A couple weeks ago I was chatting with John Rode of Hardwood Estate Vineyards and he mentioned .wine and .vin domain extensions are now available. I haven’t seen one (mind you, I haven’t really looked) but today I got an e-mail from Go Daddy, my domain register company announcing them – so I’m sure I’ll start to see them. (“The connoisseur’s domain”, so the ad copy says.)
My first thought when I got the e-mail today was that these new extensions aren’t really something I, as a consumer, find particularly helpful. Would it make finding a particular winery on-line any easier? Doubtful. In fact, if anything, I mainly see the potential for abuse: trolls buying up .wine and .vin domain names for well-known wines and wineries and then being willing to sell them for a fee.
So, I called John Rode to chat about it again. He had a more positive take – at least for winery owners who take a pro-active approach. He said he sees these extensions as a chance to have a defacto trademark of a name at a pretty low price. In other words, now that Harwood Estate Vineyards has locked up the .wine and .vin extensions – no other winery – whether here in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, the U.S., or the world, can have a web presence with the name Harwood Estate Vineyards. True enough…
But still, seems like overkill to me – and just more stuff wineries have to pay attention to…
Last night’s Ontario Wine Society event at Quince Bistro was fun. It was a walk-around tasting featuring the wines from three excellent Prince Edward County Vineyards and a selection of finger foods from Qunce:
The Grange of Prince Edward County — with Maggie, one of the winemakers there (and daughter of winemaker Caroline Granger) there to talk about what she was pouring;
Trail Estate Winery – with Alex Sproll there to tell us about what he was pouring and about the newish winery; and
Traynor Family Vineyard – with Mike Traynor, winemaker/owner was there to tell us about what he was pouring and how things are going at the very new winery.
All the wines were very good representations of Ontario wines. It was interesting to hear how the past few harsh winters and springtime freezes have impacted the PEC wineries. As a result, many are ending up sourcing at least some of their grapes from other growers — typically in the Niagara region.
So, with the exception of the wines from The Grange, where all their wines are from their estate grown grapes, some of the wines served by Trail Estates and Traynor Family Vineyard were not necessarily made with PEC grapes. (Of course, it’s also worth noting that both of these wineries are still quite new, so it’s no wonder they have to look elsewhere for grapes in order to have wine to sell.)
If I had to pick a favourite from each winery, I’d choose: The Grange’s 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve, Mike Traynor’s 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, and Trail Estate’s 2013 Cab Franc-Cab Sauv blend.
I love Prince Edward County but I’ve always wondered what it’s like in the “off season”. So my sister and I decided to enjoy a few days rest and relaxation on Dec. 22 and 23 with a visit to the County.
Of course, our first stop was a winery — we stopped in at Hinterland Wine Company to see what’s “brewing”. You see, I had heard that owners Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman didn’t have enough to do (they also have an interest in a winery in Greece!) so they are starting to make craft beer. The brewery, which hasn’t officially opened yet, will be called County Road 33 Beer Co. Unfortunately we just missed Vicki and Jonas — but next time I’m in the county, I’m sure the brewery will be open and hopefully they’ll show us around and tell us what inspired the new venture.
From there we stopped in at Sandbanks Estate Winery. The colourful Muskoka chairs, which I always think are so welcoming in the summer, added colour to an otherwise grey December day. There we did a horizontal tasting of Baco Noir, which was fun. We also discovered one of my new favourites — their Baco Noir Reserve.
We stopped in Wellington and Bloomfield for a bit of browsing. In Wellington we enjoyed SideStreet Gallery, and had a pleasant conversation with owner Paulette Greer.
In Bloomfield we were quite surprised at how HUGE Green Gables Gifts and Greetings. The welcoming front of the building makes you think you’re walking into a quaint little shop. But as you make your way from room to room, you realize it’s a quaint BIG store with lots to look at and tempt you.
If you’re peckish, as we were, I suggest you stop in at Saylor House Cafe. We didn’t want lunch, per se, just some tea and something sweet. The most tempting sweet was a frosted number that looked like a carrot cake. When I asked about it, I was told it was a Hummingbird Cake. Not too helpful a description, I thought. When I made a face, the owner smiled and explained that it’s name coconut banana cake that gets its name from the fact that those who eat it end up humming with joy. Well, with that explanation — how could we not try it! Trust me, it was worth its name.
We also made it out to Waupoos Winery because I wanted to show my sister the different fruit trees that they grow — things you wouldn’t expect to find in Ontario — like lemons. To my sadness, the trees were gone. Thinking that maybe I had imagined that from earlier visits, I asked. Turns out, they take the trees in during the winter. (That explains it!) Across the street from the winery we had noticed a grove of apple trees with the red gems still on. My guess was that they were left for pressing in winter after they’re frozen. Indeed, that’s the case — they’re hoping to make an iced cider.
Since it was the holidays, we decided to go first class and stay at the Claramount Inn. Turned out to be a great choice. The spa was open, as was the indoor pool, not to mention Clara’s Restaurant. The view of Picton Harbour was terrific — definitely a place to return to.
