Foreign Affair Winery at Crossings – November 23, 2019

This event was a four course dinner with wine pairings – wines introduced by Ed Haddon, sommelier from Foreign Affair Winery, and food courses described by Chef Ben – apologies, no last name!

The evening was thoroughly enjoyable.

Over the course of the tasting Ed shared information on Italian style wines – appassimento, ripasso and recioto (sweet wine).

Appassimento technique – talked about Amarone and the drying of the grapes prior to making the wine. How to keep the grapes from rotting while drying – the first attempt at Foreign Affair was harvested too slowly, handled too much and piled up when stored. It all rotted. Today plastic trays go to the vineyard, grapes are hand harvested to these trays in a single layer and the trays are taken to drying sheds. No-one touches the grapes after picking, fans keep the air circulating in the drying sheds. White grapes dry a month to 6 weeks. Big red grape varietals may dry for a year.

Ripasso wine is “a poor man’s Amarone”. The skins from the appassimento wine are added to a fermentation of less robust grapes.

1st Course – Amuse-bouche

Crostini topped with bacon jam, cranberry, brie and a sorrel leaf – delicious combination of flavours – kind of lemony, super vibrant.

Accompanied by 2018 Conspiracy Bianco – $17.95 – a riesling, nice and fresh.

80% reisling and 20% sauvignon blanc. The skins came from the sauvignon blanc appasimento.

2nd Course – Appetizer

Seasonal soup – carrot, ginger, parship, spice (perfect for the early snow and cold)

Two wines – the first a 2017 Unoaked Chardonnay – 10% appasimento – remaining wine fermented in stainless steel tanks – $23.95 – acidic, lean – nicely cut through the richness of the soup – the second a 2018 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay – $26.95 – (10% appassimento with 1 month of drying time, remaining wine aged 9 months in French oak barrels) stood up to the intensity of the soup.

A complement wine – equal weight as the food – would be the oaked chardonnay with the rich soup. A foil wine is a contrast and can also work well. The unoaked chardonnay is more acidic and instead of matching it cuts the richness of the soup.

3rd Course – Entree

Pork tenderloin, prosciutto, squash risotto, maple bourbon demi glace.

Two wines – both Bordeaux varietals – the first the 2017 Conspiracy -$23.95 – (made ripasso style – skins and lees of the appassimento red grapes) – still making this wine in April – the second the 2016 Dream – $29.95 – (partial appassimento – a Bordeaux style blend – merlot cabernet franc, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon). No two years are the same varietals or proportions. Base the blend on the strengths and weaknesses of the varietals in the year the wine is being blended.

Both wines paired well with the pork but the Dream was a more complex, interesting wine.

Interesting to see the difference in the glasses between the white wine and red wine offerings. Ed suggested we try a little red in the white wine glass and compare with the same wine in the red wine glass.

4th Course – Dessert

Butter tart – fig, pecan, maple, bourbon, dulce de leche, spice

2016 Marisa (Recioto style) – $49.95 – riesling grapes set aside to dry for 70 days. Fermentation is stopped when the desired sweetness and acidity is reached. Not as sweet as ice wine. Great pairing with this tart.

Wine & Dine September 27, 2019

Sorry for the delay in posting on this event. Perhaps the timing is good! Several of these wines, e.g. the riesling and the Gewurtztraminer, go well with turkey.

Farewell to Nick

This was Nick’s last wine and dine as a RiverBend staffer. We gathered for the occasion, sipping on sparkling wine – Henkell Trocken.

As most of us know, Nick joined RiverBend about the same time we launched this website.

We celebrated his WSET achievements (Level One and Advanced) and joined him on virtual wine and dine journeys to California, South America, France, Italy and Australia.

All the best to Nick on the next stages of his career (can’t believe it has been almost three months) – hope we can entice him to host a wine event in 2020.

Apologies to Nick – we didn’t take any pictures of him on this occasion so I have included some earlier shots that reflect his contribution to RiverBend.

