I needed a space on my site to present thought on my journey for wine and spirit appreciation. I am not an expert, these are simply my opinions as I educate myself and try new things. The wine I talk about on here will likely be 99% local, as we live in one of the richest wine producing regions in the world, and after all I am about supporting all that is local.
John Hall is an iconic whiskey maker, based in Grimsby Ontario, with a long history in the industry as a winemaker. After 30 years in winemaking, he left for a while to work in the corporate sector, but his true calling was always bringing him full circle to his true love of the science of food, and blending. Realising that the way of the Canadian whiskey had gone the route of international consolidation, he decided to pursue a dream to get into the whiskey business. A dream that he had chased since his teenage years in Windsor growing up in the shadows of the Hiram Walker Distillery. Canadian whiskey is iconic, and he was on a mission to make the best that he could, and bring his creativity and passion to this golden liquid much revered internationally, like maple syrup and hockey.
It is time to accept that fall is upon us. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it is truly arriving, shown by the turning of the leaves and cooler temperatures. For some this is the most joyous time of year, but I have to say I will not be happy to see the next season arrive, which shall remain nameless. With fall comes a change in our eating habits, and associated is our drinking habits. I have seen a switch in what I am looking for in a glass of wine from sweet and crisp whites, to light and refreshing reds, and whites with body and weight.
Fall means thanksgiving, and when I was at Taste Ontario last week I decided that it was an ideal opportunity to sample some of the best Pinot noir that we have to offer. Turkey and Pinot, I think this is just perfect, and my choice was backed up by a winery friend who tweeted that it is the season for Pinot and chardonnay. I guess I’m learning. I also tasted a few cab franc’s at the tasting, and feel some of these might be suited to our purpose here, as well.
13th Street, 13th Series Pinot Noir
This is the restaurant only line from one of my favourites, but will only help if you happen to be out for dinner this fall, and see it on the list. I have to mention it, because this Pinot is a classic, and very food friendly, with a really nice clean finish. Highly recommend ordering a bottle, and if they don’t have it at your favourite restaurant have them get some in. www.13thstreetwinery.com
2027 is a virtual winery, which means that they do not own a physical building in which they make wine, but rather borrow space. A great concept to help up and coming winemakers get product out to the public. I have tasted a couple of Kevin’s wines in the past, and enjoy them. His wild fermented Pinot was bright with a nice dry finish, and would be drinkable now but I would like to see this one develop www.2027cellars.ca
Im lucky and spoiled, I get this. I make no excuses, nor do I let this go to my head, but rather I enjoy the life I am afforded and try to give as much as I get. My life included meetings with winemakers on the crush pads at their wineries, because, well it's harvest and the guys are busy. Thankfully I work in an industry that I love, and makes me happy (and feeds and waters me VERY well) . I had a meeting out at Vineland Estates this week with one of my top three favourite winemakers in the region, and what we are planning is going to be a fantastic experience for whoever is lucky enough to join us. Stay tuned for more on that via social media channels very soon. For now, I will just say that it's related to the return of Death Row Meals for the fall/winter 2012/13 season. Excited!
In my late 20’s I was introduced to premium liquor, starting with my whiskey/scotch revelation! Well, in reality I thank my cousin Jonathan, who when I was 19 introduced me to the wonder that was Oban. Roof top at the bar at the Hotel, where I was taught lessons of life, love, and booze, by my older and much wiser cousin. This was my early introduction to the high end spirits, that would eventually (when I could finally afford it myself) change my life.
We all have stories, as your people, of overdoing it with booze in one way or another. Most people have bad memories of tequila shots, or poppers, in high school and university, that spoiled us for years, if not decades. This can change, you just have to know what to drink. Agreed, some people just wont like a certain spirit. Nothing to be done about it, but you don’t know until you try. I never had a tequila incident, but I never liked the taste. That is, until I found premium “sipping” tequilas.
I am not the hugest fan of bitter flavours, and as a result I have not been much into Campari. On a challenge, from friends who love the stuff, I am trying to change this. Aperol was suggested as a less bitter option to work with, so this weekend I am going to dive into my bottle and try some things out. So far my research has led to the following applications of this spirit, any other ideas for me?
I always say that it is important to have ways to compare and expand knowledge in the world of food and wine. Being that well over 90% of what I drink is produced in Ontario, and is VQA, I welcome opportunities to drink internationally produced wines, if no other reason than to have standards by which to compare and contrast what we produce in Ontario.
I was invited to a lunch tasting at The Pantages Hotel with our good friend Alexa, and we were given the opportunity to try some stunning wines produced in the Rhone Valley, of Southern France. The Rhone is the second largest wine producing region in France, and they export wine to over 140 countries worldwide. With over 6000 wineries with a total of 76,330 hectares, that sold 399 million bottles between 2008-2009, this is quite an impressive area. They have been producing wine in the Rhone since the Greeks and Etruscans planted vines here in 700 BCE.
The 2010 vintage for the Rhone was an interesting one, and the producers feel the quality of the reds is very high. The colours are deep and dense, with a high skin to juice ratio, the wines are very aromatic, clean and complex. Some of the wines we tasted were good now and will be better with some age, and some could use to sit for a while to mature. From a pricing perspective, the Rhone wines are affordable at the entry level. But for those who like to spend a little more there is definitely some quality there.
I have many early memories of the golden liquid made from barley; be it my first legal drink on the Hyatt roof with a cousin, buying from the local LCBO when it was still a warehouse-style setup, or being given a little taste of Crown Royal from dad when feeling under the weather. I discussed these memories, and learned about a new friend recently at One Restaurant at the Hazelton Hotel. Dr. Sam Simmons is the global voice behind The Balvenie, and is preaching the merits of this storied house of Scotch Whisky.
While I am a staunch supporter of all things local, sometimes I step outside my box. Once in a while there are opportunities dropped in our laps in our own backyards to experience what is great about another region of the world, and as lovers of food and wine it is important to get out in our own city and experience these international tastes. Especially if it involves drinking wines from a region like Rioja in Spain, and one of the top Catalan chefs who trained at the world famous el Bulli.
In the skys over Toronto, what is that? A bird? A plane? No, it was celebrities stomping grapes at the top of the CN Tower. The recent launch of the LCBO Go Local campaign took place just above the observation deck of the icon on the Toronto Waterfront. A well attended event by local media, the LCBO brought out some great local wineries, and Toronto celebs, comedian Colin Mocharie and his partner in stomping, actress Debra McGrath, competing against HGTV design personalities Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan.
Cognac is not usually one of the liquids that I imbibe on a regular basis, but I have been known to throw things like cherries in a jar with some. That, is good stuff. The opportunity to learn about cognac, and spend an evening pretending to be a mixologist was a welcomed opportinity. Thanks to the good folks at Matchstick, who had invited me to the wonderful Macallan experience earlier this year, I was heading down to the Roof Salon at the Park Hyatt this past Tuesday to see what Courvoisier Exclusif was all about. Matchstick puts on great events, so I was looking forward to this one.