Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Direct from Hadsten House In Solvang California: Sunny Meadows and Great Riding!

Sunny Meadows
Solvang means "Sunny Meadows" in Danish! However, it's not just the meadows that are sunny in disposition here. The people who live and do business in this shining spot of the Santa Ynez Valley seem to radiate contentment that makes one very comfortable indeed!
For example, comes across many items that are welcoming such as the brightly decorated and flag draped streets matched with the Danish architecture giving the feeling in some ways of a perpetual Christmas celebration. The lovely Hans Christian Anderson Park with a huge bust of Danish writer, Hans Christian Anderson sets off the many business and curio shops-----one would feel that he/she is in a Californian fairy tale.
Of course there are the street names such as Elverhoy, Copenhagen, Molle, Atterdag and business names such as the Elverhoj Museum, Viking Garden and Pavlov Garden! There is even a bench in downtown Solvang that is called the "Sladerbaenken" or "Gossip Bench" where people can sit down and-----Gossip! I imagine though that all the gossip in this fair town is just friendly gossip.
However, one does not need just to go to the Sladerbaenken to chat! Olsen's Danish Bakery is a favourite of locals who wish to discuss the day's plans or events and have a delicious pastry along
with a coffee! However, I warn you, the decadent pastries and other gastronomic items at this place can become very habit forming and I find myself salivating at the thought of tasting a new undiscovered morsel of their food.
Specialty stores such as the Olive House which sells---Olives, the Solvang Antique Center and Le Studio Ceramic Studio all offer the visitor many ideas for gifts and interest items. There are also many areas to test ones oenophile attributes such as Alisal Cellars, Five Wines Bar Trio Tastings and Honeywood & Old Mission Wine Co.-----all of which offer a special way to educate and please the palate of wine loving visitors.

Holistic Equestrians, Horse Shopping and A Great Meal!
Of course there are other venues in the area around Solvang that attract tourists and visitors from all over the globe. Two such spots were visited by yours truly and family yesterday. Having two teenage girls along on this trip can make being a host quite challenging. I can't imagine why after coming almost 5000 miles from the Greater Toronto Area, the girls would be quite happy at staying in their room and watching television and munching on Nachos. However, the challenge was met yesterday July 30th, when Darlene made plans to visit the Equestrian Pastures of Valley View Farms not far from Solvang.
Equestrian Susan Derr Drake is also known by another title of "Holistic Equestrian Artist". An artist she is and a gentle one at that. You could tell right away that this woman cared deeply not only for the way her horses were physically kept and treated but also for the way they were treated psychologically. My daughter Taryn and her friend Victoria Delsnyder who fancy themselves as accomplished competitive Hunter /Jumper riders were first treated to an educational seminar on the physiology of horses. The next was a lesson in the balance.
"People seem to accentuate the left and ride with the pressure on the left side and then wonder why the horse goes lame!"
The girls came out of there with a better appreciation of not just riding skills but also of the "do's, don'ts and why's" of horsemanship. The horses that they rode were an indication of the quality available here. Taryn rode "Dance With Me" a $50,000 filly and Victoria rode "Lucky Star" a fine stallion. A look at the marvellous horses and lovely pet Afgan dog that she had in conjunction with the spotless stables and stalls gave me a very good feeling about this place and this special woman.
Later on that day, we travelled to Jedlikas in Los Olivos where the girls spent an hour looking over the many horse products. Jedlikas is always one of my and now their favourite haunts and I am sure we'll be back there before we leave for Canada next week.
The Red Barn in Santa Ynez was our last visit for the day where we were treated to a fine meal at this very famous spot where many of film personalities who live locally go for excellent eating. Darlene and I had the "Flat Iron Steak" cooked to perfection along with a glass of Andrew Murray Syrah. The girls both had "Grilled Chicken Salad" which they seemed to enjoy!
Next: A visit to Rancho de la Florecita

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Hadsten House In Solvang: We're Here At Last

