Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment or drop me a line. Cheers! - Bethany

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Looking Ahead Through a Glass Half-Full

The year kicked off just right, with Lighthall Vineyards 2013 Progression in hand. We made it to midnight (albeit barely), toasted 2015 and went to bed. Yup, my wild New Year's Eve celebrations put Times Square to shame, don't they? What two kids will do to you.

I saved up the energy for a week-long family trip in Punta Cana, where I learned that those same two kids are not at all interested in long, relaxing days on the beach. Good thing the resort had a water park ... conveniently equipped with its own bar. Winning for everyone.

Now back home in the deep cold of another Ice Age, I've been keeping my eye on the horizon for vinous (and hoppy) happenings around town:

Gatineau's winter edition of Festibiere is this coming weekend, January 30-31, at the Canadian Museum of History. Microbrasserie Le Castor and Beau's will be pouring, along with other notable brewers on an ever-growing list of attendees. On February 13-14, the Winter Brewfest will be held at the sparkly new, revamped wonder of Lansdowne Park, in the Horticulture Building (aka Cow Castle) and feature many of the Valley's best breweries.

Speaking of beer, one of Hubby's Christmas presents was a Savvy Company Hip Hops beer-of-the-month club subscription. Beer delivered to your door? Yes please. First up was Beyond the Pale; we've already blown through two mini-growlers of Breaking Bitter and Rye Guy. No Darkness in the shipment (bummer) but the Belle Hop Porter looks good.

I'm going to break with tradition this year and actually *celebrate* Valentine's Day (although I think I might have just jinxed it by writing that): 3 Steps to Survival: Wine, Cheese and Chocolate ... at the Diefenbunker. Ottawa's Cold War throwback, this nuke-proof structure, first buried underground at the height of the paranoia, has become a one-of-a-kind museum. And we get to drink wine, eat cheese, and gorge ourselves on chocolate in there. Another genius idea brought to you by the fine folks at Savvy.

Spring will come early at the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival on March 28-29; no word yet on location. Last year's was at the EY Centre, which seemed to dwarf the small array of food trucks and booths in attendance, but the selections were good.

For something different, head to Ottawa City Hall on March 8 for Taste the Commonwealth, hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Society. The $30, all-inclusive walk-around tasting will showcase wines and food from some of the 53 member states of this international organization.

And we mustn't forget the California Wine Fair, a perennial favourite among us wineaux, on April 10.

The highlight of 2015 for me looks to be the next Wine Bloggers Conference, this time being held in the Finger Lakes region of New York, in August. (Just wait, we'll convince them to come to Ontario eventually.) Memories from #WBC13 Penticton still seem so fresh in my mind; I'm jonesing for another wine-filled jaunt around someplace beautiful in the company of wild party animals ... er, fellow writers. With it so close to home, I'm also hoping to convince some other blogger-type friends of mine to come join the fun.

Judging by the snow outside, summer's still a long way off. But we'll get there. Pour yourself another glass in the meantime.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Donkey Riding

Look closely at the parking sign outside the LCBO at Rideau and King Edward, and you'll see a small, round sticker affixed to its bottom corner, bearing the image of a smiling donkey.

That critter's name is Cargo, and the company is called BrewDonkey, Ottawa's new beer delivery / brewery tour biz that brings the Valley's best craft beer to thirsty folks all over town.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Open Mic, Open Glass

What makes a wine supple or velvety?  Grippy or chewy? How on earth can a wine smell like barnyardleather and undergrowth and still be considered good? What is terroir? The air, the sun, rocks in the dirt, the warmth of summer, cool nights, mist and fog. The way the wind blows between the vines.

I work with words every day. They aren't always pretty words, or interesting, or even my own. They make a point, they tell a story from someone else's perspective. Sometimes they run roughshod across the page, a torrent of ideas requiring the restraining hand of a skilled editor. Often, they aren't the right words at all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Night Out for Grown-Ups

I hopped off the bus in the downtown core, bottle in hand. I was on my way to a real, grown-up cocktail party in a trendy Centretown condo with real grown-ups who drink wine and talk about real grown-up stuff (when they aren't talking about their kids.)

Rules were simple: everyone bring a bottle, perhaps something to nosh on, and enjoy! I chose a Peller Estates Iced Cuvee for my charming hostess, a gal who loves her some bubbles. She greeted her guests in the hospitality suite, stylish (as always) in a Mad Men-inspired dress, gave a quick layout of where things were and resumed her welcoming duties while we all got acquainted. I poured myself a glass of Cono Sur rosé sparkling and looked around.

It only took a couple of friendly rounds of getting-to-know-you and Six Degrees of Separation before the conversation and laughter (like the wine) was flowing with ease. Folks crowded around the bar or the snack table, or lounged about on leather settees, or flitted between groups to catch snippets of gossip, the latest on the municipal election, or animated dialogue on 80s music.

Turned out to be a great night of exciting vinous discoveries as well, these two being my top faves:

Castillo de Almansa 2010 Reserva (Spain; $12.95; 13.5% abv) - This was my favourite find. Predominantly Tempranillo blend with some Montastrell and Garnacha thrown in. A wild nose of spicy salumi, tobacco leaf, cigar smoke, peppercorn and blackberry jam. On the palate: dry, with firm tannins and a meaty, chewy mouthfeel. A brambly mixture of raisins and stewed fruit with a dusty finish. Impressive wine and a great value!

Kunde 2012 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel (California; #23.95; 14.5% abv) - Not your typical fruit-bomb zin. The aromas spilling out of the glass brought frying bacon to mind, along with suggestions of green pepper, black peppercorn and ripe black cherry. The fruit comes out on the palate with aggressive sour cherry and spicy pepper. Grippy tannins and a lingering acidity stick around on the long finish.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Richard Karlo was the kind of guy who would drop everything to help a neighbour with a tractor issue or tank problem. The kind of guy who would come all the way in from the back 40 to say hello and tell you stories about his wines. The kind of guy who was eager to make you feel at home.

I first met Richard at Savvy Company's inaugural County in the City show. I was finally able to put a face to the Twitter handle: wide smile, strong handshake and big, room-filling laugh. From that point on, it seemed like every time I bumped into Richard, it was like meeting up with an old friend.

There was nothing better than sitting at the tasting bar in their massive barn in Prince Edward County, impervious to the passage of time, while Richard and Sherry poured samples and chatted. His impressive portfolio of reds, whites, rosés and fortified wines stand as a testament to his genius and to his passion. A wide range of styles and flavours, something for everyone to enjoy. His Frontenac Gris will remain my favourite; a blushing, orange-tinged rosé that smelled and tasted like nothing I'd ever had before ... or ever will again.

The County lost one of its greats this week with Richard's passage. In a digital outpouring of grief, Twitter responded with a flurry of toasts tagged #ToRichard - a fitting send-off for a talented winemaker and an unforgettable man.

We'll miss you, Richard Karlo.


Funeral details are available on the Karlo Estates Facebook page.
Donations in Richard's memory can be made to the Loyalist Humane Society (Picton, Ontario)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Sisi's Wine

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 
Once upon a time, about 130 years ago in Austria, there was a princess. An empress, really. Her name was Elisabeth, but everyone called her Sisi.
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