Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

A few months ago, I was the lucky winner of a Savour the Sights dinner (contest held by Embrace Niagara) at Jackson Triggs in Niagara on the Lake. We decided to pair it with the Wine & Herb festival this past weekend and made a weekend of it. The Wine & Herb passport allows you to visit  20+ wineries to sample a pairing. Each winery is assigned an herb and their pairing consists of an hors d’oeuvre inspired by the assigned herb with a wine tasting.

Saturday we visited wineries and enjoyed some great pairings:


Herb Inspiration: Basil (Lemon)

2011 Aligote/ Coq au Vin Chicken Breast and Smoked Chili Lemon Emulsion


Herb Inspiration: Hoja Santa

2009 Red Paw Vineyard Syrah / Adabo and Red Paw Syrah Braised Beef Tostado (Mexican Pizza)


Herb Inspiration: Garlic

2009 Chardonnay / Turkey Tetrazzini with Liberina’s Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce


Herb Inspiration: Cilantro

Late Autumn Riesling / Kent Farms Chicken Curry with Gomes Tomato and Cilantro


Herb Inspiration: Sage (Peppery)

2009 Merlot / Seared Sage Pork Belly with Merlot Soaked Cherries


Herb Inspiration: Mojito Mint

2011 Bianco Riesling Gewurztraminer / Mojito Mint Pistachio Ice Cream

We enjoyed having a refreshing minty ice cream pairing for dessert. 🙂

As usual, we stopped at Ravine for lunch:


  • Soup of the day: Potato & leek with a mini scone/muffin
  • Ravine burger with green salad – aged cheddar, tomato, lettuce, Ravine’s smoked Canadian bacon


  • Lemon dill brined smoked scallop – cauliflower puree, Ravine pork belly, eggplant & goat cheese ravioli
  • Spinach, goat cheese and wild mushroom quiche

We stocked up on some great wines! I was happy to pick up some perfect-for-the-patio Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rosee (Nicki – this ones for you! :))


We checked into the hotel to freshen up before heading out to Jackson Triggs for dinner!

We were warmly welcomed at the winery and handed a seemingly bottomless glass of sparkling wine which we enjoyed in the Great Hall with about 12-14 other guests while hors d’oervres were passed. Note that I’ve posted a pic of the menu for the evening down below which contains the details of the wines and courses. Graham and Paul were the hosts and were awesome throughout the evening. Graham provided some history about the winery – we were interested to learn that Mr. Jackson and Mr. Triggs were from the Labatt wine division of yore.

Paul then gave us a tour of the facility and explained the grapes and winemaking process. Paul made the tour really fun and informative at the same time.




The views of the vineyard were superb. During the walk through the facility, we enjoyed 2 more courses:

Another Sparkling (Sauvignon Blanc based) paired with a vibrant amuse-bouche of salmon sashimi – very tasty and the citrusy wine was fantastic.

Then, outside, we enjoyed a white Meritage with an asparagus tart, quail egg and goat cheese and asparagus soup. This was a fabulous representation of spring – delicious. Again, the view was amazing:


Then we moved inside for 2 more courses. The chef Tim Mackiddie introduced each course with such enthusiasm – everyone at the table was eager to dig in after his passionate intro!


A Chardonnay paired with a fiddle head risotto with mascarpone and forest mushrooms:


Followed by a Pinot Noir paired with a blue crab cake with rhubard and fennel (sorry no pic – I dug in too quickly!).

We were then led to the Barrel Cellar for the main course which was a Syrah paired with an Ontario hen cooked in hay with spring peas and spring sqaush. The hen was delicious – so moist! The chef explained how they cooked it in hay to retain the moisture – very cool!

Then, up to the Boutique for the dessert party where we enjoyed a Vidal Icewine with several passed dessert bites.


It was a fantastic event – I can’t say enough about Jackson Triggs. The meal and wines were excellent as was the tour of the facility and the vineyard views were spectacular. Our hosts Graham and Paul were awesome and made our night very special. Our fellow guests were great as well – we met some wonderful people.

Big Thanks to Embrace Niagara for holding the contest! You guys ROCK! 🙂

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The month of May marks the time for the Wine & Herb festival in Niagara on the Lake. The herb pairings have been posted (the specific dishes, not yet) and tickets are on sale now!



2009 Gamay Noir Dill


2009 Chardonnay
Sweet Basil


2010 Generation Seven White
Lemon Verbena

Niagara College Teaching Winery

2009 Sauvignon Blanc

COLANERI Estate Winery

2011 “Cavallone” Pinot Grigio Italian Basil

Palatine Hills Estate Winery

2008 Neufeld Vineyard Chardonnay
Anise Hyssop


2010 Five Mile White (Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer)
Lemon Grass

Peller Estates Winery

Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée

diamond Estates – The Winery

2007 Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Pillitteri Estates Winery

2010 Straight Up White


2010 Artist Series Limited Edition Gewürztraminer

PondView Estate Winery

2010 Cabernet/Merlot

HInterbrook Estate WINERY

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Small Leaf Basil

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

2009 Estate Riesling
Citrus Thyme


2006 Vintner’s Reserve Arugula

Reif Estate Winery

2008 Gamay Noir
Herbs de Provence


2011 Core Series Pinot Noir Rosé
Bronze Fennel

Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

2010 Bianco Riesling/Gewürztraminer


2009 Black Series Gewürztraminer 

Southbrook Vineyards

2011 Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé


2007 VQA Riesling (Off-Dry 1)

Stonechurch Vineyards

2009 Sauvignon Blanc


2010 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer

Stratus Vineyards

2008 Wildass Red



2011 Unoaked Chardonnay 
French Tarragon

Strewn Winery

2008 Sauvignon Blanc


2008 Grape Brain Riesling
Pineapple Sage

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery

Peach Blossom

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We had booked the following wine dinner for Saturday night at Peller and decided to make a sleepover out of it and spent the day Sunday touring some wineries and ending with a guided tasting at Thirty Bench.

Chef’s Table Dinner Series

Come behind the scenes at Peller Estates Winery Restaurant and discover how Winery Chef and CityLine personality Jason Parsons approaches the art of pairing wine and food.  Your dining experience begins with a reception in Jason’s kitchen where he will discuss collaborating with winemaker Lawrence Buhler and his approach to developing innovative food and wine pairings.  You will then enjoy a seasonally inspired tasting menu presented by Jason and perfectly paired with wines selected by Lawrence.

Jason welcomed us and gave us a tour of the kitchen, explaining what happened at each station and the pass (his spot).  Our chef’s table was in a room adjacent to the kitchen and the doors were kept open all night. We were encouraged to walk around the kitchen anytime we liked throughout the evening, talk to the staff and ask questions. It was fantastic!

And the food and wine? Holy moly. We knew we were in for a special evening when we sat down to this (these were all mine):

Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu (Sept 3, 2011)

Pastrami Cured Salmon

Doughnut Peaches, Plums and Goat Feta

Ice Cuvee Rose “Signature Series”

Curried Cauliflower Velouté

Sautéed Swiss Chard, Saffron Arborio Croquette

Pinot Gris “Private Reserve” 2010

Ontario Beef Tartar

Horse Radish Cream and Panzanella Salad

Riesling “Private Reserve” 2010

I actually took a bite before I remembered to take a pic...

Seared Scallop and Foie Gras

Niagara Peach, Corn and Grey Owl Cheese Fricassee

Gamay Noir “Private Reserve” 2009

Frost (to cleanse the palate)

Seared Venison

Grape, Leek and Red Wine Bread Pudding, Grainy Mustard Plum Sauce

Merlot “Signature Series” 2004

I actually got to cross off a life list item (Eat venison) with this dish! Bonus 🙂

Peller Estates Signature “Blue Ice” Empanada

Sovereign Grape Jelly

Late Harvest Vidal 2010

Baked Milk Chocolate Mousse

Roasted Peach and Almond Brittle

Cabernet Franc Icewine “Signature Series” 2008

During the visits to the kitchen, we saw plates coming up to the pass, desserts being made and a fair amount of hustle and bustle:

View of the kitchen. That's Jason at the pass.

