Monday, August 22, 2016

  • Monday, August 22, 2016

Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2014 (Burgundy) - Wine Review

Tonight's wine is a lovely Premier Cru Chablis made by the award-winning winery of Domaine Hamelin. This wine will be in LCBO VINTAGES on September 3.

Like the 2012 Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru that I enjoyed last year, the grapes for this wine are sourced from vines over 30 years old and planted on a steep, south-facing slope.

The 2014 vintage in Burgundy was a very good one for Chablis wines, so one can expect this wine to be very good as well. Let's see how it is...

Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

DOMAINE HAMELIN BEAUROY CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#391805) (XD) - $32.95
Hints of lemony stone fruits from the cork. This unoaked Chardonnay has a fragrant nose of golden apples, lemon, pear, yellow flowers and hints of earth. The palate is medium+ bodied with a fine chalky mineral texture and flavours of lemon/lime citrus, coriander, saline and hints of mineral. Refreshing on the mid-palate with finely tuned acids. Clean and crisp with a mineral, saline character on the long finish. Enjoy over the next 5-6 years. Score: 91 pts

  • Monday, August 22, 2016

Niagara New VIntage Wine Festival Review 2016 - Day 1

On the weekend of -12, 2016, I visited Niagara wine country to take in the annual New Vintage Festival and indulge in Discovery Pass Experiences throughout the region. activities centered around the wineries of the Niagara Escarpment and Twenty Valley. A full review of Sunday's activities, which were mostly in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will be posted in a few days.

Scratch Bakery #PieholeApproved Strawberry Tart with Mike Weir 4 Barrel Chardonnay
We began the day at Mike Weir Winery for a #pieholeapproved strawberry tailgate tart paired with their 4 Barrel Chardonnay.  The tart by itself was to die for! An exquisite creation by the folks at Scratch Bakery that consisted of a basil shortbread crust with a balsamic mascarpone whip and topped with a balsamic strawberry and rhubarb glaze. The Chardonnay paired really well with the tart, showing off a very fine sweet and savoury balance. Most impressively was how the mascarpone cheese cream helped balance the acid in the wine to create a smooth, harmonious mouthfeel.

I was also delighted (and surprised!) to see both the 2010 Merlot and 2010 Meritage still available for purchase at the winery at $20 each. These should be added to every red wine lover's cellar for those seeking quality local red wine on a budget.

Vieni Momenti Sparkling with Maryland Crab Meat Patty
The next stop was Vieni Estates for a rich and delicate Maryland crab meat patty crusted with fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese, and topped with with a chipotle aioli that added some spice. It was paired with their always easy-drinking Momenti Sparkling (reviewed below). The bubbles from the Sparkling Wine added interest and texture to the dense patty that had small pieces of crab meat embedded within. Furthermore, the sweetness from the sparkler cooled down some of the chili heat from the crab meat patty. Overall, an enjoyable pairing that was very satisfying.

Malivoire Lady Bug Rosé with Cheesy Guys Grillable Cheese, Strawberries and Greens
Our third stop of the day was at Malivoire Wine Company , where the Cheesy Guys brought a delectable BBQ-friendly grillable cheese to life in a salad with local greens, strawberries and nuts. It was paired with their dry 2015 Malivoire Lady Bug Rosé (#559088, $15.95, 87 pts). This rosé was one of the first rosé wines I enjoyed when I first took in interest in wine many, many years ago and is still enjoyable to this day - it's a refreshingly dry (i.e. not sweet) rosé that you too will enjoy if you're a fan of the style. The pairing with the salad was good - fresh, crisp, savoury, some sweetness from the nuts, and well-balanced overall.

Since I had tasted through many of Malivoires wines back in January, I opted to taste through the wines of Rennie Estate Winery. This winery produces only 4 wines, from grapes that are 100% estate grown. The vineyard is the Heron Pond Benchland Vineyard, a 50 acre site that has been producing grapes as early as the 1960's - making it one of the oldest in Niagara. I really enjoyed two wines from the Rennie portfolio and reviews of those are provided below. The wines are available for purchase online or by visiting Malvoire Wine Company.

