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Faustino Back Vintages Tasting

October 22, 2017
Faustino Gran Reserva Back Vintages

One of the most magical things about wine is how some well-made bottles of certain wine types can often age so beautifully and with such unique results. An aged Riesling is a thing of beauty (the more petrol on the nose, the better the chances I’ll love it on the palate) and I’ve recently had the chance to enjoy some wonderful back vintages of wines from Rioja.

Faustino I Gran Reserva 1987

The colour on the 1987 is spectacular.

Earlier in October, I visited Wine Academy in Toronto where I had to taste through some of Faustino’s back vintages – small lots of which will be available through LCBO Vintages just in time for holiday shopping. Below are my thoughts on these four wines from one of Rioja’s most well-known wineries.

Faustino I 2005 Gran Reserva – This has a very deep, rich colour and plum, currant and smoke on the nose. The spices on the palate are rich and complex and the fruit is still very prominent. There was a long finish and good acidity – even at almost 14 percent alcohol, this wine felt very balanced and not overly alcoholic. A very good option to pick up now and cellar for the future.

Faustino I 1994 Gran Reserva – A very elegant nose with anise and bramble, which follow through on the palate. The fruit is still holding up well and this likely could be cellared for quite a few more years, making it a great investment at only $68.95. Of the four, this would be the one I’d recommend as a gift for a collector or wine lover who would like to see how a Rioja wine holds up.

Faustino I 1987 Gran ReservaFaustino I 1987 Gran Reserva – Available in very limited quantities at the LCBO this fall, this is quite a treat. Before 1999 many Rioja winemakers used white grapes in the blend (this practice is no longer allowed) and Faustino estimates that there may be about 3 percent white in this blend, which made for an interesting conversation about how that might affect acidity and flavour – if at all. This had a slight whiff of barnyard when initially poured (common on aged wines), but it dissipated as the wine opened up, leaving notes of old leather, tobacco and cumin. On the palate it held more dried fruit, but was still very smooth considering its age. The colour, a deep amber, was stunning. This is very drinkable now, but I don’t know if it has many more years left – a good option if you want to open soon.

Faustino 1 1970 Gran Reserva – Ah, the joys of drinking something made before you were even born. The nose held fig, dried fruit and almond and there was a surprising amount of fruit still on the palate – I would say even more than the 1987. There were some vegetal notes and a little more tannin with notes of fig and anise. Only 20 cases of 6 are available at the LCBO and at $151.95 for a bottle it’s a good holiday gift idea for that special wine lover on your list.

What is the oldest wine you’ve tried? Did you love it or do you prefer a younger bottle? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social.

Thanks to Bodegas Faustino for the opportunity to taste this very special collection of wine.

Featured, Wine Travel

Lake Erie North Shore – A Wine Lover’s Getaway

August 22, 2016
The patio at Viewpointe Estate Winery is a gorgeous place to enjoy a glass of wine.

Planning a few days away to explore the wines of Lake Erie North Shore (LENS)? Shawn and I were recently invited to check out the area and we highly recommend it! Over two days, we visited four wineries, a distillery and a wealth of other local venues. From the bountiful local fruit stands to the delicious restaurants (many offering amazing local perch) and beyond, this is a gorgeous part of the Ontario’s Southwest and well worth visiting.

Below, is a short version of what we discovered on our trip. I’ll have even more info in future posts where I go in depth into our winery visits and winemaker chats.

A glass of local Chardonnay and a fish hoagie at Billy's Taphouse in Windsor/Essex.We started out from Toronto on a Wednesday morning and made it to Billy’s Taphouse in time for lunch. Billy’s is a great option for local craft beer and wine (I tried the Colchester Ridge Estate Winery Chardonnay), along with locally-sourced ingredients (they have their own garden). They have an extensive menu of delicious pub-style fare and a relaxed and fun atmosphere.


John R. Park Homestead in Essex, Ontario is a great stop for lovers of history and local food.The John R. Park Homestead was our second stop and a huge surprise for me. Pioneer homesteads and wine trips seemed like a weird fit, but after a few minutes chatting with curator Kris Ives, I was completely sucked into the experience. The Homestead itself is a fantastic way to step back into the past and truly immerse yourself in pioneer times and the staff and students in period costumes do much to make this as realistic an experience as possible. We enjoyed visiting the blacksmith shop and learning about the process of making authentic textiles with a student expertly working a loom, but it was the foodie experience that had me hooked. This is a locavore’s dream with a working orchard from which they make authentic pioneer-style cider and they recreate pioneer recipes from items grown on site. While walking through the extensive grounds Kris mentioned their pick and sniff tours, where school children learn about the many things grown on site and I thought that would be a brilliant tour for wine students wanting to better understand the aromas of so many of the scents that are found in our wines.

