Archive for July, 2014

Ask Sid: Recommend any BC wines?

July 16th, 2014

Recommend any BC wine

Question: I have tried some of those sweet Ice Wines from Canada but now am hearing encouraging things from wine friends about the much improved unique dry table wines from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Any helpful information or recommendations for me?

Answer: Yes there is an explosion of new wineries with the last count being 232 grape wine wineries licensed in British Columbia and rapidly growing. Presently the most grown grape varieties are merlot for red and pinot gris for white. However, syrah, pinot noir, cab franc, gamay, and red blends all show great potential as do old vine riesling (planted 1978), chenin blanc (1968), sparkling, and Rhone grape blends for whites. The best is still yet to come. Follow all developments at

For recommendations here are the top 12 BC wines recently chosen by the 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards For Excellence judges (myself included) out of 436 wines submitted from 119 wineries:


These 27 year old vines in their Estate Okanagan Falls Vineyard show a complex clearly defined riesling variety with just the right balance between the lively acidity and the attractive residual sweetness. Delicious!


Very charred toasty French oak barrels used for this distinctive wine from a good vintage makes a ripe softer big fruit easy to enjoy statement


Dutch owners Rolf & Heleen have a “hankering” for their unique Lillooet peachy lime terroir which delivers stylish petrol aromas and attractive layers of flavour


Choice grapes from Golden Mile show juicy rich plums open aromas and palate with lovely drinking accessibilty now but no rush to drink up as will age well.


Outstanding white Bordeaux blend by my old friend winemaker Luke Smith specializing in pinot noir yet here displaying so well fresh tomato plants aromas of sauvigonon blanc with lanolin weight of semillon.


Stylish round apple and cinnamon notes are fresh and subtle expressing the pure expression of the chardonnay grape itself without any oak interference.


David & Cynthia Enns celebrate a 10th vintage from a cooler but successful year for their red Bordeaux blend of the 5 grapes in French oak for 19 months showing deep concentrated smooth structured fruit.


Pure lighter cherry fruit shows elegance from clever seasoning by the passionate winemaking team using 3 year old French oak barrels and custom made egg shaped concrete tanks.


Paul & Julie’s special lot of ripe spicy peppery syrah jumps from the glass with these inviting aromas and entices the palate with soft smooth flavours of this successful Okanagan variety.


A leading winery in the Okanagan celebrating 25 years by the Stewart family with some emphasis on pinot noir but they always produce truly outstanding chardonnay too. Full rich oaky expression but still fresh and inviting matching well with so many full flavoured food dishes.


Prudence & Beat yet again show their skills in producing this fragrant lively subtle apricot notes wine with excellent balance all at an attractive lower alcohol level.


Rather charming juicy easy fruit/oak balance using a unique blend of syrah, malbec, and petit verdot with a mix of French and American wood by talented winemaker Stephanie so well trained by Howard Soon.

Ask Sid Cross about wine and food

Have you tried wine from British Columbia?

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What Wines Do You Drink During Summer? How about Rose?

July 15th, 2014

What wines do you drink during the summer?
By Samantha from Scotland UK (Rose wine) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Just back from judging the Similkameen BBQ King/Queen Competition prepared by some talented British Columbia chefs.  All were required to use the same ingredients starting with a 65 pound hog and various local fresh organic products including carrots, zucchini, peppers, sorrel, cherries… The weather for this popular event drawing 500 people on the lawn of the historic Old Grist Mill was blazing hot at 40C (or 104F). Everyone I spoke with there seemed to prefer the lighter wines served at a cooler temperature but especially a big hit was Rose. This got me thinking whether we consciously prefer different wines depending on the weather and the season of the year.

I still can remember when Rose carried a plonk connotation because of so many inferior wines that carried that label such as some overly sweet white zinfandels. No more. It has gone upstream with some super drier “Old World” initiated styles and delicious off dry innovative “New World” ones too. Used to think the better ones had to use the variety of pinot noir or some of those grapes from Provence in the south of France to obtain elegance. However, now with modern methods it seems that any grape (including cabernet sauvignon) or any region (including Uruguay) can work successfully. Good examples that are out there include from Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy “rosato”, Spain “rosado”, and USA. The key is freshness and balance served with a refreshing light chill!  It doesn’t hurt either that Rose wines are a versatile choice with food such as barbecue and are usually very affordable.

I usually drink similar wines all year round. However I admit that my personal summer preference is Riesling when I do consume more of it. What is your summer wine?

Favorite summer wine?

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Ask Sid: Drinking responsibly at an event where wine is being served

July 9th, 2014

Drinking responsibly at an event where wine is being served
By Sarah Stierch (Own work) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: When going to an event where there will be a lot of wine, and having to drive home afterwards, I like to have something in my stomach to slow down the effects of alcohol entering my bloodstream.  I have been using about a cup of milk and some crackers coated with peanut butter at least one hour before the event, but no more than one an a half hours prior.  I am hoping the milk will coat my stomach and intestine.   Same with the food.  It works OK, and is much better than nothing.  I am wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions on what they do.  Any scientific findings on what slows down the effects of alcohol?  Once at the event, I drink about as much water as wine.

