Ice, Ice (Wine) Baby – Niagara’s Ice Wine Festival

Jan 14, 15 Ice, Ice (Wine) Baby – Niagara’s Ice Wine Festival

Posted by in All, N. America

This past weekend I visited Ontario, Canada to learn a bit more about the delicious ice wines that they produce at their annual Niagara Ice Wine Festival as well as getting a great introduction to the region. The Niagara Ice Wine Festival has been going on since the 1990’s and is your chance to sample all that gorgeous golden (and ruby red) nectar. For those of your unfamiliar with ice wine, it is most famously made from the riesling grape in Germany and Austria – where it get’s cold enough for the berries to freeze in winter. Although it’s debatable as to who made the first ice wines in Ontario, most attribute it to the Inniskillen winery which was one of the wineries we visited while we were there. The most popular grape used in Ontario is the vidal grape which is a hybrid of ugni blanc and Rayon d’Or (I’d never heard of Rayon d’Or either). It was originally produced to be used in Cognac but somehow found its way to Canada where it has a happy home. Ice wine can’t be produced until the temperature stays at -8C for at least a few days. This is to ensure that the grapes picked are frozen through. There can be some thawing during the day but they must be literally hard as a rock to be picked. For this reason, most harvesting is done at night, when the temperature drops. Ice wine is also made from the cabernet franc grape.We had the opportunity to try cab franc ice wines while we were there and I have to say that despite my trepidation, cab franc makes a fabulous ice wine. At Inniskillen we had their cab franc ice wine paired with S’mores (a marshmallow, dark chocolate and graham cracker concoction – if you grew up going to camp as a kid in N. America, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s quite easy to make S’mores with all the wood burning camp fires set up at the wineries....

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Seattle and San Digeo over the holidays

In a previous post, I told you all about the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and all the wonderful things that you can use your Starpoints for – such as hotel stays, flights, experiences, merchandise,etc. Well, AmEx and Starwood decided to really show me what you can do with Starpoints and that’s how I ended up with 100,000 Starpoints to use on a destination of my choosing. My sister recently moved to Seattle and when I plugged in “Seattle” in the Starwood website, one of the hotels available was the W. There is a cool W here in Leicester Sq., which I’ve been to, so I knew I’d be in for a treat. I knew I wanted to visit Seattle but I thought if I’m going all the way to the West Coast, might as well make it worth my while. I went to university in San Diego and of course, there is a W in downtown San Diego. A quick search on the Starwood website and I was booked in for both hotels. 5 days in Seattle and 7 in San Diego – all courtesy of my Starpoints. I’d never been to Seattle so I really wasn’t sure what to expect other than rain and coffee but Seattle is a great city. Even though I arrived at Christmas time, there was still plenty to do in the city. The first thing we did was check into the W – located a few blocks from Pike’s Market and the main shopping district, it was in a great location. Walking in, I was wowed by the high ceilings and vast lounge, the ‘Living Room’ that all W’s have. This one had a fireplace that was centre stage in the Living Room and made for a cosy welcome whenever we returned to the hotel. Our room was on the 22nd floor and we had a great view of the cityscape as well as the sea at the end of the road. As I was...

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Wine making in the back country of San Diego, Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona AVA

Aug 20, 13 Wine making in the back country of San Diego, Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona AVA

Posted by in All, California, N. America, Travel

I try to visit the States in the summertime to keep a finger on the pulse of the American wine world and of course, to visit family and friends. This year, one of my first stops in the US was San Diego, Ca. I went to university in San Diego so I have a bit of a soft spot for the region but back in the day, there weren’t many wineries in the back country of San Diego around. Or, maybe there were but back then I was more interested in tequila then wine 😉 Anyway, I attended the first American wine bloggers conference back in 2008 and it was there that I met the owners of Eagles Nest Winery, Dennis and Julie Grimes. They were very friendly and invited me to visit them the next time I was in the area. Forward to 2013 and we’re tweeting each other, arranging my visit to their vineyard. Dennis and Julie started Eagles Nest about 10 years ago, clearing and planting the hillsides on land they bought in the Ramona Valley. Ramona Valley is in the foothills of San Diego but the beach can seem a million miles away, driving along the dry and dusty hills. That’s what I’ve always like about my home state – the variety of climate and landscapes all encapsulated in one place. Be it rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes or the sea, it’s all here and within easy driving distance. The Ramona AVA is a relatively new designation but the vineyards there are cranking out award winning wines. The AVA has over 20 wineries, which grow both red and white varieties. As the valley is nestled in the foothills of  the coastal mountains, it benefits from the coastal marine layer and fog that rolls in most nights. This being California, the days are hot and the nights are cool, all of which are great for the maturation of  the grapes. At Eagles Nest, Dennis and Julie grow both red and white grapes...

