Photo by Peter Kudlacz, used under Creative Commons license

“Mmmm. Gueuzy.”

Well, that was a beer-y weekend. It actually started Thursday night when Nellie and I found ourselves near Volo and stopped in for some Great Lakes drinks (Chill Winston for me, Audrey Hopburn for her) before some dinner at Mercatto. At that point we’d momentarily switched to wine, and decided to watch Red Obsession (imdb | rotten tomatoes) while we drank a bottle of the Tawse wine club T-Blend Red.

My Friday afternoon was spent on a boat cruising around Toronto harbour for a work event, during which I consumed quite a few bottles of Steam Whistle. We were dropped off a few minutes away from the Amsterdam Brewhouse, so a few of us secured a table until Nellie and our friends MLK arrived. The food was pretty decent and I kept to the lighter beers (until the one-off Boxer (10 Count) farmhouse ale with Brett) so I could remain more or less coherent. After dinner we retired back to ours where we shared a (spectacular) bottle of Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc.

We took it easy on Saturday, just lying about and running a few errands, before meeting our friends JP + Sue at Triple A for some barbecue. We ate our ribs and steak and brisket and sausage and drank Camerons California Sunshine APA (mostly), then made a quick stop at our place to share a bottle of St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition on our balcony before heading to C’est What for a few more. I’m glad I picked up a bottle of that gueuze before the LCBO ran dry.

And now…I need a nap.

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.:.

Photo by Peter Kudlacz, used under Creative Commons license

 

Cover photo by Ken Lewis, used under Creative Commons license

Should’ve Led with the Zeppole

Membership does have its privileges.

The lone wine club to which we belong — Tawse — netted us an invite to a special event last night: a 6-course tasting menu at Campagnolo restaurant, long on my to-hit list, in which the food would be paired with wines from the new Tawse offshoot winery, Redstone. We sat at the tasting bar with another couple, and shared cooking tips and winery recommendations, and watched the kitchen do their thing. Here’s what the kitchen hit us with:

Daisy Bay oysters
2012 Limestone South Riesling

Scallops and saffron with carrot butter and sicilian lemon
2011 Redstone Chardonnay

60-day aged beef tartare with truffle sauce and brioche
2010 Redstone Vineyard Syrah

Celeriac agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms and tallegio
2010 Redstone Vineyard Merlot

Roasted Ontario lamb rack and braised lamb neck with swiss chard and toasted farro
2010 Meritage

Rhubarb zeppole
2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine

The food was spectacular, and the wines were VERY good. I think Redstone will be a great compliment to the Tawse lineup, adding varietals like Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a very different Riesling. Both winemakers — Paul Pender from Tawse and Rene Van Ede from Redstone — were on hand to talk about the wines, and I’m looking forward to where this could go. Side note: it turns out Paul Pender has (had?) ties to Springhill, NS, near where I’m from.

Here’s hoping Tawse and Redstone throw more shindigs like this.

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.:.

Cover photo by Ken Lewis, used under Creative Commons license

The essence of the devil and the nectar of the gods and the music of the monsters

This past weekend we drove around Lake Ontario (through a Gardiner Expressway closure, no less) to visit Matt & Kaylea — they of the recent epic wedding — to visit some wineries, have some laughs, and eat some of Matt’s cooking. We arrived earlier than planned but later than hoped, checked out their sweet new place, and zipped into Beamsville for some wine tasting.

We attempted a Malivoire visit but the parking lot was so busy we didn’t even stop…we just 180’d in their driveway and left, then 180’d again when we realized we were heading away from stop #2: Tawse. Eventually we got there, bypassing the busy tasting room for the member’s cellar. We tasted through what would become a common occurrence: a cloud of fruit flies. Guess it’s that time of year. Anyway, we got to try several things we, and more importantly M&K, hadn’t tried before. We ended up taking away a case of six special one-off Chardonnays, around which we’re likely going to construct a big tasting or dinner party. Our wine club membership came in handy, as the power went out just as we attempted to make our purchases and the POS system wouldn’t reboot. “Bill me,” I shouted as I strolled out, “I’m a member!” OK, that didn’t happen, but we did get some cut-eye as we walked out past a dozen people waiting impatiently to pay.

We had an equally productive (expensive?) stop at Hidden Bench, where among the half dozen we purchased were two bottles of 2010 La Brunante, their flagship Bordeaux blend which they’ve only made twice before. The tasting room was so busy we didn’t even bother tasting…we knew what we wanted. We swung by Fielding after that for a few quick samples and some Kaylea snark, and left with a paltry three bottles. Matt & Kaylea didn’t do too badly either, picking up eight on the day:

After Fielding we’d had quite enough of sample pours, and returned to M&K’s. Matt began prepping dinner as we sampled a few Beer Academy beers we’d brought with us  (German mild ale = good; peach wheat = gross) and before long we were attacking a charcuterie board (which included some of the best Buffalo mozzarella I’ve ever had) and a bottle of really nice Italian sparkling whose name escapes me but which almost certainly contributed to the fuzziness of this picture:

Before we knew it we were into the soup course, an unreal homemade butternut squash number, paired with a special treat indeed: a 2000 Thirty Bench Chardonnay. It had the same few suspect early sniffs as the 1999 Closson Chase Chardonnay we shared last year, but turned into creamy, rich goodness which got along so well with the soup they might as well have just eloped.

