A Weekend in Wine… Canadian Style

Happy New Year Wine Lover’s!

It has been a little while since my last post, but I have not forgotten about my readers! I had taken some time off from any winederful events that came my way and drinking wine so I could refresh and refocus! (I know, crazy right!) A month without wine was not an easy task, but I did it and now I am back and ready to pop some bottles!

12523924_10153814995873076_7438975124526850560_nMy first dip into the wine world of 2016 was this past weekend during The Canadian Wine Scholar Program I took with the same company I received my WSET credentials from, Fine Vintage. I am sure most of you are wondering things like, “what is a Canadian Wine Scholar?” or even, “Is there a big enough industry and wine market to have a whole course focused on Canada!?” Well, in fact, there is! The Canadian wine industry is HUGE and after this weekend, I learned there was so much more to it than I had ever known while studying and working in the industry the past three years.

Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia are the most important provinces in the wine market and contribute greatly to the country’s economy. Brilliant and renown wine critic, writer, competition judge and our teacher for the length of the course, David Lawrason led us through the unique regions of Niagara, the beautiful vineyards of The Okanagan Valley (oh how I miss that place), and many more exciting details of how our country is growing to become one of the classics wine country’s in the world. While we are famously known for Ice wine in export markets like Asia and The U.S., other varieties and winery’s are being recognized for their outstanding vintages and wining respected awards around the world. Some wineries to note are Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in West Kelowna who have been recognized for their Chardonnay’s and Pinot Noirs and Inniskillin for their Ice Wine.

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My class was full of extremely interesting people, from various provinces, all who had very interesting backgrounds in the wine industry and an interesting story to tell. It was a fun and insightful two days!

1185636_10200611404281675_1633856871_nPart of the program included tasting and evaluating wines from each province and their respected regions. (the best part of course!) Most of the wines were exquisite and none I had ever tried before. I will admit that while it was hard to find wines from Ontario while living in BC, I never had any interest to buy locally because I didn’t believe they could compete with the rest of the world. Boy was I wrong! Ontario has a diverse range of climates, soil, and varietals and since the wine making styles are basically left up to the wine maker, you never know what you are going to get! I can attest for my classmates and I that we were pleasantly surprised by what came our way. The most exciting part- most of these wines are available at the LCBO for a reasonable price! I will be hitting the Ontario isles the next time I go to the liqour store.

Of course, the course to become a Canadian Wine Scholar couldn’t be all fun and drinking and we had to end with an exam! However, I do believe I did well and will receive a certificate in a couple of weeks! Studying the past couple weeks and preparing for it the night before with a classmate and couple bottles of wine didn’t helped me get there!

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If you are interested in learning more about the Canadian Wine Industry or any country at all, first come to me because I will plan and host an AMAZING event, but if you want certification, check out Fine Vintage. They are a highly reputable company, have amazing, intelligent teachers and we taste delicious wines! 😉

WSET 4: The Diploma

“Remember that you will never know everything about wine, but the more you learn the greater your pleasure will be and the better you’ll be able to share your passion with others.”
FullSizeRenderThese are the words I have chosen to live by. And in saying so, I have decided to keep studying! THAT’S RIGHT! I have decided to go full force and register for WSET Level 4: THE DIPLOMA!!! It will be a long, wild, hard ride, but I am HOOKED and nothing will stop me now!

It is too hilarious to think that 3 short years ago, all I knew was, some wine was red and some was white. Now, my mind is full of the many wine regions around the world, varietals, vines, climates, soils, and all aspects of wine.

After obtaining WSET Level 3, I knew I wanted to continue and here I am once again ready to put my head in the books and my lips on the glass! (I  don’t know what I enjoy more- really!)