Welcome from Chanel

Chanel provided an overview of what was to come in the evening. The dishes follow an Eastern European theme (Kirk’s menu reflecting his family’s Austrian roots). Nick also commented on the treat of home style cooking.

1st Course

Seared Lamb and Cabbage Soup

Traditionally just cabbage soup in Russia. Paired with Irish seeded soda bread. No proofing time – mix and bake. Added a little cinnamon to the soup. Simmered for 4-5 hours. Lamb was melt in your mouth.

Paired with Pinot Gris from Pierre Sparr 2017 (Alsace). Very Germanic. A French version of Pinot Grigio. Very dry. Grapes left on the vine longer and the skins get a pink tone. Pear, nectarine, stone fruit. Rich, slightly sweet tone. Macerated with skins. Sweetness level is not listed on the label. Higher the alcohol percentage the dryer the wine (12.5% for this wine). In Alsace the label, Gran Reserve, is used if a better parcel of grapes. These wines are usually intended to be drunk young and fresh. Unusual to have a white wine match with a dish this rich. West coast pinot gris not as rich, terroir coming through.

2nd Course

House Made Pork Sausage Rolls

No certain origin – maybe France, pastry recipe from Hungary. Ground pork seasoned with salt, pepper, roasted garlic, thyme, oregano. Wrapped in puff pastry. Paired with Pommery mustard.

Paired with Darting Riesling Kabinett, Durkheimer Hochbenn Pfalz 2014. German wine, Kabinett style. Really good cellaring and aging potential. Grow on slopes so steep that all grapes are handpicked. Some sweetness but high acidity. Great food wine because of the acidity level. Salty and sweet also works well. Riesling also works with spicy chicken wings. Also great pairing with turkey.

River systems – main river through the wine region is the Rhine, other regions are the Ahr river and the Mosel river (steep slopes). The water reflects the sun, moderates the temperature. The cooler the region, the higher the acidity. The grapes are less ripe than hotter regions where there will be more sugar. Less sugar to ferment with means a lower alcohol level.

Some of the oldest wines are rieslings – still drinkable because of the acidity. Odd, Germans are fans of mould that collects on the bottles in the cellar.

3rd Course

Classic Chicken Paprikash

Chicken cooked with paprika – combination of smoked and regular paprika. Chicken broth, onions, tomatoes. Simmered for about 8 hours. Paired it with a spaetzle. Seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg.

Paired with Gewurtztraminer. Spicy grape. Does have a little bit of pink colour to the skins. Pairs well with spicy dishes – flavourful rather than hot. This wine is from Germany. Waterloo has a destination store for the LCBO for German wines. From Pfalz as well – Villa Wolf 2017. Touch of sweetness in this wine to go with the paprika. Lower alcohol – 11.5%. There is a greenish tinge to the wine. Also a good wine for turkey!!

4th Course

Steamed Dumpling with Smoked Bacon and Forest Mushroom Compote

Very rich – steamed dumpling, yeast dough that rises briefly and is then steamed – paired with mushroom compote – shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, bacon, pork fat, onions, coriander, garlic – garnished with a little parsley.

Chef Kirk says this dish is something he grew up with.

German red paired with this dish. Pinot Noir but the German name is Spätburgunder – late ripening Burgundy grape. Also acquired at the LCBO in Waterloo. Comes from Baden, the most southern region in Germany and the warmest. The river Nectar influences the vineyards, warming during the night. Age this pinot in giant vats so minimizes oak influence. Tannin from the skins that makes this a bigger bodied wine. Also Weissburgunder – white – and Grauburgunder – pinot gris. Labelling system called the VDP, a privately owned board that rates the wines from the regions, is displayed on the bottle. Another term is Grosses Gewächs which relates to the dryness.

5th Course

Braised Brisket and Blue Cheese Pierogi

“Sometimes things in the kitchen just don’t go the way you were hoping for.” The pierogi effort failed. Chanel offered potato pancake, latke, instead of the pierogi. Everyone has potatoes in the pantry! Paired with creme fraiche.

