“Why would you not go local?”

March 18, 2009

In class today, one of my esteemed classmates presented on ‘going local’ and purchasing foods grown locally in Ontario. At the end of her presentation she noted, “why would you  not go local”? I have to say, I entirely agree with this concept.  Why is it so difficult for us to purchase locally? Why is it that Foodland Ontario has to try to convince us to buy locally through their ‘go local’ campaigns by telling us “good things grow in Ontario?”

To be honest I frequently find myself disregarding where  a product from, and just purchashing the product. It is usally when I get home and read the label I realize the origin of the product. I generally feel guilty, yet time and time again I find myself buying non-local products.

A huge issue, relating to both agricultural food products, as well as the wine indsutry is globalization. Whether you walk into a wall of wine from all over the globe in the LCBO, or have the option to purchase fruits and vegetable products grown globally, the simple activity of shopping can become quite confusing for consumers. We have become so used to buying  exotic fruit, and exotic wines from all over the world, the concept of buying locally has been lost in the shuffle. To be honest, I think we are somewhat spoiled with all of the choices we have. The nostaligia, and more importantly the celebration and support of our local growers has been lost and I think it should be a simple concept. Although I was not living 40 years ago, I am fairly postive that products from all over the world were not readily available. To be honest I think we need to get back to basics and focus on whats readily available to us within our domestic market.

Purchasing products locally, such as a bottle of wine or basket of apples that are grown and packaged 20 minutes away is far better than than the products you are purchasing from 1000 miles away. The fact is that locally grown products do not have to travel from all corners of the earth to make it to you dinner table.

While listening to my classmate’s presentation, it made me think about the presentation I made the week previously concerning ‘going local’ and supporting the Ontario wine industry. I am getting more and more frustrated with the lack of local support of our wine industry. An interesting concept I found while doing some research was that Ontario wine lacks the romance and exoticism of wines that are say from france or italy. These places are far away (obviously), unknown and in comparison to Ontario wine, are connotated with this mystery and romance. I understand this, as I do have some non-Ontario wines in my collection. However, I keep going back to the qoute expressed  by my mentor at Reif Estate winery which is “In Australia they drink Australian wine, in France they drink French wine, in California they drink California made wine, why in Ontario are we not drinking Ontario wine?” Why aren’t we???? I have been racking my brain for weeks about this concept, WHY aren’t we??

Then I said to myself, “Shannon, calm down”. I know there are various issues that have shown to minimize the support of the local wine industry including distribution, volume, and again, globalization. I suppose it is not easy enough for consumers to purchase these products as a lot  these wines are not readily available. Many of the wineries in Ontario are too small to make enough wine to meet the supply demands of the LCBO. As a result, the only way people can try and purchase wines from these wineries, is if they visit the site of the winery itself. In addition, it is difficult for Ontario wineries to produce wine that falls within the demanded 8$-$10 price band. Consumers have demanded quality, consistency, and good price. Unfortuntely Ontario is unable to do this, as many wineries cannot meet these volume demands and make quality wine for such a low price.

It is my hope that in the future the Ontario wine indsutry will be embraced and celebrated locally. It is my hope that in Ontario, we drink Ontario wine without a question in our minds. We have a beautiful destination and wine country that is so close to us. It would be a shame if it did not receive the support it deserves.

 In closing I  will go back to the question that inspired this blog and it is, “why would you not go local?” Take the time, do your research and look for those Ontario products. They are waiting for you, it is just up to you to pick them up. Get back to basics, and go local. I know I am going to do my absolute best to practice this on a daily basis.

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Wine Guide in Hand and Ready To Go: Wine Tours

March 12, 2009
Wine Guide in Hand and Ready to Go! The start of my birthday wine tour when I turned 20.

Wine Guide in Hand and Ready to Go! The start of my birthday wine tour when I turned 20.

One of my favourite activities is heading out into wine country to spend a day, or afternoon, tasting wines and seeing what different wineries in the Niagara Peninsula have to offer. Whether you want to head out with a group of your friends, your parents, or your signifigant other, wine touring is always a good time.  Wine touring is especially  wonderful in the summer and into the fall  when the scenic beauty of wine country is absolutely breathtaking.

I think I take for granted that fact that I get to witness wine country’s beauty everyday during the summer. Guests always tell me that I am “so lucky to come to work in such a beautiful place everyday.” I encourage everyone who has ever considered a wine tour to get out there and experience it, especially since a lot of us are living in Niagara and these wineries are so close to us.

