Patricia Dinsmore - Wine Writer, Event Planner and Wine Consultant



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Frivolous and Flamboyant - Are you a Fancy Farm Girl?

Posted on February 23, 2015 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Are you the girly girl who rides a Harley? Are you the figure skater who spends her free time cheering on her favourite hockey team? Do you come home from your construction job to enjoy a fancy martini? Let me introduce you to Fancy Farm Girl wines…


Sue-Ann Staff is tapping into her background, her experiences on the family farm, her work around the world creating wines she loves and crafted a set of wines that combine all of the aspects of her life up until this point. Sue-Ann is the epitome of these wines – she is the cosmopolitan winemaker stretching her talents from Australia to France and she is just as comfortable on her family’s 200 acre farm tending to the grapes that she helped with alongside her Grandma when she was a small girl. Both the Frivolous White and the Flamboyant Red are uncomplicated but still decadent and racy.


The 2012 Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White is made from Riesling grapes ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old. It is straw yellow in colour with a slight green hue to it and the initial aromas are predominantly Granny Smith apples. As the wine opens up, the apples take on a Northern Spy aroma (like what you find in apple based ciders) combined with some minerality and citrus fruit. When it comes to the palate, you will find a combination of apple, lemon and lime but not of the flavours is overpowering. The addition of the citrus components balances everything out perfectly. The wine is perfectly harmonious and very food friendly – it almost eludes to a hint of a warm summer to come (and who of us would not love a warm summer after all this snow we have been getting)…


With the 2012 Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red you have this bright and lively, easy drinking Cabernet Merlot blend. The colour is this fantastic bright red colour with just a hint of darkness from certain angles. The nose is a combination of cherry, mint and cedar notes with slight raspberry as the wine starts to open up. It is not “in your face” – it is balanced and elegant. The mouthfeel gives a certain creaminess which comes from the malo-lactic fermentation the wine went through prior to spending time in French and American oak barrels. The flavours are continuations of the aromas – lots of red fruit with an undertone of mint and a hint of black pepper dotting the landscape.


Do you feel like mixing it up? My husband and I did a little bit of creative mixology with these wines this weekend. In both cases we pulled from the flavours inherent with each wine and created a couple of martini’s from them. For the white wine – we amped up the apple flavours and added a caramel component to it as well. The inside of the glass was rimmed with a caramel sauce which took the place of a traditional garnish. In a shaker, we combined 1 oz of Three Olives Jacked Apple Vodka with 2 oz of the wine. Shaken and strained into the martini glass and you have a Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous Apple. With the red wine, we did a play on a Manhattan which is traditionally Bourbon based with Red Vermouth and Bitters. We stayed with the Bourbon but reversed the amount so that it was the smaller amount in the equation and the wine replaced the other two ingredients. The cherry flavour is what played into this plan. Manhattan’s are typically garnished with cherries and, depending on the barrels used, Bourbon can have a cherry component to the flavour. When we combined 1 oz Bourbon (we used Knob Creek) and 2 oz Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red we got a perfectly balanced cocktail that we garnished with Maker’s Mark Cherries. In both cases, these cocktails went down super easy…they are definitely what I would call DANGEROUS drinks!


Sue-Ann had a revelation and she shares it with all of us who try these wines. “Years back, while tending my family farm, I had a revelation. I loved the farm life. This is my Paris, my Australia, my South Africa, my freedom. So I dress the part and enjoy life through the rose-coloured glasses of the fancy farm. Girl. The farm is a metaphor. The attire an approach. The reality? There is a fancy farm girl in all of us.” She is right – every woman who enjoys a glass of wine at the end of the day is a little bit fancy. No matter whatever else you did this day, that glass of wine is your escape, your little bit of decadence. These wines are perfectly balanced, very easy drinking, unpretentious, fun and decadent. Both the Frivolous White and the Flamboyant Red are part of the Limited Availability Wine Program and will be on the shelves from February 7th 2015 through to May 2015. CSPC codes and pricing information are available below:


2012 Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White

$14.95 per bottle

CSPC 394072


2012 Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red

$14.95 per bottle

CSPC 394080



It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...

Posted on December 3, 2014 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (2)

Yeah, it is that time of the year again folks. No matter which holiday you particularly celebrate in your family it is the holiday season. Our Thanksgiving is long over here in Canada (we have it back in October for any of my American friends) but, in my house, American Thanksgiving is a chance for my hubby and I to sit back, watch football all day, not worry about cooking a huge meal and enjoy our time with friends and family. It is also the time we start thinking about Christmas gift ideas and what we are going to serve in December for our variety of celebrations. In our family we have a bunch of birthdays as well as Christmas and New Year’s so there are a lot of parties in the month of December and, as a result, we make sure we have lots of wine and other libations around.


The first thing you want to make sure you have on hand is plenty of bubbly. After all, this is the time of the year when everyone is in a celebratory mood and, for most, that means popping open a bottle of sparkling wine. You will not find any Champagnes on this list but rather some excellently produced local Sparkling wines from around Ontario. Despite the fact that Ontario is a cool climate wine growing region, there are not a lot of wineries that spend a lot of time on sparkling wines. A bunch of them have one or two but there is a winery in Prince Edward County whose sole focus is on making sparkling wine. They use a variety of methods to make their sparkling wines and they produce a range that bring a lot of variety to the table. Hinterland Wine Company located on Closson Road in Prince Edward County currently has 3 wines available for purchase – from their Rose Sparkling priced at $22.00 a bottle made using the Charmat method and named for a spectacular sunset the owners once experienced while helping harvest grapes at a friends vineyard to their $25.00 a bottle 2014 Ancestral named for the way monks in 1531 made some of the first sparkling wine and ending with their $39.00 Methode Traditionelle 2011 Les Etoiles which is the second release only for this wine. All of Hinterland Wine Company’s portfolio can be viewed on their website ( where you can also place orders for delivery direct to your home or work.


