Category Archives: Ontario Wines

Weekend Wine Picks

This week’s wine picks celebrates an Ontario red, white and a honey of an Italian, all under $20.

garganegaCantine Riondo Vinea Garganega 2011,  This weekend’s wine finds come from  the LCBO’s Tasting Room at Queen’s Quay – where I am quickly becoming a regular – all they need is a cosy chair and WIFI . I started with an Italian white called Garganega from the Veneto region. It is light and crisp, aromatic with honey, peach and grapefruit notes. It medium-bodied with good balance. At $13.95, it is a excellent value wine.

 

 

rockawayRockaway Vineyards Small Lot Reserve Red Assemblage 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula  This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Savignon and Merlot got a strong 89 from Sara d’Amato from WineAlign.com. It is earthy, spicy with dark fruit  and the blend also has a good strong finish. Currently featured in the Vintages section and well priced at $16.95

 

 

malivoireMalivoire Riesling 2011, VQA Ontario

Vive le Riesling. I have vowed to drink more of this grape that inspires awe among many wine professionals, and nose wrinkling by  the uninitiated. I have always found Rieslings to be too sweet. But I have been told I am simply drinking the wrong ones. Well, this yet-to-become a Malivoire Riesling fan picked a good one. This was dry, aromatic, with the sweetness  balanced by acidity. At $15.95,  I would happily buy the Vintages release again.

Let us know if you have a favourite wine pick of your own.

Cheers

 

Ontario Wines: So Many More To Discover

I know Lis and I often go on about how much we love big bold reds from Italy but we also like to promote home-grown grapes and the wines they produce.  In truth there are so many wineries in the Niagara region I’m not sure how long it will take us to visit them all but we’re going to give it our best.

We’ve certainly been to the bigger ones, Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Colaneri Estate Winery, Chateau des Charmes, Stratus Vineyards, and several others located near the main strip but there’s so many more throughout the Niagara region and they’re yours to discover.

0One of my colleagues found out about our blog and said his wife worked for a winery called Calamus Estate Winery. Telling him I’d never heard of it he kindly brought me a selection of their wines to taste.   I started with the whites because even though reds are my passion, every wine deserves a chance…plus a nice light white is always great for summer sipping.

0-3The whites included a 2011 Pinot Gris, a 2011 Riesling and a 2010 Gewürztraminer.  Of the three my favourite was the Riesling, which was a light straw colour, tasted clean and crisp with a hint of peach and because of it’s acidity it went wonderfully with the cheese fondue we were having for dinner.

0-2The reds included a 2010 Cabernet Franc a 2008 Calamus Red.  Of the two I definitely gravitated towards the Calamus Red, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Ruby red in colour is smelled of cherry, blackberry and vanilla and tasted delicious.  This one is definitely worth a trip down to the winery but you can also order online.

calamus_90_PandD_v2

Founded by Derek Saunders and his wife Pat Latin they first purchased 14 acres near Beamsville, Ontario and planted a 10 acre vineyard in 2000.  When the land was being cleared for planting fragments of rock from the original First Nation inhabitants were found and played a role in its naming as CALAMUS is Latin for the word arrow.  In 2001 they purchased a second property next to Ball’s Falls Conservation area and this is now home to the Calamus Estate Winery.

The old barn that now houses the tasting room is also home to a very cool feature, a Chronos Observatory.

BarnwLogoOften mistaken for a farm silo the observatory actually includes a working deep space telescope.  Located on the Niagara bench it’s just a short distance from the town of Jordan and this is definitely one of the areas we would like to explore more. It would make for an amazing venue in the evening, gazing at the stars while sipping the wines.

Is there a hidden treasure we should know about?  Send us a comment and we’ll add it to the post.

 

Celebrity Winemakers: Star Studded Labels

The trend of celebrities owning wineries or lending their name to a wine isn’t new but it seems more and more are investing time and money into the vine.  After reading that Hollywood’s power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be releasing a new wine called Miraval from their French Chateau next month I was curious about who else with a famous moniker was putting their face or name on a label.

