Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates: Summer Drinks Edition

July 9, 2017
Sipsmith Gin Cocktail

Summer is well underway and at my house we’ve been taking full advantage of the recent patio weather to enjoy lighter, easier-drinking wines on our balcony. I’ll follow this post with a rosé round-up, but for this one I thought I’d share some of the other summer sippers that have been filling our glasses as we soak up as much vitamin D as possible.

Fleur du Cap ChardonnayFleur du Cap 2015 Chardonnay – This is a fuller-bodied wine, but with notes of lemon, apple and baking spice. It was a delicious pairing for creamy pasta on the patio one recent evening and it’s a very affordable option if you like a heavier white to compliment your meal. We also enjoyed the opportunity to show off our Drink Guards—these easy-to-clean circles are a great way to keep your vino free of flies and other summer debris. Yep, a coaster would work too but these are fun and colourful and we’ve been using them frequently on the patio and at the cottage.

Sipsmith Gin CocktailSipsmith Gin – I love gin because this flavour-packed spirit is almost always perfect for light, summer cocktails. I had the chance to check out a new-to-Ontario London dry gin at the recent Sipsmith Gin event at The Drake Hotel. Founder Sam Galsworthy was a charming host to a fabulous night of cocktails and creative pairings for this authentic spirit whose team helped sway the British government to allow smaller pot stills and, thus, were at the forefront of a gin renaissance in London.

Sipsmith is made using traditional methods – no exotic botanicals or additives for this spirit – and Sam is extremely proud of that fact. It’s “gin made the way it should be,” he insists and he converted a number of fans to this smooth, mellow gin with notes of pine and citrus on the nose. A great option for cocktails and very enjoyable in a gin and tonic, this may not sway hardcore Hendrick’s drinkers, but it’s a pretty great option for classic gin cocktails – like the traditional gin martini.

Garzon AlbarinoDescorchados Tasting 2017 – The lovely team at WineAlign recently hosted a Descorchados tasting in Toronto to highlight some exciting South American wines. A few summer stand-outs for me included the Garzon Single Vineyard 2016 Albarino. This coastal wine from Uruguay has notes of lime and seawater on the nose and citrus and salt on the palate. It’s crisp and refreshing with a lengthy, almost slightly creamy finish. Tabali’s 2016 Talinay Sauvignon Blanc was also a stand-out for me. This coastal wine from Chilé has pronounced minerality and the nose reminded me of fresh ocean air with a hint of fresh cut Meyer lemon. It’s a more typical Sauvignon Blanc on the palate and is a pleasant, food-friendly sipper.

What have you been sipping this summer? Share your favourites in the comments or on social!

All of these beverages were samples or tasted at events where I was a guest. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Best of

June Wine Adventures

June 17, 2017
Evolve Cellars Pink Effervescence

It’s been a little while since my last post and I’m not sure how good my reasons are for that. Honestly, I’ve been a little burnt out on wine blogging over the last few months. I still love learning about wine, but after a few years of regular blogging it’s hard to keep up the constant enthusiasm sometimes. Over the last few months, I’ve found my time split between competing passions. I’ve been focused on writing fiction, running and yoga—as well as spending more time with the people in my life who have often been overlooked because I was so busy juggling a full-time job and my wine blogging adventures. It’s hard to feel bad about making that decision.

That’s not to say I’m ready to give this up, I just might have to keep things a little less frequent as I strive to maintain some balance in my life. And with a running injury set to sideline me for much of the summer, I’ll likely have a little more time available to devote to blogging again. So, with that said, here we go with my latest round-up of wine stories!

Some Southbrook Stunners:

Southbrook 2013 PoeticaI recently had the opportunity to taste through some of the wines in Southbrook Estate Winery’s latest release. I’ve always enjoyed this Niagara producer and I wasn’t disappointed at this tasting. Some of the highlights included the new 2016 Biodynamic Bubbly Vidal, which is done in the Ancestral style to create a refreshing and light effervescent sparkler. The Wild Ferment Cider was another interesting surprise. It’s done in the style of Northern Spain and is a very dry cider with a hint of sweet apple juice. It’s fermented with wild wine yeast and priced reasonably at $15.95 – it reminded me a little of the sparkling cider I so love from The Old Third in Prince Edward County.

The 2013 Poetica Chardonnay was another standout for me with apple, pear and a touch of cream on the nose. This wine had nice fruit on the palate, with notes of pear and green apple. A lovely, small-batch wine.

The 2016 Estate Cabernet Rosé also impressed with strawberry notes all through and lots summer fruit on the palate. This would be a nice patio sipper this summer and a perfect wine for so many food pairings (I love the versatility of rosé). And the 2013 Estate Witness Block Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc was an elegant red with anise, raspberry and bramble on the nose. Another personal favourite of the tasting.

