Canadian Cellars  at Black Prince Winery

2015 Wine Touring Highlights

2015 was a year of discovery while wine touring in Prince Edward County and beyond.

I emerged from winter cold storage in May for Terroir in the County and my blog 42 Splashes of Wine outlined the joys and dangers of being a wine blogger and elicited some much needed advice from other wine bloggers afterwards on the protocols of spitting. I’m looking forward to next year’s Terroir when hopefully I will be able to walk a straight line on my way back to the car, which is never driven by me.

Terroir set the tone and provided the leads for some of the most fun writing assignments I had this year. Continue reading

5 Top Reasons to take a Wine Tour

On the road with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours

On the road with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours

Treat yourself to a real wine tour in 2015 – the kind with a bus, a guide and an itinerary. It’s worth the cost in terms of information, safety and pure enjoyment. Here are my top five reasons why to pay for the experience, at least for the first visit to a wine region.

1 No Designated Drivers

It’s hard not to swallow when you are tasting wines even if you are just taking a little sip, they add up. Designated drivers often succumb to the “just a taste” offers of their friends. The cost of an official wine tour is a fraction of the cost of a DUI charge and the consequences of losing your licence. Pay for the tour, and you will all have fun, learn a lot and come home with a Continue reading

Where is PEC in Vintages Essentials?

Vintages Essentials129Vintages Essentials Magazine from the LCBO is out. This classy magazine tells Ontario wine lovers the essential top 130 wines to have in your wine cellar. There is not a single Prince Edward County wine on the list.

There are a 25 from Niagara, three from BC and  102 from the rest of the world.  The LCBO is a government owned monopoly in Ontario, it rakes off a lot of taxes from the sale of wine both through its stores and at the wineries themselves and yet it seem to think that only a couple of dozen Ontario wines, spread across the entire spectrum of wines and only from Niagara grapes, can be called “essential.”  What is the criteria?

I find this so ironic. Two weeks ago, I interviewed Norman Hardie, a leading Prince Edward County winery owner and winemaker, who said “The amazing terroir and soils of Prince Edward County have allowed us to make world-class wines.” Continue reading

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A Year of Canadian Wines – #TGCWC

For the past year, I’ve been participating in the Great Canadian Wine Challenge. The rules of the Challenge were simple: you could only drink Canadian wines for a full year. There were some exceptions. 1. if you were a guest and the host served something else (even though you brought them a bottle of Canadian wine as a hostess gift), 2. if you were a wine writer / sommelier / judge and you had to drink an international wine as part of your work or 3. if you were out of the country and there was no Canadian wine to be had.

I made it through the whole year within the guidelines. I did receive two bottles of Durbanville Hills wine from South Africa to critique for pairing with chocolate. Now the year is over, I’ll go looking for  these wines in the LCBO. As South African born if not bred, I have an interest in their wine industry, I did get an exemption for wine offered at other people’s houses or events and  finally, I was in the South of France   ( I loved Madiran) for three weeks and the Danube for two so got to sample some very different wines there. Everything else was Canadian.

I started the Challenge off last September looking for affordable wines in Prince Edward County. I  found a selection of these at Sandbanks Winery, Waupoos, Casa Dea, The Grange of Prince Edward,  Broken Stone, Rosehall Run, Huff Estates, Lighthall, and 33 Vines for wines under $20. The prize goes for the best bargain went to the Grange for their Stoneboat white that was priced “cheap” but tasted eminently drinkable for a vin ordinaire or a party wine. Also among the bargains were barrel aged Pinot Noir from Keint-He and Long Dog in the mid twenties and Charnat style sparkling from Hinterland. These were all featured in one of my last examiner.com blogs  Bargain Hunting for Prince Edward County Wines Continue reading

Striking gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships

I love reading the Awards list for the All Canadian Wine Championships  .It felt like old home week, when I could catch up on old friends and see how well they are doing and look for what wines to buy and wineries to visit.  As a former Maritimer, the success of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wineries was intoxicating.

Avondale Sky Winery

Avondale Sky Winery

Last year, I visited Avondale Sky for the first tine,  a picturesque new winery built in an historic church that they had rescued from demolition and floated across the bay on a barge to its new home on their vineyard. The winemaker is a very engaging young man, Ben Swetnam, and I liked everything I tasted. Obviously the people at the ACWC did too.  They won double gold in single white hybrids for their 2013 Bliss, gold for their hybrid white blend Cheverie 2012, bronze for their 2013 Tidal Bay. and bronze for their late harvest Martock 2013.

Continue reading

It’s Nova 7 Time – across Canada!

