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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31st: Quebec: A Wine Region That Encompasses History, Geography, Cuisine and Culture

Getting Started
The day finally came! Soon Roy and I would board a plane heading for the wine areas of Quebec. I had long wanted to write and film Quebec, referred in the history books as Lower Canada. Quebec is probably the first area in Canada where any attempt to grow grapevines was made by missionaries in the 17th Century. Around the same time, Samuel de Champlain attempted planting vinifera species but found that the grapes were neither resistant to the diseases and/or extreme temperatures and climate that affected them. One thing, the grapevines did live long enough to have an impact on the indigenous grape varieties (vitis ripara) that were living there already. These in fact cross bred with the viniferas to produce some mildly different species.
It was Jacques Cartier in the 16th Century who first eyed the multitude of grapes growing on an island in the St. Lawrence River which he named L'Ile de Bacchus for the Roman god of wine and inebriation. He later changed the name to L'Ile d'Orleans after the Duke of Orleans.
The vitis riparia were small, sharp and not easy to work with but they produce some wine for various uses as jams and even Sacramental wine for communion celebrations. The history of wine in Quebec is the story of a struggle against odds for wine to become an accepted product in Canada. However with the increase in technology as well as new wine making techniques began to produce palatable and food friendly wines out of hybrid vines.
In the 1980's viticulture took an upswing in Quebec and in 1987 the Association des Vignerons du Quebec was formed. A quality assurance approach was created in the form of the Vin du Quebec Certification, which among other things had a guarantee of origin and had the task of obtaining a recognizable specificity for its wines.
In Quebec
We were registered at the Hotel Vieux Quebec, a 45 room hotel that is located within the 18th century walls of the old city. Here one could easily believe that this was old Europe at its best with winding cobblestone streets, old buildings, cafes full of people, top restaurants, shops and bakeries. The area is etched in history and culture. Of course the cuisine was also on the menu so to speak. A short distance away was the Chateau Frontenac and City Hall. Staying at the hotel that was voted "best located hotel in Quebec City" had its advantages. Staying at the location of a World Heritage Site was amazing.
Sharon Frenette
Once settled we were met by stunningly lovely Sharon Frenette. Our guide from Quebec City Tourism was immediately likable and soon we were off to the L'Ile D'Orleans for our first visit to a winery. The ride was full of picturesque scenery with a continuous backdrop of the majestic St. Lawrence River. We came to a suspension bridge known as "Le Pont De L'Ile" which was constructed in 1935. Up until then it was a ferry that provided access to the Isle.
Once across, I could see that this was going to be one interesting venture. From a distance I could see Montmorency Falls----a very impressive 275 foot high waterfall some 98 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Not far from it was the Voile de la Mariee Falls which was the site of a sad happening, according to legend, of a bride that was left standing at the alter by her soldier husband to be. Wanting to find out what happened to him she searched the area only to find his dead body due to a military altercation. In anguish, she jumped off the falls to her death. It is said that on a clear moonlit night, those pure in heart can see the ghost of the bride to be standing at the top of this waterfalls.
About L'Ile D'Orleans
This scenic isle is a hub of agricultural treasures. Here new technology combines with old world knowledge to produces some of the finest fruits, berries, plants, vines anywhere. Combined with a natural beauty the is unsurpassed, a historic accent that enlivens the imagination and a cuisine that is to die for, this area seems to offer both locals and visitors much to appreciate. Sharon had a vast knowledge of the area and what impressed me the most was that she also knew and could combine the present with the past to bring about a unique historical perspective.
Vignoble Ste Petronille
Our first visit was to Vignoble Ste Petronille. The area was settled as a mission by the Jesuits in the 1650's and was used by General Wolfe as a headquarters. In 1870 the parish was formed and named after Saint Petronilla who was a Roman martyr. This village has many fine old cottages-------some founded by the British after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
Here we visited with Nathalie Lane who owns the winery along with Louis Denault. Having the winery for almost 21 years, they have produced some exceptional wines. Nathalie mentioned that the climate was not good for certain grapes to grow. So the concentration was on grapes that could mature within the time frame of a shorter growing period. What they have done is excellent and tasting their wines, it seems that they have found their niche.
We tasted a white wine called "Viole de la Mariee" which had a pleasant and refreshing taste. The Vidal and Vandal-Cliche grapes which are a cross of a cross. (Vandal 63 which is a Prince of Wales and riparia cross and Vandal 163 which is an Aurore and Chancellor cross). The Vandal-Clicher are hardy vines can resist temperatures of -35 Centigrade and are earlier maturing grape variety. The wine was citrus/floral in nose and flavour with a refreshing acidity.
"Reserve du bout de l'ile" had the just Vandal-Cliche. Barrel aging gave the wine a sweeter taste from the oak and more complexity with essence of vanilla and toast in the flavours. "Cuvee Ste Petronille" was a red wine made from St-Croix, Sabrevois and Baco Noir. The wine which I thought could use more aging was indicative of a good food wine and one that aging could assist. It showed good sugar and acidity that was fresh and lively. "Vandal--Vin de Glace" showed immediate appeal with peach, apricot and sweet fruit flavours. Picked under perfect conditions with grapes that were ideal for the area, this will be a shining achievement for this vineyard.
I also enjoyed "Insula" an aperitif Mistelle made from grape juice fortified with brandy.
While the vineyard does not have the length of season that may be available in other wine regions, I think that they have done great work with what they have and from what I could see of the scenery, healthy vines, visitors and the boutique---they have a great deal.
Down Through L'Ile D' Orleans
We were then taken down through the island and looked at the sites of the isle. Many of the cottages that were definitely British by design and houses with bright red and pastel roofs that were actually quite pretty. I recall thinking that many reminded me of Laura Berry paintings with their bright colours and style. The houses and roofs were patterned after the houses found in France and have kept up the architectural image.
The history of the island jumped out almost everywhere we went for example in the Village of Saint-Laurent, a group of New England Rangers under General Wolfe came upon the Church of Saint-Laurent to find a note made out to the "The Worthy Officers of the British Army" by the Parish Priest asking them to protect his church and home. It seems that they were so moved by this note that they honoured the note.