When it comes to Canadian celebrities there’s a couple that have been around for a while along with some newer additions. There’s golfer Mike Weir who in the spring of 2005 launched Mike Weir Estate Winery, actor Dan Aykroyd who in partnership with Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits launched his wine in 2007, and of course the great one; hockey legend Wayne Gretzky whose wines you’ll find both at the LCBO and online. The latest addition of famous Canadians getting into the wine business is of course Mr. Wonderful, billionaire investment guru Kevin O’Leary.  But whether or not they’re actually involved in the wine making process or just broadening their brand they’re definitely helping to bring recognition to Ontario wines around the world.

Some celebrities actually come from families with a long history of winemaking like director Francis Ford Coppola whose grandfather Agostino Coppola, used to make wine in the basement of his New York apartment building.  Now, the man behind the famous Godfather trilogy is also directing things behind the scenes at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Steve & Francis Ford CoppolaLis and her husband Steve had a chance to visit the winery and she says driving through the gates is like entering the Disneyland of Sonoma.  Wine lovers, film geeks and and day trippers languish on lounge chairs surrounding the pool. Welcome to Casa Coppola where you can rent a Cabana and pool privileges for the day. You can pop inside for a taste of vintage Francis, either at the bar or the museum upstairs. “We took home a couple of  bottles from the Director’s Cut line. Oh, did I mention there was a shop with Mama Coppola’s spices, Francis signature panama hats and other memorabilia?  My husband also got the t-shirt which thankfully he wasn’t wearing when he met his idol at Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco. That was last May. He is still talking about it.”

Then there’s Andrea Bocelli whose family has been making wines for over 130 years, long before the singer became famous for his music.  Now he and his winemaker brother Alberto together run Bocelli Family Wines located in Lajatico, Tuscany, in the province of Pisa.

sam-with-tp-newOthers are wine enthusiasts who start small and somehow their passion becomes more than a hobby.  Such is the case with actor Sam Neill probably best known for his role in Jurassic Park but who may now be even better known for his famously splendid wines.  But combining his two loves he often stars in what he calls microdoodles, short vignettes about winemaking and his beloved winery Two Paddocks in New Zealand.  I had the pleasure of meeting him some years back and have to say his Pinot Noir was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

There’s certainly quite a list of celebrity winemakers but here’s a list that might surprise you:

acdc-wineAC/DC– Turn up the tunes because now you can blast “Highway To Hell” while sipping the Australian rockers Cabernet Sauvignon by the same name. Their other musically inspired wines, include ‘Back in Black’ Shiraz, ‘Thunderstruck’ Chardonnay and ‘Hells Bells’ Sauvignon Blanc.  Produced by Australia’s Warburn Estates it’s recently become available in the US but is not available yet in Canada.

318025_426591957411188_1286107301_nDrew Barrymore – inspired to create a wine in honour of her family.  The multiply award-winning actress is more than just a pretty face and her Pinot Grigio from Italy’s Veneto region is also a winner getting a Gold Medal at the 2012 Sunset International Wine Competition. Her website says she’s a fan of crisp fruity white wines and created this Pinot to reflect her style and personality.  If you were trying to match people to their wine personality I think that’s totally how I would see her.

Emilio Estevez – who together with is wife tend the vines at Casa Dumetz in Los Alamos, California 

Fergie – Not the Duchess but of The Black Eyed Peas who owns a wine label called Ferguson Crest which she started in 2006.  Fergie’s dad is the viticulturist on the 6 acre estate winery and with the help of winemaker Joey Tensley they’ve even created a 2011 vintage called “Fergalicious”.

Sting – the rocker and his wife, Trudie Styler founded Il Palagio more than a decade ago. A beautiful Tuscan villa where they spend every summer they have 3 wines available, “Sister Moon”, “When We Dance” and the one pictured here, “Casino Delle Vie”.  Named after a property on the estate and when translated it means “little house by the roads”.

There’s certainly many more out there and I’m sure the trend will continue. And let’s face it, if I had the resources that Brad and Angelina had I’d own my own French Chateau as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Sweet It Is

I’m not much of an Icewine lover but for some reason I always seem to wind up with a bunch in my cellar (I’ll bet they were re-gifted to me because the other people didn’t want them either).  But since its Icewine season and Canada is known for making some of the best in the world I figured I’d give it another try. While we’re not the only Icewine-producing country in the world, thanks to our cold Canadian winters we’re pretty much guaranteed to produce a big batch annually.

