Winemaker Profiles

North 42 Degrees Winery

September 27, 2016
The award-winning wines of North 42 Degrees are worth a visit to Lake Erie North Shore.

When we rolled into North 42 Degrees Winery on our recent trip to Lake Erie North Shore, it was obvious that things were growing here – not only on the vines, but on the construction site right beside the current winery space. Workers were busily working on a new building, which will house the winery’s new restaurant and tasting room (slated to open in November, 2016).

North 42 Degrees winemaker Martin Gorski.

Photo by Doug Lowson – supplied by winery.

Inside the current building, the production area is big and clean, with a lovely lavender shop tucked into the corner and a small tasting bar just on the other side. Serenity Lavender helped support the owner’s winery dreams while the vines matured and is still a major business consideration for owners Martin Gorski and wife Suzanne Dajczak. They have big plans for their winery and the new building is the next big step.

They planted their vines in 2007 and have been working tirelessly to develop these European varietals into great Ontario wines. Martin believes the soils of Lake Erie North Shore, which have a lot of sand and hold moisture well, are a key driver to the regions grape-growing prowess and he’s been very pleased with their crops thus far.

They have six varietals planted now and he’s considering others. When he and Suzanne started looking into planting a vineyard, they travelled extensively and did extensive research into what would grow well in the region. His attention to detail shouldn’t be surprising, as Martin has a background in biology and worked both in science and the industrial sector before deciding to go back to his roots (he’s a third-generation farmer from Harrow) and become a winemaker. He studied winemaking at Washington State University when he set upon his new path and looked at how he could combine his background in science and farming into making great wine.

Lavender soap from Serenity Lavender.And while he’s certainly on the right track with that, he says he still considers himself a grape grower first and foremost. “I do whatever the grapes dictate, he says. “Whatever the year is yielding, is how I make the wine.” This decision to be terroir-driven and really listen to the grapes mean that soil, weather and all the elements that affect the region really have an impact on the wines – so one year he will have a very New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc (2013) and another a very French style (2012). It’s the magic of vintage variation that can be both exciting and stressful for every winemaker, but being able to go where the grapes take you is an important winemaking skill.

Choosing the right vines for the region was also critical, and Martin looked for aromatic clones and open clusters based on his research of the area. He felt cluster openness would be key given the concerns in the region about disease resistance and the need to battle the humidity (rot and mold are common issues local winemakers cite, though most, like Martin, have developed strategies to counter this). He has also been looking at different ways to fertilize his crops, using liquid fish to add more nutrients to the soil and experimenting with liquid kelp. I ask if using liquid fish means his wines aren’t vegan, and we both ponder this – given that it’s in the fertilizer, we decide it’s likely still technically vegan, but I have to smile later when I recall the conversation – this is truly the stuff wine nerds like us revel in.

When it comes to making the wine, Martin uses traditional fermentation techniques as much as possible and designed the winery for gravity flow. He’s also embraced micro-oxidation over barrel aging, which is a unique decision. He hasn’t had much to work from in developing his technique, save for a PhD dissertation he found on how to do it, but it’s come together nicely so far and he’s looking forward to further experimentation.

Grape vines at North 42 Degrees Winery.Right now, he has his hands full as he prepares for the upcoming harvest while managing the construction of his new building. The restaurant will be a nice addition to the winery and will have beautiful views of the vineyards. Martin shows us the plans and he talks excitedly about how it will improve the property. It will certainly make it a destination – the lavender shop will remain, but will be more separated from the tasting room and the restaurant will give tourists a great new option in the region.

Well-situated along the wine route in Lake Erie North Shore, North 42 Degrees is perfectly located for wine touring and the wines are very good. This is clearly a winery where craft is a factor and Martin’s attention to detail, his passion for growing good grapes and his willingness to experiment with new techniques all combine to make this a must-visit for wine-lovers. I’m excited to see how North 42 Degrees and their wines develop in the years to come.

Food & Wine

Summer Wine Adventures

September 19, 2016
Fresh Wines at the iYellow Wine Cave.

I can hardly believe how fast this summer flew by, but given the humidity and the oppressive heat in Toronto this year, I’m kind of OK with that. Shawn and I did have some pretty fabulous adventures this summer and I’ll continue to share posts from our trips to Germany and Lake Erie North Shore, but I wanted to mention a few others too.

