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Food & Wine

Wine Events in Toronto – Spring Edition

March 6, 2016
Wines from Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Some of my favourite wine events in Toronto take place in the spring. Below are a few you should check out if you’re in the city this April, they’re a perfect way to shake off the winter blues and discover new and exciting wines to help you transition into the new season.

California Carnivale – April 9, 2016 – Looking for a more relaxed atmosphere than a traditional wine tasting? iYellow Wine Club’s California Carnivale at The Burroughs Building (639 Queen Street West) might be for you. A fun and festive way to sip a range of California wines, this event always sells out because it’s such a good time. Tickets are $69 and can be purchased here.

California Wines LogoCalifornia Wine Fair – April 11, 2016 – The California Wine Fair is a fantastic opportunity to taste the best California wines available in Ontario. Last year, I tasted some stunning wines I might otherwise have missed if I didn’t attend the show. And an even bigger perk is that if you purchase your tickets via Second Harvest, $40 of the ticket purchase price goes to support the charity’s many programs. The California Wine Fair takes place at The Fairmont Royal York (100 Front Street West). Tickets are $81 (including taxes) and can be purchased here.

County in the City – April 14, 2016 – I never miss County in the City and I’m looking forward to this year, when it returns to the Berkeley Church (315 Queen Street East). This event brings the wine and food of Prince Edward County to Toronto for a fun night of sipping and shopping (you can order your favourites on site). This year’s highlights include more than 70 wines available to taste, a County vs. City Chef Challenge and live music. Tickets are $49 in advance and can be purchased here.

Food & Wine

Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival – The Perfect Date Night

July 8, 2015

Shawn and I have something of a love-hate relationship with big ‘wine shows’, especially those that involve standing in long lines to get in and then again for each vendor booth. So we were a bit leery before we wandered onto Toronto’s Sugar Beach on a beautiful June evening to try the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival (TWSF) for the first time. This laidback, fun event turned out to be the exact opposite of what we’d feared – this is one big festival I can’t wait to attend again.

TWSF is one of the best run events I’ve attended and we had a fantastic time. We both agreed that it was a pretty fabulous date night. First off, Sugar Beach is the perfect venue for an event like this – there was plenty of room for the vendors to spread out and attendees could sprawl out in a beach chair or in the sand to watch one of the bands or just chat with friends. All this space meant it didn’t feel too crowded, even on a busy Friday night. Those of you who have had to fight your way through a crush of elbows and spilled beer to get to a vendor’s booth will understand why this is awesome.

There was also a good variety of vendors, meaning you could try interesting new drinks and find something for everyone. Shawn fell hard for Station Cold Brew Coffee with Jameson Irish Whiskey and I have decided that Pisco Gobernador and pineapple juice is a perfect summer cocktail. I also learned that I never, ever want a smoked watermelon cocktail or sake with cucumber juice again (although some people seemed to love them).

The wine selection wasn’t as strong as the spirits, but Creekside Estate Winery had some very good wines on offer and there was a booth featuring the wines of Twenty Valley. We also tried two wines from Silver Bay, which I wasn’t familiar with prior to the event. I’m looking forward to visiting the winery to do a proper tasting. This wasn’t a good environment for wine tasting and Shawn and I decided to just enjoy ourselves rather than write tasting notes. Sipping a glass of wine together while looking out on Lake Ontario is sometimes better when you’re not talking about malolactic fermentation (sometimes).

One of the best parts of the night was the food. No over paying for tiny samples at this event! There was an area set up with food trucks offering everything from gourmet vegetarian to barbecue. Shawn and I were both impressed with The Saucy Pierogi (we may have gone back for seconds…) and I enjoyed checking out the vegetarian food truck while Shawn tried a pulled pork sandwich. I also couldn’t resist of plate of Oyster Boy oysters (my food kryptonite – my willpower crumbles when I see oysters on a menu). All the food we purchased was reasonably priced for the quantity and the lines moved very quickly.

And huge kudos to the organizers for partnering with Beck Taxi. When we were ready to head home we stepped outside the gates and right into a waiting taxi. This venue was easy to get to and there were lots of safe and easy options for getting home at the end of the night.

While our entrance fee was complimentary, we paid for our own food and beverages and all opinions are our own.

Food & Wine

California Wine Fair 2015

June 17, 2015
Stag's Leap Wines Karia

One of my favourite wine events is always the California Wine Fair at the Fairmont Royal York. The line-up of great wines never fails to impress and it’s a wonderful opportunity to taste through a large variety of wines in a casual, but informative atmosphere. Shawn and I were thrilled to check out new vintages from some of the wineries we visited in California last year and to discover some new favourites.

While there was no way to taste through all the wines presented, the photos below represent some of the ones we most enjoyed. Many are available through the LCBO and all are available via agent.

Coppola's Sofia Rosé wine

It was a little too far for Shawn and I to get to the Francis Ford Coppola winery when we visited California, so it was nice to taste the 2013 Sophia rosé at the event. This wine has a surprisingly good price-point at $19.95 and is a nice fruit-forward option for summer patio dining.  Plus, the bottle is really pretty (yes, I’m a sucker for a nice presentation).

St. Supéry's 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

Prior to our trip, I hadn’t really considered California Sauvignon Blanc all that much – I was more likely to grab a bottle from New Zealand. But having tried several over the past year, I’m definitely a convert. The St. Supéry 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was a great example of how good California Sauvignon Blanc can be – crisp, refreshing and very well-balanced. This wine was a highlight of the event for me. It’s currently only available via agent in Toronto, but I hope that will change soon.

Daou Vineyard's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

By now, you are likely well-aware of my appreciation of the wines of Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles, so I enjoyed the opportunity to taste their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a lovely full-bodied red that speaks to the lovely region from which it hails. I was disappointed to learn that Daou’s delicious white Grenache is still not available in Ontario, but perhaps one day. This winery is well worth a visit if you are in Paso.

Hope Family Vineyards Wine

Another Paso Robles favourite is Hope Family Vineyards. They were not sampling Troublemaker, one of my personal picks from the winery, but the Liberty School wines are a great option for a value-priced California wine and I was pleased to hear they now have some availability via the LCBO in Canada.

Brichino Malvasia Bianca Wine

Another winery on our California wish-list was Bonny Doon, which makes wines that are always interesting. However, it is the Bircihino line that always seems to steal my heart at the California Wine Fair. Winemaker Alex Krause was in attendance to represent both wineries and, as always, it was a pleasure to learn more about the latest vintages from the always irreverent Bonny Doon and the lovely Birichino. I particularly liked this floral and nuanced Malvasia Bianca. Having recently tasted a Croatian Malvasia that didn’t impress, I was interested to see how another winemaker in a different region could make the grape truly sing. Birichino wines are difficult to find in Canada, so I hope we can plan a visit on our next California adventure.

Jordan Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Jordan Winery was a huge presence at the last Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara and it was so nice to see them make an entry into the Ontario wine scene. You may recognize this Alexander Valley winery from their very fun “Blurred Vines” parody on YouTube or from their appearances on Cougar Town (yep, I check out the labels that pop up on the Courtney Cox comedy) and they are wines worth seeking out.

Right now the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are available via agent and I’ve got my fingers crossed they will pop up on store shelves soon. These are well-made wines from a winery that embraces the experience of wine – no doubt why they’re one of TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Winery Tours and Wine Enthusiast’s American Winery of the Year.

So those were a few wines Shawn and I enjoyed at the show – do you have a favourite California wine? Share it below or in the comments on social!

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: