Monday, 15 October 2012

Traditional French Meal in the Heart of Leslieville

Date night with a french flare is one of the few things  that my wife and I rarely have the chance to take advantage of. Fortunately we were been able to do a baby-sitting swap with our nieghbours across the street. They watch ours, we watch theirs, that kind of thing. I digress.

We made a reservation at a restaurant in Leslieville in the East end of Toronto. One of those "up and coming" areas that is actually "up and coming".

The restaurant is Fare Bistro. A lovely little place that strikes you as high end and the feel really is. In a traditional French style the atmosphere is fantastic. Quiet, yet not in the way that you are going to get shushed by others.

Our fantastic server greeted us and showed us to our table. My wife and I decided to of with the Prix Fixe menu that they run on Tuesdays to Thursdays. We weren't let down either.

We started with an app that we split. The house pate with mushrooms, green peppercorns, and Armagnac. Cornichons and warm baguette. Let me qualify by saying that I'm not a fan of pate, but OMG this was yummy! The portion was right and the warm baguette helped it melt in your mouth.

I also had the fresh beef and barley soup. This is one of my favourite kinds of soup, so I had to try. The thing that impressed me the most was that there was slices of perfectly cooked beef. Not the stuff that was leftover from the night before either.

We moved on to the mains. I with my roasted chicken and my wife with the mushroom risotto.

The risotto was was fantastic. The right consistency and a great mix of 4 different types of mushrooms. My chicken was, well....NO SWISS CHALET! It was a supreme of chicken and the seasoning was perfect. Crispy seared on the outside and juicy and tender inside. The veggies weren't raw nor were they grey. The prep and presentation was ideal.

You know how you sometimes check out a restaurant's website before you go to check out the menu and they have pictures of the food? Well the Creme Brulee I had for desert looked exactly like the one on their website. And it tasted as good as it looked.

I kid you not. This is what it looked like. Same cookie and everything!
Now on to the good stuff. Not that the food isn't.

The wine we had was the 2010 Saint Chinian - Domaine du Sacre Coeur, Languedoc France. The price point on this was about where it should be at $50 per bottle and worth every drop. I chose that particular one as it was a good compromise for both the chicken and the mushroom risotto.



As for our dessert wine, we had a glass of Muscat de Beaums de Venice Vidal Fleury
A bargain at $10 per glass.
They also have a BYOW for a corkage of $20/bottle.

So my overall conclusions for Fare Bistro.

Go. Take your friends, tell your friends about it, and seek out the food that chef Brad Clark is bringing to you.

Price Point: Very reasonable.
Food Quality: Outstanding
Location: Easily Accessible (free street parking after 6:00pm)
1097 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON - 416-645-0914 info@farebistro.com
Make a Reservation: Recommended

This is a place that will be heading back to. No questions asked.

As always, enjoy a glass.
Matt

Fare Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Back Into the Groove

Yes, I'm still alive.

I know that it's been ages since I've done a blog post, but I think I have some pretty good reasons for it.

Now that being said, I'm making this a regular thing again along with all the other things that I have on the go.

Since I last gave you an update on what I've been up to, I have finished 2 more wine classes, applied and was accepted into the CAPS program, done a handfull of wine events, and been consuming buckets of wine.

Did I mention a trip to Napa? That too.

So with that being said, this is just a teaser post to let you know that I'm alive!!!

I'll make sure that my updates are a bit more regular now that things are starting to smooth out a little.

Well, not really. Things smoothing out that is.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

PS - Want to keep up to date on things going on with me? Follow me on Twitter. I'm there all the time!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Tattoos and Drinking - UPDATE

Well hasn't today been an interesting day. I happened to be minding my own business having a quick read on Twitter when I saw a post by Justin Trudeau MP.

For those of you outside of Canada he is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada and has a seat in the House of Commons. He also happens to be the son of, in my opinion, one of the greatest Canadian Prime Ministers of my time - Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

When I read his tweet (yes it is actually him that tweets), I figured that I would respond back about this blog post, considering it has him in it.

I figured it was worth a shot. To my surprise, unlike many many other "famous people" on Twitter, he responded. It was a quick response, but a response indeed. That thrilled me.

Here is what he said. "That pic is of my old tattoo. It's much bigger now. But agree with the post." Now it may not sound like much, but it really impacted me in a positive way.

This is coming from a man who was able to yell out in the middle of a Parliamentary Session and call Federal Environment Minister, Peter Kent a "piece of shit" and get away with it. He quickly followed up in the media scrum with a quick apology and immediately was able to put the focus back on the issue which was that the Conservitives blocked the other parties from attending a conference that Peter Kent had blamed them for not attending.

Justin Trudeau MP, a man that I have a lot, and I mean A LOT of respect for now.
Good on you Justin Trudeau.


Original Post:
An article was brought to my attention by @SandraEMartin in this week's Huffington Post about a people that have tattoos drink more than those without them.

Hmmmmm. So what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that everyone with a tattoo is a drunk? Of course not.

Here are excerpts from the article that describes how the study was completed.

"The researchers asked nearly 3,000 young men and women as they were exiting bars on a Saturday night if they would take a breathalyzer test. Of those who agreed to take it, the researchers found that people with tattoos had consumed more alcohol than those without tattoos, the researchers said."

It also goes on to say that individuals with tattoos are "more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, theft, violence and alcohol consumption, compared to people without tattoos."

I want to tell you that I have two tattoos (both within the last 18 months).
Celtic Knot and Celtic Tree of Life on my Left Forearm
Let me go through the list and tell you what "risky behaviours" I have done.

1. Unprotected Sex - Draw your own conclusions (I have 2 kids and yes with my wife).
2. Theft - Do ketchup packages count?
3. Violence - Only when I'm playing video games and it's usually me getting my but kicked.
4. Alcohol Consumption - I'm a wine guy, so yes.