Hello Everyone! I am sending you this blog direct from Hadsten House in the grand City of Solvang.
The flight down to San Francisco was actually not what I had been dreading. The five and a half hours went by very quickly and though I felt a bit cramped at times, the Air Canada folk made the trip very enjoyable. Daughter Taryn and her friend Victoria gabbed away while wife Darlene read and slept. For the most part , I tried to sleep the flight away. At San Fran Airport I managed to not get lost and found the greatest Burrito Grand which I ate with lust!
Our trip to Santa Barbara's Goleta Airport was uneventful though I could see that the girls were enjoying the breathtaking view of the hills.
We landed about 2 pm local time on July 28th and quickly rented the vehicle (a Chevy Malibu) which we immediately drove to downtown Santa Barbara where we did some shopping and then were off to Solvang.
The ride from Santa Barbara through the HWY 154 was quite normal for me but Victorian and Taryn were beside themselves seeing how high up we were above the sea level. I could see Vic saying "Oh My God" to herself. I must admit, the view was breathtaking and It never fails to impress me-----from the view of the city high above the 154 to the view of the Santa Innez Valley from the Look Out Point.
About 45 minutes later were registering at Hadsten House with my friend Bill Phelps who is the General Manager of the Resort. There has been a great deal of work done here since I was here last in May 2007. You can tell that Bill is very proud of this spot and treats the whole place as his own. Our rooms are exceptional and very modern. The girls were impressed with the LCD Screen Television and attached DVD. Darlene and I were impressed with the whole thing.
Being so close to the City is a definite advantage as we could take in the sites as well as shop to our hearts content without much difficulty. The folk at the hotel are exceptionally helpful and the restaurant food is A++. Bill is a prize! I have never seen anyone work so hard and enjoying his job so much.

Solvang-----A Little Piece of Denmark In California!

Back in 1911 some Danish Settlers decided to build in the Santa Ynez Valley . One of the first buildings was actually a restaurant called Bit O' Denmark. Many of the street names reflect this Danish heritage and of course much of the food can be traced back. Even the buildings are built according to Danish Architecture.
There are many sites to visit both historical and gastronomic and I hope to be filling you in on them as the days go by!
Solvang is located of course in the Santa Ynez Valley amidst other places such as Los Olivos, Ballard, Buellton and Santa Ynez itself. Each has its own charm to offer and specialties. One must of course take in the wineries in the area which was made quite famous in the movie Sideways.
Solvang seems quite central to the area and its many celebrations (such as Fiesta which will be starting shortly today July 30th until August 3rd).

Monty Roberts Rides
Monty Roberts' Flag is Up Farms is but a short distance from the hotel. When we drove in for a visit he was busy as usual trying to diagnose a problem horses condition as well as dealing with his multi horse operation. Guilia Gorth, his assistant was there to work with us. Taryn was very happy to learn that she was in his "Join Up" Magazine and Victoria seemed quite taken by the whole atmosphere of the place. It is indeed beautiful and very well run. Monty's nick name "Horse Whisperer" is indeed a apt name since he was talking about problems that horses have as though the horses themselves were verbally talking to him. Our visit wasn't a long one but we look forward to visiting again when he does a clinic on Monday!

There are many places and things to see: I will keep you posted as time goes by!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Fitting End To a Crazy Week

