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New Zealand Wine

Upkeep Updates

Upkeep Updates – Birthdays, Niagara Wine Adventures and More

May 10, 2017
The Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet from Inniskillin

Life has been busy around here! Shawn and I spent a fantastic week in Quebec City and Montreal at the end of April celebrating my birthday, and I’ve been spending lots of time writing, running and practicing yoga. I’ve also joined a book club and have been enjoying my self-imposed wine book hiatus. While I have absolutely loved all the wine-related books I’ve read over the last three years, every part of my brain was ready for a break. My book club just read the excellent American Housewife by Helen Ellis and it was a fabulous opportunity to kick back with a complex, deeply layered and still gloriously funny book and then talk it through with friends over copious snacks and big cups of tea.

I’ve also had plenty of wine adventures that I’m happy to share below in my latest round-up.

Veuve ClicquotBirthday Bonanza

I love to travel and Quebec City and Montreal have the added bonus of feeling like a slice of Europe just a very short flight away. Shawn and I enjoyed some fabulous food in both cities, before indulging in an incredible birthday meal at Garde Manger in Montreal. It’s a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend this Chuck Hughes-owned restaurant. And what did we drink to celebrate my latest trip around the sun? Veuve Clicquot, of course. Which reminds me that I really want to read the biography of Madam Clicquot currently sitting on my shelf one of these days (see, I can’t completely shake my wine reading ways).

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle pairing of Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc and a cod fritter.

Sip & Sizzle in Niagara

The lovely Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake invited Shawn and I out to enjoy their latest festival – Sip & Sizzle – which is running on weekends throughout the month of May. I like these fests, as they give you the opportunity to try a new and unique wine and food pairing at all of the participating wineries. Shawn and I went to Days of Wine and Chocolate in February (fun, but a tad too sweet on sweet for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of chocolate) and were excited to try the more savoury pairings on this tour. Our favourites were the very flavourful chicken taco paired with the Reserve 2013 Shiraz Cabernet at Inniskillin and the cod fritter paired with Sauvignon Blanc at Two Sisters, but the prawn and Sauvignon Blanc pairing at Chateau des Charmes was also excellent. Ravine Vineyard’s chicken wing with Moroccan rice and their dry Rosé was another fabulous option. You can check out the full listing of pairings and purchase a pass for the event at the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake site and we have photos of all our wine and food pairings on Twitter and Instagram. As always, they have a less expensive version of the pass for designated drivers, which is important and awesome.

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon BlancThis and That

There have been a few interesting bottles that crossed my path recently!

Te Awa Left Field 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Shawn and I kicked back with Dateline and this Sauv Blanc sample over the weekend and we both enjoyed it. It was a good pairing for a lightly dressed chicken salad and it’s a very nice value New Zealand wine at $18.95 (LCBO).

The Negroni at Big in Japan in Montreal – We had a bit of an adventure finding this hidden gem, but Montreal’s Big in Japan bar lived up to the hype. Modeled after a Japanese speakeasy, this bar has no end of ambiance, elegant staff and they make a fabulous Negroni (and, yes, I judge a place on how they make one of my favourite cocktails). Worth checking out if you’re in the city.

Chateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du BordeauxChateau Croix Du Rival 2010 Grand Vin Du Bordeaux – What do you do when it’s pouring rain in Quebec City and you just can’t stand a minute more of walking around in the downpour? If you’re Shawn and I, you buy a value bottle of Bordeaux ($25.30 at the SAQ) and camp out in your fabulous hotel room at the Hotel du Vieux-Quebec. Maybe it was the seemingly unending rain, the cozy hotel, or just being on vacation, but we both loved this big, bold red (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and a dash of Cabernet Franc). I wish this rainy day hug of a wine was available at the LCBO because I’d definitely like to have this one again.

And that’s just a few of our recent adventures! What have you been sipping? Share your thoughts below or on social.

* Shawn and I were guests at the Sip & Sizzle event and the Te Awa was a sample. All the others were purchases we made. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Food & Wine

Wine and sustainable seafood pairings? Yes, please!

March 19, 2017
Fondue made with Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc

I’ve been a little MIA on the blogging scene lately, as I try to juggle finishing the first draft of my novel with a busy period at my day job and a whole lot of the fitness stuff that helps me balance all this wine stuff. Sometimes I feel like I have gotten so into writing about wine that I’ve forgotten to talk about the healthy living things that help me keep my life in balance. It’s important for me to remember that this space was always supposed to be about living a happy, healthy, wine-infused life. As I prepare for a busy race season and continue my yoga journey (I’m proud to say that I’ve hit my mat every single day in 2017 so far), that part of my life has definitely been front and centre on my social media and I hope to see more of it here. But don’t worry, there’s still lots of great wine content too!

Matt Dean PettitToday’s post is about an event I attended in the fall (yes, I’m that far behind – sorry) that fits into all three themes of the blog. I was one of a few lucky bloggers invited to join one of my favourite chefs, Matt Dean Pettit, for a sustainable wine and seafood pairing lesson. If you don’t know Matt, he’s the amazing chef behind the now defunct Rock Lobster chain (I really miss that place) and the brains behind Matty’s Seafood (available in grocery stores across Canada). He’s also a fabulous and funny guy who made us all feel really confident and comfortable when it was announced that not only would we be learning about pairing, but also cooking with wine.

