Sunday, May 31, 2009

Report from ... Archibald’s Fruit Wine & Food Festival – May 30, 2009

Hot dog (probably the only food not available for tasting today) a wine and food festival with a twist. The twist? It’s fruit wine, the 10th Annual Archibald’s festival that brings local area eateries (in and around Bowmanville) together with Ontario fruit wineries. This year there were 10 participating wineries. Some, like Southbrook, Muskoka Lakes and Rush Creek are annual attendees, while others like Countryman’s and Moon Shadow are relatively new to the festivities. This is by no means all the fruit wineries of Ontario – for that Archibald’s would have to clear out their entire parking lot and set the tents up there … but it is a good representation of fruit wineries in the area, and from a little further. I have to hand it to Archibald’s, this year’s event was well thought out and spacious as compared to last year’s. Last year there was one long tent with wineries and foodries up and down each side, causing a over-crowding situation where you always felt like you were in the way and stepping on your neighbour-taster, combine that with the heat and flash of a heavy downpour and the tent became stifling at times. This year the tents, yes plural, were set up in a “U”-shape with the wineries and food stations on the outside perimeter, and the interior had lots of tables, chairs and plenty of room to move about and enjoy your sample without feeling rushed or in the way; kudos to the organizers (Archibald’s) for realizing the need for a much better set-up.

So Who Was There …

Applewood, Countryman’s, County Cider, Kawartha Country, Moon Shadows, Muskoka Lakes, Ocala, Rush Creek, Southbrook and of course the host, Archibald’s. My foodie took the day off, so I was on my own for food selections, and those who know me know that food takes a back seat to a good glass of wine, but there were some interesting and tasty dishes to be had – keeping in mind that sometimes simple is best.

Food First …

Chanterelle Bistro (Bowmanville) served delicious mini lamb burgers that were succulent and juicy topped with a mint jelly. Everything from the bun to the jelly was homemade.

A gentleman by the name of Eben Vanderstam, who goes by the moniker “Chef Eben”, had the most sought after treat of the day: Durham Pork and Beef Meatballs Walsaka. Everybody was carrying at least one of these delicious squash ball sized meatballs around, smothered in a delicious sweet and tangy sauce; if you were unlucky enough not to be carrying one around (or hadn’t tried one yet) you sooner or later found yourself asking someone, “where did you get that?”

Steamers Catering (Newcastle) had the dessert of the day to die for: Chocolate Crunch Trifle … chocolate cake, chcolate pudding with toffee-almond crunch mixed in, all topped with whipped cream and a cherry. I suffered through one, but would have gladly suffered through a dozen more.

Now, The Wine …

Ten wineries pouring a minimum of three wines each, though many were pouring more, and the choices of what to try seemed endless. But the wine of the day went to Applewood Farm Winery for their Mac Meade ($12.95) – there is no doubt as to why this wine won it’s Double Gold status at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships (its second in as many years).

Other delights included Rush Creeks’ Rockin’ Raspberry; Kawartha Country Wines’ Raspberry Social and Raspberry Chocolate; and Muskoka Lakes 2007 Cranberry and 2007 White Cranberry. There were also previous favourites like the Moon Shadow dessert series (Maple Sugar, Strawberry Shortcake and Cranberry Ice), Applewood’s Hard Eight Raspberry Cider and Mukoka Lakes’ Red Maple.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one wine from the host and I found a great little bit of bubbly called Hard Cranberry that’s an apple based wine with a shot of cranberry to minimize the sweetness and ramp up the refreshment factor.

Another successful and eye-opening Fruit Wine Festival – it’s here that you will find the innovators of the wine industry – they push the envelope to make interesting and authentic wines because of their passion for the product, because they sure don’t get the recognition they deserve from the wine buying public or the LCBO and certainly none from government – but that’s a story for another day. What I suggest now is finding your local fruit winery, step inside and see what interesting things are on the shelf, or you can always wait for the 11th edition of this festival to come around.

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