Another surprise was the 2016 Small Lot Natural Orange Wine. I haven’t always been a fan of Southbrook’s orange wines, but this one was more to my tastes. The tannins are still quite pronounced and the flavour is certainly unique, but it’s a little more fruit-forward and less bracing than some of the previous vintages.

Evolve Cellars EffervescenceB.C. Wine on my Mind

Over the last few months, Shawn and I have been going through some pretty fantastic B.C. wines from Evolve Cellars. Their lightly sparkling wines (Effervescence) are perfect for summer and bursting with lovely flavour. They truly are a perfect sparkling option for summer (though a quick peek at their website doesn’t show any available right now, so perhaps already a sell-out). We really don’t have enough access to B.C. wineries and it’s such a shame. Another favourite from that province? Time Winery’s 2013 Syrah – Shawn and I couldn’t get enough of this big, bold red. You can order wines from these producers online across Canada now and it’s well worth it if you have the ability to store these wines easily.

Roscato WineSweet Italian Wine Time

I was recently invited to an event at iYellow Wine Club to check out Italy’s Roscato wine. Sweet wines typically aren’t my thing unless they’re specifically dessert wines (or used in cocktails), but I like to keep an open mind and I found this wine interesting. It’s a slightly effervescent, very sweet wine from Northern Italy meant to be served cold and which the company’s representative explained was very popular with new wine drinkers. I get that, since I started my wine journey on Arbour Mist. And Roscato at least is a quality product – the effervescence is added via the charmat method and not carbonation, the grapes are hand-picked and they use the minimum number of pesticides. It’s also 7 per cent alcohol, so this is a pretty good option for adding to summer sangria (honestly, that would be my number one suggestion for how to use it) and it’s a sweet treat over vanilla ice cream.

What have you been drinking so far this season? Share your favourites with me in the comments or on social.

Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates – Birthdays, Niagara Wine Adventures and More

May 10, 2017
The Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet from Inniskillin

Life has been busy around here! Shawn and I spent a fantastic week in Quebec City and Montreal at the end of April celebrating my birthday, and I’ve been spending lots of time writing, running and practicing yoga. I’ve also joined a book club and have been enjoying my self-imposed wine book hiatus. While I have absolutely loved all the wine-related books I’ve read over the last three years, every part of my brain was ready for a break. My book club just read the excellent American Housewife by Helen Ellis and it was a fabulous opportunity to kick back with a complex, deeply layered and still gloriously funny book and then talk it through with friends over copious snacks and big cups of tea.

I’ve also had plenty of wine adventures that I’m happy to share below in my latest round-up.

Veuve ClicquotBirthday Bonanza

I love to travel and Quebec City and Montreal have the added bonus of feeling like a slice of Europe just a very short flight away. Shawn and I enjoyed some fabulous food in both cities, before indulging in an incredible birthday meal at Garde Manger in Montreal. It’s a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend this Chuck Hughes-owned restaurant. And what did we drink to celebrate my latest trip around the sun? Veuve Clicquot, of course. Which reminds me that I really want to read the biography of Madam Clicquot currently sitting on my shelf one of these days (see, I can’t completely shake my wine reading ways).

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle in Niagara

The lovely Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake invited Shawn and I out to enjoy their latest festival – Sip & Sizzle – which is running on weekends throughout the month of May. I like these fests, as they give you the opportunity to try a new and unique wine and food pairing at all of the participating wineries. Shawn and I went to Days of Wine and Chocolate in February (fun, but a tad too sweet on sweet for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of chocolate) and were excited to try the more savoury pairings on this tour. Our favourites were the very flavourful chicken taco paired with the Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet at Inniskillin and the cod fritter paired with Sauvignon Blanc at Two Sisters, but the prawn and Sauvignon Blanc pairing at Chateau des Charmes was also excellent. Ravine Vineyard’s chicken wing with Moroccan rice and their dry Rosé was another fabulous option. You can check out the full listing of pairings and purchase a pass for the event at the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake site and we have photos of all our wine and food pairings on Twitter and Instagram. As always, they have a less expensive version of the pass for designated drivers, which is important and awesome.

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon BlancThis and That

There have been a few interesting bottles that crossed my path recently!

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Shawn and I kicked back with Dateline and this Sauv Blanc sample over the weekend and we both enjoyed it. It was a good pairing for a lightly dressed chicken salad and it’s a very nice value New Zealand wine at $18.95 (LCBO).

The Negroni at Big in Japan in Montreal – We had a bit of an adventure finding this hidden gem, but Montreal’s Big in Japan bar lived up to the hype. Modeled after a Japanese speakeasy, this bar has no end of ambiance, elegant staff and they make a fabulous Negroni (and, yes, I judge a place on how they make one of my favourite cocktails). Worth checking out if you’re in the city.

Chateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du BordeauxChateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du Bordeaux – What do you do when it’s pouring rain in Quebec City and you just can’t stand a minute more of walking around in the downpour? If you’re Shawn and I, you buy a value bottle of Bordeaux ($25.30 at the SAQ) and camp out in your fabulous hotel room at the Hotel du Vieux-Quebec. Maybe it was the seemingly unending rain, the cozy hotel, or just being on vacation, but we both loved this big, bold red (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and a dash of Cabernet Franc). I wish this rainy day hug of a wine was available at the LCBO because I’d definitely like to have this one again.

And that’s just a few of our recent adventures! What have you been sipping? Share your thoughts below or on social.

* Shawn and I were guests at the Sip & Sizzle event and the Te Awa was a sample. All the others were purchases we made. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates: Whisky, Vodka and Wine Edition

April 17, 2017
Collingwood whisky maple cocktail

It’s been a busy few weeks for me, as I’ve been actively training for my first 10K race (I completed the Spring Run Off 8K just last weekend), continuing my year-long yoga challenge (I’ve hit my mat every single day in 2017 so far), working on my novel and more. But while I have less time to update the blog these days, I’m still doing my best to make time for wine and spirits adventures. Below is a re-cap of a few of those that I wanted to share with you!

Collingwood whisky maple cocktailCollingwood Whisky

If I’m not drinking wine, I’m probably drinking whisky. I gravitate towards Irish whiskey, but there are some pretty great Canadian options too and Collingwood is one of those. I recently attended an event at the iYellow Wine Club to check out some Collingwood cocktails and food pairings and I was quite impressed. This Ontario whisky is smooth and drinkable on its own and it works very well in a cocktail. My personal favourite was the French Canadian, which highlights the maple flavours in this spirit. We also worked our way through a few interesting pairings—shortbread, almonds and maple syrup—all of which brought out different flavours in the whisky. In general, I don’t pair shortbread and whisky, but given how it improved upon that buttery goodness, I might just start.

Social Lite Vodka Pineapple Mango Vodka Soda drinkSocial Lite Pineapple Mango

Because I don’t enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages, vodka soda is my jam when I’m out at a bar with a bad wine list (a sadly frequent occurrence in this city where Barefoot and Yellow Tail are acceptable house wines). I’ve tried Social Lite’s product before and I like them – they’re a great option for cottage and patio sipping if you’re not wanting the sugar kick of a cooler. We got a sample of the new pineapple mango flavour and I enjoyed it. Shawn prefers their cucumber flavour and I have to admit I like their lime ginger a little better than this one (but lime is also my go-to in vodka soda), but this has a sweet kick that might be a little easier on those transitioning from traditionally sweetened coolers. Whatever your flavour preference, I love seeing a company making healthy cooler options easily available.

Ca'Momi MerlotThe California Wine Fair and Cali Wine Jam

For one week in April, the good folks of the California wine world descend on Toronto to promote their wines. For those in the wine trade, there are lots of different opportunities to taste and for the general public there are two very different and equally good events. The California Wine Fair at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is a lovely evening that allows potential buyers to taste and try some of the best that California has to offer. For many, this is an opportunity to try high-end wines that might be out of their typical price range and to discover new favourites that are available only via agent. I was disappointed that Bonny Doon and Birichino were not at the event, as I’m always eager for opportunities to taste their wines, but other perennial favourites like Jordan Wines and Stags’ Leap made up for that. I also discovered new wines to love, like Pine Ridge’s excellent Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend, Vermention’s Seghesio and Malene’s 2015 rosé. Other finds? Hope Family Vineyards, one of the producers I most enjoy, is finally bringing their Treana line to Ontario, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting, and the Ca’Momi 2015 Merlot is just about the best Merlot I’ve had in ages. Shawn’s pick of the night? The Game of Thrones wine. Not because he liked it (he much preferred the Jordan 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon), but because he just loves everything GOT.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and ViognierOn the other side of the spectrum, iYellow’s Cali Wine Jam is a fun and friendly afternoon of California wine that’s perfect for the entry-level buyer or wine newbie. This event was held in a sun-dappled venue with a DJ spinning dance-friendly beats. The wines are more easily available and easy-drinking, so this is the type of event for those who might feel intimidated by a typical tasting evening. I was happy to see Hope Family’s Troublemaker available here (please make this general list, LCBO!) along with their very good 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Troublemaker is a red blend that’s not overly sweet, but yet still wonderfully drinkable.  I also really enjoyed the Ravenswood 2014 Old Vines Zinfandel, which is a go-to in our house when I want a big, bold and not overly hot Zin.

So that’s just a quick update on a few of the fun wine and spirits adventures I’ve had over the last month or so. Let me know what you’ve been up to in the comment or on social!

*We were guests at the events where we tried these wines and the Social Lite was a sample. All opinions are my own.