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.


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Cuvée Grand Tasting

For an event of this magnitude, the winemaker or the winery owner (occasionally the same person) carefully chooses the wines to be presented. Some of the selected wines may be sold out, library wines, featured to mark an anniversary or to demonstrate their ageability; few are meant to be introduced to the public for the first time – an official release; yet others are chosen to showcase a star varietal or to celebrate admission into the LCBO – whatever the reason, the poured wines are no less than cream of the crop. Before the general public is allowed to enter at 7:30 pm and for the first time implemented this year, the media had an hour and a half to uninterruptedly taste (and review) these wines. I’ve taken this opportunity to taste 9 wines and their full reviews can be viewed by clicking on the names below.


The reviews
The 2012 Colaneri Estate Winery Insieme was crafted by Andrzej Lipinski and is composed of 31% each – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and 14% each – Merlot and Syrah that were processed in accordance with Appassimento style prior to fermentation and subsequently aged in French Oak for 20 months. This wine has a captivating nose of cigar box, cedar, red currant and bilberry on the nose and cranberry, red currant, vanilla, and oak on the palate. It is a medium to full bodied, extra-dry/dry, fruity to integrated wine; with fresh acidity, still tight tannins and a long finish. Though food friendly, sip this wine by itself; best 2016/17 – 2022 – with the tannins settling a bit, the wine has evolution potential of +1 or 2 pts (cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 90 (Ep+1) pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 90 (Ep+1) pts. $34.95 Colaneri Estate Winery
The 2013 Niagara College Teaching Winery Balance Pinot Noir, crafted by Gavin Robertson who aged in French Oak for 12 months, has subtle aromas of wood, slight cedar, pomegranate and raspberry on the nose and red currant and wood on the palate. It is a light bodied, dry, fruity wine; with good acidity, subtle tannins and a short to medium finish. Pair this wine with light foods; drink now to 2018 (cork enclosure). My impression: NICE, 87 pts.
Score 87 pts. $19.15 Niagara College Teaching Winery
The 2012 Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir, crafted by Emma Garner and aged in French Oak (15% new) for 12 months, has a surprisingly muted nose (decanting is a must) yet the palate is lively with sour cherry, red currant, pomegranate and oaky notes. It is a light to medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine that has crisp to forward acidity, soft tannins and a medium finish. This Pinot has a balanced acidity to body and fruit extract – enjoy with food; drink now to 2018 (cork enclosure). My impression: NICE, 88 pts – would love to see this wine decanted as I speculate that it experienced a bottle shock.
Score 88 pts. $35.00 Thirty Bench Wine Makers
The 2012 Pelee Island Winery Vinedresser, made by Martin Janz with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot that was aged in French and Hungarian Oak for 16 months, has desirable aromas of forest floor, wood, pine, cherry and pomegranate on the nose and wood, cranberry and pomegranate on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with refreshing acidity, grippy tannins and a medium to long finish. Though the body and acidity are balanced, the tannins are still quite tight; drink from 2017 to 2022 (Evolution potential of +1) (cork enclosure). My impression: NICE to BEAUTIFUL, 90 (Ep+1) pts – recommended for its quality and value.
RECOMMENDED Score 90 (Ep+1) pts. $19.95 Pelee Island Winery
