Friday, 31 August 2018

Top Picks Vintages Release Sept 1st

Hey Fellow Wino’s

I’ve got some exciting picks for you this week with some a little more unique than others. 

Have you ever had a Sparkling wine from Bordeaux? 
How about a white wine from Mount Etna in Sicily?

Well, I’ve got some fun interesting wines for you so let’s dive in. 

Believe it or not, some people who live in Bordeaux won’t drink Champagne and some people who live in Champagne won’t drink Bordeaux. This isn’t due to some silly feud; the French are just passionately local. So, it’s only natural the Bordelaise still want to sip some sparkling wine. This dry sparkling wine made from 70% Semillon and 30% Cabernet Franc will offer a nice yellow apple and peach note with a light toasted almond/brioche note. Pairs perfectly with small finger foods to start the evening off right like some French Brie. At under $17, I say invite some friends over, crack this chilled and enjoy some much-needed quality gossip. 

This heavenly priced Cru Level Beaujolais has me doing a little dance in the LCBO aisle. Regnie, the youngest of the 10 Crus’ in Beaujolais, offers suburb value in an already great value wine region. This 100% Gamay offers a light and fruity sipping red you can serve chilled, showing blackberry, plum, cherry and violets with a dusting of dried earth. This is a great patio sipping red wine, perfect for a picnic lunch in the park or paired with a nice Sunday roast chicken. The white wine of red wines right here! If you like red and they like white, go Cru level Beaujolais! Win-Win-Wine! 

Burgundy, the legendary region in France producing spine-tingling chardonnay and haunting pinot noir. While this bottle may not haunt your dreams, it will certainly bring you a glimpse into what mid to higher level Burgundy can offer. This 100% Pinot Noir from Marsannay offers classic burgundy pinot noir flavours of red raspberry, red plum, cherry, and violets with that classic earthiness only the French know how to weave into their wine. 2015 was a stellar year and even though this wine priced at $40, I still think it’s a solid deal. Roast Duck, Chicken or Turkey with hearty fixings like roasted potatoes and earthy root vegetables will surely compliment this fine burgundy. This would be my family go-to dinner wine #FrenchCountryChic  

The famed volcanic mountain producing stellar red from the grape Nerello Mascalese, this is a Mount Etna white and I couldn’t be more intrigued. This 100% Carricante, an indigenous varietal to Sicily, will offer fresh crisp green apples, lemon, tangerine and white peach offering a refreshing white wine perfect for some grilled seafood. Ditch the burgers and striploin, salt-n-toss on the grill some squid and you’ll be in Sicily. Ciao, Bella. This is a super fun and unique wine that all the nerdy somms out there will be scooping up by the case if only to share with their closest friends. 

This 100% Grenache based, medium body red wine offers ripe raspberries and blackberries, plum, some possible mint or garrigue and a leathery-earthy side to balance the fruit. You can pair with nice thick homemade burgers, striploin or lamb on the grill. Just a lovely balanced wine with food for under $20 and much better than a boozy Malbec from Mendoza. 

Calling all Sunday roast beef fans, surely a wine deserving of such gravitas. This Montefalco Sagrantino paired with a large table of friends and family will surely match whatever big dishes you can throw at this one. Just make sure everyone talks loudly and uses a lot of hand gestures.  Dried currant, red cherry, violets and black pepper with enough acidity and tannin to hold its own. This wine may be more of an Italian brutish dictator than an English secret garden so pair with a Sunday roast, smothered in herbs like rosemary. This will certainly need some time to calm down, so “hang” it out to breath at least 30 minutes, but easily into an hour before sipping. Salute!                  

Life is short, are you living your dream? 
Drinking your dream bottle? 

Happy Sipping, 


Friday, 17 August 2018

Top Picks, Vintages Release August 18th

Hey Fellow Wino's 

I've got some great picks for you coming out tomorrow, Saturday August 18th.

