Meet and Greet- Around the World in Liberty Village

The first official wine night happened this past Friday and it was a CRAZY success! It completely exceeded my expectations by far. Although I woke up with a bit of a headache, I couldn’t have been happier with the turnout.

The event was located in my own building party room and there were 47 guests who each brought a bottle of wine and a delicious dish to pair alongside. Since it was our clubs first get together, it was only appropriate that the theme focused on wines from around the world and each guest brough their favourite wine or a wine from a country they wanted to explore. I was highly impressed with the wine that came through the door! We had an array of different varietals from a number of different countries. Included were the Adobe Merlot, Montecillo Crianza Tempranillo, Saint Claire Family Estate Chardonnay and Two Oceans Sparkling, which was the welcome bubble of the evening. Many of the guests had excellent wine knowledge while others came excited to learn!

IMG_2435IMG_2437The dishes brought to pair with each bottle were OUTSTANDING and DELICIOUS! Guests really went all out, bringing full meals, crockpots full of warm foods, whole cheese platters and unique snacks. Some of my favourites consisted of a Candy Apple Dip, Brie Phyllo Pockets with Boysenberry sauce and of course, many of the cheeses that paired excellently with the wines.

IMG_2442What surprised me the most was how amazing the night flowed. Most people were strangers to each other and it was amazing to see how well everyone got along and meshed together! I had some very interesting and engaging conversations with almost everyone and I found out how incredible my neighbours in Liberty Village really are!

The night ended up lasting longer than expected and guests left with happy faces and asking the only question of when the next wine night would be!

All in all, it was a wonderful night and I cannot wait to host the 2nd Liberty Village wine night for my club members! Anyone have a creative theme in mind!?

Cheers!

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Pure Delight at Pure Spirits

Down the brick path of the Distillery District, in the heart of downtown, bestows one of the best Seafood restaurants in Toronto; Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill.

Notably recognized for Best Seafood in 2013 and 2014 by dine.TO, Pure Spirits provides a fine dining atmosphere with an impressive extensive menu. I was surprised at how lively and busy the restaurant was when I visited last Sunday evening.

Being the oldest restaurant in the Distillery with its beautiful original architecture still intact, the food sure is fresh! The contrast between old and modern creates a unique, warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I treated my good friend, Phoebe, as she has been such great help to the start of my blog and my partner and co-creator for The Liberty Village Wine Club. She was the perfect person to take along because we both LOVE wine, new experiences and of course FOOD!

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We were treated like queens! Arthur, our server, was AMAZING! His more than friendly attitude, outstanding knowledge on both the food and the wine and his smart humour really put our whole evening together. He treated us very respectfully from the beginning of the meal until we walked out the door. Arthur has been with Pure Spirits for the past eight years and it was evident that he really cared about the company and his guests. Thank you for an amazing night, Arthur!

Now, onto the best part- THE FOOD!

I am not over exaggerating when I say Phoebe and I ate an amazingly, fabulous, beautiful meal! We were able to tell each dish was made and prepared with love and the use of different ingredients was very refreshing. There was a new twist to each course that made us so interested to keep going. The wine, cider and spirit pairings were especially interesting as they really brought out the flavours of the dishes and completely complimented each other. We were so full and wanted to keep going but found it physically impossible!  Chef JV Viau and his team do a fabulous job and prepare quite the feast!

Here we go, the lineup!

Course 1

 Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Course 2

Masetuesttes, New Zealand Oysters and east coast clams with three Sauces

(traditional seafood sauce, cucumber minuette, mango hot sauce) 

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

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Phoebe loved the coromandel oysters from New Zealand. I loved the clams with the cucumber minuette.

The oysters paired really well with the Lamberti. They brought down the acidity in the wine and brought out more fruit.

 

Course 3

Tempura Calamari

fried with Chinese salt & pepper, sweet soy mirin dipping sauce

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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buttermilk ranch dressing, blue cheese, house pickled chili peppers

 

Wine Pairing: Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc

Both dishes were INCREDIBLE! The calamari was one of our favourites! The Sauvignon Blanc complemented the dishes and did not overpower them. This was my favourite wine pairing of the night! As well, the blue cheese and ranch dressing was very subtle and blended well together.

Course 4

Pure Spirits Pappardelle

lobster, wild mushrooms, black truffle cream sauce

Cider Pairing: Savanna Cider

This dish was UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS! The truffle cream sauce was not too rich so you could indulge in the pasta.