There are a couple of other wineries in Ontario that make some unique bubblies that I also want to suggest. Instead of using the traditional grapes for sparkling wine – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – Sue Ann Staff chose to make her to sparkling wines using Riesling grapes. Let me explain why that makes a difference – Sparkling wines made with the traditional grapes generally have flavours of toast, nuts and yeast but with a Riesling based sparkling wine the flavours you are used to in a regular bottle of Riesling come flowing forward. If you enjoy citrus and other fruit flavours in what you drink, chances are really good that you are going to enjoy a Riesling based sparkling wine more than a bubbly made with the traditional grapes. Now, Sue-Ann went one step further when producing her sparkling wines. When sparkling wine is made, during the second fermentation, sediment is cast off and collects in the base of the bottle. Before the final bottling and labelling, that sediment has to be removed from the bottle without losing any of those bubblies that have collected during the second fermentation. This is a long and time consuming process but when it is done, the sediment has made its way into the neck of the bottle and needs to be disgorged from it. To do this, the sediment is frozen and removed from the neck of the bottle and there is a small amount of wine that does come out at the same time. To top up the bottle, a small amount of wine is added and this is called the dosage. Sue-Ann took two different approaches to the dosage – one of the wines was topped up with the same wine that is in the bottle while the other one was topped up with a small amount of her 2007 Riesling Icewine which will give the wine a slight sweetness to the finish. Both of these wines can be found on her website ( and are available for delivery throughout the province.


When it comes to dessert wines, Icewine is king and Ontario is more than known for making this elixir of the gods. When it comes to our wineries, there are only a couple that specialize in making icewine and, naturally, it makes sense to look at the winery that is the largest producer of icewine in this province – Pillitteri Estates Winery. Lots of wineries in Ontario make icewine from Vidal, Cabernet Franc and even Riesling but Pillitteri Estates has expanded well past the traditional to include Icewines made from Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese. I doubt there are many people who have ever tried a sweet wine made from a grape popular in Italy like Sangiovese but it is definitely worth the try if you want to mix things up. All of Pillitteri’s Icewines can be found on their website ( and can be ordered for delivery anywhere in Ontario if you are not able to make the trip down to Niagara on the Lake in the next couple of weeks.

Now it’s time to get to the whites and reds that should be making it onto your table or bar over the holiday season. These are the wines that should be paired up with your Christmas meals or poured alongside the cocktails you will be serving when friends and family drop by. I have grouped these together by region so, if you live in these areas specifically it is easy for you to find the ones where you live. Alternatively, if you are not close by, feel free to drop by their website and order some of these wines for delivery. From the SouthWestern Ontario region, be sure to check out the 2010 or 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon available from Muscedere Vineyards ( . If you are planning to serve a variety of red meats during a holiday dinner, both of these wines pair perfectly with beef, venison and lamb holding up to heavily spiced foods. While you are in the area, be sure to drop by Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards ( and pick up some bottles of their 2012 Touche. This wine is a blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer making it a great white wine to start an evening out with or to serve with a variety of appetizers if you are hosting a cocktail party. Of course, I also highly recommend this if you have had a long day at work or had to battle the crowds at the local mall trying to get your holiday shopping list completed.

Let’s make our way to the Niagara Peninsula. There are a ton of options here but rather than taking one of the well established wineries that has been there for years, I thought it would be a great idea to look at some of the newer wineries in the region. First off, in the Niagara Bench area, take a look at the wines from Leaning Post Wines. Originally a virtual winery, Leaning Post Wines has moved into a permanent building in the Stoney Creek area just past Hamilton making it one of the first wineries you will encounter when you enter the region coming from the Greater Toronto Area. Owner and winemaker Ilya Senchuk is definitely not a newbie in the area as well having spent previous vintages at Daniel Lenko Estate Winery and The Foreign Affair Winery as well as abroad. He has a vast portfolio available for sale which can be viewed at but the wines that I gravitate towards personally are the 2013 Riesling and the 2010 Pinot Noir. Both very food friendly wines and both would be perfect on the dinner table for any family celebrations you encounter during this month. Moving a little further down the Peninsula to Niagara on the Lake, we find Small Talk Vineyards ( Those who know the Niagara on the Lake area may recognize the location as being the past home of Stonechurch Vineyards but that is where the comparisons end. Small Talk Vineyards focus on every day, easy drinking wines that you can open up when people drop by for the evening, a bustling holiday party or just after a long day of shopping or Santa Claus Parades. The names on their wines are conversation starters in and of themselves and they really do describe what you find in the glass. Take “Burning Ambition” for example – what would you expect to find when you take that first sip of that wine? Personally, I think something a little spicy, something adventurous but something that works well with “others” or, in the case of wine, with food. Burning Ambition is a combination of the 2012 vintages of Riesling and Gewurztraminer which are wines with a kick of spice, a lot of food friendly flavours and wines that bring a lot to the table and spark the drinkers imagination. Looking at their red wines you see one called Recap. To me, a wine named Recap represents the best of the best and although there is no description of the wine on the website, it does say it is a 2007 Cabernet Franc which would indicate the winemaker wanted to wait for this wine to reach perfection before removing it from the barrel and bottling it. This area of Ontario – Niagara on the Lake specifically – does very well at producing grapes like Cabernet Franc so rather than blending their Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which would be the norm, Small Talk Vineyards decided to let the Cabernet Franc stand on its own to show the true identity – actually, the terroir – of the region. While this wine may be a little pricier then the rest of their wines, at $25.00 a bottle it is definitely worth it and actually a great value for a wine that was aged as long as this one in the barrel.