Answer: Quite a few issues raised here by this question. First it is definitely not wise or recommended to drive home after an event serving a lot of wine regardless of whether you have or have not coated your stomach. There is  support for taking some complex carbs (say sweet potato or brown rice) and good fats just before as those items take a while to digest thereby slowing the absorption of the alcohol. That is why your trick of milk, crackers and peanut butter works OK for you. Grainy bread and cheese is a natural. Try potato chips and banana. Small dishes of whole wheat pasta, beans or lentils with a big dash of quality olive oil will work well. I don’t prepare or coat my stomach before-hand. I prefer to always try and match food with my wine from the starting aperitif – with some hors d’oeuvre, toasted nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts etc., gougere and the like – continuing this strategy right through the meal or event. Study and sip your wine slowly at first – don’t knock back too quickly two or more glasses without food right at the start. Good idea to not mix too many different types of drinks – stick with table wines. Note that carbonated drinks including sparkling bubbles accelerate the alcohol absorption. I drink lots of water and green tea all day long to keep me well hydrated. If you wait until the wine event to start drinking water you may find yourself bloated from consuming too much total liquid in a fairly short period of time.

Ask Sid Cross about wine and food

Burgundy crop reductions continue – Time to buy recommendation!

July 7th, 2014

Burgundy crop reductions continue
By Megan Mallen (Flickr: Burgundy, France) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In our May 27 Blog featuring Burgundy we informed you that there were encouraging hopes for a quality harvest of much larger volume for the 2014 vintage. Unfortunately these hopes were quickly dashed for many producers by the devastating widespread hail storm that happened on June 28. You can read some extensive details on this by Antonio Galloni in his update posted at  These hail storms seem to have become almost a pattern particularly the last 3 years but they raise real economic issues for the viability to continue farming for many growers. Frost can also be another concern on quantity – look at the affect on reduced Grand Cru Chablis with their 2012 Spring frosts. Shorter Burgundy crops were predicted already for 2010-2013 inclusive. It is alarming now to learn about a 5th consecutive year of less wine production projected for 2014. Availability and especially price increases are a real ongoing concern for the Burgundy consumer. I strongly recommend you buy some now!

What to buy? 2012 Chablis is a smart choice. They have full chardonnay fruit but with classic vibrant acidity. Older oak may turn out to have been a wise choice to use for this particular vintage. As an example seek out top value Christian Moreau Grand Cru Les Clos & 1er Cru Vaillon old vines in their Cuvee Guy Moreau. Meursault volumes continue to fall and prices are already increasing. Pick up some Jadot Genevrieres or Bouchard Pere Perrieres – both now using Diam cork closures -from any vintage but especially the 2010 I admire. Any 2009 or 2010 red Burgundy you see may still be at old pricing and worth buying. Look for underrated vineyards like La Dominode the best vineyard in Savigny-Les-Beaune from Pavelot that give outstanding value for the quality you receive in the bottle. Their 2009 is already so delicious and 2010 the only SLB on the wine list at Ma Cuisine in Beaune on my last visit in May at 53 Euros was firm balanced pure minerals structured to age. On a stricter wine budget the 2012 red Cote Chalonnaise are looking so encouraging – especially some of the Mercurey vineyards from Faiveley. Search out some of your own treasures to enjoy sometime for a blue moon!

Are you concerned about the Burgundy region?

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10 facts about Ontario wine

July 4th, 2014

10 facts about Ontario wine
By Joseph Temple

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province can trace its winemaking roots back more than two hundred years – a history older than the country itself.  And after many trials and tribulations, its wines now compete with the best of Europe and the Americas, winning numerous international awards.

Below are ten interesting facts about the province’s wine industry and how it came to be.  Special thanks to Library and Archives Canada for providing many of the photographs and Tony Aspler’s talk at the Empire Club of Canada for much of the information in this posting.


Ontario wine starts in Mississauga

1. An unusual beginning

When most people think of Ontario wine, they usually associate it with the Niagara Peninsula, Canada’s largest viticultural area.  So it might come as a surprise that the province’s fist vineyard was further up the Golden Horseshoe in Cooksville – what is now Mississauga, a suburb just west of Toronto.

Johann Schiller, a German corporal awarded land hear for his military service, is considered by many to be the father of Canadian wine.  Harvesting labrusca grapes near the Credit River, Schiller created the province’s first vineyard in 1811 by selling wine to his thirsty neighbors in Upper Canada.


Ontario wine debuts at the 1867 world's fair

2. Praise at the fair

Count Justin de Courtenay, a Frenchman from Lower Canada who purchased Schiller’s property had high hopes of making Ontario wine internationally renown.  The year was 1867 – the year of Canada’s birth and across the ocean, the World’s Fair was taking place in Paris, France.  So what better time and place to showcase Ontario wine for the entire world? Sending several bottles to Paris for a tasting, the lackluster wine was surprisingly well received at the fair, with some comparing it to Beaujolais.


wine on pelee island

3. Everybody wants an island

In a nation known as “the Siberia of the British Empire,” finding an area with a suitable climate to make wine can be difficult.  So if you’re looking at a map of Ontario, what better place than the country’s southernmost point to start a vineyard?

