Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unquenchable

I first came across Unquenchable in a magazine. I thought the cover was cute and the premise even cuter - "a tipsy quest for the world's best bargain wines.' It looked fun and informative and I added it to my mental 'to read' list. We came across the book again at Black Prince Winery while we were on our Prince Edward County trip this summer. Shawn saw it on a shelf and brought it over for me, thinking it was a book I'd be interested in. I agreed, but had already blown my budget on wine, as one does in PEC. Still, the book kept calling to me and I finally broke down and ordered it from Chapters.

I'm glad I did. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Natalie MacLean's global search for bargain wines is about far more than where to get cheap vino. In fact, I'd argue that it's really not about that at all. This is a love letter to wine regions around the world - an exploration of where good wines come from, how they are made and those who make them. It's almost a bonus when at the end of each chapter she recommends the best wines from those regions for those of us on a budget. Not that I wasn't taking notes!

Niagara, Portugal, South Africa, Germany - the regions she visits are as varied as the wines she tastes and the people she meets. The book is done in a breezy, conversational style that feels more like a girlfriend telling you her travel tales than a serious exploration of wine culture - and that's a good thing. One of the things that has kept me from exploring wine in the past is that the books I've picked up have always felt so overwhelming and intimidating - if you don't know your tannins from your terroir you can be easily put off by some wine writers. MacLean isn't one of those - she gets that wine writing doesn't have to be stuffy to be taken seriously.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in wine and I'll look forward to reading MacLean's first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over in the future.

Do you have a favourite book about wine? I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vineland Estates Unoaked Chardonnay

I was always interested in wine - it's something I wanted to know more about, but felt incredibly intimidated by. Then one day I decided to step into the conversation on Twitter and I asked Brian Schmidt (@benchwineguy) some questions about VQA events. He not only answered my questions, he offered up dozens of suggestions for fantastic wine contacts across Canada. Brian made me realize that wine is not a closed club and that there was plenty of room for me at the party.

Since then, I've been trying to convince Shawn that we needed to visit Vineland Estates, where Brian is the winemaker, so I could actually try his wines and not just talk about them. We've finally been able to coordinate our schedules to get out there in September, but then I found a bottle of Vineland Estates 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay at the LCBO. I was a bit torn - I am not always a huge fan of chardonnay, especially if it's very dry. Was it a good idea to pick up a bottle and risk not liking it? Or should I wait and do a proper tasting at the winery so that I knew I'd find something I like from a winemaker who has already been such a positive influence? I figured, I'd give it a shot and see what happened - worst case I'd just never mention it again.

Luckily, I can add this to the slowly growing list of chardonnays that I really, really like. This is smooth and crisp, it has a hint of apple, a bit of citrus and, best of all for me, it's not too dry. I paired it with my husband's chicken tacos (a non-traditional pairing, I know) and it worked very well. This is something I could happily sip on a patio in the summer or on a cozy winter evening.

I'm looking very forward to our visit to Vineland Estates in the fall - I'm hoping to pick up more chardonnay and excited to discover even more wines to enjoy. I'm planning a full post on our visit and, who knows, maybe I'll finally get to meet Brian too.

For a great review of a Vineland Estates tasting and an overview of their wines, you should check out this fantastic post from Shawn McCormick at Uncork Ontario. Shawn is another great resource for wine lovers in this province and I found his reviews of Vineland's offerings extremely helpful.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Running Update

Recently, Shawn asked (in the nicest way possible) why I wasn't working out. He was used to me going to the gym a few days a week and lately I've been running a few times a week too. But then last week I just... stopped. I didn't run, I didn't go to the gym, I didn't do P90X or my Trish Stratus Yoga DVD. I did nothing more than a few weights while watching TV one night. And even that was half-hearted. I'm not sure what was up, but I was just not up for it.

I will fully admit that when I'm on vacation I often take a fitness break. But I wasn't on vacation last week - I just felt exhausted. Life had been very, very busy. And even though every part of me knew that not working out would make me feel worse - that I'd be more tired, more rundown and more lethargic - I still decided to take a pass. You couldn't have paid me to run last week, even though I knew if I just put on my running shoes I would feel better.

So today I packed up my gym bag and I made myself go to the gym. I can't say it was the best workout I've ever had, but at least I got a 2.5KM run on the treadmill in (and it was a good run - not stressful at all) and a 20 minute walk right after that (another 2KM). Tomorrow I'm going to a concert after work, but I plan to get right back onto the treadmill on Wednesday. It's not the perfect workout plan, but it's certainly better than the one I practiced last week!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tasting Room Radio

When I decided to become more proactive about my interest in wine, I felt like I should do what I could to educate myself on the topic. I learned very quickly that this wasn't going to be easy - there is just so much to know and so very many wines to discover. I've mainly stuck with Ontario wines so far because of this - having a focus has been really helpful in ensuring that I wasn't just completely overwhelmed. I also love the idea of supporting local wineries and I am able to visit many of the places that create the wines I drink, this is immensely helpful in understanding those wines.

One step outside my Ontario comfort zone has been listening to Tasting Room Radio, a show that originates in British Columbia (and also airs in Alberta). I had heard about the show through Twitter, where host Terry David Mulligan's involvement in the Free My Grapes campaign to fight the ban on inter-provincial wine sales is very well-respected. I was curious and not aware of any other Canadian radio shows about wine (apparently there are several, but this was the first one I found), so I decided to tune in. I'm glad that I did.