Here we took a brief intermezzo to let some food settle, wash a few dishes, drink a bottle of Tawse Lauritzen Pinot Noir, and watch Matt and Nellie nearly die from eating a fresh habanero pepper. Matt’s solution to this was as follows:

That didn’t work, obviously. Finally I convinced him to drink some cream, and things righted themselves enough to move on to the main course: beef bourguignon. This we paired with another outstanding choice from their visit to Thirty Bench: a 2007 Cabernet Franc, perhaps my favourite red. We listened to a bizarre rotation of music, but finally settled on Of Monsters And Men long enough to get us through all the beef and mushrooms. Then came dessert, a beautiful roasted Italian plum ice cream with cinnamon and my dad’s maple syrup. A Fielding Rock Pile Pinot Gris purchased earlier in the day went nicely with dessert. Note that there are no decent pictures of either of these, as I annihilated them before I thought to snap a pic.

Matt and I were very definitely done for the evening, and after a few more hours of talking and finishing off the beer, started to crash. The music took a turn for the worse (Culture Club? the hell?) and the ladies began dancing and then unwisely drank an entire bottle of Rosewood Merlot, leaving us with a respectable lineup of fallen soldiers on the day:

None of us were terribly quick to jump out of bed the next morning, obviously, but neither were we poorly. Whatever shakiness we might have felt was quickly erased with some delicious Fahrenheit coffee and a stellar Matt breakfast of eggs, pork chop-sized hunks of peameal bacon, and English muffins. Good thing too: we had more tastings to do! Once we’d all showered and poured Nellie into the car we set off toward the bench.

Malivoire was considerably less busy than it had looked the day before. After a misbegotten stop out front for cheese and some dodgy-looking white, we got into the reds inside. We left with a very good Pinot and a standout Cab Sauv and a mouthful of fruit flies. Next up was Megalomaniac, about which I’ve always been ambivalent, and so remain. Next was a completely new stop for all of us: Vieni. I’d never heard of it but Kaylea, being the plugged-in type that she is, guided us there. It’s a very large property, but very new, and a little scattershot with the wine lineup, but that should improve with age. Nellie picked up yet another bottle of sparkling, and I was happy to pick up an Aglianico, which they claim is the only one made in Canada. It’s certainly the only one I’d ever seen. I am, in fact, drinking it right now as I write this blog post.

Our final stop of the weekend was Thirty Bench, where I’d hoped to fill a hole in our vertical collection of Cab Francs. Turns out they didn’t make the vintage we’re missing…so I suppose we’re not really missing it. We also picked up a Pinot without tasting it, it having been recommended to us to do so by miss Kaylea.

We left there and, realizing it was late afternoon, decided to grab lunch at Syndicate, a nearby gastropub. Unfortunately we didn’t do the math on just how late it was until we’d already ordered — we didn’t have much time to return the car given that the Gardiner was still closed. The rest of the meal turned into a bit of a frenzy, after which we dropped Matt & Kaylea back at their house and sped away, making excellent time all the way around the lake to the west end of Toronto before getting jammed up. We took alternate routes and side streets and a few ill-fated turns and in the end got the car back only six minutes late, which was pretty damn good.

Later that evening while Nellie watched the Emmys I took stock of everything we’d bought:

  1. Tawse 2011 David’s Block Chardonnay
  2. Tawse 2011 Muhl Vineyard Chardonnay
  3. Tawse 2011 Eastman Vineyard Chardonnay
  4. Tawse 2011 Lenko Vineyard Chardonnay
  5. Tawse 2011 Hillside Vineyard Chardonnay
  6. Tawse 2011 Celebration Chardonnay
  7. Hidden Bench 2009 Terroir Cache Meritage
  8. Hidden Bench 2009 Terroir Cache Meritage
  9. Hidden Bench 2009 Felseck Chardonnay
  10. Hidden Bench 2010 La Brunante
  11. Hidden Bench 2010 La Brunante
  12. Hidden Bench 2011 Nuit Blanche
  13. Fielding 2007 Chosen Few Red
  14. Fielding 2011 Viognier
  15. Fielding 2012 Lot No. 17 Riesling
  16. Malivoire 2010 Mottiar Pinot Noir
  17. Malivoire 2010 Stouck Cabernet Sauvignon
  18. Megalomaniac 2011 Bubblehead Sparkling Rose
  19. Vieni 2010 Aglianico
  20. Vieni 2012 Sparkling Rose Brut
  21. Thirty Bench 2010 Pinot Noir
  22. Thirty Bench 2011 Chardonnay

Rounding out the haul was a gift from Matt & Kaylea: a 2002 Thirty Bench Benchmark Red. Zoinks! We’ll build a meal around that soon.

It was fun, but it may prove dangerous having these particular friends less than an hour (Gardiner hell permitting) from our home.

Photo from BiblioArchives, used under Creative Commons license

“If Spock were here, and I were there, what would he do?” “He’d let you die.”

I really do love staying in town on May 2-4 weekend. It seems like everyone else in Toronto drives to a cottage somewhere, leaving the downtown core downright civilized for the entire weekend. You can get dinner reservations. Movies aren’t sold out (more on that in a minute). Patios have elbow room. We almost always spend this weekend in the city, and we always love it when we do.

Friday night I grabbed drinks with a few work people on the back patio at The Oxley, which was somehow all but empty. On the way home I stopped for a few more at Volo, which incredibly was not rammed full on a Friday night.

St. Lawrence Market was busy when I got there around 11 on Saturday, but nothing like it’s normal levels of craziness at that time. The Scotiabank theatre — which I’d expect to be a mad house on the opening weekend of a big movie like Star Trek: Into Darkness (imdb | rotten tomatoes) — was fairly sensible. The movie was very good too…I can’t say much without giving away important plot points, but the audience loved. It maybe wasn’t quite on the same level as its predecessor (perhaps because that one was such a surprise) but it was still highly entertaining.

Then a few flights at the Beer Academy (almost empty!), then home, then grilled steaks and a bottle of Tawse 2010 Laundry Cab Franc.

Thanks, Queen Victoria.

.:.

Photo from BiblioArchives, used under Creative Commons license