Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Ontario Wine Fair Results


...First and foremost I'd like to thank those who made the fair this year possible: My staff.

Yes, of course the wineries are cheesemakers are why we do the fair, and choosing local artisan products is what we attend for, but without my staff the day cannot happen. They struggled for weeks in advance getting set-up, put in MANY extra hours and took-on duties, AND put-up with me :)

I then wish to extend thanks and admiration for the wineries and cheese-makers whose products were enjoyed. The response by guests in this 3rd year was incredible as we sold-out the fair weeks in advance!

I now label the local wine-makers and those passionate about Ontario making high-quality wine "Wine Warriors", for it is a daily fight to change perception about local winecrafting being capable of creating world-class wines!

I have gone over my notes on all 74 wines poured and my personal impressions/highlights are before the results of the People's Choice Awards!

My opinions are based upon my personal tastes and preferences to wine styles.

Highlights for myself during the tasting (in no particular order and having no bearing on price) included the overall quality of chardonnays and rieslings poured!
These two varietals are really coming into their own here by Ontario producers and they are being embraced and stylistically made unique; Megalomaniac's 'Homegrown' certainly shows a style and methodology difference with the blending of riesling WITH a splash of rielsing icewine!
Chardonnays that scored top marks in my notes included Southbrooks' vertical series, Lailey Vineyard and Norman Hardie. Rieslings ranged from dry to VERY sweet and most of those had enough acid to keep them from being 'flabby'. Megalomaniac, Kacaba and Chateau des Charmes all appealed to my sweet tooth!

Reds that stood out most for me were the Cab Francs of Lailey and The Grange, but the blended reds ranged from whimsical to serious. Recommended buys from me include the winners below, PLUS Nyarai Cellars 2007 Cab/Merlot ($18.20) and Pelee Island 2007 Cabernet/Petit Verdot ($19.95).

Winners of the 2010 Ontario Wine Fair People's Choice Awards:
Fav Dry Riesling: Lailey Vineyards 2008 Riesling ($18)
Fav Non-Dry Riesling: Kacaba 2009 Riesling Reserve ($17.95) *NOTE that this was BY FAR the most popular category, with a fierce fight between Kacaba, Megalomaniac & Chateau des Charmes - it was close!
Fav Dry White: Legends Estates 2007 Semillon ($16.95)
Fav Non-Dry White: Cattail Creek 2009 Chardonnay Musque ($17)
Fav Single Variety White: Sue-Ann Staff 2008 Pinot Grigio ($18)
Fav White Blend: Nyarai Cellars 'Trois' 2009 ($19.50)
Fav Chardonnay UNDER $20: Trumpour's Mill (The Grange) Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 ($14.95)
Fav Chardonnay OVER $20: Another close category with lots of votes, but the winner by a nose is Norman Hardie's 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay ($35)
Fav Rosé: Cattail Creek's 'Serendipity' Rose 2009 ($14)
Fav Pinot Noir UNDER $20: Rosewood Estates 2008 Pinot Noir ($20)
Fav Pinot Noir OVER $20: Rosehall Run - Rosehall Vineyard 2007 ($27.95)
Fav Merlot: Angels Gate KEW Vineyard 2008 Merlot ($15.75)
Fav Cab Franc UNDER $20: Black Prince 2008 Cabernet Franc ($15.95)
Fav Cab Franc OVER $20: The Grange of Prince Edward 2007 Cabernet Franc ($34.80)
Fav Cab Sauv UNDER $20: No votes
Fav Cab Sauv OVER $20: Megalomaniac 2006 'Bravado' ($24.95)
Fav Single Variety Red: Legends Estates 2007 Malbec Reserve ($18.95)
Fav Red Blend: Fielding Estates 2008 'Red Conception' ($18.95) AND Southbrook's 2001 Cabernet/Merlot (This will be going straight to my cellar program!)
Fav Winery *NOTE: it is clear from looking-over ballots that people can choose a different winery than those whose wines they voted on. As such next year we will have a category for "Fav Winery" AND "Fav Winery REPRESENTATIVE"
Fav Winery was Lailey Vineyards.

Congratulations to our winners: These wines as chosen by the attendees will be purchased by cafe Taste for our by-the-glass & cellar program.

