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The Best Wines I Tried in September

October 3, 2016
Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Cabernet Franc is an organic wine from the Niagara region.

It’s officially autumn! I love this time of year so much and I’ve been signing up for races and yoga classes to celebrate the start of a new season. Even though I’m well past school age, September always seems like a great time for fresh starts and heathy changes.

And I’ve had lots of great wine in my glass this month to share with you! Shawn and I have been traveling and tasting and having so much fun on our wine-infused adventures. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come. But up first, a few of my favourite sips from the past few weeks.

Southbrook Vineyards 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc – I am a big fan of Southbrook wines and of Ontario Cabernet Franc in general, so I was pleased when this sample arrived.  And as I inhaled the aroma of this Ontario red, it felt like fall in a glass – black and roasted pepper, blackberry and wet earth on the nose and lots of earthy, spicy goodness on the palate (blackberry, strawberry, a bit of chili pepper). Even better, it’s organic, which is something Southbrook takes very seriously. I had this with a dish of wild rice and beans that Shawn made for me and it was a perfect mix of earthy flavours on a cold, rainy evening.  I had spent my day taking an html and CSS course at Camp Tech (which I highly recommend) and let me tell you, a glass of this wine with a big bowl of rice and beans and getting sucked into part four of the excellent ESPN documentary on O.J. Simpson made for a pretty perfect way to end the day.

Seriously Cool Red from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, Ontario.Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Red Blend – The Seriously Cool series is more of an entry-level wine for Southbrook, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. With its colourful and memorable label, it’s hard not to want to pick up a bottle. With dark chocolate, smoked meat and plum on the nose and black cherry and roasted plums on the palate, this is a really good food wine. Shawn and I cracked this bottle on a Monday evening, after we returned home from an adventure in Norfolk County (we’ll talk more about that another time). To celebrate the last day of our longer weekend, he made grilled cheese sandwiches with turkey bacon and we enjoyed an evening of comfort food and a marathon session of The Walking Dead (we’re trying to get caught up before the new season starts). This wine paired quite nicely with vacation day binge watching.

Burning Kiln Sparks sparkling wine is a lovely option from Norfolk County.Burning Kiln Vineyards – Sparks – There’s very little in life that I like more than a good sparkling wine. It doesn’t have to be French Champagne (not that I’ll ever turn that down), but a well-made sparkling will always steal my heart. Such is the case with Burning Kiln’s Sparks, which is made with seven different grape varietals and has a little bit of biscuit on the nose, along with nice notes of lemon that follows through on the very crisp palate. It’s a pleasant, refreshing sparkler and it paired quite nicely with the perch tacos I enjoyed on the winery’s patio last weekend. Burning Kiln is on a beautiful piece of property in Norfolk County, a place that has seriously captured our hearts. We can’t wait to go back, and when we do I know that more of this sparkling will be enjoyed.

Levendi Winery 2015 Reserve Chardonnay – I was lucky to recently attend the Napa Valley tasting event in Toronto (more on that in another post soon) and there I discovered Levendi wines. Their lively and fresh Chardonnay was a stand-out for me with balanced acidity and pineapple, pear and apple notes. This is a very good example of a California Chardonnay that could work both with food or on its own. A nice sipper that I hope to have again soon. This one is available via agent in Ontario, but you can grab their Cabernet Sauvignon (also very good) at the LCBO for a limited time.

So what did you drink in September? Share what you tried and loved in the comments below or on social.

Coming up in October on the blog, we’ll continue to look at the wineries of Lake Erie North Shore and our German wine adventures and I’ll give you a deeper dive into two recent tastings I did this past month, which I wanted to dive into with more detail. And I may even share a few more personal posts about my recent wine foibles – I’m told they’re pretty funny!

*All wines tasted this month were either samples or tasted at events where Shawn and I were guests. And thank goodness for that because my wine budget is already completely out of control and running this blog is a very expensive hobby! Opinions remain, as always, our own.

Food & Wine

An Evening with Bonterra Organic Vineyards

May 6, 2015

One of the questions I get asked frequently is ‘Should I be drinking organic wine?’ I also get a lot of requests to suggest good organic wines. I always say that I’m not sure whether organic wine is going to make a huge difference to your health and that many wines are farmed without pesticides, but are not certified organic. Still, it’s worth consideration. I’m super conscious about what I eat – and a huge amount of the produce we buy is organic – so shouldn’t I drink organic wine too?

These are all reasons I was eager to take iYellow Wine Club up on the invitation to attend a blogger dinner with Bonterra Organic Vineyards from California. I’ve had Bonterra wines before and was interested to learn more about their wines and their growing practices. A Mendocino County, California winery, Bonterra is a mainstay at the LCBO and one of the few certified organic wines that are easy to get in Ontario (Niagara’s Southbrook Winery is another).

At the tasting, we tried four Bonterra wines alongside a meal made by Foodies on Foot’s Chef Damian Harrington. We also heard from Bonterra’s John Kinney, who talked about the history of the winery and all they do to be certified organic in California – even their neighbours have to be organic in order to avoid contamination from surrounding soil. Through their practices, which include using sheep to mow between the vines and bicycles to get around the vineyards, they have gone from producing 1700 tonnes of waste to being 98% waste free today – and they not only create their own solar energy, they sell energy back to California! It was an interesting chat, including some time spent on biodynamic wines, which Bonterra also produces. Those wines, however, are made on a much smaller scale and are not yet available in Canada.

So what did I think of the wines? Overall, I enjoyed them. Could I taste the difference organic grapes make? No. But the Viognier was full of peaches and melon and had just a touch of oak to give it some body. I liked it with my dinner salad and would likely pick up a bottle the next time it’s available in a Vintages release at the LCBO (usually once a year or so).

The Chardonnay was oaked and had a buttered popcorn nose and was a nice, creamy option. This is a definite California Chardonnay, with 70% aged in French and American oak and the remaining 30% in stainless steel. It would be nice with a creamy dish, as the acidity should be high enough to cut through the cream just a little.

The Pinot Noir is a powerful wine at 14.2% with a cherry cola nose and a soft tannins on the palate. This was my least favourite wine of the night, despite my unabashed love of Pinot Noir. I think, for my money, Ontaro Pinot Noir is a better bet, but I know some people who swear by California. I think it’s a matter of personal taste. That said, this wine did pair nicely with the main course – pork chops, polenta and blue cheese (I skipped the pork chops, but it still worked well).

While I really enjoyed the Viognier (and that would be my pick for a lighter appetizer course), the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was my favourite wine of the evening. This was a well-structured wine that held up well with the earthy flavours in the main course and had lots cherry and stone fruit on both the nose and palate. I would pick this up for an earthy, mushroom-based dish or just to enjoy when I’m in the mood for a nice, heavy red. At $19.95 it’s a good value option for a big, bold red wine.

In the end, I have to say I like when wineries use sustainable practices and eschew pesticides and chemicals. But I also know that it’s a complicated topic and many wineries that might practice sustainable, pesticide-free farming cannot be certified due to costs or other complications. It’s a subject I look forward to studying more deeply. Feel free to suggest good resources in the comments or on social.

And if you’re looking for more information on organic and biodynamic winemaking from a writer who really understands the science, I recommend checking out The Academic Wino’s writings on this topic. Becca looks at wine-related subjects from a scientific perspective and has written extensively about this subject.

Many thanks to iYellow Wine Club and Bonterra Organic Vineyards for the invitation to try these wines and learn more about organic winemaking.