Please, Molson and Labatt and Sleeman: save us from ourselves

Oh, for the love of Pete.

For those who don’t live in Ontario, here’s the background: the Beer Store, a foreign-owned monopoly on beer sales (outside of the provincially regulated LCBO) is worried that public sentiment has turned against them and toward a more open market for alcohol sales. One of the proposals has been to allow booze in convenience stores, as in several other provinces. So this ad is what their marketing geniuses has produced. Not surprisingly, the predominant reaction to the ad has been strong criticism and even outright mocking.

I believe the technical term for this kind of flailing is “death throes”.

Matthew’s Magical Mennonite sausage

After a delicious but cold excursion back in April, our friends Matt & Kaylea invited us back to their cottage last weekend. Things worked out much better this time, weather-wise. To wit:

That’s what greeted us as soon as we arrived. We shook off the ride up, drank a beer on the dock, and watched this happen.

After a fine feed of sausages (including the titular Mennonite sausage) and charcuterie and cheeses and baguette, as well as bottles of Le Clos Jordanne 2009 “Le Grand Clos” Chardonnay and Thirty Bench 2008 “Triangle” Riesling on the deck, we settled around a camp fire, Nellie’s one request for this trip.

The next morning we partook of some bacon and Fahrenheit coffee we’d brought with us. And spent a lot of time down here:

After a couple of swims, Matt started smoking a lamb shoulder using cherry wood, while we shared a few special bottles of Garrison Ol’ Fog Burner barleywine (and a bottle of Blanche des Honnelles). Later, as dinner approached (and following another swim) we drank bottles of Five Rows 2012 Pinot Gris and Hinterland 2012 Ancestral sparkling. All were excellent.

Finally, when the lamb was ready for us, we paired it with bottles of Tawse 2009 “Cherry Ave” Pinot Noir and Malivoire 2010 “Old Vines” Marechal Foch. We had to go for a walk after dinner so that I didn’t fall into a lamb coma.

We also put down bottles of Peninsula Ridge 2007 “Inox Reserve” Chardonnay, Kacaba 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malivoire 2012 Pinot Gris before the night was through. All tasty, naturally,

The next morning brought more bacon — peameal, this time — and more coffee, followed by one last swim. Then came the long drive back to…ugh, wherever. Not the cottage. Not here:


No thieves, fakirs, rogues or tinkers. No skulking loafers or flea-bitten tramps.

This past weekend we partook of an Toronto tradition: braving northbound traffic to spend a night or two in nature, then braving the same traffic again heading back toward the city. Thankfully our friend’s cottage is on the right (right) side of Lake Simcoe so we avoided the worst of the weekend traffic and instead just got to enjoy the cottage and their company.

There was food and drink (the latter mostly VQA!) in our 24 hours there. There was kayaking and sitting on docks. There was sunshine and turtle-catching. There was peach pie and a Nova Scotia flag. Most importantly, there was beautiful weather and relaxation with friends.

Traffic can suck it.

Have you heard about big red?

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been ten months since our first trip to visit Niagara wineries. It was there that I started to learn about, and fall for, Ontario wine. Since then we’ve made another trip, as well as a run to Prince Edward County, and the majority of my LCBO purchases in these ten months have been from Ontario. It’s safe to say that I’m hooked.

On Friday a colleague (teasingly) mocked my love of Ontario wine. He claims to like bigger, fuller reds, and suggested Ontario wine was “fine if you like [makes disgusted face] Pinot Noir.” To which I say: phooey.

