How much do we love Ontario? Home is where the heart is? Well, that much is certainly true for Ontario wines! Last Thursday, a selective group of Canada’s top wine aficionados (and me) were invited to the launch of SHINE {ON}: the LCBO’s Fall feature campaign of 167 Ontario wine products. And boy, was there some heart in that room: wine critics, wine club leaders, winemakers, and even some wine media personalities. And me. And 33 Ontario wines to try. Let the games begin.

“Mother Nature is the biggest bitch on the block”, said Sue-Anne Staff as she kicked off the evening with a speech on her industry’s current state of affairs. As a 5th generation winery powerhouse, no doubt she knows that this year’s apocalyptic weather has done a number on the sanity of many a winemaker. But no damage done to SHINE {ON}! Bottles upon bottles were lined up and ready for our taking. A booklet was laid before me, waiting to be filled out with my findings with pen that tripled as a laser pointer AND a USB stick. Fittingly, Farmhouse Tavern was the provider of tasty treats to compliment the wine selection. Standout dishes were smoked oysters, pickled vegetables, rabbit confit and thick-cut bacon, served upright in (you guessed it) a wine glass. Lest we forget the cheese.

I was fortunate enough to be seated at the same table as Andre Proulx, a wine enthusiast who talks his game on Newstalk 1010, and Angela Aiello, founder of iYellow Wine Club. We sampled four bottles at a time and were so pleased to find the level of quality to price! Excellent value all around—the most expensive bottle of the collection was $31.99, nothing absurd given how high these things can run. My wine guides and I blew through the selection in under two hours. Eventually I gave up on even going with them to pick out bottles (previously basing it on the label design) and left it to the pros. I was too busy frantically trying to keep time with the official routine of smell, taste, smell, taste, spit, write. Do we like it? A tinny finish? Yes, so tinny. Best with chocolate. But by the end, I was making my own observations, feeling confident and like I should have perhaps spat out even more, even though it felt like a crime when the wines tastes that good.

All in all it was a splendid, whirlwind of a time! If the LCBO is going to be the keeper of the booze for all of Ontario, I’m glad they’re representing their home turf with pride. So please, Ontario wines, continue to shine on.

Danielle’s SHINE {ON} Wine Picks

On the Cheap: Pillitteri Pic’d White VQA ($12.95)

Best Buy: Flat Rock 2010 Good Kharma Chardonnay ($16.95)

Splurge: Tawse Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir 2010 ($31.95)

Fave Red Wine: Angel’s Gate Pinot Gris VQA ($13.95)

Fave White Wine: Brickyard Riesling VQA 2012 ($13.95)