Sooooo, am I a risk to society? I think not.


Doing the study when people were leaving a bar on Saturday night? DUH! What did they expect? Did they ever think about asking the question to those individuals, are you driving? Because, here is why I would take a breathalyzer test for a study. It would tell me if I can drive home or not. It also doesn't say if it was excessive drinking or not. It just says more.


At one time, tattoos were for those that were either in the Navy or other branch of the military, have some type of indigenous ritual connection, or, dare I say it, enjoyed some time in the "pen".

Here is what I have to say about the study.

WAKE UP! This is 2012, for cripes sake. There are more people with tattoos, piercings and other types of body art than ever before. At all levels of business and society. Including Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP.

Tattoos have become mainstream, a thing of beauty and some of the artists that do this work are simply amazing at how they can transform your body, which I already view as a work of art on its own, into something spectacular.

Please don't get me wrong, there are a lot of really really bad tattoos out there.
Really? Was that a wise choice?
So do I think that we (those of us with tattoos) drink too much? I think they need to look at this study from a different perspective. Find those willing to be in the study and follow them over a longer period of time and track them longer term. Not on just one Saturday night.
In the mean time, maybe we should all branch out a little and have some fun. Just make sure that you have some common sense about it.

How about a tattoo? If you are thinking about getting one, one word of advice. Think long and hard about your choice of art and artist.

Not feeling that adventurous? Then simply go have a great glass of wine. Just be sure to share some with me because apparently I drink too much.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What Does a "Good Time" Mean to You?

Let me start by saying that this didn't get posted on the original date which was last Saturday.

So are you looking for a good time honey? Wink wink.

I know what you are thinking. SEX! But, alas, this isn't going to be one of those blog posts. If you want me to write one about it, let me know. I'll make sure to look into it or at lease refer you to a good wine and sex blog.

Sorry, I got a little distracted.

So what what does a "good time" mean to you? And how does a great glass of wine come into play?

Well let me begin with my week of wine. It has a pretty heavy one too.

Monday:
I started my class called Grape Comparison at the George Brown College Hospitality School here in Toronto. This is one of the only courses that I know of that is set up in this format. We will be tasting about 15 different wines in about 2 1/2 hours with proper 100 point scoring (don't get me going on that one again) and all of one variety. 15 Cabernet Sauvgions from different countries and regions around the world. This will give me a break down of what a California Cab compares to a Bordeaux Left Bank. Pretty cool.

Tuesday:
Took the night off for my poor liver to recover.

Wednesday:
My wife has her band practice at League of Rock and I had the girls. Needless to say we ended up going out for dinner and it was $2 off any glass of wine for Wine Wednesday! Had a big glass that night.


Thursday:
Here in Toronto the New Zealand Wine Event took place at the Design Exchange in the heart of the Financial District. All I can say is WOW! The #NZWine event was one of the best I have ever been to. I tasted about 40-50 different wines. There were a tonne of amazing wines and some that still need some work. One of my favourites was Doctors'. Doctors' is an amazing low alcohol Riesling and Sauvgion Blanc. Both have an alcohol content below 10%. Both have an amazing balance that are worth seeking out. Overall was one that I am going to remember for a long time.

Friday:
We had some friends over for dinner and my wife makes an amazing fish oil and celentro skinless grilled chicken. We started with some anti-pesto with buffalo mozzarella, caper berries, mushrooms, and grilled baguette.  Over the course of the night, there were about 3 bottle of red that were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

So here we are on Saturday. I'm a bit sluggish this morning and sitting in my daughter's dance studio listening to some Kimbra writing this blog.

Even tough this week has been really crazy week, looking back, I'm going to have to put this week as one that I had a "Good Time".

Next time you aren't sure if you have a chance to slow down in the hectic live we all lead, look back and it might just turn out that you did have a "Good Time".

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hotel Wine Lists - Why are they so bad?

At one time eating in a hotel restaurant what the height of fine dining.  When dress codes were in place and a stain on a white table cloth meant that you would be asked to change tables.

Oh how the times have changed.

This week I spent 3 days in the lovely city of Halifax for work. I love Halifax. I've been there more times than I can count, so I have a pretty good idea on the places to go and have a great meal and those to avoid.

Some of my favourite place to eat are the Economy Shoe Shop. A great place for a decent meal at a reasonable price with a really cool atmosphere. My favourite place for a good beer has got to be the Split Crow. If your form Halifax, I know that you are thinking "what about the Lower Deck?" No doubt, but I have some great memories and some really fuzzy ones from the Split Crow.

So this trip I had some free time and figured I would go throw some money into the Nova Scotia coffers by making a donation at Casino Halifax. I figured I could afford $20 at the blackjack table. Well 2 hours later I was up 110 big ones! I should have stopped a few hands earlier and would have had a bit more. Didn't matter as I was ahead.

So I cash out and am a bit tired and haven't eaten, so I make my way back to my hotel for a bite and a couple glasses of wine to celebrate.




I pull myself up to the bar in the restaurant and the bartender passes me a menu and the drink list. Before I look a the menu I flip to the red wines. My thing when I look at a wine list is for the most expensive price per glass and work my way backwards. The first thing that grabs my attention is $10 a glass for Campo Veijo Reserva. My first reaction is that I can buy a bottle at the LCBO for about $18 off the shelf! Why should I pay 10 bucks for an ok wine that I've had many times before?

Then I take a look at the rest of the wines they have listed and it's abundantly clear. Let me clarify something. The hotel that I'm staying at isn't a Super 8. I'm at the Delta Barrington. Probably one of the more expensive hotels in Halifax. In the heart of downtown and easily accessible to everything by foot.

So what to do. Well I had cash to burn and was hungry oh and did I say tired? Needless to say, I had a couple of glasses and a Southwest burger and salt and pepper chips. The food was pretty good and as close as a match as I could find for a wine.