I mentioned in my last posting that this week, aside from a few excellent happening, has been rather nuts! I left you with my last entry saying that I was getting up at 4 AM to get my daughter to her competition at Palgrave just a few minutes north of Bolton.
Things went pretty much the way I expected. A mad rush to collect all riding gear as well as making breakfast for my daughter while at the same time trying to organize my own thoughts at that horrid time in the morning.
We basically got off without a hitch and arrived at the Rossland Stables where coach Cynthia Frise gives Taryn her lesson. Cynthia is a great no nonsense coach who has a soft touch for animals of all kinds whether they be the tiniest of kittens or the largest of horses. Taryn respects her dearly and Cynthia can do no wrong. Taryn has it quite "on the button" in this case as Cynthia is a tremendous coach and a great role model for not only Taryn but all the other young girls in her care.
I'm getting a bit off topic here but that needed saying! We arrived at the stable and within a short time we were off with the group----horses and all----to The Equestrian Centre in Palgrave.
This Centre is massive with numerous riding rings as well as other facilities for Jumping, Hunter Jumper and other events concerning the equine trade.
Taryn got through her main "over the fences" well and placed 8th out of 35 competitors in the second round. She also placed within the top ten of the group in a riding skill event called the "Hack". Considering this was her first "A" level competition (think Royal Winter Fair) she did great! Many do not reach this level of competing and many who do, do not "Pin" or receive an award. So she did well and experience should get her the advancement she wants.
Things went well until about twenty minutes or so after when the clouds started to roll in just before the "Hack" event was to take place. I walked over to the "ring" and found my wife, Darlene, talking away. It began to "spit" rain. The question was would thunder sweep into the picture? It did! Would lightning? It flashed! Would the weather get worse?
In one fell swoop, it rained so hard that even though we were under a tent, the rain and subsequent hail was pushed into the tent sideways and it seemed from all sides! Darlene, the others and I were soaked but the weather did not relent. We endured this vicious storm for a full ten or fifteen minutes during which time the ground underneath us turned into a river and the tent wanted to fly away. The hail was so cold, pounding at my back, that my back started to spasm. When it ended, I took my soaked body and changed my shirt but my pants had to stay on since I did not have any other available. Darlene was not as badly soaked as me so she just contended with a bit of moisture along her legs. It was the worst storm that I have seen short of a hurricane that came my way several years ago.
After the "Hack" Darlene and I left as we had a number of things to arrange prior to our trip to California. I had to collect my dry cleaning, finish some clean ups around the house and also and most important, attend my daughter Marisa's 30th Birthday Party.
On arrival, Taryn left me a message that she would not be in until at least 9 PM from Palgrave. I was not amused. I then left to collect my cleaning. The place was closed! I was not happy. I came home to check my other work and I had found much of it in disarray. I was pissed!
This is not how I saw my week prior to leaving on a 10 day working vacation unfold.
Tomorrow will be full of rush packing, cleaning and God knows what else. And guess what? On Monday we don't have to be up at 4 AM.-----not at all! We need to be up at 3 AM!
So enough belly aching! To leave you with a positive note, here are the best things that happened this week.
Best Meal Of The Week!
No contest here, it was the steak dinner that I had at Fazio's. I still say that people should take advantage of his "Canada Day" specials!

Best Wine Of The Week!
Another no contest, the star was definitely the Parker Station Syrah that I shared with Darlene. It is tops in my best buy category since it oozes concentration, delicious fruit and tremendous flavour.

Best Sandwich/Breakfast of the Week!
By far, it was the Bacon, Egg with Cheese served on a huge crusty bun at the Palgrave Equestrian Centre. My mouth waters when I think of it!

Best Horse Of The Week!
Of course, it has to be Taryn's mount "State Of Attraction"----at least it was her name until she renamed her "Worth the Wait"! Why, I don't know! But-------!!!! By any other name, a rose smells as sweet and this horse is special.
Now to be fair, I saw some magnificent performances from the event champion, "Lexington" owned by Cassidy Holt and event reserve Champ, "Sebastian" owned by Vicky Franker. They are sister competitors and stable mates at Rossland Stables and show the quality of coach Cynthia is.

Coach of the Week!
Cynthia Frise, celebrated her birthday this week as well as 20 years at the Rossland Stables. All I can say is------our gain!!!

Competitor of the Week!
Taryn Byers! Not only does she spend much of her time at the stables doing jobs etc. but she is up at 4 AM----hate that time-----when she has to! She was up much of last week and weekend and continued on to this week!

Friend of the Week!
Victoria Delsnyder! Taryn picks her friends very carefully and Victoria is always at her side helping! While they sometimes act silly and why shouldn't they since they have a right to at times, they accomplish much and Victoria is truly a remarkable girl.

Complainer of the Week!
I make "House" look like a saint! I complain continually and expect high standards from all around me! I expect the same high standards from my self! In other words. I am a truly, anal, pain in the ass! But------someone has to be one!