While we were sad to leave the homestead, we were excited to move on to winery stops at North 42 Degrees Winery and Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. North 42 Degrees is under construction right now, with their new tasting room and restaurant set to open in November 2016. I had the chance to taste through their wines and interview winemaker, Martin Gorski, so watch for a full report on North 42 Degrees and all our winery stops coming up soon. We did enjoy a visit to their Serenity Lavender store, though, where we picked up a gorgeous bar of lavender soap.

Serenity Lavender shop in Essex, Ontario has lovely lavender soap.At the gorgeous Sprucewood Shores property, I toured and tasted with co-owner Steve Mitchell and learned much about their planned expansion and got to taste their new apple wine (a surprising winner in the fruit wine category for me).

Blimey's British Store & Gift Shop in Harrow, Ontario.We ended an intensive day of exploration at the brand new Wolfhead Distillery, where the restaurant was absolutely slammed (pretty impressive for a 10-week old business on a Wednesday night), but they made room for us to enjoy a delicious dinner and tasting experience. We both very much enjoyed our entrees (I had the drunken shrimp and scallops and Shawn had the ahi tuna) and I loved the unique mojito they make with their grapefruit vodka. There’s nothing minty about it, but it’s a fun and refreshing cocktail for a hot night.

On day two, we headed out early to check out the shopping in Harrow, Ontario with a special stop at Blimey’s British Store & Gift Shop. The couple who own Blimey’s are just the loveliest people and they have created a space that embodies what they love about England and the surrounding areas. The shop features a wealth of British goods, as well as an extensive grocery section, but it also has French glassware, Scottish jewelry and lots of Irish touches too. Why? Because they liked the products. The shop is so genuine and full or truly lovely things, I couldn’t resist picking up a wooden duck with rubber boots from England and a box of delicious Irish tea. Shawn had fun picking out some fun things from the grocery section too and there were dozens more things we wished we could bring back with us. We will definitely make a special stop at Blimey’s when we’re next in the area and I have no doubt there will be lots of British and European items to tempt us. This really is a must-stop shop.

Sweet Retreat ice cream in Leamington, Ontario serves Kawartha Dairy ice cream.We headed to Viewpointe Estate Winery next and driving up to the winery I let out an audible gasp – it’s stunning. Right on the shores of Lake Erie, the winery comes into view as you turn into the driveway and with the sun shining on the water it was just breathtaking. The tour and tasting were fantastic (more to come soon) and lunch on the patio was just delicious. We were treated to a special show direct from Mother Nature when a storm came in across the water while we were eating. We stayed dry under the canopy and were able to watch the storm drench the area and then disappear just as quickly as it rolled in. A wonderful treat during lunch on a crazy hot day.

From there, we visited Oxley Estate Winery – another beautiful property with a warm and inviting restaurant. We had a wonderful chat with owner Ann Neydon Wilson under the pretty yellow canopy, which I’ll share in a future post.

The seating area at Sweet Retreat ice cream in Leamington, Ontario is so pretty!On a hot day, an ice cream break seemed in order, so we headed to Sweet Retreat in Leamington where I quickly fell in love with the gorgeous décor and Shawn was won over by the Kawartha Dairy ice cream they served (it really is the best). On top of the dollhouse-adorable indoor décor, Sweet Retreat has a fabulous backyard with a koi pond, Muskoka chairs and all sorts of nooks and crannies for little ones (or big kids to explore). A delicious and delightful stop.

We ended the day at our delightful bed and breakfast, The Iron Kettle (more on that soon too), and were thrilled with all that we were able to achieve in our two days of wine tourism in the Windsor/Essex area of Ontario’s Southwest.

As always, Shawn played designated driver – a must if you’re going to spend time tasting (and especially if you’re not spitting). Be sure to stay safe and keep this in mind when planning your wine trail adventure!

Have you been to the LENS region? What were your favourite stops?

*While our trip was complimentary, our opinions are (as always) our own.




