15 posts tagged with “wine”

  • Reconnecting Niagara to the wine industry

    Inside the Cuvée Grand Tasting.

    It was late in my tenure at the paper when a study about Niagara residents feeling increasingly disconnected from the local wine industry was released.

    For a place where stories abound about the rite of passage of swilling Baby Duck at the high school prom, this was incredibly newsworthy. The wine industry always seemed as quintessentially Niagara as tender fruit and rushing water, and though we’ve willingly shared those with others, they’ve always been ours.

    At the root of the growing disconnect were changes made to the Niagara Wine Festival, starting in 2002 when ‘Grape’ was dropped from its name followed by having to pay to get into Montebello Park during the 2007 festival when it had always been free; and changes that same year to rules about the appearance of Grande Parade participants.

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  • Peach Tree
  • A diamond in Niagara with a side of fried rice

    One of the last remaining unobstructed views of Stilt City behind St. Paul Street can be seen from a stairwell inside the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    It was early in my tenure as a Niagaran that I clued into the possibility St. Catharines might have some self-esteem issues.

    The giveaway was a gateway sign on the Queen Elizabeth Way. It read ‘St. Catharines. When you need a little Niagara.”

    Every time I saw it, I imagined a family of tourists hurtling down the highway, bound for Niagara Falls (a lot of Niagara, by contrast, perhaps?), when Mom or Dad decided to pull off in St. Catharines. “You know kids, I just don’t feel like that much Niagara after all so we’re spending the day in St. Catharines instead.”

    Oh, the chorus of disappointed moans and groans I was certain would follow such a decision.

    Poor St. Catharines, the largest urban centre in Niagara Region and nothing to really hang its hat on. Until now.

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    Category Recipes, Uncategorized

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  • From Niagara to Provence with a turn of the page: Review of Provence Food and Wine

    Soupe au pistou.

    It took me nearly a year to finish reading A Year in Provence.

    My chocolate chip cookie-loving boss let me borrow his copy a year ago in May, knowing how much I love food and foraging. He mentioned something about it being a classic and left me to it. I dug in, devouring the first few months of Peter Mayle’s sojourn to the south of France every chance I got. I tried hatching my own scheme to be able to call a foreign land home for a year, eating, drinking and living a quaint life.

    Then I got busy with the year in Niagara and put the book down, only to come back to it in fits and spurts to help me fulfill my promise of returning it to my boss before my maternity leave started this past February. When I finished reading it, I felt like old Pete and I had been together so long, we needed to talk about dividing our assets when we parted ways.

    Then the book Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living ($24.95 Surrey Agate) by François Millo and Viktorija Todorovska arrived on my doorstep and it felt like a reunion. As I cracked the spine to reveal vibrant photos of the place and its food, with recipes to accompany them, I felt myself channel my inner Peter Mayle. And as a new mom who wouldn’t be escaping to any foreign land any time soon, I got lost in the pages, rubbing my fingers over their smooth glossiness as my getaway between naps and feedings. Provence Food and Wine is one part travel guide and another part culinary adventure, showcasing the region’s different landscapes and their influence upon what can be found on people’s plates: hearty, earthy meals in the rugged inland of Haute Provence, such as wild boar stew or fried chanterelles; grilled sardines and bouillabaise in coastal Marseille; barbecued mussels and pumpkin soup with chestnuts in the varied La Côte Varoise; and Niçoise salad or street food like pissaladiere in Nice and the Riviera.
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  • Peach Tree
  • Where Niagara, BC and Germany collide

    Take one part Niagara, one part Okanagan and a pinch of Germany and mix it all together.

    What you get is the Finger Lakes. I saw shades of all three places last week in the geography, the sights, the tastes and the people as my mom and I travelled hilly and winding roads through this absolutely stunning region that is so close, it’s like honourary Niagara. I’m embarrassed to admit how long I’ve lived in true Niagara before visiting these spindly lakes.

    Having so many wineries within spitting distance of each other reminds me of home. So did food finds like verjus and local concord grape juice (with the vintage on the label) and the overall importance of the grape to the region. But aside from the usual suspects of Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, there are plenty of grape varieties growing there that I’ve never heard of or only in far away places — well, farther away than two hours by car.

    Take  Gruner Veltliner, Rkatsitelli and Lemberger (oh my!), for example.


    Disclaimer: I am not an oenophile but my heart nearly skipped a beat when I found Gruner Veltliner, that flagship Austrian grape, being offered up in fermented form at two of the wineries we visited: Zugibe Vineyards in Geneva and Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport.

    I fell in love with Gruner Veltliner last year while visiting Salzburg and as much as I enjoyed this sometimes minerally, sometimes citrusy food-friendly tipple, I equally enjoyed saying Gruner Veltliner. Grooner Felt-leener. Said in a singsongy way and it just rolls off the tongue (and down the gullet).