Stoney Ridge Cabernet Franc with Scratch Bakery Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Tart
The final stop of the day was nearby at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery where Scratch Bakery once again provided the culinary creation. The pairing here was the 2014 Stoney Ridge Cabernet Franc (#369702, $14.95, 88 pts) with a dark chocolate tart topped with a farm fresh Ontario strawberry. This pairing was a whole lot of chocolate - lots of chocolate flavours coming from the wine that meshed well with the dark chocolate tart. However, I was quite chocolated-out after it was finished.

Since all the stops on this day were quite close to each other, we still had much of the afternoon to check-in to the hotel in Niagara Falls and rest up prior to dinner. Another full day of wine tasting paired with delicious culinary creations was awaiting us on Sunday, a review of which will be posted in a couple of days.

Full wine reviews of the many wines I enjoyed on Saturday are posted below. Most of these wines are not available at the LCBO, but can be ordered online by visiting the winery's website.

Thank you to each and every winery - your gracious hospitality was very much appreciated by myself and the group.

Tasting Notes:

MIKE WEIR 4 BARREL CHARDONNAY 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95
Medium intensity nose of pear, lime, floral with just hints of wood influence. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with bright acids and flavours of buttery, apple and pear notes. Quite fruit forward with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. It has juicy, tart acids and the finish length is very good. Score: 88+ pts

Mike Weir 4 Barrel Chardonnay 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88+ pts)

MIKE WEIR PINOT NOIR 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#000075) (D) - $16.95
Amazing to still be able to find a 2009 Pinot. This Pinot offers a medium+ intensity nose of forest floor and cherry, along with some strawberry and earthy tones. The palate is medium-bodied and shows a complex, savoury flavour profile consisting of red and black fruits, spiced oak, currant and herbally hints. Acids are bright and still quite fresh. Very good length on the finish. Supple tannins should allow this wine to drink well for a few more years. Score: 88+ pts

Mike Weir Pinot Noir 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88+ pts)Mike Weir Limited Edition Merlot 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88 pts)

MIKE WEIR LIMITED EDITION MERLOT 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29.95
Medium+ bodied with some sulphur off the top, but gives way to red and black fruits, currant, green pepper, and mocha aromas. It's medium-bodied with medium-level of tannins and flavours of currant, chocolate, cocoa and black cherry. Acids are well-balanced and finishing long. Enjoy to 2021. Score: 88 pts

VIENI MOMENTI SPARKLING 2013 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#435784) (MD) - $13.95
A blend 60% Vidal and 40% Pinot Grigio, this has an appealing nose of honey, peach and sweet limes. Easy drinking with medium-sweet aroma replays. Some tartness on the bubbles. Would make a nice apertif or pair with mildly spiced dishes. Score: 88 pts

Vieni Momenti Sparkling 2013 - VQA Ontario, Canada (88 pts)

VIENI PINOT GRIGIO 2013 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (D) - $14.95
A light nose features a floral, herbal and mineral character. Medium-bodied with a rounded mouthfeel and flavours of stone fruits, white peach and more mineral. Balanced acids and good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts

Vieni Pinot Grigio 2013 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88 pts)Vieni Chardonnay 2012 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88+ pts)

VIENI CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#388371) (XD) - $22.95
Medium intensity nose of golden apple, pear and coconut. It's medium-to-full bodied with nice aroma replays. Well-balanced with a nicely spiced mid-palate and balanced acids. Long finish. Score: 88+ pts

MALIVOIRE PINOT GRIS 2015 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#591305) (D) - $21.95
Notions of lemon/lime, floral and stone fruit aromas of medium intensity from the glass. The medium-bodied palate offers a clean, crisp and fresh wine that's nicely balanced with nice mineral and peach flavours. Well-delineated acids and hints of honey on a finish length that's very good. Score: 89 pts

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2015 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)

RENNIE ESTATE CHRISTINE CHARDONNAY 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $35
This unfiltered, oaked Chardonnay has a lovely nose of pear, apple, butterscotch, tropical fruits and hints of ginger. The full-bodied palate is rich and creamy with beautiful aroma replays and some mildly spice notes on the mid-palate add some nice texture. It's quite well-balanced with good acidity and excellent length on the finish. Score: 91 pts

Rennie Estate Christine Chardonnay 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (91 pts)Rennie Estate Paradox Pinot Noir 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (91 pts)

RENNIE ESTATE PARADOX PINOT NOIR 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $40
An elegant nose of medium-high intensity offers complex strawberry, cherry, earth, with hints of herbs and oak spices. The palate is medium-bodied and smooth with exotic spice notes joining the red fruited flavours. Terrific complexity and depth. Long finish. Tight tannic structure will allow this wine to age a number of years. Score: 91 pts