I really dislike “premium”, “reserve” or “small lot” terms used on bottles as they are normally used to deceive the consumer that the quality is higher than it actually is. In this case, however, they could have used the term “Super Duper Fancy Pants Sparkling Rose” and I wouldn’t have disagreed. Tart fresh red fruit like crunchy raspberries and strawberries with some classic brioche, toasted almonds, yogurt notes typically found in aged champagne. 

I would pair with a fabulous brunch of smoked salmon bagels and a fresh berry fruit salad. Heck, I’m DOWN to get UNDER this bottle. Pleasure in a glass! 

Why drink a $100 Blanc de Blanc from Champagne when you can drink one from Burgundy for only $20. I mean sure, it will be inferior, but 5 times inferior, hardly! Burgundy is just south of Champagne anyways. 

Blanc de Blanc meaning a white wine made from white grapes, this 100% Chardonnay will offer up ripe apples and grapefruit with some of that brioche, almond, yogurt notes. This may be better suited to oysters or fresh seafood. In France and Germany, it’s not uncommon to start the evening off with a glass of Sparkling wine, like we do with a cocktail in North America. Ditch the Tanqueray and toast to the beauty of life, with bubbles. 

Will this be the best Malbec you have ever had, I think not? Would it be a Malbec I would recommend to friends and family, absolutely! Vina Cobos makes some serious wine and while this is more of their entry level stuff, it will still impress. Ripe red, black and maybe even some blue fruit, this wine should be rather elegant and satisfy those who like their reds to have a bit of weight to them. Nice prime rib on the grill, decant and serve. 

I’ve had a really special place in my heart for Closson Chase. My first barrel sample was with Keith Tyers, the winemaker at Closson Chase. It was a special moment for which I’ll always cherish. PEC in location, Burgundian in style, this meshes the gap between local talent and old-world tradition. Decant and serve this elegant earthy Pinot Noir with perhaps a mushroom risotto or braised pork loin in a raspberry jus. Be gentle, no steak spice with this heavenly angel. 

This lovely Chardonnay has seen only 18.5% new oak, meaning you’ll only have a gentle elegant aroma of richer style chardonnay. Instead, the primary fruit will shine through with grapefruit, white peach and nectarines. Think of oak use like a tea bag, only use ¼ of the tea bag and you will have a very gentle tea, not a vanilla and butter bomb. I would sip this with some grilled chicken with provincial herbs with perhaps a side potato salad. 

I love Rustenberg for all of the wine they produce. Like Vina Cobos, when I see it, I buy it! Excellent value, rich chardonnay here, perfect for rich chicken dishes and gravy. Yellow apple, lemon curd, this rich wine will surely entice. While oaked, it’s balanced, not a vanilla bomb to unload on your guests. Let’s not beat around the bush though, this is an elegantly oaked Chardonnay. 

So if you’ve got a wine friend you want to impress, this one will tickle any wine nerds funny bone. Normally Sancerre in the Loire Valley produces Sauvignon Blanc, but a very small portion of it makes a Pinot Noir, and this is it. This 100% Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley will surely bring it’s tart red raspberry fruit but more importantly, it’s minerality. This is an example of what elegant Pinot Noir can taste like. Some new world Pinot Noir from warmer climates can taste like raspberry jam or nibs, with this wine you won’t have that problem. Like the Closson Chase Pinot Noir, be gentle with this one and pair it with an earthy medium dish of roast chicken or pork with grilled root vegetables. 

Ditch the “19 Crimes” or “Goats Do Roam” and try and up your wine game. I’ve done a lot of the legwork for you, now you just have to make it to the store to pick them up or have them delivered right to your door.

Live life, be adventurous, be bold and explore new wines! 

Happy Sipping,

Ryan Sullivan 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Ontario's Most Unexplored Wine Region, Lake Erie North Shore!

Hey Fellow Wino's 

It's August, the grapes are going through vĂ©raison (changing from green to red), the grass is struggling to stay alive and white wine is being grasped out of ice buckets and poured by the bottle. This was a perfect time to take a little road trip to Lake Erie North Shore with a fellow Sommelier student, and friend, Alexandra Biagini. 

