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

A Whole New Ball Game

My vision for the Liberty Village Wine Club was to bring neighbours together to socialize, eat and enjoy wine, informally. After the first official wine night, I was approached by one of my new friends and club members who mentioned how interested they were to really LEARN about wine. Since the wine club rapidly grew and we are now reaching over 250 members, it is hard to really get into the nitty gritty of wine fundamentals when we all get together. This sparked an interesting idea in my head, and that is how Liberty Village wine classes began!

IMG_2795I decided I would start with an Introduction class. Although I have obtained a great deal of knowledge in wine, I have never really given a full lesson on the topic so this would be the easiest thing to start off with. As well, I thought this was a good direction for my members to kick off in if they were seriously interested in learning.

The response was remarkable so I expanded the class to two nights with 10 students on the first night and 12 on the second!

I was a little nervous as this would be my first class I have taught. I prepared for the evening and chose 6 wonderful wines that I knew both groups would really enjoy. They were from countries around the world and noble varieties, which are grape varieties that are widely planted in most of the major wine producing regions.

The wines poured for both evenings were:

Lamberti Pinot Grigio

Family Estate Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc

Distell Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay

Emiliana Adobe Merlot

Emiliana Novas Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot

Nugan Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz

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Both nights were a huge success! Everyone showed up right one time and were eager to learn (I think they were more excited to start drinking) They were all so focused and interested in everything I said and were great participants. We had some great discussions and the 6 wines went over very well!

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The biggest hits were the Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc, Nugan Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz and Novas Cab/Merlot blend.

Some interesting facts that were shared with the class included that both the Adobe Merlot and Novas blend are 100 percent organic wines. There is no use of pesticides, herbicides, etc. during grape growing or the wine making process. As well, Currently the Novas is not available in LCBO but will be released again in November of this year.

As well, The Nugan Shiraz is processed like an Italian Ripasso. So the grapes are dried and fermented twice so the water within the fruit can evaporate resulting in a wine that is dry, rich, exuberantly fruity and complex.

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Two really great first classes and an inspiration to start something new!

 

Good Eats Calgary!

I am happy to say that my clothes still fit after dining for 4 days in Calgary! I was very shocked to see the huge array of originality from each and every restaurant I had the opportunity of eating at and each meal was just as equally good.

Being a fan of local establishments, all of these unique hot spots differed in cuisine, decor, and most importantly, experience. I definitely ate and drank my way through the week. (It was a good way to stay warm for the beginnings of winter we encountered while we were there!)

Carino Riserva

IMG_2672Our first stop on the evening we arrived in Alberta was a small Italian restaurant owned by an Asian family. I have to say, that was the best Italian meal I have had that was not cooked by an Italian! The chef actually worked at a Michelin Star restaurant in Italy. Carino Riserva, a welcoming, warm, friendly environment prepares all their food right in front of their guests. With their menu constantly changing to appropriately match the seasons, food lovers can return numerous times and experience it as if for their first time!

Of course, dining at an Italian restaurant, I chose a pasta dish! A seafood linguine accompanied with a tomato sauce and I thought it would only be appropriate to pair the meal with a Chianti as the acidity from the tomato sauce would nicely complement the acidity in the wine. The Collazzi Liberta from Tuscany was deep coloured with flavours of balsamic, and tomato. It had sweet, soft tannins with a well-rounded balance and was complex but did not over power the dish.

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It was evident the rest of the team greatly enjoyed their meals and with the 2 hour time difference, it was a good ending to the night!

Yellow Door Bistro

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This was my favourite stop during my trip as it was original, fun and had a very unique menu! Named Calgary’s Best New Restaurant in 2013, this hotspot attached to Hotel Arts is an eye-catcher featuring a contemporary twist. Yellow Door employs wonderful, attentive staff who assure their guests stay is delightful and memorable.

 

One of our Calgary sales reps and I shared the Clam and Bacon Flatbread (double smoked bacon / Manila clams / salsa verde / mozzarella) and The Artisan Greens Salad (raw, pickled & fried beets / sunflower seeds Noble Meadows goat cheese elderflower vinaigrette). Both were DIVINE!

