Cuvée 2015 and Experts tasting



Cuvée is a grand event, where Ontario’s entire wine industry (winery owners, winemakers, educators, media and even members of the LCBO) celebrate accomplishments gained in the preceding year and reflect on achieved successes since industry’s beginnings nearly 38 years ago. This year, the task to organize the 27th Cuvée was handed over to Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) after Niagara Community Foundation coordinated it for 11 years. This was the second Cuvée I’ve had a chance to attend and in last year’s Cuvée 2014 article, I describe in detail its history, the procession, awards handed out and the weekend’s Cuvée En Route passport event. Since this year’s organization was slightly different (as was my focus), this article reflects those details.


Sonoma County Wine Tasting 2014


Oh sunny California!

California is known as the sunshine state and for a good reason – when it comes to days-in-a-year filled with sunshine, San Francisco enjoys it for 66% and Sacramento for 78% of the year.
Days of Sunshine Per Year in California
It is for this reason (+ many more) that California produces 89%
Wikipedia – American wine
of all US wine.
Mark Twain wittingly described the coastal climate in his (as is commonly believed) famous phase: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco” – illustrating that sunny doesn’t always translate into warmth, for the frigid ocean breezes and rolling fogs cool down California’s coast. Slightly more inland and the refreshing, humid, air currents are replaced with moisture devoid winds that only bring scorching heat. Together with topography of mountains-spanned-by-valleys, and cultivable soils ranging from exposed rock to fertile sediment; the area under vine is quite varied and therefore justly subdivided into 46 American Viticultural Areas (AVA).
Wikipedia – North Coast AVA
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New Zealand Wine Fair 2014


In a nutshell

New Zealand and Canada share quite few similarities: we both have The Queen on our same-name-bearing bills, we both have large (also English-speaking) neighbors who influence everything we do, and (to omit multitude of other commonalities in order to get to the point) we both have young wine industries of less than half a century old. Much like a seedling shortly after germination – growing in order to establish itself; both industries are still evolving, maturing and defining their niches in the style of wine they produce. Perhaps it is for these similarities why so many Ontarian winemakers seek out this event in particular (more so than other ones), to exchange ideas with their Southern Hemisphere, cool-climate counterparts and to learn from one another.


Taste Ontario 2014


Often, I get asked why so many Ontarian wines are light bodied and when they are not, why they are so costly. What if I told you that you can get medium or full bodied wines right from our Ontarian backyard and that these wines still retain their complexity? Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to say.
It is not a news that cool climate wines are more aromatic and thus more complex, but lot of times this comes (though not causatively) at the wine body’s expense, resulting in light or light-to-medium bodied wines. Nowadays, and more than ever, greater number of Ontarian wineries produce wines loaded with fruit. Perhaps it is so because the past decade has been warmer than the decades before, but mainly because the vines bearing the fruit are more aged and are able to synthetize more complex hydrocarbons, and because viticultural methods such as crop trimming, and winemaking techniques such as grape drying (appassimento) all result in more intense wines. These practices, however, come at a cost as crop trimming reduces yields and drying is labor intensive.


i4C – International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration



The ‘International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration’ (i4c) is a festival honoring Chardonnay – the premise is to bring down winemakers from cool climate regions that grow Chardonnay, world’s most planted white varietal, and to revere it while engage in friendly competition displaying their wines. The idea behind i4C came to twelve winemakers when they sat around a bonfire in the summer of 2009 and pondered how Ontario Chardonnay that has reached world-class quality, should be celebrated. The concept materialized the following year in otherwise nearly-wine-festival-devoid July and has since become a yearly occurrence.
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Graze the Bench



‘Graze the Bench’ is a passport event taking place one early June weekend and this year it will do so for the 6th, straight year. Unlike other passport festivities, ‘Graze the Bench’ is unique in the sense that 8 neighboring wineries go out of their way and setup their wineries to create a laid back setting, filled with mellow live music, where patrons can peacefully enjoy their wines paired with freshly prepared food. Ticket grants an entry to the VIP area at each winery, a crystal Zweisel glass, and drink and food tickets – one each. For $7, additional food and wine can be purchased for further enjoyment. The 7 wineries again partaking (alphabetically) in the event are Angel’s Gate Winery, Fielding Estates Winery, Hidden Bench Winery, Organized Crime Winery, Peninsula Ridge Winery, Rosewood Estate Winery, Thirty Bench Winemakers; and this year, Mike Weir Winery finally opened its doors to visitors and joined the excitement for the first time.