The moral of the story is for my next trip, buy your own wine at the local liquor store and order in room service.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Upset About Not Enough White

So this week has been yet another crazy week for me as I'm sure that it has been for many of us. On Wednesday I held a wine tasting event for about 16 people and there was a great time had by all.

However, at the beginning of the class, I went on to describe about some basics of wine tasting and how the participants can make the wine more memorable, one of the women was visibly upset at the white to red ratio.We were lucky enough to have 10 wines in total with 2 white and 8 red.
She was willing to stay for the event as we had already begun.

She was definitely enjoying the whites that we started with, a Sauvgion Blanc and a Reisling.

As we moved onto the reds she was a little hesitant. We starting with a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvgion, moving on to a Tempranillo, Shiraz, a few blends, and ending with a Barollo.

Once she tasted the Chateauneuf du Pape, she was warming up to the ideas of some smooth drinking well balanced reds.

Like many others, if you are a novice wine person, you find something that you like and you tend to stick with them. Just like she was doing. She liked her Pinot Grigo and that was it. She would occasionally have a Sauv. Blanc, but was scared to stray off from what she was comfortable with.

So how do you learn what you like without going broke on buying wines and discovering you hate it and dump it down the drain?

There are a few ways to figure out what you like, and many of them without spending a lot of money if any. Here is how I do a lot of discovering of different wines.

Dinner Parties:
Dinner Parties are awesome for trying new wines. People will usually bring a bottle of wine when they come for dinner. As the host, it isn't out of the question for you to make a request of your friends to bring a bottle that isn't what you normally drink.


Wine Tasting Classes:
Taking a wine tasting class is a great way in tasting a number of wines. It may be a themed class, such as all from South America, or a specific region in France, but they are usually fairly inexpensive and can be amazing. (See Classes and More to have me run a class for you.)

Join a Wine Club:
There are wine clubs in cities all over the world. These usually have an annual fee that you will have to pay, but it will include most of the tastings in that fee. The advantage of a wine club is that they may have their own inventory of wines that are at their peek and not available on the market any longer.

Visit a Winery:
Depending on where you live, this can be an amazing day trip. Most wineries have a tasting room where you can sample their wines for simple $1 per sample. If you find something you like and end up buying a bottle (or a case) they will usually not even bother charging you for the tastings. After all, that's what they want you to do. Sample a wine, love it, and take it home.

Many wineries also have coupons on their websites for a free tasting. I know that Coyote's Run and Black Prince, both have them on theirs. Because I live in Toronto, I'm luck enough to be able to do day trips to both Niagara and Prince Edward County.

So where did that leave the woman in my class?
Thrilled. She said that knowing some of the background of the wines and where they were coming from was as important to her as the wine itself. I tend to agree.

But the key thing in this whole blog is this. Don't be afraid to try new wines, and step out of your comfort zone.
You never know what you might end up liking.

After all, that's what wine is all about, the experience.

Let me know if you would like to share a bottle sometime so we can both enjoy a glass.
Matt

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Unplugging

The last few weeks for us (me and my family) have for some reason been really rough.

As with many people, I'm not sure if it is the time of year when we start to get on everyone's nerves because we want to get outside and enjoy summer, but can't because Mother Nature isn't agreeing with our timelines.

My two kids have also been driving us a bit coo coo the last little while as well. More than the usual kid stuff too.  From having to deal with a broken leg on a 5 year old and a pre-tween going on 16, all I can say is ARRRRGHHH!!!

It got to the point on the weekend where we had to literally "pull the plug" on TV for a week.

How is a glass of wine going to help me with that?

Do I drink 3, 4, or 5 glasses until I'm so tired and can't function and drift off into a seemingly wonderful slumber, until the next morning? Well, I'm not 20 any more and can't handle the next mornings as well as I used to. So no, I don't do that.

But, here is what I have started trying to do every chance I can.

Once the kids have gone to bed and things are quiet, for at least a bit, I will grab my glass of wine and sit outside on our front porch. No laptop, no iPad, no BlackBerry. Just a blanket and my glass of wine.

Taking that 5 minutes or more to "unplug" has been the most calming and also inspiring time I have had in quite a while. Occasionally having a chat with a neighbour as they walk by, and watching the leaves try and squeeze their way out of the branches.

For those few minutes, sitting and reflecting on the day, and sipping my favourite red has made me appreciate the day, as crazy as it may have been.
The leaves trying to squeeze out!
Now I know why the "older generation" sat on the porch and just sat.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Friday, 13 April 2012

Having a Glass of Wine with the One You Love

I want to start off by saying that I am the luckiest guy in the world. Yes, I really am.

Back in 1997 I was given the opportunity to go to an event at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra called Classic Network. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the night, but it was when I was singing in a chamber choir (Yes I did that. That in itself is another blog post.) and a free ticket to the symphony and free drinks to boot was so it an awesome night out.

 Little did I know that it was really singles night at the symphony. A big "any way", I had a very brief conversation with one of the staff members working at the event about my other favourite libation, gin.

15 years and 2 kids later I am lucky enough to still enjoy sharing a bottle of wine with the one that I truly love. We don't have a special bottle, variety, or vintage of wine that we keep going back to, and in fact, she is reaping the rewards of me buying most of the wine in the house. I'm totally good with it too.

But one of the things I enjoy most is sitting down for a great meal or even sitting on our front porch and talking over a great glass of wine.

There is something about how a glass can make the conversation more meaningful and bring back some wonderful memories. I want a lot more memories to come and be able to reminisce over many more.

So next time you open a bottle of wine, ask yourself this. Is the person that I am sharing this a friend or something more?

Friends are awesome, but if that person is something more, hold on to them and make sure you do everything in your power to show them how important they really are.