Dessert! Doughnuts being made

Venison entrees on the pass

Appetizers ready to be sent out

Chris, me and Jan at the start of our evening

This was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. Everything was fantastic, the food, the wine, the staff – all superb. I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting Niagara on the Lake and looking for something to make it extra special. We’ve visited Peller many times including three of their dining experiences and they always deliver memorable, elegant and top of the line food, wine and service. Just fabulous.


We decided to visit some wineries, some new and some old favourites to stock up on wines. We stopped at Konzelmann, Hinterbook, Ravine (lunch) and Maleta. Then headed over to Beamsville and visited Fielding and Thirty Bench, where we enjoyed a guided tasting.

We bought lots of wine – that should hold us until our next visit. 🙂

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Chris and I spent the day in wine country (Beamsville) with some friends and it was an awesome day.

Our first stop was Peninsula Ridge where we tasted three wines and purchased two (2008 Merlot, 2009 Meritage).

Our second stop was Rosewood Estates where we got try mead for our first time – we tasted the Mon Cherie honey wine. We also tried the reserve Riesling (a bit sweet for me) and the Pinot Noir, which we bought.

Third stop was a guided tasting at Thirty Bench, which was truly the highlight of the day:

We each chose 4 wines to taste and the guide walked us through – she was fantastic, very knowledgeable and engaging. It was hard to believe we hadn’t been to Thirty Bench before but we’ll definitely make it a routine stop when we’re in the area. We ended up buying 3 bottles: the 2007 Merlot, the 2009 Winemaker’s Red and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. All absolutely fantastic reds.

We also had a great view of downtown Toronto – such a clear day!

Next stop was Organized Crime where they had a 2008 Syrah made with Viognier, however, it would be their last due to issues with the unpredictable weather.

And finally our last stop was at Stoney Ridge (which is what kicked off this whole outing – we shared a Groupon for a tour/tasting/lunch).

Gorgeous weather, awesome wine, great company!

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For this year’s Wine & Herb festival, we decided to spend the weekend in Niagara on the Lake as opposed to just one day as we’ve done in the past. It was totally worth it – the weather was gorgeous on Saturday, followed by some rain/clouds on Sunday morning but it eventually cleared up as well. Nice!

We stayed overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn and we chose a room with a King bed and a whirlpool bath:

Day 1: We drove down on Saturday, picked up our Passports and spent the day visiting wineries, tasting wine and their herb-inspired pairings. The weather was gorgeous so many wineries opened their patios and we got to enjoy the pairings in the sun. Some of the most memorable on day 1 were:

Ravine Estate Winery: As usual, we stopped here for lunch and sat in their newly built extension (what a great new space!) and got to enjoy their new bistro menu. I chose the steak frites (heaven) and Chris had the Croque Madame (he’s still talking about it). After lunch, we enjoyed the pairing: 2009 Chardonnay Musqué (OMG this is the perfect summer sipper, very fresh with a slight bit of fizz) paired with a pork terrine with musqué and sweet woodruff en croute. Enjoying this while sitting on a comfy cushioned loveseat on the patio made this our top experience of the day.

Hillebrand Winery: We’re always pleased anytime we stop here and this time was no different. We enjoyed the 2009 Artist Series Gewurztraminer paired with a lamb sausage in a mini bun, topped with an organic mint yogurt. Fabulous. The sausage was a bit spicy and the wine really paired nicely with it. Again, we got to sit outside and enjoy the sun.

Niagara College Teaching Winery:  I love stopping here. Great food, great wine, great people. And getting to enjoy it outside with a view like this is fantastic (pic below). The pairing was a 2008 Pinot Noir with a Turkey Cheese Cranberry Strata; a wonderful little square bursting with flavour.