Picton was buzzing with last-minute shoppers. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t shop too much, but we couldn’t resist the shops. We especially loved the UnGallery and Arts on Main. One of the especially noteworthy things that reinforced my warm feelings for The County is the fact that the day we were there (Dec. 23rd) parking on Main Street in Picton was free, with any money put into the parking meters going to the local food bank! (One of the rare times I didn’t mind paying for parking!) What a terrific idea, eh?
This trip was more balanced than my usual trip to The County because we took more time to enjoy the different things there are to do — from wine to food to arts and hospitality. Truthfully, it only made me love The County more!
Post Script: , we didn’t have a chance to stop at Karlo Estates, but I hear that Derek Barnett, formerly of Lailey Estates, has taken over as winemaker at Karlo.
A friend and I headed down to Beamsville for a wine and cheese tasting at Tawse Winery. I booked the tasting about a month ago and was really looking forward to it. It was only $10 and I thought it would be a great excuse to get together near the holidays and an opportunity to do something different.
Unfortunately, two days before the event, something came up so my friend had to cancel. She felt bad because she felt she had stuck me with an extra ticket. I told her not to worry, as I was quite sure I’d be able to find someone else to go with me — even on short notice. I was right. I phoned another friend and she was only too happy to fill in.
It’s unseasonably mild here, so we left early, figuring we’d make a few stops before the tasting. Megalomaniac is just up the road from Tawse and the last time I was there, they were expanding their retail premises, so I wanted to stop and see the new digs. Boy was that a great decision!
Turns out, they are hosting a Holiday Open House this weekend. They had different tasting stations set up throughout their huge tasting room and it was all complimentary. Guests start with their Bubblehead — it’s a traditional method sparkling Pinot Noir. Then they directed us to their main tasting bar for their reds — four regular and two premium reds. (My favourite was their 2012 Big Mouth Merlot.) Then it was on to whites, and even a few icewines. In total, 11 wines were available for tasting. As an added bonus, they were offering specials if you bought two or more bottles.
If you’re on any winery mailing lists, no doubt over the past few weeks you’ve been getting notices about holiday promotions (lots of free shipping, which is especially nice if you’re doing a lot of entertaining over the holidays) and holiday open houses. I hadn’t really thought about making time to stop in at any — until today. Now I realize that besides avoiding the crazy mall parking lots, the open houses are a lovely way to get into the holiday spirit. It’s relaxing and a great chance to find some wonderful wines to serve your guests this holiday season or to give to those on your list.
I write a bi-weekly blog called On being … that’s more general musings on life. Because my most recent post for On being … was inspired by a recent event at Oxley Estate Winery, I thought I’d share that post here…
On being … a celebration of home
I was visiting some friends who live in the wine region along the north shore of Lake Erie, south of the Windsor/Detroit area. It’s the kind of place where people often give the name of the county, rather than the town where they live, because they figure more people have at least heard of the county. It’s primarily an agricultural area, but it’s got more of a small town feel than a rural feel, if you know what I mean.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a special dinner at Oxley Estate Winery. The formal title was: Oxley Celebrates Home. If you guessed they were doing the locavore thing, you’d be right – but with a few added twists. It so happens their young chef (Aaron Lynn) is a local kid who went away for culinary training and, after honing his craft working in some fancy restos, he returned to the area last year. Lucky for Oxley Estate and for those who have a chance to eat at the winery.
Not only did each of the five courses feature local ingredients, the chef named the dishes after the local purveyors – a nice touch, I thought. So, for example, we dined on Todd’s Perch (named after Todd, the local commercial fisherman the restaurant buys from), Rick’s Lamb, and Farmer Doug’s apples. But that wasn’t all. Before the meal, the chef introduced all of the local suppliers and asked them to stand so we could honour and recognize them as the people responsible for all the good things we were about to enjoy.
And, the celebration of things local didn’t end with the food. Ann, one of the owners of the winery, introduced the musicians who would be entertaining us. Turns out they too were from the area and when they’re not in town, they’re in Nashville working as backup musicians to some well-known country music stars.
During the dinner I was chatting with a woman sitting next to me. She was a local and so I was asking her a bit about the area. We talked about one of the bigger towns in the county and about how much it’s growing. The town’s population is up to about 21,000, which is pretty big, as towns go. And, like many Ontario towns, there’s a definite centre with some small shops, a few restaurants, a couple banks, and a library. But, the pickings were pretty limited in town. I wondered aloud where people go if they have any kind of serious shopping to do. She laughed and said that these days, she can get pretty much anything on-line. But, if there’s something she can’t order, it’s probably available in Windsor, which is “only about 25 miles away”.
Then I asked about grocery shopping. I had noticed that there are two well-known supermarkets, but I’m used to checking the weekly fliers of at least four major chains before I go grocery shopping. She said she didn’t care that other major grocers weren’t around. “I love shopping at those supermarkets. The people that work there are my neighbors and friends – why would I go anywhere else?” I was really struck by her response.