Our final stop in the province is Prince Edward County. In “The County” I have certain wineries that I inherently head to and then there are the new discoveries that I like to add in each year. This wine region is the youngest in the province and it is still growing so there is always something new to try. Let us start out at the south eastern end of the region at Exultet Estates ( Exultet Estates has had a major focus on Chardonnay over the years with the oldest vintage still available for sale stretching back to 2009. Over the years they have added Pinot Noir, with those particular two grapes counting for the largest amount of production amongst all of the Prince Edward County wineries. Their expanded portfolio now includes a Pinot Grigio, a Rose and a white version of Pinot Noir called Mysterium. Honestly, out of all of Exultet Estates’ wines, 2013 Mysterium is my absolute favourite. All the flavours that make Prince Edward County Pinot Noir great but in a white form which, for those who love Pinot Noir, can play a real mind game with us. Personally, start out with Mysterium and then add some of Exultet Estates’ Pinot Noir to the table to pair with your turkey folks. The flavours will remain the same but you will be expanding your wine repertoire by pairing a red wine with a white meat.

Next we move a little bit west in The County to Karlo Estates ( Unfortunately, just this past week we lost Richard Karlo to his battle with cancer but his pioneering spirit, his love of life and his indelible laughter and smile that would light up a room will live on in his wines and those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him. It gave my family and myself a chance to reflect on the genius found in the bottles of wine he had lovingly worked on for many years and brought to the market with his wife Sherry. Richard’s wines and the winery that bears his name will live on and, whether you want to add them to the wines you will be serving over the coming weeks or as gifts to people who appreciate fun, adventurous and truly delicious wines, Karlo Estates is a definite must stop for your holiday celebrations. Amongst my favourites – I love their Riesling, the Quintus is amazingly delicious and their Van Alstine and Van Alstine White are great finishes to a day of nonstop activity. A trip to Karlo Estates is a unique experience unto its own.

Our final stop is at Lacey Estates which has long been a favourite of mine and my husbands. There are only two wineries in the entire province where we have ever bought wine in quantities of more than one or two bottles – Lacey Estates is one of them for their Pinot Noir and the other is Karlo Estates for both of their Van Alstine’s. Lacey Estates has a portfolio which frequently sells out but with perfect precision, as one sells out they are preparing to release a new wine…or so it seems to those of us who stock our cellars with their delicious products. I do recommend constantly checking their website to see what products they have added (, but here are some of my favourites that are currently available. Normally I would start talking about a wineries white wines before moving on to the reds but I have to say I have always been a HUGE fan of Lacey Estates Baco Noir. The first vintage I reviewed of them of this particular wine used the line “Blacker than Sin” and that description has never changed with any of the subsequent vintages. Without a doubt, their Baco Noir has always been one of my favourites but they also have a lot of amazing wines that I highly recommend getting your hands on. First off, their Gewurztraminer is very food friendly, spicy, floral and fruity and, at under $20 a bottle a serious value for your money. The Pinot Noir is, as always, awesome and could certainly be paired with whatever is going on your table that evening.

Okay, so we have touched on all the wines you will need for the holiday season but what if you have someone on your list who is not a wine drinker…or if you want to add some wine related accessories to a gift or as a hostess gift this season. For those on your list that prefer hard liquor over wine, I recommend taking a look at either Dillons Distillery ( in Niagara or 66 Gilead Distillery ( in Prince Edward County to see the variety of products they both carry. Of particular note, the Crimson Rye Whiskey from 66 Gilead or the White Rye, the Rose Gin or the variety of flavoured Bitters from Dillons Distillery. My husband loves to make me Martini’s and he equally loves Manhattan’s…specifically Bourbon Manhattan’s…so, when checking out a place we found during our first anniversary trip, I discovered that they carry a product called Makers Mark Cherries. Talk about the perfect garnish for a Bourbon Manhattan. Here’s the link for their entire website – the stuffed olives they carry bring a little something extra to everyday Martini’s:

A few years ago the rage was to have wine charms for your wine glasses so that everyone could easily identify whose glass was whose during a cocktail party. They are still great to have – they were even a part of my husband’s and mine bombonieres at our wedding – but there is something new. A variety of companies have come out with a marker that allows you to write on glass (or ceramic) and wash it off after the party. I bought a silver and gold one through Yves Rocher recently but there is a US based company called Wine Glass Writers ( that has distribution channels into a bunch of the wine shops around the province and also in Alberta. One last unique product under the “accessories” category. Liz Lacey – from Lacey Estates Winery – is an incredible crafter and a couple of weeks ago posted some pictures of some craft projects she had been working on. The item that caught my attention were some wine themed coasters she had just posted on Facebook so I went to her and asked her for details. They are made of fabric but with a stiff fusable back and she is selling them at $8 for 4 coasters. Orders are made directly to Liz through her email address ( or can be picked up at the winery.


Hopefully you have found some great suggestions through these pages. Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.


Richard Karlo - a friend, a pioneer, an amazing winemaker

Posted on November 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Our little corner of the international wine industry was shaken up last night when word started to spread through Facebook and Twitter that Richard Karlo had passed away. Richard, along with his wife Sherry Martin, was the owner of Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County, one of the newest wine regions in Ontario. Richard was a pioneer and an ambassador for this burgeoning wine region. He was also a great friend and one that many people referred to as a “gentle giant”. Richard always had a huge smile on his face, an infectious laugh and open arms to anyone that walked through the doors of his winery. Richard was always there to lend a helping hand and there are countless stories from other winemakers in The County who went to him for advice when they encountered stumbling blocks or were simply wanting to put roots down in this small corner of Eastern Ontario.

Richard loved to experiment and you could see that in his vineyard. Whether it was the grapes he planted that very few others were using or his decision to move along with making both a red and white Port styled wines, the red having been named a Top Ten Cutting Edge Wine of the World in 2010. I remember hearing Richard say once that you should always “Bite off more than you can chew…and then just keep chewing”. They are great words to live by and they definitely epitomize who Richard was. He loved a challenge, was always ready to meet it head on and although it may feel like he was not able to beat this challenge, it is because his spirit lives on in each and every one of our memories his dream to see Prince Edward County become the powerhouse that this region deserves on the world wine stage will become a reality. RIP Richard – there are no words to truly describe how much you will be missed but your laughter, your smile and the way you lived each day to the absolute fullest will live on in each of us who had the immense pleasure to know you.