Sipping on wine out on the patio at Niagara College


View at Niagara College

We had dinner at the Old Winery restaurant on Saturday night. I had the Penne with roasted chicken, mushrooms and red pepper cream sauce – paired with the Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay. Chris had the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies and red wine sauce, paired with the Riverview Rosso. The capuccinos were awesome – a great treat at the end of the meal. Back to the hotel for a relaxing soak in the whirlpool bath and off to sleep to get ready for Day 2!

Day 2: We started the day with breakfast at the hotel – another couple came to meet us. After breakfast, we were off to the wineries! The day started out with clouds and on-and-off rain but eventually cleared up in the afternoon. Here are some memorable spots on day 2:

Ravine Estate Winery: We stopped here for lunch again. I’m loving the new menu!

Salade composee: greens, roasted beets, pears, walnuts, goat cheese.. Yum!


How cute is this side of macaroni and cheese!

Konzelmann Estate Winery: We make a point of stopping here anytime we’re in the area. The gentleman who usuallyhosts the tastings for the passport tours is absolutely hilarious – we always have a great experience and lots of laughs. And the pairings never disappoint. Always a highlight! 🙂 This time we got to enjoy a 2009 Merlot Reserve paired with an Open-faced sirloin sandwich with tarragon mustard cream and brie. Yum!

Marynissen Estates Winery: A regular stop on our route as well. This time we got to taste a 2007 Cabernet Merlot paired with a Ploughman’s lunch which was bison and elk salami, cheese on a small slice of bread, all packed up in a nice little package (like a little lunch to go!). It was great!

Maleta: A visit to Niagara on the Lake just wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Maleta. Such warm, inviting and knowledgeable staff and fantastic wines. We enjoyed their VIEW Chardonnay with a Brie and savory bruschetta fusion – awesome! We also got to taste the new release Grape Brain 2006 Cabernet Merlot – fabulous.

We purchased some flutes at Peller that caught our eye as well:

The scenery in NOTL is so peaceful and at this time of year when the flowers are in bloom, it’s even better:

And the sheer amount of dandelions was amazing – there were fields of them everywhere! I felt like a kid again wanting to run through them and make all those little white poofs fly. Chris held me back. 🙂

We’ve restocked our wine fridge too 🙂

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We spent the day in Niagara on the Lake partaking in the Days of Wine and Chocolate festival.

PondView: It was the first time we’ve gone to this one – they opened last June (previously sold their grapes to other wineries) and we enjoyed chatting with one of the owners (it’s a family outfit).  They paired a 2009 BFBA Chardonnay with a white vanilla bean chocolate. Tasty! We also tried a very promising 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2007 Trinity red. Looking forward to good things from this winery in future! We bought a bottle of the Trinity red.

Marynissen: We’re fans of this winery and were happy to get to try their 2007 Cabernet Franc with dark chocolate mint. Yum. We picked up a bottle of the Solstice that we liked.

Riverview Cellars:  This was another new one on the list and what a treat it was. They started the tasting off with their 2008 Bianco, followed by their 2008 Rosso, and finished with their 2009 Vidal Icewine paired with dark chocolate peach cinnamon.

Ice House Winery: This was the third new one on the list We got to enjoy icewine slushies (so good!!! can totally see us sipping these by the pool next summer!), followed by the pairing of their 2005 Northern Ice Vidal Icewine and dark chocolate candied ginger. They also had a cute polar bear statue out front – below is Chris and I posing with him. 🙂

Ravine: We stopped here for lunch (I had the chicken pot pie with salad, Chris had the croque madame with fries and mayo). I ended up buying a loaf of the walnut currant bread as well. After lunch, we went next door and had their 2009 Gewürztraminer paired with white chocolate freeze dried strawberries – the pairing was quite good.

Maleta: Another favourite spot of ours – great wine and awesome staff. We had a nice chat with Sharon and enjoyed their 2006 Grape Brain Cabernet Merlot with dark chocolate maple walnut. We picked up some more 2003 Meritage and a very nice Chardonnay while we were there. I’m already planning to try one of Sharon’s suggestions to pair the chard with salmon!

