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Food & Wine

Summer Sipping Round-Up

August 18, 2019
Longshot Pinto Grigio

It’s been a crazy busy few months as I balance work on the book I’m writing with the launch of Krista Lamb Communications.

It’s an exciting time with lots of balls in the air, but I’ve still done my best to taste as many new wines and cocktails as possible. I hope you’re following along with me on Instagram for more consistent updates, but I’ve compiled a few recent selections below.

And a huge thanks to the amazing wine community who continues to support me as I pursue so many different projects. Wine holds a very special place in my heart, but as I work to balance the body and soul parts that make up the name of this blog, it’s great to know that my friends in wine continue to cheer me on!

Sperling Vineyards Market RedSperling Vineyards 2017 Market Red – I really enjoy the wines from this Okanagan Valley vineyard. Sperling produces excellent wines for their price point and this Market Red is no exception. Medium-bodied and dry, this one has a great mouth feel and is a lovely mix of deep red fruit and soft spices. It was a great pairing for roasted chicken and a summer salad.

Longshot 2017 Pinot Grigio – This California Pinot Grigio is full of flavour, with lots of green apple and some lovely citrus on the palate. This is a bold, easy-drinking wine that would be nice on the patio or at your friend’s backyard barbecue. Shawn and I also tried the Longshot 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a bit heavy for a summer sipper, with spicy notes and lots of bramble and dark chocolate. Still, another great party option – especially as the evenings get cooler.

All Day Rose - Huff EstatesAll Day Rosé from Huff Estates – It was a steamy day when we cracked open this summer sipper from Prince Edward County (even my lens was foggy from the humidity!). This rosé is a little on the sweet side for my tastes, but it’s a fun patio wine for a hot summer day. This is a really fruit-forward on the palate with notes of watermelon and mango.

Social Lite Vodka Soda – Field Strawberry – I’ve talked a lot about Social Lite over the years, and with good reason. I love that this Canadian brand makes a sugar free option without artificial flavours. I’ve bought a lot of their Field Strawberry flavour over the summer and it has been such a great go-to when I want a cooler, but not a sugar bomb. When people ask me what’s in my fridge, it’s a good bet that you’ll find a few cans of this.

This is just a very small selection of the wines that I’ve reviewed on my Instagram this summer – be sure to head over to @kristavino and check out even more of my summer selections.

And be sure to share your summer favourites with me, post them in the comments or on social media!

 

Food & Wine

SOMM 3 – A Review

December 3, 2018
SOMM 3 documentary poster

It’s hard to believe it was 2012 when the first SOMM movie was released. I bought a ticket to the Toronto premiere, held a day before my first ever wine exam, and I remember watching with rapt attention. To say I loved it would be a vast understatement. A documentary about the intense (to put it mildly) process of becoming a Certified Master Sommelier, SOMM was a revelation to me as a wine student. There were people far more obsessed with the topic of wine than I could ever hope to be and they were fascinating and intimidating. It may have psyched me out a bit for my exam, but I never stopped thinking about it or telling people how incredible this documentary was. I still do.

I’m not entirely sure how I missed seeing SOMM 2, but I understand it was a favourite with wine lovers and I assume it’s also pretty great. That said, when my dear friend Kari MacKnight Dearborn let me know she was hosting the premiere of SOMM 3 in Toronto, I was quick to purchase a ticket. The event, which was a fundraiser for the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, was held at Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox Theatre in November and featured a complimentary branded GoVino glass with a sample from Mark Anthony Wines and a bag of popcorn. Of course, the major draw, outside of SOMM 3, was the post-film panel with director Jason Wise, who is a firecracker full of energy and enthusiasm for his films.

The movie itself? Whereas SOMM was a documentary anyone with even a passing interest in wine–or in watching people who are weirdly obsessive about “winning” some sort of great prize go to insane lengths to do so–SOMM 3 is aimed squarely at the wine geek market. It features Jancis Robinson, Steven Spurrier and Fred Dame, a Pinot Noir tasting that plays off the Judgement of Paris and so much wine geekery that I couldn’t help but love it. To say I was part of the target audiences would be an understatement.

Will SOMM 3 play to audiences beyond the wine obsessed? I hope so. But I’m not as certain about that as I was after watching the first film in the series. After the credits rolled, I noted to the friends who had joined me that I loved it, but I didn’t think Shawn would. He wouldn’t know any of the main characters and, while SOMM would have held his interest because it’s just a fascinating story on every level, this might be too inside baseball to keep him interested.

