Wine Travel

Viewpointe Estate Winery

March 6, 2017
Viewpointe's award-winning wines

It’s hard to describe the beauty of Viewpointe Estate Winery. As you round the corner and drive up to this estate and see it juxtaposed against Lake Erie, you can’t help but be a bit in awe. It’s just a stunning property – especially on a day as beautiful as the one when Shawn and I visited last year.

Viewpointe12Viewpointe is both a winery and a restaurant, although it’s unique in that the restaurant is all outdoors. This was particularly impressive for us since our visit coincided with an absolutely brilliant thunderstorm that blew up off the lake as we waited for our lunch to arrive – we entertained ourselves while we waited by taking photos of Shawn with enormous storm clouds behind him.

Viewpointe Estate WineryThe covered section of the patio offered ample cover when the storm finally hit and it was absolutely amazing to watch it move across the water as we ate our local perch (delicious) and enormous salad (so very good) and I enjoyed a glass of their very good local Riesling (dry, but fruity – nice acidity, green apple and pear on the palate). Mother Nature might not always provide such striking entertainment, but the patio is a must-do if you’re visiting in summer. Right on the lake, the views can’t be beat and the food here is very good.

Viewpointe Estate WineryWe toured the entire property while we were there and got to see their busy tasting room and ample space for corporate events and weddings (both inside or out). It’s a big estate with lots of options. They opened in 2006 and celebrated 10 years this past November. They are focused on local as much as possible in both the wines and their restaurants, including the weddings and events they cater. All wines are made from grapes grown on site and they are very proud of keeping things regional.

With three separate vineyards, all with different terroir, Viewpointe offers a range of wines, from their easy-drinking Big Bluff red blend (11 months on French oak, big, fruity and Merlot-dominant), to their rich and spicy Cabernet Franc, which has lots of deep red fruit and hints of black pepper. They have a barrel-fermented Chardonnay that is big and oaky with lots of butter, lemon and vanilla on the nose and a nice richness on the palate. This one screams out for big, creamy foods.

After a tour and tasting and our delicious meal, Shawn and I made sure to pick up a bottle of the Cabernet Franc, which we look forward to enjoying one evening soon. I’m hoping Mother Nature might gift us with a storm that night – it won’t be half as spectacular from our balcony in the city, but it would be a wonderful reminder of our visit to this lovely estate.

We visited Lake Erie North Shore as guests of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex, so my tasting and lunch were complimentary. My opinion, including that you should totally buy the Cabernet Franc and order the perch when you visit, are my own. Seriously, the perch is incredible.

Best of

Red, Red Wines for Winter

February 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc

It’s been a red, red wine season at my place with big, spicy reds sounding pretty perfect on cold winter nights. I’ve been lucky to have a few sample bottles on hand that ensured there was always something new to try. Here are a few of my recent favourites.

Southbrook 2015 Triomphe Pinot NoirChateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Franc is a grape that Ontario does extremely well and this 2015 from Niagara’s Chateau des Charmes is an excellent example. We cracked this one open for Shawn’s birthday and it was bursting with big, bold flavours. Lots of ripe red fruit, well-balanced spice and a hint of black pepper on the finish. This was one of the best Ontario wines I’ve had in the last few months. I highly recommend.

Southbrook Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir – With cherry, raspberry, plum, vanilla and root beer on the nose and lots of red fruit on the palate, this Niagara sipper has a longish finish with lots of fruit. A pleasant and very drinkable wine from one of Ontario’s most reliable wineries.

Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet SauvignonLouis M. Martini 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is available for just a little while longer at the LCBO and it’s well worth seeking out. A value-priced California Cab Sauv, this has smoked meat, cassis and big red berries on the nose. The palate is smoky and earth with nice fruit on the finish. A nice wine to pair with dinner.

What do you have in your glass this month? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social.

*These three wines were samples–opinions are most definitely 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.

 

 

Musings on the Wine Life

Six Reasons Why I’m Not a Sommelier

January 5, 2017
Rosé wine in glass

I was having dinner with some friends recently and talk turned to sommelier training. This is a fairly common occurrence in my life, since I’m surrounded by people who either work in wine or are wine nerds like me. And having this blog means that a lot of people just assume I’m a sommelier or some other sort of certified wine expert, despite my best efforts to remind readers frequently that I’m just a person who really, really loves wine.