We passed by many types of farms some that produced strawberries and others lavender and still others asparagus, raspberries, apples, pears and currants. The island was a wealth of agriculture.
I was thoroughly impressed with the diversity of products on this scenic place.
Back To Hotel Vieux Quebec and Dinner At Entrecote Saint-Jean.
Sharon took us back to the hotel and we prepared for a meeting with Mr. Richard Seguin of Quebec City Tourism. We met him in the lobby of the hotel at 7 PM and proceeded to walk up the street of rue Saint-Jean until we came to the restaurant Entrecote Saint-Jean. The restaurant reminded me of a Parisian Cafe/Bistro and was obviously very good since it was quite full of happy guests----on a Wednesday.
Richard was a handsome, quite slim man with a very mild mannered and pleasant disposition. He seemed to be one who was as the French would say---full of "Joie-Vivre" or "Joy of Life". He said that he was not a native Quebec City dweller but came for one week and ended up staying for over 27 years. We discussed our itinerary and what we had planned to do regarding the filming of the area and then ordered a delicious meal of "Cream of Celery Soup, Steak and Fries" along with a bottle of -----what else?-----Quebec Wine. We picked "L'Orpailleur Rouge" a wine from the Eastern Townships that went very well with the food.
I liked Richard and enjoyed his company. I was sorry to see the evening end. However, all good things------! The night ended and back we went to the hotel. It was the only time that we were to spend with Richard which was unfortunate since he was a most friendly and kind person.
The rest of the night was spent planning for the next day which I was sure, was going to be a very busy day.
End of First Day

August 16: Two In A Vineyard Goes To Niagara With Wine Writers Circle Of Canada

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 5th Continued: An Interview With Donald Ziraldo

On Taking Chances
I have always had a deep respect for risk takers---especially those who "bit the bullet" and forged ahead when all common sense and "expert advice" suggested otherwise. I know only too well the sleepless nights, the sudden awakenings at 4 am, covered in a cold sweat with that nagging sensation of forbidding doom and the question, "God! What have I gotten myself into?" and that "nowhere to run and/or hide" feeling in the deep gut of the stomach! It happens to all those who go out on a limb----truly where no one normally dares go-----and just hopes that there is enough strength to go on!!!! It is a lonely feeling because the only person experiencing it is the one involved. Expectations are both very high and yet at the same time full of pitfalls. The well wishers are few and those that would take pleasure of saying "I told you so!", many.
Risk takers are a rare breed. They live on the edge yet flourish in the face of adversity. Many fall behind, discouraged and defeated. Others however, reach down and pull up that needed inner fortitude and belief in one's self thus securing success. Donald Ziraldo is one such person. This is why I am dedicating this blog to him.
The Beginnings
No one can provide a formula as to what makes one person great and/or outstanding and what doesn't. In many ways it comes from the blunt decision "to go for it" and "let the chips fall as they may". I don't think for one minute that when Ziraldo was a boy that he said to himself---"Oh, I'm going to make award winning wine some day!" Not so!!!!
Inspiration and ideas come from a number of sources and then funnel down through a form of spout and emerge in a flow of ideas that seem to gel into one, two or even three visionary items.
Donald Ziraldo's vision started in the area of Friuli before he was born.
His father emigrated to Canada from his native Friuli when he was 16 and worked in the Northern Ontario goldmines. He then purchased some land in Niagara and became a fruit farmer. He worked hard, got married and raised a family.
Moving Forward
Some time later, his son, Donald, decided to attend the University of Guelph from which he got a degree in Agronomy in 1971. According to one source, it was after he graduated that he made up his mind to become involved with wine making. The story goes that he was given a gold ring by his mother and it had an etching of grapes on it. He took this to be a sign and the rest is history.
From his contacts in Europe he theorized that specific vinifera vines would do well in the Niagara area. He purchased land in Niagara after graduation and set out planting vines that he obtained from Italy.
The "Destiny" Partnership
A couple of years later he met Karl Kaiser, a chemist with a wine background. Karl came to buy some "European" grapevines from Donald's nursery and struck up a friendship. They became partners and applied for the a winery licence------the first in some 33 years. That was in 1974 and, after many road blocks and advice from detractors, the license came in 1975. Instrumental in getting the license (and suggesting the name) was General George Kitching who was the Chairperson of the LCBO at the time. Inniskillin was born.
A Historic Name
The name was derived from the Inniskilling Fusiliers, an Irish Regiment that fought during the War of 1812-14. fo A grant of Crown Land was given to a certain Colonel Cooper who aptly named it Inniskillin Farm after the Regiment. The name seemed very apropos so the name stuck. The initial winery was no more than a shed which ironically "shed" a light onto a whole new industry.
Inniskillin-----The Winery
Inniskillin became much in demand and in 1978 the winery moved the the present location of the Brae Burn Vineyard location that came complete with an old barn reputed to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. At one point Inniskillin made headlines on a proposed sale of 600 cases of Inniskillin Marechal Foch to Chauvenet, a French negotiant. Though the sale did not take place because of European guideline requirements, the fact that a French wine company was willing to buy the wines was huge. In addition, because of the consequential block by the European Market of the wines was somewhat of a challenge. The requirement for an appellation to appear on the label in order to enter the "EU" or European Union led Donald to found the Vintners' Quality Alliance (VQA).
Forging Ahead Towards Destiny
The 1980's were a whiz of activity with vineyard purchases in 1982 (Montegue); a successful Icewine harvest in 1984 (the 1983 was eaten by birds) and the founding of Inniskillin Napa in 1989. However, the best and most powerful accolade was to come in 1991.
Up until that time in 1991, the "naysayers" and detractors kept spouting their negatives about Canadian wines in general. When it came to Inniskillin, they basically played down all the efforts as faddish and that they were doomed to failure. At VinExpo in Bordeaux France---the hub of winedom as we then knew it and with the most scrutinizing and self appreciating judges in the World------Inniskillin 1989 Vidal Icewine was chosen as the best of the show winning the Grand Prix d'Honneur. Out of over 4,000 exhibitors, it was the voted best. This neither happened in Canada nor the United States but in what some would call "hostile" territory where "outside wines from the New World were judged harshly.