Listen up, kids: there is some excellent Ontario wine out there, some of which are substantial enough to be mistaken for Australian or Californian. Granted, a lot of them are pricey, but there are certainly affordable ones out there as well. Here are some suggestions for people who actually want to give it a try:

  • My favourite Ontario wine, and maybe my favourite wine overall: the Thirty Bench Cab Franc ($40). This wine also just won the top prize at Cuvée 2011, Ontario’s ‘wine oscars’. If $40 is a little rich for your blood, then the Thirty Bench Red blend ($24) carries quite a bit of the Cab Franc and is more accessible, and nearly as full-bodied.
  • If the Cab you want is not Franc, but Sauv, then Thirty Bench also does an excellent one of those for $40. However, biodynamic producer Southbrook also does a fantastic one in their Whimsy line ($35). Meanwhile, the Strewn Cab Sauv is just $20.
  • I was never a big fan of Syrah, but Southbrook’s bottles turned me around. Peppery, substantial, but still easy to drink…well worth the $25. If you’re looking to spend less, the Creekside Shiraz costs $16, rates a healthy 88 points and can be found in practically any LCBO.
  • The Tawse Meritage ($58) almost knocked me over when I tried it in their tasting room. A bottle of it is sitting in my cellar, waiting for a special occasion. For a lower-cost, equally-ass-kicking Meritage I really, really wish I could tell you to go buy the 07 Hidden Bench Terroir Caché ($35), but as far as I can tell it’s sold out. We’ve drunk two bottles of it to date, and — because we were greedy and opened it a few years too early — had to decant it for hours before drinking it. Now our final bottle is lying in wait for at least two more years, and I’m not sharing.
  • And yes, Ontario does have good Pinot Noir. And I like Pinot Noir. But I didn’t really like it until I tried the real — in my opinion — local champs of the grape: Le Clos Jordanne ($25-$75, depending on the vineyard) and Norman Hardie ($35-$39). Flat Rock does a great lower-cost bottle($20) too.
  • If you’re not particular about varietal and just want a serious red, I can recommend either the Stratus Red blend ($44) or the Chateau des Charmes Equuleus ($40). If that’s too rich, the Creekside Laura Red ($20) is a worthy substitute.

I’ve missed plenty, but hopefully that’s enough to convince a few people that there really are some great Ontario reds available at a variety of prices. Besides, drinking local never hurt anybody!

And the final tally is…

16, not counting the two we’ve already knocked off.

Since you can’t see them all, that’s:

  • Casa-Dea CD Rosso 2008
  • Closson Chase Aberdeen Chardonnay 2007, CCV Chardonnay 2005 and S. Kocsis Chardonnay 2007
  • Huff Estates Riesling Medium Dry 2009 and Huff Estates Vidalesco Sparkling 2009
  • Keint-He Little Creek Pinot Noir 2007 (x2)
  • Lacey Estates Gewurztraminer 2009
  • Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Barrique 2008, Unfiltered Chardonnay 2008 and County Pinot Noir 2008
  • Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc 2007 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
  • Sandbanks Dunes Vidal 2009 and Foch Reserve 2008

Of all those we tried I’d say Norm Hardie, Closson Chase and Keint-He were the best and worth visiting again. Not that the others were bad — they’re still far better than most of the plonk you find in the LCBO — but those three really stood out.

Le party

Last night we hosted a little dinner party for CBGB and the Kelly Gang. Good fun and great company all around, but I was so impressed with the meal Nellie whipped up that I had to record it here for posterity. We tried hard to make it a very Ontario-based meal, and with only a few exceptions, we managed that.



Wine (Fielding 2009 White Conception, Union Red)

Beer (Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale, Creemore urBock, Hockley Valley Dark)

Ice wine martinis (Grey Goose vodka, Lakeview Cellars vidal icewine)

Hors D’Oeuvres

La Quercia prosciutto

Crostini with chevre, honey and cracked pepper


Curried butternut squash soup with toasted coconut, scallions, cashews and pakoras

Daniel Lenko 2007 Old Vines Chardonnay

Hidden Bench 2007 Fumé Blanc


Cumbrae’s pork loin stuffed with apple & caramelized onion

Sea-salt roasted potatoes, green beans and fennel

Norman Hardie 2008 County Pinot Noir

Norman Hardie 2008 Unfiltered Pinot Noir


Ewenity sheep’s milk cheese: Beemster, Ermite, Parmesan and Brebette, served with honey, balsamic, red pepper jelly and apple cinnamon chardonnay jelly

Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate

Raincoast crisps

Daniel Lenko 2002 Vidal Icewine

Macallan 15-year-old Fine Oak aged single malt whisky


And now…we clean up.