White wine and flowersNot that I haven’t taken wine classes or learned so much about wine through tastings, books, interviews and other things since I started blogging. In 2016 alone, I took an Introduction to Spirits course and amazing seminars on Bourgogne and Napa. I am constantly learning about wine and loving every minute of it, but as I explained on this recent night (and on many others like it), I’m probably never going to be a sommelier.

There are a number of reasons for this:
1) I don’t want to work in wine service. This is not uncommon among my other wine-loving friends. We love learning about wine, but we don’t especially want to serve it. Now, not all sommeliers are in wine service – many teach, write or do other wine-related things. But the majority of sommelier positions are in restaurants and a large portion of the training is around service and that’s just not where my interests lie. Plus, there’s the whole tremor thing.

2) The tremor thing. I have a condition called Essential Tremor. You can click on the link and read all about it, but essentially I have a slight tremor that will get progressively worse as I get older. When my neurologist diagnosed me many years ago, she told me that I’d be fine so long as I didn’t want to be a waitress or a surgeon. So the sommelier thing? Where I have to pour wine? Um, no. I already have a hard enough time being served wine, as sometimes my hands shake or jerk if I’m holding up a glass to receive a pour. This is always super awesome, I say with great sarcasm, as it means I have to explain the whole tremor thing for the umpteenth time.

3) I am terrible with names. And pronunciations. If you would like someone to butcher the name of your wine or region, I’m your girl! This is a constant source of embarrassment and frustration for me, but I seem to have an unending ability to have the name of a grape on the tip of my tongue or a slightly adulterated version of a wine name tumbling out of my mouth. So unless there is a sudden uptick in the need for sommeliers who feel more comfortable hiding away behind their keyboard so they can triple check that they got the name of a wine/grape/region correct, then I’m likely not going to be in high demand.

4) I’d be the world’s most awkward sommelier. When you picture a somm, you likely think of someone suave and graceful. They sweep over to your table all polished and perfect, chat knowingly about the wine list, make smart decisions based on your tastes. They are awesome and I am always in awe of their skill – especially since I often feel a little bit like a wild bull set loose in a room full of wine glass towers. I knock things over, I spill wine, I once spat wine on myself at a tasting with the delightful owner of Grand Marnier (whose photo should be in the dictionary under debonair). I am neither elegant nor refined.

5) It’s expensive. I love learning about wine so much that despite all of the above, I would probably have already taken my sommelier training (possibly even eked out a pass), if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s really, really expensive. I have a full-time job that I love and it pays for the very expensive hobby that is this blog, but dropping $10,000 or more to become a certified sommelier is just not in the budget. Especially if, as outlined above, I’m never going to work as one. Taking seminars or short courses has the benefit of being affordable and it also fits into my schedule much more easily. It’s also been noted that you can take the exam with just independent study (and it’s not that expensive to do so), but I’m not sure I’d be able to pass that without the classes under my belt.White wine tasting

6) Wine school is hard. Really, really hard. If you’ve taken a wine course, you will know what I mean and understand why I have so very much respect for those who have completed their certification. Because I have a job outside the wine world, I need to study in my spare time, which I currently fill with writing, editing and attending events to support this blog. I also run and go to yoga and try to fit in time with friends and family. When I’m studying for a wine course, most of those other things take a backseat while I try to cram in every detail about grapes, vintages, terroir, etc. Right now, I don’t think I can handle sommelier studies. That could change down the road, but after seeing many a wine industry friend disappear down the WSET rabbit hole, I’ve realized that right now that’s not the best path for me.

Will I change my mind one day and decide to take the plunge? Maybe. Wine is one of the most fascinating topics in the world and the idea of being a certified wine expert is appealing. But for now, I’m happy to be a slightly shaky, somewhat awkward wine nerd who shares her experiences with wine with my amazing readers. I hope that’s OK with all of you!

Are you a sommelier or do you hope to become one? Share your experiences in the comments below or on social!