Pelee Island – located northwest of Cleveland, Ohio on the Canadian side of Lake Erie–proved to be the ideal spot in 1866 when three Kentucky farmers started the Vin Villa Winery.  Being on the same geographical parallel as Northern California and benefiting from the lake’s cooling effect, Pelee, along with Lake Erie North Shore continues to be one of the province’s most important wine growing regions.


prohibition makes ontario wine

4. Prohibition makes Ontario a province of wine drinkers

Whereas the Volstead Act applied to every state in the union, Canada’s Prohibition laws differed on a province-by-province basis (except briefly as part of the War Measures Act). While Quebec opted out early in 1919, Prince Edward Island defied the wets until 1948 – almost twenty years after the rest of Canada ended the “noble experiment.”

And in Ontario, the political clout of its farmers resulted in wine being exempt from any restrictive legislation.  So with liquor and beer relegated to the underworld, the province’s wine industry thrived like never before, going from over 200,000 gallons of domestic consumption in 1921 to 2.2 million gallons a decade later.


Ontario wine bad reputation

5. Quality? Two words: Baby Duck

Before the Vintners Quality Alliance, when North American labrusca varieties reigned supreme across the province, Ontario wine had a reputation for being the choice of ‘winos looking to come alive for a dollar five.’  With alcohol rates in excess of 20%, native Concord and Niagara grapes offered the perfect taste to those looking for little more than a cheap buzz.  According to wine writer Tony Aspler, Ontario became known for producing “block and tackle wines.”  “You drank a bottle, walked a block and you could tackle anyone,” said Aspler.


Building a wine dynasty in Ontario
By Graham (Flickr: Wine Country) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Creating a dynasty

If Ontario wine were a hockey team, then the mid 1970s was their rebuilding period.  It all started in 1975 when Inniskillin was granted a license by the province to create an estate winery – the first since prohibition.  Moving away from the high-alcohol port and sherry style wines, this new breed of vintners turned the corner by growing vinifera vines that could hopefully compete with Europe.  The result was that by 1986, these vines had increased by 500 percent across the province.


ontario wine free trade

7. Free trade forces Ontario vineyards to change for the better

Under the government of Brian Mulroney, trade barriers came crashing down as Canada signed both the FTA with the United States (later NAFTA) and GATT.  So with tariffs being phased out, Ontario’s winemakers were no longer sheltered by protectionist policies and forced to compete with the wines of Europe and America on a more level playing field.  Softening the blow, the Canadian government invested $100 million dollars to replace undesirable labrusca grapes with vitis vinifera varieties more popular with consumers.  And to ensure quality standards, a new organization – the Vinters Quality Alliance (VQA) – was established in 1988 to regulate the industry and to certify that growing and production methods were up to par with the other wine regions of the world.


ontario ice wine vidal 1989
By Dominic Rivard from Bangkok, Thailand (icewine grapes3) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8. Ontario wine goes mainstream

In what can be described as Canada’s “Bottle Shock” moment, Inniskillin’s 1989 Vidal ice wine wins the prestigious Grand Prix d’Honneur at the 1991 Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France.  After more than a decade of trial and error, Ontario’s ice wine industry is thrust onto the world stage with this upset over the dominant German Eiswein.  More than twenty years later, ice wine exports reach over 200,000 liters per year and is valued at $15.5 million annually.


ontario prince edward county wine

9. The east wants in!

Roughly a two-hour drive from Toronto, the picturesque island known as Prince Edward County has come a long way since being labeled the “Canning Capital of Canada.”  Beginning in the 1990s, the wineries there have grown by leaps and bounds with PEC being certified a Designated Viticultural Area in 2007.

As you cross over the Bay of Quinte into this scenic eastern Ontario getaway, you’ll understand why so many make the pilgrimage each year to taste their wines.  With a relatively mild climate thanks to Lake Ontario, the thirty wineries on the island have flourished, growing a variety of grapes that include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, to name just a few.


Celebrities who own vineyards in Ontario
By Richard Wayne Photography (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By tonyshek (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Kris Krüg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. Celebs get in on a piece of the action

Today, it seems as if every actor, musician and professional athlete has their own winery–’Brangelina’, Dave Matthews, Arnold Palmer and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon just to name a few.  But what about Ontario?

Looking at the list of celebrities who own wineries, the province clearly has not been left out in terms of star power.  Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd, 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir and “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky have all put their names on Ontario’s flourishing wine industry.

At the International Wine & Food Society, we have a solid presence across the province, with branches in Toronto, Oakville, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Niagara.  Perhaps these locals can tell you which Ontario wine(s) they would recommend?

Have you tried wine from Ontario?

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