I will try to keep up my blog while I'm in Sunny California! If not, see yah soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Week Before California

I remember the old series "Lost in Space" whenever the antagonist, Dr. Smith, had an overwhelming moment or two or three, he would say: "Oh! The Pain! The Pain!" That's the way I felt these last few days-----preparing (or trying to prepare) for my vacation/assignment for Solvang, California.
They started off well with a fine lunch with my old friend Tino Fazio and his lovely daughter. I shared a bottle of Espirtu de Chile----a nice Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.95) though I had to survive the teasing about bringing a "screw cap" to have with his fine food (I had a great steak)! However, it was only teasing since Tino was well aware of the trend to using "screw caps" on even the finest wines. While the jury is still out on the long term advantage/disadvantage of using these caps, the short term means no more "corked" wines and no other difference. Tino and I enjoyed the wine and food and made plans to do this again. I'll surprise him with one of my older wines next time.
I left Fazio's with a mind full of things that I had to do from cleaning up around the house and getting the garden maintained prior to leaving for ten days to making sure the details regarding the trip were all handled.
Working vacations (if you call them that) can be a veritable nightmare to arrange-----especially if your family and a friend are going with you. However, couple that with a daughter, Taryn, who's so involved with her competitive riding (Hunter/Jumper) that she schedules her attendance of about 7 competitions all over Hell's Half Acre----the last one being one day before our departure.
The time that she had to attend these competitions would be well received by an insomniac but to the few who enjoy a night's rest is sheer terror. Over the last week I heard the familiar phrase, "Dad, make sure I'm up at Four!!" That is Four in the MORNING folks!!!
The last few days have been sleep deprivation city and then I had the massive fun of cutting lawns, trimming the hedge, weeding the garden, clipping the grapevines, cleaning the house, preparing my articles, meeting new clients, transporting Taryn to her other "Barn Chores", tasting new wine products and making notes, answering my emails, keeping a checklist regarding the trip, confirming meetings both here and abroad and somewhere get some sleep (I'm sure Ive forgotten several other items).
When it's all over, I am very sure that I will feel that it was all worth it but at the moment (I see it is 12:15 am now) I don't think I'm making any headway since I have to wake up Taryn at----Yep! You guessed it------4 AM!
I am sure, that once I get to Solvang, a lovely Californian community started over 100 years ago by Danes, I will be very happy and relaxed----if but for one thing--------in order to catch the flight I need to wake up at----------4 AM!!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BMO Nesbitt Burns--The Hayes Group Have Fine Event Serving Jackson Triggs At Elliott House

Yesterday was quite the eventful day as Nesbitt Burns----The Hayes Group entertained their clientele at the renowned Elliott House located at 5732 Kennedy Road in Mississauga. Over 130 people populated the three rooms of this historic house/restaurant and were treated to a five course dinner matched with the wines of Jackson-Triggs. The menu, created by Chef Terry and wine match (selected by yours truly) was as follows:

The Mini Crab Cake with a Spiced Aioli.
Wine Match: Jackson Triggs Cuvee Closed Sparkling Wine

Ist Course:
Boston Lettuce Asian Pear & Crumbled Stilton Salad, with Honey Tarragon Vinaigrette
Wine Match: Jackson Triggs Proprietor's Reserve Riesling.

2nd Course:
Arctic Char with Mango Papaya Salsa
Wine Match: Jackson Triggs Proprietor's Grand Reserve Chardonnay

Intermezzo – Sorbet

Main Course:
Beef Tenderloin Medallion with Double Smoked Bacon & Maple Jus
Wine Match: Jackson Triggs Proprietor's Grand Reserve Meritage

Halved Poached Pear with Milk Chocolate Coffee Butter Cream
Wine Match: Jackson Triggs Late Harvest Vidal