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This was also a very interesting pairing. I have never thought to pair pasta with a cider but it was perfect. The Savanna Cider is not too sweet so it rounded out well with the pasta and held up to the sauce.

Course 5

Blackened Yellowfin Tuna 

seared rare, cured bacon, black eyed peas, bell pepper and millet hash, egg sabayon

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Wine Pairing: Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec

The tuna was delicious, perfectly cooked and extremely spicy! The egg sabayon toned down the spice a little bit. The Reserva Malbec was Phoebe’s favourite wine of the evening. It is a delicious very well rounded wine.

Course 6

Saffron Infused Sponge Cake with Riesling Injector
 
Spirit Pairing: Gibbons Old Fashioned

This was such an exciting end to our meal! Once the cake was brought to our table, we were instructed to squeeze the Riesling injector so the sponge cake could absorb the wine. This added an additional layer or flavour and sweetness! It was very light and delightful. The Gibbons Old Fashioned was a very nice touch to end off as well!

Overall, the team, food, and ambience is one of a kind and it leaves you with a memorable experience! It was a wonderful way to end the weekend!

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Phoebe, when can we go back!?

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PerSe

Meeting a group of people from across the world, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting things. Hearing their life stories, learning about their cultures, their languages, while trying to visualize picture to better understand is truly invigorating.

This past week, I met 5 of the most warmhearted, friendly, intelligent, humorous people from Argentina and had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with them. They were part of the Bodega Norton Winery Team and had traveled to Toronto to work with our PMA Canada (Ontario) Sales Team to increase listings in LCBO stores and to discuss other business and marketing ventures for the future.

What is even better when meeting new people is finding out you share a common passion (in this case wine) and learning from them a great deal of new knowledge from a different perspective; their experience running a world renown winery in Argentina.

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I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of the days with Norton’s Winemaker, David Bonomi  heard all about his very interesting life.

David is a wonderful man. His zest for life is very refreshing as he is so passionate and in love with what he does and where he comes from. Although English is not his first language, he is still very clear and impressive and he does not stop until he gets his point across to his audience

David grew up in up in Mendoza with an Italian background. His family was already in the wine business, so he was inspired at a young age.

Living now with a family of four, his wife, 18 year old daughter, who is studying law and 13 year old son, David is a hard worker, over achiever and has many projects on the go.

David has succeeded greatly in the Wine Industry over the years. In 2002, he became Bodega untitledNorton’s Winemaker and worked beside Jorge Riccitelli, Wine Enthusiast’s 2012 Wine Maker of the Year, which he enjoyed very much.

A couple years earlier in 2000, David started his own winery, Perse also located in Mendoza. Perse has become very famous in some international markets and three of the 5 wines produced are currently on the wine list at the best ranked restaurant in the world, The Cellar Roca in Girone, Spain. Perse is absolutely beautiful, and 2 hectares big, ranked the most exciting project in Argentina!

His wines and his talent won him the title of 2015’s Best Young Winemaker from Argentina by the Gaucho Awards. The top three wines as well have been rated highly by famous wine critic, Robert Parker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

David’s wines include the following:

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La Craie: Malbec (70%) / Cabernet Franc (30%)- 97 Points Robert Parker

Iublieus: Malbec (97%) / Cabernet Franc (3%)- 96 Points Robert Parker

Francesa: Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot- 94 Points Robert Parker

Gobelet: Malbec / Cabernet Franc

*Gobelet meaning: grown on a bush vine

 

 

 

David will be releasing a special Chardonnay in December 2015. This Chardonnay is very special because of its production method. Similar to Jura, Spain, to how sherry is made, the Chardonnay grows a Flor (a special type of yeast) This will give the wine neutral and mineral characteristics, a full and intense body and make it a perfect pairing to desserts and different cheeses.

I hope one day I will be able to try this Chardonnay! YUM YUM!

From 2004-2005, David left Norton to become Cheif Winemaker of Dona Paula, also located in Mendoza and very well known. In 2014 he returned to Norton and presently continues to work with Jorge. David’s father tends to Perse while David is at Norton.

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I am looking forward to the day I get to travel to Mendoza to visit Bodega Norton and Perse and see David and the rest of the team again!