See you on the patio to drink through our winners' circle!

Jeremy Day - Wine Geek

Monday, April 19, 2010

A challenge to Ontario wineries!

The kitchen has been re-organized, the patio is getting its' face-lift, and the summer lies before us as I finalize the spring wine list. I will be writing later this week about the upcoming Patio Opening Party and the upcoming Winery Tours, but today I wish to set the record straight and offer a challenge...

...As people and wineries offer to me what products I should carry I have come to the realization that there is some confusion as to what cafe Taste is and who I am... Taste does NOT carry local food and wine because it is just from Ontario. I choose to support those producers that are close, however above all I choose our wines and our foods based upon QUALITY.

Wine is not simply 'good' to me based upon the merit of being from Ontario. No, I want to make it clear that I am trying to make consumers aware of the better quality wines that can be found here. Does one think that an Italian or French wine is automatically "good" simply because it comes from an "Old World" viticulture area? the reality is there is MUCH "bad" wine made everywhere, for as with all industries, as with all artistic disciplines, there are those that are more adept @ producing than others.

I will point out that Ontario (as the rest of the world) has produced an incredible amount of unsatisfactory wines. This does NOT mean however that Ontario isn't capable of world-class products. We have some magnificent winemakers here, and they all began with less than perfect creations.

Certainly there is the wild-card of vintage, but wine regions around the world each have something to offer, and the wine-makers craft an personal style is inherent in the wine they produce. The better producers rise to the top, and they reflect the "good" wines of that region.

I am thankful to be part of a movement that is changing the way we Ontarians view our food suppy; the "identity crisis" Ontarians (and Canadians) have about trying to compare their products to another part of the world. An Australian winemaker doesn't try and say "This Cabernet/Merlot is very Bordeaux", they are instead proud that they produce a wine in an AUSTRALIAN style. Same too as the Californians, the French, the Spanish.

Take the International vinifera and grow them throughout the world and see how each region bears their mark upon the wines. Then see how Ontarian wines bear the mark of our terroir and be proud of them. A California Cabernet should drink a certain way, as should an Australian, a French, and so too an Ontarian!

So my challenge to Ontario wineries is two-fold: Do not try and imply Ontario wines are "just like Burgundy/Bordeaux/Tuscany/Napa Valley/etc.", instead embrace the nuances of an exquisitely crafted local wine, as is done in every other of the world's wine regions.

I will go further and put emphasis on "exquisitely crafted"; As I've already stated, wines will not be carried by cafe Taste that aren't quality, and I implore Ontario winemakers to not use the VQA symbol as a shield to sell wines that are simply local. Rise to the challenge, learn your craft well, and create exceptional wines I can proudly present to my customers.

This is an exciting time for us as there is a surge of quality. It is my hope that the ripples of this become waves that raise the levels of all produced.


Jeremy Day - Wine Geek

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ontario Chardonnay...Seriously Cool!

Credit and thanks needs to go out to Southbrook Winery's Bill Redelmeier for conceptualizing a throw-down to the U.K. of Ontario Chadonnay!

Bill has organized a selection of Ontario Chardonnay to be represented @ an exclusive tasting this May in London England, and I was fortunate enough to be able to pre-sample the wines soon to make the journey. I'll begin with the event, then the wines.

Held @ the Toronto Racket Club on Tuesday afternoon, I steeled myself to get through in enough time to get back to open the bar. I arrived, put my head down, and charged with glass in hand for the wines, working the room in a clock-wise fashion; I was a man-with-a-plan!

FOILED @ the first table, I'm met by Keith Tyers @ Closson Chase! Years ago Keith exposed me to my first blind tasting, striving for me to match pallete with wine knowledge - something that I have valued ever since - so I HAD to stop and chat ;)

THEN @ table #2 I had to speak w. Derek from Lailey about his joining Twitter...I knew then that things looked grim for getting out of there in a reasonable time, as Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto, Andrew Hanna, Norman Hardie, Thomas Bachelder, Martin Malivoire, Jamie Drummond & Bill Redelmeier himself all needed catching-up with...suffice to say that after giving-in to my desire to catch-up and socialize with such meaningful people in the industry, I was 2 hours' late @ cafe Taste (thanks for opening the joint, Julye)!