The 2011 Nyarai Cellars Cadence is made by the owner and winemaker Steve Byfield and consists of 42% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Syrah that was aged in mostly used French Oak for 18 months. This blend has alluring aromas of oak, vanilla, cherry and red currant on the nose and pomegranate, red currant and dates on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with crisp to forward acidity, drying tannins and a medium finish. This wine has excellent acidity and should pair nicely with most foods; drink now and for the next 3-5 years (screw cap enclosure). My impression: NICE, 88 pts.
Score 88 pts. $21.95 Nyarai Cellars
The 2010 Megalomaniac Grounded Reserve Merlot, made by Sue-Ann Staff with 100% Merlot that was aged in new cigar-shaped barrels for 2 years; has intense aromas of pine, wood, and cherry on the nose and wood, dates, cranberry and red currant on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity to integrated wine; BALANCED with refreshing acidity, refined tannins and a long finish. Though food friendly, one may as well simply enjoy it on its own; drink now to 2020+ (cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91 pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 91 pts. $44.95
Megalomaniac/John Howard Cellars of Distinction
The 2012 The Foreign Affair Winery Petit Verdot crafted by Barclay Robinson such that 14.5% of the grapes were dried in the appassimento style and the wine was then aged in French, Hungarian, and American oak barrels for 18 months. The wine has a tempting bouquet of oak, vanilla, coconut, blackberry and black cherry on the nose and vanilla, oak, figs, blackberry and black cherry on the palate. It is a medium to full bodied, extra-dry, fruity to integrated wine; BALANCED with crisp acidity, refined tannins and a long and inky finish. Despite its food friendly acidity, this wine is a sipper; approachable now, but best from 2017 to 2020+ (cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91-92 pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 91-92 pts. $49.95 The Foreign Affair Winery
The 2010 Two Sisters Vineyards Cabernet Franc was harvested from 3-year-old vines that were cropped notably to decrease yields and then aged in French Oak for 18 months after fermentation – crafted by winemaker Adam Pearce. The wine has expressive aromas of toast, thyme, cedar, eucalyptus, stems, pepper and black cherry on the nose and cedar, wood, raspberry, pomegranate and red currant on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, integrated wine; BALANCED with crisp acidity, refined tannins and a medium to long finish. Enjoy on its own, but if you must, it will pair well with food; drink now to 2020+ (cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 92 pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 92 pts. $48.00 Two Sisters Vineyards
The 2012 Rennie Estate Winery G Assemblage, crafted by Malivoire’s Shiraz Mottiar from the Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot that were dried in accordance to the Appassimento style before fermentation, after which it was then barrel aged for 18 months prior to bottling. This young wine has a succulent bouquet composed of oak, vanillin, pencil lead, black cherry and blackberry on the nose and vanilla, black cherry and blackberry on the palate. It is a dense/full bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine, BALANCED with good acidity, grippy tannins and a long and smooth finish. Enjoy this wine with a like-minded companion on-its-own, as it would be a waste to detract from it with food; though excellent now, this wine has a cellaring potential due to its full body and abundant tannins leading to a slow and gradual acquirement of tertiary aromas (evolution potential +2) – best 2017/18 to 2025+ (cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL to DIVINE, 93+ (Ep+2) pts – recommended for its quality and value – this beauty can compete with similarly priced Italian Amarones, despite being made with completely different varietals that make its tannic structure easily distinguishable.
RECOMMENDED Score 92-93 (Ep+2) pts. $55.00 Rennie Estate Winery


