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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!

Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates

September 21, 2014

As some of you have noticed, the blog has been on a bit of a break over the last few weeks. I had hoped that all my recent life changes would have minimal impact on my blogging, but that clearly wasn’t the case. I’ve had less time to write and when time did arise, I’ll confess to just being way too tired to focus on writing anything worthwhile.

The Twitter community, who always seem to be there when I need my spirits raised, were quick to point out that sometimes we all need to hit the pause button. It’s true. And now I’m back and feeling recharged and refreshed!

But despite the short blog hiatus, I’ve still been doing lots of wine-related things. I thought this post could be a re-cap of some of the ones I’d like to share.

What I’ve Been Drinking:

Photo from the Palatine website

Ages ago, Shawn McCormick from Uncork Ontario suggested that I would like the Palatine Hills 1812 Chardonnay and I filed that info away until I came across it. I found a bottle at the LCBO this month (at an extremely reasonable price-point) and decided to bring it to a recent corn roast with my husband’s family. The wine was a hit with both myself and the guests who tried it. It’s an unoaked chardonnay with great acidity and paired perfectly with roasted corn, potato salad and all the great fixings that come with this sort of family get-together. I often turn to Twitter and great friends like Shawn for suggestions on wines to try and this was a perfect example as to why.
For more info on Palatine Hills: https://www.palatinehillsestatewinery.com/ 
To read Uncork Ontario: http://uncorkontario.com/

I recently learned about Canada Braai Day from a rep for the Distell Group in Canada. They offered to send over some info and I was intrigued. As the media release explains, braai is Afrikaans for barbeque and the custom has become so popular in South Africa that it now has its own holiday. I have really enjoyed learning about South African wines and culture of late and I thought it was a fun idea to try and bring this tradition to Canada. Braai Day was yesterday (September 20th) and to celebrate, I raised a glass of Savanna Cider from South Africa. It wasn’t as sweet a cider as I usually like, but it was nice to try my first South African cider and Shawn, who prefers a dry cider, really enjoyed it. I hope to have some South African wine this weekend to extend the celebration – I’ve become quite a fan of the region recently.

There’s a website that explains Canada Braai Day and offers up recipes and other info for how you can celebrate this weekend or in the weeks to come: http://braai.ca/

What I’ve Been Reading:

Recently, the topic for Ontario Wine Chat (#ONWineChat) on Twitter was wine books. This is a subject I have plenty to say about, as I have acquired an extensive collection of wine books over the last few years. The chat offered many excellent suggestions for books every wine lovers should own and I was pleased to be able to offer many of my own options. I wanted to share two of my recent favourites here: Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup and The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace. Both of these books took me on a journey though fascinating parts of wine history. Wine & War looks at how the French tried to keep their vineyards and wine from falling into German hands during WWII and The Billionaire’s Vinegar looks at one of the most extraordinary cases of alleged counterfeit wine ever. These two books are perfect for the wine or history buff in your life and both had me staying up way too late trying to squeeze in just a few more pages before bed.

For more info on Wine & War: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/wine-and-war-the-french/9780767904483-item.html?ikwid=Wine+%26+War&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=5

For more info on The Billionaire’s Vinegar:  http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/the-billionaires-vinegar-the-mystery/9780307338785-item.html?ikwid=Benjamin+Wallace&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Interested in Ontario wine? Join Ontario Wine Chat (#ONWineChat) on Twitter Wednesday evenings at 10:00 p.m. ET.

What I’ve Been Eating:

As a quasi-vegetarian (no red meat for this girl), I’m always looking for delicious options that will work for my diet. I’ve been working hard recently to make sure I nourish my body with good food, so healthy options are key. If I want to have a glass of wine, I need to pay that #winetax with good food, exercise and healthy living. One of my new favourite places to find interesting vegetarian options is Yam Chops at 705 College Street in Toronto. I attended an event there a few months back and I am still craving their un-tuna. Shawn and I also loved their meatless spaghetti sauce and their chutney. They don’t serve wine, but you can find plenty of options to practice your vegetarian pairings at this place.

For more info on Yam Chops: http://yamchops.com/