Inniskillin, Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, in fact Canada and Ontario were now thrust into the limelight that so many swore would never be achieved by a Canadian wine and wine company.
Continued Growth
Under the guidance of Ziraldo and Kaiser, Inniskillin went on to grow further with Inniskillin Okanagan in 1994 and to win many other awards such as the "Chardonnay du Monde" contest in Burgundy. Many alliances were formed between Inniskillin and companies around the globe such as a joint venture between Jaffelin, Burgundy (purchased by Boisset Famille des Grands Vins) and Inniskillin which eventually led to the purchase of land in Jordan and the creation of Le Clos Jordanne. New products such as a Sparkling Icewine and Donald's book "Anatomy of a Winery" in 2000 celebrated the Millenium. I also remember quite well when Donald Ziraldo introduced the idea of planting special Riesling vines in 2004 with plans to harvest them in 2010 just in time for the Olympics in Vancouver. Insight and foresight with a good hold on hindsight were always part of Ziraldo's itinerary. However as the phrase, "All good things must come to an end!" says, both Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo decided it was time to move on. Kaiser retired and remained on a consultative basis and Donald Ziraldo became involved as an ambassador for the Canadian Wine Industry and a leader in the research for Canadian Wine. In addition, in 2005 he authored a book "Icewine: Extreme Winemaking" to tell the story of Icewine. He also "gave back" by co-chairing the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University. This continued with his chairing of the Niagara Culinery Insitute. This made sure that the next generation of winemakers, chefs and viticulturists were being trained in Niagara.
Moving On To Future Exploits
Standing still was not in Donald Ziraldo's blood however.
I'm going to add these couple of lines for progression. Donald could give lessons to the "Energizer Bunny"! His newest project started with his appraisal of a Portuguese winery in the Douro Region of Portugal for a friend of his. This "favour" ended up with him being on its Board of Directors. He will be going back to Portugal to oversee the transition of the classified, 37 acre property, which produces Oporto and Douro wines----soon to start the harvest.The winery comes complete with a 12th Century Cisterian Monastery called Sao Pedro dos Aquias, a winery, Quinta do Convento and cellar. Mr. Ziraldo just keeps on going and going!!!!
Many Awards
For his extraordinary contributions to Canadian Wine he was given Canada's highest honours by being awarded "The Order of Canada". This was in 1998. In 1993 he was awarded the Order of Ontario and in 2002 received the "Queen's Golden Jubilee Award"! The National Post voted him "One Of The Top CEO's Of The Century" in 1999. The awards have been many and could have easily filled this blog. He recently took over as Chairman of the Vineland Research Station and that was exactly where I contacted him while Sandie, Roy and me were at Daniel Lenko's and made arrangements for us to visit him where it all started. We had come full circle and in some ways so had Mr. Ziraldo!
Visit With Donald Ziraldo, August 5, 2011
In an interview I did with him back in 2000 We had talked about Inniskillin and its place in the whole scheme of things. Being a man of few words, he said, in soft spoken voice, "No matter where I plan to go or whatever country I visit, my heart will always be at Inniskillin."
We met him at the place where this love affair began almost 40 years ago!!
We drove North down the ultra scenic Niagara Parkway to Side Road 58 and made a left turn down a narrow road that went between two houses. For all intent and purpose it could have easily been a driveway.
The road opened up to a mass of vineyards to the right of us (North) and meandered through a number of vineyards, orchards and crop fields before heading to what seemed to be a highway of sorts. Realizing that we had come too far, we backtracked to the entrance and this time veered to the South past what seemed to be a Greenhouse/Horticultural business. To the left just a few yards past the greenhouse was a young vineyard with a large white house on the side and a road leading up to it. The lone figure of a man wearing a white wide brimmed hat and dressed in a sky blue shirt seemed to be waiting for us. It was Donald Ziraldo.
He welcomed us with smiles and open arms. Sandie and Roy were immediately "taken" by his charm and genuineness. We took a number of still pictures and then were led what appeared to be a cement foundation not far from the house and young vineyard. Pointing to the large square piece of cement that we were standing on he said, "This is the site of the fruit packing shed that was the original Inniskillin winery in 1973."
When he mention that the whole demeanor of the interview seemed to change. I couldn't help but notice this change within me and making a mental note that the human being are indeed a complicated creature. We attach so much significance to history and relics----being on the spot.
I felt the same way when I visited Umbria and saw Assisi---home of St. Francis. I felt that way when I visited Fess Parker in Los Olivos. Standing amidst the wide expanse of the Little Big Horn had the same feeling as did seeing "The Spirit Of St. Louis" at the Smithsonian. Now it was Inniskillin's turn. In a way it was a place of reverence. This patch of cement amidst a vineyard and a big white house had a sense of reverence about it. And I was there to contemplate!
I picked up what seemed to be a rusty iron flower pot hanger that was amongst the debris strewn on the ground. It had significance also.
"Can I have this? I asked" Donald Ziraldo gave his approval saying, "We have picked up many artifacts and mementos." I felt lucky I had a piece of the original Inniskillin in my hands. Lucky indeed!
Now it was time to "shoot" a formal interview for "Two In A Vineyard". Sandie and Donald Ziraldo sat on the steps leading to the large white house in the background. The house itself proved to be an interesting point itself.
"The house was on the property when I bought it in 1971 upon graduation from the University of Guelph. Rumour had it that General Brock's girlfriend stayed there....!" If only the walls could talk!
The two went on to talk about the beginnings at Inniskillin and then talk shifted towards the vineyard just a few yards away.
"When I became involved with the Research Station I decided that I show that I was practicing what I preached concerning going back to nature," He said. "So this vineyard dedicated to Icewine is totally organic!"
Ziraldo and Sandie talked about the influence and research of various countries and ironically touched on Austria's Klosterneuburg. They spoke about vines that do well in Ontario and various parts of Canada and about the future of wine in Canada. Of course Cool Climate Technology, a pet project and one that Donald Ziraldo had invested a great deal of time in was discussed.