The wines were magnificent in their matches and the accolades from those attending were very flattering to the wines. I have always maintained that if Canadians had a chance to enjoy fine dining with wine matches from truly premium quality Canadian wines, they would be astounded by the quality. Tonight some of Toronto's best investors were entertained by a truly great investment company at a magnificent restaurant and the result was sheer delight.
General Manager Mike Cherry and owner David Buchanan went out of their way to ensure a great evening which I had the privilege of hosting.
Owner John Hayes of Nesbitt Burns---The Hayes Group was on hand to welcome all guests and coordinator Shirley Hall made sure that everything ran well.
In addition to the wines and fine menu, the guests were each treated to a book "Vino Veritus" which was written by Wine, Food and Travel Writer, Alex Eberspaecher. The very entertaining book was based on his travels and exploits around the world. You can contact me should you wish to purchase a copy from Alex. Each guest was also given a synopsis of the event by yours truly.
Jackson Triggs is proof that Ontario wine can stand up against any in the world. Last night's event proved it!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vincor Does It Again: Finale!! (Part Three Of A Three Part Series, Scroll Down for Parts 1&2)

Inniskillin: Dedication!
There are those who say that life is a competition and that competitors can't be friends. It that is the case, someone forgot to tell the winery owners. They turned out in masses to give their best wishes to the winery that started it all. To empower the two men who began with a dream and turned that dream not only to their reality but to the reality of those vast numbers who came after throughout Canada. Henry of Pelham, Creekside, Konzellmann Winery, Southbrook's Redelmeir Family were all their urging team Inniskillin on! Jean Charles Boisset of Boisset, La Familie des Grande Vins, dashing and charming as ever, was there to give his wishes.
The brass was their from the Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Mr. Fonseca to Minister of Transport (formerly of Tourism and a great wine lover) the Honourable Jim Bradley to the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General (also Bruce Nicholson's brother) and Canadian Consul General for the U.S.A. Stephen Breton!
Mr. Jay Wright, President and CEO of Vincor Canada (a Constellation company) was there alongside Debi Pratt, Inniskillins Public Relations Manager to host the event.
I would have given anything to feel the nostalgia yet surge of pride that Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser felt that day. To feel it would have meant that I had achieved it. To achieve it, one had to start it. To start it one had to think of it and have the courage----against all odds----to go ahead and do it Fiction would seem more of a reality.
It was good to see this collaborative effort come to such conclusion. After all the speeches and best wishes, Inniskillin was there in many ways a monument to what dreams can do and what people can do to dreams. Inniskillin will always be there and though Ziraldo and Kaiser may not be there; their spirits will live on as will all those who walk in their paths. Ziraldo once said in an interview: "No matter where I go and how far I am, my heart is always at Inniskillin!"
The drive from Inniskillin back to Toronto was a long one and I still had the Go Train to catch back to Whitby. It was a full day and also one that was quite tiring. I reflected, about the achievements made since that special day in 1975. I reflected on how now wineries stretch from 'sea to sea'. There are well over 300 wineries in Canada now with many more in the making. Canada stands at the top of the wine map of the world. Much has to do with the dedication of those like Ziraldo and Kaiser and it continues through companies such as Vincor.Vincor, through its efforts to further Cool Climate Technology and 'Grow Our Own' scholarship programs with Brock U and Niagara College as well as its help to fledgling wineries such as Nk'Mip in B.C., has maintained a standard that is recognized throughout the world. It has proven to all those doubters that great wine can not only be made but that it can excel. It can strive to reach greatness! As the Greek writer,Longinus once stated: "It can be sublime!"

