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Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates – Birthdays, Niagara Wine Adventures and More

May 10, 2017
The Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet from Inniskillin

Life has been busy around here! Shawn and I spent a fantastic week in Quebec City and Montreal at the end of April celebrating my birthday, and I’ve been spending lots of time writing, running and practicing yoga. I’ve also joined a book club and have been enjoying my self-imposed wine book hiatus. While I have absolutely loved all the wine-related books I’ve read over the last three years, every part of my brain was ready for a break. My book club just read the excellent American Housewife by Helen Ellis and it was a fabulous opportunity to kick back with a complex, deeply layered and still gloriously funny book and then talk it through with friends over copious snacks and big cups of tea.

I’ve also had plenty of wine adventures that I’m happy to share below in my latest round-up.

Veuve ClicquotBirthday Bonanza

I love to travel and Quebec City and Montreal have the added bonus of feeling like a slice of Europe just a very short flight away. Shawn and I enjoyed some fabulous food in both cities, before indulging in an incredible birthday meal at Garde Manger in Montreal. It’s a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend this Chuck Hughes-owned restaurant. And what did we drink to celebrate my latest trip around the sun? Veuve Clicquot, of course. Which reminds me that I really want to read the biography of Madam Clicquot currently sitting on my shelf one of these days (see, I can’t completely shake my wine reading ways).

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle in Niagara

The lovely Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake invited Shawn and I out to enjoy their latest festival – Sip & Sizzle – which is running on weekends throughout the month of May. I like these fests, as they give you the opportunity to try a new and unique wine and food pairing at all of the participating wineries. Shawn and I went to Days of Wine and Chocolate in February (fun, but a tad too sweet on sweet for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of chocolate) and were excited to try the more savoury pairings on this tour. Our favourites were the very flavourful chicken taco paired with the Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet at Inniskillin and the cod fritter paired with Sauvignon Blanc at Two Sisters, but the prawn and Sauvignon Blanc pairing at Chateau des Charmes was also excellent. Ravine Vineyard’s chicken wing with Moroccan rice and their dry Rosé was another fabulous option. You can check out the full listing of pairings and purchase a pass for the event at the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake site and we have photos of all our wine and food pairings on Twitter and Instagram. As always, they have a less expensive version of the pass for designated drivers, which is important and awesome.

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon BlancThis and That

There have been a few interesting bottles that crossed my path recently!

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Shawn and I kicked back with Dateline and this Sauv Blanc sample over the weekend and we both enjoyed it. It was a good pairing for a lightly dressed chicken salad and it’s a very nice value New Zealand wine at $18.95 (LCBO).

The Negroni at Big in Japan in Montreal – We had a bit of an adventure finding this hidden gem, but Montreal’s Big in Japan bar lived up to the hype. Modeled after a Japanese speakeasy, this bar has no end of ambiance, elegant staff and they make a fabulous Negroni (and, yes, I judge a place on how they make one of my favourite cocktails). Worth checking out if you’re in the city.

Chateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du BordeauxChateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du Bordeaux – What do you do when it’s pouring rain in Quebec City and you just can’t stand a minute more of walking around in the downpour? If you’re Shawn and I, you buy a value bottle of Bordeaux ($25.30 at the SAQ) and camp out in your fabulous hotel room at the Hotel du Vieux-Quebec. Maybe it was the seemingly unending rain, the cozy hotel, or just being on vacation, but we both loved this big, bold red (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and a dash of Cabernet Franc). I wish this rainy day hug of a wine was available at the LCBO because I’d definitely like to have this one again.

And that’s just a few of our recent adventures! What have you been sipping? Share your thoughts below or on social.

* Shawn and I were guests at the Sip & Sizzle event and the Te Awa was a sample. All the others were purchases we made. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Upkeep Updates

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.

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.