Humour was also a part in the conversation. At one point in the discussion regarding the beginnings of Icewine he remarked, "Making of Icewine was a learning experience, we were excited about our first crop of icewine grapes and went out one day to find the vines bare.Birds had eaten all the grapes. Next time we used netting."
At another point, I became so involved watching the duo converse about Austrian wine and Klosterneuburg that I inadvertently cut into the conversation----completely forgetting that the camera (and sound) was running. That's how good the interview was going. One forgot that he was supposed to be directing/producing and not involving!
The interview went on to discuss future plans for the vineyard and new ventures "Ziraldo Ice Wine" and "Equifera Ice Wine". Ziraldo also mentioned pointing to a pile of large cement decorative pieces that looked as if they had been part of an archway. "Donald Triggs called me one day and said that he had remnants of the old London Winery and since I collected Art Deco would I be interested in it? I had it brought here for future use and now plan to build an entrance leading into the vineyard."
A mental picture of the majestic entrance as pictured on labels of "Chateau Leoville Marquis de Las Cas", the famous and very exceptional wine from the Bordeaux commune of St. Julien, came to my mind. I thought it very apropos that such a structure be erected on such reverent wine ground! Such a fitting way to end one chapter of a famous life and enter another using the same materials------the same venue!
This seemed a fitting end for our visit with Mr. Donald Ziraldo and "Two In A Vineyard's" filming venture in the Niagara Region. As our van turned the corner down Side Road 58, I reflected on the fact that this was a sentimental journey for me and some may have viewed this sentiment as being a bit "over the top". However in my defense, the words of late actor Jack Lemon came to my mind when he said; "When it comes to memories our biggest regrets are the risks we failed to take!"
Memories are our most important possessions and our risks, their greatest influence. Without either, life is not worth living. That old fruit shed had significance and that spot's future will inspire just as much! Well done Mr. Ziraldo!!!
A Bit About Roy and Sandie!
I could not end this blog without thanking Roy and Sandie who have packed their tooth brushes and accompanied me in this venture. Roy is an outstanding camera person and photographer whose sensitivity, initiative and instinct works hand in hand with Sandie's charm, personality and good looks. They both have made this and the Austria trips a true adventure.
They have also made my life a whole lot easier---calmly putting up with "lets do that one more time" or "Sandie----it's the 'Largest Privately Owned Winery not Largest Winery in Austria"!
Their suggestions and comments were always "right on" and our "off" time was as enjoyable as our work time (and vice/versa)!
Because of production schedules and demands, Sandie was "on deck" for all the interviews on this "shoot" and throughout, she proved herself a true pro. Donald Ziraldo made such a comment in an email to me quoting how "good and professional" she was as an interviewer. I must admit, she made it look easy.
Roy, on the other hand, made it possible for this whole venture to take place. Without him, there would be no "Two In A Vineyard" or any other series for that matter. I have heard from many that good camera persons "are all over the place!" Not so! Good camera persons that I can work with are rare! I am a great believer in doing your job and if you can't do it----get out of the way for someone who can! In this case one needs to trust and that comfort does not come easy. I trust Roy and choose to get out of his way when he is doing his job.
So, my heartfelt thanks to both Roy and Sandie for their assistance, patience and above all, their belief in this project...........and Sandie, you were right------!!! It's never that easy---!"----is it Mr. Byers?" Thank you both!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 5th, Niagara Day Three: Malivoire, Daniel Lenko

Last Breakfast At "House By The Side Of The Road"
There are worse things than to be awakened by a Gold Finch singing its tune like a Canary in a cage. The bird was just outside the sliding patio door on my room's balcony. The sky was blue and the Sun just about to shine. Everything outside was as still as silence. Lovely morning.
It was after 7 AM when i finally made it down to the dining area where Monika was busily cooking breakfast. Roy had "beaten me to the punch" and was already out taking "shots" of the Bed and Breakfast.
I sat down and had the delicious coffee and by the time I had finished the first cup, the morning meal was ready. Bacon, French toast, juice, home fries all were ready and delicious. This was our last day and the camaraderie of the previous night was still in our veins so to speak.
We bid our good-byes to Christine and Monika. However, this was not to be a good-bye but just a "See Yah Later" (Hey that would be a good name for a winery!!!LOL Tsk Tsk) since in reality I knew that we would be back in the future. We made good friends at this lovely "House By The Side Of The Road" and planned to return.
We then crossed the road and went to Malivoire with the initial intent of just taking a few pictures of this forward moving winery. We were not there long before we were approached by Stephen Gash, Director of Sales and Marketing of Malivoire. No doubt he had wondered who these people were, roaming around the vineyards and taking picture and camera shots. Once we introduced ourselves he "clicked-in" to the messages that I and Sandie had left.
Sandie and Stephen did an interview using the rows of vines ascending up the Malivoire hill as a background. They discussed the facts and advantages of going totally organic----in a sense going forward with wine by going back to nature. Harmony is a philosophy that is taught in Oriental Schools of Meditation and Martial Arts and to be harmonious with nature is to be in total sync with the Universe. At least that is the belief. In that case to be harmonious with nature by using only methods that encourage compatibility and synchronization with all inhabitants of a vineyard would certainly be apropos here. This is what Malivoire does. There are no artificial methods used in the propagating, cultivating and collecting of the vines. Everything is natural.
We then went into the "bug shaped"winery which many mention looks like the "ladybug" emblem that is depicted on some Malivoire labels and signs. Sandie, who had done a magnificent job interviewing on this trip, did so again by interviewing Stephen regarding Malivoire wines. They tasted and discussed several wines including my favourite-----the Malivoire Old Vines Foch, which was made from 30 year old Marechel Foch vines. They also discussed the use of "Stelvin" screw caps and why they were becoming one of the main closures on the market today. While I taught that the "Jury" was still out on any major conclusion it is a fact that the "corked" wine syndrome does not exist with closures of this type and the affect of the closures on the wine(s) seems negligible at this time. Could the wines age and develop as with cork closures, we can only find out for sure after older "Stelvin" capped wines are tested five, ten and twenty years from now. I felt that they will do well because I was and still am under the impression that minute bits of air still get in to slowly age the wine as happens with cork. Time will tell!!!
