Friday, September 6, 2013

Here's the latest issue of my monthly wine column, "Let's Wine Together", published Tuesday, September 3, 2003, in the Kingsville Reporter and a number of other area papers.

Let’s Wine Together
As a certified sommelier with a passion for the wines of the Lake Erie North Shore, I am not here to tell you what you should drink; taste in wine is very personal. My goal is to open your mind – and your palate – to different ideas and options.
Please submit wine-related questions for publication and I will also share my experiences with local wines. You can reach me at, at and on Twitter at @gr8grapz.

This month’s question comes from PR, in Kingsville:

I confess to being a first-time attendee at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival this year. What tips can you give me to make the most of my weekend pass?

The Shores of Erie International Wine Festival is a great opportunity to sample wines from almost all of the local wineries (14 will be represented), paired with 16 restaurants from Windsor and Essex County and live music from local musicians and bands, including Merlin’s own sweetheart, Michelle Wright, and local favourites, including Billy Raffoul.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, my friend Gary Killops will be doing wine walk tours and local chefs will be giving cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Pavilion.

The Festival has come a long way in the nine years since its inception (with only three wineries in attendance)… there’s even an app you can download for your mobile phone or tablet!

The first tip is to keep a close eye on the weather and dress appropriately with VERY comfortable shoes; the terrain of Fort Malden National Historic Site is … well … rugged in places and you don’t want any physical mishaps to ruin your experience.

Number two: PACE YOURSELF. With 14 wineries represented, there are a number of ways to experience the fruits of their labours. At the Vine Pavilion, you can purchase four tastings for $5. You can also purchase tokens at three points throughout the park, which you then use to purchase glasses and bottles at each winery’s booth (between the 14 wineries, they have 23 booths throughout the park.

It’s a great opportunity to sample some wonderful food, too, from a variety of restaurants (each restaurant’s booth will have several dishes available to purchase)… and please let me know if you come up with any memorable pairings! And, of course, enjoy the music and the views – the sunsets can be breathtaking.

Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions of the representatives at each winery’s booth; this is a wonderful opportunity to get insight into the winery’s winemaking process, their approach to pesticide and fertilizer use, as well as their plans for the future, just to name a few.

I hope you have a ticket for the Winemakers Dinner on Friday night… a wonderful five-course meal served in an elegantly appointed open-air tent on the bank of the Detroit river… each course accompanied, of course, by award-winning local wines. And each table is hosted by a local winemaker… don’t forget your notebook; it’s a rare treat to get into a winemaker’s head and get her or his personal take on the local wines, the viability of different grape varieties and, of course, why that wine is being served with that food. You’ll also want to take notes on which wines you liked and why… the aromas, the flavours, the colour… and, of course, the name so you can purchase more of it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Asian-inspired salad with sesame dressing and...

It's always interesting to see what happens when we put our heads together over dinner - or rather, what to serve and drink for dinner. Last night we prepared a light and wonderful meal of mixed greens with sweet red peppers and sesame dressing, topped with grilled chicken breast in a slightly spicy peanut glaze. We both wanted to try something other than the usual go-to for this kind of food - a riesling or gewurztraminer - so I pulled out a bottle of Brachetto d'Acqui from I Quaranta (Italy, of course).
If you've ever had the pleausre of trying the Brachetto, you'll know why I went for it: slightly sweet (probably a 2 on the sugar scale) and ever so slightly fizzy, with loads of fruit and a pleasant acid/tannin edge. It was the perfect match for the spicy salad and chicken.
So the next time you're looking for something to balance a spicy dish and are up for something new, try the Brachetto - there are a few different ones around if you can find them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lake Erie perch and Alexander winery's 2009 Pinot Grigio

Just back from a jaunt around the corner (okay, three corners) to a local landmark historic restaurant, King's Landing ( on the waterfront in Kingsville. Paul and I both enjoyed the perch dinner; me with rice and vegetable preluded by a caesar salad and Paul with fries and vegetable preluded by the soup of the day (onion).
The perch was, as usual, tender and lightly grilled and we enjoyed a bottle of Alexander winery's 2009 Pinot Grigio (visit the winery online at At first, I thought the wine would be too strong for the tender fish, but I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to have just the right amount of acidity to complement the grilled fish and a light yet satisfying floral and citrus edge to take the entire meal to a very pleasant finish.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How far gone is too far?

