Sunday, September 21, 2014

Upkeep Updates

As some of you have noticed, the blog has been on a bit of a break over the last few weeks. I had hoped that all my recent life changes would have minimal impact on my blogging, but that clearly wasn't the case. I've had less time to write and when time did arise, I'll confess to just being way too tired to focus on writing anything worthwhile.

The Twitter community, who always seem to be there when I need my spirits raised, were quick to point out that sometimes we all need to hit the pause button. It's true. And now I'm back and feeling recharged and refreshed!

But despite the short blog hiatus, I've still been doing lots of wine-related things. I thought this post could be a re-cap of some of the ones I'd like to share.

What I've Been Drinking:

Photo from the Palatine website
Ages ago, Shawn McCormick from Uncork Ontario suggested that I would like the Palatine Hills 1812 Chardonnay and I filed that info away until I came across it. I found a bottle at the LCBO this month (at an extremely reasonable price-point) and decided to bring it to a recent corn roast with my husband's family. The wine was a hit with both myself and the guests who tried it. It's an unoaked chardonnay with great acidity and paired perfectly with roasted corn, potato salad and all the great fixings that come with this sort of family get-together. I often turn to Twitter and great friends like Shawn for suggestions on wines to try and this was a perfect example as to why.
For more info on Palatine Hills: https://www.palatinehillsestatewinery.com/ 
To read Uncork Ontario: http://uncorkontario.com/



 I recently learned about Canada Braai Day from a rep for the Distell Group in Canada. They offered to send over some info and I was intrigued. As the media release explains, braai is Afrikaans for barbeque and the custom has become so popular in South Africa that it now has its own holiday. I have really enjoyed learning about South African wines and culture of late and I thought it was a fun idea to try and bring this tradition to Canada. Braai Day was yesterday (September 20th) and to celebrate, I raised a glass of Savanna Cider from South Africa. It wasn't as sweet a cider as I usually like, but it was nice to try my first South African cider and Shawn, who prefers a dry cider, really enjoyed it. I hope to have some South African wine this weekend to extend the celebration - I've become quite a fan of the region recently.

There's a website that explains Canada Braai Day and offers up recipes and other info for how you can celebrate this weekend or in the weeks to come: http://braai.ca/

What I've Been Reading:

Recently, the topic for Ontario Wine Chat (#ONWineChat) on Twitter was wine books. This is a subject I have plenty to say about, as I have acquired an extensive collection of wine books over the last few years. The chat offered many excellent suggestions for books every wine lovers should own and I was pleased to be able to offer many of my own options. I wanted to share two of my recent favourites here: Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup and The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace. Both of these books took me on a journey though fascinating parts of wine history. Wine & War looks at how the French tried to keep their vineyards and wine from falling into German hands during WWII and The Billionaire's Vinegar looks at one of the most extraordinary cases of alleged counterfeit wine ever. These two books are perfect for the wine or history buff in your life and both had me staying up way too late trying to squeeze in just a few more pages before bed.

For more info on Wine & War: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/wine-and-war-the-french/9780767904483-item.html?ikwid=Wine+%26+War&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=5

For more info on The Billionaire's Vinegar:  http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/the-billionaires-vinegar-the-mystery/9780307338785-item.html?ikwid=Benjamin+Wallace&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Interested in Ontario wine? Join Ontario Wine Chat (#ONWineChat) on Twitter Wednesday evenings at 10:00 p.m. ET.


What I've Been Eating:

As a quasi-vegetarian (no red meat for this girl), I'm always looking for delicious options that will work for my diet. I've been working hard recently to make sure I nourish my body with good food, so healthy options are key. If I want to have a glass of wine, I need to pay that #winetax with good food, exercise and healthy living. One of my new favourite places to find interesting vegetarian options is Yam Chops at 705 College Street in Toronto. I attended an event there a few months back and I am still craving their un-tuna. Shawn and I also loved their meatless spaghetti sauce and their chutney. They don't serve wine, but you can find plenty of options to practice your vegetarian pairings at this place.


 For more info on Yam Chops: http://yamchops.com/

  


Monday, September 1, 2014

Winemaker Chat with KWV's Izele Van Blerk

Izele's Twitter picture captures her spirit so well!
When I read that South African winemaker Izele Van Blerk was training to become a professional tennis player before an injury led her back to South Africa to study winemaking, I didn’t get the connection right away. But when I had the opportunity to talk to her, the transition in professions made total sense.

“There’s a competitive side of sports and winemaking, but also the passion and the drive,” she says. “The energy during harvest time, is like a tennis match in the heat of the third set. It’s harvest time, it’s crunch time, you need to pull it through, it’s long hours, it’s hard work. Like sport, it’s also practicing, practicing, practicing.”

And Izele is certainly getting a lot of practice as a winemaker for KWV, one of the five biggest wineries in South Africa. She started with the company as an intern and has moved up quickly to become one of their winemakers. She is responsible for a large range of the company’s biggest sellers and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to taste through her 2013 releases at the iYellow Wine Cave recently.

In talking to Izele, you can’t help but be pulled in by her enthusiasm for wine. She is relatively young for a winemaker, but she is already an award-winner. “At KWV all our winemakers are on average 27 to 32, so we’re young, we’re new, we’re excited about the wines and the new styles and the new trends. I think if you get started at a young age, you’re still energetic and competitive and you strive to be the best and your passion is coming through in the wines,” she says.

Despite her young age, she is already an experienced taster who judges regularly in competition. “I think the difference between a good and an excellent winemaker comes down to tasting,” she explains. “Tasting is one of my passions. If I was to ever stop making wine, I would probably become a professional taster because I just enjoy it and you understand winemaking better if you can taste it and you understand what you need to improve. You have to be your biggest critic.”

She also values tasting wines from around the world. In South Africa, she explains most of the wines available are made in the county, but her travels with KWV and work as a judge have allowed her to taste more international wines. KWV also does a Friday event where each winemaker gets the opportunity to present a tasting of an international wine. This has helped give her a better understanding of winemaking techniques around the world.

But there is also a desire to create wines that are unique to South Africa. One of the most interesting is Café Culture, which blends South Africa’s signature wine, Pinotage, with coffee and mocha flavours. “You can drink it in the morning, because it’s coffee,” she says with a smile. “If you really like wine and you really like coffee, it’s a good combination.” KWV even has a special glass for Café Culture because they wanted to show this was definitely a non-traditional wine.

Having tried it at the tasting, I can concur that it is very different – it smells delicious, as they have captured the coffee and chocolate notes perfectly on the nose, but it wasn’t really to my tastes. Others at the tasting, however, really liked it so, as with all wine, it’s a personal preference.  My favourites from the tasting were The Mentors Chenin Blanc and the KWV Cathedral Cellar Brut Methode Cap Classique – a sparkling wine done in the Champagne-style, but with a much better price-point. The entry-level KWV Contemporary Chenin Blanc, while not as nuanced as The Mentors, was very good for the price.

I was shocked to see how quickly time flew during my chat with Izele. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I do think you can taste that in the wine she produces. If the winemaker feels like an old friend only a few minutes into a chat, it seems like she would be the perfect fit to design charming and inviting wines. I look forward to seeing her style develop over the years.

For more information on KWV: http://www.kwv.co.za/