    To get my fix of this fast favourite, I figured another trip to Europe was in order, so I couldn’t help but be just a little ecstatic when I found it growing so close to home. I’ve heard that Gruner Veltliner grows at Inniskillin Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but ever since Vincor bought the winery, the grapes are used only in blends and not in standalone vintages. Pity, because I can’t imagine I’d be the only person clamouring to buy it.

    At Zugibe, the first place I noticed GV on the tasting list, one sniff took me back Salzburg, to the alcove of a patio at the Alt Salzburg restaurant, a proper Austrian dining spot where the waiter wore a tux and a slight sneer. One sip of the New York GV, though, and the stodgy waiter was gone. My memory of him didn’t come back until I got to Dr. Frank’s abode overlooking Keuka Lake, where I tasted a GV that was more like the Austrian vintages that put a perma-grin on my face during my European vacation.

    Then came that mouthful of a grape, Rkatsiteli  (R-cat-sit-tell-ee), a Georgian varietal that has been grown for thousands of years in the former iron curtain country and for more than a few decades at the Dr. Frank’s in Hammondsport. But for me, it was new.

    The late Dr. Frank, a doctor of viticulture and the patriarch of the Finger Lakes wine industry, came to the US by way of eastern Europe, bringing with him one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and one that can hack the cold well. Just like the climates it tolerates, Rkatsitelli is crisp and refreshing and, like GV, entirely fun to say. It was dry, lemony and light, like how I figure the love child of Riesling and Sylvaner could be.

    It’s also worth the drive back to Hammondsport for more after I drink the one bottle I brought back. Hey, That’s what a budget and fear of overzealous border guards will do to a girl.

    Then along came Lemberger, another grape that takes me Germany and makes me giggle just a little bit because mere mention of it reminds me of smelly cheese. It seemed as though just about every winery we visited had this blue-skinned grape blended with other reds or available on its own.

    A love for Lemberger would compel my Oma’s late husband, Helmut, to drive for hours to buy cases the stuff at his favourite winery in Germany when he probably shouldn’t have been driving at all. Not being much of a red wine drinker, the Finger Lakes editions were my first tastes. Fruity and far from heavy they were perfect reds for a Riesling girl like me.

    Really, it was being able to try wines so different from home that made me love this trip even more. I’m always curious to try something new, and along with some other unique cold hardy varieties developed by the masterminds at Cornell University in nearby Ithaca — I kind of liked the Cayuga and it’s apple notes — there was plenty to keep my tastebuds piqued.

    And now the downside: Give me an off-dry Riesling and I’m smiling but wow, if I thought I liked a sweeter wines, Americans must love theirs. So much so, in fact, some wineries were serving up vintages with sugar added on the back end. Yikes. That’s begging for a bad headache before the hangover even sets in.

    Good thing the Seneca Lake wine route is also known as the ale trail because while there’s no shortage of wineries to woo visitors, there’s also plenty of craft beer to help someone like me get their bearings again.

    Other points of interest about the Finger Lakes:

    It’s more common than not for wineries to charge for tastings but they’re very reasonable. It was $2 for five or six samples, depending on the winery. At Dr. Frank’s, there was no tasting fee. If you’re on FourSquare, be sure to check in because some wineries waive tasting fees for us social media geeks. Others offer $5 off if you pay for any purchases with American Express.


    If you like cheese, there are numerous fromageries on the lakes, including a few goat dairies. If you can’t make it to any, some wineries, such as Fox Run Vineyards, have food shops featuring local fare where you can grab the fixings for a picnic, or you can eat there and take in some gorgeous scenery.

    Dining out was surprisingly inexpensive, even in some of the more upscale places. My mom and I got away both evenings with supper comfortably under $100 for the two of us. That included appetizers, entrees and wine. It helped, too, that the B & B we stayed at, Bragdon House, had connections with some of the eateries and we were given a free glass of wine with an entree. Eating is also easy for the vegetarians among us.

    Greens and beans abound. I have no idea if this is the quintessential Geneva dish but so many of the restaurants in town had greens and beans on the menu. It was sautéed escarole with flageolets (a fancy word for white kidney beans), garlic and olive oil. We had ours at a neighbourhood Italian haunt called Torrey Park Grill that was packed with locals and they were delicious. Also an idea for the perfect vegetarian meal at home because it’s such a simple dish to replicate. Served with bread, its super slurpy goodness.

    Best of all, everywhere we went people were friendly. We didn’t find an ounce of pretension anywhere, which, I hate to say, I have encountered locally when wine tasting, though it’s a rarity. Everywhere we went, staff were friendly, gracious and knowledgeable. They were proud of their product and grateful to share it with visitors.

    And we were grateful for it.

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