I arrived early as per the norm, however, unlike last year, there was no complimentary seminar before the show, so I waited patiently for the doors to open. Once inside just after 6pm, the place was already quite busy and with more than 1,500 wines, beers, spirits and gourmet foods to choose from, I knew I would have to pick my spots wisely.
The first booth that struck my eye was Greek wine booth by Kolonaki Group. I don't recall ever seeing Greek wines at this show previously, but this time there was no missing it - they had a very nice, large display. More importantly, the wines being poured were very good to excellent. Wine reviews are provided below for a few of these wines.
The next surprise on my tour through the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo was the return of the Iconoclast Syrah at the Creekside Estate Winery booth. I had previously tasted the 2012 Iconoclast Syrah and was told that at the time that it wouldn't be made again. I am very happy to report that they changed their mind and brought back the Iconoclast label for another vintage. This Syrah is their middle tier wine that slides between their classic Syrah and the premium Broken Press Syrah. Currently only available through the winery, I hope this will one day makes its way to LCBO shelves for wider enjoyment. Conveniently located across the Creekside booth was another local winery - Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery. I was able to taste through Hidden Bench's entire offering at the show and, as always, the wines were excellent.
I also tasted some fine Austrian wines poured by Le Sommelier at the Advantage Austria booth, some of which should make their way on to VINTAGES shelves in 2016. After hearing quite a few nice things about one of Ontario's newest wineries that opened just over a year ago, I knew I had to make at least a brief stop at the Two Sisters Vineyards booth. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the sisters, Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, as she took me through a flight of their well-made red wines. I hope I get a chance to visit this exciting winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake soon to taste their entire portfolio of wines.
My final wine stop of the evening was at the Wines of Germany booth to taste some fine Riesling. As per the norm, the wines I tasted from Wines of Germany were excellent. I also loved the fact that the folks at Wines of Germany always seem to pour quality wines that are available for purchase at the LCBO or will be available soon.
The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is mostly about the wine for me as I usually run out of time before I get the chance to try many of the mouth-watering gourmet food offerings. This year, I managed to try the delicious jalapeño chicken & waffle (twice!) at the Amsterdam Brewery booth. It doesn't seem as though this item is on their menu at the Amsterdam BrewHouse on Queen's Quay, but I hope they offer it eventually as it was tasty! Based on this yummy item, I have high hopes for the rest of their menu and hope to visit the restaurant for the first time ever in the near the future.
A favourite stop of mine for food at this show is the Fire in the Kitchen booth where they offer a multitude of yummy, specialty seasonings. This year, they were offering a grilled cheese stuffed with chicken and a marinade heavy on pickles. I added some of their hot sauce and it was delicious!
To end the night, I tried to get some ice cream from the Marble Slab Creamery, but the line (although not very long) was moving very, very slowly. With only one person preparing sweet creations, while the other person was taking her precious time to update the menu board even though the show was closing in 10 minutes, it was painful to wait so I ended up departing the line and headed to Amsterdam Brewery for a second helping of the chicken & waffle.
Maybe it was just me, but food options seemed to be fewer than previous years. Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, making a few new friends while also re-connecting with industry folk that I only seem to see at this show. As always, it was great to see the usual industry folk that I see throughout the year - you know who you are.
Looking forward to more good times in 2016!
