Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sideroad Twenty Cellars and Red Tractor Wines

Patric, Andrew and Yvonne
Shawn and I recently visited Niagara to do some early Christmas shopping – I wanted to make sure I got to Vineland Estates and several of my other favourite wineries to pick up gifts for everyone who’s getting wine from us this year.

Not everyone can make it to wine country before the holidays, though, which is one of the reasons I’m excited to tell you about Sideroad Twenty Cellars – a wine agency from Ontario that’s offering some fun and unique elements to set their agency apart.

I became interested in Sideroad Twenty Cellars after sitting down with Managing Director Patrick Storr. We had a great chat about wine and I had the opportunity to try some of the agency’s Red Tractor wines. Wait, a wine agency that makes their own wine? That’s pretty special in and of itself – and when I found out that Creekside Estate Winery’s Assistant Winemaker Yvonne Irvine is the winemaker behind Red Tractor, I was even more excited to try these wines.

They didn’t disappoint. These are high-quality Ontario wine offerings that reflect the region’s unique terroir and stand up against some of the area’s best bottles. I was especially impressed by the Riesling and I can’t wait to try the Cabernet Franc, which I’ll be reviewing on Twitter soon. These wines are small-lot and available at a reasonable cost via the sr20 website – perfect for holiday gifting or enjoying over dinner any night. And they can be purchased alongside other great Ontario wine selections in a mixed case – one of my personal favourite features.

The Sideroad Twenty team were kind enough to answer some of my questions below so I could share even more information with you.

Patrick, Jessica and Yvonne

How did Sideroad Twenty Cellars get started?  

Andrew Howard – President: Sideroad Twenty Cellars started the way so many wine companies start—with a passion for the wine industry and a realization that there is a different way to buy great wine. So many of the boutique and interesting wines never see a retail store because the Liquor Boards can only take so many wines and the smaller lot wines only get "loved" by the people who visit the winery. SR20 was based on the fact that the best way to buy wine is from people and by getting the right advice. We have people who help us sell wine to the people they know and we have a website that looks to bring to life more information about the wines so that more people get a wine they're going to love more often!

The name was inspired driving the back roads of Ontario and we came across Sideroad Twenty…for some reason we spontaneously turned down the road and it just had a great feel to it. The name rolled off our tongue, it wasn't already a winery's name and the rest was history. As an aside - come up with any name that you think would make a good winery name…put it into a google search….and you'll find a winery by that name somewhere in the world!

What sets you apart from other wine agents?

Jessica Nagy – Marketing & Logistics Manager: The two biggest factors that set us apart from other online agents are 1) we offer the customer the ability to mix cases from various Ontario wineries; and 2) the customer pays a flat shipping rate to anywhere in the Province. Additionally, we focus on providing access to a limited number of high quality wines that are not always available on LCBO and Vintages shelves in addition to some that are more easily found in store. So when you shop at sr20.ca, you know you are selecting from carefully curated wines that are some of the best quality in the province, and that you can’t just go down the street to pick up one of these bottles at any given time.

I love that you offer mixed cases of Ontario wine - what wineries do you work with and are there any restrictions?

Jessica: Our list of partner wineries is at 11 right now and always growing. Most are concentrated within the Niagara region, with a couple in Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. We don’t have restrictions to which wineries we will work with, but we do focus on those that are making high-quality wines that showcase the unique terroir of Ontario’s growing regions. Logistically, it’s easier for us to work with wineries that are close geographically as well, but we are always looking to expand our partnerships and for ways to bring even more Ontario wine to Ontario residents. We also like to focus on developing strong relationships with the wineries we represent—which is why we call them our partners. We’re all entering this intriguing new world of online wine sales in Canada together.

Winemaker Yvonne Irvine
You are one of the only agencies I've ever heard of with your own wine - how did Red Tractor come about?

Andrew: Red Tractor helps us to be better connected to the process of making wine and keeps us empathetic to the joys and challenges that our partner wineries go through to make great wine. As passionate wine lovers with brand-building backgrounds, we couldn't resist complementing the offerings from our partner wineries by creating our own small lot high quality wines.

We're really proud of Red Tractor wines and the recent awards they’ve won - the wines are definitely getting noticed. We make a point of talking a lot about the vineyard sourcing for the wines because one of the primary drivers for Red Tractor is selecting small lots of premium quality fruit from great local farmers. That is why most of the Red Tractor wines are produced from single vineyards and in small batches. It also feels right to be talking about "where the tractor is working" when we promote the wines.

Why the name?  I love tractors and particularly like the vintage ones. We own a gorgeous re-worked 1950 Massey Harris. It's fun to drive and they seem to perfectly represent the hard work mentality that goes into growing premium grapes and making great wine - there really are no short cuts!  It's also a bit like the Smartie jingle - we like the red ones best.

Your winemaker, Yvonne Irvine, is well-loved in the Ontario wine community. What has working with her meant for Red Tractor?

Patrick Storr – Managing Director: Working with Yvonne has been great. She’s energetic, creative, opinionated, and brings a wealth of experience from her years as a member of the Creekside winemaking team. She wasn’t always the lead winemaker for Red Tractor and actually earned the position through her precociousness. During a 2012 trip to the Okanogan Valley, Andrew fell in love with a BC Chardonnay. Knowing that Yvonne was a huge fan of Chardonnay he brought her back a bottle. After tasting it together she agreed that it was a beautiful style, but thought with a few small adjustments she could do better. After a few more glasses it was decided that she would take the lead producing that year’s Red Tractor Chardonnay. Since then, the 2012 Red Tractor Chardonnay has gone on to win awards at some of Canada’s top wine competitions and consistently receives top accolades from critics. We’ve never looked back and Yvonne has been our lead winemaker ever since.