Be sure to tell them that over your next glass.

So enjoy a glass with someone you love, like I am lucky enough to do.
Matt

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Wine Doesn't Fix Everything

This week was probably the most trying week I have had in the last year at work.

I have been working for the last 18 years in the safety industry. I'm currently in an amazing role and doing what would be my second choice as a career. Wine being the first.  During these last 18 years, there have been both good times and bad times. I have been through a number of company re-organizations and come out unscathed.  As everyone knows that the world economy is on the edge of a knife. One slip either way and you could end up slashed and fall into a ramekin of salt.

I was fortunate enough, this go round, to keep my position and have a manager that I actually can trust to keep me in the loop as much as he can. However, one of my colleagues was not so lucky. Not because of his abilities, but simply about numbers. That in itself is enough to make your nerves go into overdrive.

Unfortunately, another friend and colleague at work was also let go. For some reason this one hit me harder than the one in my department. Maybe because she is a friend and not 20 minutes before she was called into the conference room, I told her what my manager told me. "She is with a growing department and if she keep things up, she should be ok."

Now that makes me feel great. Relaying the information that I was just told to my friend from a manger. (Yes I still trust him, as he admitted to me that he didn't have the full picture.)

Here is the reality about the whole thing. No-one in the world knows what is going to happen over the next few months and there isn't anything that anyone can do about it.

I'm not going to go into the whole Occupy protests and my opinion on that, but maybe they do have a point even if they are going about it in the completely wrong approach.

So how did or do I cope with the situation? I made the statement on Twitter that "Lay-offs SUCK" and the overwhelming response was to drink some wine!

That was my initial response as well. And boy did I, but here is what I learned about the situation.
I wasn't drinking the wine to get totally wasted, or even to get a buzz on. The reason I was drinking wine was for an escape. The feeling of drinking a good glass of wine brought me back into a place where I could reflect on the things that really matter to me. I allowed me to take a few minutes to look at exactly what I have. I have a family that is amazing, a home that is better than I ever imagined, and the opportunity to be able to sit and reflect.

It took me 48 hours for that to really sink in. Did I have too much to drink? No. Was I planning on drinking a lot more? No doubt.

What I have come to the conclusion to in a situation like that is, you need to take a step back, try to put your emotions in check, and look at the situation. Sometimes it may take a catalyst for you to do that, but do it. It seemed to have worked for me.

I'm looking forward to going back to work on Monday and being back on my game after a couple of really hard days.

So please, enjoy a glass and take the time to reflect on what that glass of wine really means to YOU and what it can actually do to help.
Matt

Friday, 23 March 2012

Penny Black's Little Brother

So I had to go and renew the license plates on our car yesterday and was amazed that there was NO LINE! Unheard of!!!! So that meant that I had about a half an hour of free time.
What to do, what to do....

Go to the LCBO! (Liquor store for those outside of Ontario)

So I made my way home and did some of the chores that you have to do when you get home. Those chores involved putting on some shorts as it was 26 degrees C yesterday, finding the corkscrew, grabbing a wine glass, putting on some music and pouring a glass.

One thing that I have noticed with all the Post House wines is they all initially look and smell corked. The cork is soft, and heavily stained which always worries me.

Not thinking much of it, I head out to the front porch and start to enjoy.

My response to this one is WOW!


This is a blend of 32% Shiraz 32% Pinotage 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18%Merlot.

 I completely get why they call it Bluish Black. I looks like a cross between blueberry juice and squid ink. It has a big nose and wonderful palate. A nose of mulberries, red currant and almost over ripe strawberries, but not in a bad way. Also has lots of allspice and black pepper. The palate is almost identical to the nose with a bit more pepper on it. It is full bodied, rich wine with supple soft tannins for easy drinking especially at 14.5%

This one is well worth seeking out at $14.95!

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

My Favourite Movies with Wine in Them

One of my favourite actors from long before she was on Grey's Anatomy, is Sandra Oh. A fantastic Canadian actor that I first saw in the play "Inquest" at the Factory Theatre in Toronto. From that point on I was a big fan. She has gone on to a lot of great things including and if you are a wine drinker and a bit of a movie fan you have probably seen it.

Sideways



No doubt a great movie, including many other great actors, but more importantly a focus on wine.

I want to give you my top 5 movies or scenes that have wine in them that I love to see over and over again.
#5
The Princess Bride.
Probably a movie that you have all seen and love. I know my kids do.

 

#4
Silence of the Lambs
An amazing thriller scene.


#3
Roman Holiday
The first time drunk for the Princess and Joe Bradley has a glass of wine.
 

#2
Band of Brothers - Day of Days - Day of Firsts.
This is actually an HBO Mini-series
 The night of D-Day June 6, 1944.


#1
Casablanca
One of the best movies of all time and flush with Champagne


What are some of your favourite movies that have wine in them?
Please comment and let me know.
Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Music and Wine

So over the last few weeks I have been informally (in no scientific way at all) asking people, when the are drinking a glass of wine, what music do they have on in the background?

Some of the responses have been from the expected to the OMG really?

What I did learn is that the music and the wine often went together.

Here are a couple of examples:
  • Lighter white wines generally went with bubbly happy music. One of my coleagues drinks Pinot Grigio and she said that she like to listen to music like Top 40 and yes I'm going to say it Katie Perry. (more on her later)
  • Another coleague said he basically lives off of big bold reds like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvginion and listens to Classic Rock and heavy bass dubstep.
  • One of my tweeps also likes lighter reds drinks it with nastalogic 80's and 90's brit-pop.
Some of what you were probaly thinking about also held true. A nice warm red while listening to Jazz and blues, while a good white could go with fun happy music. Miles Davis and Meaghan Smith are some great examples of both old and new.

Here are some of my favourite tunes to go with wine that I would be drinking.
I hope you enjoy them.