Later in the conversation, the topic of the refugee crisis came up. She mentioned she’s catholic and she said that in the next few weeks her church would be deciding on whether they will take in a refugee family, as the Pope has suggested. She said she’s going to push hard for them to do so.
I hadn’t heard about the Pope’s suggestion that every parish should sponsor one family, but it struck me as being in line with something else I read the Pope said about the current wave of refugees. He urged people to not see the crisis as involving hundreds of thousands because it’s just too overwhelming. Instead, we should respond to them as individual people – just one at a time. Though it’s such a simple idea, it’s about the most concrete, constructive idea I’ve heard from any leader about how to deal with the situation. I smiled at the idea of some refugee family settling down there and eventually calling themselves locals.
After dinner, I was thinking about how the theme of the evening could just as easily have been “the joy of human interaction”. Living in the city has its conveniences, opportunities, and even independence. But, if you’re not careful, city life can also bring with it a loss of connectedness. Fortunately, the condition isn’t irreversible. My weekend in the country reminded me that the best way to feel connected again is to celebrate what each individual brings to your life. If you do that, I think you’ll feel at home wherever you are.
Traynor Family Vineyard is one of the newest wineries in Prince Edward County – they opened in September 2014. When we stopped there in June they had a big crowd for their Open House and folks were enjoying the live music.
They also had something I’d never seen – a Tesla Charging Station.
I spoke with Donna Traynor (mother of owner/winemaker Mike Traynor) and she wasn’t quite sure how Mike convinced the Tesla folks to put them in – but it’s a terrific idea – especially if you’re out and about in PEC and you find your Tesla could use a charge.
Even if you don’t have a Tesla, it’s worth a look, so why not stop in this long weekend. Picnickers are welcome and the Traynor family (Mike and his wife Rebecca) would be happy to help you choose the right wine for you to enjoy there or to take home.
International Cool Climate Chardonnay – i4C for short – starts Friday (July 17th). Of the 58 wineries on the list, an impressive 27 are from Ontario. (And, as long as we’re waving the Maple Leaf, it’s worth nothing that there are 4 B.C. wineries participating too – bringing the total of Canadian wineries up to 31.)
If you can’t make it to any of the weekend-long events, the organizers have you covered with the Summer of Chardonnay Passport ($25). The passport lets you enjoy special Chardonnay tastings through Labour Day at 23 of the Ontario wineries that will be at i4C.
Here’s a list of Ontario wineries participating in i4C 2015:
In June when I was in Prince Edward County I stopped at some old favourites and some that I hadn’t been to before — including Broken Stone Winery and Hubbs Creek Vineyard. At both I was lucky enough to catch the winemaker/owners who were gracious enough to speak on video.
I never go to markets with much of a shopping list. Instead, I like to be inspired by what’s in season and on offer. Well, today it was garlic scapes, fresh onions, and my favourite – sea asparagus!
The other thing on offer at the Brickworks and many other farmers’ markets is Ontario wines. This morning there was a wealth of wines to choose from too, with Cave Spring Cellars, Southbrook Vineyards, Malivoire Wine, Tawse Winery and Sratus all on hand.
Eating and drinking local tonight! Hope you are too…
A couple weeks ago visiting wineries in Prince Edward County I got the chance to see – first hand – the impact of the cold snap that hit on May 22-23. Our first stop was Hillier Creek Estates. As we drove in my friend wondered whether the vines planted out front were new, as they were very small and virtually no leaves. I said I was pretty sure that that in years past those vines were tall and hearty with leaves.
Woody Cassell, the vineyard manager at Hillier Creek Estates told me the sad news – all their vines were damaged in the cold snap in May. The primary and secondary buds were so damaged that they won’t be harvesting anything this year. Woody was kind enough to take me into the vineyard to show me. Here’s a short video of Woody explaining what they’re doing this year.
Though walking through the vineyard was sobering – leave it to Mother Nature to provide a reminder that just because there won’t be grapes this year, doesn’t mean there aren’t other signs of life. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the row was a huge snapping turtle. Woody explained they get them every year. Apparently they wander over from a nearby creek and they bury their eggs in the vineyard. So, in a few months’ time little turtles will be scurrying about — as usual.We then headed to Sandbanks Estate Winery, which is much closer to the water than Hillier Creek Estates. En route we passed through lots of fog. Indeed, the closer you got to the water, the better you could see the fog literally rolling in. The moderating impact of the water was clear at Sandbanks Estates, as their vines looked healthy and green. Unlike Hillier Creek Estates, the late May cold snap didn’t impact their vines at all.
Nearby Keint-he Winery & Vineyards suffered some loss, but like Sandbanks, they were luckier than some. And of course, they – like other growers in the county – did all they could to try to keep the air circulating those cold nights, but with record low temperatures, there’s only so much they could do.