Stonechurch: We had only been here once before. We got try their 2007 Cab Sauv Merlot with milk chocolate coconut cream. Nice! I love the shape of their bottles. 🙂

Palatine Hills: On most of our visits, we usually stop at this winery for the good wine and friendly staff and today was no exception. We tasted their 2006 Cab Sauv with dark chocolate cherry and ended picking up a bottle on our way out.

Konzelmann: Yes, another favourite! Here we got to try the 2009 Shiraz as well as their Pinot Noir (which we’ve tried and purchased before), paired with dark chocolate nutmeg. Although the Pinot paired better with the chocolate, the Shiraz was great as well – nice and peppery. We got a bottle of each. Love the staff here!

Strewn: We’ve only stopped here once before as well – this time we enjoyed their 2008 Meritage paired with dark chocolate raspberry. The cooking school area is a great setting for the tasting – too bad we live in Mississauga and can’t partake in their classes!

Stratus: After a lackluster stop the very first time we’d visited this winery (none in our group liked the wine the first time we visited over a year ago), we decided to give it another go. We tasted the 2007 White which was actually very good, paired with a roasted chocolate-covered brazil nut. Nice!

The next wine festival is in May (Wine & Herb). 🙂

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In January, we enjoyed the Ice Wine Festival in Niagara/NOTL. In February, we get to go to the Days of Wine & Chocolate festival in NOTL. We’ve been looking forward to it for a while (the tickets were a Christmas gift – yay!) and we’re already salivating, looking at the pairings to be offered. Since we’re only down for the day, picking which wineries to visit out of the 25 participating ones is always tough. We think we’ve narrowed it down to the highlighted ones below.

Wine and chocolate pairings are offered each weekend in February from 11 am to 5 pm.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery
2008 Select Late Harvest Merlot paired with White Chocolate Raspberry

Château des Charmes
Brut Sparkling Estate Bottled paired with White Chocolate Pistachio

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery
2008 Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with Milk Chocolate Cashew

Hillebrand Winery
2008 Trius Red paired with Dark Chocolate Almond Raisin

The Ice House Winery
2005 Northern Ice Vidal Icewine paired with Dark Chocolate Candied Ginger

Inniskillin Wines
2007 Winemakers Series 2 Vineyard Merlot paired with Dark Chocolate Espresso

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
2005 Grand Reserve Methode Classique paired with Milk Chocolate Caramel

Joseph’s Estate Wines
2007 Carline Gamay Rosé paired with Chocolate Hazelnut

Konzelmann Estate Winery
2009 Shiraz paired with Dark Chocolate Nutmeg

Lailey Vineyard
2008 Vidal Late Harvest paired with White Chocolate Cranberry

Maleta Estate Winery
2006 GRAPE BRAIN Cabernet Merlot paired with Dark Chocolate Maple Walnut

Marynissen Estates Winery
2007 Cabernet Franc paired with Dark Chocolate Mint

Niagara College Teaching Winery
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Dark Chocolate Apricot Pecan

Palatine Hills Estate Winery
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Dark Chocolate Cherry

 Peller Estates Winery
2009 Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc paired with Milk Chocolate Candied Orange

Pillitteri Estates Winery
2007 EXCLAMATION Reserve Merlot paired with White Chocolate Blueberry

PondView Estate Winery
2009 Berrel-Fermented, Barrel-Aged Chardonnay paired with White Vanilla Bean Chocolate

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
2007 Gewürztraminer paired with White Chocolate Freeze Dried Strawberries

Reif Estate Winery
2006 Select Late Harvest Vidal paired with Apple Truffle

Riverview Cellars Winery
2009 Vidal Icewine paired with Dark Chocolate Peach Cinnamon

Southbrook Vineyards
Blackberry Fruit Wine paired with Dark Chocolate Chili

Stonechurch Vineyards
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot paired with Milk Chocolate Coconut Cream

Stratus Vineyards
2007 Stratus White paired with Roasted Chocolate-Covered Brazil Nut

Strewn Winery
2008 Meritage paired with Dark Chocolate Raspberry

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery
Black Currant Wine paired with Dark Chocolate Anise



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Icewine is soooo goooood.