Vincor Does It Again: Part 2

Inniskillin: Where It All Started
In 1975, two unknown persons---one an agriculturist and the other a chemist joined together to begin one of the greatest success stories ever in Canadian history. Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser founded the first of was to be dubbed "Boutique Wineries"! Inniskillin was the first licenced winery licenced in over 40 years. There have been a a number of milestones involving Inniskillin that are etched in Canadian history!
Apart from the actual founding in 1975 there were others such as: the planting of Inniskillin's first vinifera vineyard in 1974; the move to Brae Burn in 1978; the purchasing of the Montegue Vineyard in 1982; the creation of Inniskillin Icewine in 1984; the purchase of Inniskillin Napa in 1989; winnin of the Gran Prix d'Honneur by the 1989 Icewine at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in 1991; the teaming up with Burgundy producer, Jaffelin in 1993; the founding of Inniskillin Okanagan in 1994; the opening up of Inniskillin Hall at Brock University in 1999; Karl Kaiser produces Inniskillin's first Sparkling Icewine in 2000; Inniskillin's sponsoring of the Olympics and creation of an Icewine Vineyard that will harvested for the making of Icewine in 2010 in time for the Olympics; the leaving of Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo in 2006 and the coming of Bruce Nicholson as Chief Winemaker and the renovations of Inniskillins Brae Burn, the making of the Piazza and the "Founder's Hall" connection to Brae Burn.
The group arrived at Inniskillin in time to try some of the marvellous 2007 Riesling Icewine as well as 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine with various delicious hors d'oeouvres as well as matching some of Inniskillin's fine Riesling and Pinot Grigio with Prosciutto.
Finally after a tour of the newly renovated Brae Burn which still maintained its charm and historic look despite the addition of a very modern glass area and a view of the Inniskillin wine cellars, came the dedication of the Piazza, Founder's Hall and what I call Inniskillin's Milestone Lane which has "in ground" circular plaques each depicting an Inniskillin Milestone for all to see.
It was touching to see Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo there, the ones who started it all.
To greet their friends and mentors were many of those who operate vineyards now. Herbert Konzellmann, Peter and Laura (McCain) Jensen of Creekside, and Paul Speck of Henry of Pelham.

Vincor Does It Again-----and with style!

Style can be described in many ways! Style can be the way one dresses---or wishes to dress! Style can be the way a person or group acts with themselves and others! Style can be the grace in which one moves or the way he/she speaks! Style can be the measure of comfort, accommodation or taste! When it comes to Vincor it usually means all of the above and more!
On July 7th, I was one of several invitees (many, such as Tony Aspler, from the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada) that met by Vincor's Elsa McDonald at the Royal York in Toronto and transported by Limo
(seating capacity 13) to Niagara's Jackson Triggs Winery and Inniskillin Winery to celebrate two special occasions: one was to welcome what is by far and without question the greatest harvest year on record----2007. The other was to officially open the new Inniskillin renovation of the Brae Barn and the unveiling of the new Piazza (Italian for Meeting Place or Square) plus a very special surprise.
First things first!

Jackson Triggs
The limo dropped us off at the scenic entrance of Jackson-Triggs Winery where we were welcomed by Vincor's National Hospitality Director, Del Rollo and Hospitality Administrator of Jackson Triggs, Jennifer Cowan. We were then treated to a phenomenal tasting of wines which I found truly amazing and in many ways atypical of Ontario. I say atypical because I was used to the very good but lean reds and fresh whites. What I smelled and tasted was a power and concentration that I have not seen----ever! Keep in mind that 2007 was an almost if not absolutely a perfect harvest year! Director of Vineyard Operations, Australian Frank Hellwig described it as follows!
"The budding was normal with rain in May and then sparse rain about 1/2 as much as normal from June to August. We had very warm days and cool nights leading to very high ripeness levels of the grapes----all having very high BRIX levels (high 20's). This was a fun vintage ---we were accused of having too much fun. The vintage was truly rewarding producing quality better than anything I've seen in Australia or Canada! "
The white wines tasted all reflected the high levels that Frank Hellwig mentioned! The Delaine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc had herbal grass, vanilla, Italian mint and asparagus on the nose with a round, soft elegance on the palate with tangerine, vanilla spice and a crisp, clean finish.
The Delaine Vineyard Gewurztraminer was a wealth of Lychee, Honey spice, tropical fruit and mandarin orange in both the nose and palate.
The Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Barrel Aged Pinot Gris had wonderful vanilla spice with apple, pear and pineapple flavours with some mild citrus on a clean refreshing finish.
The Unfiltered Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Three Vineyard Chardonnay was an elegant mixture of butter, vanilla, butterscotch and tropical spice.
The red wines that followed showed the remarkable effects of the 2007 vintage.
The Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Montague Pinot Noir was one of the best Pinot's that I've ever tasted with a ripe concentration that complemented the character of the wine with cherry, strawberry on the nose and red fruit on the nose and a velvety, round mouthfeel.
The Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Merlot was what all Merlot should taste like!Smoke on the nose with Plum, Black Cherry/Blackberry flavours with Anise intermingled. A touch of pepper and very ripe tannins did the trick. The finish was as long as my arm!
The Delaine Vineyard Syrah had loads of black and red fruit such as plums, blackberries, cherries and white pepper with an intermingling wood spice.
The Jackson Triggs Cabernet Franc made a believer of those who maligned the grape variety! Great Concentration of plum, cassis, chocolate and coffee with a huge mouth roundness that warrants a great wine!
When I met winemakers Marco Piccoli of Jackson Triggs last year I knew that he was going to produce great wines and my prediction came through. I knew of Inniskillin's Bruce Nicholson from his reputation as a first class winemaker. He did not leave me wanting. Congratulations to both winemakers. There is an old saying: "You can't make great wines from bad grapes but you can make bad wines out of good grapes!" These two winemakers make great wines out of anything!
Following the tasting we had a marvellous meal in the wine cellar with some of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintage Jackson Triggs wines. The meal was stupendous and showed further that wine and food were made for each other.
We were then off to Inniskillin for more wine and a dedication.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Canyon Creek's A Keeper