The red wine is from California, not Germany. New world wines have good ripeness and the fruit characteristic really stands out. Blue cheese is very difficult to pair wines with – sweet wine a natural. This wine is a Robert Mondavi Bordeaux style blend – Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. Skins remain with the juice on this wine for 2 1/2 days. It is aged in French oak. Maestro series 2014 – $67. The wine was poured out of a decanter – still a little tight so aeration helped. Decanted about 3 hours before pouring. This wine is technically a “meritage” which is an American term for the Bordeaux blend. It is an expression of winemaker’s skill at blending proportions of these varietals in order to deliver a consistent wine year after year. In France the proportions are regulated so year on year there are may be significant vintage variations.

Nick expounded on decanting – one reason to decant is for a young, robust red wine is that really needs more time in the bottle and the time aerating helps bring out the fruit – decanting an old wine is usually only to remove the sediment and the wine is poured immediately.

6th Course

Plum Pie Soaked with Vanilla Custard

Dessert is Chanel’s favourite. Pizza dough recipe, sweetened, with ripe plums, raw sugar and West5 honey. Vanilla custard – butter, vanilla, sugar, brandy. Chanel gave kudos to her team who were swamped in the kitchen with a full roster.

Aszu is a berry affected by “noble rot”, botrytis. The region in Hungary is quite humid, the moisture sticks to the grape and the fungus attaches. depleting the grape of water thereby increasing the density of the sugar. Harvest is very time consuming – picking for about a week to get the berries as they are ready. Have a base wine, 10% alcohol and already fermented. Add the berries into this wine and another fermentation takes place. A little more alcohol and more sweetness. The wine is aged in an oak cast which is unusual for a sweet wine. Really good stone fruit, honey – comes from the fungus.

Aside – Muscatali – Tokaj Eszencia – press the “rot” grapes into a paste. 454 grams of sugar per litre by law. Takes three years to complete the fermentation process. Mere $290 a 350 ml bottle.

Trivia ( I think these are the right answers – corrections accepted. I didn’t get them all.😒)

Type of wine not grown in Alsace – Chardonnay

Is it appropriate to send back a bottle just because you don’t like it? – NO

Which German wine is the sweetest? – Trockbeerenauslese

What does the German word trocken mean? – Dry

Pairing a wine with spicy Chinese or Thai dinner – Gewurtztraminer

What does the term reserve mean for a U.S. wine? – Nothing

Chaptalization is adding to wine to balance its taste – False

Wine and Dine (at the Bend) – July 30

This “Wine and Dine” had a new creator point person – Chanel Gulych, Sous Chef. Kirk Weiss, Executive Chef, introduced her glowingly (energy, enthusiasm, just infectious, team player) and her creations lived up to his praise of her abilities. Chanel returned the compliments noting that Kirk is the best chef she has worked with.

Asked for recipes she said she was pleased to provide information as close as possible to what was served. “Don’t want to give all my secrets…sort of make things up as we go along…improvising as we go.” Commented that she had really enjoyed the event. “All these new modern plating techniques around now. I have been dying to try.”

The oohs and aahs as the dishes were served certainly confirmed that we were very impressed with the plating, the flavours and, yes, the wine pairings. Nick Attard, WSET Certified Advanced, outdid himself yet again.

1st Course

Grilled Watermelon Stack with Pressed Feta Cheese, garnished with arugula and a balsamic reduction

Chanel introduced this first dish – “I love pretty things!” A little sugar during grilling. Pressed feta giving a creamier texture.

Nick paired this dish with a sparkling rosé from the coastal Abruzzo region of Italy (Fantini/Farnese). Noted the salinity of the wine. Also high acidity – red grape, Aglianico. Every bottle has a little Swarovski crystal on it. Non-vintage.