ON TO THE WINES: Though I tasted through 36 wines - all of which deserve mention - I will be leaving the full evaluation to the professional wine writers and simply give my feedback on those that my palette adored the most.

Represented in the 36 was an impressive gamut of styles of chardonnay. Please remember that chardonnay as a grape can bear more variation based upon methods of production, and is enjoyed in a staggering number of flavours, bodies, weights and aromatics. I do NOT present you with an account of all styles tasted, I present you with my top 5 based upon personal preference:

1) Southbrook 1998 Poetica: Rich, warm, gold and patina colours, exceptional depth, balance of acid and core of delightful caramelized fruit. A great example of ageablitity of Ontario whites. This wine was crafted by Derek Barnett (now @ Lailey Vineyard). Grapes were sourced from 'old vine' Chardonnay vines from Niagara River appelation as Southbrook had no vineyards of their own in the 90's. Very masculine in style.
2) Le Clos Jordanne 2006 LCJ Vineyard: Fantastic richness and elegance from this well-rounded wild-ferment chardonnay. Robe is lustrous yellow with bronze. Palette is harmonious, mouthfeel hints of juiciness from lees contact. A wine that exemplifies balance, though fruit is still in its' early years of production. Thomas Bachelder does Ontario proud with his Burgundian methodology!
3) Lailey Vineyard 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay: Sourced from the same grapes as the Southbrook 1998 Poetica (above), and crafted by these vines had an extra 12 years to mature (As both this and wine #1 were both crafted by Derek I'm interested in seeing this wine in 12 years' time!) Robe is rich straw w. flecks of bronze, steel and mineral on nose with nice vanilla notes.
4) Malivoire Wine Company 2004 Moira Vineyard: Another example of vines that are just "coming of age", Martin Malivoire asks for Shiraz Mottiar to develop wines in harmony with the environment (embrace the ladybug!) Robe is 'steely' yellow, nose has rich candied fruit and floral expression. The structure of this wine is exceptional, and I'm very impressed with the complexity. I'm glad this wine made it out of the library to see how the fruit would perform.
5) Norman Hardie 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay: Beamsville (Niagara) fruit lends a succulence that works well with the extended lees contact of Norm's wines - well worth a visit to his winery to learn about his horizontal tanks for this gentle contact! The robe lends itself to visions of lush fruit, green-apple skin tones, with a nose likewise lush and fruity - more tropical - but still with a hint of vanilla. Fleshy mouthfeel (think of biting an aloe leaf) with core of mineral chalk, savoury on finish.

...MANY accolades however go out to the others represented, and I anxiously await the results of these wineries being showcased in London - Good luck representing not just your wineries, but Ontario as a region :)

Jeremy Day - Wine Geek
cafe Taste

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Now an introduction...

...As promised after my last (and first) posting on our blog, I'm going to give some background on cafe Taste. People should know where they're spending their cash... **credit to Sheryl Kirby of for generating this Q&A**

TasteT.O.:How did you get started? What is your background in food and wine? Are you self taught or did you train somewhere specific?
Jeremy Day: My background begins at age 5 when my parents moved me to a farm in a rural area two hours Northwest of Toronto. Being on a farm, we were self-sufficient - we grew our vegetables, raised our chickens, pigs, ducks and cows, and with everything on a small scale (no more than a dozen of any type of livestock at a time) we worked organically before a time when that meant something. We even made our own cheese, sausages, jams, bread and flour!
Everything was 'free-ranged' and we worked naturally with the land, raising crops to feed ourselves and our livestock. When I came to Toronto and began work in the hospitality industry, I at first embraced the 'big city' and its convenience - it was years before I simply felt 'ill' from being bereft of my 'natural' upbringing and went back to eating healthy and working towards sustainable local practices. This is what I bring to opening cafe Taste - local produce featured around the EXPERIENCE of treating oneself - In Europe, each cafe features local wines and cheeses. It is part of the daily ritual Europeans have to treat themselves - to live - by enjoying a glass of wine, a chunk of cheese and some bread each day. In North America, we do NOT treat ourselves each day, instead we seem to "Live to Work" as opposed to "Working to live". cafe Taste is meant to promote the latter - come by to Live.