There were way too many things happening this summer to do individual posts, but I didn’t want to miss mentioning these great events that Shawn and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend. As always, you can follow along with our adventures in real time on Instagram and Twitter. Each feed features different content, so I encourage you to check out both!

Cocktails at the Toronto Wine & Spirits Festival at Sugar Beach.

Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival – Sugar Beach

Oyster Boy Oysters at the Toronto Wine & Spirits Festival.Shawn and I declared the Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival the perfect date night a few years ago and this year’s event lived up to that billing. This June festival is always one of our favourites, we love the laidback vibe, the Sugar Beach location and the opportunity to try a wealth of different types of food and drink. The attendees at this event always seem more relaxed than at other drinks-based festivals. Maybe the beach just puts people in a really chill mood or it’s just super well-run (I think it’s a combo), but this is one where you can sip a cocktail while watching a band, eat oysters while enjoying a beautiful view of Lake Ontario or just wander from booth to booth deciding what to try next. Highlights for us this year? Mama Ratty’s meat donuts, Oyster Boy oysters, Berentzen apple liquor and Flora de Cana rum cocktails.

iYellow Summer Wine Jam

It may have been the night before our big trip to Germany, but Shawn and I couldn’t miss iYellow’s Summer Wine Jam this year, especially since it marked the tenth anniversary of this fabulous and fun wine club! Angela Aiello, founder of iYellow Wine Club, has always been a big supporter local bloggers (myself included) and a cheerleader for so many Ontario wineries – her positive attitude is really inspiring. Along with her amazing team of iYellow ‘wine angels’, she has helped make wine accessible to a whole new group of wine lovers and encouraged them to discover local wines and explore Ontario wine country.  It was so much fun to celebrate with this team and I can’t wait for the party to mark twenty years!

Fresh wines sparkling Riesling has a beautiful label.Fresh Wines Launch

Travel kept us away from many of the summer wine events in the city, so Shawn and I were happy to pop by the Fresh wines media event at the iYellow Wine Cave in late August. Fresh wines are made by Niagara’s Diamond Estates and they’re very much easy-drinking, patio or party wines. The packaging is pretty and colourful, featuring artistic renderings of modern women – the type of ladies this wine is clearly being marketed towards. Full disclosure, most of the wines in this line are on the sweet side and that’s not really my thing, but I’m trying super hard not to get all wine snobby about these patio wines because, hey, I drank Arbour Mist back in the day, and if sweet wines are your thing, you’ll really like these. The sparkling Riesling had my favourite label and it would be a good choice ice cold on a patio, as would the Moscato. I also enjoyed the Satin Red, which is a very drinkable, fruit-forward red wine blend.

Did you have any summer wine adventures? What were your favourites? Share them in the comments below or on social.

*We were guests at each of the events, but our opinions are our own. Especially my somewhat judgey ones about sweet wines. I said I was trying not be a wine snob, I didn’t say I was succeeding.

Wine Travel

Two Nights in Bacharach: Wine Travel in Germany

September 12, 2016
A wine tasting flight at Weingut Karl Heidrich in Bacharach, Germany.

I discovered Bacharach on a travel forum, where it was described as a slightly less touristy option for wine travel in Germany. Inspired by our discovery of Bernkastel-Kues in 2013, I made it the first stop of our epic German travel adventure this July. It did not disappoint.

Bacharach lived up to its billing as a traditional German wine town that, while full of things to discover, was not so packed with summer tourists as to make exploring stressful. It had all the charming nuances and stunning vineyard views I love about Germany and two nights was more than enough time to fully explore the area.

Bacharach is full of fabulous traditional buildings!

Day 1 in Bacharach:

Wine tasting at at Weingut Karl Heidrich in Bacharach, Germany.We arrived early after our flight and an hour’s drive from Frankfurt airport (the train is also an easy and central option), and well before we could check into our hotel, the charming Hotel Am Markt, which is a lovely gem located in the centre of town. We spent our time before check-in exploring the nearly empty town and then walking up to the Burg Stahlek to take in the stunning views. This trail is great for those who want to enjoy an activity that combines physical fitness and local history with breathtaking vineyard views.

