Spirits and Cocktails

Wolfhead Distillery – A New Addition to the Windsor Spirits Scene

November 7, 2016
Wolfhead Distillery Coffee whisky is made with real cold brew espresso.

Driving into the parking lot of Wolfhead Distillery on our recent visit to Lake Erie North Shore, Shawn and I were surprised that it was attached to a lumber yard – not your traditional setting for a distillery. But as soon as we walked into this new building, all thoughts of lumber were quickly forgotten – the place was hopping. Only ten weeks after its opening and on a Wednesday night to boot, Wolfhead was packed with a dinnertime rush that was pretty darn impressive.

Wolfhead Distillery in Windsor/Essex, Ontario is one of the region's newest distilleries.And the excitement over this new business is not misplaced. They seated us at the bar for a tasting of their spirits – three whisky and three vodka – and was hard not to be impressed. The vodka is wheat-based and seven times distilled with limestone filtration to remove impurities and impart a bit of minerality and salt.

The plain vodka is very good and would make for an excellent martini, but it’s the grapefruit vodka that impresses me most and I’m not surprised to learn it’s a best-seller. The flavours on this one really pop and there’s not that confected sweetness some flavoured spirits have. It tastes a little bit like good quality ginger ale and would make an excellent cocktail or be fine to drink on its own. Wolfhead believes in using natural ingredients in their spirits and that shows through in the quality. The third vodka, the banana caramel, is more like a liqueur and a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I’m also not a big fan of banana flavours in general.

The whisky, which they had to purchase and then blend since their own will not be ready for several more years, is all Canadian and had more corn, making it closer to a bourbon. Surprisingly, the coffee whisky is a clear winner here. Made with cold brew espresso grounds it is not too sweet and has a nice bitterness from the use of real coffee. The apple caramel whisky is very approachable and would make a nice option for someone who wanted an alternative to American Honey.

A grapefruit vodka mojito at Wolfhead Distillery is a fun option at dinner.The Wolfhead team has invested a lot in their business, we take a tour of the distilling area and the equipment, imported from Italy, is high-quality and speaks to their seriousness. They are also very passionate about the water they use in their distilling process and there’s no expense spared in that part of the process. Right now the focus is on small blends and they are all hand-bottled and labeled. This is a craft operation, with a focus on making high-quality spirits that can be sipped alone or in a cocktail.

At the end of the tasting and tour, my favourites are the premium whisky (the plain) and the coffee whisky, as well as the grapefruit vodka and I purchase both flavoured spirits to experiment more with them at home.

Ahi tuna at Wolfhead Distillery's restuaraunt is a great dinner option.We’re seated for dinner shortly after the tasting and I order the drunken shrimp and scallops (made with Wolfhead vodka, of course) and Shawn has the ahi tuna. I also order one of the mojitos, made with Wolfhead’s grapefruit vodka. It’s a great cocktail and a lot of fun, but with no mint or rum, it’s not really a mojito – with that caveat, I highly recommend trying it.

The food is very good and the quality high, the flavours pop and each dish is vibrant and delicious. You can see why the restaurant is packed on a Wednesday night after only being open such a short time. And many patrons are moving from the dining room to the adjacent store after their meals, which is another good sign – sales of the spirits are brisk. This is a fun and friendly place for a meal or tasting.

Since our visit in August, Shawn is almost out of coffee whisky and I think we’re both hoping to see it appear on LCBO shelves soon for easier access.

*I was a guest of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex, so my meal was complimentary, but my opinions are my own. And I bought two bottles of Wolfhead spirits, so I definitely really, really liked them.

Contests

Gourmet Food and Wine Expo Giveaway 2016

November 2, 2016
gfwe3

The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo in Toronto is always a fun event. Shawn and I have attended many times over the years and we always end up discovering something new or having the opportunity to chat with wine industry friends from all around the world. We even attended Caesar school one year and learned several unique ways to make this Canadian classic!

This year, the GFWE runs from November 17-20, 2016 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and is a chance to taste and experience a wealth of wines, spirits, beers and ciders. Not to mention all the yummy food options on hand!