This was our loot for the day:

Some of our fave reds we picked up while we were in NOTL

Icewines and Late Harvests

Our first stop was at Angel’s Gate Winery where we got to enjoy their sweet and sour 2008 Select Late Harvest Riesling paired with a soft baked pretzel. Yum. That’s the 2nd bottle from the left in the pic. While we were there we also tried a light . We prefer our reds a bit bolder but it was still a nice sip.

Second stop was Fielding Estate Winery. We tasted their 2007 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and 2008 Cabernet-Syrah paired with gourmet late-harvest baked beans. Everything was awesome although again, we prefer our reds with a bit more body. Probably some of the best baked beans I’ve had. The late harvest is the 2nd bottle from the right in the pic.

For our third stop, we stopped by Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery (to wish Wayne a happy 50th!) and had a nice treat: Shiraz icewine (1st bottle form the right) paired with a beaver tail with cinnamon and powdered sugar and drizzled with Shiraz icewine syrup. Yum.

Fourth stop was Flat Rock Cellars where they had the cutest pulled pork sliders you could  imagine (icewine-infused) paired with their 2007 Sweet Revenge Vidal Icewine. We enjoyed it but found the icewine a bit too sweet for our liking so decided to pass this time.

Fifth stop was Creekside Estate Winery. We sat outside and tasted roasted chestnuts with red pepper butter, paired with their 2007 Vidal Icewine. I had never had chestnuts before and didn’t really know what to expect…must be an acquired taste. 🙂  The icewine was great though (middle bottle in pic) and once we got back inside, we got to enjoy a glass of mulled wine to warm up – nice!

Our sixth stop was Colaneri Estate Winery and although the building was under construction, it was still a very nice setting and boy, they really put on a fantastic tasting (3 pairings!). First pairing was their Pinot Grigio “Profondo” paired with a mushroom risotto. Second pairing was an espresso flavoured panna cotta with their Vidal Icewine. Third pairing was a chocolate tart with their Cabernet Franc icewine. All very very good. We purchased the pinot griogio (1st bottle on left in pic).

Since we were ni the area, we also made two stops to pick up some of the wines we really enjoyed:

Maleta Estate Winery: We tasted the Cabernet Merlot as well as the 2003 Meritage (2 bottles of each). We were also very fortunate to taste some of their icewine paired with icewine truffles and they were both fantastic! Maleta is one of our favourite stops  – great wine, friendly staff. We’re so glad to keep seeing great things from this winery.

Lailey Vineyard: We had received their 2008 Meritage in our December wine of the month delivery and enjoyed it so much , we picked up 2 bottles while we were in town. Nice.

Our wine fridge has been replenished.

We finished the day off with a fabulous dinner at Colossus in Oakville. Now I can barely move I’m so full. 🙂

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Well, I definitely didn’t win, that’s for sure! They posted the wines earlier today and from what I remembered selecting, it ain’t looking good. 

Here are the official results (full results can be seen at the link above):

No. Grape Varietal or blend Country/Province of Origin Region or appellation Vintage

Amateur Round (Intl)

1 Riesling Austria Kremstal 2007
2 Pinotage South Africa Stellenbosch 2008
3 Carmenére Chile Rapel 2008


My picks were:

1) Riesling/Gewurz blend, S. Africa, Walker Bay

2) Carmenere, Chile, Rapel (yes, I see the irony here – maybe my 2nd and 3rd glasses got mixed up ? :))

3) Nebbiolo, Italy, Barbaresco


1 Unoaked Chardonnay Ontario Niagara Peninsula – Four Mile Creek 2009
2 Pinot Gris British Columbia Okanagan Valley 2008
3 Gamay Ontario Niagara Peninsula – Beamsville Bench 2009

My picks were:

1) Pinot Blanc, BC, Okanagan

2) Semillon, Ontario, can’t recall the appellation

3) Cab franc, Ontario, can’t recall the appellation. I was so sure about this one too!

