Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Twenty Valley Visit

From September 21st - 23rd, Shawn and I hit the road to visit the Twenty Valley. We've been to Niagara-on-the-Lake many times, but this was our first trip to Jordan, Beamsville, Lincoln and the many small towns that make up the Twenty Valley. We came for the wine, but we fell in love with the beauty of this area and we look forward to our next visit.

This post will be an overview of what we did and in the weeks to follow I'll write more detailed posts on the wineries we did in-depth visits with (Creekside, Vineland Estates, Di Profio and Chateau des Charmes). I look forward to hearing everyone's feedback and hopefully some of you will find this helpful for planning your own visits.


13th Street Winery - We were early for our appointment at Creekside, so we stopped at 13th Street Winery. They had a fantastic Artisan Market taking place and we did some shopping as well as tasting. I bought an adorable grape charm from Chapel Street Designs and then the lovely Eva took us through a tasting of 13th Street Winery's sparkling, Riesling and Rosé - all of which were quite good. It was our first stop, but it was also our first wine purchase.

Creekside Estate Winery - This is one that I'll do an in-depth review on, as Yvonne and Matt were kind enough to give us a full tour and tasting experience. This is a such a fun winery and they make exceptionally good wines. I'd love to come back on a weekend and spend some time enjoying a glass of wine on their lovely patio.

The Orchard Croft - Through Twitter, I learned about Among the Vines B&B (read Uncork Ontario's review here) and The Black Walnut (read Baguette and Butterscotch's review here), but they were both booked when I called in July. The Orchard Croft was suggested by The Black Walnut and they did not disappoint. I'm planning a more in-depth post on this charming Bed and Breakfast, but suffice to say that Ildiko has created a relaxing and positive space that was the perfect place for us to spend our evenings.

Vineland Estates - I was so thrilled to finally visit Vineland Estates and to meet Brian Schmidt, who has been a huge support to my wine writing. We had a wonderful tour and tasting experience, which I'll chronicle in a later post, and I fell madly in love with the Elevation Riesling (I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this wine). We had dinner at Vineland and it was an incredible meal - four courses and we finished every bite.


Di Profio - This is the new kid on the block in Jordan, but you can't tell that by tasting their wines. We were thrilled to visit with this lovely family who just opened their new wine shop and tasting room, The Zinc, a few months ago. Look for a detailed profile of our full tour and tasting soon.

The Irish Tea Room - We popped into Niagara-on-the-Lake so that I could visit Greaves and get some raisins at Reif Estate Winery (I really, really love those raisins), so we stopped at The Irish Tea Room for a quick bite to eat. They make great quiche here and the store out front is one of Shawn's favourite places in town - he always finds new Guiness stuff to covet.

Chateau des Charmes - It was so fabulous to finally meet Michelle Bosc, who has been a wonderful support and a great resource. We took the public tour here which was a much different experience than our other winery visits. Saturday afternoons during harvest are busy ones at this winery and we joined a group of 30+ to check out this amazing operation. I'll do a more in-depth profile soon.

Jordan House Tavern - We ran into the amazing Cellar Sisters at Di Profio and they suggested we try Jordan Tavern for dinner. What a great surprise! This is a pretty basic pub, but the staff are fantastic and the food was so good. I may have to get Shawn to take me back even sooner so that I can have their grown up mac and cheese again. Delicious.


Kacaba - We hadn't planned to visit Kacaba on this trip, but our B&B owner highly recommended them and had a tasting deal for us (free wineglasses - such a great idea), so we dropped in. The staff were fantastic and very attentive. They also let us take a quick look inside the open concept tanks and explained a lot about the unique process they use here. They are known for their reds, but I tried some whites and the rosé and was pleasantly surprised. We'll definitely be back to do a full tour and tasting in the future.

Good Earth - I loved the website and had heard good things on Twitter, so we made a quick stop here. It's a beautiful property and they have a restaurant and cooking school on site. Next trip we will definitely plan to eat here and I hope to do a full tour as well. I did a quick tasting and really enjoyed their wines - especially the medium dry Riesling. They also have homemade marshmallows - I'm so excited to open those.