I Can't Drink Wine

Posted on October 10, 2014 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever had a long day at work and came home looking forward to unwinding with a nice glass of wine? I am sure we all have but what happens when that glass of wine does not agree with you and it makes that already long day become a long evening ahead? I know it feels a little disheartening because I have been there myself but there are definitely options out there on how to deal with this and how to prevent it in the future.


A lot of finding a way around how to prevent it in the future comes from knowing our bodies and knowing what works and does not work for them. Allergic reactions can take many forms and, even within the world of wine, the physical manifestations of them can be just as varied as if it was an environmental allergy. Just for a couple of examples, some wines can give headaches while others can make the stomach feel sore and raw on the inside. Some can cause heartburn and some can make a person feel bloated and sick to their stomach. Personally, certain sparkling wines, and I include a couple of Champagne’s in this category, can give me a headache. For several years, oaked Chardonnay’s always seemed to give my stomach a real problem. In my family, there are people who cannot drink a lot of wines because they are allergic to the yeasts the wines are made with.


Each one of these is a different situation but it comes down to knowing how to deal with them which will turn around a bad situation into a learning experience and many good experiences down the road. In some cases, it can be a simple fix – for me, with the oaked Chardonnay issue, I spent several years where I did not drink those wines. If I had a Chardonnay, it was an unoaked Chardonnay. I then started to do experimentation with different yeast and different oaks and that is how I determined that it was an oak issue and not a yeast issue for me. To avoid an embarrassing situation because I did not want others to see the bad reaction I could have, I did this experimentation in a controlled environment. In the end, the conclusion I came to was that it was the oak and it was specifically American Oak barrels with Chardonnay grapes that caused a problem. It did require research – I would either have to ask the winemaker or search their website to find any information on the types of oak barrels that were used. If I had a Chardonnay that had been aged or fermented in French, Hungarian or, in later years, Canadian oak barrels I would not have a reaction.


For those with yeast allergies, the process of elimination can be a bit more difficult to identify. This is largely due to the fact that each winemaker has a variety of possible yeasts to choose from if using cultured yeasts. Even larger would the issue be if the winemaker has chosen to use a natural yeast because those yeasts are unique to the grapes they grow on and are hard to duplicate from wine to wine. Essentially, a natural yeast that works with your body in one vintage could, in theory, not work the next vintage because there may be variations in the yeast itself. The one recommendation I have in a situation like this is, with only a small group of friends, at your home and, not in a restaurant, bar or winery, try a variety of wines. Chances are, if you have been dealing with this type of allergy and the reaction that it entails for a number of years, you know what the best “cure” exists for you. It may be a cooler or a shot that helps “cut through” the reaction but, whatever it is, make sure you have some on standby should the situation arise. Most importantly, when you find a wine that does not cause a reaction, buy several bottles or a full case of the wine. There are several wines out there that can age for years to come so even if you buy a full case and spread it out over a multitude of occasions, you are at least guaranteed that you will be able to enjoy a glass or two of a special wine when you want.


There will always be medications that you can take if a reaction does arise. There will be always be painkillers if a headache comes along because a particular Champagne does not agree with you. Hopefully none of this will happen and hopefully you will have taken some time over the years to discover what agrees with your body and what to avoid so that you do not have to deal with the nasty side effects. At the end of the day, it is all about what is right for you and with the true variety of wines that are available on the shelves of our local wine shops and wineries I am sure you will find a wine that is perfect for you. Talk with the people who know wine – the winemakers know what kind of yeasts they use and the people that work in retail stores or wine shops are always more than happy to answer questions about the wines. After all, at the end of the day, if you want to enjoy a glass of wine, we want you to be able to do so.


Wine at your Wedding

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

How many of you are recently engaged?

Two years ago I was in the same situation as you - newly engaged, trying to find a venue (and a wedding dress) and wanting to make sure that the wines we chose complimented the food we were going to be serving.  Some people think of that as impossible or, at the very least, difficult to accomplish.  After all, not every banquet space is going to have a decent line up of wines and even fewer will have what you are looking for.  For me, it was all about serving local wines - I wanted Ontario to be well represented and that is still a rarity unless you are in wine country itself.

It may require a bit of "hunting" or it may require some negotiating with the venue but getting wines that suit your tastes is definitely something that can be accomplished.  When you start looking at venues and looking at their menus, ask them for a list of the wines they regularly serve and what upgrades can be made.  My husband and I got lucky - we found a venue, the Ajax Convention Centre, that were forward thinking and already had a medium sized Ontario winery as their house wine.  They were also more than willing to look at other wines from that winery as upgrades for us if we wanted to go with soemthing other than the house white or red.  Our next step was figuring out what our menu choices were going to be and then see if their house wines would pair with the food we had chosen.  It did so our next step was to look at what bubby they were serving for the toasts.  This is where we had to do some work...but it was fun work.  The sparkling wine that our venue was serving was a Spanish Cava and, as lovely as it was, it was not an Ontario sparkling wine.  Our venue allowed us to choose whichever wine we wanted to use as long as it was available through the LCBO so our next step was to see which Ontario sparklers were available through the LCBO and then have a tasting party to see which one we liked the most. 

Depending on the venue you find, you may not need to have any tasting parties to choose the wines you will be serving but, even if you do not, there's no reason why you can't have a tasting party at your house with members of your family and bridal party.  The key to remember is have fun, enjoy this part of the wedding planning and sit back and relax.  Honestly, figuring out the food and wine for your wedding is one of the funnest parts of planning a wedding and, if you have a great venue that is willing to work with you to create the perfect day, it will be one of the most stress free parts of planning it too.

Bring on the Summer

Posted on June 13, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The birds are chirping, the temperature is rising, the flowers are blooming and the grapes are growing.  Those are the unmistakable signs that summer has arrived.  When you live in Canada and endure a cold winter - not unlike the one we just experienced - the onset of the summer months feels like a rejuvenation and creates a sense of anticipation for days lounging by the pool, or hanging out on a patio, enjoying a glass of wine with friends and family.  We tend to be creatures of habit so year in and year out when the summer months arrive we gravitate towards specific wines.  Some of us stick with Rose wines while others insist that Pinot Gris or Grigio is the way to go.  Some of us gravitate towards the bubbly and then there is a group of us who just do not know which to drink.  The great thing about the Ontario wine industry is that, no matter what your preference is, there is something out there for you to enjoy.