Speaking of time----we were starting to run late and Daniel Lenko was waiting very patiently for us! We bid our farewell and off we went down the road to Daniel Lenko Winery.
Daniel Lenko
Daniel Lenko came out of his barn to meet us. Tall, good looking with an athletic build, he looked more like a sportsman than a wine maker/grower. He is a third generation grape grower who took over the family farm in 1998. Daniel always wanted to make quality wine and with the assistance of two factors----- the oldest Chardonnay and Merlot vines in Canada which give an abundance of quality fruit and his very experienced winemaker, Thomas Laszlo-------he has achieved that.
Daniel runs a very "homey" style of winery. His tasting room is the kitchen of his house located in Beamsville. His well equipped barn serves houses his fermentation tanks and barrels and his vineyards produce the quality grapes. "What more can I ask for?", says Daniel to Sandie Kraft in the interview that she conducted during the visit.
Sandie, as usual, came up with some excellent probing questions as to the making of Lenko wines. All the wines are estate grown by Lenko. Due to the limited production levels, his wines are only sold at the winery and some select restaurants.
His wines include a super 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay and a very interesting label called Chardonngay which is a 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay specifically aimed at furthering AIDS research by not only directing attention onto Canada's diverse Gay population but also donating one dollar of every bottle sold to the cause. Other wines are a 2007 Riesling, 2007 Viognier, 2007 Meritage, 2007 Syrah and a 2007 Old Vines Merlot. His repertoire includes some Select Late Harvest Vidal and a Viognier Icewine. Also available is a small library of older (2006, 2005, 2006) wines as well as an interesting 2008 White Cabernet Rose.
We thanked Daniel for his generosity and for sharing his wines with us and then were off to our last visit---to where it all began----the original site of the Inniskillin Winery which by all accounts should be designated "Hallowed Ground" as the birthplace of Canada's Boutique Wine Industry.
That in itself is a separate and astounding story. Stay tuned!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 4th, Niagara Day Two: Inniskillin, Olde Angel Inn, Queen's Landing, Cave Spring Cellars, B&B House By The Side Of The Road Party

Waking Up To Country Living
The first night at the B&B, House By The Side Of The Road was a charm----peaceful, quiet, relaxing and very comfortable. I cleaned up and went to breakfast and met Christine's niece, Monika, who was cooking up a storm of great looking food. Monika was working at the "House" for the summer and was slated to go back to Amhurst University which she was attending on a basketball scholarship. You will have guessed that Monika was tall. Being 6'4" tall had its
advantages! Christine mentioned that in addition to being in shape to do the house work required, Monika could easily reach areas out of the way to more height challenged individual.
Monika was a lovely girl with a personality to match----intelligent, mature, respectful and
common-sensical. She seemed a true credit to her family. Oh one thing, her boyfriend was the same height so I wouldn't want to "cross" them in any way.
After a hearty breakfast of Italian sausage, scrambled eggs, home fries, great coffee and mango/orange juice we were off to our first stop, Inniskillin.
If it was correct to start with Jackson-Triggs the day before, it was doubly so to start the next day with Inniskillin. This was the winery that started it all. It was the winery that began the whole boutique winery and later Canadian wine revolution back in 1974. The story is now legend when Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser obtained the first winery licence in almost forty years and did so taking great risks. But risk is the name of the game for someone like Messrs. Ziraldo and Kaiser and they made it work. Their winery became a massive hit and proved all the naysayers and detractors wrong. The experts said "It can't be done----you can't grow vinifera grapes in Ontario and make it work!!!!" Can't however was not in Ziraldo's vocabulary and he and Kaiser did it and did it well with their 1989 Vidal Icewine-----enough to win the Platinum Best Of Show Medal at VinExpo in 1991. This time it was other countries namely the French that gave credit where credit was do---and boy, did they give credit!!! This was the proverbial "wine shot" that was heard around the world and it is still sending reverberations because with that acknowledgement, Canada's wine industry took a flying leap forward and has not looked back.
Inniskillin has forged ahead and in addition to its massive high quality wine portfolio, it has become a culinary hot spot.
Sandy met with Executive Chef David Penny who we had already met at Jackson-Triggs. He introduced her to the "cool" vineyard smoker and discussed the use of local foods in cooking. David mentioned how he smoked whole pigs, fish, meats and matched them with wine dishes as well as his favourite----cooking with Ice Wine. David and Sandy discussed in detail usage of Ice wine in a variety of dishes. While watching this it occurred to me how Sandie has a way of making individuals feel quite comfortable while David seemed the perfect guest. His speaking voice was exceptionally clear and it was very apparent that David and the "film" camera were good friends. After the interview with David, Sandie went on to interview Head Winemaker, Bruce Nichols and Debi Pratt in the Vidal Ice wine vineyard. Surrounded by the Vidal grapevines full of maturing grapes, the award winning winemaker who made a majestic name for himself in the Okanagan Valley discussed several of his wines including: A Pinot Noir Rose, Three Vineyard Chardonnay, Three Vineyard Cabernet Franc and a Vidal Icewine. The Three Vineyards series are wines from three different vineyards and fermented separately with the best wines blended together to best express the terroir and character of the grapes. The Pinot Noir Rose is not made from inferior grapes that are not good for any other use but purposely made for the purpose of a great rose. Of course there was the Vidal Icewine. Icewine has been regarded as a particular forte of Bruce and the Vidal is no exception. After our meeting with Bruce and Debi in the vineyard, it was Debi's turn to go it alone, seated in a very comfortable chair located between the Inniskillin wine tasting area, the patio meeting centre and the vineyard.
Debi and I go back several years and she has proven to be one of the great strengths to not only Inniskillin but sister winery Jackson-Triggs as well. She is an amazing person that continues to exhibit great and positive influence on whomever she comes in contact with. I have certainly gained much respect for her and her abilities to the point that I often seek her counsel when I am "stuck" on a wine problem. She never fails.
Debbie discussed the philosophy and history behind Inniskillin as well as the changes over the years. She also mentioned of the hard work and risks that the initial owners took in coming up with Inniskillin. Visitors come and see the final product and have virtually no idea of what went on behind the scenes to produce the vibrant work that exists now.