New Zealand Wine Fair


This year, Toronto’s New Zealand Wine Fair’s public tasting will be held at the St. James Cathedral Centre from 7 pm to 9:30 pm on Thursday May 8th. Running in city of Toronto for the past 20 years, the New Zealand Wine Fair is moving its location from Toronto Reference Library to the Centre that has recently been renovated and had a glass extension attached to its side in order to modernize its space dedicated to conferences and receptions.
Often, the wine fair begins with an hour to hour-and-a-half long seminar that focuses on educating sommeliers, media and wine shop (LCBO) buyers on new directions or trends the winemaking community is heading in, or concentrates on any given varietal and advancements achieved that make the wines distinct from other regions. The trade session that follows is designed for restaurateurs etc. to find potential buys; for unrepresented wineries to find prospective agents; and for the media to familiarize themselves with what is out there and accordingly inform the wider population. The public event follows after a break and though organized much like the trade session, patron’s intentions are much different.




‘Terroir’ – a one-of-a-kind event, where Prince Edward County wineries come together for one afternoon of the year, to mark the fact that spring is finally here and bring their newly released and vintaged wines with them. As the event started in 2005, it is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this year!
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There are several (more than 7) reasons
that embody this occasion as a one-of-a-kind event and these are:


County in the City 2014


The 3rd ‘County in the City’, an annual event that brings wineries from Prince Edward County to Ontario’s capital so that Torontonians, unable to travel, can taste and appreciate wines from one of the three Ontario’s wine growing regions while mingling with other cool (climate) wine lovers, took place on April 3rd, 2014. As this was the 3rd time I’ve attended it, it has officially become my annual ritual or tradition.
As all things mature and change, so did this event (see last year’s article) – still ‘faithfully’ utilizing Berkeley Church as the venue choice, this year’s increased admission to $49 not only included all the tastings and music (same as last year), the food provided by Berkley Church Catering was also included (new this year). Again, the walls of the main floor were lined with wineries’ representatives pouring their currently available vintages, while the central stage was reserved for the musician and food kiosk.
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Benvenuto Brunello


Siting in the Tuscan hills, the picturesque, medieval town of Montalcino with a small population of just over 5,000 people[1], is not primarily known as a popular tourist destination; instead, it is renowned for its unique, Brunello di Montalcino wines. The town’s story started some eleven-hundred years ago at the beginning of the 9th century A.D.[2] and in a short time became known for producing wines that since then has been and remains its main source of revenue. Though inhabitants of Montalcino have had winemaking expertise for much of town’s history, it wasn’t until the middle of 19th century that farmers began to plant a variety of Sangiovese they named Brunello. The wine began to acquire international recognition for its quality and ageability in the later half of the 20th century, and in 1999, the Wine Spectator listed it amongst 12 best ever wines of the 21st century, only to upgrade its status seven years later in 2006 to ‘absolute best’ wine[3].
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Cuvée 2014


Grand Tasting & Après Cuvée

What is Cuvée? To put it simply, Cuvée is a celebration of prior-years’ winemaking achievements, but this description doesn’t do justice to what Cuvée embodies and what it is about.


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Toronto Ice Fest


Are you too busy or unable to drive down to the wine country, but really want to taste variety of Icewines that Ontario is World renowned for? Then iYellow’s Ice Fest is the perfect occasion for you. Intended to bring people together and expose them to more than just Icewine, this year’s 2nd annual Ice Fest took place at the Galleria in the hip Liberty Village district of downtown Toronto. Participating wineries included Château des Charmes, Diamond Estates, Lakeview Cellars, Rief Estates, Inniskillin, Peller Estates, Small Talk (formerly Stonechurch) Vineyards, Sue-Ann Staff, Trius/Hillebrand Winery, Pillitiery and Rosewood Estates. The winery’s representatives (some being winemakers themselves) didn’t just serve Icewines – mead, sparking, whites and reds also flowed freely.
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2014 Australian Wine Trade Show


Though the physical world is getting smaller, it seems that the wine world is in-fact getting bigger and with wine entering into the market from all corners of the world, one may find all this information overwhelming. Most people aren’t wine educators or Master Sommeliers and don’t want to spend much time thinking about it, so in order to simplify all this information, generalizations form. In time, these generalization lead to pre-conceptions and so when ‘Australian wine’ is mentioned, one automatically thinks of big and bold Shiraz in a flashy twist top bottle. Beyond Shiraz, what are other Australian wines and what are they all about?


Icewine Festival & Icewine Village


For most people, the month of January starts off quiet – with everyone wanting to de-socialize after the jolly holidays plus the weather-enabled laziness results in being content with staying home; but the peace soon turns into boredom and the urge to do something fun, returns. On the other hand, while quiet on the winemaking front, the wine country is sprinkled with wine-filled events and fun things to do. Icewine, as the name suggests, has a lot to do with winter, so Niagara embraces it and has two events devoted to it – the Icewine Festival that spans the last three weekends and Icewine Village that is constructed for duration of only one weekend.


Villa Maria dinner

Due to a link change, the original share number for” is indicated above.


Of Port and werewolves


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.
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Taste Italy 2013

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.


Taste Ontario 2013


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.
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