Week 1 (Sept 1st-8th) Update

Calvin and I decided we would provide a weekly blog post in terms of what is happening with The Great Canadian Wine Challenge, including what we opened that week. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first a few house-keeping things.

First – recall that you all needed to provide weekly updates. Initially, when we thought there might be 7-8 of us, we said any format is possible. As we broke through the 100 person mark, our limited mathematical skills allowed us to figure out that 100X52 is “a whole lotta” updates to track. Add in that we might double registration before the month is out, and that means 2X “a whole lotta” updates to track. Given that Calvin and I have a hard time keeping track of who answered which email, we are having to amend the rules slightly. Calvin (genius) figured out a mechanism to use Google Docs to track updates. Details will be forthcoming, but we are going to ask that participants fill out the very simple query each week to make tracking as auto-magic as possible.

Second, we are going to move the official tracking of updates out to the end of September. You should all be practicing sending your update in some format up until then so you get into the habit. There are great prizes awaiting those that can stick it out.

Without further ado, here’s out first update with Calvin leading things off this week.

My first week of The Great Canadian Wine Challenge (#TGCWC) launched with a crash, as Shawn’s first attempt to sabre a bottle of sparkling wine shattered the bottle. Not to be outdone at failure, I struck out — literally — at my attempt, swinging-and-missing three times. Andrew Weber took pity on me and repeated my (in)glorious performance before Shawn emerged the sabring champ by successfully opening a bottle of Hinterland 2009 Rosé. Fantastic!

Shawn’s launch party featured wines from five provinces, as well as a fantastic cheese board, crudité, dips, and other tapas! At some point Sunday afternoon, with five provinces covered, I was thinking that the Challenge would be a cakewalk. However, later in the week walking was not so easy to do, and drinking wine was not happening at all. Compared to the great start to the Challenge that was provided by the many very good wines served by Shawn, my theme for Week 1 was Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Rear Window.

You see, on Thursday I had orthoscopy on my right knee, which meant no drinking on Wednesday night, or Thursday, or Friday. Not an auspicious start to a year of celebrating Canadian wines!! Rather than drinking wine, I entertained myself with rewriting Hitchcock’s script.

Calvin Re-Writes Hitchcock

Calvin Re-Writes Hitchcock

If you ever look out your window and see someone looking through a bottle of Canadian wine, call my name!

The #TGCWC wine community is nothing if not caring and generous, and I had to gratefully decline an offer of what I think might have been a lobotomy.

Although it was a generous offer, Calvin graciously declined.

Although it was a generous offer, Calvin graciously declined.

So, not including Sunday (since Shawn posted about it here), the wines I drank were:


  • Norman Hardie 2009 County Pinot Noir Unfiltered
  • 33 Vines 2008 Pinot Noir
  • Lighthall Muté Fortified (just a tipple or two, since it runs hot at 18% abv)I’m not counting a Gamay Noir that was so awful that we poured it down the drain after the first sip.

    It’s always difficult to choose a “favourite” wine, but the Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon at Shawn’s struck me as beautifully balanced and enjoyable — with or without food — and was a wine that I had not tried before.

    The biggest challenge I faced in the Challenge this week wasn’t being tempted by aged off-dry German Rieslings, or any other off-shore wine for that matter! Rather, the biggest challenge was not drinking glorious Canadian wines in the days before and after surgery. Sure glad that’s over!!

    SHAWN’S UPDATE – Week 1

    Shawn's Failed Sabrage

    Shawn’s Failed Sabrage

    I’m glad Calvin went first because he covered the sabering and the wines we tasted on launch day. We were lucky to be able to hit the 5 provinces…good thing we pulled in some ringers! I have another video to post of Calvin and Andrew chopping down my pine tree as they tried to saber their bottle, but in case you missed my explosive sabrage – here’s the link! The night of the launch we were invited to a private party at a local winery. Of course we only drank their wine, and we chose one that was a blend of his local Marquette grapes and Cab Franc from the Niagara region.

    One of the side benefits to hosting an event like the launch is that people left me with all the open bottles of wine. We sipped on the leftover L’Orpailleur and Township 7 reds over the next couple nights and I didn’t open anything until Thursday (I must confess to being served non-Canadian wines in my advanced sommelier class on Wednesday night). Being on vacation, I managed to fit in a Postmedia Chat session where I managed to omit the word “not” in my very first sentence, making it look like I claimed I was the brains (more like “Brians”) behind the whole TGCWC. In spite of this, Calvin still talked to me afterwards. For that chat I opened a bottle of Joseph’s Baco-Merlot blend, a value sipper with lots of body from the NOTL region. Given that our daughter started university this week, I’m surprised more didn’t get opened (either celebrating or worrying, I’m not sure).

    Friday we took our 16 year old son to get his G1 license. After a spin around the block with him at the wheel, I knew I was ready for something else and we opened a Kacaba Cab Syrah that was quite peppery and delicious. The bottle would likely have been enough to smooth my nerves if I hadn’t had to share it with Deb!

    Who says Ottawa is the city that fun forgot?

    Who says Ottawa is the city that fun forgot?

    Debbie Trenholm of Savvy Company invited us to attend Harvest Noir with some of her Savvy team, so after a bit of chopping, searing, sautéing, and simmering, we had a hot coconut chicken curry ready to go. Thankfully Debbie’s team selected the wines for the event and Palatine Hills 1812 Unoaked Chard and Cab-Merlot were on offer. From my i4c2013 training, I thought the Chard would work well with the curry and it was a great pairing with the curry, and all the other foods our table shared including chicken, vegetables, and salads.

    "Cheese Sommelier" Vanessa Simmons knows how to put a cheese board together!

    “Cheese Sommelier” Vanessa Simmons knows how to put a cheese board together!

    With the extensive cheese & charcuterie tray that cheese sommelier Vanessa Simmons provided as our “first dessert”, we switched to the Cab-Merlot where the dark fruit really set off the cheeses and meats.

    Pinot Gris Done 2 Ways

    Pinot Gris Done 2 Ways

    Calvin and I met Sunday afternoon to work on some issues and actions with TGCWC (did I mention this is starting to look a lot like work?). We met at this great little sandwhich shop that just opened called “The Flying Banzini”. While their list of Canadian wines was non-existent, we did manage to indulge in some Ottawa craft beer (Canadian craft beer should count, shouldn’t it? :-)).

    Sunday night saw a birthday celebration for the little guy, and with family coming, I decided on two Pinot Gris – one from Lacey Estates and the other from Malivoire. The wines were both excellent but couldn’t have been much different. Lacey’s had decent skin contact and had a deep copper colour (almost rosé), and had some lightly sweetened red fruit on the nose and palate. Malivoire’s was clear white and was dominated by melons. We loved them both and appreciated the diversity available to us in Ontario.

    Week 2 is already underway and I have no idea what I am going to open. What about you?


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