What about you? What do you like to listen to when you are drinking your favourite glass of wine? Please share with me.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

This is my fun red wine song.
Kimbra - Cameo Lover

My drinking white wine with friends song.
REM - Shiny Happy People

My big red wine song.
Radiohead - High and Dry

My I need some alone time with a glass of wine song.
Eagles - Desperado

Finally my sparkling wine song.
Yes I do like the song.
Kaite Perry - Last Friday Night

I need to include an honorable mention in here. This is an awesome duo that I always come back to ever since I first heard them online.
Pomplamoose doing La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf.
Love it. 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Two Months and Not Enough Time

Wow. Can't believe that I've only been blogging for two months and have had an amazing response to both my blog and Twitter comments.

So who is the Matt the Wing Guy? Why am I doing this? What do I gain out of it? Why would you want to read about what I have to say?

All really good questions.

In two months I have gone from a guy who posted his first blog on the internets (according to Al Gore) who wanted to share his thoughts about wine with the world to more that 1,200 hits. To share them not necessarily the wine world, but regular people who enjoy wine. I know what you are thinking, I got an extra day because of the leap year, but I'll take it.

I have attended my first official wine event as a blogger, set up as many as 3 formal tastings, and registered for at least one more wine event. Interviewed national TV hosts, and lined up other people to interview from major TV shows, Heads of wine groups, and musicians in both the classical music world and main stream music. (Keep an eye out for those in the future!)

So I'm not going to answer those questions I asked earlier. I also like to make people do some work (yes I'm lazy - or at least efficient).

As for who I am, I was going to say that I used to be one of those people who just like wine, but I'm wrong. I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE! I like my wine and really don't like to have all the wine "talk" shoved down my throat.

I like to try new wines and explore the world of wine, but you have to be cautious. There are a lot of reviews out there that are bad at reviewing wines. I'm not saying that I'm a terrific reviewer, but does that really matter? Not at all the real reviewer is you!

So as for time, time is one of the few constants in the world. It can go by fast at times and be deathly slow at others.

One thing that I would love if you could do the next time you have a glass of wine is to make sure that you make the time go a little slower. Enjoy the wine you are drinking, what ever it is.

Try to have the wine express its emotions with you and you with it. I know that sounds corny, but take a minute, take a deep breath and enjoy a glass.

Thanks for reading and I hope you read on.
Matt



Saturday, 25 February 2012

Charles Smith Wines

On Thursday night I was fortunate enough to attend my first official event as a blogger.

I have to say it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The event was held by Lifford Wine Agency.
How I heard about he event was through the wonderful world of Twitter. Like many of us who blog, Twitter is an integral part of our community.

I digress. Back to the event. The event was for Charles Smith Wines. These will be soon available an an LCBO near you. (At least I hope!) So I arrive at Spin Toronto located in the heart of the thriving restaurant district of King West of Spadina in Toronto. If you haven't been to Spin Toronto before, the place is a riot!

Imagine your favorite bar/club full of high end ping pong tables. There are ping pong balls all over the place. I even got beaned in the head by one. Lots of fun.

As I arrive I was met by Nicole from Lifford, who was very excited about the night and was extremely welcoming. She slapped a wristband on my arm and a wine glass and basically said go to town! The wines are in the back.

I head to the back and was able to sample many of the Charles Smith wines. I started with the new Secco. He has both a white and a Rose.

As soon as I had the white, I completely understood why the evening was held at Spin. The bubbles in the white were HUGE!!!! Crisp, dry and well rounded. I really enjoyed the white. The Rose was great on the nose, with bubbles that weren't as big, and a bit sweet for my liking, however don't let that stop you from trying it. It would be well worth a sample.

I then moved on to the Riesling and Chardonnay. Take a look at the labels to get a description for yourself. The labels really do say exactly what they are like on the nose and palate.

Smells and tastes just like the label.

Has a fruit kick without the petrol on the nose.
I ended with the Syrah. This one was great as well. Simple straight forward without the snootiness behind it.

My overall impression was that the event was as big as the wine maker himself. Huge, powerful, loud and energetic without being stuck up.

I also want to say that one of my favourite scenes of the night was watching some of the people attending the event that were way out of their league. Shall I say those that were sitting in the corner tasting the wines and saying to themselves. "Why does the music have to be so loud?"

My response to those individuals is loosen up.

On an end note, seek these wines out.
Enjoy a glass
Matt

Saturday, 18 February 2012

My Interview with Tracy Moore of CityLine

One of the things that has really struck me of lat is all the "Celebrities" that are getting into the wine business. Some of the early one are Dan Aykroyd, Francis Ford Coppola, and most recently Drew Barrymore, amongst many others.

All of these people have more money than know what to do with than most of us, so I wanted to find out what other well known people like to do with wine and more importantly how they like to experience it.

If you have read any of my other blog posts, I'm all about the full wine experience and how it can enrich your life and help bring back memories.

Which brings me to Tracy Moore of CityLine on Citytv.
Catch CityLine weekdays at 9am on Citytv

Tracy was kind enough to allow me to interview her about her wine experiences.

I really did find it interesting to see how some who is in the spotlight reflects on wine.

Here is what we discussed.




MWG - So the first one should be pretty simple. Do you prefer Red, Rose, or White?
TM - White.

MWG - What is your favourite everyday easy drinking wine?
TM - Usually a Riesling.

MWG - What makes a wine a "special occasion wine" for you?
TM - I don’t distinguish between special occasion wine and everyday wine.

MWG - Would you bring either of the wines you mentioned, to a dinner party at a friends house or would you bring something else?
TM - I’d probably bring a red wine because I find that’s what most people prefer. Parallel 45 or Ruffino is always a good choice.

MWG - At what level would you consider your knowledge of wine?
TM - Slim to none. I know what I like and that’s about it!

