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LCBO goLOCAL Niagara Tour

I really like trains. That our early-September tour of Niagara’s lovely wine country–organised by Suresh Doss and the LCBO’s Trina Hendry–started in a dedicated Via 1 train to Saint Catherines predisposed me to enjoy the day.

What with the third annual Spotlight Toronto 30 days of local wine and the LCBO’s goLOCAL: Find Your Favourite promotion I’ve had a lot of wine on the brain this month. For the seventh day Jen Bylok, Mike Di Caro, and I live blogged the highlights of the tour.

Obviously, I’ve also entered the LCBO’s blog challenge that is part of the goLOCAL promotion and you can read my post here and vote for it here. (more…)

You Can Pick Your Friend’s Wine

In July I posted about the Riesling tasting I had a small part in organising. Before that we did one for Cab Franc and both of these were pretty professional. Alex Harber put his top-notch wine mind to the task of creating a pleasing order, each wine had its own brown LCBO bag, and guests were given paper rating sheets.

Last weekend a smaller group of friends, me included, did the same on a much more casual scale. Each of us brought a bottle of red to be matched with a steak dinner and a bottle of white for the turkey we had the next night. The identity of our wine was disguised and after sampling we each picked a favourite.

Red wines

The reds were:

  • Henry of Pelham 2007 Cabernet-Merlot, Meritage (Niagara)
  • Open 2009 Cab 2 Merlot (Niagara)
  • Karlo Estates 2008 Cabernet Franc (PEC)
  • Château la Commanderie du Bardelet 2008 (Bordeaux)
  • Ogier 2007 Heritages Cote du Rhone (Rhone)


Tawse Terroir: The Wines

The 2010 Canadian Wine Awards offered many superlative firsts that involved Niagara’s Tawse Winery on the Twenty Mile Bench.  They were the first Ontario winery to be named Canadian winery of the year; they won the most gold medals ever (five) for 2008 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay, 2008 Quarry Road Chardonnay, 2008 Lauritzen Pinot Noir, 2008 Wismer Lakeview Vineyard Riesling, and the 2009 Tawse Riesling; and the Robyn’s Block Chardonnay was named white wine of the year and now the record for highest table wine score (93) at these awards.  Last weekend I joined a group of Toronto wine food bloggers for an extensive tour of the fields and facilities at Tawse guided by winemaker Paul Pender and national sales manager Daniel Lafleur.

Tawse has practiced organic viticulture since Moray Tawse started the business in 2001 and has followed the tenets of biodynamic farming since 2006.  This movement is based on the ideas set out in a series of speeches by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 that, in short, call on farmers to produce as many of their inputs on their own farm as possible; substitute a selection of organic preparations for synthetic fertilisers; and schedule farm activities to coincide with the appropriate phase of the lunar month.  Corby Kummer wrote this outline of biodyamic winemaking for Techology Review. (more…)

Ravine Deli and Bakery

It is getting to the point where a drunkenly thrown wine bottle in Niagara is bound to hit a winery producing very good wine.  Outside of top-dollar places like Treadwell, Inn on the Twenty, Hillebrand, and Peller it is much more difficult to find good food.  Happily, the people behind the Ravine Deli and Bakery are stepping in to fill this void.

On our whirlwind tour of Niagara two weekends ago we made sure to stop in for lunch.  I was there in December 2008 when chefs Michael and Anna Olson were still at the helm and the deli was called Olson Foods at Ravine.  Since then Paul Harber (middle son of the family who operates the winery) has returned with his impressive resume to the kitchen at Ravine.  Chef Harber trained at the Culinary Institute of America, apprenticed under Daniel Boulud at Cafe Boulud, and worked for Michael Stadtlander at Eigensinn Farm.  After Eigensinn he went to Germany to work under Stadtlander’s mentor Vincent Klink.  The rest of the kitchen team at Ravine carries an impressively diverse array of experience in some of Niagara’s best kitchens.

Flat bread and spreads

Our lunch started with the flat bread plate generously sent out by the kitchen.  Hummus often contains cumin but here there is more of a Keller-esque and subtle use of the broader spectrum of curry powder flavours.  The chickpea spread also gave my table-mates an opportunity to correct my horrible pronunciation. (more…)

Twasting 1.0

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Niagara for Twasting 1.0 at Chateau des Charmes. The tasting was organised on Twitter by CdC’s director of marketing Michèle Bosc (@MBosc). Yes, it’s a borderline ridiculous name for an event but that’s not at all Michèle’s fault.  Blame the geniuses who named the most recent social media tool Twitter and not Jake Rock Fighter (my suggested, less-effeminate alternative).

The concept is quite excellent, I think.  Use a new technology to invite potential customers to sample your product in a sociable environment with other wine drinkers.  It helped that they supplied some excellent artisanal Canadian cheese. The large and diverse group that attended the tasting proved that those using Twitter aren’t just anti-social under-25 year-olds. (more…)