Lake Erie North Shore has to be Ontario's most unexplored wine region and possibly, Canada's. Lake Erie North Shore is located, wait for it...on the North Shore of Lake Erie. #Fascinating 

So what makes this region special? 

Well since you ask, unlike PEC or Niagara, this is Canada's most southern wine growing region at N42 latitude, the same latitude as Northern California and Rome Italy. This is hardly Polar Bear territory! Lake Erie North Shore is one of three appellations located in Ontario, west of Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County. While smaller than Niagara but larger than P.E.C, Lake Erie North Shore is like that awkward middle child still living at home. You know there is potential, just a bit of a late bloomer evidently. 

Lake Erie North Shore benefits from the most GDD (Growing Degree Days) or Heat Units for growing grapes, in Ontario. This means the weather is warm and the summer is long, allowing winemakers to ditch to the cool climate varietals and grow some Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The increase in GDD combined with the shallower Lake Erie (which heats up fast, and stays relatively warm) helps grow those big red's. 

The soil is a combination of light-textured, well-drained sandy loam and gravel deposits punctuated by small, irregular stony ridges, which overlay shale-limestone bedrock. Further inland from the shore, the soil starts to contain more clay, much like the right bank of Bordeaux. This clay further inland is great to grow Merlot, much like the famed Pomerol region in Bordeaux. 

Fancy some Ontario Pomerol? Try a Merlot from Muscedere Vineyards! 

We left Toronto at 9am and arrived in the region around 1pm, just in time for lunch roughly 4 hours later. Our first stop was a family owned and run, Muscedere Vineyards. This 163 Acre property was purchased by the Muscedere family back in 1986. It took many family discussions, probably over many pasta and Chianti suppers because it wasn't until 2003 when the first vines were finally planted. The reason I suggested pasta and Chianti is because the family is from Italy, somewhere between Rome and Naples. I guess they found a little slice of La Dolce Vita in southwestern Ontario. 

The tasting room is located on the bottom floor of the main house and the whole family works there. Nona works the wood-fired pizza oven, the brothers stock the shelves, the daughter served us our tasting flight and I'm sure what was their niece, served us at our table. Talk about old school, big Italian family hospitality. This, right here is what instantly separated Lake Erie North Shore from Niagara or PEC. It was at that moment we knew weren't in Kansas anymore. 

Sampling a Riesling and Sauvignon blanc, ok. Moved onto the reds which the region is famed for, fabulous. We sampled their Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage (Bordeaux blend) and thoroughly enjoyed them. The Merlot, a rich plush red fruit driven wine with hints of old world charm (earthy-leathery goodness) I would have guessed Pomerol. While the Meritage was not as tannic as in Bordeaux, after all this is the "New World", it really held onto that tradition of striving for that old world charm. I picked up their Syrah, Merlot and 2010 Meritage which I'll crack by fall with steak on the grill. 

We ordered a pizza, sat outside and sipped a glass of wine before we left for the next winery. 

Muscedere Vineyards

Next stop, Cooper's Hawk Vineyards just down the road about 10 minutes. Passing nothing but farmers fields full of corn and other produce, we arrived at Coopers Hawk. I felt like Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, driving down vista filled roads in sweltering heat to visit her family on the plains of the Midwest. 

Anyways, my Julia Roberts moment aside, we arrived at Coopers Hawk and jumped right into sampling. While they had a plethora of options including an Orange wine (White wine made like a red wine, with skin contact during fermentation), I was there for business and only wanted a flight of red. In I went, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon all good in their own unique way. Just like Muscedere, not Bordeaux, not Napa but also, not Niagara. This was Lake Erie North shore red's, a mixed breed between new world fruit and old world earthy charm, it was new to me, it was Lake Erie. 

Did you know they don't have to net their grapes as there are many hawks in the area to scare away all of the pesky birds that would eat their grapes? I believe they said something about a hawk flight path, regardless that's quite unique and hence the name. 

Picked up a pretty Cabernet Franc reserve which will pair nicely with some homemade burgers. The florality of violets and roses helped lift this wine out of glass and a steak I feel would weigh this little hummingbird down too much. 