Of course, we paired our dishes with a nicely toasted Chardonnay which complemented both dishes.

It was a great meal and made it very hard to go back to work for the rest of the day!

Safari Grill

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An East African experience in Canada! The decor, atmosphere and even the employees made you feel as if you were in another country! Very Authentic and realistic, this restaurant is a night to remember. An unreal meal full of flavours, spices and wine!

 

 

 

The food at Safari Grill was very different than my regular dining choices to but it was DELICIOUS and they fed us VERY well! Dishes kept coming out until we had to tell them to stop!

Some of my favourites were Mogo (deep fried cassava sprinkled with spices), Butter Chicken, and Ndizi Na Nyama Ya Masasani (Banana and beef cooked in coconut sauce with maharage)

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The wine I enjoyed the best was the 2011 Plasiri de Merle Chardonnay. It was fruity with a medium body which could hold up to the meat but also a good pairing to the spices.

 

Halo

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Halo Restaurant was a wonderful way to end our trip in Calgary. A steak and seafood house opened in 2006 that offers a casual fine dining experience. With their full range of menu options, everyone was able to gather and enjoy something they loved.

 

 

We were given a great table in the lounge where we would avoid the traffic and volume of the rest of the restaurant and regroup about our wine week. The service was great and our food came out in an timely and efficient order.

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I started with the Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms (Sizzling mushroom caps stuffed with savoury crab and creamcheese baked with mozzarella and topped with green onion) Paired with the Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc, both paired well side by side.

 

 

 

Halo’s Heavenly Filet Mignon was my main dish of choice. Accompanied by creamy, garlic mashed potatoes, and some of the most incredible brussel sprouts I have ever had! As a wine pairing, I enjoyed the Norton Privada. A blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this Argentinian red perfectly holds up to a steak dinner with its intensity, complexity and richness. There is a lot of ripe black fruit, layers of oak, spice and a long pleasant finish.

It was another great dinner and allowed me to be well rested for my early flight back to Toronto! Can’t forget dessert! Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake (A house made peanut buter ice cream cake fit for a king) and the Halo-Baked Apple Pie (Warm apples baked into puff pastry and topped with granola and maple walnut ice cream) Both INCREDIBLE!

Thank you for showing me your originality Calgary and for keeping me very well fed!

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Corks & Platters

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Last night I encountered an incredible little local piece of heaven!

Corks and Platters opened this past June and caters to any sort of wine or local restaurant lover (looks like I might have found my new hotspot!)

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Featuring wines only from Ontario, this small wine bar seats just under 15 people and provides quite the experience. Whether you choose to sit on the tree trunk bar stools, play chess with wine corks, or just enjoy their incredible, original decor, this place has a lot to offer!

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What I found very refreshing was the knowledge and experience the Owner had! As I was waiting for my friend to join me, we had an amazing talk about the wines she carries, her educational background and where she has travelled in the wine world.

She was great at answering any questions customers had, recommending wine by giving full descriptions and characteristics and providing food pairings! She even made her own beef jerky!

I had a lovely time and so did my friend! I would definitely go back and recommend Corks and Platters to anyone who loves small local establishments!

There is no website yet so I have provided the address for you below! Check it out, you will NOT be disappointed!

Address: 2220 A Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4E 1E9

 

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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Finnegan the Mutt

What to do for a good friend for their birthday who LOVES wine and their dog!?

Make them their own wine label!

One of my best friend’s birthday is today and she is a fan of wine like myself. She also has the most adorable dog named Finnegan. He even has his own instagram page! I decided to get a custom wine label made for her birthday party! I picked a picture of Finnegan and created a the label on an amazing site called Grog Tags

You can also create beer labels!

It was easy to do and my friend LOVED the gift! I decided to name the wine “Lazy Pants” Shiraz and Pinot Grigio because Finny looked a little sleepy in the picture and I was able to insert my own descriptions onto the label as well!