Rosewood Estate Winery - This is a winery that specializes in mead and honey wine and they also make and sell honey on site. We didn't have time to do a tour or tasting here, but I had to pick up some of their honey and a bottle of honey wine to try later. It's an absolutely gorgeous property and I look forward to visiting in the future to get the full experience.

There are so many wineries to visit in this area that we couldn't even get to half of them, but that just means we'll have to plan another trip soon!

* Shawn was the designated driver on this trip, so I made sure he had lots of beer waiting at the end of our visits to make up for it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wine Wednesday Fail

So this week has been a particularly busy one and I haven't had an opportunity to write a Wine Wednesday post. Heck, I haven't even had the opportunity to try a new wine. This weekend I went with one of the great wines I've recently discovered: Sandbanks Rosé. It's pretty much sold out across Ontario, but if you do stumble across a bottle I highly recommend it.

One of the reasons I've been so busy is very much Wine Wednesday related, however. I'm planning a trip to the Niagara area to explore some of my favourite wineries. I'll be live-Tweeting the experience and then blogging about at least four of the wineries we've arranged to visit. Hopefully you'll enjoy those posts and forgive me for missing out on today's review opportunity.

Until next week - happy sipping!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Karlo Estate's 2010 Chardonnay CHOA

I've blogged about Karlo Estates a few times - I'm a huge fan of their wines and I also love how much they appreciate those who love their wine. Visiting their winery was such a fun experience and I have fallen hard for their port-style wine. And, of course, there's CHOA.

I first tried CHOA during my June visit to Prince Edward County. I was firmly entrenched in the idea that I don't like Chardonnay at that time - something I've since learned is just not the case. I love Chardonnay - as long as it's good Chardonnay.  And CHOA is most certainly good. It's also completely unlike any Chardonnay I've ever tried.

One of the reasons it's so unique is that it's fermented and aged in CHOA barrels for three months. What's a CHOA barrel, you ask? According to the Karlo Estates website, "CHOA are slow toast barrels made from mixed woods of Cherry, Hickory, Oak and Ash, all grown in Prince Edward County." It's these interesting barrels that help to account for the very special taste of this wine.

Both fruity and slightly nutty, CHOA is an unfiltered wine so it has a smoky look that is as unexpected as its flavour. It's not available at the LCBO, but you can purchase it through the Karlo Estates website. However, if you have the opportunity I'd highly recommend planning a visit to discover their other wines and enjoy one of the most beautiful and welcoming places in Prince Edward County.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fabulous 5K

So on Saturday night I did it - I ran my first organized 5K race. My cousin and I did the Energizer Night Race, which was a really good race for a newbie. The vibe was super fun and running at night meant that there was no crazy heat or humidity to deal with.

I was really worried about my knee and about, well, running for 5K. I'd done it on the treadmill, but this was a whole different ballgame. And it wasn't easy. It was, in fact, pretty insane. I didn't end up running the whole thing - we did intervals, which helped a lot. I ran for the first 2K and then walked much of the third. This worked well, as that portion of the trail was very wet and muddy (it rained pretty much all day, then stopped in time for the run, thankfully). We ran on and off for the next 2K - my knee and my shoulder were both aching a bit, so I decided not to push too hard, but I was proud that I ran more than I walked.

In the end I finished in 40 minutes. Not what I'd hoped for, but not terrible for a first time. Especially a first time that was in the dark and involved dodging mud and puddles. Still, I loved it. Weirdly. I hated training, but there was something about actually running in a race that struck me as kind of awesome in the end. I'm glad I took the chance and tried something new.

And, as it happens, I'm doing it again. If you recall, I signed up for two 5Ks at the same time - so I have another already scheduled for October. I'm actually kind of excited, despite feeling a little nervous about having to keep up my training and how my knee will hold up. But, I'm feeling better about this now and I'm glad I didn't give up. Who knows, maybe they'll make a runner of me yet.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Place of Yes

It's September, which for me means the beginning of a new year. This is the season where I always feel like it's time for a bit of a mental and physical tune-up - so the perfect occasion to make some resolutions.

