Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Official... the Leaf is Gilded!

It's official!  After months of learning about starting a wine agency, the ins and outs of dealing with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, forming a business partnership, racking our brains for a business name, creating a website, making contacts in the industry... I'm happy to launch Gilded Leaf Wine & Spirits.

Now the tough work begins.

We need to find wineries to represent, and start our journey up the steep (and I would imagine sometimes slippery) learning curve.  There are so many ways to represent a winery and their products... distributing directly to the LCBO, supplying restaurants and private clients, participating in wine clubs and wine fairs... the list goes on.  So many possibilities!

I'll continue to blog about my learnings in the business, and especially as I begin my next course on Food & Wine Pairings - can't wait!  The scale will officially be removed from the bathroom until well after this course is complete.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out my website at:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Jesus Juice Here

One of the featured wines in a recent vintages release is the South Australian Shiraz, The Formula, 2005 by Small Gully Wines. If you can snag a bottle of this stuff, I recommend trying it. I'm going to warn you, though, it's a *tad* stronger than some of the other wines you may have tried lately. At 16.7 percent alcohol by volume, one of the first aromas that hits you is... well.... alcohol. Once you get past the initial memory of Jack Daniels, aromas of dark chocolate, black cherries, and sweet spices start to emerge… almost Christmas Cake-like.

There has been a rising trend towards wines being created with higher and higher levels of alcohol. This might be due to the fact that more wine makers are giving in to the trend of producing much more fruit-forward wines, using very ripe grapes. The riper the grapes, the higher the sugar levels, and the higher the resulting alcohol. Alcohol is created when sugar and yeast ferment... so the more sugar you have in the juice (called must), the greater the potential for higher alcohol levels.

One theory for the demand for fruitier wines is that this "new generation" of wine drinkers tends to drink wine both with and without food. For centuries before this one (and possibly up until more recently), people drank wine as part of their meals. Folks living in the new world wine regions are now adopting more of a "drink when I want, where I want" culture (my peeps!). If you aren't pairing your wine with your food, your palate will start to demand more flavours to compensate for that lack of "mouth harmony" (yeah, I just made up that term).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Last Supper?

Faced with certain death and given the choice of a final meal, what would be your last supper?

My next course on Wine & Food Pairings doesn’t start until October, but I am already mentally preparing for the mission of matching wine with food. But rather than taking on the somewhat intimidating task of pairing “the” perfect wine with exotic, fusion-esque dishes, I’ve turned my attention to the simplest, yet most satisfying plates – think: comfort food, and the various wines that bring out their best flavours.

For example, what wine would you pair with grilled cheese? I suppose the snobbiest of wine snobs would answer that question with another question: which cheese are you using? My answer: Um… does process cheese count? I think this will have to be further investigated in my next course. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had wine with grilled cheese. Milk has always done the trick for me. But I do know this much: wine goes great with bread and cheese! So I will beg the question and come back with an answer in the coming months.

Back to our last supper question…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A High Glass Affair

It's official.  I’ve reached new levels of wine snobbery. In my last Grape Varieties class, we had a Riedel Crystal wine rep come talk to the class – a.k.a. a really great way to market your product to self-professed wine snobs! Doug Gerro, certified sommelier from C.A. Paradis in Ottawa was a fabulous guest speaker, and it turned out to be one of my most enjoyed classes, yet.

I mean, ok we all know that there are different wine glasses for specific wines – each one professing to bring out the very best aromas and flavours of a particular kind of wine. However, for the most part I’m with most of you: if the glass is clean, and large enough to hold a sufficient amount of the evening’s pick, I’m happy.

I must say though, I was blown away by what I learned.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mind the Gap

Wow. I’m just back from a long weekend in Boston where I bought an eclectic mixture of wine (8 bottles of red and white from Italy, California, France, Spain and a little winery in the Adirondacks of NY), and once again I am shocked – stunned, really – at how much selection our friends to the south have when it comes to wine (and how they purchase it!). While some Canadian provinces have privatized liquor boards, most including Ontario have government controlled boards, with strict checks and balances on what wines can be represented, bought, sold and drunk within the provincial borders. So imagine my sheer glee when I came across the Brix Wine Shop in downtown Boston – a store specializing in only wines, and mostly imports. (Brix is the new world method for measuring the amount of sugar in a grape, and thus the resulting alcohol level). I was even more pleased to find out that I was walking into this cute, cellar-like store at the perfect happy hour of 6pm, where the financial district workers were merrily trying the “vin du jour” at the daily wine sampling.

It got me thinking.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's in a name?

A few more name options for the wine agency... all just happen to start with colour names:
...Silver Steeple Wine & Spirits
...Black Sheep Wine & Spirits
...Gilded Leaf Wine & Spirits

I think I'm feeling the colour + symbol path a little more. Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

True Patriot Love...