Featured, Food & Wine

My Favourite Wines of 2015

January 2, 2016
Standing Sun Saperavi Wines

Welcome to Chateau des Charmes 2013 Cabernet Sauvignonthe new home of Upkeep: Wine, Body & Soul. I’ve long known I needed to find a better platform for my site, but this move didn’t come without its challenges. Upkeep is a labour of love for me, so I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my adventures in wine here at this new URL. I promise there will be lots of new content about wine and wine-related food, travel, books and more.

Stratus 2009 White Wine

What better way to kick off the new site than with a list of some of my favourite wines of 2015. I love taking the opportunity to look back over a year of photos to see which wines made my heart sing and reminded me why I enjoy the opportunity to continue learning about wine. As always, my picks are personal. I think where you drink a wine affects how you experience it – and that’s a really amazing thing. For me, wine is about more than just a point score or tasting note, it’s about how you feel in the moment you take that sip. Does it make you happy? Does it improve on the moment? Does it make you want to talk about it? Those are the wines I tried to capture here, because those are the wines that make me want to keep writing.

Ontario’s Finest

This year, I continued my love affair with Ontario wine. I spent time in Prince Edward County, Niagara and Ontario’s Southwest and sipped so many wines that highlighted how far Canadian wine has come since the inglorious days of Baby Duck.

From my tasting of more than 45 Ontario Cabernet Franc wines, two emerged as ones I couldn’t wait to have again: Pondview Estate Winery’s 2012 Bella Terra and Chateau des Charmes’ 2012 Cabernet Franc. Chateau des Charmes impressed me mightily this year with the quality of their value-priced wines. I had the opportunity to try their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon at the Ontario Harvest event in November and once again I was pleased to discover exceptional quality at a price point that makes CDC easy to recommend to anyone looking for an Ontario wine to try.

DiProfio 2012 Zinc-TasticOntario reds were high on my list this year and one that called me back again and again was the 2012 Zinc-Tastic Cabernet Merlot from DiProfio Wines in Niagara. Long one of my favourite wineries to visit (they make you feel so at home), stops at DiProfio became a mainstay for our Niagara trips this year so I could drop in for another bottle of this well-made, easy-drinking red blend.

Lighthall Vineyard's The Fence Sparkling WineOntario Pinot Noir is always high on my list and this year was no exception. Both Niagara and Prince Edward County impressed me with the quality of this year’s vintage. Favourites from PEC included Hubb’s Creek, Lighthall Vineyards and Rosehall Run, while Angel’s Gate Winery in Niagara remained at the top of my list again this year. And I have to say that Lighthall Vineyard’s The Fence Sparkling Pinot Noir was absolutely one of the best things I drank this year. Glenn Symons continues to impress me with his skill as a winemaker and his willingness to take chances and experiment with PEC wine – The Fence was a showcase of how successful those experiments can be.

Lots of Ontario white wines passed my lips this year and I was more than impressed with many of them – I wish I’d bought more bottles of the excellent 2012 Chardonnay Musque from Vineland Estates (it’s no longer available) and the 2009 Stratus white blend proved to be a fantastic, nuanced experience. After waiting a few years to drink it, the Stratus made for a lovely summer evening sipper at the cottage this year. I was torn between whether I preferred the Hubb’s Creek 2014 Pinot Grigio or the rosé, as both were among the wines that stood out for me this year, but I think I’ll give it to the Pinot Grigio by a nose. Winemaker Battista Calvieri is definitely one to watch in the years to come.

South of the Border

Hermann J. Wiemer 2013 Josef Vineyard RieslingThis year, I had the pleasure of visiting The Finger Lakes in New York State and experiencing their wines. So many of them stand out to me, but two in particular left a very strong mark. Visiting Hermann J. Weimer’s winery was like a little taste of the Mosel. While Weimer wines are all very much a product of the terroir of The Finger Lakes, the Riesling stands proudly beside the best of the German winemakers. I wished I could bring them all home with me. Another wine that spoke deeply of the region and the experimental nature of the winemaking there was the 2013 Saperavi from Standing Stone Vineyards. I had never tried this grape, but bLiberty School 2012 California Zinfandeloth the Reserve and the regular left me wanting more.

California still held a big piece of my heart this year and no doubt will continue to as I prepare to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA this August. My go-to wine at the LCBO continues to be Hope Family Vineyard’s 2012 Liberty School Zinfandel – an excellent representation of Paso Robles Zin at a great price point (and not as hot on the palate as many of the general list/Vintages Zinfandels available here). Jordan Winery also continued to impress. I got to taste through a number of back vintages at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference and was thrilled to see the winery at this year’s California Wine Fair in Toronto. But, alas, there’s still no regular distribution of their lovely Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Ontario. I’ve got my fingers crossed for next year. California Sauvignon Blanc also continued to shine for me in 2015 with the 2014 St. Supéry my top Sauvignon sip of the year.