Shannon’s Tips for Wine Touring:

  • Plan your route: There are wine guides and wine maps available to help you navigate your way through wine country. A lot of the wineries are on back roads so you will definitely need a map to find them. Plan to hit 3-4 wineries per tour. I suggest doing two, have lunch, and then go do some more. The food helps you metabolize the wine you have been tasting, and it won’t make you as sleepy.
  • Have a DD or Spit out that Wine!: I have to admit, I am a bit of a lush and I have difficulty spitting out the wine that has been given to me. If I do choose to consume rather than taste wine, I always make sure I have a friend driving that will not be drinking that day. If you are driving and you want to taste, all wineries will have spitoons for you to spit your wine out. Also, if you want to get a few friends together, or are planning a romantic trip to wine country, there are various companies that will drive you around for the day. For example, Niagara Air Bus offers different packages to visit different wineries all day.
  • Do not be intimidated: If you are dealing with staff at wineries that are talking about something you do not understand, tell them. It is their job to educate you about wine, and provide you with an educational experience. Staff are trained to educate guests, and should know a lot of information about the different wines, food pairings, and the winery itself. Do not let it be an intimidating experience, have fun with it!
  • Sensory Blockers: Try not to chew gum, or drink strong flavours such as coffee during your wine tour. These strong flavours influence how you taste the wine. Also, try to not wear perfume that day. Any strong smells or tastes may interfere with your wine tastings.
  • Take a tour: During the day, take at least one guided wine tour. This will allow you to pick the brains of the staff and ask as many questions as you want! Depending on the winery, tours generally cover the history of the winery, viticulture and winemaking.

Taking a tour at Flatrock Winery.

  • Take it all in and enjoy: Take advantage of the peaceful vineyards, and the scenic beauty. Go sit in the vineyard, amongst the grapes and take it all in. Some wineries have cheese and wine pairings, or even offer glasses of wine for you to enjoy. Just take it all in and enjoy the day.

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 If you have been considering a wine tour, get out there and do it. My suggestion is to go in the early summer, or the fall. Early summer, because the wineries are still fairly quiet and the leaves on the vines are starting to come out and its pretty. Fall is a great time as well because that is when the fruit is out (grapes) and the wineries are starting to harvest the grapes. If you can brave the cold it is also interesting to visit in the winter if you are interested in Icewine.

Shannon’s Wine of the Week:

Inniskillin Brae Blanc: An interesting blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Grigio.  Notes of orange blossoms, mango and peach.

The Wonders of Liquid Gold: Icewine

March 2, 2009
icewine grapes

icewine grapes

Since the temperature is utterly freezing outside today, I felt inspired to share with you the wonders of Icewine.  A lot of individuals I have spoken to at the winery think that Icewine is an inn0vation and tradition that was founded in Canada. Although Canadian wineries are becoming more and more recognized as world leaders in the production of Icewine, the method and tradition traces back to Germany in the 1700s. I have never found documented evidence myself, however, it has been shared with me that German monks left the grapes on the vines well past regular harvest and the grapes froze. They decided to press these grapes and a sweet gold nectar was released. The  named it Eiswein (Icewine) since all of the water inside of the grape is frozen.

The tradition made its way to Canada in the early 1980’s and to this day it is one of Ontarios most precious gifts of winter.

Icewine is made from grapes that have been left to naturally freeze on the vines. Regular harvest is generally in September and October, however, for Icewine they leave the grapes on the vine into December and January. By leaving the grapes on the vine into the winter time, it allows the sugars to concentrate within the grapes. During the late fall and early winter, the temperatures tend to fluctuate. As the temperatures rise and fall, the grapes freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw, thus concentrating the sugars inside the grapes. This process tends to dehydrate the grapes, and in the end they have a shrivled rasainesque quality.

After the freezing and thawing occurs it is then waiting game for the temperatures to fall. Under VQA regulation the temperature have to be at least -8 to -10 celcius for three consecutive days to harvest the grapes. These regulations ensure that all of the water within the grape is frozen. These temperatures are also ideal because it is not too cold—if the temperature is -20 then the grapes will be as hard as a rock and will not release any liquid.icewine2

When the grapes are harvested they are put into a basket press and all that is released is a minimul amount of sweet nectar (the sugars that have built up over time). The skins, seeds, and water that is within the grapes is entirely seperated. Since the water within the grape is frozen, it can be seperated from the sweet nectar. The yield of an icewine grape is 10 times less that a grape during regular harvest. For example if you can get 100 litres of wine from an acre of land (for table wine), then you would only get 10 litres of wine (for icewine) from the exact same vineyard. This is what makes icewine very rare and expensive. Ontario has the perfect climate for this wine because it is warm enough to grow the grapes, and cold enough to freeze them every single year.

The only other countries that can naturally produce Icewine are Austria, Germany, and Canada. Canada is the only country that can produce this wine every single year. In Austria and Germany it does not always get cold enough.