The rooms at Hotel Am-Markt in Bacharach are comfortable and clean.After a quick snack, we checked into our spacious, clean and comfortable room at Hotel Am Markt (note there’s no elevator, if that’s an issue for you), took a quick nap and then headed out again to enjoy some of the local charm.

The Riesling gelato at Italia-76 Eiscafe is a can’t miss for wine lovers and something I’ve only ever seen in Bacharach. The family who runs the store is lovely and they also make a rose gelato that is so unique and flavourful. The small portions of a one scoop cone is easily walked off by a walk along the Rhine or an afternoon strolling the cobblestone streets. I love how not everything is super-sized in Germany, making it easy to enjoy small indulgences.

Sampling the local wine is a must-do and we settled in to taste a flight of trocken (dry) wines from Weingut Karl Heidrich. Their adorable patio was so relaxing that we visited twice during our stay and were impressed both times by the service and the wines. Our flight came in traditional Mosel-style glasses, which aren’t ideal for swirling and sniffing, but we opted to make this a relaxing travel adventure and not a structured tasting. We purchased our favourite wine from the flight, the 2015 Riesling Spatlese, as most of the local wineguts offer bottles for sale as well as lunch and/or dinner menus.

 

Pasta a la Bacharach at Hotel Am-Markt is named after the quaint town!For dinner, we returned to our hotel and Hotel Am Markt filled our bellies with delicious German cuisine. I had the pasta ala Bacharach (spaghetti in mushroom sauce) with a glass of local Riesling and Shawn had the schnitzel with a Fruh Kolsh beer. Both were very good and it was lovely to enjoy a summer evening on the outdoor patio.

It was an early night for us after a long travel day, but many of the beer gardens stay open until 11 or so on the weekends, if you want an evening out. Keep in mind that this is definitely not a late-night hot spot, but I suspect if you’re visiting a tiny German wine town that isn’t what you’re looking for.

The Rhine River as seen from Bacharach, Germany.Day 2 in Bacharach

I started my morning with a run along the Rhine, with fantastic views of the river and the vineyards. I had the path along the water practically to myself and it was a great way to start the day.

Afterwards, we opted to take a Rhine cruise, which is easily done from the waterfront. We went from Bacharach to St. Gore and back, which took about 45 minutes on the way there and an hour on the way back, due to the currents. In retrospect, I would have liked to take the train to a city a few stops ahead of Bacharach on the route in order to see more of the region. It really is magical to see from the boat tour and with drinks, snacks and full meals available on board, it’s easy to cruise for hours if you’d like.

St. Gore is another charming town similar to Bacharach, but we found there was less to do. We enjoyed visiting an artisanal beer stein emporium and marveling at their amazing creations and had a lovely walk around their old town before heading back to Bacharach on the next boat (depending on the timing, they run once an hour or so, but sometimes they skip an hour so be mindful of how much time you want to spend in a place).

Discover delicious flammkuchen in Bacharach, Germany.Back in Bacharach, we spent more time exploring the town and then had some of the best flamkuchen ever on the patio at Postof Bacharach. While the town isn’t huge, there are lots of small local wineries to explore and several interesting shops. After a glass of wine on the patio at Weingut Karl Heidrich, we headed back to the hotel for another early night, fully charmed by this wonderful wine town.

Have you been to Bacharach? Share your travel tips in the comments below or on social!

 

Food & Wine

Three Red Wines To Kick-off September

September 5, 2016
Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit” is a lighter red for Autumn sipping.

The other day, I sent out a tweet saying that it felt like red wine weather was here. And in Toronto over the Labour Day weekend, that certainly feels true. I’ve heard that the heat and humidity, which has felt like a heavy blanket over the city all summer, will return. But right now I’m taking the opportunity to run through cool breezes, sit on the patio sipping big cups of tea and curl up on the couch with my hubby drinking big glasses of red wine.

I unrepentantly love autumn and its perfect running weather, chunky sweater cuddles and humidity-clearing breezes. It makes me want to drink the boldest, spiciest wines. I don’t do pumpkin spice lattes (protein smoothies, maybe), but give me a wine with a kick of black pepper, deep earthy notes or a touch of anise and I’m all in.