Canyon Creek Chophouse, Scarborough Town Centre
Yesterday (July 4th) evening Darlene, daughter Taryn and I went out with the Job (As in "Book of") family on a well earned and very anticipated night out. Taryn rides with the Job's daughter Sabrina so this was an occasion where the young ones (15 and 13 years) could entertain themselves while the adults muddled around in their own conversation. The evening went great since two very different discussions went on at the same table but everyone was happy.
The choice of venue was Canyon Creek Chophouse Restaurant located at the Scarborough Town Centre just off Progress Avenue.
Canyon Creek is part of SIR Corporation which has such establishments under its umbrella as Alice Fazooli's, Far Niente, Jack Astor's and Petit Four. This was my first time at Canyon Creek.
The establishment imparted a relaxed atmosphere which was perpetuated by the soft spoken but obviously competent host. We were seated and within seconds our waiter, Len, introduced himself. Shortly after our company arrived and Len proceeded to go through the menu and wine list making some good wine matching choices. The special of the evening was a three course meal with either salmon, fillet Mignon or pasta (penne) as the main entree. While the girls preferred to take on the special which at $25. was a bargain, the guys opted for the New York steak with mushrooms. I ordered a glass of La Palma Merlot a nice, round Chilean wine that would certainly meet the standards of the meat. The initial glass was served a bit too warm (most believe that room temperature for a red should be at today's standards but in actuality, the room temperature reflects that of the unheated homes of days gone by which is quite a bit cooler). After I pointed that out, Len restored my complete confidence by stating that he put a bottle of the La Palma on ice just in case! He was correct, I ordered that bottle. Amazing what a good waiter can do!
My steak was done to perfection and was tasty to the last ounce of protein. The wine had terrific plum, blackberry and raspberry flavours with a background of vanilla wood melded quite well with the medium rare tantalizing grilled flavour of the New Yorker. It was an enjoyable experience for both husbands. I believe that the others in the party also were impressed.
The one thing that I absolutely hate at some restaurants is the feeling that one has to eat and run when the meal is done. You did not get any such feeling at the Canyon Creek Chophouse. Actually it was the opposite. I could see that the evening was progressing and that many of the guests had left. The atmosphere though encouraged discussion and enjoyment but at no time did anyone give an impression that we had overstayed our welcome. We finally obtained the bill which came to about $300. for 6 persons. Very reasonable and excellent quality. I personally left feeling exceptionally satisfied and intend to go back!
Highly recommended. 430 Progress Avenue, Scarborough