After the interview, expertly conducted again by Sandie, we bid our adieu and l left for The Old Angel Inn.
The Old Angel Inn
Built in 1789 because of a land grant given to the deputy surveyor general, the Inn was the host of many a famous individual such as: John Graves Simcoe, Alexander MacKenzie, Prince Edward (Father of Queen Victoria) and Irish Poet Thomas Moore.
The Inn was rebuilt in 1815 as it was a victim of the War of 1812----burned down by American Troops in 1813. Another victim was a certain Captain Colin Swayzie. This British officer delayed meeting his troops so he could meet his female friend but was found out and killed by the invading force. Strange things started to happen at the Inn around 1820 and have continued on to this day.
Staff at the Inn have been hit by flying objects and have had doors "push" back at them with no one seemingly on the other end. Visitors staying in one of the rooms have awakened in the early morning hours to find all the water taps in the washroom turned on. They turned them off but awoke again to find them "on" again. This does not even take into account the number of people who "felt" presences around them. And what would one say if he/she awoke to boisterous laughing and other noise at three am and only to find the building locked up tight? That happened to some guests.
While the Inn certainly had an interesting history, the original decor with three gas fireplaces for a nice warm mood----especially on those cool Fall and Winter eves------and witty dialogue on doors was truly supreme. The atmosphere in the Inn was great but the best thing was the food, wine and selection of 24 types of draft beers. I could certainly attest for the quality and amount of food that was provided guests (as can Sandie and Roy). The five rooms available to guests with en suite bathrooms and period beds were quite lovely. They were aptly named with "special meaning" concerning the Inn itself: Colonel's Suite, Generals Quarters, Governor's Room, Captain's Room and Sweethearts' Room. One thing, Captain Swayze is not a malevolent spirit. He is just a little prankster as long as -----as the legend goes----the Union Jack remains on the flag post. If it's taken down----what will happen? Does one want to find out?
With our bellies full of fish and chips plus a pint of draft, we went onto Queen's landing. Our thanks to Stephanie, Jean, Tim, Phil and all the staff for a great and informative stay!!!
Queen's Landing
We were met at Queen's Landing by Lily Kszan, General Manager of the hotel and Laura Stoner, Marketing Coordinator. I was impressed by their professionalism and their open hospitality. I was also very impressed that they both did their homework on both me and the television series. I couldn't help feeling that Queen's Landing and its parent company of Vintage Inns was very well represented and looked after!!!!!
The large Georgian Mansion that was situated on Byron Street in Niagara On The Lake
was/is one the town's (and Ontario's) most elegant residences. Built in 1990 on a property that was once "The Old Niagara Harbour and Dock Company (1831) it was designed in the style of Kings George 1st through 4th. The Dockmaster's house one of Niagara's historical landmarks and which dates back to the early 19th Century has been historically restored. With a staircase that cried for "Gone With The Wind' and an entrance that displayed marbled floors and stained glass ceilings the mansion was a true showpiece.Just being there was enough yet there is so much more.
The location was what Romance is made of. Located where the Niagara River and Lake Ontario converge, the best of both worlds was/is truly consummated. Here one could have a romantic interlude and/or do business. The Mansion reeked class in its spacious high ceilings, huge beds, lovely en suites, magnificently decorated halls with marble, carpet, frescoes, paintings and sculptures that would make any palace or museum jealous.
In addition to all this was the wine cellar that was temperature controlled and with wines from all over the globe and the dining areas where one could dine formally at the Tiara Restaurant which specialized in French Cuisine, casual dining at the Bacchus Lounge or light fare at the Waterfront Patio where one can meet friends and look our over the boat docks towards the panoramic view of the river. In all, Queen's Landing was truly an experience for us all. A big thank you to Lily and Karen for their gracious assistance.
Cave Spring Cellars
I remember my first meeting with Angelo Pavan and Len Pennachetti in the late 1980's (circa 1988) when they were at the York Mills Plaza at the intersection of Bayview and York mills. They were introducing their new wines which happened to be a 1986 Riesling. Somewhere I have the empty bottles with their signatures on them and if I find them I will make sure to give them back as a memento.
This meeting started a love affair between me and Cave Spring Cellars which for awhile developed into a business relationship whereby I filmed them for my series Wine Companions and Wine Dining as well as brought tour buses to the locale. My memory takes me back to the construction of the restaurant and inn as well as the old winery which used to have a different entrance.
While a few years would go by between visits, Ange and I always kept in touch and today was no different. I have always looked on Ange as more than a friend so whenever I did a series, article or tour, Cave Spring has always been in my thoughts----and actions.
The one thing that has always got me regarding Cave Springs was that while at other wineries you hear about the soil and the rocks and the drainage, at Cave Springs all you have to do is walk up to the escarpment next to the vineyard, jump across the little spring that emanates from the caves and then-----you are in it. You see the rocks both giant and little. You see the drainage and you know that what is above ground is also underneath it. No wonder Len Pennachetti's grandfather bought the land in the 1920's and then furthered the families grape history by planting grapes there. Little wonder that Len decided to grow European varietals in the late 70's.
Between them. Angelo the "Philosophical Winemaker", Len the "Visionary Viticulturist" and Tom the "Pragmatic Marketer" changed a group of dilapidated buildings into what is now a bustling and dynamic village-----Jordan Village with its art shops, flower nurseries, Inn on the Twenty, On The Twenty Restaurant, Antique Shop, Wine Boutique and of course winery.
We arrived later in the afternoon and met Angelo just outside the meeting room where a meeting was going on regarding the winery. Gracious as ever, he withdrew from the meeting to give us a tour and interview concerning his winery. Sandie interviewed him as he moved from the boutique to the cellars below where he explained why this vineyard of Cave Spring was the best location of all the wineries in Niagara. It had to do with air flow and lake influence but I am not going to try to explain it here. Angelo did a much better job on camera. Sandie and Angelo then moved up to the boutique where he brought out his wines for a tutored tasting. Once could see the passion still in his face as he described the Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Sparkling Blancs de Blancs Traditional Method wine. I have always admired Angelo for this and I am sure that he would say, "It's not just me but every winemaker is passionate about his wine!" However, Angelo's passion and capability has always rang true. I purchase a bottle of "Blanc de Noirs" Traditional Method Sparkling with plans of having with my two companions and friends that evening. With that we ended our stay at Cave Spring Cellars and Jordan. Angelo, being the consummate host, brought over several bottles for us to taste later. Thanks Ange and hopefully next time I'm around, I'll get a chance to pay my respects to Len also.