For complete list of wines click the downloadable Cuvée 2015 Program brochure
(6.9 MB).
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Media Reception and Awards

The room that would later serve as the venue for the Après Cuvée after party, opened at 7 pm exclusively to the media and the Cuvée organizers announced this year’s awardees – nominated members of the community that were acknowledged and honored for their work.



Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award Winner
Don Forrer, Niagara-on-the-Lake grape grower.
“Sponsored by BASF Canada Inc., the award recognizes a grower who promotes excellence in their vineyard practices. The winner is chosen by an expert panel that makes field visits throughout the growing season to monitor quality.”
Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence
Laurie Macdonald, Executive Director, VQA Ontario.
“For overseeing the development of a provincially regulated appellation system with grace and humanity.”
2015 VQA Promoter Award winners
Evan Saviolidis (Education), sommelier and wine educator.
“Saviolidis was recognized as a dedicated educator who is passionate about Ontario VQA wines and has instilled this passion to a new generation of students through the courses he runs as well as his work educating consumers about Ontario VQA wine at the Wine Country Ontario events booth.”
Darcy MacDonell (Hospitality), owner/operator of Farmhouse Tavern.
“MacDonell was recognized for taking the step of only serving VQA wine and Ontario craft beer at his restaurant the Farmhouse Tavern. Making such a commitment to VQA wine has created a robust offering of local selections strongly solidifying the case that great wine grows in Ontario. ”
Ed Smith (LCBO), Ontario wine leader customer service representative at the Ottawa-Orleans LCBO.
“Smith was honoured for his tireless and selfless effort in promoting VQA wines at his Ottawa-Orleans LCBO store. He makes the annual “Taste Local, Love Local” campaign a major event by building large Ontario focused displays and offering pairing advice to consumers always with an emphasis on VQA wines.”
John Szabo (Media), partner and principal critic at Wine Align.
“Along with doing restaurant and private consulting, teaching, and speaking engagements, Szabo has become one of Canada’s key wine writers, which is why he was honored this year. Although he writes about wine regions all over the world, when he speaks about Ontario VQA wine he is a credible advocate for the industry.”
Kimberly Hundertmark (Promoter-at-Large), executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.
“Hundertmark was recognized for twenty years of leadership in the wine industry and her dedication to making the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival a ‘go to’ event for lovers and supporters of Ontario VQA wine.”
Len Pennachetti (Lifetime Achievement), president and co-founder of Cave Spring Cellars.
“Pennachetti was recognized for his dedication to the Ontario industry from his early days as a producer and advocate to his work today as one of the senior leaders at the Wine Council of Ontario. He has also worked tirelessly to establish Niagara’s Twenty Valley as a visitor destination, volunteering his time, his property and talents to guiding its development.”
*Text taken from Cuvée and VQA promoter awards brochure (131 KB).


John Szabo (VQA Promoter Award winner) taking up a new hobby – photography. 2015_Cuvee_IMG_1618
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Cuvée – Public Gala

As soon as the doors opened to the public, the hall filled with stylishly dressed men and elegant women wearing glamor, whom for the evening’s duration roamed between the food corners or the seven wine stations – eating, drinking, chatting, picture posing and just having a great time. For me it was the time to put the review cards away and instead take out a camera, walk around and mingle with the patrons.


Gallery of wine stands, representatives and wines.


Gallery of food stations and the culinary delights served.