Tasting Notes:SANTO ASSYRTIKO 2014 - PDO Santorini, Greece (D) - $17.95
Medium+ intensity aromas featuring citrus, orange and grapefruit aromas which echo very nicely on the ripe, slightly salty palate. It has fresh acidity and very good length on the finish. Quite enjoyable and has good crowd appeal. Score: 89 pts
ARGYROS SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO 2014 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#387365) (XD) - $21.95
Tasted this last May and still captivating today. Aroma and flavour profile hasn't changed, still has bracing acids and fine length. Score: 90 pts
BOUTARI GRANDE RESERVE XINOMAVRO 2010 - PDO Naoussa, Greece (#140111) (D) - $18.95
Medium intensity aromas of cherry, strawberry, some florals and sweet spices. Supple tannins on the medium-bodied palate with very nice aroma replays. Acids are nicely balanced. Finishes long and dry with a hint of mineral notes. Good tannic structure will allow this to age well. Drink now or over the next 6-8 years. The 2008 vintage of this wine came to VINTAGES in November. Score: 90 pts
SANTO VINSANTO 2006 - PDO Santorini, Greece (S) (500 mL) - $35.95
Lovely medium-to-high intensity aromas of musky spice, burnt sugar. It's full-bodied with very sweet flavours of caramel, honey, lemon twist, burnt sugar and sweet spices. Somewhat chalky texture with good acidity keeps it from being cloying. Excellent length on the long, smooth finish. Score: 91 pts
CREEKSIDE ICONOCLAST NIAGARA SYRAH 2013 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#471797) (XD) - $22.95
Medium-to-high intensity nose featuring typical character of black peppercorn, spice, charcuterie, smoked meat, and black fruit notes that also appear in a balanced manner on the palate. Very good acids keep things fresh. Medium-level, gritty tannins will allow for ageing. Finishes long and smooth. Delicious! Score: 89 pts
HIDDEN BENCH CHARDONNAY 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#068817) (XD) - $28.95
Mild oak, stone fruit, apple, pear and a hint of honeyed fruit aromas from the glass. It's medium-bodied with delicious aroma replays plus notes of lime on the palate. Showing very good complexity, balanced acidity and finishes long. Score: 90 pts
HIDDEN BENCH PINOT NOIR 2013 - Unfiltered, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#274753) (XD) - $29.95
A fairly lifted nose featuring beetroot, smoke, and cherry that also come through very nicely on the light-to-medium bodied palate. It has balanced acidity and a light tannic grip. Well-balanced overall and finishes long. Score: 90 pts
HIDDEN BENCH TERROIR CACHÉ 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#505610) (XD) - $38.20
Medium-to-high intensity aromas of plum, sandalwood, dark cherry and blackberry. Full-bodied on the palate with sweet tannin and spice flavours to go along with aroma replays. Bright acids. Medium+ level tannins need some time to integrate. Finishes long. Feels disjointed right now. Cellar this one away for at least 2 years. Score: 89 pts
WIENINGER 2014 - DAC Wiener Gemischter Satz, Vienna, Austria (D) - $21.95
A field blend of at least 10 indigenous grape varieties, this white wine has complex notes of mineral, funk and citrus, as well as some chalky minerality on the palate. It has bright acids and some sweetness on the palate that linger on the long finish. Available in consignment via Le Sommelier. Score: 89 pts
LOIMER LANGENLOIS GRÜNER VELTLINER 2014 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#142240) (XD) - $21.95
Medium+ intensity nose featuring complex aromas of mineral, lemon drop, lime, and hints of herbs. The rounded palate offers mineral, lemon, and citrus notes. Balanced acidity provides freshness. Finishes long. Will be in LCBO VINTAGES in Spring 2016. Score: 88+ pts
HEINRICH BLAUFRÄNKISCH 2013 - DAC Burgenland, Austria (XD) - $24.95
Organic and biodynamic, it is made using a grape varietal also known as Lemberger. It has medium+ intensity aromas of cherry, beetroot, freshly tilled earth and forest floor. The palate is medium+ bodied with more cherry and beetroot flavours. Elegant tannins and balanced acidity. Finishes long. Available in consignment via Le Sommelier. Score: 90 pts
TWO SISTERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $62
Medium+ intensity aromas of black pepper, cassis, and oak spice. It's medium-to-full bodied with spice and cassis flavours leading the way on the balanced palate. Acids are bright and mouth-watering, while the medium+ level tannins provide good structure. Excellent length on the finish. Score: 90+ pts
RUPPERTSBERGER LINSENBUSCH GEWÜRZTRAMINER SPÄTLESE 2014 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#320473) (MS) - $17.95
Lovely, elegant nose of rose petals, lychee and honey that also show up on the sweet palate. Balanced acids and very good length on the finish. Released in VINTAGES December 12th. Score: 88 pts
HIESTAND RIESLING TROCKEN 2013 - Qualitätswein, Rheinhessen, Germany (#424515) (D) - $19.95
Interesting ripe, melon, pink grapefruit, orange citrus and stony minerality aromas that make an appearance on the slightly honeyed palate. Acids are well-balanced, while the finish is long. Released in VINTAGES October 17th. Score: 88 pts
FRITZ WILLI RIESLING 2013 - Mosel, Germany (#436873) (M) - $18.00
Orange, mineral and herbal aromas of medium intensity. It has stony, mineral, schist flavours joining the orange citrus aroma profile. It's medium-sweet with very good acidity and a minerally, long finish. Released in VINTAGES November 14th. Score: 88 pts
FRITZ HAAG BRAUNEBERGER JUFFER RIESLING AUSLESE 2013 - Mosel, Germany (S) - ??
Fine mineral, orange, citrus and petrol aromas emanate from the glass and echo very nicely on the very sweet palate. The acids are vibrant, yet balanced. Excellent length on the finish. Will provide joy for at least a decade. Score: 92 pts