Cave Spring Cellars Vineyard
We then went to the actual Cave Spring Vineyard which was a few kilometres West of the winery and Jordan proper. After taking some general pictures, we drove to the foot of the escarpment and Sandie did an segment on the twenty-five year old vines while I, knowing that the segment was in very capable hands, decided to scout for picture locations. What I found was utterly amazing.
I crossed the little stream (more like jumped across) and after fighting my way through a tangle of tall weeds, found myself in a prehistoric looking scene with huge rocks ascending up to great heights. All around me was moss covered rock as the twilight of the day tried to shine through the cover of trees. Not an inch of the ground was left uncovered by all shapes and sizes of the Dolomite limestone. Being a rock collector for my fishpond back home, I found a nice moss covered flat piece that would make a great addition to the back yard. Due to the obstacles in the way, I concluded that it was not worth the risk of falling with the camera and equipment thus damaging our chances for finishing our project so discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to leave this ancient site and go back to the group.
As sloshed across the stream and entered the land of the sun once more, I could see vultures in the air and wondered what was happening since most of the time one sees hawks. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I went back to Sandie and Roy who were packing the cameras in the truck and then we were off----first to take more pictures of Greenland Estates and then to a grocery store to buy our dinner. That night we had decided, was going to be a finger food and cold cut night.
We arrived back at the House By The Side Of The Road around 6 PM and immediately put the bottles we obtained into the cooler for later. A shower and change was definitely in order and then Sandie, who had purchased the food, prepared it on a table while Roy and I opened the goods. We joined Christine McAlpine and her friend Carol, on the veranda.
The night turned into a great party where discussion flowed as easily as the wine. Christine shared her Greenlane Estate Greetings Cabernet/Merlot Red with us. The wine was excellent with Blackberry, currant and raspberry flavours that had some great anise spice along for the ride. Sandie and I committed local sacrilege by opening up a Rosemount Estate Shiraz from Australia which was juicy with spice, plum, cherry and chocolate and a California Cline Syrah which was quite good with pepper, plum/cherry/black berry flavours with a touch of vanilla, mocha and coffee notes. However, We redeemed ourselves by opening up the Blanc de Noirs from Cave Spring Cellars. The wine was absolutely marvelous. Powerful with a myriad of flavours that hit the senses with strawberry, citrus, hazelnut and a general nuttiness on the finish that lasted and lasted. The food and wine matched well and what food! Goat cheese, kielbasa, ham, crusty bread, mortadella, strawberries---it was a feast!
The evening went very well and soon it was time to give our eyes and taste buds a rest. Tomorrow was another day and much to do. We cleaned up and turned in!!!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Epiloque: Austria-----A Country On The Edge Of Forever!

The Passion! The Pride! The Reason! The Being!
Wine has never, ever been a matter of just being a beverage to me! If it were, it would hold little interest other than the immediate gratification of the organoleptic senses. Of course for many who toil at studying, cultivating, blending, crafting, packaging, marketing, writing, eating, sleeping, living eventually dying in partnership this wonderfully philosophical ---and psychological beverage it is a way of life---maybe life incarnate!
Everyone has a reason for taking up the wine banner. For most I think it is the combination of every aspect that is human that attracts most. We all have history! We all live geographically! We create and are part of a culture! Most of all we belong to a world of people!
In every way, Austria represents all that is good about the world of wine and people. The country is a time capsule of history! It is also a compact representation of world topography and social geography----where cultures collide and people interact.
Like every other part of the planet, I am sure that there are the undesirable aspects but for every one of those there are a dozen Tibors that ingratiate themselves to visitors and residents alike.
Austria is a breath of fresh European air that expels the stale molecules and replacing them with vibrant energy. Its wine reflects this in its freshness and consistency. Whichever wine one tries wherever one goes, the aspect of freshness and integration reflect the area that they come from. It is so with the culture, history and people.
It was the pleasure of Two In A Vineyard to visit this amazing land with its magnificent geography and lengthy history. The value of a trip is summed up by what is left and what is taken back. I am sure that part of us was left in Austria with those with whom we interacted. Conversely, so much was brought back that in a way we always remain touched----part of that great land.
Two In A Vineyard would like to thank and acknowledge the following individuals and groups for their assistance in making this production possible:
Mr. Robert Luck, Austrian Consulate General, Commercial Section
Birgitta Samavarchian, Austrian Consulate General, Commercial Section
The Austrian Wine Marketing Board, Mr. Willi Klinger
The Austrian Wine Academy, Dr. Josef Schuller, MW
Esterhazy Palace
Schloss Hoff
Szigeti Sparkling Wines
Gottweig Abbey
Kloster UND and Toni Moerwald
Domaine Wachau, Castle Durnstein
Weinkulturhaus, Gols
Restaurant Nyikospark
Restaurant Jamek
Klosterneuburg: Provost Bernhard Backovsky, Dr. Wolfgang Hamm
Wein & Co.
Wiener Riesenrad
Mayer am Pfarrplatz
Hotel am Konzerthaus, Wien
Pannonia Tower Hotel, Parndorf, Neusiedl am See
Hotel Rathaus, Wien
Genuss Hotel, Riegersburg
Steigenberger Hotel, Krems
Arte Hotel, Krems
Wirtshaus im Moserhof Hotel
Wineries of Vienna (Wien)
Wineries of Burgenland
Wineries of Kamptal
Wineries of Kremstal
Wineries of Wachau
Wineries of Weinviertal
Wineries of Styria
Wineries of Traisental
Wineries of Carnuntum
A Big Thankyou to the Government and People of Austria!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 3rd:Two In A Vineyard Goes Niagara: Day One

A New Adventure Begins!
