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Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates: Writing, Gamay and Wine Academy

January 24, 2017
Tawse Vineyards 2015 Gamay Noir

If you follow me on social (and I hope you do), you know I’ve been blogging a little bit less lately because I’ve been writing a whole lot more. What does that mean? Well, growing up, I primarily wrote fiction until I started with RHiG Magazine (at the ripe old age of 15) and fell in love with journalism. But even after that, I kept writing fiction too – all through journalism school and my short stint as an entertainment journalist, then on through my many years in music PR, I was always working on a short story or novel.

And then I stopped. I actually thought that whole part of my creative life was done, but as it turns out, it isn’t and I’m about 100,000 words into a novel. It’s taking up a lot of my time and attention, so I’ve had to cut back on my blogging to accommodate the muse while she’s with me. Who knows what will come of it, but it’s making me happy and I’ve learned that in these crazy days, that’s what matters most. And, of course, the book has wine in it!

But this whole new writing jag doesn’t mean I haven’t been having wine adventures and I’m definitely going to keep sharing those (just maybe a little less frequently). So here are a few updates on things I think you’ll enjoy!

Go Gamay?

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay NoirI recently had the chance to do a tasting of some Ontario and French Gamay with the Wine Writers Circle of Canada. I won’t lie to you, I wasn’t overly impressed with a lot of the Ontario wines at this particular tasting. It was disappointing because I think Ontario has great potential with this grape. That said, there are three wineries I think stand out for Ontario Gamay (please note, these are not all from the WWCC tasting). So if you want to buy a really good Ontario Gamay, let me humbly suggest the following options:

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay Noir or Gamay Noir Droit – Both of these are fantastic and excellent value for their price points.

Tawse Vineyards 2014 and 2015 Gamay Noir are both outstanding and the winery’s unfiltered Gamay, if you can get your hands on it, is a rugged and delicious natural wine. This is Ontario Gamay done right.

13th Street Winery 2015 Gamay – Another Niagara knock-out for this grape. Highly recommended.

These option are great examples of Ontario winemakers doing great things with Gamay. And I’m open to any other Ontario wineries that want to try and impress this jaded wino—send me a message if you want me to give yours a try!

Wine Academy in TorontoWine Academy

A few months back, I had the chance to check out Wine Academy (67 Richmond Street West). This is a new wine storage option that offers a high-end, Bay Street friendly atmosphere for those looking to store their collection and have a fun, but refined experience. The space offers a full menu (I was able to sample several of their dishes and was impressed with the quality of ingredients on offer) and has a wealth of events planned for members. It’s an interesting concept and very different than Vintage Academy (which is much more aligned to the wine nerds out there), but it’s perfect for the Bay Street crowd (and perfectly placed for those who work in the Financial District). They didn’t have a sommelier on staff when I visited, but they do bring in local somms to host events and help with wine pairing ideas. Looking for a place to store your wines where you can enjoy wine events, network and taste? This might be a good option for you!

* Some of these wines were samples and my meal at Wine Academy was complimentary. All opinions (including all the ones I’ll probably regret about Ontario Gamay) are my own.

 

 

Upkeep Updates

Recent Wine Adventures

October 24, 2016
2015 rosé from Niagara's Fielding Estate is a great summer option..

Time seems to fly by these days – before we know it, it’s almost Christmas! Sometimes, my schedule means that I can’t get my posts to you fast enough. That’s why this Upkeep Update is all about some recent wine adventures I thought you’d enjoy hearing about, but I haven’t had the opportunity to turn into a full post. With so many interesting adventures in wine happening these days, I’m hopeful I can go back to posting twice a week soon, but life always seems to get in the way (isn’t that always the case?). In the meantime, here are three fabulous wine adventures from the last few months that I wanted to share with you.

Ghost Pines Chardonnay from California is a fun Halloween wine pick.Spooky wine for Halloween night

We love Halloween in our household! Last year, Shawn and I made Halloween-themed cocktails to celebrate October 31st. This year, I had the opportunity to check out a Chardonnay and Merlot from Ghost Pines wines at a spooky wine tasting at Toronto’s Wychwood Barns. The grey, rainy weather on the night of the tasting was perfect for the theme and an event that featured a scary wine-inspired ghost tale and spooky personalized pictures. My guest and I both enjoyed the Chardonnay, a crisp and refreshing blend of Chardonnay grapes from across California. I’d definitely consider it a Halloween-friendly option for those of us left at home to manage trick or treaters on October 31st.  And this reasonably-priced sipper ($19.95 at the LCBO) won’t leave you screaming at the cash register the way some Cali wines can.

