Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wines I've Been Drinking

One of the great things about wine is how many unique and interesting bottles there are to enjoy. Because I'm now a wine student, I get the opportunity to taste every week and I've been fascinated by just how much there is to learn. Each wine is so different.

With that in mind, here are a few bottles I've tried since January.

Kacaba Vineyards 2011 Rebecca Rosé (Ontario)

This is one I picked up on our visit to Kacaba in the fall and we decided to enjoy on Valentine's Day when Shawn made miso-glazed tuna steaks. This is a great food wine with cherry, strawberries and raspberries mingled with a hint of spice. It's a nice, dry wine that paired perfectly with the tuna. I look very forward to trying more of the wines that Kacaba has to offer.

Urban 2008 Mosel (Germany)

I discovered this wine on a trip to the LCBO when none of the German Reislings that had been suggested were available. I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised. With apples, citrus, lychee and petrol on the nose, this is a nicely balanced wine that was fresh and fruity.

Wayne Gretzky 2010 Merlot

We received this wine as a gift at Christmas and when I asked for thoughts about it on Twitter I was surprised that so many friends had tried it. They all said the same thing - it was good, but nothing special. I would concur, although having it a few days after the amazing Kacaba wine may also have influenced that feeling. I felt like it was a decent wine that went well with dinner, but I wouldn't seek it out again. There are just too many other options that are really fabulous. This one has cherry, petrol and spicy, stewed fruit on the nose and a good mouth-filling weight.

Pierre Sparr 2011Alsace Gewurztraminer Reserve (France)

I missed my wine classes the evening we covered the wines of The Loire and Alsace, which meant catching up by purchasing a few bottles and enjoying some of the best homework ever. I had never tried a French Gewurztraminer, though I'm a huge fan of Ontario Gewurz. Having had this one from Alsace, I realized there is a very big difference in terms of how the terroir affects the taste. I loved this wine, despite it being so different from what I'd had previously. With a fruit-filled nose full of citrus, green apple, tangerine, peaches and mango this wine followed through perfectly.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Good Earth

I'm mildly obsessed with really good homemade jam. I can't help it - I grew up with a mother that made her own and now only the best will do. When Shawn and I first visited The Good Earth, which is a winery, restaurant and cooking school in the Twenty Valley, I picked up some of their jam and was instantly addicted. We had to return on our most recent visit so that I could stock up on more.

The jam, as with many of their products, changes with the seasons so I wasn't able to find the flavour I had been hoping for (sour cherry), but the ones I stocked up on seem to be just as delicious. There really is nothing better than homemade jam made with local, natural ingredients on your morning toast. Nothing.

But there is so much more to The Good Earth than their preserves. On our first visit we did a tasting of the wines from their winery and picked up a few bottles, including their 2011 Rosé, which is very good. I also recommend their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, which pairs well with light seafood dishes.

It tasted as good as it looked.
We were lucky enough to have time for lunch on this stop and I can't recommend their restaurant highly enough. Their food is locally sourced, farm-to-table and simply delicious. Both Shawn and I devoured our entrees in their warm and friendly Bistro space.

On our way out we stopped for my jam and I was a little disappointed that they were sold out of their yummy homemade marshmallows, but I'm sure we'll be back soon for more delicious offerings.

The Good Earth is located at 4556 Lincoln Ave. in Beamsville.

A few more photos from our visit:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dillon's Distillers

As soon as I heard about Dillon's Distillers, the new distillery in Beamsville (in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area), I knew I had to plan a visit. Shawn and I are huge fans of local spirits and I was intrigued by some of the things I was hearing - this is a place that makes their own bitters! How exciting is that?

We set up an appointment for our recent trip to the area and the team at Dillon's was kind enough to arrange a tour for us, so we got the full experience. Geoff Dillon, who is the distiller, walked us through their operation and explained how they are already creating fully Canadian rye, vodka and white gin. Soon, he will be bottling his own 100% Canadian rye whisky too. A family business, Geoff's father Peter even grows many of the herbs they use in their bitters and other spirits.

I found our Dillon's tour fascinating. One of the things that most intrigued me was just how sustainable and environmentally conscious the process is. This is a truly Canadian business with their vodka using 100% Niagara grapes - many of them grapes that would have otherwise been discarded by wineries during the thinning process. This is a great way to make use of a local resource that otherwise would just be thrown away and turn it into something spectacular. They also provide their rye grain back to farmers after they extract the alcohol, when it would otherwise be wasted. In addition, they've developed a rainwater collection system and a cistern to collect their cooling water. This is a company that embraces what the Niagara region offers and wants to ensure that they continue to support it in a sustainable way. 

Both Shawn and I enjoyed our tasting experience -  the vodka was impressive - it's smooth and strong with a hint of its own flavour without that weird aftertaste you get from artificially-flavoured vodka. We bought a bottle to bring home for further sampling. I also enjoyed the gin and rye, so I suspect we'll be back for bottles of those soon too.

We also picked up some bitters - those are strong and super tasty. A perfect accompaniment to a great cocktail. They were all out of pear when we visited, but we'll be back to get some on our next trip. We'll also eagerly await their rye whisky release in the coming years.

And you can't visit Dillon's without noticing what a truly beautiful space it is. The design team did an incredible job of creating a storefront that is lovely, modern and welcoming. It also showcases the gorgeous Dillon's bottles to the maximum. This will be a regular stop on our Niagara visits in the future.

Thanks to Whitney and the whole team at Dillon's for the tour and tasting experience.

Dillon's Distillery is located at 4833 Tufford Road Beamsville, Ontario Canada L0R 1B1

More photos from our visit: 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Love Shots

On February 2nd, Sandbanks Winery's LOVE Cassis Aperitivo 2011 was included in the new Vintages release at the LCBO. I was invited to a pre-launch event with the always fun Sandbanks crew and had the chance to try some exciting LOVE-inspired food pairings.

The event, held at the Summerhill LCBO location (one of my favourite places to shop in the city), was a gathering of assorted food and wine people and featured the delicious culinary creations of Panama chef Rossy Earle (@pancancook on Twitter).

LOVE is quite the unique drink. It's made from white wine and then organic Quebec cassis is added to create a delightful pink aperitivo. I loved the candy-sweet, strawberry-tinged nose, but it was a much drier wine than I expected. While there is sweetness, it's nowhere near dessert or Icewine levels.

To show how versatile this wine is, Chef Rossy created a selection of delicious pairings: yucca fries with her homemade, spicy ketchup, a lively shrimp appetizer, homemade Chorizo in a corn tart shell and a pork dish. Everyone raved about the pork and she was kind enough to make me a veggie version, which I contend was equally delicious!

While I can't speak to the pork, I found that LOVE paired well with the spicy fries and with the more subdued shrimp. It was sweet enough to cut through the spice, but not so sweet that it killed the flavours in the food. I think it's probably still a wine I'd look to for before dinner sipping rather than during, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went with the food we sampled.

I wish I'd had a chance to try the Alfajores filled with LOVE buttercream that Chef Rossy created while I still had some LOVE left in my glass. I think it would be an interesting match with such sweet, soft and delicious cookies. I decided instead to take my treats home so I could share with the one I love. And if he asks, I totally meant to.

 You can find LOVE at the LCBO as part of the current Vintages release. (#318394).

A great shot of Rossy Earle's amazing food for the event:

A selection of photos from the event: