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Food & Wine

Summer Wine Adventures

August 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes Old Vines Riesling

How is it that August is more than half over? I feel like I’ve barely had a moment to really enjoy summer and it’s already starting to slip away. Looking back, though, there have been some pretty fabulous summer wine adventures over the last few months and I’m excited to share a few of those with you today!

B.C. Wine Time

Checkmate Little Pawn ChardonnayIt’s not easy getting B.C. wine in Ontario – especially not the best of the best, which is typically produced in lots too small for the LCBO to bring it in and far too expensive by the case to have it shipped to you. That’s why the recent Trailblazers & Terroir event in Toronto was such a treat. Four B.C. winemakers shared their stories – and their wines – in a structured tasting that featured some of the top B.C. wines. Many of them will be popping up in better restaurants soon and the opportunity to enjoy them by the glass is worth taking. My personal favourites were the Checkmate Winery 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay with its cream, green apple and lemon on the nose and rich, creamy palate featuring notes of orange, vanilla and a hint of baking spice. I found the oak perfectly balanced and this would be a delicious food-pairing wine. I was also impressed by the aromatic and floral CedarCreek 2016 Platinum Viognier, which had big, bold flavours and would go very well with anything spicy.

Martin's Lane Pinot NoirFor the reds, it’s hard to choose. I loved the earthiness of the Martin’s Lane 2014 Pinot Noir, which would be a lovely wine to pair with anything mushroom-based. I also really enjoyed the CedarCreek 2013 “The Last Word” red blend, which features Merlot and Cabernet Franc with just a hint of Malbec. There was cherry, bramble and spice on the nose and a nice blend of earthy, spicy fruit on the palate.

Overall, I enjoyed all the wines featured in this tasting and will continue to be wistful in my hopes that B.C. wine becomes more available here one day.

Easy-Drinking Ontario

Coyote's Run Pinot NoirI had the opportunity to sample a number of Ontario wines recently and I’m happy to share that there are some great options available as we head into the fall. My personal favourite? The Chateau des Charmes 2014 “Old Vines” Riesling with petrol and pear on the nose and pear, green apple and just a hint of creaminess on the palate, this was eminently drinkable and an example of just how good Ontario Riesling can be.

I immediately wanted to try the Coyote’s Run 2016 Pinot Noir as soon as it arrived because I love Ontario Pinot. With its earthy nose featuring wet soil, black cherry and bacon this is a very food-friendly wine. It has lots of savoury notes that lends it well to mushroom-based dishes and hearty fall pastas. The Coyote’s Run 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is very typical of Sauv Blanc on the nose (fresh cut lawn, green apple, a few tropical fruit notes) and gooseberry and yellow apple on the palate. I found it a little acidic for my tastes, but Shawn enjoyed it.

Almanac White BlendWe were also able to sample the Grange of Prince Edward Almanac Red and Almanac White recently. These entry-level wines are an affordable introduction to PEC wine. The red blend is a little heavy on the Gamay for my tastes (not my favourite grape, I know, I know), but it’s well-made and easy-drinking. The white blend was more to my personal tastes and is a nice patio wine – perfect for late summer patio drinking.

Boxed Wine for the Win?

Bota Box Cabernet SauvignonRecently, the LCBO started stocking international boxed wines and that’s seen an overall improvement in quality that’s well-worth noting. Because it’s usually less expensive wine, it’s not always going to be a go-to for me, but I get that for some people cheap, sweet and hot are selling points (and I’m not kidding when I say that at all – I work with a few of them), so I wanted to highlight two I recently tried that were pretty decent. The Radio Boka boxed wine from Spain was actually quite enjoyable. For a party, it’s a great value and while it’s sweeter than I prefer, I think it would go over really well with a crowd that’s not as wine snobby as yours truly.

And Bota Box invited me to a truly fun event where I got to try a few glasses of their boxed Cabernet Sauvignon under the stars while enjoying BBQ and an outdoor viewing of The Princess Bride. It was a lot of fun and a reminder that you can still have a great evening with a picnic wine that might be a little sweeter and hotter than your palate prefers. I have recommended both of these boxes to friends whose tastes run in this direction and I don’t think they will disappoint.