……………………..View participating restaurants/catering services
Fallsview Casino Resort
6280 Fallsview Blvd., Niagara Falls, 1-888-325-5788
Raymond Taylor, Executive Chef – Raymond Taylor was appointed Executive Chef of Niagara Casinos in November 2007. His most recent posts were as Executive Chef at the Windsor Casino and the famed Atlantis Casino and Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. Ray managed the One & Only Ocean Club executive brand, operating four premium restaurants for the property voted top 10 on the Gold List by Condé Nast. Chef Taylor brings with him more than 24 years experience in the industry. He began his career in London, England for Savoy Hotel, and the famous Claridges and Mirabelle restaurants, before moving to Canada with several Fairmont hotels and Westin properties.
– Fresh Porcini and Truffle Risotto
– Pan Seared Sea Scallops, pumpkin cream, truffle corn, orange bread tuiles
– Pepper crusted Bison Tenderloin, Parsnip puree, King oyster mushrooms.
Benchmark Restaurant & The Canadian Food and Wine Institute
135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 905-641-2252 x4619
Chef Manager Alex White from Benchmark will lead the team of chefs and students from Benchmark Restaurant. Benchmark serves lunch, dinner and offers a weekly prix fixe dinner menu that showcases the skills and products produced at the institute by the students and faculty. Benchmark is the next evolution of the hands-on learning process. Students begin their careers in the culinary and hospitality industry at this unique teaching restaurant. Features of Benchmark include a focus on fresh, local and Canadian cuisine, an educational kitchen and food, and wine and beer pairings. We also host great special events like our Chef’s Signature Series, Caps, Corks and Forks, and Decadence, all of which showcase the offerings of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute.
– Hot smoked Salmon, Buckwheat Blini’s, Sauce Mousseline, Sprouts
– Pork Cotechino Sausage with Chicharron, Lentils, Rosemary Jus
– Root Vegetable Empanadas, Chocolate Squash Mole, Lime Sour Cream
Crush Wine Bar and Kitchen
455 King St. W., Toronto, 1-416-977-1234
Trista Sheen is a George Brown College graduate. She worked in Sydney Australia, London, England and Barcelona, Spain before working on her craft at Scaramouch Restaurant for six years. She started at Crush as the sous chef in 2009 and became the Executive Chef in 2011. Trista was also a contestant on Top Chef Canada, Season 2, where she placed sixth overall.
– Jerked hen with poached dumplings, mustard greens, corn cream and plantain chips.
Estate Chef – Le Clos Jordanne, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate and Inniskillin Wines
1499 Line 3, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 905-351-1132
Born in Niagara, Chef Tim Mackiddie was introduced to the world of food and wine at an early age. Tim’s father is a vineyard manager in Niagara, so he was surrounded by information and knowledge about winemaking and cool climate grapes. His first summer job was in a winery cellar. After graduating from the Culinary Management program at Niagara College, Tim worked as an apprentice at one of the local wineries, which was his first professional taste of the food and wine industry from the kitchen perspective. From there, Tim was mentored and inspired by Chef Erik Peacock at the Wellington Court Restaurant in St. Catharines. Eric taught him both the technical and personal aspects of the industry as well as sharing his strong knowledge of Ontario wines and unique wine and food pairings. Wanting to gain more international experience, Tim travelled throughout New Zealand for 14 months where he worked extensively in the kitchen and with livestock, leading him to the art of charcuterie. Tim’s next stop was the kitchens of Le Clos Jordanne, Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin Wines, where he is currently Estate Chef.
– Snails sautéed in garlic and icewine, fried veal croquette, sauce gribiche.
– Smoked Ontario mushroom salad seasoned with pine, local goat cheese and parsnip chips.
OLiV Restaurant at Strewn Winery
122 Queen St., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 905-401-1600
