Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Report from ... Archibald’s 9th Annual Fruit Wine and Food Festival – Saturday May 31, 2008

For those who haven’t been to Archibald’s lately, you’re missing out on an extraordinary place. The main store seems to have expanded and there’s now a golf course on the property. It has been a few years since I have attended their fruit wine festival, and the last time I did I discovered one of the more unique wineries in all of Ontario – Moon Shadows Estate Winery – the first maple syrup based winery – and potentially still the only.

Today, nine wineries from as far a field as Haliburton, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Buckhorn – to as close as W
hitby and Stouffville converged on Archibald’s (located in Bowmanville) to pitch their wares under the greenhouse roof. There were also 15 different eateries/producers/specialty shops with a variety of foods: from the sweet - pastry and mousse, the savoury - beef-pesto and spicy chicken skewers, and the downright delicious - beef Wellington and mini-buffalo burgers. All while lounge act Simon Maxwell (complete with winks and points out to the crowd) gave perfect renditions of jazz standards. Then the rains came, in buckets and in waves, but thankfully there was enough cover that the greenhouse didn’t get over-crowded and nobody ran screaming for cover – there was plenty of room for people to sit, eat and drink while waiting for the inevitable return of the sunshine.

The Food …
With all the foods to choose from there were two tempters that really tickled
the tummy. Chef John McKinnon’s pulled pork was scrumptious and warmed the inside through the teaming rains; while the Oshawa Golf & Country Club’s smoked chicken wrap with grapefruit mayo was perfectly light fare for when the sun was out. If you put on in each hand you were ready for whatever Mother Nature would bring.

The Wines …

I learned that Southbrook’s Framboise is now under screwcap, to lock in that raspberry fre
shness. This new batch was produced at the new Niagara winery – a little heavier than in previous years, with very intense raspberry flavour – almost Port-like in consistency.

But the
real winners in the beverage department turned out to be Moon Shadows and Applewood. Matt Passafiume (Applewood) has concocted an amazing new Sparkling MacMeade cider ($12.95) that combines wildflower honey with MacIntosh apples. It has a wonderful floral nose, with a touch of honey and apples … the palate is light and refreshing and at only 7% alcohol it’s an all day type of drink. But don’t just take my word for it, this wine/mead concoction won Double Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships 2008 – deservedly so. Another amazing and innovative product from the mind behind Applewood, who also brought to life Hard 8 Raspberry Cider, another fantastic summer beverage.

Moon Shadows (from Haliburton) also have themselves a winner, but no hardware, yet … and actually by my count he has two here. There’s the 8.5% Cranberry Ice ($22.95/375ml) – it’s a 22 on the sugar code, but it maintains all the tart and tang of Cranberry juice, your mouth actually
puckers. I don’t throw the word amazing around too often, but it can definitely be used for their new Iced Peach ($18.95/375ml), higher alcohol (14%) than the cranberry and less sugar content (18). Now before you get hung up on the sugar numbers I will tell you that there is no way you could tell either of these wines were that sweet from the taste – they are to be tried to be believed. The peaches, for this wine, are sourced from Niagara and their aromas simply radiate from the glass. The wine is sweetened with maple syrup, but there is no maple flavour – just pure peaches (with no sickeningly sweet cocktail sauce). I can’t describe the beauty of this wine to you – it is something you just have to taste to believe, it really is/was the must try of the afternoon, and worth the trip up to Haliburton … forget amazing, “awesome” just might be a better descriptor.

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