2nd Course

Vermicelli wrapped prawns with house-made chilli salsa

Large shrimp. Crispy noodle pancake. Shrimp seasoned with salt and pepper and finished roasting in the oven. Topped with lime chilli sauce (started with plum sauce, added extra spicing to it).

Nick gave the group two options for this course. Both were Spanish wines. First wine was a blend and had a touch of sweetness – added Muscat grape. Designer wine from a Japanese winemaker (wine for sushi). Second wine was a single grape, albarino, from the coast of Spain. Like the rosé a little salinity. Both wines were made with a “no oxygen” method.

3rd Course

Seared Scallops with fresh cucumber ribbons and butter sautéed spring peas over micro greens

Beautiful plating. Marinated cucumbers, little lemon. Salt, pepper and butter. Edible flower.

Nick’s pairing was a chardonnay from a warm climate. The nose was tropical fruit. Cross Barn is an oaked Sonoma wine. Barrel aged, aerobic fermentation – exposed to oxygen. 95% old oak. 5% in new oak. 8 months of aging and then blended. Small batches, hand-picked grapes. Chardonnay is known as the chameleon grape – the winemaker can have a lot of influence on the final product.

4th Course

Roasted vegetable rose served with fennel cream

Continuation of flower theme (and beautiful plating). A roasted vegetable rose. Natural reduction of cream with fennel infused. Shreds of asparagus underneath marinated in orange juice to balance the liquorice. Purple yams, carrots, zucchini, leeks – with a little orange zest and roasted red paper flavouring. Vegetables sliced using a mandolin.

This dish Nick paired with a Pinot Noir wine. New world. Sonoma county. All hand-picked, not a large production, very little new oak. The old oak enhances the flavour in this wine. Earthy tones. Pinot Noir is usually medium bodied. Warm climate Pinot Noir will often be “jammy”. French style is the earthy characteristic rather than fruit forward.

5th Course

Braised short ribs with a spiced carrot purée

Braised for 6 hours, “melt in your mouth”, real maple syrup, house-made demi, mustard. Carrot puree very simple – salt, pepper and a little ginger. Pommes frites on top.

The wine pairing – Nick poured a Ridge Three Valleys blend from Sonoma County. 4 grapes – Zinfandel, Carignan, Petit Syrah, Grenache. This wine Nick describes as a “winemaker’s beauty” rather than a reflection of terroir. This winery does have excellent vineyard specific “terroir” wines as well. The blend is the strength of this wine. The main grape, the zinfandel, has characteristics of red fruit and black fruit. It doesn’t ripen evenly – nature of the skins of the grapes – at least 80% need to be ripe or there will be green, bitter overtones. Zinfandel works really well with barbecue sauces. Can confuse people because Zinfandel is often associated with white/rosé wine – California does produce a “white” zinfandel.

6th Course

Raspberry sorbet with meringue rose drops and candied lemon peel

Chanel’s favourite course. Local raspberries. A little apricot puree as well. A little lime. Meringue leaves. Candied lemon peel on top and edible flowers. The final pairing from Nick was a Canadian Cabernet Franc icewine. Icewine is a very challenging wine. To harvest the temperature has to be below freezing (8C) and the grapes need to stay frozen until pressed. Picking late at night or early morning and sorting outdoors. Very concentrated. Lusciously sweet. Serve in small servings. The lower the alcohol percentage the higher the sugar. Fermentation stops naturally and the yeast can’t manage to convert all the sugar. Can start a meal with icewine.


Another wonderful wine and dine – thanks from all of us who enjoyed this event. Kudos to the whole team.

Pearl Morisette

Jordan, Ontario – Canada’s Best New Restaurant

This very understated, black, austere building harbours a unique and delightful experience.

The lunch and dinner menus are identical, consisting of 10 courses (not including an optional cheese course) and a wine pairing is available. Be sure to allow lots of time – lunch was a leisurely three hours. Service was excellent – chefs delivered and described each course and the sommelier introduced each of the pairings in detail.

Bread and whipped butter started the meal – a rustic rye sourdough.