For me, personally, I tend to switch between Rose wines and white wines during the summer months.  This year, in the Rose category, I came across one that screamed "transition" to me.  I know that sounds confusing and maybe even a bit off putting, but let me explain.  I have several friends that, when it comes to wine, enjoy those flavoured wines like Wild Vines and Arbor Mist.  Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those wines because wines are all a matter of preference.  The thing is that I love to expand people's horizons when it comes to the world of wines. Each vintage brings new wines to the table so there is always something new out there to try.  Back in April when I attended County in the City in Toronto, I discovered such a wine and it was one that I wanted to share with my friends who enjoy wines like Strawberry White Zinfandel. 


Karlo Estates 2011 Frontenac Gris Rose

$16.00 per bottle; available through their website or at the winery itself

Strawberries, rhubarb, cherries and even candy apples - all of these aromas flow out of this glass when you take that first sniff.  They continue onto the palate where it combines with a hint of cinnamon spice and citrus.  It is the strawberry and candy apple components and the off dry nature of this wine that make it a similar flavour profile to some of those combined wine products but the string of acidity and the structure of this wine are what take it to the next level.  If you are feeling adventurous or want to find a real crowd pleaser, this is the wine you want to get.


As I am writing this, I have been asking on Facebook and Twitter what your favourite go to summer sipper wine is.  The responses have ranged from "many" to "Pinot Grigio" to "Off Dry Riesling" and, with Ontario wines, there are many to choose from. Here are just a couple of my favourites from around the province.


Sauvignon Blanc

Years ago, Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery in Beamsville launched on a project to create three single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs for their portfolio.  Over the years the approach has changed but one still remains- the Lepp Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.  They retail at $18.95 a bottle and are available through the winery itself but it is an excellent example of what cool climate Sauvignon Blanc can truly be.  Flavours and aromas of gooseberry, lemon and grapefruit, a real backbone of acidity and incredible balance, the Lepp Vineyard 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery is a great kick back on a summer afternoon easy drinking wine. 


Pinot Grigio

When I think Pinot Grigio my brain invariably thinks Italian.  In Ontario, one winery stands out in my mind for making great Pinot Grigio and that is Pillitteri Estate Winery in Niagara on the Lake.  Light and refreshing, crisp and uncomplicated, aromas and flavours of pear and mineral with just a hint of floral in the base, that is what Pinot Grigio should be.  It should not make you sit there and ponder what you are enjoying.  Pinot Grigio is meant to be enjoyed with simple, uncomplicated food or when you just want a glass of wine and nothing else.  Pillitteri Estate Winery's 2011 Pinot Grigio retails for $15.20 a bottle and is available through the winery or at your local LCBO store.


Off Dry Riesling

The number of wineries that fit into this category are as many as the number of wineries in this province.  Riesling is a grape that works exceptionally well in Ontario soils, with our climate and with the palates of the wine buyers of this province.  It is a people pleaser and is incredibly food friendly.  If you are looking for a variety of flavours or a wine to match with a variety of foods than Off Dry Riesling is the perfect go to wine.  No matter what area of Ontario you look in, there is a winery that makes an amazing Off Dry Riesling.  Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County is a great example, Cave Spring Cellars in Niagara has a full line up of Rieslings to choose from each year and Cattail Creek Estate Winery in Niagara on the Lake make great examples of this very versatile grape.  Check out each of their websites and try one today - you will not be sorry.


So, what if you are a red wine person surrounded by white wine people in the summer.  You may not want to try a rose wine but there is a growing trend amongst Ontario wineries to try white versions using red wine grapes.  White Merlot was the big trend a couple of years ago but with this years release we are finding a bunch of White Pinot Noirs hitting the shelves.  Exultet Estates was the first to hit the shelves with their 2012 Mysterium.  Flavours and aromas of melon and apple, spice and mineral - while not a typical flavour profile for Pinot Noir when it is red, there are some common elements and it is a nice change of pace for those who enjoy redwines.  Exultet Estates sells their 2012 Mysterium for $30 a bottle directly through their website or at their retail store.  The other new edition to the white Pinot Noir category is from The Old Third Vineyard.  Also located in Prince Edward County, their White Pinot Noir retails for $35 a bottle is a very limited release.  Jens has already told me he expects this great summer sipper to sell out quickly so gets your hands on it soon.


Top Ten Reasons Why You Need To Visit Prince Edward County

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (1)

Have you visited Prince Edward County before?  If you have you know just how amazing this little area of Ontario really can be.  If you have not, what is stopping you?  Maybe you thought that Prince Edward County is just about the wineries because that is what a lot of the publicity surrounding The County has been about in recent years but the region is so much more.  Here is a top ten list of things you need to visit when you make the trek out to Prince Edward County.

The Resorts and Their Spas

If you have the time to make it a weekend (or a long weekend) trip, there are several amazing inns and resorts dotting the Prince Edward County landscape for you to choose from.  Both the Merrill Inn and Claramount Inn are great choices.  There is also The Inn at Huff Estates if you want to be right by the wineries or The Waring House if you want a complete culinary experience.  With each of these resorts, if they do not have a spa on site, they have partnerships with local day spas so if you want to kick back and relax with a massage or a mani/pedi there are plenty of options to choose from.

The Great Outdoors and the Blue Waters of Lake Ontario

If you live in the Toronto area, you are almost used to seeing a slate gray colour to Lake Ontario - not so in Prince Edward County.  When Mark and I were travelling along the Loyalist Parkway last weekend heading to the Crystal Palace Fairgrounds for Terroir Wine Festival we could not believe how blue the water is not a colour we are used to seeing the lake being by any means.  Prince Edward County is a photographers and outdoorsman's paradise - whether it is biking, hiking, spending time at the beach or photographing the countryside, every turn will great you with something new.  This is where Prince Edward County has its roots - it was the sandbanks along the bottom of The County and the lighthouses that were originally the draw for people to visit the area but, unless you are a local, it is almost a forgotten part of the region in this day and age.