Robert Webster has been a part of the Niagara culinary scene for more than 20 years and has spearheaded the creation of numerous restaurants spanning from Niagara to Windsor. Robert apprenticed at the Niagara College Maid of the Mist Campus in 1995-96. He has a passion for creative excellence and delights in presenting unexpected gastronomic creations that tantalize the taste buds. He is currently head chef of OLiV, a leader in the production and sale of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, two valuable staple ingredients of any professional chef. His latest venture — a full service restaurant at Strewn Winery — will be his biggest and most rewarding challenge. His objective is to create unique and exciting food offerings centred on OLiV’s stable of products.
– Beef Carpaccio – Italian name of a typical Italian dish made with seasoned raw meat.
– Sweet potato gnocchi sautéed in fresh sage and better EVO oil with chipotle peppers, chorizo sausage and enoki mushrooms.
On the Twenty Restaurant
3836 Main S., Jordan, 905-562-3581 x320
Frank Romano is Executive Chef of Jordan’s fine dining establishment, the highly acclaimed On the Twenty Restaurant. Romano operates the Inn on the Twenty, Cave Springs food program, leading a team of chefs and cooks during breakfast, lunch and dinner service. A graduate of George Brown College’s well-known culinary management program, Romano began working in the hospitality industry at the age of 19. He spent six years working at Metropolitan group of hotels, including Senses, before joining the celebrated restaurant Colborne Lane as Chef de Cuisine in 2007. The talented chef began at Far Niente in 2009 as Chef de Cuisine, running all aspects of the 187 Bay Street operations. In 2011, he moved from Far Niente to operate a Jack Astor’s restaurant, and then moved to On the Twenty. Frank has always loved the Niagara region and all that it has to offer, and is thrilled to work hand-in-hand with a winery and inn with such high standards and class.
– Loaded Baked Potato soup – house cured and smoked willowgrove hill bacon, Yukon gold potato, Avonlea clothboard cheddar and chives.
– Pulled Pork Taco Bites – mini pulled port tacos, cream, habanero pepper salsa, and cilantro.
Peller Estates Winery Restaurant
290 John St. East, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 905-468-6505
Since the arrival of Jason Parsons at Peller Estates Winery Restaurant, it has become of the leading dining destination in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The restaurant has been awarded the CAA 4 Diamond rating, 3 stars in Toronto Life magazine, the Golden Plate Award from Le Clefs d’Or, as well as being recognized with Zagat’s highest rating for food. Jason brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to the Peller Estates Winery. Today, Jason works closely with Peller Estates’ winemaker Katie Dickieson, creating inspired cuisine that marries perfectly with the wines of Peller Estates. Jason is also a familiar television personality. For twelve years he has been a guest expert on the popular TV show CityLine, entertaining and informing viewers across Canada.
– Wild Boar civet sausage with braised leek, gold fingerlings, Sir Laurier cheese, black garlic gratin
– Sous Vide Wild Salmon with heirloom carrot, mustard seedlings, toasted rye, caraway crème fraiche
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery Restaurant
1366 York Rd., St. Davids, 905-262-8463 x29
Ross Midgley was born and raised in Prince Edward Island. He attended the Culinary Institute of Canada, and has positions in some of Ontario’s most renowned restaurants, including the Globe Restaurant, Tiara at Queen’s Landing, and four years as sous chef for Hillebrand Estates. In 2005 he was hired as Executive Chef to open Zees at The Shaw Club Hotel where he introduced an exciting spin on fine dining. Later, Ross chased his entrepreneurial spirit and opened The Kitchen House Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge as chef/owner with his wife in 2009. He spent two seasons at The Kitchen House before taking over as Executive Chef for Restaurant Oban Inn. In 2011, he was hired by Canadian food icon, Jamie Kennedy, to open Windows, continuing his love for Niagara’s seasonal elements in his menus. Ross returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake as Executive Chef for the last busy season at Stone Road Grille. He shares a common vision with Ravine, which is to create menus with locally sourced and organically inspired ingredients.
– Individual tourtière with sweet pepper ketchup
– Lobster and scallop sausage with Icewine soubise and basil syrup
Centre for wine and food experimentation Inc.
70 Montclair Ave., Toronto, 416-434-2232
The Centre for Wine and Food Experimentation Inc.
