Club Pickup

Today Lindsay and I (and our friend Sarah) drove down to Beamsville to pick up our Hidden Bench wine club allotment. It was our second one of these visits. It was a beautiful day — we ate snacks and sipped wine inside the barn and out.

We’re now loaded up on a bunch of great Riesling and rosé for the summer, but also their killer Pinot for the cellar and — most excitingly — the 2018 La Brunante, their flagship red, which was superb when we sampled it today. I still have the 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017 vintages as well, so there’s a pretty solid vertical building up.

The first rule of flight club

Earlier this week we joined a handful of other patrons at Chez Nous Wine Bar’s inaugural Flight Club. It involved samples of 11 different Ontario wines (see below) some of which were the acknowledged stars of Niagara, while others snuck up on us.

It was terrific fun, to where Lindsay had to restrain me from excitedly blabbing too much. If this is a monthly event, we’ll happily keep signing up. Though, given how we felt Tuesday morning, we probably won’t share a bottle of wine before we go to the next one. That wasn’t our best call.

The wines:

  • Meldville Muscat Bubble 2020
  • 2027 Cellars Pinot Gris 2020
  • Leaning Post Riesling 2018
  • Flat Rock Gewuztraminer 2020
  • 13th Street Maximum Intervention 2020 (Riesling; orange wine)
  • Big Head Rosé 2020 (Malbec)
  • Westcott Temperance 2020 (Pinot Noir / Gamay)
  • Bachelder “Les Villages” Gamay 2019
  • Malivoire Analog 2020 (Cabernet Franc / Gamay)
  • Ravine “Sand & Gravel” Cabernet Franc 2019
  • Black Bank Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

So many half-magnums

Last night Lindsay and I, and three other couples, had dinner in the beautiful private dining room in the cellar at Barberian’s steakhouse. We’d won the dinner in last fall’s Grapes for Climate Change charity auction; after not being sure what would happen throughout the Omicron lockdown we found out last week it was going ahead, and we re-mobilized.

Dinner wasn’t just dinner either — there were special guests. Beverly Crandon, one of the founders of Vinequity, and Thomas Bachelder, Niagara winemaking royalty. Thomas was pouring several of his wines to go with the meal, and we got to compare, contrast, and learn about the wines as we went. Some were the very last magnums and bottles (sorry — half-magnums) of his 2014s. At one point Arron Barberian came down and talked about the barrels of wine Thomas had made of blended wine from dozens of Niagara producers, and which he had put into more magnums, which Barberian had signed by Geddy Lee. Proceeds from the sale of those bottles also went to GfH, so…we bought six.

It was a great night, our first since this latest lockdown began. And the best part is, the winnings included a tasting at the Bachelder bat cave in the spring. Can’t effing wait.

Les visiteurs

We’ve just wrapped a few days’ visit from some lovely friends, in from Montreal. We hung out. We relaxed. They made us dinner. We opened good wines. We played Marios, both Kart and Party. It was — they were — a welcome bit of light beamed into an otherwise grim February.

Also: yesterday while I was sitting in the office, I saw a large owl — what I guessed was a snowy owl? — take off from the roof of our house, swoop across the laneway, and perch on a nearby roof. A few minutes later it came back, and I got the full National-Geographic-style view of the owl in full wing, seemingly looking me right in the eye.

So many lovely visitors.

La Paella

Last night we met up with friends K & E at La Paella, a Spanish restaurant just down the street which none of us had ever been to. We sat on their covered patio on a warm, rainy evening, and ate & drank…uh, a lot.

We shared four tapas plates — grilled lamb chops; sweet pimientos del piquillo stuffed with beef cheeks; sauteed garlic shrimp in Spanish olive oil; and Oyster mushrooms, garlic & olive oil, pan seared in Andalucia sherry wine — before digging into a paella of rabbit, wild boar, Spanish chorizo, Jamon Serrano, green peas and piquillo peppers. It was all washed down with several bottles of Rioja and Duero. Dessert was everything on offer: almond cake, manchego cheesecake, house-made chocolate, and some kind of flan? Anyway, the star was the 1968 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Seleccion.

It was a long, lovely dinner, the likes of which we haven’t had in over a year.

ver photo by iSAW Company on Unsplash

Post-lockdown house guests

This morning Lindsay’s old friend N and N’s girlfriend J left for Montreal, having stayed with us the past few days. It was a treat having them here. It felt odd to even have guests in the house again, but the week was just so chill and fun. And they kept cooking for us, which felt pretty luxe.