Granted, I drink red wine (and white) all year long, but this summer heatwave had me reaching for rosé or very light whites more often. In anticipation of the fall season, Shawn and I tested out a few lighter-bodied reds that had arrived as samples and I wanted to share our thoughts below. These are great transitions from summer into fall drinking, as you ease your way towards Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope you’ll share what you’re drinking this fall in the comments or on social.

Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir is a great light red wine for fall.Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir

Like much of the country, Shawn and I watched the last Tragically Hip concert on CBC in August. We weren’t enormous fans growing up, but like for many Canadians the Hip was just always there, woven into the fabric of our lives. Given that we weren’t super fans, I didn’t anticipate that this night would be so emotionally charged. I had chosen this wine because I wanted something Canadian for the evening and it paired nicely with dinner (chicken breasts done with a light tandoori glaze). We had tried to get a bottle of the Tragically Hip wine, but that was sold out province-wide (we had a bottle from the previous vintage that we had opened a few months earlier, it was OK wine, nothing special, but I kind of wish I’d held onto it a little longer so we had it for this night).

This CDC wine was a nice selection, it has notes of root beer, dark cherry and hints of milk chocolate on the nose. It’s earthy and balanced on the palate with dark red fruit and some cherry chocolate notes. It’s very food-friendly and very well-made (most CDC wines are), but I’ll always remember it as the wine in my glass during one of the most memorable nights I’ve had. When I broke down sobbing, watching a man with brain cancer scream and cry while giving the last performance of a lifetime, I didn’t really need wine, but I did raise a glass more than three hours into the show to toast one of the most brilliant, heart-breaking, powerful performances I’ve ever seen. And, like many of the important things in life, this wine will always be part of that memory.

La Crema 2014 Monterey Pinot Noir is a good option for cool weather sipping.

La Crema – 2014 Monterey Pinot Noir

OK, I don’t have anything half as memorable as the story above to tell you about drinking the La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir. We received it as a sample and it’s available via Vintages right now (September 3, 2016 is the release date). I like La Crema wines – they have a Canadian winemaker and I find that they’re well-made and very drinkable. I got smoke, root beer, dark cherry and wet soil on the nose and lots of earthy notes and a bit of anise on the palate (fellow blogger Jason Solanki said it had lots of notes of tea and I can see that too), as well as some black pepper and clove on the finish. I liked it and Shawn did too.  It paired well with pizza and was a nice addition to our movie night. If you like California Pinot Noir, this is very much worth picking up.

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit” is a flavourful red wine for fall.Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit”

As a general rule, I don’t like to include two wines from the same winery in a wrap-up post like this, but I like Chateau des Charmes wines a lot and this one is very different than the Pinot Noir (plus, my review is a lot more standard for this one).

First, a confession, I struggle with Gamay. It’s just not my grape. I have many a wine-loving friend who absolutely loves Gamay and they are always telling me I will find one that just blows me away. So far, that hasn’t  happened, but I think of it the way I think about not liking watermelon – I get that everyone else likes it and it’s just me, so please don’t let me colour your thinking on this grape.

This is especially true here because this CDC wine is a very good Ontario Gamay. It won gold at the Ontario Wine Awards and the National Wine Awards, it’s extremely well made and the nose is just lovely – wet grass, black pepper, red current, stewed plums and a wonderful spiciness. It’s got black pepper and dark red fruit on the palate and has a tart, spicy freshness that just screams fall sipping.

This was another pizza and a movie night wine in our house and it paired well with both our Mediterranean chicken pizza and Johnny Depp’s Black Mass.  While Gamay is not my ‘go-to’ wine, I hope you’ll try this one because there’s a good chance it will be yours.

Coming up in the fall, I’ll return to my monthly wine round-ups and there will be lots more wine travel posts, as Shawn and I want to share more about our trips to Germany and Lake Erie North Shore. Shawn will also be covering Toronto Beer Week (he’s scheduled to do his level 2 Prud’homme Beer Specialist in October!) and I’m working on a whole bunch of new winemaker profiles to share with you! It should be a fun few months here at Upkeep.

*We received all three of these wines as samples, but all opinions (especially my long, rambling ones about The Tragically Hip) are our own.