Check them out Coopers Hawk

Onwards to Viewpointe Winery. It's called Viewpointe because it's a great spot with an excellent view, which in my opinion is on point. 

Tasted a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend which was quite nice but what really surprised me was their Riesling. The description was a "Mosel Valley Inspired Riesling" so naturally, I assumed high acidity (super fresh and crisp), good minerality and crisp fruit like lime juice. I tasted it and honestly, I would have guessed Mosel. They must have picked the grapes quite early to preserve that high level of acidity and although this was not blue slate minerality like that of Mosel, it was quite impressive. The price, under $17....I'll take a case! 

There is no tasting fee at Viewpointe, simply a rotating monthly donation box to a local charity for you to place money in. How classy is that? Sipping wine literally was helping to transform lives, one ounce at a time. I picked up a 2010 Viewpointe Estate Winery, Cabernet Franc. Viewpointe has some stunning aged red's all at very reasonable prices and highly recommend them! Yum! 

Check out Viewpointe Winery

We finished the day with only three wineries as by now it was around 5/6pm and we wanted to grab a bite to eat as it was a long day in 30C + weather. We stayed at this fabulous little 1950's tropical/ tiki themed cottage rental right on the water, pure Mimi beach house bliss. We started with wine but in hindsight we should have had a few Mojito's on the beach, lounging, before sipping wine with dinner. This was not typical cottage country with moose and bear knick-knacks, but reminiscent a Miami beach club. Banana hammock anyone? Just kidding, I would never have punished Alexandra, or more importantly the neighbours with that sight. 

Check it out Sunrise Beach House - AirBnB

We sipped, we dined alfresco, we listened to music and ended up asking ourselves, are we in Canada still? How does no one know about this place yet?

There are no hipsters from Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto. No 5-star hotels charging $500 a night with $20 and up cocktails. No large tour buses, no local tour guides, just charm and a laid-back vibe. In these parts, your local hotel or B&B will call Mellisa at the winery and let her know to expect a Mr. and Ms. ___ and are greeted by name upon arrival. Am I in the 50's and 60's? 

The next day we packed up, drove around Kingsville, had a nice alfresco lunch and popped into the cutest little chocolate shop, Dutch Boys. These two boys take chocolate very seriously, importing butter from Burgundy, Ginger from Fiji and Chiles from New Mexico, where one of them used to live. Don't worry, not too serious though as when we pulled up we saw one of the boys sipping a Sangiovese over lunch in the front window, this is still laid back southwestern Ontario. Check them out for the best chocolate outside of Switzerland.  


On the way back to Toronto we stopped by Point Pelee National Park and stared south from Canada's most southern point into the abyss, it was breathtaking. We had to take a short trolly ride from the visitor centre to the southern point and if there was ever a real Jurassic Park themed ride, this was it. So lush, so tropical, so damn humid...are you sure we are still in Canada?

Three and a half hours later we were home with our loot from the wineries in tow. 

There is something special going on in this little wine region, something special starting to take shape. The wine quality is slowly rising vintage after vintage, the tourist are slowly starting to pop in one by one and the vibe will slowly start to change. Like visiting Havana before the American chains of Pizza Hut and McDonald's show up, you have to check out Lake Erie North Shore now! Eventually, more BMW's, $20 cocktails and a swank hotel will come.  

This is not a hot spot, not a destination, not a "see and been seen" place, not yet anyway. I can assure you, it will be though. Make sure you visit Nonna at Muscedere Vineyards and let her welcome you into their family. This is like seeing Niagara in the 80's or P.E.C. in the early 2000's, raw, rare, undiscovered wine country. 

Nothing but soil, grapes and old school laid back hospitality. 

Happy Sipping, 

Ryan Sullivan 

P.S. Thanks for the great company Alexandra 
If you want to stay up to date on my wine adventures 

Vintages, Saturday May 25th, 2019

Hey Fellow Wino's I've got some new picks for you to try out from today's vintages release. 1.  Blue Mountain Gold Label Bru...