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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.