Highs & Lows of 2014

Highs & Lows

UPDATE: I can’t believe I missed the Judgement of PEC Pinot Noir tasting put on by OWSPEC. See more about it down below.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, so decided I should finally capture my thoughts. My 2014 was full of highlights for me, but there were a few things that either disappointed or saddened me. I’ve tried to capture them in chronological order. Like them or hate them? Leave a comment and tell me why!

High: The one big “high” of running the Great Canadian Wine Challenge with Calvin Hanselmann was that Calvin and his wife Dylan became good friends with Debbie and I, and we have enjoyed some great wines and adventures together over the year.

Calvin, Dylan, & Debbie

Calvin, Dylan, & Debbie

Low: Calvin and I didn’t realize how much “grunt work” there was going to be with running the challenge. We wanted to run more contests/fun things, but we just ran out of steam. My blogging took a hit too.

High: Open That Bottle Night (February): We decided to try this event where you open something special – that bottle you have been saving for just the right occasion that never comes (based on the WSJ post in the link). It was a great way to kill the winter blues and enjoy great food, great wines, and great friends, and will be repeated at our house annually!

High: Being nominated for, and winning the “Promoter at Large” award from Brock CCOVI Promote the Promoters Awards. Being recognized in front of peers (by those same peers) was really moving, and I am humbled to be included in the list of winners over the years. It really is an honour.

Low: The day I accepted the VQA Promoter award, I had to miss the funeral of a long-time friend (Kerry Mason) who had just passed away from cancer. Kerry’s wife Samantha assured me that Kerry would want me to attend and accept the award, but I was an emotional wreck that weekend and for a good time after. I was never able to blog about the weekend and all the great wines enjoyed at Cuvée, the expert’s tasting, and the #LostBarrelVertical dinner. It still bothers me today.

High: Speaking of that #LostBarrelVertical dinner, this was an amazing evening with 11
other wine geeks, a fabulous set of wines, and an amazing dinner from Treadwell’s in NOTL. Kudos to Gary Killops for coming up with the amazing idea to share these fantastic bottles! (Paul might agree that the dinner was a “high” but his 6-7 hour drive home in a snowstorm was a “low”!). We also had a pre-dinner and post-dinner tasting that included so many great Canadian wines. Awesome night indeed!

Lost Barrel Vertical Tasting at Treadwells

Lost Barrel Vertical Tasting at Treadwells

High: Getting my first paid writing gigs doing the back stories for Savvy Hip Hops and Savvy Selections.  Strange that I started with beer first and then moved to wine, but it was nice to finally have some income from my hobby!

High: Terroir event in PEC. Not only was it the first major event (a farmer’s market) to allow wine sales in Ontario, it was the last time I saw Richard Karlo. Before and after, we visited many great wineries, including The Old Third, Hubb’s Creek, and Long Dog. The Gamay in barrel at Long Dog was definitely a highlight for 2014.

The Somms

The Somms at #IronSommelier

High: MP (& Minister) Michelle Rempel invited Calvin and I to this event in Ottawa called #IronSommelier. Michelle and two other well known Ottawa somms (Andrew Rasta of Lifford Agency and Steve Robinson of Atelier) paired Canadian wines with dishes from #IronChef winner Rene Rodriguez (of Ottawa’s Navarra restaurant) in a “competition” to see who had the best pairings. It was an evening of great Canadian wines and I discovered an amazing Syrah from Painted Rock winery in BC that night among the stellar wines provided.

High: Being asked to judge the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario wine awards. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about my skills and the skills of those who do this professionally. Loved meeting some of the former (and current) students of the program at Niagara College, including David Stasiuk of Rockway Vineyards.

High: Winewire.ca’s first pop-up wine shop in Ottawa. We got a taste of what it might be like to have a private wine shop operate in our city, and we really liked it!

High: Canadian Wine Day and Free Shipping Day. When Janet Dorozynski first suggested #CanadianWineDay, I thought it was an amazing idea and Calvin and I were trying to think of ways to make it better. We asked, and several wineries across Canada offered free shipping on June 28th. In honour of both events (and it was a Saturday), we invited lots of local wine folks over to celebrate both occasions with too much food and lots of great wines from across Canada.