The first wine was paired with the first two courses – charred zucchini balls with striped bass roe, red currants and edible flowers – cured wild sockeye salmon with a canteloupe vinaigrette, verbena and more edible flowers. The wine was a 2018 Domaine Reuilly Pinot Gris.

The third course – shredded rutabaga, paper thin apple and bay leaf – paired with 2017 Pearl Morissette Irreverence. This was followed by wild Atlantic turbot with beet and elderflower paired with 2017 Masseria Frattasi Taburno. Next was a fave bean dish, cooked in onion broth that was then made into a light sauce over the beans, scallion and tatsoi. This was paired with 2017 Wittmann Riesling.

Up to dish number 6. Razor clams sliced and served with tomato and smoked ham – paired with 2016 Colli Tortonesi Timorasso. Dish 7, paired with 2014 Pearl Morissette Madeline, a Pekin duck (duck breast and a little duck confit) with shallot and gooseberry. And dish 8 was goat milk curd with sweetgrass and cherry.

To finish the meal – a cheese offering enjoyed with the remnants of our rye bread (paired with Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc), a strawberry sorbet and a raspberry tart (paired with Domaine Frederic Broura Vermouth).

Reservations are a must – well in advance!

Our lunch was a superb addition to a Niagara wine weekend.

Wine and Dine – June 25, 2019

Another sterling event.

We were “guinea pigs” of Chef Kirk Weiss’ and his kitchen team’s creativity. We really suffered – NOT. Unless you are talk about weight gain. Nick Attard, WSET Certified Advanced, stepped up to pair an interesting selection of wines with this wide range of cuisine.

1st Course

Fried green tomatoes with crushed black pepper and olive oil.

The rosé is from the Loire valley and was made with Cabernet Franc red wine grapes. Clay and rock – flinty taste in the wine. Tomatoes are difficult to pair with. The wine had enough acidity to match the tomatoes.

Chef was passionate about the parsley. Acquired at a small vegetable stand near Chef’s home The locations of several of these stands will be in the next Bend in the River.

2nd Course

RiverBend cheese sticks served with Marinara sauce

These sticks evolved because Chef hates mozzarella sticks and he was getting requests for a cheese option on the menu. Used a combination of nine cheeses.

The white wine also comes from the Loire (and the same subregion Touraine), The grape variety is Chenin blanc. 60% of the production of the region is this wine. The red is a Canadian wine, Gamay Noir, from the Grange of Prince Edward County. Fermented in stainless steel and finished in French barriques (no oaky impact on flavour).

3rd Course

Flat Iron Wagyu beef tacos with smoked pepper aioli.

Chef, “Really freakin’ out on this one.” The meat product is extremely marbled (and expensive). Discussion about aging – not really a factor for this beef – for starters aging reduces volume and at the price point why would they? No need for additional breaking down of tissue in Wagyu beef. A traditional Japanese beef. Tacos made in-house.

Pairing was a French wine – Crozes-Hermitage. The appellation is in the northern Rhone area of France. Sub-appellation of Hermitage. 100% Syrah. Grows in rocks on steep slopes. Some saltiness and graphite, plum and black fruit. Good story – Hermitage relates to a French knight who returned from war and set himself up on the top of a hill and never came down. “Hermit on the hill.” This wine is produced through a wine co-operative – sourcing all grapes from the region. Sustainable practices are used. This is a 2015 vintage and drinking quite nicely.

4th Course

Char grilled scallops with shredded crab Hollandaise.

“Train of decadence continues.” Rich but light at the same time. Great melding of flavours.

Another wine from the Loire valley. Muscadet sur lie. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety and grown in the Pays Nantais region. Aged on lies. Fresh, young and vibrant. Available on the wine list at the Club. Excellent with seafood.

5th Course

Deconstructed beef (veal) Wellington with rich demi glace. Veal tenderloin, mushroom, sliver of Romano and puff pastry.