I definitely recommend checking out the website and making your own! It is a wonderful and  personal gift and will make anyone’s day!

Eat pie, drink wine & be thankful!

I found a great recipe for how to cook a turkey for this years Thanksgiving and am going to share it with all of you!

 

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Depending how you look at it, this could be a very successful method, if you like wine!

Don’t worry, I was not the one to host Thanksgiving dinner! I did enjoy a lovely little meal that one of my good friends prepared for us tonight. I only had to bring the wine (This, I could do and is the reason I LOVE the industry I am in!)

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Since it was only the two of us she decided to try something new and instead of having turkey, she added chicken to her stuffing! It was very moist, flavourful and filling! Very delicious first attempt at a new recipe! In addition, there was baked sweet potato topped with brown sugar and asparagus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a pairing, I brought the 2011 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a very fitting partner for a typical Thanksgiving meal for many reasons. It is light to medium-bodied and its flavours do not over power white meat like turkey or chicken. As well, its vibrant palette of juicy red and black cherry and berry fruit often enhance the tenderness of stuffing and turkey if they seem a bit dry. Furthermore, the high levels of acidity help bring out the flavours of the turkey as well as sweet potato and cranberry sauce.

 

 

 

 

Sokol Blosser is a beautiful winery located in Oregon, US. Founded in 1971, Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser planted their first vines which have flourished and become a successful vineyard and business. Now passed onto their children, Allison and Alex, Sokol Blosser continues to make high quality, award winning wines.

The Dundee Hills Pinot Noir has been recognized with many awards and acknowledgments throughout different vintages. The 2011 vintage was awarded 91 points by Wine Enthusiast. They are currently bottling and selling their 2012 vintage.

It was a perfect pairing and a very well balanced, fruity, wonderful wine.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and made their own delicious wine pairing! I sure did!

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Cheers!

 

The Pink Truck

Move aside Fall, we are still enjoying the summer with the release of the Two Oceans Moscato! New to the shelves as of September 18th, this floral and fruity wine has aromas of apricot and peaches and leaves your palate with a sweet taste of pear. It is crisp and smooth and is the perfect pairing with seafood, grilled meats and salads.

This past weekend, the Pink Moscato Truck drove around the Greater Toronto Area to show consumers just how amazing the new Moscato is! There were giveaways, a beach theme set up in the back and knowledgeable staff sharing information about the new hit product!

image002image004I decided to join the bandwagon and grab a bottle see what all the commotion was about! I invited some of my girlfriends over, and served the Moscato with a homecooked meal.

My first thought was, what would pair really nicely with a sweet wine that was different and would really bring out the flavours of the wine? It would either have to be a sweet food or one of my favourite pairings, something spicy! The reason they complement each other perfectly is because the sweetness of the wine tones down the spiciness of the food and the hot elements help bring out more fruit in the wine. The lower alcohol content of the wine doesn’t increase the dish’s spice, instead the sweetness adds as a coating on your tongue.

Our appetizer was one of my favourite salads! It’s easy to make and tastes delicious: The Crunchy Ramen Noodle Asian Salad. It was a perfect light start with the Two Oceans Moscato.

Next, for our main course, we made Pad Thai!Even though non of us has cooked Thai food before, the dish came out amazing! There were sauteed vegetables, roasted peanuts, perfectly flavoured peanut sauce with a spicy kick and most importantly, it paired amazingly with the moscato! I myself cannot handle too much spice and Pad Thai is usually a spicy dish. The sweetness of the wine was able to help me enjoy the meal THAT much more! It was an delicious meal and I was the lucky one who got to keep the leftovers!

IMG_2559There are so many different rules to pairing food and wine, but when you get it just right, it makes the WORLD of a difference! This definitely helped me get ready for my week!

Go out and try the new Two Oceans Moscato!

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Nuevos Comienzos!

GUAU! Estoy llena y feliz!