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A 4th of July Toast to Wine, infographic on US wine consumption

Jul 04, 13 A 4th of July Toast to Wine, infographic on US wine consumption

Posted by in All, N. America

I received this interesting infographic the other day about the increase in American wine consumption and seeing as it’s 4th of July, thought today would be a good day to post this.  Glad to see that wine consumption is on the up, there’s hope yet!   Produced by SpareFoot. Copyright 2013. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Jefferson Winery, after the WBC11

Aug 05, 11 Jefferson Winery, after the WBC11

Posted by in N. America

“Can I come along?”  The 2011 WBC had just officially ended and I was hanging around the hotel lobby when I heard Liza of Brix Chix and Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick talking about visiting a winery that afternoon. As with most out of hours events at the WBC, if you didn’t invite yourself along, you ain’t going. Luckily, we bloggers are a friendly lot and besides, Liza drank all my English fizz at the last WBC I attended back in ’08 so I felt I was entitled to invite myself. During the winebloggers conference we had a series of wine speed dating events and one of the wines that caught my attention was from  Jefferson Vineyards. No relation to ol’ TJ but the vineyard is situated on the very same hills that Jefferson thought would be most suitable to grow grapes. First planted in 1774, that pesky War of Independence (or that “spot of bother in the Colonies” as the English refer to it) got in the way and the fields were left alone until 1981 when they were replanted with pinot gris, chardonnay, viognier, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc. Andy Reagan, chief winemaker at the vineyard, had invited any stragglers left after the conference to head over to the winery for an informal lunch and tasting. The winery is a small operation but they seem to be doing pretty well, with a cute little tasting room plastered with newspaper articles lauding their wines. The wine barn/cellar doubled as the setting for our tasting and what better way to be greeted then by a winemaker with a few big slabs of steak in hand. While the steaks were resting (it’s hard work being a steak), we got to try some of the wines. Andy’s intention is to make a bottle of wine to relax and enjoy and he scored a hit with one of my favourite’s the 2007 Jefferson pinot gris, an elegant, full bodied mouthful of ripe peaches and lime notes....

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Wine speed dating at the 2011 Winebloggers Conference

Aug 03, 11 Wine speed dating at the 2011 Winebloggers Conference

Posted by in N. America

The 4th North American Winebloggers Conference has just come and gone and what a ride it was! I hadn’t been to the WBC since the inaugural edition in 2008 so it was great to see old friends and meet bloggers I only knew online. I have to say the Virginia Wine did a great job of showcasing their wines despite the inferno-like temperatures of the weekend. It just so happened that the weekend all us bloggers descended on Charlottesville, VA., the US was going through a heat wave. Imagine sitting in a steam room, fully clothed with the dial turned up to high. Now double that and that was more or less what it was like to step outside of the hotel during the day. Average temp during the conference was 38 Celsius. Thank god for air conditioning.  There was plenty of information throughout the conference about the wines of VA and loads of VA winemakers on hand to answer questions. I came to Virginia to learn about VA wines and that mission certainly was accomplished. Happily, most of the conference was inside the confines of the Omni Hotel and my favourite event other then the after-hours parties (more on those later) was wine speed dating. I love this idea. Are we going home hooked up with wines? Well, more or less. Like many speed dating events, it is hit and miss but you never know when you might find Mr/Ms Right (Wine). Much like speed dating, the winemakers had 5 minutes to impress us with their libations before a little bell rings and the next winemaker comes along. The added bonus (for us bloggers) is that we simultaneously tweet about what we are tasting. What would be worse than being on a blind speed date? How about your date giving running commentary to the world while you’re on said date? “Oh, not enough tannic structure…” “…a bit sweet for me…” ”Do they really think this wine has Burgundian qualities?” You get the idea....

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