It's been a few days since my last post, and my business partner and I have been racking our brains coming up with some agency names. So, alas I am taking it to the people (all 3 of you!). Some options have included:

... Copper Wine & Spirits - copper being a symbolic representation of Ottawa and the area (parliament buildings, churches, etc)

... Rideau Wine & Spirits or St.Lawrence Wine & Spirits - the Rideau River or the St.Lawrence River, again symbolic of the region

... Tuesday Wine & Spirits - do all wines have to be enjoyed on the weekend? No! In honour of the Tuesday night wine!

Some honourable mentions included:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Kind of Wine Do You Drink at Breakfast?

My faith in the good 'ole last minute cram session is still true and strong... I received my marks from last week's Grape Varities exam, and I actually did better than I had thought. In addition to the exam review, last night's class focused on the Tempranillo, Zinfandel /Primativo, and Pinotage grape varieties. In this class, not only do we learn about where these grapes are grown, how they’re cultivated and the best winemaking techniques for each; we also learn about the origins of each grape – like how Pinotage is a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes… now a popular South African variety.

The highlight of the evening (for me) was the final tasting of Pinotage wines.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Wine That Changed It All

I wrote my Grape Varieties mid-term exam last night, which will account for 50% of my final mark. Nothing like going big or going home. In addition to the written component, there were 3 blinded wines to taste. I nailed 2 of the 3: Chardonnay (I went with my first instinct and got it right - yahoo!) and Cabernet Sauvignon. I messed up the Pinot Noir by calling it a Merlot… although I’m hoping to get marks for my tasting notes. (as a side note, I actually made the same mistake in my very first tasting test back in January. Damn you, Pinot Noir! I liken myself to a lab rat that keeps shocking itself more than its peers before it learns NOT to do that ever again). I fully believe that I will one day come to appreciate the little PN grape that causes so many headaches for winemakers and blind tasters around the world.

Now that I have both of these recent exams behind me, I am excited about my next wine venture… this Saturday I plan to attend a day-long course on how to import wine and essentially become a wine agent. This isn’t part of the Sommelier program, but something that I am passionate about pursuing, and the history of it goes something like this…

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Useless Facts & Party Tricks

Let me first start by saying: I’m DONE my vinification course! It was a fascinating and challenging course, and nothing short of intense (in a really good way!). I actually re-grew that writer’s bump on my middle finger, reminiscent of my high-school and university days from the serious amount of note-taking I did for 8 hours straight every Saturday.

For any of you planning to take a Sommelier certification, regardless of where you take the program, you will have to take a vinification course of some sort. The school that I’m attending ( suggests that students take the course fairly early on in the program, which I’ve done, and I would have to agree… it really gives a solid foundation from which to build a deeper knowledge about the specific wine regions needed for subsequent courses.

In addition to learning how grapes are grown and ultimately crushed into wine – including the gazillion different soil types; how grapes are planted, maintained, and harvested; the various ways of crushing, soaking, macerating, fermenting, and filtering wine; and how to age and cellar the elixir … I also learned some interesting (and possibly useless) facts:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Always Go With Your First Instinct

I’m still a little frustrated with myself from last Saturday. Saturday had been my third class and second exam in this “intense” Vinification course – and by “intense” I mean a year’s worth of material crammed into 4 Saturdays. Let me tell you, hauling my butt to an all-day class on a sunny Saturday takes will-power. Fortunately, I get to sample anywhere from 15-20 wines throughout the day, so that kind of softens the blow (note: I’ve had to learn the art of spitting… although some of the nicer wines we try do get to go down the hatch!).

So Saturday’s class started with our exam – first the written component, followed by the taste test. While I was still writing my heart away on the written section, the teacher came around to pour one glass of wine… our taste tests on exams are always blinded (so the bottle label is hidden). It was a white wine. My first thought was, “This is clearly a Chardonnay”… not a pale white, but not overly golden either. My next thought was, “putting a Chardonnay in a blind taste testing would be too easy, right?” (As a side note, I never took psychology in school, but somehow always feel the need to psychoanalyze my teachers, and to what level they want to trick us on tests.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Planting the Seeds

Why have I decided to become a Sommelier, you ask? Well, apart from the obvious "wine not!" answer (sorry, couldn't resist), my husband and I came very close to purchasing some land in Prince Edward County last year on a "whim" - an up-and-coming wine region in south-eastern Ontario, Canada. Not having any previous knowledge of grapes, wine making, or what the heck we were getting ourselves into, we were going to put some grapes in the ground and do some serious "learning on the job" while the grapes grew over 4-5 years! We actually said, "how hard can it be?"
Naive? maybe. Adventurous? always!