Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Report from ... All-Stars in the Vineyard at Rosewood - August 19, 2012

The folks at Rosewood could not have asked for a more beautiful day when they hosted their first (annual?) All-Stars in the Vineyard event.  The premise is fairly simple: 4 chefs make 2 dishes each paired with their "favourite" Rosewood wines ... each station is in a different part of the vineyard, so you get to eat, get some exercise and see how the grapes are growing first hand (because at two of the stations you were actually standing right beside them as you accepted your food and wine).
You could take your pick as to where you started your vineyard munch and sip journey - down near the Rosewood Pond, the furthest point from the winery; or at the Crush-pad, just outside the winery's back door.  I arrived early to take a few pictures so it only made sense to begin at the winery itself.
What's being served at Station One
Our evening began with a glass of Mima's Block Riesling - a wine I have had before, but it's nice to re-visit, especially one like this that'll help whet the appetite.  The restaurant at the Crush-pad was Ortolan, out of Toronto, they had three dishes: some kind of peach and honey thing started it off - it wasn't listed anywhere and caused a little confusion as to which wine it was suppose to pair with.  But thank goodness for the peaches, because the other two dishes were not up to snuff.  The grilled lamb was way too fatty with lots of grisly bits and was served cold (on-purpose?) - and we weren't alone in our assessment of it either, a few people around us had the same problem - and the Seafood Medley Escabeche was no better, it had an off-putting sweetness ... this was unfortunately the worst station, a bad one to begin with and I have to feel sorry for those who ended here - unless they stepped up their game by the end - we didn't stick around to find out.  As for the wines paired at Station One, they were both pre-release wines.  Natalie (winemaker for Rosewood) seems to have found a niche making Semillon and her 2011 version did not disappoint, and she once again massaged a beauty from her nemesis Cabernet Franc - this time the 2010 - both wines really outshone their food pairing.
You have now entered the Spanish Pavilion
Thankfully Station One was the fly in the ointment (so to speak) because the rest of the evening went without a hitch and saw beautiful and inventive/innovative food paired with some of Rosewood's finest wines.  Station Two was Spanish inspired fare served in the Rosewood Pavilion by Torito Tapas Bar (Toronto) ... a Reserve Riesling was paired with Heirloom Tomato Tostada with Serrano Ham (simple but lovely); while round two was Summer Seasonal Vegetable Paella, paired with a 2010 Merlot.  Here we give the nod to the Tostada - although both foods were excellent ... had the Paella included a little seafood I'm positive it would have come out on top.
Chef prepares the Tostada for service
Station 3 in our walk around the vineyard was smack dab between the Pinot Noir and Semillon fields, there Nick and Nats Uptown 21 (from Kitchener-Waterloo) was serving up a complete meal (if you were to put the two plates together).  Plate one was Sauerkraut Pork Goodies with apples and crispy chips - Gewurztraminer was the paired wine; Plate 2 was Walnut Breaded Zucchini, blue cheese aoili, stewed tomato and fresh herb salad ... the single barrel 67 Cabernet Franc (2010) was the wine served.  Hands down the Pork Goodies won the prize here ... this was a dinner in and of itself, and the sausage and thinly sliced apple sticks combination was delicious.
Serving, right there in the vineyard
A little further down the road in the heart of the Semillon vineyard beside the Rosewood Pond - Richmond Station (Toronto) had set up shop, with Top Chef Canada 2 winner Carl Heinrich manning the deep fryer (no word of a lie).  I have come across Carl's food once before during the 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs event at Huff earlier this year and was impressed with his simplicity of food and wonderful flavours ... there's a feeling when you look at the plate, and combinations of ingredients that you could make this dish at home - but then you taste it and realize: no I can't.  The same feeling applied here.  His two dishes were Wild Boar Croquettes with Sour Cherry Relish and the dessert like Cream Louisa with Preserved Local cherries ( the cherries were macerated in Rosewood's own honey) ... both were delicious in their seeming simplicity.  The Louisa was gobble-up creamy and smooth, while the Boar was crunchy with an explosion of flavour.  This was a tougher choice than at the Spanish Pavilion, but I think the Boar Croquette eked out the victory, especially since once I bit into it the first words out of my mouth were "Sh*t that's good".
Carl and his deep fryer
There was a lot of talk on the way home about which food impressed the most.  Nick and Nat's  Pork Goodies was a real stand-out, took first place for most filling and  a second place over-all.  The Heirloom Tomato Tostada from Torito Tapas Bar came in a hard fought third for favourite food.  But it was Carl Heinrich who once again stole our tastebuds and showed why Mark McEwen and the judges at Top Chef Canada (2) chose this young man as their winner ... simplicity is key: wow them with flavour in small packages, and Carl did just that.
Spying the winery through the vines
Congrats to the folks at Rosewood, who with just a few minor glitches pulled off what will hopefully be an annual walk and dine through the vineyard event ... and even more impressive, two weeks before harvest (it's gonna be an early one folks).