STONEY RIDGE EXCELLENCE CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#254243) (XD) - $24.95
Medium intensity nose of butterscotch, pineapple, vanilla and pear, along with hints of bubblegum. The palate is medium-bodied with vanilla, butter, and baked apple flavours with a spiced mid-palate, balanced acids and long finish. Score: 88 pts

Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88 pts)Stoney Ridge Excellence Pinot Noir 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88+ pts)

STONEY RIDGE EXCELLENCE PINOT NOIR 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29
Has a medium intensity nose featuring elegant cherry, strawberry and red pepper jelly, with more of the same on the flavour profile, plus beetroot and earthy flavours. The palate is medium+ bodied with bright, balanced acids and refined tannins. Very good length on the finish. Score: 88+ pts

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lavau Gigondas 2013 (Rhône) - Wine Review

wine will be available as part of the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release on .

It's made by the Lavau Family which has been winemaking for several generations and started out in St. Emilion. In 1964, the family settled in the Rhône Valley and is now managed by Benoit and Frederic Lavau. The Lavau Family currently owns 3 cellars in southern Rhône and has partnered up with 300 grape growers, allowing the family to choose the best terroir and grapes for each of their wines. The grapes for this red wine come from a vineyard located on the steep terraced hillsides of Gigondas.

Having enjoyed the Lavau Vacqueyras and the entry-level Lavau Côtes du Rhône Villages (still available at LCBO) wines last year, I am expecting only good things from this higher-tiered Gigondas.

Lavau Gigondas 2013 - AC, Rhône, France (90+ pts)

Tasting Note:

LAVAU GIGONDAS 2013 - AC, Rhône, France (#234955) (XD) - $29.95
Blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre that was aged in a mix of vat and used barrels. Dark plum and berry aromas from the cork. Appealing notes of cherry, red currant, raspberry, violet florals with undertones of earthiness The palate is full-bodied and gains texture in the mouth. Blackberry, black cherry, some floral and stony mineral flavours, along with subtle oak notes. Acids are fresh and mouthwatering. Tannins are a bit tight and grippy and could use another year of ageing. Long finish tapers to the earthy side. Approachable now, but better next year and drink over next half dozen years. Will be enjoyed tonight with Chicken Tacos. Recommended buy. Score: 90+ pts

Monday, August 15, 2016

  • Monday, August 15, 2016

McMichael Collection Group of Seven Chardonnay 2014 (Niagara) - Wine Review

Sunday night's wine was this Unoaked Chardonnay that was created by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in collaboration with Diamond Estates Winery. It is one of two wines that is part of the collection - the other is the 2014 McMichael Collection Group of Seven Cabernet Merlot that I reviewed last week.

There are 7 different labels for the two wines - with each member of the Group of Seven Canadian artists represented once. My bottle of Chardonnay has a version of F.H. Varley's "Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay" (c. 1920).

Both wines in this collection are widely available at the LCBO, with fifty cents from each bottle sold going to the McMichael Collection.

I tasted this delicious wine first at the Winetario tasting event in June, where it was poured after being freshly awarded Gold in the Unoaked Chardonnay category at the 2016 Ontario Wine Awards. Let's see how this bottle is...

McMichael Collection Group of Seven Chardonnay 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

MCMICHAEL COLLECTION GROUP OF SEVEN CHARDONNAY 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#456582) (D) - $14.95
Screw cap. This unoaked Chardonnay was fermented and aged for 8 months in stainless steel tanks. Fresh pear, citrus aromas with hints of mineral and peach. The fleshy palate is medium+ bodied and a shade off-dry with citrusy, melon, green apple, white pepper and hints of stony mineral flavours. Acids are juicy, nice and fresh. Fine length on the finish. Serve nicely chilled and enjoy this summer. Score: 88 pts

  • Monday, August 15, 2016

VINTAGES Release August 20: Trends + Germany

LCBO Wine Picks from August 20, 2106 VINTAGES Release
The VINTAGES Release will be on LCBO shelves this and features wines trending upwards as its main theme, while the secondary theme is a small selection of German wines. The local feature has a fine selection of wines from Prince Edward County.

