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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.

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.

Food & Wine

Wine and Food Pairing with 13th Street Winery

July 8, 2016
13th Street Winery 2014 Gamay Noir paired with an apricot and blue cheese tart.

Set in a beautiful swath of the Niagara region on the boarder between St. Catharines and Jordan, 13th Street Winery is a lovely space to visit. Shawn and I have long enjoyed stopping in to pick up little pizzas or other treats at the on-site bakery and check out the stunning sculptures and beautiful art on the walls. The wines have become favourites too, especially their always pleasing sparkling rosé.13th Street Winery in Niagara, Ontario

On a recent visit, we were invited to check out their new tasting menu – a delicious way to enjoy food and wine together without having to book a full meal. Seated in the lovely new section of their tasting room, with a view of the trees around the property, Shawn and I tried several wines paired with offerings from the 13th Street kitchen.

13th Street Winery 2014 Riesling paired with spicy soup.The June’s Vineyard Riesling, with light floral notes and a hint of limestone and petrol on the nose was very dry, but with a hint of sweetness that helped it pair nicely with the warm and spicy soup we enjoyed alongside it. We also tried the soup with the 13 Below Riesling, which is a blend of Riesling Icewine and off-dry Riesling. I love sweet wines with spicy food, so this was a great option for me. The wine had a very expressive nose full of candied pears and other orchard fruit and it was sweet, but not at all cloying.  The sweetness cut through the heat so perfectly and created a really balanced tasting experience.

The 2014 Gamay Noir, with its earthy nose and dark cherry and black pepper notes was a perfect accompaniment to the pork turrine and chicken liver. Shawn described them as rich, well-balanced meats and felt that the nuts were a great addition that brought out the pork. I was a little jealous not to eat red meat as I watched him devour this, but the wine on its own was pretty great too.

My favourite dish of the day was the apricot tart with blue cheese, walnuts, carmelized onions and (on Shawn’s) bacon. The tart was bursting with fresh flavours and I enjoyed trying it with both the Gamay (very good) and the 2011 Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay (also quite nice).

13th Street Winery 2011 Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay paired with brie and Chardonnay-soaked raisins.The Chardonnay, which is fully oaked and has notes of butter, vanilla and Meyer lemon, worked even better with the brie with Chardonnay-stewed raisins. The richness of the wine paired perfectly with the richness of the cheese and the raisins added a nice note of sweetness.

With such delicious and well-thought-out offerings, this tasting menu makes great sense. Wine is best when experienced with food and 13th Street’s smaller portions mean you can try one or two things to experiment with the wine pairings and not have to commit to a full meal – add in such a beautiful space to taste in and you can’t go wrong.

While we were there, we also had the chance to taste the new Burger Blend wines. These are an affordable and fun option for summer barbecues as, you guessed it, they go really well with burgers!

13th Street Winery White Burger Blend wineThe white Burger Blend had lots of apple and pear on the nose and the pear shows through quite prominently on the palate. I really enjoyed this one and would like to try it with grilled chicken (my go-to for barbecue).

The red Burger Blend is a mix of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir and has strawberry and spice on the nose. The Gamay comes through on the palate, but is nicely muted by the Pinot Noir. Another summer-ready easy-drinking wine.

During our visit, there was lots going on at the winery. On top of launching their new food pairings, they have moved the farmer’s market on-site (a great addition alongside the bakery) and there was construction on some new production buildings taking place off in the distance. These changes didn’t seem to affect the tranquil nature of the tasting rooms, which showcases incredible bursts of colourful artwork on stark white walls and is modern, yet approachable.

Whatever brings you to 13th Street, there is sure to be more than you expected to find. We are already looking forward to our next visit (which we hope will involve another to-die-for apricot and blue cheese tart).

Thank you to 13th Street Winery for hosting us. While our tasting and food pairings were complimentary, our opinions (especially about the tart) are definitely our own.