Whitehaven Sauvignon BlancThose who know me are well aware that I am NOT a cook. Thankfully, I married someone who is or I would still be existing on those frozen dinners you heat in the microwave and mini-popsicles. I’m not even kidding. This event was all about enjoying sustainable seafood. We had a really interesting session from Ocean Wise, who taught us that over-fishing is the single greatest threat to our oceans and how to choose easy, accessible and sustainable options. I was very relieved to learn that two of my favourite foods—oysters and mussels—are farmed and, therefore, very sustainable. Wine, of course, pairs very, very well with both.

At first, I was a little disappointed when I learned we would be pairing and cooking with just one wine—Whitehaven’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc—but this crisp, refreshing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was actually a strong pairing with every dish we tried. Sauvignon Blanc is a great option with seafood and the ethos of the winery (they’re passionate about sustainability, have a zero waste winery and use sheep in their vineyards), worked very well with the theme of the night.

Mussels cooked with Whitehaven Sauvignon BlancAnd then we cooked! And it was so much fun. Matt is a fantastic teacher and he even had a non-cook like me enjoying my time in the kitchen. We made a wine-soaked mussel dish and then worked in teams to create a fun fondue. Both involved lots of wine being cooked and consumed, which is always a recipe for a great time.

After our cooking class, we got to try all the dishes on the menu prepared by actual chefs in a group meal that showcased the freshness and flavours of the seafood dishes and how well they complimented the wine. This was truly a fabulous event and a great way to learn about sustainability in a fun environment. It definitely has me thinking a lot more about the seafood we buy and consume.

There are some great videos of the event available (and, yes, you can see me attempting to cook in one of them) and the recipe for Matty’s Moules Frites (one of the dishes we made) is available too. Visit the Whitehaven page on Facebook to check them out!

Do you have a favourite wine and sustainable seafood pairing? Share it in the comments or on social.

*I was a guest at this event, but my opinions are my own.


Food & Wine

Wines of New Zealand

June 12, 2013
Wines from New Zealand

Until recently, I’d never attended an international wine trade show, so when I decided to buy a ticket to the Wines of New Zealand, I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, I had my wonderful wine friends Rob and Sophie to help make my first wine fair a fun one.

As you’d expect, there was a lot of fabulous Sauvignon Blanc on display at this show – New Zealand is known for its Sauv and it’s a well-deserved recognition. I couldn’t believe the quality of their Sauvignon Blanc and just how different each wine was, while still retaining the qualities of the grape. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about attending a show like this – you get to try so many different wines and can really taste how the winemaker and the terroir affect the wine.
So what were some of my favourite discoveries?
I tried Astrolabe Wines 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and really liked it – a lovely, fruity nose with lychee, melon and good minerality. But the Astrolabe Valleys 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was totally different – it was very green, with asparagus, garden veggies and even soil on the nose. On the palate, the greenery continued. It was so unique and interesting – like drinking a garden! I think I’d pass on this one right now, but I’m really curious about how it would be after a little aging. I thought the wine was completely fascinating and a great example of why these shows are such a great opportunity to taste.
Elephant Hill Wines from New Zealand

Elephant Hill drew us into their booth with their fantastic signage and the wines were worth staying for. Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was light, fruity and fresh – one I’d definitely want to try again. I liked their 2011 Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, but the surprise standout was the Central Otago 2011 Pinot Noir – lots of candied fruit, cherry and sweet red fruit on the nose of this one.

Looking back at my reviews for Hunter’s Wines I can only assume that the ‘Yum!!!’ I noted for the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was an indicator that I’m definitely hoping to try that one again. I also enjoyed their MiruMiru Sparkling. I found the te Pa 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to be a winner – very fresh with great acid and Waimea’s 2012 Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Viognier were fabulous. Both of those should be available at the LCBO in August and I’ll be looking out for them.

There were some great botrytis-affected wines at the show too. I thought that Marisco’s Sticky had a fun name (their whole line-up of wines actually does) and I found it to be a tasty dessert wine. I also really enjoyed Konrad’s 2011 Noble Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc – a delicious sweet, but not too sweet, wine.
So, other than a lot of wine, what can you expect at a wine fair? Well, at the New Zealand one there was lots of great food available (though I’m told this isn’t the case at all of these shows) and an opportunity to learn more about the region from the New Zealand wine rep. It was a nice, relaxed vibe and while it got a bit crowded at times it wasn’t overwhelming like some of the other non-wine specific shows I’ve attended.
I also wanted to add a mention of The Village Press Olive Oil, which is made with Hawke’s Bay olives and is completely delicious. I picked up a three-pack at the show and have been really enjoying it. Those in Toronto can find it at Olive and Olives or at A Bisket-A-Basket. It’s also available at Olive & Kiwi in Hamilton or at The Wandering Locavore in Niagara. It’s worth seeking out.For more information on the wines of New Zealand: