How do you select your wine?

Recently I noticed that many of the wines I get excited about and that I tend to choose and buy are based more on a memory or experience that I associate with the wine than any other reason.  What about you?  Do you have a fond memory of a wine you enjoyed that special someone or at a great party or for just about any other reason?

My choices are definitely associated with wines I’ve come across while traveling locally and internationally.  But it’s more than just the travel that has made these wines special to me.  It’s the entire experience that surrounded my introduction to that wine.  I know I should probably want and enjoy a wine because it has more of oak taste or hints of berries or the influence of the soils, but for me it can be as simple as a memory that goes with the wine.  Now I’m not saying I’m going to drink a crappy wine just because the memory was awesome, but for me that has rarely happened.

Let me share some of my memories and wines that go with them.

Most recently my sister and I were at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show in Toronto and we were walking around hitting the wine regions that we normally enjoy.  Then as we headed down one of the aisles we were pleasantly surprised to see the winery Between the Lines from Niagara, Ontario.  We almost ran over to their booth to see if they had the wines that we had tried and enjoyed while on a wine tour in Niagara a few years ago.  This winery was the last of our tour that day and it was one of the best.  Their Cabernet Franc and their unique Lemberger really stuck with my sister and I.  These wines were great, but it’s that memory of spending the day with my sister, just the two of us doing something we enjoy together, that our father introduced us to.

Another great memory that has brought me to, what I feel are, some great wines was a recently trip to the southern hemisphere.  Specifically to New Zealand.  Now I’m already a lover of new world wines from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but it was this trip that gave me a very unique experience and introduction to great wines and wineries.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and in some videos that I got the opportunity to meet with some winemakers one on one for a wine series I was working on.  It was those meetings with wonderful people, the atmosphere, the day, the trip and so much more.  Those wines I learned about and tasted have really stayed with me.

When I walk into the LCBO and see bottles of the Trinity Hill Syrah on display in the front of the store, I pick up a feel bottles to enjoy and share with friends.  I apologize to those friends if I bore them with my stories about the wine, the winery and memories of the trip, but to see the label, read the name and taste the wine bring me back to a wonderful place.

Or as I sit at a restaurant in Toronto and see on the menu Mapmaker from Staete Landt Vineyards I immediately order a glass so that I can be transported back to that gorgeous day in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where I met the most lovely team at the Vineyard.  They made the experience so memorable, that just a sip sends me right back.  And I remember that they told me that many of their wines can be found in restaurants in Canada and less of them in the LCBO.   So it was my lucky day to find it on this side of the world.

There are many more memories, but I would love to hear how you choose some of your wines.  Is it based on a memory, a varietal, or something far more fancy?

A little rain can’t dampen my Wine spirits!

Ever have one of those days that you truly enjoy?  Yesterday was one of those days that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Wondering what I got up to?  A Wine Tour in the Niagara region of Ontario.

I organized a great day out for my sister and I.  I’ve done wine tours in other parts of Canada and the world, but never really in my own part of the world.  We have one of the best wine regions in the world right here in Ontario and I really got to experience it.

Much of this great day is thanks to finding a great tour company and package.  For us, the most important part was that no one had to drive and that both of us could enjoy all the day had to offer.  After some Googling and emailing, I decided on the “VIA Rail Express Fiesta Lunch Tour” put together by the great husband and wife team at GRAPE AND WINE NIAGARA TOURS INC.  As there slogan goes:  Sip, swirl and savour!  Let us do the driving!  And that’s what we did.

Let me break it all down for you.  For a very reasonable package price, we took the VIA train from Toronto to Niagara (less than 2 hours) and were met right as we got off the train by our awesome tour guide, Dennis.  He was so nice, helpful and entertaining, with a main goal of keeping us happy.  Perfect.  Being a Tuesday, which is great day for a wine tour as it’s not too busy anywhere, our tour was just for my sister and I and a young couple just learning about wine.  With such a small group and a well connected tour company we were able to hit the wineries that weren’t busy or over run with big tour buses.  Plus we got priority service when we’d walk in the door.

We started at Niagara College Teaching Winery with a tour of wine making process and a wonderful educational wine tasting.  We were taught how to taste wine correctly and what to look for.  It’s amazing how a wine can change by a simple swirl between sips.  From a Chardonnay to a Merlot to an Ice Wine, it was all fantastic.  With Niagara being known for Ice Wine, it was a constant at all the wineries we visited.  But I’m not complaining, I truly enjoy ice wine.  And now I can appreciate them even more.

What I really appreciated about all the wineries we went to and what we learned was that you need to try lots of different wines to figure out what you truly enjoy and to drink wine the way to you like to.  If you want to put red in the fridge then do it.  If you need to put an ice cube in a white, then do it.  However you enjoy the wine is what works best for you.  Sure there are suggestions, but they are just that.

After the teaching winery, we went to Benchmark for lunch.  It’s the restaurant within Niagara College.  And we had a fantastic lunch.  I loved every bite of my hothouse heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, pork with a fruit chutney and cranberry pecan tart.  Mmmm.

With a full tummy it was time for some more wine tasting.  First we headed to the Diamond Estates Group who make Lakeview Cellars, Dan Aykroyd, 20 Bees and Fresh to name a few.  Most of the wines that we tried here were not for me.  We did find out that, unlike many other celebrities with their names on wines, Dan Aykroyd sits on his wine board and tries all of his wines before he will allow his name on them.

This should last a few days!

Then we were off to Caroline Cellars Winery and Reif Estate Winery.  Caroline’s being a boutique that isn’t in the LCBO and Reif’s which is one of the oldest in Niagara and has products in the LCBO.  With a few minutes to spare our awesome tour guide was able to slip in another great boutique winery.  One of his personal favourites, Between the Lines.  So glad that we went there.  Had some great wines that have been made by young team of two brothers on land that their parents had.  Bought a great bottle there that we will enjoy in 6 months when it’s truly ready to drink, the Lemberger.

After all those tastings, a wonderful lunch, a little rain, a great wine education, it was sadly time to go home.  But at least it was in the luxury of the train.  With a few purchases in hand we ended our great day of tasting and headed home.

It was such a great way to enjoy a rare day off and to try Ontario wines that I’ve never tried or thought of.  Now I will actually go into the VQA/Ontario section at the LCBO and check some of our great wines out.  You should too.  And remember the more you try the better you will know what you like and dislike.  So get out there and drink wine, responsibly.