I should also mention I am enrolled in a 2 day course in January 2016 featuring Canadian wine, “Canadian Wine Scholar Program” It is offered by the same company I took WSET with, Fine Vintage. Since the Canadian wine market is so small in comparison with the rest of the worlds markets, it is not of main focus in the WSET courses as to why it has become its own special program. At the end of the 2 day period in January (exam included) I hope to become a Canadian Wine Scholar and proudly use the letters C.W.S after my name.

Getting back on track to the Diploma program, this is a long, 2 year commitment.

 

CaptureThe course will be led by IWEG (Independent Wine Education Guild) and is broken down into 6 units. The first and second unit will begin in August 2016. I still have a while to go, but I need to get my head in the game and start tasting and evaluating wine again! (the proper way)

Pray for me everyone! Again, this will be a long, wild, hard ride, but I am ready and I cannot wait to achieve the next chapter of my life as my passion keeps growing!

My first plan of action: watch SOMM with a huge bowl of popcorn!

(If you have not seen this documentary, it is a MUST see!! Available on Netflix!)

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Mulled Wine: How to Keep Warm this Holiday Season!

There is nothing more exciting to me during the holidays than the inviting nutty and sweet smells of mulled wine! It is the perfect combination of a warm drink and wine! I like to make my batch in my crock pot and want to share the recipe with you!

downloadThis will keep you cozy and happy for the cold months to come!

“Red wine is simmered with whole winter spices, apple cider, and brandy for a cozy (and addictive!) winter drink. Inexpensive and easy to make, it’s also an excellent choice for holiday parties”

 

 

 

YIELD: Serves 6

PREP TIME: 5 minutes

COOK TIME: 30 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes

20130826-mulled-wine-ice-creamIngredients:
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine (choose something fruity but not too sweet. Merlot, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon all work well)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • Orange slices, for garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish
imagesDirections:
  1. Add wine, cider, honey, orange zest, and orange juice to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir to combine. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and anise. Cook on low until warm, 30 minutes to one hour, depending on your slow cooker. Stir in the brandy.
  2. Ladle into mugs and serve with an orange slice and cinnamon sticks. To keep the wine warm, leave the slow cooker on the “keep warm” setting. If your slow cooker does not have a warm setting, alternate between “low” and off.

Trick or Treat… The Adult Way!

You will NEVER be too old for Halloween candy! What is even better, adults have their own candy- WINE! What do you get when you put both of those together? The perfect pairing!

Many people question how good candy, chocolate paired with wine really is, so I am sharing the perfect article to teach you just how extra sweet it all can be!

Don’t let the kids have all the fun this Halloween, create your own!

This App Will Help You Find the Perfect Wine to Pair With Your Halloween Candy
Vivino’s new guide turns trick-or-treating into an epicurean event

Spirit Guides

This past week, I travelled to Alberta with the PMA Canada Wine Team to work with our colleagues in Calgary. It was an exciting journey for me as I have never seen the city and I was interested to learn about a new and different liquor market.

Alberta is the first Canadian market to privatize all of their liquor retailing so it is very different than our Government run LCBO stores in Ontario. This means the their industry is very competitive as store managers choose what they want to list and sell and also decide on retail pricing. What was amazing to me was the bountiful selection of wines, spirits and craft beers that we do not see in Ontario (I was extremely jealous.)

As well, because all stores are individually owned and private, they are all different and unique and I was amazed by how visually appealing and detailed they were!

Willow Park

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Willow Park is a HUGE beautiful retail store that offers not just products to buy, but an experience. They have the widest selection I have ever seen and it is visually so appealing; I could have spent HOURS in there. There were four parts to the store.

The first part catered to their retail customers. With a huge selection and knowledgeable staff, customers are guided through with all the help they need. Wine, spirits, beer and accessories can be purchased in the majority part of the store.

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Next, is the upstairs classroom, which was very heart warming to me as it brought back memories of planning events at Everything Wine in our classroom. It was set up for a class that was being held that evening. There were gorgeous maps on the walls of different country’s wine regions and a full kitchen to help cater events. It was magnificent.