The Best of the Rest

Juliusspital 2014 Silvander TrockenSipping the 2014 Juliusspital Silvaner on the patio of Heart Attack and Wine in Hamburg is one of my favourite memories of the past year. The crisp, refreshing and fruit-forward Silvaner was the perfect wine in that moment and I can’t wait to have it again soon. Lucky for me, I brought back a bottle.

House of Mandela 2014 PinotageAnother wine made even better in the moment was the 2014 House of Mandela Pinotage. I can’t say I’ve ever had another Pinotage that I enjoyed, but this one was decidedly different with much less coffee and smoked meat notes. It was also truly transformative to drink in the company of the illustrious and inspiring Mandela family who are using wine to make a difference in the world. A highlight that will continue to resonate with me for years to come.

Taylor Flgadgate 20 Year Old Tawny PortPerhaps one of my all-time favourite sips, the Taylor Fladgate 20-year old tawny port still sends off little pings in my memory banks. The powerful mix of sweet, ripe fruit and soft subtle spices tripped off my tongue in the best possible way. That I drank it with the loveliest of wine friends only made it that much better.

Barolo Chinato CocchiFull from a delicious meal at Hand+Foot in Corning, NY (a restaurant we highly recommend), the owner brought us a glass of Cocchi’s Barolo Chinato to cap off our perfect evening. It was a delight and an exceptional way to finish both the meal and this list. I was disappointed (though not surprised) to learn that it’s not currently available in Canada. I hold out hope that this will soon change.

So these are a few of my favourite sips from the last year. What were yours? Please share your lists in the comments or on social.

And thank you to all my readers for your continued support over the last three years!


The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference: Lessons Learned

October 14, 2015

This year, Shawn and I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes. It was my second time attending the conference and Shawn’s first. As always, it was an exceptional event. We learned so much about the region and had the opportunity to attend a number of excellent seminars and activities. So what were some of the main takeaways?

* I want to be a better writer. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my experiences with wine. Since then, it has grown exponentially and I often find myself rushing to keep up. Even with Shawn helping, running this blog takes a huge amount of my time – time I often don’t have. I think that affects the quality of the writing sometimes.

As someone who writes as part of her career and is the proud holder of a journalism degree, that’s not something I’m happy about. Listening to W. Blake Gray and Meg Houston Maker’s exceptional session on wine writing, I realized that I need to ensure I never forget that quality will always trump quantity. You can read Meg’s inspiring words to wine bloggers here.

* The facts are far more important than my opinion.      W. Blake Gray is one of my favourite wine writers and bloggers and getting to meet and interact with him at this conference was hugely inspiring. One of the points he shared during his presentation was the above and it was a good reminder that I need to use my research skills more – less ‘I think’ and more ‘I know.’

Finger Lakes Wines
Exploring Finger Lakes wine
* Trust my voice. Keynote speaker Karen MacNeil is another wine writing inspiration who I was able to meet at the conference. Her keynote was a spot-on reminder of why I do this and how I can improve. And now I can’t wait to read her new edition of The Wine Bible, one of my absolute favourite resources for wine information. A huge thanks to the conference organizers for bringing in such strong speakers this year – they all left me inspired and informed.

* I love being part of the wine blogging community. When you find your people, you want to spend time with them. And the Wine Bloggers Conference is full of people I want to be around. They are engaged, funny and just as geekily obsessed with grapes as I am. This event feels like one giant five-day conversation and I truly hope that it will continue on throughout the year in other forums.

Finger Lakes Vineyard
The beauty of the Finger Lakes

* The Finger Lakes area is fabulous. We live just a few hours away and it’s a shame we had never been before. That’s going to change. I have spent the last few weeks telling everyone I know they have to visit the Finger Lakes. It’s a beautiful place, the wines are well worth tasting and the people are lovely. And the Corning Museum of Glass will blow your mind. Seriously. Part of the charm of this conference is getting to really experience the wines of a region, this year I feel we got the chance to really immerse ourselves in so much more. It’s a special place.

Were you at the conference? Share your takeaways in the comments or on social! Feel free to post your own WBC15 wrap-up post links as well.