I think this is a great option for those hoping to give VQA for the holidays, but who may be unable to make it out to Niagara to pick up some of the winery-only bottles. Are you still taking orders for the holiday season?

Jessica: Yes! We are still taking orders and even have some exciting pre-Holiday deals coming up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We can guarantee December 24 delivery in the GTHA for all local wine orders placed by December 18. Our Wine Clubs are a great gift idea that keeps on giving all year long.

For more information on Sideroad Twenty Cellars: http://sr20.ca/


*I received samples of the Red Tractor wines to try – opinions are my own

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Vineyard Trail Interviews… Me!


One of the most amazing things about the recent Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC14) was meeting other bloggers. Some of my favourite people were the team behind The Vineyard Trail. I loved getting to know them and learning about their fabulous and fun wine company. I was beyond flattered that they were interested in interviewing me about my journey to becoming a wine blogger.

Their post and video is now up and I hope you’ll check it out. Not because it’s me (I’m convinced I look dorky), but because I love their site and you should take a look too. I also appreciated the opportunity to once again say thank you to the  incredible people who welcomed me into the world of wine. My life would truly be very different had they not taken this wine novice into their lives and I am eternally grateful.

You can check out the post here: http://www.thevineyardtrail.com/how-social-media-made-krista-drink-wine-by-tj/

And while I’m on the subject, I thought this would be a good opportunity to mention just a very small sampling of the talented bloggers I got to know at WBC14. If you have the chance, please take a moment to visit their blogs and see what they’ve got to say about wine in their part of the world. Since this only scratches the surface of great blogs I discovered, I’ll try and plan a second post soon!

The Academic Wino – Becca’s blog is all about the science and history of wine and is often the source of some fascinating facts. She’s also fabulously nice and I was thrilled to get to know her better at this year’s conference.

A Glass After Work – Want ideas about what to sip after a hard day at the office? Alleigh is a great resource! While some of her suggestions aren’t easily available in Canada, there are some that are and the blog is a great read either way.

Cuvée Corner – When I decided to come to California, Bill was kind enough to spend an hour of his time telling me all the wineries I should visit and helping me plan my trip. Reading his blog, which is full of wine stories and reviews from around the world, it’s not surprising that he’s such a fabulous source of information. He was also a very-deserving nominee at this year’s Wine Blog Awards!

The Virginia Grape – Planning to visit Virginia wine country? Brian’s blog is a must-read for planning your trip.  I love the personal touch to his winery reviews.

Like I said, just a small selection - I'll be sure to add more soon. And please feel free to include your own favourites in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Daou Vineyards

Our view from the patio
One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been is Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles, California. And I likely wouldn’t have made the trip if I hadn’t tasted the winery’s delicious White Grenache at the California Wine Fair in Toronto. One of my wonderful wine friends insisted I request a sip from the winery’s Canadian distributer and I was lucky enough to get the very last of their bottle – it was fabulous and so unique.

So when Shawn and I were planning our recent California trip, Daou was high on our list to visit. It didn’t disappoint. Driving up to the mountain-top location is an adventure in and of itself – the scenery is breathtaking (even with the California drought leaving much of the area yellow instead of lush and green) and the winery itself is stunning as it comes into view.

And from the other side of the winery
We were treated to an incredible tasting in the winery’s beautiful rotunda area and I can’t thank their lovely staff enough for the experience. We were able to taste through a full selection, starting with the Chenin de Fleurs, which had papaya, lemon and melon on the nose and a creamy mouth-feel with apple and papaya on the finish. This had very good structure and great acidity.

The 2011 Celestus had cherry, chocolate, sweet red fruit and spicy licorice on the nose, a medium-heavy body and a medium-long finish with chocolate on the palate. This would be a nice wine with dinner – especially if you were having red meat.

The 2012 Unbound is a unique red blend which reminded me of Syrah. There’s pepper, plum, smoke and cherry on the nose and this is rich and ripe on the palate. The tannins here are a bit chewy, making this another great red meat pairing.

The 2011 Reserve Seventeen Forty is much more tannic, with a nice structure. It’s still very young, but quite vibrant and powerful. I think this will age well.

The 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon had tobacco on the nose, along with nutmeg, plum and dark cherry. The finish was long and there was such strong character to this wine. Our host suggested this could age at least another ten years and I would agree - I wish I could have brought home a bottle to cellar.

The 2012 Zinfandel is 15% alcohol, but very balanced and not too hot. It’s fruit-forward, with some strawberry on the nose. This was a favourite of both Shawn and I at the tasting, as it was a well-made Zin that didn’t feel too heavy. Even with the temperatures well above 100 degrees the day of our visit, I still felt like this would be a nice wine to sip on Daou’s beautiful patio.

And then it happened – one of those moments all wine lovers hope for – I tried a wine that made me really pause for a moment and remember what drew me to wine in the first place. The 2011 Estate Mayote is not on the regular tasting menu, but I was thrilled that we got to taste this. The owners made this very special wine for their mother and it features cherry, nutmeg and cloves on the nose.

It’s a little hot on the nose and features amazing fruit on the palate. While I enjoyed all of the wines we tasted, this was hands-down my favourite. It made me pause and want to explore every single nuance in each sip. I loved the surge of fruit on the palate and then the way it eased into a long, but subtle finish with just a hint of coffee.

I had to take this one home and I am hopeful that it survived the rest of our California road trip without too much stress. I’m excited to try this again in a few years and relive our wonder visit to Daou. The winery itself is definitely a big part of the tasting experience and I highly recommend it if you’re in the Paso Robles area.

For more information on Daou Vineyards:  http://www.daouvineyards.com/