That said, if you’re reading my blog you are likely a wine lover and, thus, I expect you’ll like this movie very much. It’s fun to see people nerd out about expensive and obscure bottles of wine, it’s always amazing to see Fred Dame blind taste and I’d watch Jancis Robinson do basically anything. SOMM 3 is available now on Netflix (Oops! Just learned I erred on this it’s available on Amazon, Google Play and iTunes) – and I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.

Food & Wine

Taste Ontario

May 13, 2018

I know, it’s been a while since the last post. Life is busy and I’m juggling way too many things, so the blog has taken a hit in terms of updates. I’m super lucky that awesome people like Bill Wittur are still providing great guest posts – like the one below on the recent Taste Ontario event.

Want to taste some great Ontario wine after reading this? Shawn and I are checking out the annual Sip & Sizzle event in Niagara on the Lake next weekend and you still have time to get in on this great event, which runs every weekend in May. We love exploring this beautiful area of Ontario while stopping in at participating wineries to try a sample wine and food pairing. You can learn more (and buy tickets – including designated driver passes) on the Wineries of Niagara website. I’ll be live tweeting our adventures on Saturday, May 19 so be sure to follow along to get our tips on the best pairings.

And now, over to Bill!

Taste Ontario Notes and Recommendations

Early in the new year, the folks with Wines of Ontario bring out their newest releases and vintages and this year I had the pleasure of attending the Taste Ontario trade tasting.

Nearly 50 of Ontario’s best VQA producers were on hand at the Royal Ontario Museum to present some of their latest products and vintages.  Most of these wines are either sold directly to the consumer at the winery or, in some cases, are only available for licensees and restaurant owners to sell to their guests.

I’ve done my best to focus on those available to consumers, and will make a note if something is available only at restaurants or the winery (and, if possible, which locations so you can try these wines as well).

Here’s a quick review of some of my favourites. All are recommended buys.

13th Street

13th Street Winery is celebrating its 20th year of operation in 2018 and their wines are definitely worth trying if you want to expand your range of Ontario selections. They produce most of their wines from the 40 acres of property owned just west of St. Catharines in Niagara, but occasionally source small lots of grapes from other local producers. Many of their products are available at the LCBO, but you can also participate in their Wine Club programs, including the popular ‘Cellar Door’ and ‘Staff Pick’ options.

Premier Cuvée 2012 – If you’re looking for a great ‘celebration’ wine, look no further.  This sparkling wine spent a minimum 4 years on lees, or ‘sur lattes’ as the French say. In the case of the 13th Street Cuvée, the dosage added was only dry wine (i.e. no extra sugar), resulting in a very dry, but bright finished wine. Of note is that the final nose delivers very slight ‘bready’ or ‘toasty’ notes compared to other sparkling wines. I enjoyed this feature, as I feel it would match better with a broader range of food on account of the tense acidity coupled with hints of lemon and tart apple. The wine is 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. It can be ordered directly from 13th Street at a retail price of $34.95 per bottle ($29.34+HST licensee).

Meldville Wines

Meldville Wines is the relatively new project of one of Ontario’s great winemakers, Derek Barnett. Derek helped build the range of products and boost the level of quality with Lailey Wines. He currently balances winemaking duties at Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County and at his own venture, Meldville Wines.

Chardonnay 2016 – 2016 was a tough year for a lot of white wine producers in Ontario, as it was very hot. While most of us were out playing in the water or catching up on our vitamin D, wine growers had to take measures to try to prevent their vines from shutting down from heat exhaustion. Despite this, Meldville’s Chardonnay is a delight. The grapes were sourced from Lincoln Lakeshore, which managed to dodge the more intense heat of 2016. The Chard is 100% barrel fermented in older, 100% French oak barrels. This yields a very subtle oak finish on the wine, but nothing like the exaggerated style you get from mass-produced wines. The colour is a light yellow with a delicious, balanced finish. Aromas deliver notes of stone fruit (peach, apricot) with flavours of citrus and a hint of cream and toffee. The wine is available as a direct order product from the Meldville’s partner site and costs $20.00 per bottle ($16.89+HST licensee). It can also be found at Maple Leaf Tavern and Victor Restaurant at Hotel Le Germain (although that list is quickly growing).

Fielding Estate Winery

Fielding Estate Winery is located on the Beamsville Bench in Niagara. On several occasions, the winery was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 wine producers.

Brut Traditional Method Sparkling – Traditional method sparkling wine is made using the same process as Champagne. There’s what’s called a ‘dosage’ or ‘cap’ of yeast and sugar that are aged with the wine product. This addition to the wine is what creates the bubbles in sparkling wine, much like how yeast and sugar create air pockets in bread. The Fielding sparkling wine is made up of Chardonnay (63%) and Pinot Noir (37%). The result of this blend is a bright and fresh wine with notes of citrus and apple. The bubbles are fine and the finish is very clean and light. The wine retails for $37.15 / bottle ($31.20+HST licensee) and can be ordered directly via Fielding’s website.

