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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.

Food & Wine

Wine and sustainable seafood pairings? Yes, please!

March 19, 2017
Fondue made with Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc

I’ve been a little MIA on the blogging scene lately, as I try to juggle finishing the first draft of my novel with a busy period at my day job and a whole lot of the fitness stuff that helps me balance all this wine stuff. Sometimes I feel like I have gotten so into writing about wine that I’ve forgotten to talk about the healthy living things that help me keep my life in balance. It’s important for me to remember that this space was always supposed to be about living a happy, healthy, wine-infused life. As I prepare for a busy race season and continue my yoga journey (I’m proud to say that I’ve hit my mat every single day in 2017 so far), that part of my life has definitely been front and centre on my social media and I hope to see more of it here. But don’t worry, there’s still lots of great wine content too!

Matt Dean PettitToday’s post is about an event I attended in the fall (yes, I’m that far behind – sorry) that fits into all three themes of the blog. I was one of a few lucky bloggers invited to join one of my favourite chefs, Matt Dean Pettit, for a sustainable wine and seafood pairing lesson. If you don’t know Matt, he’s the amazing chef behind the now defunct Rock Lobster chain (I really miss that place) and the brains behind Matty’s Seafood (available in grocery stores across Canada). He’s also a fabulous and funny guy who made us all feel really confident and comfortable when it was announced that not only would we be learning about pairing, but also cooking with wine.

Whitehaven Sauvignon BlancThose who know me are well aware that I am NOT a cook. Thankfully, I married someone who is or I would still be existing on those frozen dinners you heat in the microwave and mini-popsicles. I’m not even kidding. This event was all about enjoying sustainable seafood. We had a really interesting session from Ocean Wise, who taught us that over-fishing is the single greatest threat to our oceans and how to choose easy, accessible and sustainable options. I was very relieved to learn that two of my favourite foods—oysters and mussels—are farmed and, therefore, very sustainable. Wine, of course, pairs very, very well with both.

At first, I was a little disappointed when I learned we would be pairing and cooking with just one wine—Whitehaven’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc—but this crisp, refreshing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was actually a strong pairing with every dish we tried. Sauvignon Blanc is a great option with seafood and the ethos of the winery (they’re passionate about sustainability, have a zero waste winery and use sheep in their vineyards), worked very well with the theme of the night.

Mussels cooked with Whitehaven Sauvignon BlancAnd then we cooked! And it was so much fun. Matt is a fantastic teacher and he even had a non-cook like me enjoying my time in the kitchen. We made a wine-soaked mussel dish and then worked in teams to create a fun fondue. Both involved lots of wine being cooked and consumed, which is always a recipe for a great time.

After our cooking class, we got to try all the dishes on the menu prepared by actual chefs in a group meal that showcased the freshness and flavours of the seafood dishes and how well they complimented the wine. This was truly a fabulous event and a great way to learn about sustainability in a fun environment. It definitely has me thinking a lot more about the seafood we buy and consume.

There are some great videos of the event available (and, yes, you can see me attempting to cook in one of them) and the recipe for Matty’s Moules Frites (one of the dishes we made) is available too. Visit the Whitehaven page on Facebook to check them out!

Do you have a favourite wine and sustainable seafood pairing? Share it in the comments or on social.

*I was a guest at this event, but my opinions are my own.

 

Wine Travel

Viewpointe Estate Winery

March 6, 2017
Viewpointe's award-winning wines

It’s hard to describe the beauty of Viewpointe Estate Winery. As you round the corner and drive up to this estate and see it juxtaposed against Lake Erie, you can’t help but be a bit in awe. It’s just a stunning property – especially on a day as beautiful as the one when Shawn and I visited last year.

Viewpointe12Viewpointe is both a winery and a restaurant, although it’s unique in that the restaurant is all outdoors. This was particularly impressive for us since our visit coincided with an absolutely brilliant thunderstorm that blew up off the lake as we waited for our lunch to arrive – we entertained ourselves while we waited by taking photos of Shawn with enormous storm clouds behind him.

Viewpointe Estate WineryThe covered section of the patio offered ample cover when the storm finally hit and it was absolutely amazing to watch it move across the water as we ate our local perch (delicious) and enormous salad (so very good) and I enjoyed a glass of their very good local Riesling (dry, but fruity – nice acidity, green apple and pear on the palate). Mother Nature might not always provide such striking entertainment, but the patio is a must-do if you’re visiting in summer. Right on the lake, the views can’t be beat and the food here is very good.

Viewpointe Estate WineryWe toured the entire property while we were there and got to see their busy tasting room and ample space for corporate events and weddings (both inside or out). It’s a big estate with lots of options. They opened in 2006 and celebrated 10 years this past November. They are focused on local as much as possible in both the wines and their restaurants, including the weddings and events they cater. All wines are made from grapes grown on site and they are very proud of keeping things regional.

With three separate vineyards, all with different terroir, Viewpointe offers a range of wines, from their easy-drinking Big Bluff red blend (11 months on French oak, big, fruity and Merlot-dominant), to their rich and spicy Cabernet Franc, which has lots of deep red fruit and hints of black pepper. They have a barrel-fermented Chardonnay that is big and oaky with lots of butter, lemon and vanilla on the nose and a nice richness on the palate. This one screams out for big, creamy foods.

After a tour and tasting and our delicious meal, Shawn and I made sure to pick up a bottle of the Cabernet Franc, which we look forward to enjoying one evening soon. I’m hoping Mother Nature might gift us with a storm that night – it won’t be half as spectacular from our balcony in the city, but it would be a wonderful reminder of our visit to this lovely estate.

We visited Lake Erie North Shore as guests of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex, so my tasting and lunch were complimentary. My opinion, including that you should totally buy the Cabernet Franc and order the perch when you visit, are my own. Seriously, the perch is incredible.

Best of

Red, Red Wines for Winter

February 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc

It’s been a red, red wine season at my place with big, spicy reds sounding pretty perfect on cold winter nights. I’ve been lucky to have a few sample bottles on hand that ensured there was always something new to try. Here are a few of my recent favourites.

Southbrook 2015 Triomphe Pinot NoirChateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Franc is a grape that Ontario does extremely well and this 2015 from Niagara’s Chateau des Charmes is an excellent example. We cracked this one open for Shawn’s birthday and it was bursting with big, bold flavours. Lots of ripe red fruit, well-balanced spice and a hint of black pepper on the finish. This was one of the best Ontario wines I’ve had in the last few months. I highly recommend.

Southbrook Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir – With cherry, raspberry, plum, vanilla and root beer on the nose and lots of red fruit on the palate, this Niagara sipper has a longish finish with lots of fruit. A pleasant and very drinkable wine from one of Ontario’s most reliable wineries.

Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet SauvignonLouis M. Martini 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is available for just a little while longer at the LCBO and it’s well worth seeking out. A value-priced California Cab Sauv, this has smoked meat, cassis and big red berries on the nose. The palate is smoky and earth with nice fruit on the finish. A nice wine to pair with dinner.

What do you have in your glass this month? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social.

*These three wines were samples–opinions are most definitely my own.