Tis ‘the season to be jolly’, generous and kind to people around us, so why not give wine related gifts and make everyone happy? When it comes to wine gifts, there are many choices and venues to explore – one can give wine, wine related items or paraphernalia, tickets to a winery’s or local wine events, or give the gift of education in the form of books, seminars and lessons. Let’s explore each of these categories herein.
The one thing Port lovers and werewolves have in common, is the appreciation of a full moon. Though the moon’s effects are not as important for the port lovers, the way the light shines through the Port and emphasizes its dense, golden/amber/ruby colour, is. So, how better to celebrate the Harvest Moon than with a glass of Port? How about with a flight of Taylor Fladgate 10, 20, 30 and 40-year-old Tawny Ports while overlooking the city of Toronto from Thompson Hotel rooftop with a group of iYellow guests poised to party.
Though ultimately about wine, wine events come in different sizes & themes and the concepts that attendees can take from them can be quite different. What one takes home from an event depends on not only one’s profession (industry/media) but also on the level of experience and direction in which one is heading. From last year’s ‘Taste Italy 2012’ event, I took away the understanding of the vastness of different wine varieties and styles (especially on the palate), a notion that perhaps would take me a year to grasp if I was to buy the wines myself. This year, I set out to gain an understanding of what the range of quality can be achieved within and between any given established style, while at-the-time uninfluenced by the wine’s price (didn’t know it at the time of tasting). The intention behind was to use this insight to conceptualize whether a certain point rating is worth the asking price (for me) or not, which should help me in making purchasing decisions as well as pass it onto my recommendations page, where ultimately the herein reviewed and recommended wines ended up.
Geographically, all of Ontario’s vine growing appellations are thought of as cool-climate regions – meaning that vines which thrive here, produce wines naturally higher in aromatics and in acidity, hence adding to their complexity and challenging their structure, respectively. Though home to many different varietals, Ontario is well-known for its Vidal and Cabernet Franc Icewines; Rieslings and Chardonnays – the whites; Pinot Noirs, Merlots and Cabernet Francs – the reds, and one must not forget the sparkling roses, just to highlight a few. Most Ontarian vines grow in the province’s four regions also known as appellations – the Niagara Escarpment, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore (listed from highest to lowest area under cultivation); but vine is also grown in other, non-classified regions – namely Toronto and York area and Bruce County.
Chilean wines – the thoughts that enter one’s mind are: value, full-bodied reds and vegetal Carmeneres. At this year’s tasting, I’ve affirmed the first two, but have learned that vegetal Carmeneres are no longer in style. I rather enjoy the green, vegetal notes that Carmenere is known and (by me) so revered for, but sadly, as sale statistics don’t lie, it seems that fellow Ontarians don’t feel the same way. None-the-less, I’ve tried quite a few wines and documented my overall experience together with the wine reviews herein.
The 2013 National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) concluded on Monday September 16th, by presenting Mission Hill Family Estate Winery with the winery of the year award, along with two platinum awards for its 2011 Riesling Reserve and 2009 Compendium wines. This event, held at Joey Restaurant at the Eaton Centre downtown Toronto, was in the non-structured tasting format with five award-winning (2 platinum, 3 gold medals) Mission Hill wines presented in conjunction with food pairings designed to complement the wines.
On a beautiful, warm, sunny July 11th, I spent my lunchtime by attending a luncheon at the Wine Bar – organized by Eurovintage International and hosted by Stéphane Vedeau himself to feature his Ferme Du Mont wines. New to both the Ferme Du Mont wines and the venue, I soon found a new addition to my cellar and a spot to spend the occasional Monday evening dinning with friends.
Summer Solstice: a celestial event where either the Northern or Southern Pole is closest to the sun and is thus marked by the longest day on that respective hemisphere. This year, that moment happened at 5:04 am on June 21st and sprung the Northern Hemisphere into the first day of summer.
Tasting of different vintages of the same wine, known as vertical tastings, provide a wealth of information in regards to how the wine ages, from which extrapolations into future ageability can be made.
Rosewood Estates had its first vertical tasting of the last five (also the first five) Semillon vintages, to which I was recently invited. This white grape, known for its low acidity and oiliness, is used in production of dry or sweet wines and is commonly grown in places like Bordeaux and Australia and to lesser extend Chile and South Africa. Though Rosewood Estates, together with Angel’s Gate and Stratus Wineries are the only three wineries growing Semillon in Niagara thus far, this variety has undoubtedly set its root-in-the-door and is determined to remain. Planted in 2003, Rosewood began harvesting Semillon in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2008 when a single varietal wine was made.
On April 25th 2013, second annual ‘County in the City’ wine-tasting took place inside of the Berkeley Church, downtown Toronto. The event’s aim was to introduce wines of Prince Edward County to ‘us’, the city dwellers, without ‘us’ having to venture out. This year, 14 out of the 26 Prince Edward County wineries (several more wineries are to open this year) featured their products and who better to represent them than the winery owners and wine makers themselves. The cost of $40 (at the door) included all the tastings, some cracker/cheese/fruit nibbles and a performance by a live band. Variety of on-site prepared food was also available for purchase and its juicy, meaty smells were competing with the wine’s aromas. As many of the wines are not available at the LCBO, purchasing ANY 6 or more wines warranted free delivery directly to customer’s door – promotion only available at the event itself.