David Chrystian is the chef and founder of The Centre for Wine and Food Experimentation. The catering company began in 2005 after David travelled extensively through the wine-growing regions of California. Upon returning home to Niagara the general idea was to act as a “food specialist” — in the same fashion a sommelier brings passion and knowledge to a food menu, the centre would do the reverse, delivering perfectly matched food to the wines of Niagara. Over the last 10 years, in addition to countless private wine-focused dining events, David has helmed the kitchen brigade in Victor Restaurant in Hotel le Germain. While cooking in Victor, David participated in Season 2 of Top Chef Canada, finishing second. For the last six winters, he has been a fixture at Humber College’s guest chef program and sits on its apprenticeship advisory board. This summer, The Centre for Wine and Food Experimentation will head up a pilot project at the Chrystian family orchard, growing, harvesting and cooking the season’s bounty for a series of special-themed lunches and dinners.
– Vinemount bartlet pear and smoked comfort cream press with rye crumbs and pera Giulia mustarda and whey vinaigrette.
Vineland Estates Restaurant
3620 Moyer Rd., Vineland, 905-562-7088
Justin Downes grew up in the small town of Vineland. He dreamed of becoming a chef as a young child, watching his mother, a pastry chef, as she worked in fine dining kitchens in Niagara. He began his career at Vineland Estates Winery in the summer of 1999, starting as a kitchen steward, and the following year, he enrolled at Niagara College in the Chef’s Apprentice Program. Justin eventually was named Chef de Partie. In 2002, Mark Picone, the former executive chef at Vineland Estates Winery, gave Justin the opportunity to do a six-month stage in Colle Di Val D’Elsa, Italy, at Arnolfo Ristorante, a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant. Shortly after his return to Canada, Justin attained his Red Seal Certification, and was promoted to sous chef at the winery, becoming responsible for managing staff and sourcing local ingredients. In April 2011, Justin accepted the position of Executive Chef at Vineland Estates Winery. He will focus on strengthening his relationships with local farmers and purveyors.
– Rare Seared Tuna, Chilled Octopus Salad, Pickled Kumquat, Chili Lime Vinaigrette
– Cumbrae Beef Tongue Slider, Pretzel Bun, Fried Egg, Bacon & Horseradish Aioli
Woods Restaurant
45 Colborne St., Toronto, 647-832-0204
Carlos De Veyra, 26, is a chef in downtown Toronto. He is Executive Chef at the Canadian-themed Woods Restaurant, located in the St. Lawrence Market area, His focus is on simple food made with sustainable ingredients. Along with Woods, Carlos is also the Executive Chef and partner of Uncle Tony’s restaurant, also located in the St. Lawrence Market area, an Italian pizzeria focusing on handmade pizzas, fresh pastas and classic Italian comfort food.
– Roasted Muscovy duck breast with sourdough crouton, confit and cherry salad, béarnaise.
Criveller Cakes
4435 Portage Rd., Niagara Falls, 905-356-9441
Giovanni Del Priore & Leonardo Priore – Giovanni Del Priore left his home town of Avellino, Italy, with big dreams and a passion for natural foods and confections. In 1998, he and long-time friend Leonardo Priore acquired a well-known and established landmark called Criveller Cakes, an elegant European-style pastry and chocolate boutique. Both men were mentored by classically trained, master pastry chefs from Italy. Today, they are one of the most sought-after establishments for weddings and other festive occasions. Dedicated, driven and passionate, Giovanni believes that quality can never be compromised and the satisfaction of the customer is the No. 1 priority. He lives by the credo, “If a man loves the labour of his trace????, the gods have found him”.
– ‘Croque en Bouche’, Fresh Bignes filled with flavoured custards
– Assorted European tortes
– Icewine truffles from a variety of Niagara’s premier wineries
Italian Ice Cream
5458 Victoria Ave., Niagara Falls, 905-356-3866
Andrew Vergalito owns and operates the Italian Ice Cream Company in Niagara Falls, which was established in 1978 by his parents Joe and Anna. After his father’s passing in 1994 , Andrew took over making gelato and has created and customized new flavours for Niagara’s top chefs and their customers. Wines, cheese, herbs, fruits, milk and spices are all ingredients with which Andrew loves to work. It’s a passion of Andrew’s to produce gelato for people to enjoy, especially when it is a new exotic flavour they have never tried.
– Gelato Bar
For list of chefs of Cuvée and their descriptive menus, click the downloadable Cuvée 2015 Program brochure (6.9 MB).