Take a look at Nick’s two-handed-pour. Chef noted “Inspiring or what”. The two wines were an Italian, super Tuscan (Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot) and a French Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, Cabernet franc). Super Tuscany is Italy’s Bordeaux style wine grown on the west coast of Italy. Uphill battle to get proper recognition for these wines – first 1984 – Sassicaia. Now there is an IGT Toscana label. Superb wines and the labelling has resulted in an increase in producers and market share. Both wines big and rich and work with the sauce on the veal.

Preference of the group was the Italian wine.

6th Course

Sponge toffee with cashew, pistachio and chocolate. Chef admitted to being addicted to crunchy bars! Made it the way his mom used to make it, adding pistachios, cashews.

Strawberries got added to the dessert so Nick substituted to a LBV (late bottled vintage) port. The year doesn’t mean the vintage year of the grapes but the year of bottling. Portugal is the only region that does the classic foot treading style for “pressing” the grapes. (Nick did a great demo of the technique.) The wine is fortified with grappa at fermentation. Fruit characteristics, raisiny, from the heat of the Douro Valley.

Nick proceeded to “mark” the trivia results. There was a tie, a run-off and the Barnards walked away with the prize!

The culinary team came out to accept our appreciation for their efforts. Great evening.

Summer Solstice at Hidden Bench

We spent a delightful evening (and the weather cooperated), celebrating summer solstice with our Hidden Bench hosts and fellow supporters, friends and family.

Sparkling wine complemented superb oysters. Hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the cocktail hour.

Dinner was served looking out over the vineyard. Citrus cured hamachi paired with 2017 Estate Chardonnay. Seared Ontario Lamb Sirloin with 2015 Terroir Cache. Upper Canada Cheese Selection.

The band played the entire evening.

Thank you, Harald Thiel. All the best to Meg McGrath.

A Toast to Spring – Fine Wine and Dining Experience

The first “wine and dine” event of the year was an eclectic celebration of cuisine and wine varietals. Hosts, Executive Head Chef Kirk Weiss and WSET Advance Certified Nick Attard, guided us through the menu and the wine pairings with their usual detailed descriptions. They were assisted by Shawn Greco (introductions), Chad Martin, also server of the pre-dinner “cocktail”, Christine Loberg and Jordan Tomkins. A menu laid out the six courses.

We started the evening with a cocktail – a sip of Barbera D’Asti (Italy). Asti is the region of Italy and the wine is made from a single grape variety, barbera. (The group learned that when the answers to the trivia questions were revealed.)

1st Course

Steamed Edamame with a spiced chili sauce. Pairing, Martini & Rossi Asti (Piedmont, Italy)

The fresh soy bean pods were buttery with a hint of chili.

The pairing was a sweet, fruity, sparkling wine made from moscato grapes. Nick informed us that the thick skins of the grape gave the wine a fuller mouth feel and, unlike champagne or similar sparkling wines, the bubbles are injected into the wine.

2nd Course

Butter seared feather oyster mushrooms with crushed sea salt. Pairing, Domaine Thibert Pouilly Fuissé (France).

Chef brought a sample of the mushroom as it is not commonly known. He described the cultivation process, adding new spores to the “root” and growing mostly on shelves. The presentation was simple allowing the delicate, earthy, mushroom flavour to shine.

Nick paired this dish with a chardonnay from France. Aging in French oak gives the wine citrus overtones and other fruit flavours like peach. It is less overblown than the American chardonnays that are largely aged in American oak.

3rd Course

Thai Salmon finished in a peanut sauce. Pairing, Leopold Weingut, Grüner Veltliner (Austria)

The salmon was marinated in ginger, orange juice, brown sugar. The sauce consisted of pureed pine nuts, hoisin, sesame oil, soy sauce and citrus chili.

The grapes for this wine are harvested and pressed to avoid
contact with oxygen (anaerobic). Sancerre from France would have been another pairing option. Very fresh tasting wine and a lovely match to the salmon’s asian flavours.