The Regional Festivals

Prince Edward County is developing a name for its regional festivals.  Whether it is Taste or Terroir, the region's two wine festivals, or the Great Canadian Cheese Festival which is coming up this weekend there is something to choose from to spend your day at.  Let's not forget about Countylicious either - a twice yearly festival that is a play off of the Toronto food festival.  Each month literally has a new event coming up and it just takes a quick look at to find one that peaks your interest.

A Chance to Relax

The hustle and bustle of the work week is really felt when you live in a big city like Toronto or Ottawa.  All of that is wiped away in an instant when you cross over into Prince Edward County and that is the one recurring theme that came out in my recent blog series on some great characters in Prince Edward County.  Probably my favourite quote from this series was during my interview with Sherry Martin from Karlo Estates:

“There is something inherently relaxing when you cross the bridge and head into Prince Edward County for a day of tasting. The stress of the city just slips off your shoulders while wine country awaits.”

Richard Charnock from Norman Hardie Wines also pointed out that "once someone has made that first visit to The County they seem to understand why this is such a unique region and why a bottle of wine from here is unique when compared to wines from any other wine region in the world."  It takes a visit out to Prince Edward County to get the real effect this region has but it is such a worthwhile trip.  Mark will be the first person to tell you that the second he and I enter Prince Edward County I start to feel like a completely different person.  It is the relaxed pace of life, the need to not rush things and the overall feel of this place that makes Prince Edward County feel like a home away from home.

The Food Shops

With great wine, great food naturally follows.  This not only means great restuarants, which we will touch on shortly, but it also means great little artisan food shops.  Prince Edward County is home to cheese factories and places like Vicki's Veggies.  There are little shops in Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington that carry local food items.  Even wineries like Lacey Estates and Rosehall Run are carrying local products in their retail shops.

The Antique Shops

You see them dotting the region as you drive through Prince Edward County and they come in all shapes and forms.  Some of them you will find your perfect finds in and some will not fit your particular style but Prince Edward County has a growing number of antique stores for you to choose from.  A quick glance through the website found a dozen antique shops to choose from.  If you are on the hunt for that perfect piece of antique furniture or a knick knack chances are very good you will find something amongst one of these shops to bring back home.

The Art Trail and Other Artisan shops

Glass studios, art galleries, homemade crafts - there is no shortage of little unique shops to choose from in Prince Edward County.  Lalaland Glass Studio, Riccaro Jewelry, Oeno Gallery - take your pick or choose your own as you see them along the road...they all have great products and make unique presents if you are on the hunt for someone who is hard to buy for.

The Restaurants

There is so much that can be said here.  Breakfast at Tall Poppy Cafe with fresh baked goods and a cafe mocha. Lunch at Agrarian PEC with their Gourmet Grilled Cheese, dinner at East and Main or Portobella or Blumen.  There are these and so many others to choose from and the food that comes out of their kitchens is made with pride and a love for what they do.  Prince Edward County is even hoping on the food truck wagon with Goin Coastal and Urban Herb on the Curb hitting the streets this summer.  I have had many, many meals at the restaurants of this area and each one of them has been just as amazing as the last one. 

Breweries and Distilleries

Prince Edward County is known for its wineries - which we will get to next - but did you know that the region also has a brewery and a distillery?  Barley Days Brewery is located just outside of Picton and they make a great selection of beers to choose from.  If you have someone in your family that enjoys a good microbrew, then a trip to the brewery is a must.  Much newer on the scene is Prince Edward County's first craft distillery - 66Gilead.  Named for it's address of 66 Gilead Rd just outside of Bloomfield, the distillery has a great selection of Rye, Vodka, Gin and Rum.  When you drop by the distillery, take a trip across the parking lot to Carriage House Cooperage and pick up some art pieces or furniture inspired by oak barrels.  Tealight holders, a shot glass rail or even a clock to hang on your wall - Carriage House Cooperage has a lot of great pieces to choose from.

The Wineries

A trip to Prince Edward County would not be complete without a trip to a winery or two.  No matter where you are in the region, there are wineries to choose from.  There are half a dozen or so in the south end by Picton and Milford, there are quite a few at the west end along the Loyalist Parkway and the side streets or there are just as many to choose from in the middle of The County.  Prince Edward County is the fastest growing wine region in Ontario and there is a winery for each and every person.  I can guarantee you will find a winery you enjoy if you are on the hunt for something new.

I hope that this little blog has inspired you to get out of the city and make a trip out to Prince Edward County.  Niagara is great and so is the Lake Erie North Shore but, if you live in the GTA, a trip to the east means you are not fighting the traffic to get to your relaxation.  If you live in Ottawa, Prince Edward County is just on your doorstep and a great place to explore on your weekend.

Meet the final man of our series - Mr Keith Tyers of Closson Chase Vineyards

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

It is hard to believe that we have made it to the end of the series but here we are.  It barely feels like it has been twelve weeks since I started writing this series but it has been, and it has been a lot of fun in the process.  Today we look at Keith Tyers from Closson Chase Vineyards.  Originally he started his career with the winery as the assistant to winemaker Deborah Paskus but after a brief stint away from the winery he returned to become their retail sales manager also in charge of Licensee sales for Eastern Canada.  He is basically in charge of organizing the retail space at the winery, planning both in store and outside promotions, LCBO releases and all sales in the eastern provinces of Canada.  His background as Deborah's assistant as well as his even earlier background as a sommelier in restaurants makes him a perfect fit for interacting with other restaurants these days and it is a role he is able to expand upon daily.