As would be expected, the majority of the shows I've heard so far have focused on British Columbia wines. Many aren't available in Ontario (at least until those grapes are fully freed), but I still really enjoy listening. TDM is an unabashed fan of wine and I love his enthusiasm for the topic. I may not have access to all of the wines he discusses, but I enjoy hearing him talk about them. I like the guests that he chooses (more often than not local winery owners and winemakers) and the topics they choose to discuss. For example, I hadn't heard about the wine on tap idea until listening to the show and was surprised by how interesting that is to consider.

Like many teens in the '90s, I grew up with Terry David Mulligan on my TV screen, so it's also nice to rediscover him as an adult. I always respected him as a music reporter and I'm glad that we now share another interest where his opinion is one I can turn to.

Tasting Room Radio has also got me thinking about a trip to B.C. wine country. I'm ashamed to admit that I've never been that far west, but I'd certainly love to go. Shawn and I are already talking about making our next big vacation a trip to the Okanagan Valley and listing to the show is definitely encouraging this. On a recent episode, Coastal Black Estate Winery was talking about their blueberry mead and it sounded so good I was ready to book a flight then and there. The trip might actually have to wait awhile, but at least I can stockpile ideas and a list of where to visit through the show.

I'm admittedly not always around at 1pm on Saturdays to listen online, so I've recently subscribed to the podcast on iTunes and I'm enjoying listening that way when I can't tune in live. It's surprisingly good treadmill listening - perhaps the thought of the calories involved in trying the wines discussed is a subconscious reminder of why I'm actually on that treadmill! I look forward to continuing to listen and learn.

Tasting Room Radio airs Saturdays at 10am PST on Team 1410. You can listen online via Team 1410's website or through their podcast, which is available free on iTunes.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Running Revisited

After my recent I Hate Running Post, I got a lot of feedback. So many of my friends both in real life and on Twitter weighed in on the issues I've had while training for my fall 5Ks. Some were understanding - running is not for everyone - and others were supportive and offered encouragement. I also got some interesting advice about new things to try - things that I hadn't already considered.

One of the greatest pieces of advice came from a reporter friend on Twitter who DM'd me after reading my post. She suggested that I try running uninterrupted in order to get into the zone. This is something that just hasn't been possible on my current route through Cabbagetown - there are always people in the way, traffic to stop for and all sorts of things that put me off pace. Another friend suggested that I try again on the treadmill, setting my pace at a slower rate to compensate for my balance. So far, it's working. I like running on the treadmill a lot more, as I'm able to run without any interruptions. It's easier to get into the zone and I can listen to a podcast (hello, Tasting Room Radio) or watch some TV while I run. I've had several really good runs since my post and I'm looking forward to next week's runs.

I know that running on the treadmill isn't the same as running outside, though, and I worry that I won't really be prepared for my upcoming races. But we'll see. Maybe once I've got my stamina up on the treadmill I won't have such a hard time running outside. And I'm going to look for places I can run without dealing with traffic, pedestrian or otherwise. The tracks near my house are all locked tight once school is out (downtown living, what can I say?), but I'm looking for a local trail. Fingers crossed, I'll find one soon.

Thanks so much to everyone for their support. I may not keep running after these races, but at least I have a great cheering squad until I get there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rosehall Run Cuvée County Riesling

I first blogged about visiting Rosehall Run’s winery as part of my Prince Edward County post a few months back. We had arrived fairly early in the day and were treated to a truly exemplary tasting experience from the gentleman who served us. We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and were thrilled with his willingness to explain all sorts of appropriate food pairings. There was also a wealth of local food stuffs available to purchase – locally made mustard, lavender vinegar and a number of other interesting products. All of which our host was happy to explain to us and to make suggestions in terms of how we could use them.

All of the wineries we have visited had good service, but this was a new level and it made me wish we’d gone earlier in our trip so I could have blown more of my wine budget there. Next time.

For the tasting, we were asked what sort of wine we liked (whites, off-dry, not too sweet, fruity) and what we didn’t (most reds because they give me headaches, very dry chardonnay, heavy or masculine flavours), then our host announced that I would probably like the Cuvée County Riesling best. But before I made up my mind, he wanted me to try a few different options. His choices were all excellent ones and he had me surprised that there were several wines I wouldn’t have been drawn to based on my usual tastes, but which when I sampled them were actually quite inspired.

But he had saved the Riesling for last and, he was right, it was an instant hit. Light, fresh and fruity it’s the type of wine that you’d want to sip on a sunny patio. It’s also a really good wine to pair with, as it’s so light and refreshing that it’s hard to make a mistake. We served it at a recent dinner party with chicken and pasta and it suited both well. I think it would be excellent with seafood too. I love that the fruit notes are so fresh – full of citrus and pear – and that it’s off-dry, a term that has become a safer bet for me as I explore new and different wines.

We will definitely be back to Rosehall Run. I want to try their Rosé and sample more of their delicious wines. I hear they are also doing wine chocolates these days and I wouldn't want to miss out on that! I also think it’s important to support businesses like theirs – where there is good service, amazing local food items and a wine that’s worth going back for – Lynn and Dan Sullivan and their team have done a great job of creating somewhere we really want to visit over and over again.