And that my friends is how they make Icewine.

 

Shannon’s Wine of the Week:

Just because I love bubbles (sparkling wine):

Fielding Estate Sparkling Riesling

Notes of citrus, and green apples. Nicely balanced with crisp refreshing acidity. Price Point:28$

A History Lesson

February 22, 2009
A view of the Inniskillin Brae Burn barn, where the winery boutique is located.

A view of the Inniskillin Brae Burn barn, where the winery boutique is located.

As previously mentioned, I have been working in the wine industry for two years at both Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs. I thought since I have worked at this establishment, and that is has played such a signifigant role in the Ontario, and Canadian wine indsutry, I would offer up a history lesson about Inniskillin Wines.

Inniskillin was founded by Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo. Karl Kaiser is an austrian born gentlemen who grew up with a signifigant interest in the wine industry. He learned under various mentors throughout his lifetime, and garnered skills as well as expertise in the field. In austria, Karl’s profession was a school teacher and outside of school, he spent his past time learning about oenology and viticulture. When he met his wife in austria (who was Canadian born) they decided to move to Canada in the  1960s. When Karl moved to Canada he went to Brock University and obtained a degree in Bio Chemistry.

Donald Ziraldo is native to Niagara, and grew up within a family that owned a well known nursery in the region. His educational path took him to the University of Guelph and he obtained a degree in Agriculture. After aquiring his degree Donald took over the family nursery, and started to extend the bussiness by growing grapes.  He saw the potential to start growing premium grapes (non native) to this region.

When Karl came to Canada he noticed that the wine practices within Ontario were not at their best. At the time, their was vitners making wine called Baby Duck. To say the least, Karl was not impressed with its quality. So he went on search to find some grapes that were more ideal for winemaking.  He was notified that Donald was growing these grapes so he decided to take a trip to Ziraldo Nurseries and purchase some vines. To say the least the rest is history. Karl went and made a homemade batch of wine from these grapes and was extremely impressed. He took the bottle to share with Donald, and they both saw a signifigant bussiness potential for this Ontario product. The two men decided to go into bussiness together and were granted the first liquor liscence since prohibition. The year was 1975 and the two men were in for a great adventure.

 They named the winery Inniskillin after an Irish regiment that fought on the grounds where the first site of the winery was located. The winery was first producing wine in a fruit packing shed located on the grounds of Ziraldo Nurseries. They then moved to the wineries current location which is located on the Niagara parkway. The signifigant Brae Burn Barn now is where the wine shop/tasting gallery is situated.

Inniskillin, without a doubt, is one of the pioneers within the Ontario wine industry, and without innovaters like Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser the Ontario wine industry would not be where it is today. The industry has over 140 wineries all over Ontario, and that has just been within the past thirty years. It will be exciting and interesting to see where the industry will be in the next 30 years. In my mind it will be producing premium wine that will  grab the attention, and be able to challenge wines being produced all over the world.

A group of us visiting Inniskillin during the Icewine festival.

Above is a group of us visiting Inniskillin during the Icewine festival.

Ontario Wine of the Week:

2006 Wismer Vineyard Syrah from 13th Street Winery. Gorgeous notes of cracked pepper, dark berry fruit, raspberries, and a hint of smoke. A fatastic and approachable red wine. Definitely the best syrah I have tried in Ontario thus far. Price Point: $24.00

13th Street Winery also make some fantastic sparkling wines. If you can get out to the winery I suggest tasting some at their tasting bar!

Ontario Meritage

February 16, 2009

Welcome to the wonderful world of Meritage Blends. Meritage blends have the potential to be exceptional wines if they are made well.  Meritage can come in the form of both a red or a white wine, and include varying grape varieties in each blend. Meritage blends are not something that North America can take credit for. The tradition of these blends derives from a region in France called Bordeaux.

The term “bordeaux blend” is coined to the region in France where they traditionally make these blends, and in North America we can not use this term. (Interesting note: The term “champange” is also coined to France, so only wines that are made in the Champange region in France can use this term on the label. You will notice that all other “champange style” wines are actually called sparkling wines).

Since the term bordeux was coined to the region in France, a group of vitners came together in the late 80’s and coined a term for this blend that was solely North American. They decided to call these wines Meritage. Although some may think that the term is pronounced with a French twist, the term is actually sounds like saying heritage. Meritage is an invented word that combines “merit” and “heritage”.  

For white wines, the blend generally conists of sauvignon blanc, and semillon, and for reds is can be a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot.

My Ontario Meritage Selections:

Red:

Thirty Bench Red- Fantastic complexity, and a well balanced wine. Notes of chocolate, herbs, and blackberries. Price point is in and around 22 dollars.

If you are looking for something a bit easier on the wallet. Jackson-Triggs Meritage at 13$ is also a very nice blend.

White:

Without a doubt my favourite Ontario White Meritage is Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Blend. This wine is very tropical with notes of melon, pineapple, and grapefruit. 25$

No Snobs Allowed: My experiences at Snob.

February 7, 2009

Snob (Definition):

One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors. One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

In the world of wine and wine consumption, there are many different types of consumers. Those who hate it, those who hate it but want to like it, those who actually enjoy it , wine enthusiasts, cork dorks, and the most challenging form of wine consumer, the snob. There is a vast difference between being knowlegable and being down right, well, snobby.

Working in the wine industry for two years, I have dealt with my fair share of wine snobs. They are definitely the most entertaining and challenging of customers. Unfortunetly some have not yet opened their minds to the wonderful world of Ontario Wines. Back in the day, before the introduction of the Vitis Vinifera grape (European style, Merlot, Cabs, ect.), Ontario was producing wine from labrusca grapes (grapes they use for jams, jellies, or Welch’s grape juice). They came up with a fabulous name for it too–Baby Duck. Still to this day, Ontario wine has been labbelled by some as inadeqaute. Yes, like any other wine region in the world, there are defintely a share of less than desirable wines. However, if you just head out into the region and do some tastings, I guarentee you will find something you like, and the experience will have you coming back for more.

Last night, my SO (signifigant other) and I ventured out to the new Niagara hot spot,  Snob Wine bar. Snob is attached to the well known restaurant, Treadwells. The concept behind Snob, is not snobby at all. It is a cozy, relaxed environment offering an all- Ontario wine list, and amazing food options. You cannot beat the prices either. If you are looking for a relaxed, romantic, yet non-intimidating “date” location, Snob is the place to be. (Note: Make reservations, it fills up quickly).

We made our way to the wine bar and started with a Cave Springs Sparkling Chenin Blanc and paired it with amazing fries and Mayo. Fries and Bubbles, who would have thought? To say the least, it was fantastic. The next course I had mussles paired with the Meglomaniac Savagin, and my boyfriend had Bangers and Mash. For wine, he decided to take the “so you want to be a sommelier” challenge. This challenge offers three wines, and if you can guess the variety, wine region, and vintage date you get the flight of wine for free. These wines were more than challenging, but he got one right! We finished off the meal with a nice cheese board paired with a Stratus Petit Verdot, and the Foreign Affair Cabernet Franc. It was a fantastic meal, and we will defintely be going back.

Interestingly enough, at Snob, we encountered a wine snob sitting right beside us at the bar. One of those interestingly closed minded creatures seeking to bash Ontario wines at all cost. He noted that “he never goes near  an Ontario red wine.” Little did he know he was speaking to two members of the Niagara Wine industry. Experiences like these make me want to educate and to motivate wine consumers to open their mind to different wines. This is exactly what the snob wine bar is attempting to do, and showcase the best that the Niagara wine industry has to offer.If you have one Ontario wine and you dont enjoy it, it doesn’t mean all Ontario wine is bad. It is possible that the winery down the street is making a fantastic wine that you love. Keep an open mind, and just get out there and taste!

Ontario Wine of the Week:

Cave Springs Sparkling Chenin Blanc

Amazing notes of tropical fruits and citrus. Well balanced offering refreshing acidity and a hint of sweetness. The perfect sparkling wine for any night of the week.

Weekly Wine Tastings

February 3, 2009
A view from Inniskillin. Nothing more beautiful than a sunset over the vineyard.

A view from Inniskillin. Nothing more beautiful than a sunset over the vineyard.

 

I have been thinking quite deeply about what I want my blog to be focused on and I asked myself, “what is something you enjoy and are knowledgable about”? Wine of course!!! I have worked in the Niagara Wine industry for two years and I actively indulge in different wines from the Niagara Region on a regular basis. The region has many amazing wines to offer consumers, and I think that people should know about them.

Each week I am going to post my thoughts about different wines, and some simplistic tasting notes (about the wines) will be included.  In addition, I’ll post some of my pictures from my visits to different wineries in the Niagara peninsula. Yes a I am a “cork dork.” Stay tuned  for next week      my friends!

New to Blogging

February 3, 2009

Hello, Everyone

I am what one would call a “blog virgin”. I have never written a blog before, or actually even thought of starting a blog. I am currently in a Public Relations program and it has been assignged to us to keep a blog with a central theme. I have kept personal diaries, keeping note of my personal feelings, thoughts, joys, hates, experiences, ect. However, I have never thought to put that out into cyber space. For now, I am going to ease myself into this experience and see how this blog starts to take shape and let the theme evolve by itself.