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

The Chestnut Tree Cabernet Franc 2015 – Initial notes are typical for Cabernet Franc wines: dark red, smoke and hints of green pepper on the nose. On tasting this smooth and elegant wine, I got hints of coffee / cocoa. The acidity is controlled and moderate and the mouth feel is a medium body wine that will go great now with foods with just a hint of spice or seasoning (e.g. roasted chicken, sausage, burgers). Expect this to improve over the course of 2-3 years. Retail price is $34.95 / bottle and the licensee price is $29.34+deposit and HST. Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery has a wine club program and orders can be placed direct by visiting their order page.

Reif Estate Winery

Reif Estate Winery is a splendid ‘pit stop’ between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their first vines were planted in 1977, making them some of Ontario’s oldest.  The property has grown to more than 125 acres of different varietals.

Chenin Blanc 2016 – 2016 was a challenging year from Ontario producers because many experienced very hot conditions for white grapes. This did not have a negative impact on the 2016 Chenin Blanc from Reif, where the finished product is a shimmering silver-white wine with a hint of residual sugar and balanced acidity and mouth-feel. If someone asks for a ‘summer sipper’, this wine would definitely fit that bill! The Chenin Blanc retails for $19.15 per bottle ($16.75+HST licensee) and is available via Reif’s website.

Chardonnay Reserve 2014 – This is a delicious, balanced Chardonnay that was aged 18 months in French and Hungarian oak, delivering subtle notes of butter cream, apple and baking spice.The retail price is $22.15 per bottle ($19.40+HST licensee) and again is available via Reif’s direct order wine club.

A huge thanks to Bill Wittur for his reviews of this year’s Taste Ontario event! Learn more about Bill on his website: BillWittur.com

Find out Krista’s Top 5 Ontario Wine Destinations!

Featured, Food & Wine

Faustino Back Vintages Tasting

October 22, 2017
Faustino Gran Reserva Back Vintages

One of the most magical things about wine is how some well-made bottles of certain wine types can often age so beautifully and with such unique results. An aged Riesling is a thing of beauty (the more petrol on the nose, the better the chances I’ll love it on the palate) and I’ve recently had the chance to enjoy some wonderful back vintages of wines from Rioja.

Faustino I Gran Reserva 1987

The colour on the 1987 is spectacular.

Earlier in October, I visited Wine Academy in Toronto where I had to taste through some of Faustino’s back vintages – small lots of which will be available through LCBO Vintages just in time for holiday shopping. Below are my thoughts on these four wines from one of Rioja’s most well-known wineries.

Faustino I 2005 Gran Reserva – This has a very deep, rich colour and plum, currant and smoke on the nose. The spices on the palate are rich and complex and the fruit is still very prominent. There was a long finish and good acidity – even at almost 14 percent alcohol, this wine felt very balanced and not overly alcoholic. A very good option to pick up now and cellar for the future.

Faustino I 1994 Gran Reserva – A very elegant nose with anise and bramble, which follow through on the palate. The fruit is still holding up well and this likely could be cellared for quite a few more years, making it a great investment at only $68.95. Of the four, this would be the one I’d recommend as a gift for a collector or wine lover who would like to see how a Rioja wine holds up.

Faustino I 1987 Gran ReservaFaustino I 1987 Gran Reserva – Available in very limited quantities at the LCBO this fall, this is quite a treat. Before 1999 many Rioja winemakers used white grapes in the blend (this practice is no longer allowed) and Faustino estimates that there may be about 3 percent white in this blend, which made for an interesting conversation about how that might affect acidity and flavour – if at all. This had a slight whiff of barnyard when initially poured (common on aged wines), but it dissipated as the wine opened up, leaving notes of old leather, tobacco and cumin. On the palate it held more dried fruit, but was still very smooth considering its age. The colour, a deep amber, was stunning. This is very drinkable now, but I don’t know if it has many more years left – a good option if you want to open soon.

Faustino 1 1970 Gran Reserva – Ah, the joys of drinking something made before you were even born. The nose held fig, dried fruit and almond and there was a surprising amount of fruit still on the palate – I would say even more than the 1987. There were some vegetal notes and a little more tannin with notes of fig and anise. Only 20 cases of 6 are available at the LCBO and at $151.95 for a bottle it’s a good holiday gift idea for that special wine lover on your list.

What is the oldest wine you’ve tried? Did you love it or do you prefer a younger bottle? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social.

Thanks to Bodegas Faustino for the opportunity to taste this very special collection of wine.