The third part (and my favourite) was their wine cellar. Old wines, expensive wines, famous wine brands and family names, were all stores in this beautiful hand crafted wood cellar.

The last part was the big event space where they hold galas, Wine Maker dinners and their bigger classes. This space was perfect for a big crowd accompanied by a stage and a full on kitchen in the back.

I was really blown away by Willow Park.

5 Vines

5 Vines is a smaller liquor store, but what I loved most was their growler bar. Everyday, there is a beer special and customers are welcome to come in, sample and fill up their growlers! It was very welcoming, the staff were friendly and I found some awesome wines to take home with me that we do not have in Ontario!

Co-op Oakridge

IMG_2666There are many different Co-ops around Calgary and they are pretty impressive! The one I went to was large, had a massive selection and all the shelving was made of wood. It was very inviting and I am sure it keeps their customers happy! One of my favourite parts of the store was the wooden country signs that were hanging over top of the shelves. The store had a lot of character and exhibited a clear passion for wines and spirits.

I am very grateful I had the opportunity of traveling to Calgary to experience a different market. Working in this industry and seeing how different provinces are run in terms of government boards and liquor laws are truly interesting.

We have an amazing team in Alberta and they work very hard to get our products into stores! Way to go PMA Alberta! Thank you for your hospitality! Cant wait to come back!

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Oh Happy Day!

I passed!

There is nothing like the feeling of success when you definitely have earned it! I found out last night I passed my WSET Level 3 with Merit!

After ONLY 13 weeks of waiting, I finally received my certificate in the mail with green pin signifying Level 3.

To all my other classmates, I hope you all got your results back as we have all been anxiously waiting and I hope you all passed with flying colours as well!

In the 4 short weeks enrolled with Fine Vintage, our fabulous teachers David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato guided, educated and enlightened us on the heavy material we needed to quickly retain.

It was fun, intense, interesting and there was A LOT of reading!

If you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

WHAT’S NEXT?!

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Discover Portugal

Not too familiar with the thriving Portuguese Wine Industry but want to dive into something new, exciting and DELICIOUS!?

There is a lot more that comes from Portugal than the highly regarded fortified wine, Port. It can be intimidating to pull something off the shelf that is not as familiar than our New World favourites, but most of these blends in the Douro Valley and other areas have very similar characteristics, flavour profiles and most of the time are less expensive!

Take a look at the chart I have provided and try one of the beauties on the right!

Discover Portugal

Grange??

Why have I created this blog might you ask? For two reasons

1-I can share my new life journey into the Wine Industry

2- To inspire and teach anyone who is interested, what I have learned and loved in my own little wine world.

“A clash of culture creates a curious harmony”

Joseph Bastianich, David Lynch

There was a time in my life, a very recent time I might add, where to me, wine fell into two simple categories: white or red.

I remember at the beginning of my wine career, participating in a Penfolds wine tasting and asking what Grange was. I was laughed at (in a playful manner) by a group of educated coworkers, my new boss and the Penfolds Wine Representative, and I thought, “yeah, I’m going to be that new girl who doesn’t know anything about what she is doing and makes a fool of herself”

For those of you who don’t know what Grange is (which is PERFECTLY acceptable!), I will enlighten you so hopefully you don’t run into the same embarrassing stint I experienced. Penfolds is a highly regarded wine producer located in the heart of the Barossa Valley. “Grange is arguably Australia’s most celebrated wine from the Penfolds portfolio and is officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. Grange boasts an unbroken line of vintages from the experimental 1951 and clearly demonstrates the synergy between Shiraz and the soils and climates of South Australia.”1 The vintages produced are known as huge collectors items.

1 https://www.penfolds.com/wine-advice/about-tasting-notes/about-the-penfolds-collection/grange

So yes, I understand their laughter- as I WAS working in a wine store… and had NO idea what one of the biggest wine producers in the worlds’ “claim to fame” was.

A New Beginning

My introduction into the wine industry took off during a previous job at a company called Everything Wine. The large company is owned by The Jim Pattison Group and, located in British Columbia. It is one of the most unique corporations I have ever had the privilege of working for and that I have ever known because of their diversity of wines and the highly educated staffs willingness to help customers! I found the position of Event Coordinator at the store in North Vancouver, funnily enough, on Craigslist, and the next chapter of my life began.

I was very intimidated; moving to a foreign city all by myself, starting a new job in an unfamiliar environment that was focused on something I knew nothing about or, hardly even liked, I might add! All I had to look forward to was the opportunity of continuing a life in a BEAUTIFUL province and having the ability to plan events, tastings and festivals, which back then, was my biggest dream!

When I say I didn’t know anything about wine, I mean I knew that it was located on the opposite side of where I used to shop at the LCBO.

My coworkers were some of the most educated and intelligent people I had ever met and all shared such a great passion for wine. I had entered this realm of something I had never journeyed through before. The spark of my desire to learn about wine didn’t start out because I loved to drink it. It was actually the desire to be able to communicate and share the same passion with these people, who became my friends and family, and have the knowledge of what surrounded us and what we sold to customers day after day.

Now trust me, now I share both the love of wine drinking as much as I love learning about it. (maybe the drinking side a little bit more)

What I find so fascinating about wine and what I think really first got me hooked is that the industry is ALWAYS changing and there is always something new to learn and explore. The reason I love it so much is that there is not one single person in the world that knows absolutely EVERYTHING about wine and it is a culture that has come together based on wine lovers sharing with each other; sharing facts, technologies and even grape varieties.

I studied and received my WSET 1 & 2 (WSET – Wine and Spirit Education Trust Program is a British organization which certifies individuals based on their knowledge learned through courses they provide throughout the world and exams given for ranking students) Professionals in the Wine Industry are aware of an individuals level of knowledge based on their level of completion. Proudly so, I passed both with Distinction.

I just moved back to Toronto (my home city) after having lived in Beautiful BC for the past 4 years (2011- recently in 2015). I came to a point where I missed my family back east A LOT. So, after months of debating, I decided to leave Beautiful BC and my Everything Wine Family and return home.

I had NO idea what I was going to do once I got there. I thought it was only natural that I continue on with my Event Planning career since my wine path was so much a part of my BC life and not the life I had left back in Ontario. WOW, did that not work out! I missed wine SO much!

So, GUESS WHAT! I went back at it! I signed up for WSET 3! I met some really interesting people in class. 11 weeks later, I am STILL waiting for results of a pass or fail with the addition of a percentage mark!

The Industry Path

After a month into studying, I started looking for jobs. It was the most stressful time of my life as I am sure many can agree, studying and job searching, never a fun time. One day I found a post on Linked In (Job Posting is a great tool on Linked In!!! Make a profile and start searching; very reputable jobs and easy to use!)

The position was for a Marketing Coordinator at a Liquour Agency for their Wine Division. (For those of you who aren’t familiar- I am asked this question a lot- A Liquour Agency represents different brands of alcoholic beverages and markets, and offers these products to different liquour boards.)

This agency is called PMA Canada and their head office is located in Oakville, Ontario. Long story short, I applied, was interviewed and got the job!! It is only a one-year contract, but it was a foot in the door and a step in the right direction!

PMA (Peter Mielzynski Agencies) is Canada’s Largest Importer of Quality Wines and Spirits. It is a WONDERFUL company (and they represent delicious wines!) I have been working with the most dedicated, friendly, and intelligent individuals and cannot wait to see what my future holds with the company.

Through this blog, I will share Wine Events I experience, trips I have the opportunity to take with my Wine Team, and on my own, winemaker visits and many more exciting stories along my journey. I will provide food and wine pairings, give insight on great restaurants (with amazing wine lists) and wine bars, post pictures I take and most of all be here if you need help along your own wine journey!

 

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