Maybe I’ll get some of the vintages right! lol

I’m a little disappointed and can see where I went wrong now that I know the answers. That being said, I’m totally signing up again next year (as will my husband this time) and will just have to practice more between now and then. 😀

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I did it! I participated in my first blind wine tasting challenge and I had a great time! It being my first time, I was somewhat nervous but was looking forward to seeing how it was all organized and what was involved.

We had the 4pm slot so got there about 20 minutes prior and checked in. We were given our package which included an “exam sheet” – remember those school exam sheets with the little circles you had to fill in with pencil? Yep – it was one of those, along with some information about the challenge, etc.

After that, we checked in our coats and waited for the rest of our group to arrive. Then, it was time. We lined up to enter the “test room” and were handed either the “amateur” or “professional” question sheet (3 in our group were in the amateur round, 1 was in the professional round). We were each shown to our seat which were those long tables you see at hotel seminars with a white tablecloth. On each table there was a pencil, a glass for water, a pitcher of water, some bread, a plastic cup for expectorating (i.e. spitting) and a tray of the wines (3 glasses for the international round, 3 glasses for VQA). Then we got down to it.

Round 1: International

1st wine was white. Possible choices included a Riesling and a Riesling/Gewürztraminer blend. I can’t remember the others since I chose the blend – it had a sweetness and peppery-ness which made me go that route. Two in our group chose the blend, the other two chose the Riesling. I placed it in South Africa, Walker Bay. Can’t recall what year I picked – I think 2008.

2nd wine was red: I found that it had an earthy and almost barnyard nose. That being said, through the process of elimination, I selected a Carmenere from Chile, Rapel Valley.

3rd wine was red: This reminded me of another Italian wine I had recently so chose the Nebbiolo fairly quickly. Italy, Barbaresco. Our whole group chose the same one here so we’re either bang on or all wrong!

I felt pretty confident about wines #2 and #3. I’m second-guessing the origin of the first wine although I stand by the blend. We’ll see!

Round 2: VQA

1st wine was white: It was so light it was almost white in color which was pretty cool. The choices included a pinot blanc, pinot grigio, chenin blanc and I can’t recall the rest. I hesitated between the pinots and finally selected the pinot blanc just because of the color. I placed it in the Okanagan just because I haven’t seen very many pinot blancs in Ontario – doesn’t mean they don’t exist but I decided to go west. 3 of us chose the pinot blanc here.

2nd wine was white: It had a very light sweetness to it. The choices included a Riesling/Gewürztraminer blend (which I decided against since I had already answered it in the international round), a pinot gris, a semillon and I can’t recall the rest. I chose the semillon simply because of that hint of honey / sweetness. I placed it in Niagara and think I chose Beamsville. I think I was the only one who selected semillon – can’t remember.

3rd wine was red: Wow – I smelled the green pepper leaping right out of the glass even before I put my nose in it. To me, it was what the pure green pepper smelled like. The choices included a cab franc, a cab sauv/cab franc/merlot blend, a merlot, a gamay and a fifth one. I chose cab franc because of the green pepper on the nose. Two in the group chose a gamay. One chose a merlot. I placed it in Niagara and I think I chose Creek Shores. PEC was an option but I’m not familiar with the county so didn’t feel comfortable choosing it. Note to self: Go visit the county for research purposes. 🙂

We had 50 minutes to complete the challenge and I finished with plenty of time to go. When done, we had to raise our hand, then hand in our question sheet and answer sheet (to safeguard the info), then out to the waiting area we went. As soon as we got out, we wrote down what we answered so we could remember when the wines were announced.

Looking back, I feel pretty confident in my picks. Time will tell. It was interesting to chat with people afterwards to see what they thought and what they chose. It was great to listen to the various viewpoints. some were in accordance with mine (which increased my confidence) but others were different (which did the opposite). 🙂

I’m really proud that I entered and regardless of how I did, I really enjoyed the experience and would consider entering again next year.

Stay tuned for my results!

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