Starting today, I have the opportunity to give away 2 pairs of entrance tickets to the event (sample tickets and seminars are not included) and I’m excited to be able to offer this to my readers!

Want to enter? Simply leave a comment below letting me know why you want to attend and/or tweet the following:
“I want to #win a pair of tickets to @GFWE from @kristalamb: goo.gl/EBW0qb”

The rules and regulations:
1.    You must be 19 years or older to attend and you will be required to show valid government ID to enter.
2.    No children or infants are permitted.
3.    Winning tickets are valid for one time admission on any one day. There is no re-entry allowed.
4.    You can enter once a day for the duration of the contest either via tweet or comment.
5.    Re-tweeting others does not count as a contest entry.
6.    The winner will be required to answer a skill-testing question.
7.    The contest is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec.

Contest closes November 10, 2016 at 12 p.m. and the winners will be chosen via random draw

Good luck, guys!

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.

Musings on the Wine Life

Wine Quizzes Make Me Crazy

October 17, 2016
PInot Noir wine tasting.

Recently, one of my lovely friends in wine tagged me in a Facebook post with a link to one of those Decanter wine tests.

For those not familiar, Decanter posts these regular quizzes so you can test your wine knowledge. For many of my friends who work in wine, these are a fun way to test your mettle because they are often really tough! The Facebook post had quickly filled up with comments like: “Four out of four!” “Perfect!” and “Three out of four – that was hard!”

I already knew going in that I wasn’t going to comment. As with most Decanter tests, I clicked on it, read the wine description, thought long and hard and then made my guess. And I got a big, fat zero. But, Krista, you’re thinking, you know wine! How could you fail this test so miserably when everyone else was sailing through?

A lovely white wine at a tasting.Well, I do know wine. I’ve taken a number of classes, read a ton of books, attended many, many tastings and, yet, I still couldn’t pass one of those darn Decanter tests. Why not? Well, 1) because they’re hard and deliberately aimed at the super smart sommelier set and 2) because I have pockets of wine competence. What does that mean? It means I have focused my areas of interest and study on certain regions and topics, so I flail when you remove me from my comfort zone.

Ask me about Ontario Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir? Or Ontario wine in general? I am probably going to be on point. I’m also pretty well versed in California and New York State wines, which I’ve spent a lot of time studying. And because we’ve spent a lot of time in Germany, I’m pretty good with those wines too. But French wine? I remember much of the theory from class, but because I rarely drink French wine, I’m pretty rusty. And Italian wine? I’m a bit scattered with my knowledge there too.

So how did this happen? I think partly it’s because I started my wine journey in a bit of an odd way. Most people begin with French or Italian and then gradually slide into other regions. I became interested in local wine first – part of a period of time where I was learning about the locavore movement and wanting to eat (and drink) things grown or made close to home.

I hyper-focused on Ontario wine until I started taking classes and began to dip a toe into the French, Italian and other wine regions of Europe. But then I visited California, Germany and the Finger Lakes and found myself drifting from super intimidating regions to ones I could wrap my head around a little more easily. I fell in love with those regions and started soaking up knowledge about them.

Along the way, I have fallen for some very good French wines (rosé from Provence is a new obsession and Champagne a recurring one) and batted around a few Italian options (Valpolicella and Chianti are my typical go-tos, as well as a nice Prosecco). I like many wines from Spain, Chilé and South Africa too. I like to go to Salt Wine Bar and have manager Phil Carneiro school me on Portuguese wines. I’ve become a little obsessed with Austrian Gruner Veltliner and a good Malbec from Argentina is a thing of beauty. But I’m nowhere near an expert on any of these regions – yet.

I’m not a sommelier, I’m not sure I really want to be a sommelier and I’m OK with that. I’m someone who is in love with wine and in love with learning about wine. I want to be good at the Decanter quizzes, and maybe one day I will be. Or maybe not. Some of those things are hard, guys. Really, really hard. And if you’re one of those people who can ace them, can we have drinks so I can sit and listen to you fill my head with even more wine knowledge? I’d like that.

What to try your hand at one of these quizzes? You can find them here!