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Food & Wine

Summer Wine Adventures

August 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes Old Vines Riesling

How is it that August is more than half over? I feel like I’ve barely had a moment to really enjoy summer and it’s already starting to slip away. Looking back, though, there have been some pretty fabulous summer wine adventures over the last few months and I’m excited to share a few of those with you today!

B.C. Wine Time

Checkmate Little Pawn ChardonnayIt’s not easy getting B.C. wine in Ontario – especially not the best of the best, which is typically produced in lots too small for the LCBO to bring it in and far too expensive by the case to have it shipped to you. That’s why the recent Trailblazers & Terroir event in Toronto was such a treat. Four B.C. winemakers shared their stories – and their wines – in a structured tasting that featured some of the top B.C. wines. Many of them will be popping up in better restaurants soon and the opportunity to enjoy them by the glass is worth taking. My personal favourites were the Checkmate Winery 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay with its cream, green apple and lemon on the nose and rich, creamy palate featuring notes of orange, vanilla and a hint of baking spice. I found the oak perfectly balanced and this would be a delicious food-pairing wine. I was also impressed by the aromatic and floral CedarCreek 2016 Platinum Viognier, which had big, bold flavours and would go very well with anything spicy.

Martin's Lane Pinot NoirFor the reds, it’s hard to choose. I loved the earthiness of the Martin’s Lane 2014 Pinot Noir, which would be a lovely wine to pair with anything mushroom-based. I also really enjoyed the CedarCreek 2013 “The Last Word” red blend, which features Merlot and Cabernet Franc with just a hint of Malbec. There was cherry, bramble and spice on the nose and a nice blend of earthy, spicy fruit on the palate.

Overall, I enjoyed all the wines featured in this tasting and will continue to be wistful in my hopes that B.C. wine becomes more available here one day.

Easy-Drinking Ontario

Coyote's Run Pinot NoirI had the opportunity to sample a number of Ontario wines recently and I’m happy to share that there are some great options available as we head into the fall. My personal favourite? The Chateau des Charmes 2014 “Old Vines” Riesling with petrol and pear on the nose and pear, green apple and just a hint of creaminess on the palate, this was eminently drinkable and an example of just how good Ontario Riesling can be.

I immediately wanted to try the Coyote’s Run 2016 Pinot Noir as soon as it arrived because I love Ontario Pinot. With its earthy nose featuring wet soil, black cherry and bacon this is a very food-friendly wine. It has lots of savoury notes that lends it well to mushroom-based dishes and hearty fall pastas. The Coyote’s Run 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is very typical of Sauv Blanc on the nose (fresh cut lawn, green apple, a few tropical fruit notes) and gooseberry and yellow apple on the palate. I found it a little acidic for my tastes, but Shawn enjoyed it.

Almanac White BlendWe were also able to sample the Grange of Prince Edward Almanac Red and Almanac White recently. These entry-level wines are an affordable introduction to PEC wine. The red blend is a little heavy on the Gamay for my tastes (not my favourite grape, I know, I know), but it’s well-made and easy-drinking. The white blend was more to my personal tastes and is a nice patio wine – perfect for late summer patio drinking.

Boxed Wine for the Win?

Bota Box Cabernet SauvignonRecently, the LCBO started stocking international boxed wines and that’s seen an overall improvement in quality that’s well-worth noting. Because it’s usually less expensive wine, it’s not always going to be a go-to for me, but I get that for some people cheap, sweet and hot are selling points (and I’m not kidding when I say that at all – I work with a few of them), so I wanted to highlight two I recently tried that were pretty decent. The Radio Boka boxed wine from Spain was actually quite enjoyable. For a party, it’s a great value and while it’s sweeter than I prefer, I think it would go over really well with a crowd that’s not as wine snobby as yours truly.

And Bota Box invited me to a truly fun event where I got to try a few glasses of their boxed Cabernet Sauvignon under the stars while enjoying BBQ and an outdoor viewing of The Princess Bride. It was a lot of fun and a reminder that you can still have a great evening with a picnic wine that might be a little sweeter and hotter than your palate prefers. I have recommended both of these boxes to friends whose tastes run in this direction and I don’t think they will disappoint.

What have you been sipping this summer? Do you have a favourite boxed wine? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social.

