (20% whole cluster)

Agent: PMA Canada Ltd.                              Avg. $44.00


Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir, Martinborough 2017 (100% destemmed)

Agent: Seeking Distribution                                  Avg. $70.00


Churton Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2016 (100% destemmed, not crushed)

Agent: Le Sommelier                                               Avg. $57.00



Flight Two: Niagara Escarpment


Hidden Bench Estate Winery Rosomel Vineyard Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench 2015 (100% destemmed, not crushed)                                    Price: $58.00


Adamo Estate Winery Wismer-Parke Vineyard Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench 2016 (50% Whole cluster)                                    Price: $26.85


Bachelder Wismer Parke Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench 2015 (100% destemmed, not crushed?)                  Price: $44.95



Flight Three: Central Otago


Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir Central Otago 2016 (23% whole cluster)

Agent: The Living Vine                                            Avg. $65.00


Rockburn ‘The Art’ Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2016 (30% Whole Cluster)

Agent: Epic Wines & Spirits                                   Avg. $50.00


Toi Toi Reserve Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2014 (100% destemmed, not crushed)

Agent : Von Terra                                         Avg. $40.00



Flight Four: Niagara-‘By’-The-Lake

Southbrook Vineyards Laundry Vineyard Pinot Noir, Lincoln Lakeshore 2017 (50-60% whole cluster)                              Price: $34.80


Trius Clark Farm Vineyard Showcase Pinot Noir, Four Mile Creek 2016 (100% destemmed, not crushed)                               Price: $36.75


Leaning Post Wines Senchuk Vineyard Pinot Noir, Lincoln Lakeshore 2016 (40% stems)                           Price: $55.00




Seminar 2 – Same, Same but Different


Flight One: 

Greystone Omihi Pinot Noir, Waipara, North Canterbury 2016

Agent: Noble Estates Wines & Spirits                 Avg. $30.00


Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County 2017                        Price: $35.00


Stoneleigh ‘Latitude’ Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2017

Agent: Corby Wine & Spirits                                   Avg. $25.00


Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Pinot Noir, Vinemount Ridge 2015                   Price: $36.15


Flight Two:

Nautilus Southern Valleys Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2015

Agent: Breakthru Beverage                        Avg. $42.00


Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench 2016                      Price: $20.95


Luna Eclipse Vineyard Pinot Noir, Martinborough 2016

Agent: Terra Firma Brands                         Avg. $50.00


Malivoire Wine Company Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench 2017                   Price: $36.95


Flight Three:

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir, Four Mile Creek 2016     Price: $30.95


Loveblock Someone's Darling Vineyard Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago 2014

Agent: The Vine                                Avg. $


Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench 2016       Price: $36.95


Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn, Central Otago 2010

Agent: Lifford Wine & Spirits                     Avg. $90.00