4th Course

Charbroiled spring lamb chop with a burnt orange yogurt. Pairing, Domaine de Nalys, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France)

The lamb chops had been marinated in rosemary, red wine and honey. They were seared but were still pink in the centre. Just delicious especially with the unique sauce.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Nick informed us was the first AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in France. The blending is regulated and, as of 2009, 18 grape varieties are permitted. This particular wine had used 13 varieties.

5th Course

Brisket Tart topped with blue cheese. Pairing, Luigi Righetti, Amarone della Valpolicella (Italy)

The brisket for this tart had been braised for 11 hours. A demi glace and stilton cheese finished it off. The tart pastry was very light but the dish was VERY rich.

Nick introduced the appassimento process (not the name because that would have give us the answer to the trivia question). A percentage of the grapes going into the wine are picked early for higher sugar content and stored for 4-5 months to dehydrate, even more concentrated sugars.
This juice is blended with valpolicella and the blended juice goes through a second fermentation.

This wine could also be served as an aperitif and Nick suggested it is excellent wth lamb and mint jelly.

6th Course

White Chocolate, local strawberry and pistachio mousse. Pairing, Brachetto d’Acqui (Italy)

The white chocolate had a bit of ginger liquer infused. There was a pistachio dust over the mousse which sat on a pool of jam.

The wine Nick paired tasted like strawberry soda. He suggested that a wine with dessert should be sweeter than the dessert. So an ice wine would be a good choice as well. This wine was from Piedmont close to Asti, made from a black skinned red Italian wine grape.


Thanks to Nick for his trivia questions – an opportunity for us all to learn a little more (or realize how little we know!)

A very good time was had by all!!

Hidden Bench Pre-Release Wine Tasting Spring 2019

Proprietor Harald Thiel, winemaker, Jay Johnston, and retail manager, Meg McGrath, introduced the new wines in the Hidden Bench pre-release Wine Club event – nine wines – 4 white, 2 rosé and 3 red. Each were paired with a carefully considered and unique food offering. Sounds like the selection and creation process for the pairings was a lot of fun.

For the first weekend in May it didn’t seem much like spring – cold, wet, foggy so no sitting on the patio sipping our pretesting offering.

Served while the participants were gathering:

2017 Estate Riesling – Tasting Note

At the tasting:

Image 2019-05-06 at 5.05 PM

2017 Roman’s Block Riesling, Rosomel Vineyard  The pairing was Asian Shrimp Cakes with Housemade Satay Sauce. Roman’s Block Riesling Tasting Note

2017 Felseck Vineyard Riesling Also tasted with the Asian Shrimp Cake. Felseck Vineyard Riesling Tasting Note

The Felseck Riesling is more “together” than the Roman’s Block which still has lovely acidity. The vote in the group as to preference was split pretty evenly.

2017 Fumé Blanc, Rosomel Vineyard Asparagus and French beans with Fume Hollandaise. 2017 Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard

(Opened one of these Sunday and served it with rib-end pork chops and asparagus – delicious).

2017 Estate Chardonnay Crispy Potato Cake (nod to Meg’s Australian roots). Estate Chardonnay Tasting Note

2018 Locust Lane Rosé Cured Salmon Gravlax with Preserved Lemon Ricotta. Locust Lane Rosé Tasting Note

2018 Nocturn Rosé Goose Liver Paté on a Salt and Pepper Crostini. Not included in any of the Club allocations but available now.

2016 Rosomel Vineyard Pinot Noir Hardwood Smoked Pork Shoulder with Cherry Merlot Glaze. This wine was rated 93 by David Lawrason of WineAlign. See his review here WineAlign

2016 Felseck Vineyard Pinot Noir Same as the Rosomel – smoked pork shoulder. Felseck Vineyard Pinot Noir Tasting Note

2015 La Brunante Slow and Low Sticky Beef Brisket. Great food pairing. This wine was rated 95 by David Lawrason of WineAlign. See his review here WineAlign

Swine and Vine Visit September 8, 2018

Swine and Vine is a restaurant in Kitchener dedicated to charcuterie. This new (2018) establishment was profiled in Eat and Drink magazine and, as fans of charcuterie, we decided to try it for lunch on our way to Niagara (OK – I know Kitchener isn’t really on the way to Niagara).