It was a wonderful, very successful week and I hope they have a wonderful harvest!

Their Philosophy

“Our greatest wish is that our wines express their origin as purely and as transparently as possible, with no intervention on our part other than that of the daily rhythm of the punch-downs”

http://persevines.com/

David-en-la-viña

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Toronto Food & Wine Festival

IMG_2311Yesterday I attended the first annual Toronto Food and Wine Festival located downtown at Evergreen Brickworks. The venue was FABULOUS! It had a very urban, unique style that differed from many other food and wine shows I have attended in the past. Showcasing the best culinary talents offered in the city, there was an IMMENSE amount of delicious food, wine and many other beverage options to choose from. Local restaurants, wineries, agencies, breweries and spirit companies were all in attendance and ready to go by the 11am start time.

The festival is ongoing throughout the weekend and offers wine and spirit tastings, cooking classes and special guest appearances and presentations from celebrity local and international chefs including Curtis Stone, Chuck Hughes, Gail Simmons and many more!

A new technology added to the event was the use of electronic bracelets used to purchase samples instead of tickets. There was a little bit of a rocky and slow start as networks were down and a lot of vendor and guest scanners and bracelets weren’t working but hopefully it was successful today.

PMA Canada had two booths side by side and poured an excellent assortment of twelve wines from around the world! Many of the food stations present were great pairings for the wines that were available! The Barrel Select Malbec, Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz, Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc and Saint Claire Chardonnay were all very popular wines!

IMG_2312Along with the PMA booth, many other well known beverage companies were present! Savanna Cider and Amarula Cream Liqueur both from South Africa, Milagro Tequila and Disaronno.

Some popular local restaurants included Pure Spirits located in the Distillery District, Rasa and Sullivan and Bleeker. All had very delicious food and many of the vendors were generous letting me sample and take pictures of their food they had to offer!

A very Successful start for the first annual Toronto Food and Wine Festival! Tickets may still be available, so check online if you are stuck without plans today or tomorrow!

Thank you to the many sponsors the festival had including Air Canada, Presidents Choice, Miele, Cuisinart, Vitamix and many more.

What a great start to my weekend!

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Tuesday at Michael’s

FullSizeRender-5 Bodega Norton, one of the fastest growing Argentinean wine brands in Canada has been exporting exceptional premium wines for the past 120 years. Located in the eastern region of Mendoza, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the winery continues to be one of the leading winemakers in Argentina.

Chief Winemaker, Jorge Riccitelli won Winemaker of the year in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast and the brand continues to receive high accolades for their Reserva and Privada labels. They are also the first winery in Argentina to include vineyards in the Quality Certification System.

This week, PMA welcomed 5 members of the Norton team to Toronto to participate in a #blitz. Our aim is to list more Norton products in LCBO and introduce the winemakers to our Toronto market.

The whole team is a wonderful group of individuals. They work beautifully together and could not be happier to be here with us.

Along with the team, we have Winemaker, David Bonomi who has been with Norton since 2002. I had the pleasure of working alongside him today and he had INCREDIBLE stories to share (stay tuned for the post entitled PERSE!!)

Tonight, was the first winemaker dinner for 3 of our Norton guests. I had the GREAT pleasure of attending the dinner located at Michael’s on Simcoe in downtown Toronto. It was a wonderful evening! Michael himself was very courteous and set up the dining room beautifully with the help of our PMA staff.

The restaurant is a fine-dining establishment, with a very modern, yet simply elegant ambience. There were 35 guests who joined and David, our host led us through each wine presented along with each course.

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I have never eaten SO MUCH in my life! There were seven courses with seven pairings. All were exceptionally prepared and equally delicious. David was wonderful and personally went around to each table to greet guests and talk about the wines and the winery.

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It was a success and I am FULL! The team had a wonderful night and a great start to the week!

 

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Why limit happy to an hour?

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When I lived in BC, I always tried to support local establishments. In return, I met some of the most amazing people, brought back to Toronto many unique valuables I could not depart with and tasted some of the most incredible food.

I have always loved the concept of a local restaurant. The food is always better, employees are always friendlier and the atmosphere is always more welcoming. That was definitely the experience I encountered today at KB Food in Whitby.

This afternoon, Bodega Norton Winemaker, David Bonomi who is visiting from Argentina with his team joined a fellow PMA Canada employee and I at KB as we met Head Chef and Owner, Kevin Brown and ate an exquisite meal.