Sparkling wine from Niagara's Fielding Estate.

Niagara Knock-outs at Fielding Estates

This was the summer of rosé for Shawn and I – it was our go-to drink on hot summer nights and two of our favourites were from Niagara: Chateau des Chames’ 2015 Cuvée d’Andreé and Fielding Estate’s 2015 rosé. Shawn and I had the chance to taste and tour at Fielding for the first time earlier this year (how on earth it took so long for us to get there, I have no idea). It’s a beautiful space, but with a much more relaxed and friendly vibe than many big Niagara wine estates. Our tour was informative and we had the opportunity to enjoy a number of their wines, including our favourites of the visit: Lot 17 Riesling and the 2012 Chosen FEW (this one will be drinking very well in 5-10 years).  We will definitely return to Fielding soon – I’m especially looking forward to enjoying a glass of their wine in one of the big Muskoka chairs on the winery grounds next summer.

KWV Cathedral Cellar 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa.KWV Tasting in Toronto

If you haven’t read my 2014 interview with KWV’s lovely winemaker, Izele Van Blerk, I hope you will. Izele is one of the most exuberant and infectious personalities in the wine community and I’ve learned so much about South African wine from speaking with her. I was thrilled to visit with her again when KWV hosted a Toronto tasting in September. Nearing the end of a whirlwind Canadian trip (and readying for another week in New York), Izele was still full of energy as she talked about the latest KWV releases, including the value-priced Cathedral Cellars sparkling (perfect for mimosas or casual nights at home) and the impressive 2014 Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.  Shawn and I both chose the Cab as our favourite of the evening. With notes of cherry, chocolate and vanilla on the nose and dark red fruit  on the palate with chocolate on the finish, it’s a well-made wine that will pair nicely with red meat. We also enjoyed the Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay, which had notes of apricot, lemon and vanilla on the nose and was buttery citrus on the palate. I’m already looking forward to Izele’s next Toronto visit.

* We were invited guests at each of these tastings, but our opinions are, as always, our own.

Upkeep Updates

Taking stock of our new (blog) home

February 11, 2016
Tasting rye with Canadian Club

Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to visit my new site. I am so excited to be here, though I admit making this switch came with some trepidation. Re-building my SEO is a bit scary and I’m grateful to all of you who have shared my new URL, visited the site and signed up to receive the posts via  RSS feed. I truly could not continue to do this without the support of my readers and it means so much that you keep coming back. For those of you who subscribed to the Blogspot site via RSS reader, please be sure to update your feed link, as I understand the change I made to Feedburner only worked for email subscribers. Ah, technology!

Wine Books

Still working through my wine reading – my 2016 goal is to finish even more of these.

So far 2016 has brought big changes for Upkeep: Wine, Body & Soul and there are more to come. I continue to be a student of all things wine and want to share with you the books I’m reading, the places I’m going and, of course, the wines I’m trying. I’m also hoping to include even more about how I’m incorporating healthy choices into my life so that I can pay that #winetax and still indulge in some of my favourite things. You’ll see those articles in the new ‘Drink to Your Health’ section.

Upkeep has a new look and I continue to feel inspired by the experiences that allow me to write here. In keeping with that, I started a new course at the end of January to learn more about spirits. I was so intrigued by my recent tastings with Canadian Club, Brugal Rum and Sauza Tequila that I wanted to learn more about the history and science behind spirits. While wine will remain my main sip of choice, I see this as a way to branch out a little and cleanse my palate after a few years of diving deep into wine, wine, wine. So far the experience has been a wonderful one and I expect these classes will lead to some interesting posts about spirits.

I’m also planning to take some photography classes. This new layout is making visuals so much more important and my photos aren’t always as strong as I’d like them to be. It’s hard to take good pictures of wine bottles. Really, between the glare and the reflections it’s a challenge and a half. Add to that dim lighting at a lot of events, crowded tasting stations and the hands/legs/torsos/dish racks that pop up in any photo taken at a tasting bar, and I have developed a huge respect for those who always take amazing shots. So I’m going to take some classes and try to improve just a little on my skill-set there.

Upkeep will also be more story-driven moving forward. I’m under no illusions that I’m the best source for wine reviews. I have a huge respect for the professional wine writers and more experienced bloggers who are writing reviews and tasting wines almost daily. For me, I love to talk about the wines I like, but I’m often more interested in the stories—the winemakers, the history, the production methods—than just a simple tasting note. I’ll continue to chronicle great wines I try in my monthly round-up, but look for more interviews and features moving forward.
I truly want this blog to be a place where cork dorks and wine divas come together to celebrate wine, body and soul. I hope you’ll stick with me on this adventure!

