Cheers to Chardonnay; Celebrating A Day In Your Honour

With 400,000 acres of this vinifera varietal planted around the globe there’s a world of Chardonnay to choose from.  For a time consumers shied away from this once popular wine because many felt it was being over-oaked and people’s palates were craving something a little more crisp and cool.

Ontario Chardonnay_2But over the last few years Chardonnay has made a big comeback especially those from cooler climates. As Ontario’s (and the world’s) most popular grape from unoaked to Chablis style there’s a wide range of styles to suit everyone’s taste.

It’s so popular again, that today, winemakers, cellar masters, sommeliers, and wine lovers around the world will celebrate International Chardonnay Day.  There are lots of ways to join in the celebration online Twitter is @coolchardonnay with hashtags #chardday and #14c2013. Facebook is /CoolChardonnayCelebration, and Pinterest is pinterest.com/i4c.  Many wineries will have special offerings today but if you can’t make it out to one, just chill a bottle, crack it open and toast this new trend that everyone seems to be enjoying and join in the online party.

Ontario ChardonnayHere in Ontario, today marks the kickoff to the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration taking place July 19-21 in Niagara.  Sixty-two winemakers from 11 countries will offer up a taste of the world’s best chardonnay to wine enthusiasts at events ranging from intimate vineyard lunches to the main event “The Cool Chardonnay Wine Tour”.

If you’re looking for information on Chardonnay Day activities and the i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) you’ll find it here www.coolchardonnay.org

How will you celebrate today?

 

 

Progressive Dinner; Fun With Food and Wine

When you live in the burbs and downtown is an eighty dollar cab ride away, going out with friends to a nice restaurant can get expensive.  So how do you enjoy a delicious meal,  good wine, the company of great friends without the big bill?

0Well, a few years ago I approached three couples in my neighbourhood that we regularly hang out with and suggested we form a dinner club to get us through the long boring winter and they loved the idea.  Once a month we hold a progressive dinner, traditionally done by starting at one person’s house for appetizers, moving to the next for the main meal and again to another house for dessert.  This seemed like way too much work so I changed the rules.

0-1Each month one couple holds the dinner at their house and they’re in charge of the main meal while the others provide the appetizer, soup or salad and then dessert. We rotate the houses and who makes what, ensuring the same person doesn’t get stuck making the same thing each time.  Everyone gets dressed up (no jeans allowed) so it feels like a special evening and the dinners are themed on international cuisine, or even an event like the Oscars.  Each course is paired with a wine, beer or cocktail that suits the dish or at least we give it the good old college try.

One members of the group is a true foodie (I think his TV is stuck on the Food Network) and this time around he thought we should switch it up so he came up with a bunch of cooking challenges and then picked four out of a hat.  Here’s what we wound up with:

  1. Food made with fire
  2. Breakfast for Dinner
  3. Pizza as a comfort food
  4. Food based on a colour

The categories were assigned and you could get as creative as you wanted and here’s what we ended up with:

  1. Chicken skewers and roasted veggies on the grill paired with Cave Spring Riesling from Ontario
  2. Devilled eggs with smoked salmon & capers along with white and sweet potato Rosti – a Swiss hash brown paired with Italian Proseco
  3. Wings with Blue Cheese dip on a pizza -this was amazing and the hit of the night (no wine – the boys said it had to be beer) see recipe below
  4. RED velvet cake pair with Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine

There was lots of good wine, and some not so good (Girl’s Night Out is not really a wine – more of a cooler if you must know) lots of laughs and best of all we could all just walk home

Buffalo Wing Style Chicken Pizza
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cooked and cubed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (2 ounce) buffalo wing sauce
1 (8 ounce) bottle blue cheese salad dressing (Renee’s is great for this)
1 (16 inch) prepared pizza crust
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Cook up the 2 chicken breasts in a pan then cube
In a medium bowl combine the cubed chicken, melted butter and wing sauce. Mix well.
Spread half the bottle of salad dressing over crust, then top with chicken mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let set a few minutes before slicing, and serve.

 

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!