It was a desire to learn a new aspect of the hospitality industry that made Keith make the change from restaurants to working at a winery.  As much as he enjoys working as a sommelier and interacting with people enjoying their meals in a restaurant, he was looking for a change and making the move to Closson Chase Vineyard was the opportunity to do this.  He had tasted some of Deborah's wines in the past, really enjoyed them, and since he lived not too far from the winery itself it was easy to make the transition to this great team.  Keith has a real passion for Prince Edward County and this is something that comes shining through when you are having a conversation with him.  In his own words, "It is breathtaking! It is a place of paradise that is only two hours from Toronto.  You don't have to deal with the big highways to get here and it is great wine, great food and great hospitality.  If you come here once you will come again."  Everyone I have asked about during this series has come up with something different for the "hidden gems" question I have been asking.  Last week, Kimball said to him it was Lalaland Glass Studio, others have highlighted local restaurants or antique stores.  For Keith, it is all about the outdoors and nature.  Keith pointed out that Prince Edward County is very maritime.  You have the lighthouses and the beaches that, due to their remote location, almost seem to be missed in this day and age.  Point Petre and Point Traverse are just two of those older lighthouses that only locals seem to know about and then there are a wide range of conservation areas dotting the landscape throughout The County that make for some amazing walks on a warm, sunny summer day.  Is it much wonder that, when Keith does manage to have some spare time, he loves to spend time on his sailboat?  Not really - yoiu can tell he loves the outdoors and it is a side of Prince Edward County that nature enthusiasts would absolutely fall in love with. 

Like everyone else, I asked Keith what he felt the challenges and triumphs have been for the wineries of Prince Edward County and what a wine festival like Terroir means to their business.  In terms of challenges, Keith highlighted the weather and the climate.  He said it is the one factor that binds all of the wineries together and it returns each year to present a new set of circumstances that need to be met head on and overcome.  Before I tell everyone what he said their biggest triumph has been, let us take a look at what Terroir Wine Festival means to Closson Chase and the other wineries in the area.  Keith says Terroir is a chance for all the wineries to get together and "show their wares."  It is a chance to "be proud of what we have produced for those great vintages and show what we have been experimenting with."  From Keith's point of view, "it takes everyone to make an industry and an event like Terroir brings us all together."  With that personal perspective on the wine industry in Prince Edward County, is it much wonder that Keith considers the industry's biggest triumph to be "doing what we do and doing it well"?  While there may be a couple more wineries make their appearance on the wine scene in this small corner of the province, where Keith sees The County in five years is more recognition for what is being done now and what will be done over the next couple of years. 

Meet Kimball Lacey - Building a Winery from the ground up

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (2)

We have heard it throughout this blog series - owning a winery is hard work.  It is the life of a farmer, it is hard manual labour and it is very different from working in the city.  Like a lot of the other family wineries in Prince Edward County, Kimball and Liz Lacey decided they wanted to move their family out of the city to raise them.  In the process of finding a job out in Prince Edward County, Kimball, along with his Dad, Charles, attended a seminar at what was then Peddlesden Winery (now CasaDea Estates Winery).  Norman Hardie was running that seminar and, as Charles and Kimball sat there and listened to what Norm had to say, they came to the conclusion that they could do that too. You see, a few years before, Charles had bought a family farm out in The County and it was only 7 km north east of where they were attending this seminar, located on Closson Road which has sort of earned the nickname of "winery row".  Although there was only one or two wineries open on Closson Road at that point, there are now nothing less than seven wineries just on this one street and more than a dozen in this area of The County.  Although it took some soul searching and a lot of discussions amongst the family, it can easily be said that Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery was formed that day and they have not looked back since.

Initially this was a complete family winery which encompassed both of Kimball's parents, Kimball and his wife Liz as well as Kimball's brother and sister and their spouses.  Over the years, health and schedules have not permitted everyone to participate 100% in this venture so some family members have had to step away but it still remains a family business and a family passion.  In fact, earlier this week, when Mother Nature decided to send some colder temperatures our way, it was Kimball, his Dad and his brother Andrew who pulled an "all nighter" in the vineyard burning brush & straw bales to keep the vines warm.  You can see this in more detail by checking out "When Mother Nature throws a curve ball" found here:  While Kimball and his family were starting their winery, Kimball needed to start learning all he could learn about owning and operating a winery, about being a winemaker and about being a vineyard manager.  He started that process by working at Peddlesden Winery with Norm and then for a little bit at Norm's winery when he opened it across the road.  He then moved on to Closson Chase Vineyard where he still remains today and is the Associate Winemaker there.  Combining all of those duties at Closson Chase Vineyard with everything he does at Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery makes Kimball one very busy guy.  Today, Kimball's duties at Lacey Estates encompass winemaker, vineyard manager, treasurer and genereal manager.  Considering this is not where Kimball started his working life, this has been a huge jump.  When he and Liz lived in Toronto Kimball worked in the banking industry and, when they moved out to Prince Edward County, Kimball found work in a call center.  It actually wasn't until years later that Kimball and I discovered that we both worked in the same call center at the same time but just on different contracts.  It was definitely something to laugh about because we have both come a long way since our days working there.