This premium product is highly regulated in Canada by the  Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario and the Vintners Quality Alliance BC with sugar levels, temperature, grape varietal and production all needing to meet strict standards.  Producers in those regions may not use the term “Icewine” on their label unless it’s VQA certified or risk a hefty fine.  This level of quality control also means a hefty price tag ranging anywhere from forty to a few hundred dollars.

0Having invited friends over for an intense night of gaming (no not video but old school board games) I grabbed one of those tall thin bottles and stuck it in the fridge. The one I chose had a beautiful label and I soon realised it wasn’t Icewine at all but a Sauvignon Blanc made in the Recioto style of sweet Italian wines called Profondo Fumoso Bianco from Colaneri Estate Winery.

Different from Icewine it’s sometimes referred to as a straw or raisin wine where the grapes have been dried to concentrate their juice.  The result is similar to the Icewine process but also works in warmer climates.

As I mentioned I’m not really a lover of sweet wines so I figured I’d serve it over fruit and ice cream to add a little zing. Well everyone enjoyed it so much we quickly pulled out some glasses and finished off the bottle.  Not available at the LCBO I remembered I had received this bottle as a gift from the lovely Betty Colaneri. So if you’d like to try some you’ll have to pay Betty a visit down in Niagara at the Colaneri Estate Winery and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Along with a range of lovely wines all sporting artisan labels, Betty and the staff are gracious hosts that make the trip well worth while. At $29.95 it’s well below the cost of a traditional Icewine and definitely delicious.

After enjoying this wine I may have to re-evaluate my opinion of ice/sweet wines and enjoy them more often.  Also since Valentine’s day is quickly approaching the one thing I always did enjoy using Icewine for was to inject strawberries and then dip them in chocolate – basically can’t go wrong there and your hopefully your Valentine will reward you with a sweet kiss of thanks.

Love it or leave it – how do you feel about Icewine?

 

 

 

 

 

Best Bubbly For Your Buck

Since we don’t profess to be experts just wine enthusiasts, sometimes when it comes to recommendations we look for a little help from our friends.  And because our main love is big bold reds we figured if we wanted to add some cheer to your New Year we’d better get some advice.

 

Ange-about-usThis summer we met Ange Aiello the founder of iYellow Wine Club, a social wine club based in Toronto with monthly wine events, wine tours and newsletters.  With over 4000 members, they count on Ange to know her stuff and she definitely does, especially when it comes to local. And we say what better way to boost the economy than by buying local.

Ange is fun, charming and bubbly so who better to suggest the perfect bottle to pop on New Year’s Eve.  From the budget basics to the luxurious here’s her list:

Affordable and fun bubbly
1- Mionetto Prosecco – Italian and delicious $11.95
2- Moscato Spumante – sweeter and sparkly $12.95
3 – Wolf Blass – traditional method, dryer and a great with lots of appetizers $17.95
4- Trapiche Sparkling Brut – $11.95

Local Bubbly
1- Peller Estates Ice Cuvee Rose $32.95 – Sparkling wine made like champagne with cabernet Franc Icewine
2 – Chateau Des Charmes Brut $23.95 – dry and delicious
3 – Jackson Triggs Entourage Brut – perfect for the holidays
3 – Casa Dea Brut – $18.95 – A great local bubble from Prince Edward County
4 – Henry of Pelham Rose Catherine – declious and perfect and pink!
5 – Sparkling Icewine – $79.95 – a delight to share and spoil with, start or end a meal with!

Luxurious Bubbly – Champagne (From France and over $40.00)
1- Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne $67.85
2- Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne $59.95
3- Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Champagne $44.55

Ange also shared her suggestions on Canada AM recently and if you want to watch the video here’s the link http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=832987&playlistId=1.1090712&binId=1.815911

She’s also got a couple of upcoming ice wine tours to Niagara in January that should be a blast so check out the wine club if you’re interested in tagging along.

imagesEven though sparkling wines and champagne are what we know best the one thing we do know is they go with everything. So whether you’re just popping the cork to cheer in the New Year or pairing it up with dinner nothing makes you smile like tiny bubbles tickling your taste buds.

So raise a glass and celebrate the New Year with us as we will be thinking of all of you.  May  2013 be an outstanding year not just for the vintages you choose to drink but also for you, your family and all your friends.