Low: Sadly, i4c2014. After last year’s tremendous event, I convinced another couple and my wife to attend the World Tour Grand Tasting & Dinner, despite the rather high cost. We found the lack of preparation for the weather (and subsequent poor communication) on the day of the event less than stellar. Once there, the makeshift arrangements where they had spread out the winemakers and their wines in one of the dining tents crowded with tables and chairs made it next to impossible to move around. In 2013 when it had been outside, I tasted more than twenty-five different Chardonnays vs the six I was able to get to in 2014. Then at the dinner, the server at our table repeatedly returned with the same local (&inexpensive) Chardonnay. If we hadn’t been seated with a very vocal Michael Pinkus, that’s all we would have tasted during dinner. Michael’s complaints finally resulted in a 8-10 different wines appearing. The food was good, but not good enough to make the costs of the event seem at all reasonable.

High: Despite the i4c event being disappointing, we had a fantastic tour of Niagara wineries including Leaning Post Wines, Kew Vineyards, Di Profio Wines, Organized Crime Winery, Featherstone Estate Winery, Vineland Estates, Fielding Estate Winery, Stratus Vineyards, Pearl Morissette, and Rockway Vineyards. We also venture out to visit Mark Glover and Bre Paszkat for an incredible dinner of Mark’s smoked meat and some fabulous wines/

High: #GrumpyAndrew pictures from all over the Niagara region. I still laugh every time I think about the pics we were able to take.


#GrumpyAndrew gets a kiss!


Shores of Erie Coin

High: Finally being able to make it to LENS region and explore a little bit of the wine and food scene they have. Less well-known than other Ontario regions, I think it is one of our best kept secrets, and something we need to change. Friend Gary Killops has been telling me about the region for some time and the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival is a great time to visit!

Low: Having tornado-like winds rip through the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival while we were at the winemaker’s dinner. The storm shut down the entire event immediately.

High: Seeing the volunteers recover from the night before and be able to open early the next afternoon. Given the damage and craziness of the night before, one could hardly tell anything had happened. Another great example of community spirit in action!

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival – After the Storm!


High: The end of The Great Canadian Wine Challenge #TGCWC and the awarding of prizes. We had another great celebration to end things (as did others in other parts of the province). People were really impressed with the generous prizes donated by various wineries!

High: The Judgement of PEC event in Toronto in October, and event put on by the PEC chapter of the Ontario Wine Society. I was asked to sit on the panel with other esteemed wine experts and we (along with all the guests), evaluated the top 5 PEC Pinot Noirs against 5 world class Pinots from other parts of the world (all blind). Surprisingly, some of my favourite PEC Pinots were not in the top 5 from PEC and were excluded from the tasting…Paul Dearborn later explained that some that they had wanted in the lineup were not available for purchase at the time they did the selection. The first place did not go to a PEC Pinot, but they did place very well and the Huff Estates Pinot Noir surprised many including myself.

Low: Richard Karlo passing suddenly in November. Many of us who knew him did not know how ill he was and it was a massive shock to the Ontario wine community to learn this sad news.

#ToRichardHigh: The real sense of community that was displayed at the funeral for Richard Karlo and the reception afterwards. It really highlighted the fact that PEC is a farming community first and foremost. Hearing that other winemakers had stepped in to help finish the 2014 wines just added to that spirit, and at least for me, made me wish I lived in the County. 100% class.

High: Dylan Hanselmann first suggested the idea of an online toast to Richard Karlo with the hashtag #ToRichard. It is likely the most fitting tribute I can think of for such a great winemaker and the fact that it took off and reverberated on both Twitter and Facebook shows that it really resonated with those who knew Richard.

Low: I should have put this one last, but I didn’t want to end the year on a low note. The lack of change in the Ontario liquor distribution, despite all the attempts that have been made to date. Things like the movie Straight Up and a few key lawsuits are really shining a light on the issues in Ontario and educating the general population. It will take folks getting and staying upset to make change, but there are signs that things are going to happen in 2015. We’ll see.

High: #ONWineChat. It’s still going, and we crossed episode #90 late in 2014. It’s been fun to see the community develop and engage but there is always room for improvement (and more participants)!



This entry was posted in Beer, Contest, Craft, Experience, Food, Food Pairing, ONWineChat, Prince Edward County, Tasting, Tasting Event, The Great Canadian Wine Challenge and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Highs & Lows of 2014

  1. Paul Dearborn says:

    re: the Judgment Of PEC. Thanks for including us in your 2014 recap Shawn. The main reason that some of the “expected” PEC Pinots were not included is that the OWSPEC board did its own blind tasting of 16 County Pinots in order to arrive at the top five. We were just as shocked as anyone else (albeit pleasantly shocked) when the top five was revealed to us by the impartial Krista Lamb. But we had vowed to stick with the results of our blind tasting, despite our personal preferences, and those five wines were then put up against the world…

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