Saturday, September 25, 2010

Report from … TASTE! 2010 in Prince Edward County – September 25, 2010

As I left Toronto, gray clouds hung over head and the rain began to spit down – not a great start to my day out in Prince Edward County to take part in TASTE!

As we drove along the sky seemed to clear in front of us while those gray clouds lingered above Toronto, not willing to let the city of “elite’ out of its gloomy grip.  In front of us it looked like it might be a shower-free day.  And that’s good, because TASTE! Is an outdoor event which takes place at the Crystal Palace in downtown Picton.  This year it was bigger then ever: more wineries, more fooderies and more of everything else.

TASTE! Treat …

Easily the Smoked Pulled Pork Slider with Barley Days Loyalist Lager and Blueberry BBQ Sauce on a Pastry House Bun, topped with Hagerman’s heirloom tomato jam … to die for.  I had to eat a second just to prove to myself the first was not a fluke; then, as you can see, from the picture below, they had to hide the rest from me.

TASTE! Sensation …
Without a doubt, Copper Kettle Chocolate Company’s “shots” … these are dark chocolate balls loaded with a splash of your favourite wine:  Hillier Creek Vidal Icewine, Harwood Estate Just Dessert sweet wine and the surprising Sandbanks Baco Noir.  If you remember Freshen Up gum, the gum that squirted in your mouth when you bit into it – that’s the sensation of these chocolate.  Now how does she get that liquid to stay that way inside these heavenly chocolatey bites?  It’s more perplexing then the Caramilk Secret.

The TASTEE! Wines of Note ...
Once again, as with Taste Ontario earlier in the week, I need to keep the wine reviews for future newsletters, but I can give you hints about what is to come.

As we left the County the gray clouds were rolling in from the east and began to spit down – it was the same way my day had begun, but this time I did not mind seeing the splashes of rain hit the windshield.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Report from … Tango in Argentina at the Delta Chelsea – September 23, 2010

The Argentineans wanted to give us a taste of what they are offering the world in both food and wine, and tonight they showed us, complete with tangoist, delicious wines and Argentine delicacies, all held at the Delta Chelsea in downtown Toronto.

Four food stations serving everything from salmon and trout to lamb and scallops all under the direction of Natalia Machado … the highlight of the night was Machado’s own tamale topped with succulent beef short rib.  Later in the evening I sampled the short rib on it’s on – and I was right, melt in your mouth delicious.  I recognized Machado’s face from somewhere and I knew it wasn’t from either Argentina (where she comes from) or New York (where she is the chef and part owner of the restaurants Azul and Industria Argentina – translation: Made in Argentina) … while talking with her it finally came into focus, Food Network’s Chopped – she won.

Talking about Argentina these days must include wine, especially if I am writing about it here … 13 wines were on for tasting tonight, including a Chardonnay, a Torrentes (Argentina’s signature white), Cabs and of course, Malbecs.  My top three of the evening are below:

Septima 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - $13.95
It should be a crime to sell wine this good at such a low price.  I know I constantly preach value, and this is what I mean when I do.  This wine is sourced from a pair of vineyards: one in the foothills and another on the plains – so it gets the best of both worlds: acidity from the much cooler foothills and juiciness of fruit from the plains – and they meld so well in the bottle.  A nose of blackberry, black cherry and a hint of vanilla; a palate that follows the nose with juiciness of fruit and a spiciness on the finish – just as advertised.  Nice length and a price that won’t break the bank. (****½)

Norton 2007 Reserve Malbec - $18.95
Now here we have a Malbec with good complexity on both nose and palate.  The lady pouring the wine knew very little about it, so it’s god that the wine spoke for itself.  A nose full of cinnamon, spiced black plum and vanilla, the taste was spiced black fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, spiced plum, and Christmas cake.  Great mouth feel, and nice complexity with just enough tannin dryness to make it interesting. (****½)

Saurus 2008 Merlot - $13.95
In Yiddish it’s emotional pain but in Argentina the name of this winery comes from the dinosaur bones that were found during excavation. The grapes hail from the Patagonia region with 40% of the wine seeing both French and American oak.  This is not your typical juicy jammy Merlot, there’s some finesse behind the fruit - dark fruit, dry plums, spice and herbs with a hint of white chocolate on the finish.  Price: $13.95 – Rating ****

Final bottle opened was never meant to be on the menu but was spotted on a table by a number of us, so sommelier Elayne Bassett was nice enough to alleviate the suspense of what it tasted like by pulling the cork.  The 2007 Norton Privada: a Malbec. Merlot, Cabernet blend that was quite simply a beauty with chocolate, black fruit and spiced plum. Ole?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Report from … Taste Ontario at the AGO – September 21, 2010

A fabulous afternoon with 47 Ontario wineries in attendance at the Art Gallery of Ontario to serve up their latest and greatest vintages.  Considering that I must keep these wines as fodder for my newsletters to come there are few reviews I can share with you right away, so how about I show you some pictures of my favourite labels (that go along with those wines) and promise you reviews from such wineries as Hidden Bench, Malivoire, Calamus, Flat Rock, Fielding, Tawse, Rosehall Run and many more in the coming months.  Be sure to sign up for my free bi-weekly newsletter so you don’t miss any news or reviews.  For now, take a gander at these labels that accompanied some of my top rated wines of the afternoon:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Report from ... The Inaugural Grape King Breakfast - September 14, 2010

It's not often that I go to a breakfast "wine" event, even rarer still is a wine event with no wine, but this was the inaugural breakfast time (8:00 am) announcement of this year's Grape King - complete with breakfast.  Now I'm not sure how my colleague Dean Tudor would grade this event.  Dean grades the wines (there were none), the food (standard buffett breakfast fare) and the overall effectiveness of the event (the announcement was made and we have a new Grape King - that's quite effective) - but couldn't someone have popped a bottle of bubbly for the occasion?
The event kicked off with breakfast, then a brief few words from Rosemary Auld of RBC, who has been a supporter of the Grape King event since 1995.   Rosemary mentioned that the first Grape King was crowned in 1956, then she also let it slip that that was the year she was born - so she thought it a pretty good year all round.

Kimberly Hundertmark, the executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, also spoke a few words about the Festival and its tie-in with the Grape King.  It was a very revealing morning as Kimberly let it be known that she had once been entered in the Grape Princess competition of 1966 (she did not win and has been scarred ever since).

This year's Grape King is actually a Queen and a PHD at that, Dr. Debbie Inglis, of Niagara Vintage Harvesters.  Debbie, along with her husband Rob (who started out as a friend and rock picker in 1976) farm 20 acres of vineyard in Virgil (just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake).  Their vineyard is made up of Niagara staple grapes: Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc - and are used primarily in Inniskillin wines.  Debbie will be officially installed as the Grape `Queen` Wednesday September 15 at 3:00pm at her farm on Line 4.  In Debbie`s speach she recounted growing up amongst the grape vines and finished with "I am very proud to be a grape grower in Ontario."