Cheers!

 

 

 

A Brand New Beau

For over a hundred years it’s happened on the third Thursday in November.  People anxiously await the arrival of the year’s releases of Beaujolais Nouveau.  I’m not sure if the rush to be first in line is as big a deal as it used to be but it’s definitely still a highly anticipated event circled on many a wine lovers calendar.

So why the third Thursday in November you ask?  Well, this date is defined by French law where the phenomenon began when local winemakers produced a quick maturing wine to celebrate the completion of the harvest with their workers.  Called  Beaujolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Primeur, it was fresh and fruity and easy to drink. As word of the tradition spread more and more people joined the celebration in something that today has become an international event.

This is not a wine that will ever be considered a classic like a well aged Bordeaux, in fact it’s not meant to be kept but drank immediately.  So what’s all the hoopla about?  Made from the Gamay grape, served chilled it’s easy drinking (not something you usually associate with a red wine) so think cheap and cheerful neighbourhood get together or just a reason to throw a party at this time of year.  But even if you’re just planning to have a glass all by yourself this weekend, a big part of the fun is knowing you’ll be linked to millions of other people around the world all doing the same thing.

This year in Ontario the LCBO has 10 for sale with 2 actually coming from Ontario and I hear tell the one from Chateau des Charmes is quite good.  Here’s what they have to offer:

Ontario 
The Fool Reif Estate Gamay Nouveau VQA, 750 mL, $9.95
Chateau des Charmes Generation Seven Nouveau VQA, 750 mL, $11.95

France
Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau, 750 mL, $13.95
Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot, 750 mL, $9.95
Jeanjean Syrah Primeur, 750 mL, $9.95
Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau, 750 mL, $8.95

Italy
Negrar Novello Del Veneto, 750 mL, $9.95
Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti, 750 mL, $8.95

In VINTAGES fine wine and premium spirits sections at select LCBO stores:

France
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Joseph Drouhin), 750 mL, $14.95
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (G. Duboeuf), 750 mL, $14.95

I picked up my brand new Beau today and took him home for dinner (went for the Chateau des Charmes).  But remember don’t wait too long, if you don’t take one home someone else will because these guys are not waiting around.

 

Let us know if you’ve try any, which ones you like or share why you’re not a fan at all.

 

Weekend Wine Picks

This weekend’s picks are all about the marriage of good taste and good value. We had a little get together for 50 last week to mark a special birthday at work and I offered to pick up the wine. We didn’t have much of a budget, so creativity was required. Considering we are barrelling towards party season, I thought I would share a few of the picks for this weekend or for your next party.

A Sparkling that Sparkles

Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve 2008 is a  bubbly that is worth a celebration. The crisp clean sparkling fine bubbles are  produced in the  Methode Classique which you only care about because it makes a sparkling so delicious you could easily compare it with a much more costly champagne. The taste is luxurious but at $22.95 a bottle, the price is not.

 

 

Some Red Crowd Pleasers

Montes Pinot Noir Limited Selection 2010 Casablanca Valley of Aconcagua, Chile at 14% alcohol was my personal favourite. Deep ruby colour, tastes of red berries – strawberry, raspberry, along with plums and herbs – I found it simply delicious and kept heading back for more. Well worth the $14.95 price.

 Rocca delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti DOCG 2009

Medium-bodied with dark berries  and spice well balanced and perfect for the pasta that was on the menu. 12% alcohol. Rocca delle Macie is one of my favoruite producers because on their website they pair wine and song – this one apparently goes perfectly with Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone.  A tasty temptation at $13.95

Winning Whites

Inniskillin Unoaked Chardonnay 2009

Inniskillin Unoaked Chardonnay  VQA Niagara Peninsula 2009  This wine came highly recommended – zippy, refreshing with citrus, green apple and melon hints. At only $10.95, it was a top choice of white among the party goers. Good thing I cleaned out the shelf. But clearly others had the same idea, when I returned there was none left. The good news – you can order the 2010 Core Series Unoaked Chardonnay online at www.Greatestatesnioagara.com .

 

 

Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough – From the land of the crisp whites that I have spent many a Saturday afternoon with – this New Zealand wine is herbal and grassy with flavours of gooseberries. Alcohol level is 13% and a sweet price at $14.95.