Cuvée En Route

If, for one reason or another, people didn’t have the option to attend the Grand Tasting and taste those special wines, they still had a chance to do so if they opted for the “Cuvée En Route” event. This is a fittingly named passport event, as those participating wineries open their doors and pour the same wines featured at the Grand Tasting. The passport starts on Friday (day of Cuvée) and runs the whole weekend. Last year, I couldn’t fully focus on reviewing the wines during the Grand Tasting and so I spent Saturday going from winery to winery uninterruptedly sampling and reviewing the wines, that occasion Cuvée En Route is documented here.


Since staying in Niagara Falls, one has to see what beauty can severe cold turn the Falls into.


For list of featured wineries and wines click link for Cuvée En Route 2015 brochure (995 KB).
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Experts tasting

For 26 straight years, the organizers of Cuvée Grand Tasting have coordinated ‘Experts Tasting’ designed to educate audiences in new trends arising within Ontario viticulture, to contrast terroir and winemaking differences across the different sub-appellations within the tasted varietals, and to award prizes presented the night before. Held yet again at Pond Inlet multi-purpose space within the Brock University, the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) put together this year’s tasting, to which invitees, ranging from wine makers to wine critics, converged on an early Saturday morning – 10 am sharp!



As this was my first invitation, I made sure the night before that I could wake up fresh and alert by not letting the delicious wine served at the Grand Tasting or the Après Cuvée to get into my head. I eagerly arrived early (my trait), extended morning greetings, and nested myself next to a couple sitting by the last table furthest from the entrance. Two more people joined us and after introductions, I found myself sharing a very pleasant morning with Mary Comfort (owner of Comfort Kitchen) and her partner, and Kimberly Hundertmark (executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival who won this year’s Promoter-at-Large award) together with her husband Jeff Hundertmark (head winemaker at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery and Mike Weir Winery).
Four flights were to be tasted, beginning with Pinot Gris/Grigio followed by Sauvignon Blanc, mixed bag of varietals, and lastly Gamay Noir. As we went through the flight, it became apparent that some wines are quite distinctive from others – the ‘terroir’ (specifically flavors imparted by the yeast) and varietal signatures (ones that didn’t fit the pack). We were given 10 minutes to sample the 6 or 7 wines, one person was ‘chosen’ to represent each table and while standing, to answer questions and keep standing if giving the right answer. Most questions were multiple choice and within each flight questions were asked: ‘which wine is not a featured varietal?’ followed by ‘what varietal is it?’, ‘which is not a VQA wine?’ followed by ‘where is it from?’, ‘which is oaked?’, ‘which is oldest?’… …Third round done, one to go, and Rob Power (winemaker from Creekside Estate Winery who kept the winning score) came to us to notify us that we were one of the winning contenders – naturally I felt ecstatic, as many of my intuitions have proven to be correct, some going as far as naming the sub-appellation and calling the winery. I left feeling like I aced an exam and while writing it I still managed to learn a lot – reassurance that my hobby is on the right track. 🙂


Recommended wines
Due to incomplete review notes, I will highlight wines that stood out and are definitely worth trying. Enjoy.
Flight 1: “The beauty of the middle path” – Pinot Gris/Grigio
2013 Megalomaniac Savignin, Oliveira Vyd, Niagara Peninsula
RECOMMENDED Score 88-89 pts. $32.95
Megalomaniac, John Howard Cellars of Distinction
2013 Legends Estate Winery Pinot Gris, Terroir, Lizak Vyds, Niagara Peninsula
Score 88 pts. $17.55 Legends Estate Winery
2013 Pelee Island Pinot Grigio, Ontario
Score 88 pts. $13.95 LCBO 326413
Flight 2: “For whom the bell pepper tolls” – Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Creekside Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Iconoclast, Creek Shores
RECOMMENDED Score 89 pts. $17.95 Creekside Estate Winery
2013 Trius Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara Peninsula
RECOMMENDED Score 90 pts. $14.95 LCBO 221804
2013 Trius Sauvignon Blanc, Clean Slate, Wild Ferment, NOTL Vyds
RECOMMENDED Score 91-92 pts. $32.00 Trius Winery
Flight 3: “Weirdos, misfits and uprooted things” – MIX
2012 Creekside Viognier Reserve, St. David’s Bench, Queenston Road Vineyard
RECOMMENDED Score 90 pts. $29.95 Creekside Estate Winery
2010 Rosewood Estates Sémillon, Beamsville Bench
Score 89-90 pts. sold out Rosewood Estates
2013 Malivoire Gamay Noir, Small Lot, Niagara Esc
Score 88 pts. $19.95 Malivoire Wine Co.
Flight 4: “Hip hip Gamay! Hip hip Gamay!” – Gamay Noir
2013 Keint-He Gamay Noir, Voyageur, Beamsville Bench
Score 89 pts. $25.00 Keint-He Winery and Vineyards
2013 Pascal Aufranc Vignes de 1939 Chénas
RECOMMENDED Score 88-89 pts. $15.75 Vintages 329987
2012 Malivoire Gamay Noir, Courtney, Beamsville Bench
RECOMMENDED Score 90+ pts. $25.95 Malivoire Wine Co.


For list of wines tasted in the four flights click the 2015 Experts Tasting – Flights brochure (349 KB).




My gratitude to Barbara Tatarnic – Manager of Continuing Education and Outreach at CCOVI,
Kaitlyn Little – University Communications
for the invitation and enabling me to do what I do.
Proceeds from the Cuvée 2015 wine weekend fund student scholarships and support research needs that are identified by the Ontario grape and wine industry.


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Please link here to Cuvée 2014 or for other EVENTS in Toronto or the wine country.


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