For me, the biggest change is a renewed decision to say yes more often. In many ways, this feels counter-intuitive, since I have always been a person who had a hard time saying no. It's taken me many years to get to a place where I can look at a situation, assess whether it is a healthy one and decide to say no. I may not always get it right, but at least I don't always get it wrong anymore.

But when you learn to say no, you often start to do it a bit automatically. I am avoiding negative situations, but I worry that I am also avoiding positive ones too. It is easier to say no to everything, once you get the hang of it. But if I always say no, then I lose out on experiences that might end up being really great.

So how do I  get to a place of yes? Well, I have to start assessing things differently. There are, for example, a large number of things I have always thought I'd like to do, but I haven't gotten around to them. Life is busy, work is stressful and when I finish all that I need to do in a day I often get a little lazy about things I might like to do. By saying yes to some of them, I might end up finding that they don't bring a new layer of exhaustion but a renewed sense of spirit.

I also turn down a number of invitations. Not because I don't like the people issuing them, but because I am 'too busy'. This is often true - I have other plans or I simply don't feel like adding more to an already tall pile of things I need to do. But when I do say yes I end up feeling better about life. I meet new people, I spend time with those I adore, I learn about new things and I feel renewed. Have you ever notice that when you least want to go to a party or event, it's often the one you have the most fun at? I have.

So this September I am going to say yes more. I am hoping that it will be a fun experiment and an opportunity to try some new things. I will still be saying no to anything that strikes me as a negative or emotionally-draining experience, but I'm hoping that more yeses will mean more positives. I look forward to seeing where this takes me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

House Wine Co. '11 Vidal Moscato

I discovered Moscato on a boat. I was on a holistic medicine cruise with my lovely friend Christine and she offered to buy me a glass of wine. I hadn't tried Moscato before, so I decided to take a chance. It was fantastic. Sweet, bursting with fruit flavours and just crisp enough not to be cloying. What better wine for a cruise around the city?

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask the bartender which Moscato he was serving, so I decided to hit the LCBO in search of one I'd like as much. My first choice, the Pelee Island Moscato was good, but not quite what I'd remembered. My second, Jacob's Creek Moscato, was excellent (and likely what I'd had on the boat), but I try to drink Ontario wine whenever possible so I kept looking for a VQA option that fit the bill. I found one with House Wine Co.'s '11 Vidal Moscato.

From the Speck Bros. (the brothers behind Henry of Pelham), House Wine Co.'s premise is wine made simple. And this is - it's simply delicious. It's quite sweet (off-dry), so probably not for everyone, but I found it to be a great option for hot summer evenings. This is a fun, fruity sipper and well worth checking out.

Interesting fact - when researching Moscato I discovered that it's recently become increasingly popular with the hip hop community - earning a name check in a song or two. The New York Post even ran an article declaring that Moscato is the new Cristal. Who knew?

Monday, September 3, 2012

5K Update

In less than a week I'll be running my first 5K. I won't lie to you - I'm nowhere near ready. I had plenty of time to train, but I faced a few issues:

1. I hate running. Really.

2. This summer was insanely, over-the-top hot and running in humidity is not easy - especially when, you know, you're not a big fan of running.

3. I hurt my knee. A lot of people warned me that this might happen, but when it actually did I was still a bit shocked. I considered just giving up and not doing the race after that, but it's been getting a lot better (despite the fact that I slipped and fell down the stairs at the cottage last week) and I think I can manage.

4. I didn't train enough. See above points as to why this happened.

So the chances of me making my goal of completing the race in 30 minutes or under (which all of my running friends had assured me was reasonable given the amount of training time I had) are slim and none, but my cousin and I have decided to just take it slow and steady.  I won't be fast, but at least I'm still doing it.

And I have been training, despite all the issues. I've just been doing it on the treadmill (I know, not the same as running outside, I totally get that) and I am not progressing as quickly as I'd hoped. But I'm doing it. I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other and we'll see what happens.