What have you been sipping this summer? Do you have a favourite boxed wine? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social.

Food & Wine

Rosé All Day

July 28, 2017
2016 Seriously Cool Rosé

I was sitting next to two people at a restaurant recently and it was impossible not to overhear their conversation as they discussed their wine selection. “They have rosé – I love rosé!” Not surprisingly, they both got the rosé, while I sat there wondering what exactly they were expecting in that glass and whether it would live up to their expectations. They had asked the waiter about choosing their wine – no wine list was consulted – and rosé is not a varietal, so it was impossible to know if it would actually suit their tastes. It can be crisp and dry, sickly sweet, a balanced off-dry or anything in between.

I also love rosé, but I would have had A LOT more questions. My favourite rosé wines tend to be from the South of France. I love my pink wines very crisp and very dry. I love to pair them with light, summer dishes or to sit back on the patio with a glass of good rosé and a fun summer read. It’s my jam, as long as it’s not too sweet or, well, jammy.

Remy Pannier Rosé d’AnjouThat’s not to say I can’t enjoy a well-made off-dry (slightly sweeter) style – sometimes summer events just call for those. I recently tried the Remy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou at a tasting and was very impressed with this affordable French find ($15.20 at the LCBO). There was strawberry and lime on the nose and lots of sweet, candied strawberry on the palate. We tried this both at room temperature and chilled and while the nose was more muted when the wine was served at a lower temperature, I found the fruit much more vibrant. A pleasant sipper for those looking for a well-made and affordable off-dry option.

Ontario also has some pretty great options for rosé, although it’s always wise to ask questions about what’s going to be in your glass. Because, like with any region, there are going to be differences in quality, taste profile and brix level. Want a super sweet summer sipper? Girls Night Out has you covered. Want something more subtle? Let me help you out!

Two Sisters Vineyard 2016 RoséTwo Sisters Vineyard makes some on Ontario’s best wines – and that shows in their price points. If you’re looking for a bottle under $20, this is not the winery for you. That said, I consider their 2016 rosé well worth the money. With watermelon, cherry Lifesaver and a bit of citrus on the nose, this wine smells like summer. And with hints of watermelon, peach and strawberry on the palate, it tastes a bit like summer too. A well-made wine that will be perfect on your patio.

Another Ontario favourite in our house is Chateau des Charmes (CDC) and their always impressive collection of rosé wines. We received a sample of their 2014 Rosé sparkling wine, which is made in the traditional method with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and Shawn liked it so much that he picked up a bottle for our anniversary in June. This is everything I love about pink bubbles – crisp, refreshing with notes of summer fruit on both the nose and palate. And given the quality – two years on lees, disgorged by hand – you’re getting a very well-made product at a very reasonable price ($29.95 at the LCBO). We expect to pop a lot more CDC corks this summer.

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Sparkling RoséLast year, we were all about CDC’s Rosé 2015 Cuvée D’Andrée, which is their estate grown and bottled still rosé, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir, so I was excited to check out the 2015 vintage. It didn’t disappoint. CDC has managed to make high-quality wines affordable and this easy-drinking pink sipper is perfect on the patio or on your dinner table paired with summer favourites like salmon or barbecue.

Ravine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet RoséRavine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet Rosé was a recent purchase after having it as part of the Sip and Sizzle Niagara pairings. This well-made, very balanced dry wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, so the flavour profile is slightly less fruit-forward, but there are still notes of strawberry and tart cherry to keep this summer-friendly. We enjoyed this with slightly-sweet chicken wings recently and were quite pleased with the pairing.

Southbrook Winery sent a sample of their 2016 Seriously Cool Rosé and Shawn and I were eager to check it out. The Seriously Cool range of wines provides a less expensive alternative to some of Southbrook’s higher-end and organic wines. They tend to be well-made and balanced at a price-point that the average consumer can easily afford. They also have one of the most eye-catching labels out there. Luckily, the wines tend to hold up, so you won’t walk out with a wine you chose for the label and end up disappointed in this case. Lots of strawberry and peach on the nose and palate for this easy-drinker, which, while dry, might come off a tad sweet for someone who likes a more austere rosé. Shawn and I both approved, though, as we enjoyed it alongside salmon burgers on our patio.