 

Those are my picks for the weekend. If you have tried a good valued party wine, please share.

Weather and Wine

As we head into the colder weather most of us are switching from those cool refreshing summer whites to full-bodied reds.  When it’s cold outside we naturally want to hibernate by the fireside with a lovely glass of Cab or Chianti.

But just as the weather changes something in us, so does it affect each year’s vintage. As drought, frost and hail have ravaged Europe’s wine grape harvest, some vintners say this year will be the smallest in half a century.

Some wine makers like Cherie Spriggs of southern England’s Nyetimber Winery have gone so far as to forego the 2012 harvest.

A smaller harvest will definitely be costly to vintners and the approximately 2.5 million European families that make a living off the wine industry.  But just because the harvest is small doesn’t mean the vintage will be bad.  The up side to the bad weather creating a smaller harvest may mean the quality of the wine is better because the flavours are much more concentrated.

But while Europe is dealing with downsizing this year’s production other growers around the world are reporting very good seasons.  Ontario in particular harvested early and according to Grape Growers CEO Debbie Zimmerman, red grapes will be especially good this year, thanks to sweltering conditions promising 2012 will be a very good vintage indeed.

So if you aren’t already do so it’s time to support local. If you haven’t tried an Ontario wine lately check out the VQA section at your local LCBO and give something new a try or head down to Niagara to enjoy a winery tour and pick up something you might only find there.

 

One of my favourites lately was the 2010 Insieme appassimento style red from the Colaneri Winery. In this wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot have come “together” to create the perfect sipping fireside wine.  It has a beautiful combination of dried figs, cherry and leather on the nose and goes beautifully with everything chocolate (really – wine and chocolate, could there be a better pairing?). Sadly I just checked and saw this one was sold out but I’ve tried serveral wines from Colaneri and have to say you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a full bodied red.

What’s your favourite cold weather wine?

 

 

Loving Local

Tundra Lobby Bar

Recently I had a chance to visit the newly renovated Tundra Restaurant and lobby bar in Toronto’s Hilton Hotel.  Quintessentially Canadian from decor to cuisine the restaurant has won several awards in the past.  The textures used to create this new space are visually pleasing, warm and inviting, making both hotel guests and restaurant patrons feel like they’re enjoying a true Canadiana experience with a modern twist.

Chef Kevin Prendergast

Keeping it local on many levels Executive Chef Kevin Prendergast changes the menu seasonally and even has his own herb garden at the hotel.  From salmon to lamb chops, Cornish hen to grilled octopus the menu has something for everyone. I got a chance to sample several things off the fall menu including the seared duck breast which was my favourite.  One thing I noticed on the menu that I really liked was the fact that each dish came with a wine recommendation.

Since so many people get intimidated by trying to select a wine to pair with their meal and this takes away the stress and makes everyone feel like a sommelier.

Seared Duck Breast

Along with international wines they also carry a good selection of Ontario VQA wines and even have a house red and white provided by a Niagara vineyard which they serve at special functions.  So many people are realising its important to support our local growers and its nice to see that along with individuals restaurants are stepping up to the plate.

So whether you’re planning on staying the night or just looking for a place to enjoy dinner with friends, check in and check out the menu.

Wednesday Wine Picks from the WOW

Light and refreshing, with some lovely warm weather still in store for us a nice a chilled Rosé matches with almost any dish. Here’s one I think you might all enjoy.

Triomphe a Triumph

Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rose 2011 gets a vigorous nod this week. I bought a couple of bottles when I took the @iyellow wine tour last month and stopped at Southbrook, a  gorgeous winery in the Niagara region. Neither my husband or I are big Rosé drinkers, but I must admit, this one was really good. Not too sweet, red berry flavours made it  a great choice for a glass with lunch Ono this lovely weekend.

$19.95 Vintages LCBO #279117
But of course just at we head into fall, the weather is often unsettled.  Lots of rain and cooler temps, perfect for curling up with a good book and a glass of Shiraz.
A Shiraz with Legs

Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz

This medium-bodied red from Devil’s Lair Winery in Western Australia is cherry and spine and everything nice. I have had their their Shiraz, Merlot, Cab before and it one a blind tasting among friends even up against some much pricier options. Definitely worth a try especially at is price.
 $15.95 LCBO #281345