Food & Wine

Rosé All Day

July 28, 2017
2016 Seriously Cool Rosé

I was sitting next to two people at a restaurant recently and it was impossible not to overhear their conversation as they discussed their wine selection. “They have rosé – I love rosé!” Not surprisingly, they both got the rosé, while I sat there wondering what exactly they were expecting in that glass and whether it would live up to their expectations. They had asked the waiter about choosing their wine – no wine list was consulted – and rosé is not a varietal, so it was impossible to know if it would actually suit their tastes. It can be crisp and dry, sickly sweet, a balanced off-dry or anything in between.

I also love rosé, but I would have had A LOT more questions. My favourite rosé wines tend to be from the South of France. I love my pink wines very crisp and very dry. I love to pair them with light, summer dishes or to sit back on the patio with a glass of good rosé and a fun summer read. It’s my jam, as long as it’s not too sweet or, well, jammy.

Remy Pannier Rosé d’AnjouThat’s not to say I can’t enjoy a well-made off-dry (slightly sweeter) style – sometimes summer events just call for those. I recently tried the Remy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou at a tasting and was very impressed with this affordable French find ($15.20 at the LCBO). There was strawberry and lime on the nose and lots of sweet, candied strawberry on the palate. We tried this both at room temperature and chilled and while the nose was more muted when the wine was served at a lower temperature, I found the fruit much more vibrant. A pleasant sipper for those looking for a well-made and affordable off-dry option.

Ontario also has some pretty great options for rosé, although it’s always wise to ask questions about what’s going to be in your glass. Because, like with any region, there are going to be differences in quality, taste profile and brix level. Want a super sweet summer sipper? Girls Night Out has you covered. Want something more subtle? Let me help you out!

Two Sisters Vineyard 2016 RoséTwo Sisters Vineyard makes some on Ontario’s best wines – and that shows in their price points. If you’re looking for a bottle under $20, this is not the winery for you. That said, I consider their 2016 rosé well worth the money. With watermelon, cherry Lifesaver and a bit of citrus on the nose, this wine smells like summer. And with hints of watermelon, peach and strawberry on the palate, it tastes a bit like summer too. A well-made wine that will be perfect on your patio.

Another Ontario favourite in our house is Chateau des Charmes (CDC) and their always impressive collection of rosé wines. We received a sample of their 2014 Rosé sparkling wine, which is made in the traditional method with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and Shawn liked it so much that he picked up a bottle for our anniversary in June. This is everything I love about pink bubbles – crisp, refreshing with notes of summer fruit on both the nose and palate. And given the quality – two years on lees, disgorged by hand – you’re getting a very well-made product at a very reasonable price ($29.95 at the LCBO). We expect to pop a lot more CDC corks this summer.

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Sparkling RoséLast year, we were all about CDC’s Rosé 2015 Cuvée D’Andrée, which is their estate grown and bottled still rosé, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir, so I was excited to check out the 2015 vintage. It didn’t disappoint. CDC has managed to make high-quality wines affordable and this easy-drinking pink sipper is perfect on the patio or on your dinner table paired with summer favourites like salmon or barbecue.

Ravine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet RoséRavine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet Rosé was a recent purchase after having it as part of the Sip and Sizzle Niagara pairings. This well-made, very balanced dry wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, so the flavour profile is slightly less fruit-forward, but there are still notes of strawberry and tart cherry to keep this summer-friendly. We enjoyed this with slightly-sweet chicken wings recently and were quite pleased with the pairing.

Southbrook Winery sent a sample of their 2016 Seriously Cool Rosé and Shawn and I were eager to check it out. The Seriously Cool range of wines provides a less expensive alternative to some of Southbrook’s higher-end and organic wines. They tend to be well-made and balanced at a price-point that the average consumer can easily afford. They also have one of the most eye-catching labels out there. Luckily, the wines tend to hold up, so you won’t walk out with a wine you chose for the label and end up disappointed in this case. Lots of strawberry and peach on the nose and palate for this easy-drinker, which, while dry, might come off a tad sweet for someone who likes a more austere rosé. Shawn and I both approved, though, as we enjoyed it alongside salmon burgers on our patio.

Whew! A lot of rosé in my glass recently and I’m sure there’s more to come as the summer progresses. Do you have a favourite pink wine? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

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.

 

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.