KB Food, 2014 Winner of Excellence Award has been cooking local, organic, unique dishes for the past five years since they opened their doors. Kevin and his team create seasonal menus to complement their diverse wine and spirit list. They also have great craft beers on tap. The whole restaurant has a very welcoming ambience, filled with amusing and entertaining décor.IMG_2258

We went in today to discuss the opportunity of adding more Norton brand wines to their list, and after our tasting, Kevin was more than pleased to accept. 2013 Barrel Select Malbec, and 2014 Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc will be added to the wine list as of the end of this week in addition to the premium selection, Privada Blend. These will be a special feature and an excellent pairing with many of the course options created! (Kevin will make sure of it!)

IMG_2265The dish I chose along with my wine pairing, BLEW ME AWAY! I had the Line Caught Ahi Tuna (grilled/ tri colour quinoa/ toasted cashews/ agrodolce beets and carrots/ red pepper rouille) with a Napa Valley Pinot/Chardonnay blend called Trail Mix.

IMG_2261Prices at KB Food are VERY reasonable and well worth the service and the whole experience. I have NEVER been to Whitby (of all the years I have lived in the GTA, I might have driven through once of twice in my life) and this is a reason I would definitely go again and again!

Two thumbs up for KB Food- I cannot wait to see what they have on their menu next!

http://www.kbfood.com/

 

 

 

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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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An Ode to Popcorn and Buttery Chardonnay

1 bottle oaked, velvety, buttery Chardonnay= 

1 BIG bowl of buttery, melt in your mouth hot popcorn=

1 night of complete happiness=

I know what you are thinking.. junk food and wine?! But YES! It is an ultimate pairing that compliments each other in more ways than one.

There is a whole world in food and wine pairing; what to pair and what definitely not to pair. A golden rule in choosing what to pair together: Picking similar elements that stand out in both the food and wine to emphasize delicious, unforgettable flavours.

“I sensed, for the first time, the dramatic interplay between the wine and the food. In this case, it was the seamless affinity of buttery-toasty-rich flavors in both the wine and the popcorn, plus a subtle impression of sweetness shared by two players as diverse as Chardonnay and corn.”

http://convivial.org/popcorn-chardonnay/

A Chardonnay made in a warmer climate (such as California) develops flavours of peach, pineapple, pear and guava. Through Malolactic Fermentation (a conversion process turning tart-tasting malic acid into smooth, softer-tasting lactic acid) the wine develops buttery, rich and creamy flavours and texture. Oak barrels and aging allow for vanilla and oak characteristics to appear over time. This is one of our first main ingredients!

Next, find your favourite popcorn. I cannot live without my Whirley Pop! This is a stovetop pot specially made for popping kernels, that I personally think makes THE BEST popcorn! (My secret ingredient: instead of using vegetable oil- I use Coconut Oil!)

The buttery flavours of the chardonnay emphasize the flavouring of the popcorn while the corn helps bring out the nuttiness in the wine, along with the butter.

This is a very complimentary duo and can be enjoyed at any time (especially if you are risky enough to sneak a bottle into a movie once in a while 😉 )

Give it a try!

 

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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

Beautiful BC

During the time I lived in BC, I experienced a new world outside of the one I was so familiar with back in Ontario.

(As a side note- For anyone who is thinking about leaving home, trying something new,  and completely alone, my advice to you- DO IT!!!! It will be the best thing you have ever done and you will not regret it. I met some of the most amazing people, discovered this passion for a world (of wine) I never knew existed, and really found myself. I know you may have heard this cliché, but the reality is that when you are off on your own, in a new place and are able to do whatever you want, you can become whoever you want to be.)

I had the opportunity of meeting winemakers, going to tastings, festivals, wine events, cooking frequent dinner with my girlfriends and pairing meals with the most outstanding wine. My favourite experience however, was my first visit to the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is Wine Country in BC, reaching from Okanagan Lake and extending into the United States. It is a magical, and surreal place with the most breathtaking vineyards and scenery. Not only was this my first trip to the Okanagan, but this was my first time to a wine country anywhere in the world! I am sure my friends who I travelled with can assure you that this was the climax in my career. I have never been in such awe and so in love with a place. It was from that instant, I knew the Wine Industry was where I wanted to be!

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