Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Niagara New Vintage Festival 2013

The view while tasting at Good Earth
This was the first year that Shawn and I made it out to Niagara for the New Vintage Festival – and just under the wire too, as it was the last day for this start-of-summer event. The Niagara New Vintage Festival takes place over two weekends when each winery offers an interesting wine and food pairing for passport holders.

As with other Niagara Wine Festivals, Shawn got a designated driver pass so that he could enjoy all of the food samples without the wine. I can’t stress enough how much we like having this option and hope that other wine events choose to provide it. He was able to have a fun day and try some great food while I did the full pairings and there was no stress about the driver not participating in the day.

We started at Good Earth Food & Wine, which is one of our favourite places in the Twenty Valley. It was a gorgeous summer day and we loved that we got to sit out on their beautiful patio and enjoy their trio wine and food items. This was one of the best stops, as they had obviously put tons of thought into their pairing and each bite-sized item was matched perfectly with the wine. I particularly liked their 2012 Betty’s Blend, which was perfect with the avocado, leek and asparagus soup.

Next up was Tawse Winery, which always has great wine. They paired each sample with cheese from Upper Canada Cheese – one of the best cheese stores I’ve ever visited. Always nice to have two of my favourite things together, but I was a little surprised that they hadn’t done something more unique. Compared to some of the other stops this pairing was a bit unexciting, but still – amazing wine with some of our favourite cheeses? Can’t really complain.

My favourite pairing of the day came early on when we visited Megalomanic Winery. This was my first visit and it certainly won’t be my last. What an incredible view of the Twenty Valley from this winery and the pairing was simply divine. They had their new Bubblehead pink sparkling (so new it didn’t even have a label yet), which I really enjoyed, as well as their 2012 Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé paired with an incredible white chocolate and strawberry salsa tart. Shawn and I are still talking about that tart. And we liked the Pink Slip so much we brought some home. We’ll likely be back for the Bubblehead too.

We got lost on our way to Flat Rock Cellars and ended up at Calamus,where we enjoyed some quiche and Pinot Gris and Calvin’s Cabernet – all very yummy. This is a great little winery and they were kind enough to give us a bit of a mini-tour of the space. I’d love the chance to go back again when we had more time to really experience their wines.

Flat Rock was well worth finding when we finally arrived. I’ve already said their Riesling is one of my picks for the summer and Shawn enjoyed the pork appetizer they were serving, so this was a great stop. I had no idea what a truly gorgeous space they had and I loved the chance to just walk around and enjoy the view.

I hadn’t experienced Sue-Ann Staff Wines before, but it was just across the street so we stopped in. It didn’t disappoint. Chicken and waffles with her 2011 Pinot Gris was a hit and then I paid the extra to sample her sparkling with a delightful little meringue.

We had planned to get to Creekside Estate Winery in time for lunch, but were running far too late. Instead, I sampled their 2012 Cabernet Rosé with a salmon bite. The Rosé is well worth picking up, as is their new Backyard Sauvignon Blanc, which I’d tried at the recent Sip and Savour Ontario event. I also picked up one of their new Roots shirts, which are super fun and fashionable.

We hit The Yellow Pear food truck for an excellent late lunch and then did a quick visit to Featherstone Winery where I had their 2012 Rosé with a grilled strawberry shortcake. This was a great, relaxed stop where we could sit on their lovely front patio and unwind. Much-needed after a hectic day of going from winery to winery.

Last on our list was Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, which had one of the most substantial pairings of the day with a fantastic turkey slider and their 2010 Warren Classic Pinot Noir. You only get very small samples of the wines at each winery and I had eaten before we started, but it was nice when wineries provided something of a good size to eat to ward off any tipsiness.

We managed to cram a whole lot into one day, but if we do this festival again next year (and I hope we do), I’d love to spend a weekend in Niagara so we could split our visits up over two days. It was really hot and we were both pretty exhausted by the time we rolled back into the city, but we had a great day and discovered some fantastic new wines.

For more information on the New Vintage Festival and other Niagara Wine Festivals visit 

More photos from our day: 

The tasting room at Megalomaniac

The view from Megalomaniac
The view from Flat Rock's balcony

The pairing at Calamus

Megalomaniac Pink Slip

The pairing at Good Earth - non veggie version

Featherstone Rosé

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ask the Wine Doctor

I was lucky enough to have Edward Finstein as my first wine instructor. He taught me a lot about wine and how to taste like a pro - he also told the greatest wine travel stories I've ever heard - his class was a fabulous blend of entertaining and informative and I couldn't get enough. I also enjoyed his book - Ask the Wine Doctor: All the Questions You had About Wine, but were too Busy Sipping to Ask.

This is written in Q&A style, which is a nice change from the textbooks I've been reading lately. It's also eminently readable and entertaining. You'll find lots of wine info for newbies and enough interesting tips, tricks and tidbits to keep more seasoned wine lovers interested. Edward's irreverent style is on display throughout the book, which makes for a really engaging read. I only wish there were some of his fascinating wine travel stories in this book, but I'm told I'll have to wait for a future book chronicling his adventures.

I'm happy to have added this one to my ever-growing wine book collection.

Of note, Edward recently released a new novel, Pinot Envy, which is a wine-splattered mystery set in Napa. I look forward to reading it.

You can visit Edward's site here to learn even more about The Wine Doctor:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

iYellow 54 Wines

iYellow Wine Club is known to host some of the most fun wine events in Toronto, so I was excited to attend their recent 54 Wines Summer Solstice event at the Liberty Village Market Building.