I keep getting blown away by my own city, it’s quite incredible!

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Friday night I dined at El Catrin in the Distillery District, downtown Toronto. It has be to one of the most eccentric, unique, appealing places I have been. It took me 20 minutes to finally look at the menu because I was too amazed by the decor and atmosphere to keep my eyes still! Before even trying any of the food, I completely understood why the restaurant was so packed.

There is an outdoor patio and although it is the beginning of October, the fully heated patio keeps their customers comfortably warm enough to sit out there and enjoy the beautiful lights and decor.

The Authentic Mexican appearance perfectly complemented their food menu, cocktail and drink list and the complete theme of the restaurant. During the creation of El Catrin, 3 Mexican artists, including the famous Oscar Flores painted the intriguing murals on the walls. As well, they hold Canada’s largest mescal and tequila bar with over 120 different labels and make the most AMAZING margarita in the city (in my opinion)

Our server Stephanie was FABULOUS! She was friendly, funny and fit in perfectly with the lively atmosphere. She asked our names (which she remembered throughout the entire meal), got to know our interests so she could better recommend dishes and drinks on the menu and even made time to small talk with us regardless of the fact that she was clearly very busy. It was very refreshing to see she cared and wanted to add to our positive experience!

My friend and I decided there were two many tempting options on the menu so we should share everything!

IMG_2522We started off by ordering a bottle of wine (of course) and chose the Adobe Sauvignon Blanc. A) because it is delicious and B) because it would be a perfect match with all the dishes we were about to eat! It is a medium-bodied and crisp wine with grapefruit, green apple and grass flavours. Dry and round. Fruity and not to pungent so it wouldn’t over power the delicate flavours of the ingredients.

First of all, if you ever go to El Catrin, I HIGHLY recommend the Guacamole! (it was recommended to me and it was the right decision) It is made table side and it is a great start to your meal.

 

 

 

Next we had the Esquites (charred corn off the cob, epazote, chipotle aioli, lime) and Atun (ahi tuna, watermelon, Yucateco mignonette, lime, chive) We thought both of these delightful sharing appetizers were a huge hit!

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As our main course, we shared the Baja Tacos (crispy fried cod, beer batter, chipotle lime coleslaw, flour tortilla) These were my FAVOURITE! Although there were only three, one and a half was plenty for both of us!

The last thing we ate was the Palomitas Mexicans (spicy tajin popcorn). If you have been reading my blog, you know how much I LOVE popcorn! This was a great snack! It had a little spicy kick and paired really well with the wine! Great recommendation!

 

 

 

 

I could not end the night without having one of their famous margaritas! We joined Greg at the bar to watch him whip up one of the delicious cocktails! He was brilliant with his movements and it was definitely amazing and refreshing!

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All that was missing from this Mexican experience was the sun and the beach!

Gracias El Catrin! See you again soon!

 

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Black Bottle Launch

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FullSizeRender (15)Last night I attended a product launch for Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky. It was located at Brazenhead Irish Pub in Liberty Village.

The restaurant was the perfect venue for the launch, bringing in a crowd of all ages with its  hip and energetic atmosphere.

The Distell product, Black Bottle, is a very elegantly spiced, smoky blended Scotch Whisky. Brazenhead was offering three different cocktails and personalized Old-Fashions where you could choose your own bitters! The drinks were all phenomenal! My favourites were the Black Bottle Sour and Smoke and Coke! 

There was also fabulous hors d’oeuvres passed around by the great staff that were very knowledgeable and helpful the entire evening.

The DJ played really great music that kept the night going and the guests happy and lively. (I’m sure the drinks helped with that a little as well!) There was even an amazing artist that painted an incredible picture of the bottle right in the middle of the action! The final artwork is posted in the beginning of this blog.

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This was a great evening and it was even better that I was able to walk home at the end of the night! Thank you to the wonderful organizers that put it all together. It was a great turn out and I will definitely be picking up a couple bottles of Black Bottle Scotch Whisky for my next party!

 


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