Lunch and Tasting at Jackson-Triggs Winery
With the Austrian adventure under our belts, a totally Canadian production seemed in order. Our tour started early on Tuesday morning which saw us off to Niagara. The trip up was basically uneventful all the way to Jackson-Triggs winery. Located within five minutes of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the ultra modern and energy efficient winery designed to look like a barn from the outside is the showpiece of Niagara-----and it is an amazing innovative showpiece!
This winery started its life in 1993 as a brand name for Vincor--then a Canadian company under the direction of Donald Triggs and Allan Jackson. A state of the art winery with the same name was built later under. Jackson-Triggs is now under the Vincor ownership of Constellation.
We arrived at Jackson-Triggs at around noon and mere met by Public Relations Manager and my close friend for years---Debi Pratt. Two other individuals that I had much pleasant history with were Del Rollo, National Director of Hospital for Vincor and Stacey Mulholland, Regional Manager of Hospitality, Eastern Estates. A lunch matched with wine had been prepared by Executive Chef, David Penny. David, all 6'6' of him could have easily become an actor with rugged good looks and an excellent speaking voice. His talents definitely flowed into the cooking realm as the food her prepared was delicious.
The Lunch Meal
Lunch started with Golden Beet Soup and Fresh Chive Cream matched with a 2010 Silver Series Sauvignon Blanc. A
n excellent match--- matching the herbal/apricot/citrus qualities of the wine with the soup.
The Heirloom Tomato Salad withe Ontario Buffalo Mozzarella/Purple Basil/Olive Oil went very well with the 2009 Proprietors' Reserve Sparkling Cuvee Close (C
harmat as compared to Classique). It showed the remarkable diverseness of sparkling wines which are really limited in their use as a food wine.
Jackson Triggs Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Smoked Vidal "Canadian Bacon/Upper Canada Haloumi/Icewine Mustard was the final course and matched with 2008 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir---a wine that speaks for itself and an amazing food wine with dishes as the above and also a large number of other food items.
Sandie interviewed David Penny about his career and work at Jackson Triggs.
J/T Amphitheatre
The amphitheatre was built some time after the winery was built but looks like it always was there. Very original in its design, it also had amazing acoustics which did not need the use any sound enhancing device.
Del Rollo was interviewed on stage by Sandie and he discussed his position and career with the Jackson Triggs and Vincor Company. Del as usual was very modest only talked about his important and very responsible position with the company when prodded . However, it did not take much to find out how important his work responsibility was.
The Amphitheatre itself is of Greco-Roman design and is an open air theatre made up of a central slightly elevated stage and surrounded by ascending rock seating arranged in a semi-circular format with up to twelve to fifteen rows and capable of holding up to 700 people.
Many of Canada's best entertainers have performed at the Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre whose 2011 Concert Series will feature such acts as Serena Ryder, Sam Roberts, Spirit of the West and Gord Downie.
After the interview, Del had to get on with his business and Chef David Penny gave us a tour of his wine garden which was planted immediately in front of the winery. It was then time to go down to the wine barrel cellar and meet Marco Piccoli, the head winemaker at Jackson-Triggs. Here the topic was sparkling wines and Jackson-Triggs' new product made in the classical vein was discussed. Entourage Silver Series Brut Methode Classique is a sparkling wine that is very reminiscent of Champagne. Made in the same method, the final product is fine lasting bubbles, full flavours of apple, nuts, pineapple, citrus and mineral. Marco discussed the making of the wine. Marco also introduced the Jackson-Triggs Entourage Gold Series Sparkling Merlot and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc offer the characteristics of the grape varieties plus the fine bubbles and toastiness that comes with a Methode Classique wine.
Greenlane Estates Winery
After our visit to Jackson Triggs we went back to the "Bench" along South Service Road to visit Greenlane Estates Winery. The winery itself is a small boutique winery which started out as Birchwood Estates Winery back in 1999/2000. Winery President, Sommelier and self professed "Wine Geek" Robert Paul met us and introduced us to his lovely wine maker Diane Smith.
Robert told us that he worked in the trade for many years and always wanted to own a winery. He also knew that the winery had a reputation for good fruit production and had a good soil structure that had excellent drainage and rocky soil that retained heat.
Greenlane produces premium quality Greenlane Estate Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. It also produces some "second label" wines (Greetings) from sourced Ontario grapes combined with those of Greenlane.
Winemaker Diane Smith introduced herself and tutored a wine tasting of the Premium Estate Wines along with Barrel samples. All had great fruit and a special minerality that was superb.
Diane, who has degrees from Brock University, became interested in wine and furthered her studies culminating in a BA degree in Biology from South Florida University and Viticulture/Winemaking from Niagara College. Diane practice with many well known wineries in various parts of the globe as well as Ontario. She is also well known advocate of Toronto Animal Rescue, SPCA and Diabetes Foundation. She also makes delicious wines! The practice at Greenlane, under Diane's supervision, is totally organic and bio dynamic.
Robert Paul knew of our plans to visit Prince Edward Island and made a very interesting point was that when doing the legal research for the name "Greenlane", he found that the only challenge that could be made was the house of "Green Gables" of novel fame. He obviously was in the clear to use the "Greenlane" credential.
The day was fast coming to a close so we decided to head back to our Bed and Breakfast called "The House By The Side Of The Road"
"The House", located across Highway 81 from Malivoire Winery was outstanding and one of the nicest B&B's that I have ever stayed in. Roy and Sandie were absolutely thrilled with it also. The new building was built on the site and foundation of an much older establishment. The design is intricate and the display magnificent. Each room is themed accurately to the very last detail all the rooms with excellent views of the spacious garden, Tawse Vineyards and countryside. A spacious veranda surrounds the house and encourages relaxation and discussion. Each of the rooms has a bathroom en suite and is immaculate. Here, cleanliness is the rule and service the smile. There is also a "Spa" in the lower area and an entertainment area complete with a seven foot screen television!!!
The best thing about the place was its owner, Christine McAlpine. This former nurse is a gregarious genuine and generous individual who is a pleasure to be around. Christine went out of her way to make us feel at home and -------we did.
The group of us went to a local diner for supper and then returned to have a sip of wine and sit at the back----enjoying each others' company. It was a great way to start the tour and we know that more good things were to come.