MWG - In 10 words or less, describe your favourite wine for me.
TM - My favourite wine is light, a little sweet with minimal tartness.

MWG - As we have all had some not so memorable or just down-right bad experiences that involve wine, can tell me about your most positive memorable experience and why it was so memorable?
TM - My favourite wine memory is drinking it with my husband on our honeymoon. We’re sitting on an almost empty patio in Corfu. The sun is blazing, Lio’s drinking a local beer and I am enjoying a light, white wine. Life couldn’t get any better. When I was pushing out both my babies this is the happy place I went back to!

MWG - Do you try to follow “The Rules” when it comes to red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat?
TM - Most of the time I do try to follow the rules. I’m not a huge red meat eater anyway so white is usually right.

MWG - Have you been to any wineries? If so, which one is your favourite?
TM - I haven’t visited any wineries. What’s wrong with me?!

MWG - Do you have a favourite country or region that you keep purchasing wines from?
TM - We purchase quite a bit from Portugal, Chile and the Niagara region.

MWG - What do think of Ontario wines?
TM - I LOVE Ontario wines. Some of my favourites are VQA Ontario wines. (Megalomaniac's Riesling is one of them).

MWG - Do you have any wine gadgets that you like to use?
TM - Nope.

MWG - What is the wackiest thing that you can recall about a wine experience at a restaurant?
TM - My restaurant wine experiences have been pretty uneventful. I see a menu, I order, I drink.

MWG - When you are at a restaurant, do you ever ask your server for help with a wine selection or do you look at the wine list and point?
TM - Unless I see something I already want from the list I almost always ask the server for help choosing a wine that suits my meal. They usually know the list more intimately than anyone else.

I want to say thanks for the time that Tracy spent with me on the brief discussion about wine. I also want to say that I'm glad that Tracy has a happy place that involves wine. 

It's pretty clear to me that not only Tracy, but all of us have an experience that we can look back on that makes us feel good. Isn't that what wine is all about? Something that can make us feel a little better? 

Please share with me your happy place that involves wine. I would love to hear from you about it.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

My Great Find with Almost No Gas

I was headed up to Belleville Ontario earlier this week for my grown-up job which took me right next to the heart of Prince Edward County. One of the most coldest wine regions in the world. I was initially heading to one of my favourite wineries from that region. Black Prince Winery, however I was half way there and thought to myself I had better give them a call to make sure they are open on a Monday in February.

To my great disappointment, the message chatted away at me saying that they are only open Friday to Sunday. So looking down at my gas gauge (which at this point was on the E for empty) I figured I had better make my way back to the nearest gas station. The easiest way for me to do that was to hit the home button on my GPS.

Following the lovely mono-tone woman's voice on the GPS, I take some of the most curvy snow covered roads I have driven on in a while. During this process I'm now starting to sweat a bit as the gas gauge creeps ever closer to the line on the E.

Then I see a small sign that says Huff on the side of the road with what looks like a bunch of grapes on it. Old and weatherd laying in a ditch. I'm sure that the sign had been there for some time. Well as curious as I am, and the fact that I'm headed in that direction anyway I figure, what have I got to lose.

As I come up to the winery, there are 3 moderatly sized buildings that crest a hill. All of them are farely new and in great condition.

The first on my right was an Inn. From first impressions it looked like somewhere I would actually like to stay. I can be a bit of a softy sometimes. Well kept, modern and up to date. The thing that really struck me was all of the wonderful sculptures that dotted the grounds. Some that were very detailed, even when covered in a blanket of snow.

This was because to the Oeno Gallery which was the middle building. Looking fairly new and if I were to have had more time, would definatley have stopped in for a look.

Finally the last building was where I was headed. I was quite confident the winery was open as there were a few other cars in the parking lot. Even if they all worked there, I was prety sure I could at least have a quick walk around.



I walk into the winery tasting/showroom and was very cheerfully greated by Alex. He was the one person that was in the room. I found it amusing that Alex and one of the other employees that was running in and out filling orders were having a bit of a dispute over the "Tribute to Whitney Houston" channel when Alex would greatly have prefered the Yardbirds. (I have to go with Alex on that one).

Enough about that. Let's get to the wines.

I sampled a number of different wines and was very impressed, both with the wines and Alex's ability to deliver the expressions for each of them in plain language. If you have been reading my blog, that's what I'm all about.

2009 South Bay Vinyards Chardonnay
2009 Zero De Gris
2009 South Bay Vineyards Merlot-Cabernet












2009 Off Dry Reisling



Here is what I tasted.

So here is the quick run down on each. I loved the Chardonnay and the Reisling. These two, in my opinion are two wines and varieties that can put Ontairo on the map when it comes to white wines(please feel free to quote me on that one).
The Merlot-Cabernet Blend was great on the nose, but lacked a bit of the body on the palate, which I have to say I was warned about ahead of time. Still, it was quite well crafted and put together on a whole.



Now the story about the Zero De Gris.
This is made from a grape that I have never heard of before. The Frontenac Gris. This is a French American hybrid out of all places Minnesota. The sugar on this grape is through the roof! First pressing is about 40 brix. I know what you are thinking. It's going to be like drinking something like that McDonald Orange drink syrup you had as a kid. But I was remarkably impressed.

The high acidity of this grape especially on the finish, leaves a crisp clean feel on the palate which really surprised me. Alex was also telling me just how labour intensive this variety is to harvest as it needs to be be well below -10 degrees C for the grapes to even freeze because of the high sugar content.

So some final questions to end with.

Will I go back and visit Huff Estate Winery again? Most definately.

Where can they make things that are good better? The red blend. They already are doing something about that. Can't wait for the new blend to try.

What are they doing right? - Whites and Zero De Gris. Keep doing exactly what you are doing.