Last night was especially fun — after drinks & decor ideas and book browsing, they made an amazing dinner of tenderloin steaks wrapped in bacon, Caesar salad, and oven-roasted fresh-cut fries. We had plenty of wine before and during: Muscadet, Albarino, Ontario sparkling, Pet Nat, and Napa Cab. We sat outside in the perfect weather and wolfed it down. The dinner, the day, and really the whole week was just such a joy.

Come back anytime pals.


Cover photo by iSAW Company on Unsplash

Cover photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

Fun with screens

While normally we find it exhausting to look at screens, yesterday they were the underpinnings of a pretty good day.

Somehow yesterday I became aware that Bar Volo, and its College Street sibling Birreria Volo carry Gueuze Tilquin, one of my all-time favourite beers but heretofore extremely hard to find in Ontario. I jumped on the laptop, ordered a bunch from Volo (including the new-to-me wild blueberry Tilquin, and a bottle of the Rullquin stout, and a bottle of Cantillon for good measure), followed by an order from the Birreria of 6 (!) bottles of their standard gueuze and 2 bottles of the cassis. Turns out they can’t deliver it without food, so we grabbed some sausage, manchego, and a baguette too.

After that was all put away, and as I cleaned up the kitchen, we watched two episodes (one from last week, the other live) of Think You Know Wine, the virtual blind tasting by four of the WineAlign wine critics. It was Lindsay’s first time watching, and she could barely stand the humbling the critics took these last few episodes, but I loved it. Made me feel better about my own tasting endeavours. We finished them up as we sat down to dinner.

Not long after said dinner we jumped on a Jitsi call with some friends, and ended up chatting the night away for four hours. I kept the TV on in the background, and watched the Habs blast the Canucks for the second straight night. We finished some wine and tackled some of the excellent new beer. Kramer saw some raccoons walking through the backyard and freaked out. By the time we went to bed we’d been drinking and eating for about 8 hours, so we woke up this morning feeling a little overindulged, but nothing a lie-in, some coffee, and some greasy breakfast couldn’t fix.


Cover photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

Blind birthday beers

Last night, for a friend’s birthday, we took part in a fun thing: a blind beer tasting (on Zoom, naturally) between people over five households. Each person bought five beers, wrapped them to obscure what they were, and safe-dropped them with the coordinator who then distributed them to each of the households.

So, last night we signed on, and tasted all twelve beers one by one, each time guessing what they were. There were, as we’d guessed, a lot of sours. Lindsay picked a smoked lavender stout from Avling; I picked up a seasonal east coast IPA from Radical Road. Both were hits.

Lindsay and I tied for the most accurate guessing. All in all, it was a really fun night, and a cool way to celebrate a friend’s birthday, even if she did try to kill us all with Delirium Tremens.


Earlier this week I traveled to the east end (even east-er than me) to catch up with my friend Andrea. We grabbed a table at Xola (I’d never been; she had) and caught up and had a pretty goddamn fantastic meal.

  • cocktails: traditional margarita; El Mayor Extra Anejo Old Fashioned
  • traditional guacamole
  • pulpo asado: grilled octopus w/ reduction of balsamic vinegar, artisanal chorizo, sweet potato mash, refried beans, and roasted grasshoppers (!)
  • duck confit tacos: moulard duck leg confit w/ pear & guajillo pepper sauce, salsa, and corn tortillas
  • a special: duck breast in mole sauce
  • bottle of Crianza

Also, turns out there’d been a bit of media buzz around the place when Leafs star Auston Matthews and his mom visited a few days earlier.

Dukkha dog

Last night we had dinner at Wynona with new friends E+K. It was a delight, and delicious. To wit: neither of us felt great this morning.

This right here was the lineup:

  • grilled house focaccia
  • burrata w/ fig, ham, honey, almond, fennel pollen
  • little gem salad w/ buttermilk dressing, soft-boiled egg, crispy quinoa, feta
  • charred eggplant w/ sugar snap peas, tahini yogurt, dukkha
  • dry-aged rib eye
  • cavatelli w/ duck confit, hen-of-the-woods, cured egg yolk
  • bottles of Mencia, Pais, & Cabernet Franc
  • dessert: something chocolate-based, something custard-based, and some late-harvest Semillon

On our way home we made a stop at Chez Nous for one more glass of wine. Which, of course, turned into more than that.

I dragged my ass out of bed this morning to get to the first class in my next wine course, only to find the college had cancelled the course and just not told me. Great. Cool.

I didn’t have much left in me for today, so we just sat on the couch and watched Booksmart (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was extremely funny.