TasteT.O: Why Parkdale as opposed to somewhere that might be more receptive to the concept of a wine bar? How does the neighbourhood respond? Is your clientele mostly local or people from out of the hood who make cafe Taste a destination?
Jeremy Day: Ah! Why NOT Parkdale??? See, my point, my vision for this place IS that wine & cheese is for everyone - they are two of the oldest portions of culinary history - growing with culture and civilization over several thousand years. WHY does North America make wine service pretentious and unapproachable? Wine should not be put on a pedestal, it should be enjoyed by the people! My concept is "opulence for the common man", great product at a discounted price. I made cafe Taste so that people do not shy away from the higher end products because of their mark-up.
The neigbourhood responds well, albeit slowly. At first people didn't know what to think, with wine bars being somewhat trendy and opening across Toronto, it was clear from the start this one was different - no high-end decor, no servers with ties, and an extensive cheese selection (up to 30 cheeses to match the 30 wines by the glass). Over the last 4 years word has spread, and even seem to have inspired other restaurants to offer more cheeses with their wines.
cafe Taste seems to straddle being a neighbourhood hang-out and a destination spot. We get lots of private bookings as an experience for groups - wine tastings, birthday parties, etc. A few weeks ago we had a group from Cambridge in for the evening. It is unfortunate that on those nights when we're closed for a private gig that I have to turn-away my neighbourhood regulars.
RESERVATIONS are STRONGLY recommended so that we can assure people won't be turned away in case of a private tasting!

TasteT.O.:Tell me a bit about your wine selections and how you came to compile your wine list? Do you update it frequently?
Jeremy Day: I update it quite often - about every 6-8 weeks. I compile based upon what I've tasted, and what Ontario has to offer. My mandate is to source locally, primarily to reduce our environmental footprint, but we have such an incredible resource with the Ontario wine regions, it would be criminal to not make use of them! I do include wines from outside Ontario, but they have to have either exceptional taste or flavour profile that the wine list requires, or have some manner of historical note that appeals to me - preferably both!

TasteT.O.:The food menu is pretty simple - is this out of choice or necessity? Are there kitchen facilities to expand the menu at some point in the future, or do you prefer to focus on the wine at this point?
Jeremy Day: Actually, it is both. Though I wished to have a more extensive menu available, it was always intended to be a cheese-based. As we were limited in kitchen facilities, it worked out to our vision of cheese trays, fondue, and cheese salads. As far as cooking philosophy, "Simple. Fresh. Tasty" is our mantra. Good, preferrably locally-sourced ingredients and uncomplicated recipes to allow natural flavour profiles to carry through and match with our wines. What I'm doing is simplicity itself: enjoy a glass of wine with a chunk of cheese and some bread, nuts & olives. There isn't too much call right now to go outside our vision, though for 2010 we're ramping-up specials crafted by Food Geek David Berman

...Also as promised, the sappy part...As stated above, my dad raised me in a rural 'total farm' experience.

I hated it.

I had to wake-up @ 7 am to feed animals and milk cows before going to school each day, then return home just to do it again. I rebelled against dad's views about self-production when I visited other schoolkids who lived in nearby towns and saw how they bought their food from stores. Money COULD buy leisure and 'happiness' from the strife of working on the farm...

...I now find myself very much my fathers' son, and consider myself lucky to have had the upbringing I did under his tutelage. I had not seen my father for 10 years, as he had moved to BC to retire from farming. I was busy creating cafe Taste, and always had something that got in the way of a venturing out to see him...I realize now what that was:

...I visited him last weekend, as news arrived he is very ill and he will now never be able to see what I created here. I sat with him for an afternoon before he slept and told him about what I had built. I realize now that cafe Taste is an altar to everything he instilled in me, and the reason for my not visiting was my desire to have it flourish and have him come see something he inspired before he died. I am thankful and proud to have had you in my life growing-up, dad. I love you.

...As an aside, take the opportunity to tell loved-ones what they mean to you. One never knows if they may be taken from you.

Jeremy Day - Wine Geek

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time to Blog

I'd like to begin my first blog thanking David (our Food Geek) for paving the way and writing our first few forays into allowing people to keep tabs on what what's cooking (literally) down here @ cafe Taste.