Overall Experiene? - Fantastic.

Worth checking out if you haven't been there? - A MUST!

One last point. Make sure you have lots of gas in your car.
Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Thursday, 9 February 2012

What is the Fascination with Points?

I've been reading on Twitter the last few days the pros and cons with the 100 point system for scoring wine. My take on it is, what's the big deal????

I can understand why some wine makers can get pretty upset with a score less than 90 for a wine that in my opinion should be about an 80. They think that a poor score will affect their sales, and it probably does.

But who am I? I'm just a guy who likes to drink wine.

Wait a second.  No.

I think I know a thing or two about what makes a good wine good and a one that has been scored high to influence sales. I asked my wife tonight what she thinks about the 100 point scale system and her response was simple. If it scores high the wine should be good, as long as the scoring is consistent.

And I agree.

Sale and Pelltier in 2002
But here is the problem. The scoring isn't consistent. It is all up to the individual tasting the wine. During this conversation, I was quickly reminded of a certain figure skating scandal during the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Yes, I am Canadian, and probably showing my age, but I'm still a little bitter about the judging for the gold medal round. That's when the Canadians were robbed and the gold was initially awarded to the Russians.

My point is, unless you know what how the wine is being marked the score is meaningless. It's all about how the wine (and figure skaters) perform that should be the true indicators. Not points on a card.

Wine should be about the experience you make of it. Not from that card in front of a bottle of wine on a liquor store shelf. Just because it has a number on it marked by someone that the general public has never heard of before, doesn't always mean that it's good.

In my opinion you need to be the judge yourself. You may like wine from a box. That's OK, even if I may think the wine may not be of a so called good quality. (FYI, it probably isn't if it comes in a box.)

I have spoken to a few winemakers that know the truth. Make a good quality wine that they are proud of and it will be loved by those that drink it regardless what the critics say.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Truth About VQA

When you are looking a at wine in the LCBO, or anywhere else for that matter, and you see that VQA logo on a bottle of wine and what does it mean?

For many of you it may be a bit of reassurance that the wine will be a least of a good quality in nature. Right?

Before I answer the question, let me give you some more background.

VQA in Ontario is a regional or Appellation system that clearly identifies that areas in Ontario where wines are produces. VQA also has some requirements on the varietal and contents to make a VQA wine.

There are 4 main regions in Ontario when it comes to VQA. Peele Island, Lake Erie North Shore, Niagara Peninsula, and Prince Edward County. For a detailed map take a look here.

VQA also has an operating committee that consists of 12 members that represent all the wineries in Ontario, from small to large. This committee basically decides how the wine industry in Ontario works, or at least to make a VQA wine.

There is also a list requirements on wine standards that must be met to be designated as a VQA wine.
From the type of bottle, no addition of water, accurate labels and 100% Ontario grown grapes.

Every VQA wine meets the following standard:

  • Wine must be made from 100% fresh Ontario grown grapes — no concentrates are permitted - Grapes used must meet a quality standard for each variety (measured by natural sugar content in the ripe grapes)
  • No water can be added in the winemaking process
  • Labels must be truthful and accurately represent the wine in the bottle
  • All wines except for sparkling wines must be vintage dated and meet vintage requirements
  • All wines must be packaged in glass bottles with cork, synthetic or approved screwcap closures
  • All finished wines are evaluated by an expert taste panel and a laboratory analysis and must meet minimum quality standards before release

In addition, regulations establish detailed standards for specific claims of origin and for each individual style and type of wine. Wine-making standards are described in full in regulations made under the VQA Act.

There are a lot more details about VQA that I won't get into. I'll let you learn more about it from their website.

So back to my original question. If an Ontario wine is a VQA wine, does that make it a good quality wine?

The short answer is NO.

Just because an Ontario wine is labeled VQA, it doesn't make it good. This is just like the many wines from other countries that have been labeled according to their country's system, such as AOC in France and DOC in Italy that aren't good.

Please don't get me wrong, there are many wines in Ontario that have come a long way since they started in the industry, but there is still a long way to go.

I do drink Ontario wines. I am very specific on where they come from, and how they are produced. We could be a leader in the world market and are in some areas, such as Ice Wine. There really isn't a country that can compete with us on that one. We are in Canada after all!

I do say keep drinking Ontario wines, but be specific. Find the good producers and support them. This will hopefully get the message that the others need to pull up there socks.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wine Wednesday Review!

Like I posted a few weeks ago, I'm going to give you the straight run-down on a wine tonight.

Tonight we enjoyed a wonderful wine from Domaine Saint Andeol, Cairanne Cote Du Rhone Village 2007.

Also known as "Seduction", the name on the label is remarkably accurate. This is one of the best Rhones that I have had in a while.

It is full of ripe red berry on the nose and a hint of spices, like cloves and cinnamon. A slight tartness of cranberry is also present.

The palate is almost exactly as the nose with a bit of strawberry compote to boot. The acidity and alcohol is perfectly balanced. The tannins are as smooth as a silk.

We had a wonderful seared lamb chop and white bean and rosemary side, from Martha Stewart, tonight for dinner. Oh my was it the perfect match. (Here is the recipe.)

I would highly recommend this one to anyone.

Here is the icing on the cake. I picked this one up at the LCBO (click LCBO for details) for a mere $17.95 CAD.

 I know, I got a bit technical tonight, but I can tell you it is worth it!

Enjoy a glass.
Matt



Saturday, 28 January 2012

The LCBO's Vintages - Don't be Afraid!

So for those of you who live in Ontario you know that getting wine is a pretty simple task. You head off to your local LCBO and pick up your favourite wine, beer, or spirits and away you go.

As it is a provincially run government agency has its advantages and disadvantages.