BB winery 3I discovered Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 last spring when I visited Nova Scotia. The friendly folks at Bishop’s Cellar, one of the province’s four private wine stores, described a marketing campaign for the Nova 7 annual release similar to that of  Beaujolais Nouveau.

They told me about  publicity that leads up to its Victoria Day Weekend release and  banners proclaiming “it’s Nova 7 Time!”   festooning an entire wall of their wine store stocked high with bottles of Nova 7. It’s routinely sold out as  the enthusiastic customers rush to purchase a summer supply.

This year Benjamin Bridge, the not so secret weapon of the Nova Scotia wine industry, is taking on the country. With the largest production ever for the small Gaspereau Valley winery, they have 11,000 cases of Nova 7 on their way to market in eight provinces and the Yukon. Only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland  have been left out in the cold. Continue reading

“Mazing Muscat

VQA regulations limit the use of hybrid grapes in Ontario wines sold through the LCBO even though the hybrids’ mix of European and Canadian grape varietals makes them very hardy and disease resistant.  The VQA preference is for European vinifera which do well especially in Niagara because of the long hot growing season and short winter.  In Prince Edward County, they have to bury the European vines over the winter to protect them. This year’s bitterly cold winter has damaged a lot of the European vines in Niagara but the hybrids have survived, causing some winemakers to take another look at hybrids as part of their plantings.

Gaspereau Muscat

Gaspereau Muscat

Nova Scotia’s growing season is so much shorter and cooler that they have embraced the science of hybrid grapes and have developed a wide selection of varietals that delight the palate especially  unique citrusy, flowery, aromatic whites that thrive in their climate. Although l’Acadie is the provincial staple, this week’s wine of the week is from a white hybrid that is incredibly versatile. It is wonderful alone, spices up the provincial Tidal Bay appellation wine, is a key element in Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7  and really rocks when blended with Vidal grapes in an icewine.

The wine: Gaspereau Muscat 2011 $19.99
The wine is salmon pink and described as having intense tropical fruit aromas of lychee, passion fruit and pink grapefruit and a touch of fresh mint. Sweet on the nose, the wine is dry with a long grapefruit finish. Continue reading

Virtual winery’s debut white

l’Acadie  grapes are a hardy white hybrid ideal for Nova Scotia’s climate. It is the backbone of most of the table wines, blends, and bubbly produced in the province. So incredibly versatile, some winemakers are pushing the limits of what it can do.  My choice for Wine of Week #10  is this oaked l’Acadie  another versatile winter white for March.

lacadie_fume

L;Acadie Fumé

The wine: l’Acadie Fumé  2010  $.18.99
l’Acadie wine aged in new French and American oak. Described by the winemaker as ‘unlike any l’Acadie Blanc you’ve tried before.”

The winery: The Rafuse Wine Company
A virtual wine company owned by Simon Rafuse. produced on site at  Blomidon Estate Winery facilities and sold at the NSLC and Bishop’s Cellar.

Simon Rafuse Winemaker

Simon Rafuse Winemaker

The Winemaker: Simon Rafuse
Rafuse is the celebrated winemaker at Blomidon Estates winery who wanted to have his own label “Just for fun. It gives me a way to try things out.”

The accolades: Rafuse says there aren’t any yet, but it was getting a lot of buzz among the wine community when I was wine touring in Nova Scotia last spring. Continue reading

Domaine de Grand Pre

NS Icewine Festival wines

 Instead of choosing one wine this week, I’m highlighting all  the wines being poured at the  Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. This event  is being held at  Domaine de Grande Pré with six wineries taking part  this weekend and next, Feb 8 & 9, and 15 & 16. For the most part, these are wines unique to Nova Scotia, made from varietals and hybrid vines. They are ideally suited for the short Nova Scotia growing season and very flavourful. Each winery is featuring a white, a red and a dessert wine.  Continue reading

Wine of the Week – Week 3 – Benjamin Bridge Borealis Icewine ’09

Throughout 2014,  I am featuring a wine and its story from wineries I have visited.  In week 1, I celebrated New Year with L’Acadie Prestige Brut,  Week 2, dinner parties finished with Karlo Estates’s Van Alstine White (port). This week, as the wind howls and the temperature drops, I think of icewine,  the best thing to come out of a Canadian winter. There are a lot of sensational Canadian icewines but this is my absolute favourite.Borealis 2

The wine:  Benjamin Bridge Borealis Icewine  ’09
The wine is made from predominantly Vidal grapes with just a touch of New York Muscat. Benjamin Bridge only make icewine in years they consider consistent with the highest quality of grapes. Their vintages so far are ’04, ’07, ’09 and ’12. However ’09 is the vintage currently on sale. It has been aged four years before release. $35.98 /200 ml 9.8% alc.  Brix 37 at harvest. Continue reading