We'll begin with the trendy wine feature. Only 1 of the 17 wines listed in this thematic is included in my wine picks. It is the refreshing Vermentino from Sardinia that has just a kiss of sweetness - ideal for the remaining hot days of August.

The tiny German feature lists only 5 wines. However, 2 are included among my wine picks. Both of my German Riesling recommendations are on the sweeter side, with the Schloss Schönborn being sweeter than the Thörle Riesling. If you're a Riesling fan, you should pick up both of these.

Schloss Schönborn Riesling 2011 - Rheingau, Germany (89 Pts)Thörle Feinherb Riesling 2015 - Rheinhessen, Germany (89 Pts)

In the Local Talent feature, Price Edward County is the theme and offers an excellent (albeit mini) glimpse into the region with 4 wines listed. Three of the wines are included in my wine picks - Norm Hardie's Pinot Noir, the Closson Chase Chardonnay, and a sparkling wine from Lighthall Vineyards. The sparkling wine is designated VQA Ontario, but, in fact, all the fruit (100% Vidal) is sourced from their own vineyards in The County.

Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (91 Pts)

From the rest of the release, the Old Vines Spanish red is a blend of Garnacha from 70+ year old vines, plus 15% Syrah, while the Rigoleto Tuscan red is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Ciliegiolo, and 15% Montepulciano. The Portuguese red wine is an unoaked blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, and Touriga Nacional and comes from an estate whose story goes back more than 250 years. The mature 2005 Ontañón Gran Reserva is mostly Tempranillo with 5% Graciano added. Lastly, the Zuccardi Malbec is an interesting wine in that it was entirely fermented and aged in concrete tanks to showcase the fruit, and only available at Flagship Stores (FSE).

In white wines, the Burgundian wines are all Chardonnays above $20. The Italian white wines are under $20 and include the Soave, which is an organic wine made with 100% Garganega, a Greco from Campania, and the aforementioned Vermentino. There is also the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Lastly, the dry rosé wine from Rhône is a blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault.

Enjoy my wine picks from this release! Prost!

Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec 2013 - Barrancas Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina (89 Pts)

Red Wine:

  • CELLER DE CAPÇANES MAS DONÍS BARRICA OLD VINES 2014 - DO Montsant, Spain (#705863) (XD) - $17.95
  • CASTELLO COLLEMASSARI RIGOLETO MONTECUCCO ROSSO 2013 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#455501) (XD) - $17.95
  • CASAS DEL TOQUI TERROIR SELECTION GRAN RESERVA PINOT NOIR 2012 - Casablanca Valley, Chile (#443499) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • QUINTA NOVA DE NOSSA SENHORA DO CARMO COLHEITA TINTO 2011 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#452748) (XD) - $19.95
  • PASCUAL TOSO RESERVE MALBEC 2013 - Barrancas Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina (#183897) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • WAIMEA PINOT NOIR 2014 - Nelson, South Island, New Zealand (#447508) (XD) - $22.95
  • MAZZEI FONTERUTOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2013 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#977629) (D) - $25.95  reviewed here
  • ONTAÑÓN GRAN RESERVA 2005 - DOC Rioja, Spain (#939736) (XD) - $39.95
  • ZUCCARDI CONCRETO MALBEC 2014 - Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#455774) (XD) - $39.95  FSE
  • NORMAN HARDIE COUNTY UNFILTERED PINOT NOIR 2014 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#125310) (XD) - $45.20
Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2013 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (89 Pts)Casas del Toqui Terroir Selection Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 - Casablanca Valley, Chile (88+ Pts)

White Wine:

  • LA CAPPUCCINA SOAVE 2014 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#081489) (D) - $15.95
  • SCHLOSS SCHÖNBORN RIESLING 2011 - Rheingau, Germany (#653535) (MS) - $16.95  reviewed here
  • THORNBURY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#734798) (XD) - $18.95
  • THÖRLE FEINHERB RIESLING 2015 - Rheinhessen, Germany (#420091) (M) - $18.95  reviewed here
  • CONTINI PARIGLIA VERMENTINO DI SARDEGNA 2014 - DOC, Sardinia, Italy (#455238) (D) - $18.95
  • MASTROBERARDINO GRECO DI TUFO 2014 - DOCG, Campania, Italy (#568105) (XD) - $19.95
  • JEAN-MARC BROCARD DOMAINE SAINTE CLAIRE CHABLIS 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#356634) (XD) - $23.95
  • ANDRÉ GOICHOT LES GUIGNOTTES MONTAGNY 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#455139) (XD) - $26.95
  • CLOSSON CHASE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2014 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#148866) (XD) - $29.00  reviewed here
  • JEAN COLLET & FILS MONTÉE DE TONNERRE CHABLIS 1 ER CRU 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#405720) (XD) - $37.95

