I wasn’t supposed to attend Cuvée this year.
I had been booked in as a panel guest at a workshop for wine & beer industry folks in Ottawa for the Saturday of Cuvée weekend. As luck would have it, the workshop was cancelled. Even more luckily, I had been invited to attend Cuvée as a guest of Brock University CCOVI and Wine Country Ontario so I jumped at the chance to once again visit the Niagara region.
This was the first year that The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University has taken over as organizers of the event, and funds raised this year were directed to the CCOVI Institute: “Proceeds from the Cuvée wine weekend will go to support grape and wine scholarships and research initiatives at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).” (From Cuvée 2015 site). For the first year as organizers, I can attest that this was as well run as any Cuvée I have attended in the past, and indeed this year’s event seemed to have a great energy about it.
Having attended Cuvée events in previous years and not really getting a chance to sample the food, I made a plan this year to focus on the food first, then the wine. This meant that I wouldn’t get to try all 50+ wines on offer, and I wouldn’t get to talk to all the people I wanted to talk to, but missing the glorious foods provided by top restaurants was too much to miss. And this year, in addition to the fabulous local Niagara restaurants, three Toronto-area restaurants also attended. Here’s the complete list of food providers (as provided by Brock):
The Toronto culinary partners are:
· Centre for Wine and Food Experimentation featuring chef David Chrystian
· Crush Wine Bar featuring chef Trista Sheen
· Woods Restaurant featuring chef Carlos Deveyra
Niagara culinary partners include:
· Benchmark Restaurant and the Canadian Food and Wine Institute featuring chef Alex White
· Cave Spring Cellars – On the Twenty Restaurant featuring chef Frank Romano
· Dairy Farmers of Canada led by Gianna Ciancio
· Fallsview Casino Resort featuring chef Ray Taylor
· Le Clos Jordanne, Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin Wineries featuring estate chef Tim Mackiddie
· Oliv Restaurant at Strewn Winery featuring chef Rob Webster
· Peller Estates Restaurant featuring chef Jason Parsons
· Ravine Winery Restaurant featuring chef Ross Midgley
· Vineland Estates Restaurant featuring chef Justin Downes
Gourmet desserts will be presented by Criveller Cakes chefs Giovanni del Priore and Leonardo Priore, and Italian Ice Cream chef Andrew Vergalito.
This year they added a bit more time for media to taste before the doors opened to the general public. I spent most of this time sampling the whites on offer, but as always, I miss more than I taste. I loved hearing the stories from the winemakers about why they chose the wine – there was usually a personal connection that made the wines special. Although I didn’t plan it this way, many of the whites I ended up trying (and enjoying) were Chardonnays. Here’s the ones that stood out for me, in no particular order:
- Southbrook 2013 Triomphe Chardonnay
- Riverview Cellars 2013 Gewurztraminer
- 2027 Cellars 2012 Wismer “Fox Croft Block” Chardonnay
- Big Head Wines 2013 Chenin Blanc
- Ravine Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay
- Westcott Vineyards 2013 Estate Chardonnay
- Flat Rock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012
We then ducked into the announcements of the VQA Promoter awards and two other key awards for contribution to Ontario’s grape and wine industry:
Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award sponsored by BASF Canada Inc.: Niagara-on-the-Lake grape grower Don Forrer
The Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence: Laurie Macdonald, Executive Director of VQA Ontario
2015 VQA Promoter Lifetime Achievement Award: Len Pennachetti of Cave Spring Vineyards
2015 VQA Promoter Education Award: Evan Saviolidis, sommelier and wine educator
2015 VQA Promoter Hospitality Award: Darcy MacDonell, owner/operator of Farmhouse Tavern
2015 VQA Promoter LCBO Award: Ed Smith, Ontario wine leader customer service representative at the Ottawa-Orleans LCBO
2015 VQA Promoter Media Award: John Szabo, partner and principal critic at Wine Align
2015 VQA Promoter Promoter-at-Large Award: Kimberly Hundertmark, executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival
When we returned to the floor, the doors were open and the food was being served, which meant the place was now hopping with people! We sampled many different foods and tried to select wines that were nearby to pair with the food. I stopped writing tasting notes at this point and just enjoyed the evening.
Memorable Red Tasted that Night included:
- Vineland Estates 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve
- Lailey 2012 Impromptu
- Cooper’s Hawk 2012 Reserve Cab Franc
- Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir
- Creekside 2011 Broken Press Syrah
- Rennie Estate Winery G Assemblage (2012)
- Rockway Vineyards 2012 Wild Ferment Red
Post the main event, Aprés Cuvée kicks into gear with a band, dancing, and sparkling wine, craft beer, and ice wine sampling stations. We somehow managed to close out this event, while sampling some interesting beer from NCT, Silversmiths, and
Complete List of wines available for tasting are documented within this pdf:
It felt like the event had a refreshed vigour this year. It might have been for several reasons, but I’m convinced that making it a gala for the wine industry, by the wine industry, will keep the energy flowing for years to come.