The location is very understated and the decor is a mix of plastic and “recycled” chairs and basic tables. There is a bar with stools. The walls are graced by numerous hand-crafted charcuterie boards.

More importantly, blackboards display the many options for “build your own” boards and the craft beer  and wine options.

We chose to build our own – 6 items and two accompaniments. That was enough food for lunch, a dinner and a snack – and it was delicious. Smoked salmon, prosciutto, smoked duck, chorizo sausage, Stilton cheese, smoked cheddar, olives, picked vegetables, caramelized onion marmalade and multi-grain bread.

We couldn’t resist sharing a creme brûlée topped with blueberry compote and an espresso.

That and a couple of glasses of Riesling from Flat Rock in Niagara. We would highly recommend dropping in if you are in the neighbourhood.

Hidden Bench Wine Pairings Fall 2018

Proprietor Harald Thiel and retail manager Meg McGrath rolled out the new wines in the Hidden Bench pre-release Wine Club event. The day was cool and misty so the crackling fire in the stone fireplace on the patio was certainly welcome.

Served while the participants were gathering:

2017 Nocturn Rosé – Tasting Note

At the tasting:

2013 Blanc de Blanc, Zero Dosage (92 pts, Jamie Goode) – a refreshing, just disgorged, sparkling with very fine bubbles (apparently this is achieved through leaving the juice longer on the lees). The pairing was in-house smoked salmon creme on spelt crostini with Canadian caviar and citrus. Tasting Note

2017 Estate Riesling A dry riesling from a vintage that suffered from too much rain but an amazing, unexpected pairing. Upper Canada Cheese Heritage Cheddar and Niagara green apple grilled cheese with spiced apple butter. Never occurred to me to drink riesling with grilled cheese but I will certainly do it again.

2015 Téte de Cuvée Chardonnay (94 pts, David Lawrason) Gold medal winner at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada.

2015 Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay (93 pts, Michael Godel) Platinum medal winner at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada.

The group did a vote as to which of the two chardonnays was preferred. Blind tasted (as to the award) the majority voted for the Platinum winner. These two wines were paired with an oak-smoked Ontario pork nacken ‘duo’ (nacken was not a term I had heard before but is applied to a specific cut of pork that, unsmoked, is used for pulled pork) with fresh peach preserve and apricot compote.

2016 Rosomel Vineyard Nuit Blanche (93 pts, Jamie Goode) The amount of semillon was upped in this vintage and it is very fruit driven. A turkey wine!! Paired with ‘Turkey Dinner’ schnitzel (turkey, panko crumbs) – Tasting Note

2016 Estate Pinot Noir (92 pts, Michael Godel) This was a warm, dry vintage producing a light coloured pinot similar to a Roussillon. Harald quoted an assertion that “if you can’t read your newspaper through the wine, it isn’t pinot”. In looking up this quote touching on the colour of pinot I fell across quite a fascinating article about “faux” Languedoc-Roussillon pinot noir – well worth the read here.  This pinot was paired with a scrumptious roasted, glazed cremini mushroom cap stuffed with pancetta and parmesan gratinée – Tasting Note

2015 Locust Lane Pinot Noir (93 pts, Jamie Goode) – Harald described this wine as “brawnier” relative to the Estate Pinot we had just tasted. Of course it had more age but also more structure and richer colour. Again a surprising pairing – lamb bourguignon with Pinot Noir and pearl onion jus.

2015 Terroir Caché (93 pts, Jamie Goode)  This is a blend of 36% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, 24% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon.This blend was not made in 2014. Paired with beef short rib braised with Cabernet and black pepper with a suet pastry crumble scattered on top.