Rosé Wine:

  • DELAS SAINT-ESPRIT CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE ROSÉ 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (#224964) (XD) - $16.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • LIGHTHALL VINEYARDS PROGRESSION SPARKLING WINE 2014 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#468090) (D) - $20.00

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

  • Wednesday, August 10, 2016

McMichael Collection Group of Seven Cabernet Merlot 2014 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine is an LCBO General List product that was released into the market in June and is readily available throughout Ontario.

Produced by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, in Kleinburg, just north of Toronto, in partnership with Niagara's Diamond Estates Winery, the Cabernet Merlot (along with an unoaked Chardonnay) is part of a new collection of wines to celebrate the institution's 50th anniversary. The unique labels adorning the bottles feature works from the Group of Seven. Furthermore, fifty cents from every bottle sold goes to the McMichael Collection.

Each member of the Group of Seven is honoured with a label depicting their artwork on one of the two wines. If you're an art lover, you'll recognize that my Cab Merlot features the Road to Baie St. Paul (1933) by A.Y. Jackson.

McMichael Collection Group of Seven Cabernet Merlot 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (85 pts)

Tasting Note:

MCMICHAEL COLLECTION GROUP OF SEVEN CABERNET MERLOT 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#456590) (XD) - $14.95
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. Screw cap. Earthy and red berry aromas with hints of sweet spices and green herbs. The palate is medium bodied with young, gritty tannins. Flavours of dark berry, earth and oak spices. It has fresh acids and good length on the finish. Requires a meaty dish to balance the tannin. Score: 85 pts

This wine is currently on promotion, offering 6 Bonus Air Miles reward miles until .

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

  • Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ontario's Southwest City Fare 2016

Ontario's Southwest City Fare 2016
In my continuing series of wines tasted in May, I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Ontario's Southwest City Fare that was put on by the iYellow Wine Club. This food and wine event was held at 99 Sudbury and spanned two rooms - the 99 Gallery and The Glass Factory.

The first room I entered was The Glass Factory and featured many food items. This room offered craft beer, cocktails and spirits to wash down the delicious Southwest culinary fare, but little wine. Next door, in the much larger 99 Gallery room, wine from Southwest Ontario was very well represented, along with some cheese, chocolatiers and other fine foods from the region.

I have never really been to Ontario's Southwest region except for a camping trip to Port Burwell and driving through to go to Detroit. This event was a chance to discover some of the best that Ontario's Southwest has to offer, and I definitely found some worthy places to visit when I eventually visit the area.

Bright Cheese and Butter
Coming from Toronto, my first stop would be Bright Cheese and Butter. This cheddar factory has been in business since 1874 and produces some very yummy cheese. They had four cheeses available to taste - Old Cheddar, Sizzling Hot Havarti (which is quite hot), Providence and Asiago. While I enjoyed all four, my favourites were the Old Cheddar, and the Providence which is like a mountain cheese from Switzerland. Their products are available throughout Ontario, but your best bet is to visit one of their two locations to taste and buy their freshly made cheese.

Habitual Chocolate
The next stop should be Habitual Chocolate, located in Woodstock and London, Ontario where you will find some amazing, authentic rustic-style chocolate bars made from single varietal cacao beans. The beans come from small family farms in exotic locations such as Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and Nicaragua. I prefer dark chocolate and really enjoyed the 85% Amara with beans from Ivory Coast, and the 80% Don Tito from Mexican beans. Both of these chocolate bars had the richness and flavour of dark chocolate, but were not terribly bitter like some of the commercially made dark chocolate bars. Highly recommended for chocolate aficionados.

For fans of history, Chatham-Kent is an interesting place to visit. This region was part of the "Underground Railroad" - a network of secret routes used by those held in bondage to escape from slavery in the 19th century. Some of the most poignant stops on the Ontario Underground Railroad tour are historic sites in Chatham-Kent, including Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site, Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, and the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum. You can also meet some of the descendants of those that escaped slavery and still call Chatham-Kent home. I am very much interested in this subject and personally hope to visit these sites in the future.