What do you think of the new look? Are there any other changes you’d like to see at Upkeep: Wine, Body & Soul? Share them in the comments or on social!

Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates: What I’m Thinking and Drinking Right Now

September 9, 2015
UU4-1

It’s been a little while since I did this—I feel like there’s lots to share!

First and foremost, you will likely be reading Shawn’s name a lot more in the future. While I will remain the main voice of the blog, he will be increasing his role. Expect to see his thoughts on craft beer (not my strong suit), food, wine and  more. For example, we have a coffee cocktail post coming up that will feature some of his fun concoctions!

I won’t be sampling his experiments anytime soon, though,  because 1) I’m celebrating nine months coffee-free in September and 2) I’m taking on a Sugar-Free September challenge for the month. Some of you know I gave up refined sugar for a year and a half a few years back. I felt amazing. But then I got back on the sugar train and I haven’t been able to hop off since. And sugar is my Achilles heal. If you told me I could only spit wine for the rest of my life, I’d manage. But give up candy? Can’t do it. So I’m going to. From the day after Labour Day until October 4th, I’ll be avoiding desserts, candy, sweetened drinks, etc. No, don’t worry, I’m not giving up wine, since most of those sugars are naturally-occurring, but I will be avoiding sweet wines. Hopefully this will lead to some lasting and positive changes for my health!

And, because I get asked this question a lot lately, no, I’m not currently enrolled in wine school. I took last year off to manage a much more hectic schedule and that’s left me wondering where to go next. Not that I haven’t been spending my time learning about wine – check out the stack of reading material I’ve been working through in the photo to the right! But I do have to make some decisions about next steps.

Part of me wants to concentrate on getting my WSET or finishing my Wine Specialist course at George Brown, but the other part of me wants to continue home schooling myself. At this point, I don’t think I want to work in wine (this blog remains my very expensive hobby), so putting the time and money into wine school is tough to justify. The wine nerd in me is absolutely addicted to learning and loves the thought of taking more classes, my practical side wants to know what exactly I’ll be doing with all that pricey education. What do you think? Please share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments or on social.

So what have I been drinking? Here are a few affordable options I’ve sampled lately that I wanted to share with you.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of my go-to white wines, so I was happy to try this new release to the LCBO. A best-selling wine in the U.S., this is a crisp and refreshing sipper. While it is not as nuanced as some of the more expensive NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the market, this definitely hit the spot at their launch party on Oliver and Bonacini’s patio (during a very uncomfortable heat wave). Pairs well with oysters and veggies, so a good option for light meals. I enjoyed it.

Brugal Rum – Rum-infused stilton? Learning to make my own cocktails? A
recent Brugal Rum event at The Rum Exchange was an opportunity for this
rum-novice to learn that this spirit has a lot more to offer than cola
companionship. Did you know rum can be paired with cheese? I had no
idea. I also didn’t know how rum was made, or that aged rum is a real
treat. While this spirit is off my list for September (it’s made with
sugar cane), I look forward to trying it again in the future. I left
wanting to infuse my own cheese and with some newly acquired
cocktail-making skills – I’m guessing I’ll get to put my shaker to use
again soon.

Colio Estate Methode Cuve Close Lily Sparkling – I’m a huge fan of sparkling wine. I think it’s perfect for pairing with a celebration or snack food. Dry sparkling is my go to for movie nights when we break out the popcorn or potato chips and I would happily drink bubbly more often if the price point was better. Colio’s Lily is a good option if cost is a consideration for you too. At $16.95 (LCBO), it’s well-priced and it’s a bit sweeter (leaning towards off-dry), which makes it nice all on its own or with a salty snack. It’s a fun wine for your everyday celebrations and I’d love to try it with a splash of Blueberry Hill Estate’s blueberry dessert wine – I think that would be a pretty darn perfect Ontario’s Southwest sparkling cocktail.

Paul Mas Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot – Shawn and I tried this at a recent fashion and wine event. Combining the spirit of red wine with vineyard-inspired fashions, this was a fun and chic event. It was also a nice opportunity to enjoy a well-priced French wine with friends. Available at the LCBO for $13.95 this is a good entré into the world of affordable French wines and a wine that will pair well with cool weather and warm, cozy sweaters this fall.

What have you been drinking recently? What are your thoughts on my wine school dilemma? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social!