The turbulent, not so distant, European past displaced many people – many of which found a new home on the North American continent. The Kocsis family, parents Andy and Klara with two sons Andre and young Steve, emigrated from Hungary in 1956 and having been farmers in the old country, they settled in the farmlands of Beamsville. In 1958, they purchased a 40 acre mixed fruit farm, whose fertile land was already planted with concord grapes, pears (both still present today), peaches, apricots and cherries, whose sale for direct consumption allowed the family to derive their living.
In 1983, Steve Kocsis, who worked these lands since the age of nine, took over the proprietorship and established The Mountain Road Wine Company. He remembered that in the old Europe, many vineyards grew on slopes overlooking bodies of water, whether being lakes or the sea. To transcend this image through a name and coincident with the name of the local road, he named his new venture the Mountain Road Wine Company.
Though planting the first Vitis vinifera in 1981, Mountain Road Wine Company sold grapes to nearby wineries (mainly Thirty Bench Wine Makers) for eighteen years. It wasn’t until 1999, when the first vintage of Vidal Icewine was produced, but it would take another three years until a permit to sell wine would be obtained.
California Wine Fair is Wine Institute’s of California and LCBO’s grand finale to what was a month-and-a-half long promotion of Californian wines (also see my earlier post). The event, held at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto, featured over 480 wines from 180 California’s wineries (for a complete list click here: wineries + wines) and consisted of 4 parts – a luncheon for invited guests only; private tasting for registered media (11-5:30 pm); trade event for wine retail trade, media and hospitality industry only (2:30-5:30 pm); and a consumer event for the general public for a fee of $75 (7-9:30 pm).
Organized Crime Winery – what’s in the name? Right away, one may automatically think of ‘mafia’ or ‘black market’, while more in-depth thinking may allude to a ‘stab’ at the LCBO monopoly. Nonetheless, whatever one thinks, the name draws attention and curiosity.
The origin of the name, in fact, is a combination between history and art. As it goes: In the 1900’s, in a nearby town named Jordan Station, there were two Mennonite congregations of which one brought a pipe organ into their church and played it during mass. The members of the other congregation thought that music in the church is unholy, so one night they broke into the church, took the pipe organ and dumped it onto an embankment of the nearby Four-Mile Creek; thus committing a crime of stealing an organ = Organized Crime. (Story was provided to the winery by Jordan Historical Museum)
The mention of ‘Cottage Country’ brings forth images of tranquility, warmth, canoeing at foggy dawns; or watching sunsets from the cottage porch while overlooking a lake and listening to distant loon calls. For a city dweller, it may be hard to imagine why anyone would think of doing anything outside of the ‘Cottage Country’ realm, not to mention leaving it and moving elsewhere. On the other hand, the beauty of farmlands, orchards and vineyards is equally as enchanting, but in a different, more organized, way.
Starting with the March 2nd and continuing with March 16th by-weekly vintages releases, together with LCBO’s spring issue of Food & Drink Magazine showcasing two articles; the LCBO kicked-off a full-on promotion of Californian wines under the ‘Californian Style’ branding. For nearly a month, the LCBO has promotions and free tastings across 630 LCBO stores and features over 100 products, of which 22 are new. The LCBO also organized three high-profile events. The first took place on March 8th at the ’flagship’ Summerhill store, with celebrity chef Duskie Estes pairing her two signature dishes with seven wines.
Tucked away at the end of a seldom travelled road, in the shadows of the escarpment’s treeline, one will find the entrance to an enchanting winery. Illuminated with a lantern, lit night and day, by natural gas escaping from long-gone creatures; one might feel though entering a fairy-tale realm and glimpsing a distant unicorn. The perception is not far off, once realizing the wines housed within are just as unique as a unicorn would be.
Starting second weekend in January and going right through February, Thirty Bench offers “Snowshoeing in the vineyard” tours. In a nutshell, it entails a hike through the property’s three vineyards, while sipping wine and listening to the guide’s interesting anecdotes and trivia about the vineyard, winery and the wine; and finalizing with an exquisite pairing of oaked Chardonnay and seafood chowder (described here in full detail) before heading the boutique to purchase some of the tasted wines or to continue-on visiting other wineries.
There are five wine growing regions within BC and they are considerably more north of the Ontario growing region that spans the latitudes N42° and N44°. The southern-most growing regions (and western-most) are the Vancouver Island and Gulf Island regions around the N48° latitude, whereas the Fraser Valley, Similkameen Valley and Okanagan Valley regions snuggle against the 49th parallel, with Okanagan extending nearly to the N51° latitude, thereby northerly crossing the so-called wine growing belt that spans the N35° and N50° latitudes. The first thought may be that being so north and so close to Rockies, the climate would be cold and quite unpredictable, however these regions have in common a mild and relatively dry climate that is ideal for viticulture and aids in producing intensely aromatic wines.