After a day of cheese, chocolate and sightseeing, settle into a B&B in Lake Erie North Shore wine country. The next day, spend your time visiting a few of the more than dozen wineries in the region. My favourites wines at the Ontario's Southwest City Fare were from Muscadere Vineyards, Colio Estate Winery and North 42 Degrees - all of which are located a few minutes from each other in the communities of Harrow and Colchester. Also check out Cooper's Hawk Vineyards and Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

On your way home, stop at Ontario's first and only brewery farm. Ramblin' Road Brewery Farm is an actual working farm with crops and a hop garden to create small batch hand-crafted local beer. I tasted a few of their beers and if you're a fan Red beers like me, check out their PurebRED Red Lager - it's a good one.

Ramblin' Road PurebRED LagerRaging Bowl Pottery Whisky Infusions + Lavender Infused Balsamic Vinegar

The Raging Bowl Pottery was one of the more interesting tables at this event. Alongside handmade porcelain crafts by artist Melissa Schooley was a delicious lavender-infused Balsamic Vinegar and flavoured whiskys. The flavoured whisky can be made at home when you purchase her flavoured tea bags - available in flavours such as Vanilla, Hazelnut Vanilla, Chocolate and Coffee - and soak them them in your favourite spirit. My favourite was the Hazelnut Vanilla!

Perch Taco at The Combine

For lunch (or dinner), stop at The Combine in Norfolk County. This restaurant's menu is filled with locally sourced ingredients and daily seasonal specials. Located in the home of owners Ryan and Jennifer, there is a handmade brick oven, garden and outdoor patio. I enjoyed their Perch Taco on a corn tortilla topped with butternut aioli, pickled salsa, avocado cream, and fried lemon.

Another stop to consider for a fine meal is DEBB's Cuisine on Queen in Dunnville, where they combine fresh local ingredients with a creative approach and meticulous presentation to create a memorable experience. At this event, they had a delicious Chicken Breast with Fried Goat Cheese Rice Ball that you could wash down with a Bourbon Street Caesar.

Bourbon Street Ceasar at DEBB's Cuisine on QueenChicken Breast with Fried Goat Cheese Rice Ball at DEBB's Cuisine on Queen

Map of Ontario's Southwest Locations
To help you plan your trip (and mine), I've plotted these Ontario Southwest locations on a Google Map. I hope you find it useful!

Overall, I really enjoyed the event! There weren't as many wines as I had hoped for, but the number of culinary delights and other alcoholic beverages more than made up for it. This was a very good, well-balanced event that had something for everyone, offering very good value for the price of admission.

For more information about Ontario's Southwest region, please visit their website.

Tasting Notes:

MUSCADERE VINEYARDS RIESLING 2014 - VQA Ontario, Canada (D) - $16
Lovely, lifted nose of petrol followed by stony minerality. The palate is medium-bodied with a chalky mineral texture and subtle flavours of orange, citrus, stone fruits and white peach. It has good acids and finishes long. Score: 88 pts

Muscadere Riesling 2014 - VQA Ontario, Canada (88 pts)Muscadere Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)

MUSCADERE VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $30
Medium+ intensity nose, ripe fruited scents of currant, cherry, cassis, cedar oak and red & black fruits. It's shows good complexity on the full-bodied palate with very nice aroma replays along with hints of mint. It has good acids and chalky tannins. Cran-cherry finish that's long. Score: 89 pts

COLIO ESTATE BRICKLAYER'S CACHE SMALL LOT SYRAH 2012 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (#426676) (XD) - $29.95
Decanted and served, this has a lovely medium-to-high intensity nose of black cherry, black peppercorn, white pepper and black plum. The palate is medium-to-full bodied with smooth, silky tannins, balanced acids and very white peppery aroma replays. This has been the last vintage of this of this wine and is now available in very limited quantities. Score: 89 pts

Colio Estate Bricklayer's Cache Small Lot Syrah 2012 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)North 42 Degrees Pinot Noir 2013 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (88+ pts)

NORTH 42 DEGREES PINOT NOIR 2013 - VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
Medium+ intensity nose featuring black tea, cherry, strawberry, and red plum notes. The aromas are quite appealing on the light-to-medium bodied palate. It has light tannins, fresh acids and more black tea notes on the long finish. Score: 88+ pts

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