When I asked Kimball what he thought the challenges and triumphs were that Lacey Estates faces, he summed it up in two words - "shoulder season".  Lacey Estates does not have a large retail space like some of the other wineries in the area so trying to get people through their doors during the slow months is a challenge.  They are not able to host the large groups that are touring at this time of the year and they do not see the drive by traffic that they would during the summer and fall months.  As a result, social marketing and website sales play a huge role in their business at that time of the year.  Kimball feels that the biggest triumph they have gotten is an increased recognition for their wines.  He was at a wine tasting just a few weeks ago where he was approached by a gentleman that wanted to try his 2010 Baco Noir which is his current release.  After enjoying the sample of the 2010 that Kimball poured for him he revealed that he had one bottle left of the 2008 Baco Noir which he fell in love with when visiting the winery.  From just that small sample of 2010, this gentleman knew he needed bottles of the 2010 for his cellar.  To Kimball, hearing that, fills him with pride because then he knows he is making wines that people truly enjoy.  When Kimball shared this story with me, it started me thinking about what kind of back vintages of Lacey Estate Wines I have in my cellar - I found a bottle of the 2008 Gewurztraminer and my fiance and I still have bottles of their original vintage (2007) in the collection as well.  Those original bottles will never be opened but it is a testament to the wines that Kimball makes and the fact that we are still enjoying his wines years after they have chose to release them.  When I asked Kimball what Terroir Wine Festival means to their winery, he deferred his answer to Liz saying that she is the one who sees the real impact of their presence there because she is the one who you meet as you walk through the doors of the winery.  Liz said that Terroir Wine Festival is their chance to give them some exposure.  With seven wineries located along Closson Road, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle.  If someone is specifically on the hunt for sparkling wine they are stopping at Hinterland and The Grange. If someone knows the name Closson Chase they are heading to the intersection of Closson Road and Chase Road.  Lacey Estates is right in the middle of these three wineries and, quite often, Liz hears "Yeah, we saw your winery as we were heading past but we didn't have a chance to stop in."  It happens a lot; if you do not realize that they are there it is easy to miss Lacey Estates which is a shame because the wines are amazing.  A festival like Terroir puts everyone together under one roof and it gives the truly small wineries the chance to say, "Here's your chance to try our wines.  If you like them, please drop by after the festival or tomorrow when we will be featuring a special food pairing with our wines." 

When I asked Kimball who he thought the "hidden gems" were in Prince Edward County, he had two jump to mind almost immediately.  Not unlike their own winery, The Lavender Farm next door and LaLaLand Glass Studio over by Huff Estates seem to get lost in the shuffle as people drive by.  Both businesses have great products and, in fact, with LaLaLand Glass Studio, they have a few pieces at the winery itself and are constantly asked where they got them from.  Kimball and Liz's daughter did an internship there for school and the website has some great pieces for sale on there but Kimball says it is so worth a drop by the studio itself to find that unique piece of glass work for your home.  The problem is that people just don't see the studio and go driving right past.

So, where does Kimball see the winery five years from now?  Expansion is the name of the game in Kimball's eyes.  They currently have 9 acres of planted vines and he sees the vineyard space being closer to 30 acres at that point.  In terms of production, he feels they are working towards 3000 to 5000 cases annually.  It is a lot of hard work to grow a vineyard to that size but the one thing that Kimball and his family has is a lot of drive and a lot of big plans.  So, what does Kimball do to relax - he loves cooking and being outside.  Spending time riding his motorcycle is a favourite always but he enjoys spending time behind the BBQ and enjoying a cigar while cooking for his family.  Kimball says it is not something he gets a lot of time to do and, with two full time jobs we understand that one, but he loves the time when he can.

When Mother Nature throws a curve ball

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (2)

Owning a winery is hard work – it is the life of a farmer and those who have decided to pursue this career path have to be dedicated to their craft.  Mother Nature plays such a huge role in any type of farm – it can determine when certain things have to take place and it can wreak major havoc at this time of the year if the temperature decides to drop after a warm spell.  Back a few weeks ago, when we experienced a nice warm spell the vines started to kick into gear and bud burst did occur in most regions of Ontario.  We loved those warmer temperatures – it was,after all, a very long and cold winter with a lot of major snow storms – but then Mother Nature decided that we needed a bit of a temperature drop this past Monday night into Tuesday morning.  In order to protect those buds that did pop up, because that is what will become the grapes that are harvested this coming fall, the winemakers and grape growers of Prince Edward County had to kick into action and take some extra steps to protect those vines.  Some wineries have opted to use the wind machines that the wineries of Niagara likes to use but, in a lot of cases, to protect the vines, the winemakers and winery owners and grape growers spend the night in the vineyard burning piles of hay and brush to keep the vines warm.  This is their story; this is what a lot of them spent the night doing this past Monday.  Let’s start by taking a look at some of the pictures that were taken throughout the night and posted to Twitter and Facebook by this group of dedicated people


Richard Karlo at Karlo Estates starting the first fires of the night in his vineyard.


First burn pile at Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery.


The flames are already well in action and there is a nice layer of smoke forming which is why this picture is fuzzy.  The smoke is needed to trap the heat from the flames and keep it close to the ground where it will protect the vines and the buds from the cold air that lingers just above the smoke.  Kimball Lacey from Lacey Estates said that their first burn started around 1am on Tuesday morning and at 6am when all of us were getting ready for work, they were finally entering positive temperatures and were in the clear for the night.  Throughout the night people dropped by to see how everyone was doing and there was a steady stream of tweets using the hashtag #pecfrost showing everyone’s progress through the night.  Here are a few photos that were being shared:


Friends from other wineries dropping by Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery just as the sun is starting to rise over the vineyards.



An active burn pile at Norman Hardie Winery.  You can see the layer of smoke over the vineyard at the back of the pictures as it works to stop the cold air from settling around the vines.


Sunrise over the Lacey Estates Vineyard.  It has been a long night and everyone involved deserves a long nap…and a hearty breakfast.

The wonderful thing about the wineries tweeting the pictures and posting them to Facebook is how it truly connects them with us who love their wines.  As I was seeing these pictures appear in my Twitter feed and I was reaching out to the wineries to see how the night went, I was also involved in a conversation with a couple of other people –including a local weather guy – and we were all sharing the same sentiment that by connecting on Facebook and Twitter connects us outsiders with their world and the dedication and perseverance it takes to do what they do.  We are all truly appreciative of the efforts they went through as they walked the vineyards in freezing cold temperatures and went without sleep to make sure their grapes make it through to harvest time in the fall.  Let’s take one last look at those pictures and see the end results.



From left to right, Richard Karlo at Karlo Estates surveys the vineyards at sunrise; Andrew Gray and Charles Lacey of Lacey Estates taking a well deserved break as the sun rises over the vineyard; the buds the next morning –first at Karlo Estates and second at Lacey Estates.  These vineyards are only a couple of kilometres apart and only time will tell if there is damage.  They look all clear at this point so fingers crossed that they have survived to grow into grapes for harvest this fall.



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