More pictures from the evening ...
The peaches starter was the best thing at Station One
Grilled Lamb Spiedini
Seafood Medley Escabeche
For Rosewood, this is the "Spanish Pavilion" for today
Chef carves out pieces of pork
Heirloom Tomato Tostada with Serrano Ham - yummy
Pretty pile of Paella: summer Seasonal Vegetable Paella
Over there, there's smoke ... and cooking going on
True dining in the vineyard
Nick with his Sauerkraut and Pork Goodies
The full plate of "Goodies"
Nat presents the Walnut Breaded Zucchini
Pinot Noir just hanging out in the late day sun
Cream Louisa:  doesn't look like much but it was awesome
Carl applies the finishing touches to his Croquettes
The winning bite of the night: Wild Boar Croquettes with Sour Cherry Relish
A view looking out over the Rosewood Vineyard

Friday, August 3, 2012

Report from ... Coyote's Run Rare Vintage Tasting Preview - August 3, 2012

On approach to Coyote's Run
Kicking back at Coyote's Run (sounds like a song, all I need is a dock) on a bright, calm, but hot August day might not seem the best time to be drinking big heavy reds, "they tend to dry you out," says owner Jeff Aubry, but here I am none the less, to be one of the first to try these "Rare Vintage" wines since their bottling in June.
The wines being tasted

Rare Vintage are wines made only in exceptional vintages, of which 2010 was definitely one - but they are also varietal dependent - not all grapes get the Rare Vintage treatment ... in 2010 there are 5 (the Pinot Gris came out earlier in the year) ... in 2009 Pinot Noir got labelled as such.

Today I am here to try the remaining 4 wines from the 2010 Rare Vintage release ... a pre-release is happening August 11, 2012, then the bottles will be packaged up and put away till 2013 when they will be doled out as the wines become more ready - I have to admit that these wines need time and thankfully Coyote's Run is willing to hold them for you, unless you wanna get them August 11 - then I would recommend holding them at least a year on your own.  The incentive will be a yet to be determined 15-20% off regular retail pricing ... which could offer significant savings for such excellent and age-worthy wines.  But enough about the day in the Coyote's Run pavilion and what's gonna happen, it's time to get to the wines themselves.  Each wine is linked back to the OntarioWineReview website for a full review, here I give you the broad brush-strokes of the wines I tasted.
The Rare Vintage foursome
Sitting with Jeff Aubry (owner), Dave Sheppard (winemaker) and Rosie (the ever-insistent-pat-me dog) we tasted thru the new line-up starting with the staple aoround these parts, Pinot Noir - 2010 Rare Vintage Pinot Noir ($49.95) - the palate does not match the nose, but it does offer up some real winning flavours (****).  The 2010 Rare Vintage Syrah ($32.95) came next, it's a real "son-of-a-bitch to grow," says Jeff, "but one of our more popular varietals."  The wine's palate is not exactly weighty (a la Syrah) but it isn't insubstantial either; the smoked meat and pepper really gives this wine its old worldly flavours (****).
The spectacular 2010 Rare Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon (*****)
The 2010 Rare Vintage Meritage ($39.95) is loaded with both red and dark fruit from first sniff to last gulp (**** 1/2+); it was my favourite right up until I got a load of the 2010 Rare Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon ($32.95) a beauty amongst these "rare" wines with ample fruit that feels full bodied on the palate, even though it's still only a 13.5% alcohol wine (*****).
The event you don't want to miss - see how to win tickets below ...
Now it's your chance to taste these wines - I have two tickets to give away to the August 11th taste and buy, here's what you have to do:  join the Ontario Wine Lovers Facebook page and post what you like, or love, about Ontario wine - maybe it's your favourite wine, region, winery, or grape - whatever it is we'd like to hear about it.  All posting made before Monday August 6, 2012 at 11:59pm will be eligible ... good luck and have fun.

Trust me, it's worth trying and having the opportunity to buy these wines now - you'll want to have them for later.
Rosie (the ever-insistent-pat-me dog) in a rare moment of calm

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Report from ... The Wine and Herb Festival 2012, NOTL - May 2012

Last time out we looked at Get Fresh in the Valley - this time we cast our eyes to the other Springtime food and wine extravaganza, the one that set the standard for others to follow for springtime events.  We head a little more east, deep into the heart of the Niagara wine region, into Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), where the now 28 Wineries of NOTL put on their annual Wine & Herb Festival.  I have been going to this event for upwards of 5 years, and each year the stakes seem to rise a little higher: the newbies of the group want to impress right out of the gate (see Stratus in 2009 -, while the old guard continually rises the bar on what they did the previous year.  All-in-all this, along with Taste the Season (also a NOTL presentation) are two of the premier wine and food pairing events in the Niagara region - and sit in my top 5 of annual wine events in Ontario.

This year, for the Wine & Herb, we forewent the numerical scoring - been there done that, and instead used a Good, Better, Best approach - plus gave bonus marks for unique and innovative foods and pairings, and also gave a few thumbs up and thumbs down for such things as "where was the herb" or "I'm making this at home".  This year we were also a little tougher because it wasn't just about the food, the herb had to shine. 

For those who are new to the event, Wine & Herb is a very simple concept: each winery is given an herb to create a unique food offering with , then they must pair it with a wine from their portfolio ... as with Get Fresh, the focus here is really on the food, we know these guys and gals can all make good wine ... the question is: can they prepare a cool bite to go with it?

Slightly over-baked biscotti at Konzelmann
Buddy stands (lies) on guard at Palatine
Palatine's crazy (yet winning) combination: ice cream (?) and Chardonnay (?)

Cannonballs ice cream described
The Ice House pairing pesto pasta with ice wine - daring

Riverview's pairing station - "This tortilla soup's the best thing I've had all day, " said Glen Brown (far right)
Served with the cutesy labelled new Bianco

Reif's outdoor serving station for the Herb de Provence creation
Chateau des Charmes wowed with this lemon verbena scone ... looks simple, tasted awesome. (how does one get the recipe?)

PondView's Cab-Merlot paired with lamb cassoulet: "I want more garlic," cried the masses