Whew! A lot of rosé in my glass recently and I’m sure there’s more to come as the summer progresses. Do you have a favourite pink wine? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

Best of

June Wine Adventures

June 17, 2017
Evolve Cellars Pink Effervescence

It’s been a little while since my last post and I’m not sure how good my reasons are for that. Honestly, I’ve been a little burnt out on wine blogging over the last few months. I still love learning about wine, but after a few years of regular blogging it’s hard to keep up the constant enthusiasm sometimes. Over the last few months, I’ve found my time split between competing passions. I’ve been focused on writing fiction, running and yoga—as well as spending more time with the people in my life who have often been overlooked because I was so busy juggling a full-time job and my wine blogging adventures. It’s hard to feel bad about making that decision.

That’s not to say I’m ready to give this up, I just might have to keep things a little less frequent as I strive to maintain some balance in my life. And with a running injury set to sideline me for much of the summer, I’ll likely have a little more time available to devote to blogging again. So, with that said, here we go with my latest round-up of wine stories!

Some Southbrook Stunners:

Southbrook 2013 PoeticaI recently had the opportunity to taste through some of the wines in Southbrook Estate Winery’s latest release. I’ve always enjoyed this Niagara producer and I wasn’t disappointed at this tasting. Some of the highlights included the new 2016 Biodynamic Bubbly Vidal, which is done in the Ancestral style to create a refreshing and light effervescent sparkler. The Wild Ferment Cider was another interesting surprise. It’s done in the style of Northern Spain and is a very dry cider with a hint of sweet apple juice. It’s fermented with wild wine yeast and priced reasonably at $15.95 – it reminded me a little of the sparkling cider I so love from The Old Third in Prince Edward County.

The 2013 Poetica Chardonnay was another standout for me with apple, pear and a touch of cream on the nose. This wine had nice fruit on the palate, with notes of pear and green apple. A lovely, small-batch wine.

The 2016 Estate Cabernet Rosé also impressed with strawberry notes all through and lots summer fruit on the palate. This would be a nice patio sipper this summer and a perfect wine for so many food pairings (I love the versatility of rosé). And the 2013 Estate Witness Block Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc was an elegant red with anise, raspberry and bramble on the nose. Another personal favourite of the tasting.

Another surprise was the 2016 Small Lot Natural Orange Wine. I haven’t always been a fan of Southbrook’s orange wines, but this one was more to my tastes. The tannins are still quite pronounced and the flavour is certainly unique, but it’s a little more fruit-forward and less bracing than some of the previous vintages.

Evolve Cellars EffervescenceB.C. Wine on my Mind

Over the last few months, Shawn and I have been going through some pretty fantastic B.C. wines from Evolve Cellars. Their lightly sparkling wines (Effervescence) are perfect for summer and bursting with lovely flavour. They truly are a perfect sparkling option for summer (though a quick peek at their website doesn’t show any available right now, so perhaps already a sell-out). We really don’t have enough access to B.C. wineries and it’s such a shame. Another favourite from that province? Time Winery’s 2013 Syrah – Shawn and I couldn’t get enough of this big, bold red. You can order wines from these producers online across Canada now and it’s well worth it if you have the ability to store these wines easily.

Roscato WineSweet Italian Wine Time

I was recently invited to an event at iYellow Wine Club to check out Italy’s Roscato wine. Sweet wines typically aren’t my thing unless they’re specifically dessert wines (or used in cocktails), but I like to keep an open mind and I found this wine interesting. It’s a slightly effervescent, very sweet wine from Northern Italy meant to be served cold and which the company’s representative explained was very popular with new wine drinkers. I get that, since I started my wine journey on Arbour Mist. And Roscato at least is a quality product – the effervescence is added via the charmat method and not carbonation, the grapes are hand-picked and they use the minimum number of pesticides. It’s also 7 per cent alcohol, so this is a pretty good option for adding to summer sangria (honestly, that would be my number one suggestion for how to use it) and it’s a sweet treat over vanilla ice cream.

What have you been drinking so far this season? Share your favourites with me in the comments or on social.

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.