Last night, I opened my last bottle of Pelee Island Winery's 2002 Baco Noir. We fell so deeply in love with this vintage when it first came out that we cleared out all of the shelves we could find and even went to the winery to ask if they had any bottles sitting in a corner somewhere (they did have a few!).

So here we are in 2010... a full eight years past the vintage date (six or so since release)... I thought surely (and with a little tear in my eye) I had let this one sit too long.

The cork was soft and saturated, but not crumbling, and the wine still hadn't soaked all the way through to the foil. A test taste told me that it did indeed still have the full flavour profile we had come to love - ripe red fruit with the perfect balance of peppery spice - but had indeed gone a bit too far on the acid scale. I said a little prayer that it would still work with our dinner of lightly seasoned steak (montreal steak spice, garlic powder, onion powder and Italian herbs), heirloom potatoes and super sweet local peaches-and-cream corn (all done on the barbeque).

Thankfully I was right on the money. The steak which, of course, was perfectly done thanks to Paul's expert touch, was moist and tender and still a bit pink in the centre and balanced the increased acid in the wine perfectly.

The moral of this blog entry? Just because a bottle may be a little bit past its prime doesn't mean it won't still work with the right food.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A sparkling summer evening

Tonight, with a dear friend from Ottawa, we lingered over a hot and humid late summer evening with a simple dinner of mixed greens topped with an asian sesame dressing and seasoned and grilled shrimp with bacon-wrapped scallops grilled on the barbeque and drizzled with maple syrup.

To drink? Pelee Island Winery's Canadian Sparkling Wine.
Crisp, dry, light, and slightly fruity... a perfect pair with the salad.
Leftovers? I should think not - of neither the salad nor the wine!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Beer can chicken on the 'que

Beer can chicken on the barbeque last night - if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it. Tasty, juicy, tender fall-off-the-bone chicken flavoured on the outside with onion, garlic, parsley, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper and perched on a tall-boy of Rickard's Dark... YUM! And the potatoes and carrots that cooked in the beer drippings were amazing!

Instead of more of the Rickard's Dark, I paired it with a 2008 Peller Estates Chardonnay. A perfect complement for the seasonings inside and outside the chicken.

Now we're cooking down the skin, bones and bits of chicken in more Rickard's Dark and a bit of the Chardonnay for a wonderful home-made chicken stock...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pelee Island Winery does it again!

Okay, I'll admit, I'm biased, but the newest creation from Pelee Island Winery, the "Alvar" series of four wines, is breathtaking.
The first that I've tried out of this series of four wines is the 2008 Chardonnay Gewurztraminer blend -- VQA Ontario, so don't get your knickers in a knot.
Okay, I hear you: "What on earth is an Alvar?" See the wikipedia entry at
By the way, in case you're wondering just how "new" these wines are, they're not even on the Pelee Island Winery website yet. Ah, the joys of living five minutes from the winery!
This wine is not only the only Chardonnay/Gewurztraminer blend I've been able to track down, but it's well worth the drive to Kingsville to get your hands on some. The usual flavours and aromas you would expect from both the Chardonnay (crisp acidity, balanced with fresh citrus) and the Gewurztraminer (lychee, tangerine, grapefruit with a lingering hint of spice) are, in my humble opinion, perfectly married in this blend. It is impossible to say that one overpowers the other and, paired with a barbeque dinner of chicken/bacon and mixed vegetable kebabs on the patio on an evening that was thankfully blessed with a cool breeze and a very welcome break in the extreme heat and humidity of the past week, I dare say that I was as close to a state of total and utter bliss as I have been in a long time.
The next time you're looking for something refreshing for a summer evening on the patio, either with or without food, with a group of friends or just that special someone, reach for a bottle of this - if you can get your hands on it, that is!