A Family Affair
Stepping onto the red carpet for the annual Cuvée Gala, it feels like coming home. Friendly faces fill the room and the Ontario wine ‘family’ is here to kick off a weekend dedicated to the celebration of their craft. It is much like a reunion for many and for others a new experience being welcomed into the brood.
This is what really sets this event apart from all other Ontario wine celebrations, it brings together our winemakers to share their favourite wine of the year and reminisce about the year past. It is an opportunity to not only taste these special wines but also connect with the forefathers of the industry and meet the next generation. A night for all to become, if only for a short while, a part of our extended family.
And the room is humming with excitement, maybe in anticipation of the Aprés party with Sparkling and Icewine bar – when we all let our hair down and dance the night away. Whatever the reason, I am drawn in and intrigued by a Wild Ferment 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Trius. Skeptical at first as I learn it was fermented in oak barrels and I am generally not a fan of barrel fermented white wines. However the sweetness of the tannins are not overbearing and the wine is in perfect harmony with the oak flavours imparted from the barrel.
I decide that it would make the most sense to try pairing my wine with Frank Dodd’s appetizing dish presented alongside. Frank, chef at Trius restaurant has prepared an Icewine cured Salmon wrapped around an heirloom beet. A little bite of heaven but I must call over Sommelier Archie Hood from Reif Estate and ask him to help me identify the flavour profile that is lifted in the wine by the pairing. We both agree it is the sweetness of the beet that brings out some stone fruit flavours in the wine. Delicious!
While I am busy defining this perfect match my companion John heads off in search of some red wine and his attention is on a Kacaba Terrace Vineyard Syrah 2011. It is a scarce grape in Ontario as it is a tender varietal, but a special area on the farm has been carved out to protect and shelter these delicate grapes. Also called Shiraz, legends of Syrah’s origin comes from its homonym Shiraz, a very old city in Iran where it is suggested it originated before being brought to Rhône where the renowned Hermitages and Côte-Rôtie are produced. Syrah however is not to be confused with Petite Sirah which is really the Durif grape discovered in the 1860s when French botanist François Durif kept a nursery with plantings of both Peloursin and Syrah. It is suggested at some point the two vines cross pollinated and he discovered and named this new grape variety growing in his nursery.
We continue along the path of tasting red wines for the remainder of the evening and now meet Jakub Lipinski, son of well known winemaker Andrzej Lipinski, master of passito-style wines in Ontario. We taste the Big Head 2012 Pinot Noir and he shares the inspiration for the name of his father’s wines. He tells the story as only a son could, telling the narrative of his father’s ‘big’ personality. We also chat about what fun my brother had in designing the labels for him and I feel the affection of being a part of this wine family wash over me.
I am finally drawn to meet the family of Five Rows Winery, whom I have heard, tell a story of how my father Karl, co-founder of Inniskillin had somehow been involved in inspiring them to plant their first Pinot Noir vines in 1984. I meet Wilma and her son Wes whom warmly share how he came out to visit the farm and perhaps selfishly cajoled them to plant “Just five rows of Pinot Noir, in this area right here, it reminds me of Burgundy.” In 2001 they were inspired in that same vineyard to begin their journey crafting great wines. The rest as they say, is history.
It is on this poignant note that this part of the evening comes to a close and I feel a sense of pride in my Ontario wine family, in what we have all created and what we have become. We invite you to come down to wine country to meet the family and I promise, it will feel like home.