Over the years people have asked me to blog our wine tastings, our initiatives, even our story of how cafe Taste came to it begins:

This month we strayed from our usual Tutoured Tasting and instead of doing wine & cheese, we honoured the Emerald Isle and did a Whiskey tasting! This was "Whiskey 101" and gave first an overview of the origins & composition of whiskey, followed by the basics of each type. I chose entry-level examples that displayed not only the characteristics of the basic types of whiskies, but also one's that are on my shelf :) Cost was $40 (taxes & gratuity incl.) and got each guest 7 ounces of whiskey paired with cheeses, chocolate and nuts.

First-up was Irish whiskey - generally the more subtler of whiskies, distilled 3 times for richness. I chose Bushmills Black Bush paired with Quebec's Le Sauvagine cheese.

Second was Canadian whiskey (known as rye) - distilled twice with extra depth, smooth and fantastic for cocktails. I was happy to feature local Niagara winery/distillery Kitling Ridge's Forty Creek, and paired it with an Ontario asiago from Thornloe.

Third & fourth were Scotch whiskies (blended & single malt) - distilled twice and aged for a minimum of 2 years, for this we needed to go into some history of the why's and when's of blending vs. single malts and their characteristics, but for that you'll need to attend a tasting ;) Poured were Te Bheag & Balwhinie Double Wood paired with Blue Haze & 70% chocolate.

Fifth we poured American whisky (yes, there's no 'e' in American whisky) - distilled only once and aged for only a minimum of a year, these whisky's (Bourbon's, Sour Mash, etc.) are generally of stronger character AND alcohol (they can be released as 'cask strength') - liken them to American foreign policy ;) Poured was Knob Creek paired with a 7-year aged white Ontario cheddar.

As with all of our Tutoured Tastings, once the lessons and evaluation was complete we turned our attention to what remained in the bottles and the tasting became a hedonistic one!

...there may have been some wobbling ;)

I'd love any feedback to this, my first post on the Blog David began for us here @ cafe Taste, and welcome criticisms or accolades. Let me know what you'd like to see on our blog!

Till I post next (which btw will be some background about why cafe Taste exists...WARNING: there will be some sappy moments as I'll be talking about my dad) I raise my glass of Kacaba 2005 Cabernet to yourselves; the people for whom without cafe Taste would mean nothing.


Jeremy Day - Wine Geek

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wine Pairing for the everyday #3

Video Games

I’ve been a gamer since the marvel pong broke out on the scene with heart pumping action, or so I’m sure it appeared to a child of the 70’s. So I know firsthand there is zero possibility of pairing a single wine to all games, in that light I’ll pick one genre of game, and still fail miserably in the attempt for all the intricacies that games possess in the present day.

Adventure/Role Playing/Storyline Based

One common element in these types of games is that they tend to prove very frustrating with all the find the right quest giver, make sure you have the magic boots, don’t use iron key on the green door nonsense. So in light of that lets not pick a wine which is too distracting, nor pointlessly elegant nor complex. I assure you these characteristics will be lost on the pallet once you confront the 15 headed, 2 tailed, and otherwise anatomically incorrect monster.

The alcohol content is not that important as many of these games will see your results improve while off your face (or at least it will appear that way.)

White: Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2007 (16.95 CDN) 13% Beamsville Bench, Niagara, ON. This Chard possesses a well structured mouth feel, with medium wood (and the typical vanilla), lush fruit, good mineral and a tad bit of smoke. Easy to drink with some great character if you press pause long enough to notice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Menu Changes on the way…

As fall prepares to take the stage the menu at Taste will pay tribute to the season of harvest and realized expectations.

The new spaghetti Bolognese will now include a late harvest VQA and dark chocolate with its more traditional elements.

Our daily soups, including our popular Kale Monster, will return to ward off the chills.

Sautéed Atlantic salmon with spaghetti squash, zucchini and fire-roasted red peppers.

And look for chili and jambalaya as the season matures.


This month’s wine tasting: October 14th - 8pm: "Taste of the Harvest"

Thanksgiving menu. Cornish hen with wild rice porcini mushroom stuffing.

What’s Cooking:

Angelo Bean Sausages, Beef Tenderloin and specialty pizzas on the weekend.

David Berman
Food Geek