This event was put together to showcase 54 of the best wines from Niagara-on-the-Lake in a fun outdoor market setting. There was lots of great food and wine to be sampled and the crowd was definitely in the mood to celebrate the start of summer. They certainly weren’t disappointed!
This was much more informal than many tastings I’ve attended and the crowd seemed to appreciate the laidback, relaxed vibe. There was no way we could possibly taste all 54 wines, but Shawn and I tried to sample a few new-to-us wines and were really impressed with the quality of what we tried.

No formal tasting notes for this one – it just wasn’t that type of party – so below is an overview of some of the wines we enjoyed trying.

The standout of the show for me was getting to meet winemaker Derek Barnett and try one of his incredible Lailey 2003 Cabernet Francs. This was only available to those who asked and I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to try it. I also enjoyed his 2011 Pinot Noir and 2012 unoaked Chardonnay.

Stratus Vineyards had two wines on offer and I tried their 2012 Wildass Rosé, which was pretty fantastic. As regular readers know, I love a good Rosé for the summer and this is one I’m hoping to pick up at the LCBO soon. At $20, it’s a great entry-level Stratus wine.

Shawn tried the 2011 Small Talk white blend and really enjoyed it – though the Peller 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Private Reserve was his favourite white of the evening.

I was happy to see Niagara College Teaching Winery was there with their 2010 Dean’s List Chardonnay – one of my favourite wines. This was one I brought to my first #TOWineDinner to great success. I look forward to tasting the next vintage of this one.

Ravine Vineyard had a great Chardonnay on offer, which I look forward to having again – this is a winery I really wish I’d had more opportunity to check out. Definitely something to rectify in the future.  

Overall, this was a fun way to spend a Friday night and I was glad we got the chance to attend. Hopefully we can do another iYellow event soon.

To learn more about iYellow and see a listing of their events visit

Thank you to iYellow for inviting us to attend as their guests for the evening.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wines of Summer

When the weather gets hot, I tend to think Rosé, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc and this year is no different. Here are some wines I think might make good summer sippers for your patio over the next few months..

Michèle Bosc has warned me that there isn’t very much of this lovely pink wine left, so I have a few bottles in my cellar to make it through the summer. If you have the chance, I highly recommend that you pick up one or more to add an elegant touch to your patio party. It's got a nice hint of sweetness while still being dry and it's much fruitier on the palate than I expected with strawberry, raspberry and a touch of peppery spice. I love the nose, which has citrus, red berries, candy apple and spicy cherry.

Peach, peach and more peach hit me when I reviewed this for WineAlign and I fell hard for this lovely, light Riesling. Lots of fruit on the nose and crisp and refreshing on the palate, this is going to be one of my go-to wines for evenings out on our patio.

I’m a pretty big fan of all things Creekside and this Sauvignon Blanc is no exception. It has a great aromatic nose with lots of tropical and citrus fruits and I think it’s a perfect white for light, summer dishes and chicken off the grill. This is probably too light for red meat BBQ, but you could always grab a bottle of their new Rosé if burgers are on your menu.

* All photos from this post are from the websites of the wineries profiled.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a Lapostolle tasting with my fellow WineAlign Cru members. What a wonderful way to spend an evening, especially since Charles de Bournet Marnier Lapostolle, son of Lapostolle owner Alexandra Lapostolle, was our host. This was my first experience with Lapostolle (my newbie-ness was definitely showing) and I was very excited to sample these unique Chilean wines.

I know a little about biodynamic winemaking because of the number of Ontario wineries that have incorporated the practice and I was pleased to hear that Lapostolle is also looking at the importance of ecologically safe practices in their winemaking. Charles spoke passionately about why this was important – not simply to create sustainable wine regions, but because of the impact that chemicals can have on the people working in the vineyards. I was very impressed by how genuine his interest in sustainable winemaking and biodiversity was.

2012 Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc

With green apple, citrus, peach and flint on the nose, good acid, a bit of bite and less fruit on the palate than on the nose, this was definitely different than a New Zealand Sauv Blanc.  I liked the minerality and found this one to be a refreshing, subtle sipper.

2011 Chateau de Sancerre Blanc

Pale straw in colour with tropical fruit, peach and lychee on the nose, this had high acidity and tropical fruit on the palate. It was smoother than the Sauv Blanc with a very nice finish.

2011 Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay

Named after the creator of Grand Marnier, Cuvee Alexander is a lovely gold colour and has lots of oak, with buttered popcorn, honey and creamed corn on the nose, as well as tropical fruit and pear. I’m not a huge fan of oaky Chardonnay, but I liked this. There was tropical fruit on the palate and a good, round mouth feel.

2011 Casa Grand Selection Carmenere

I know a few people who are pretty down on Carmenere, so I was surprised that this was my overall favourite wine of the tasting. I haven’t had a lot of experience with the grape, but this was pretty good in my opinion. I liked the cherry vanilla, chocolate and coffee on the nose and the more savoury notes of white pepper as this opened up. The tannins are light and it’s got a nice warmth on the palate. Tasty!

2011 Cuvee Alexander Merlot

Cherry, plum, stewed fruit and spicy strawberry on the nose, this had more tannin and a sweet and spicy finish. An interesting wine that might be even better with age.

2011 Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon

Spice, menthol, chocolate, coffee and red fruits on the nose, very fine tannins and fruit forward this one could easily age for quite a while and be just as drinkable. I’d love to taste it again in a few years and see how it has evolved. 

For more information:  

Many thanks to Trialto Wine Group, Lapostolle and WineAlign for the invitation to this event.