So let's start with the advantages.
  1. Inventory - Most LCBO locations carry a pretty good selection of wine for you to enjoy.
  2. Location, Location, Location! - You can usually find one in every small town in the province. Even if it's in an old construction trailer. If you don't believe me just head to Gooderham Ontario.
  3. Vintages - I'll give you the full scoop on Vintages in a bit.
  4. Training - Many of the employees have a good grasp on when not to serve intoxicated public who come in. They also have a pretty good social responsibility campaign called Deflate the Elephant, which is about the responsibilities of hosting a party. You can find out some great information at www.deflatetheelephant.com
  5. Buying Power - The LCBO is the second largest purchaser or wine and spirits in the world.
Now the disadvantages.
  1. Inventory - The inventory is almost the same EVERYWHERE. And I mean the same. There is very little choice when it comes to good quality wine that is available on the world market. Part of the reason for this is because of the volume inventory that they are required to maintain. They will only buy wines that they can stock in a large portion of their hundreds of locations.
  2. Price - According to the Ontario Auditor General, the prices at the LCBO are higher than they should be. Now I do understand that the LCBO has a responsibility to the public as they are a crown organization - HOWEVER for those of us that are enjoying a good wine or spirit once in a while, or have chosen to make this a hobby or career - GET A GRIP! For more information on the report, here is an article from the Toronto Star.
So I said earlier that I was going to come back to point number 3 on Vintages.  Everytime I am rummaging through the Vintages section at my local LCBO, I always see someone who is standing there with the biggest "Deer in Headlights" look on their face. I can see what they are thinking.
"What the hell does all this label mean?" and "How come these are the pricing is all over the place?"

As a wine enthusiast, I will sometimes strike up a conversation with a person that has that deer in headlight look and ask them a couple of questions. Such as what is the occasion? How much do you want to spend? or What do you like? After a few explanations and maybe a suggestion or two, the sense of relief they express is huge. The conversation usually ends with a quick thanks and we part ways.

Within Vintages, there are all kinds of wine that are from all over the world. (That's the buying advantage I mentioned earlier.) With pricing that is often less expensive than the general listing items that they carry. So you shouldn't be afraid of checking things out. One of the things that I have done at my local LCBO is to find that one person that kind of takes care of Vintages section. Don't be afraid to ask them questions. That's what they are there for.

Personally I really like the gentleman who takes care of the Vintages at my local LCBO. He has his days that he looks like he rolled out from under a bridge, but man does the guy know a ton about wine. He also likes to bend the corporate rules and bring in more different wines that what they like to showcase.

The LCBO likes to have a minimum of 2 faces on the shelf to promote sales.
I think they have it wrong. They should be bringing in more different types of wine. Wine drinkers of the 21st century are becoming more educated than ever. Is having 2 bottles with the same label going to help sell more wine? I doubt it, but doing more to make sure you have a store that is stocked with more different wines that people want. That will do it.
LCBO Shelf with Multiple Faces of Wine Labels

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Corkscrew Anyone?

So you are headed over to a friends for a dinner party in their new house and have your favourite bottle of wine. It's been a while since you have seen them and are looking forward to sharing a meal and a few bottles of wine.

You finally arrive, have the grand tour of their new diggs, and have a few laughs. It's time to open up a bottle. Then tragedy happens.

NO CORKSCREW!

They can't find one because they still haven't finished unpacking all their boxes yet. They can't find the little rubbery garlic peeler, or the potato masher either. But as we all know, those are far less important.

So like the ingenious and always prepared person that you, are you have a spare one on you.

Tragedy averted!

A few months ago, I was in the market for a new corkscrew myself as my favourite one had broken (yes they do break).

So I hunted and hunted for about 2 months before I found one that I really really liked. Was it perfect? No, but it was close enough for me to work with.

There are many different ways to remove a cork from a wine bottle.

Here are a few.


A basic corkscrew that can contribute to a torn rotator cuff if you aren't careful!

A Waiter's Friend. This is almost the exact one that I use. I like to make sure that it has a smooth blade to cut the foil on a bottle as a serrated blade can sometimes leave bits of foil floating around.

The super easy winged type.
The Rabbit. A bit overpriced in my opinion, but does the job easily and quickly.
The Cork Puller. This one takes a bit of practice, but can be done with great efficiency.








So where does that leave you?

Just like your taste in wine is your's, so is your taste in corkscrew.

If all else fails you can do one of two things.

Buy wine with a screw top or...

Opening a wine bottle with a shoe.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt

Friday, 20 January 2012

To Concord or Not to Concord?

So I'm sure that many of you love a little grape jelly on your PB sandwich, but for me, it is the perfect combination.

Usually grape jelly is made out of concord grapes which is really yummy. I can remember as a kid, my mom making grape jelly by putting the cooked grapes in an old pillowcase (at least that's what I called it) and squeezing out all the juice into a pot to then transfer it into jars and sealing them with wax.

I'll probably get in trouble if my mother reads this, but it was one of the things, looking back, that my mother made well.

A couple of weekends ago, our family was on a weekend trip to a small ski town in Western New York state for my wife's job, and I made sure to stop into the only winery in town.

We went in and did a variety of tastings and many were okay wines. None of them I would particularly search out again. We did walk away with a bottle of their Syrah which wasn't bad, however a bit over priced.

But one of the things that really got to me was that they had a number of wines that were either 100% concord or a blend of concord and other grape varieties. 

I've gotta say that every time I tasted them, it reminded me of when I was a kid and sneaked in the kitchen at my Presbyterian church and drank the communion wine. Yes I did that. Here was the thing. It wasn't wine at all but 100% pure Welch's Concord Grape juice.

I guess this is my point. The wines that I tasted were "100% New York Grapes" and that was very evident. Not that all New York wines are all bad, just the ones that I've had.  

So in my humble opinion. To Concord or Not to Concord?

Not.

Enjoy a glass.
Matt