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

Saturday, November 08, 2008

New venue, new finds, great afternoon

I was giddy all week, anticipating this year's Wine and Food Show. It was under new ownership, in a new home at Lansdowne Park's Civic Centre, and was featuring a bunch of new tasting opportunities and experiences. Can I go yet? Can I go yet? Can I go yet? How about now? Now?

And then we were there. Yay! I was immediately impressed by the dramatic, elegant decor, and the fact that tickets could now be used to purchase both wine and food. Kudos to the organizers for having "H20 Break" stations, where bottles of water were given out for free. Brilliant. Please keep that up.

The food was nothing short of fantastic. Highlight of the night for me was A'Roma Meze's gorgonzola-stuffed Mejdool date topped with foie gras mousse and syrup-sticky walnut chunks (paired with the Casanove; OMG, I needed a moment alone.) Since I'm on a small plates kick right now, I think I might find myself visiting that eatery in the near future.

More eye-rolling goodness from Made in France, a shop down in the market that I simply must go check out. They featured a selection of gourmet mustards, including one speckled with black truffles. A pricey purchase at $18 a jar, but it would make for a lovely Christmas gift (ahem ...) For Hubby, the Bali spring rolls from Santé simply couldn't be beat, especially alongside the silver-medal-winning gewurz from Palatine Hills.

I saved my tickets for wines I've never tried before, and managed to get in quite an eclectic mix of varietals, including Rkatsiteli (native of Russia) and the hugely popular Fuzion wine from Argentina that I've heard about in passing once or twice.

And then there was Denis, from the Niagara-based winery Vignoble Rancourt. He lured me in with a surprising Riesling-Chardonnay blend, and then enchanted me for a good half hour with a delicious flight and the history behind his family's operations on the Peninsula. The fruit had once been sold to the likes of Lailey Vineyards before Denis' father caught on to the idea of making his own wine two years ago. Denis has since taken the helm and, judging by the quality of his wines, is making his dad very proud.

We lingered there for quite a while, enjoying the conversation and the tempting prospects of the mix-and-match cases available for ordering (delivery's on them! Sweet!). Add that to the Niagara map.

There were, of course, a few sour grapes: confusing layout, not enough tables, smaller space overall. Not as many food booths as in previous years; more space was now devoted to selling cookware, wine cellars and Costco memberships. A bit more of an elitist approach to the kitchen demos and "premium" tasting rooms, complete with separate entrances, racked-up ticket prices and bouncers at the door. And like Christmas trees on the day before Halloween, the single-and-horny crowd were out even earlier this year, sucking back mojitos and Caesars with abandon, looking desperate in their attempts at seduction.

Around 4 pm, things finally got too crowded for my comfort. Vendors started running out of product and staff tempers were getting short. Time to go. The queue, when we left, stretched from the front doors all the way up to the Centre's fourth concourse, and didn't look like it was moving all that fast. All the more reason to come early (or on Friday afternoons).

Overall, the Show was as delectable and entertaining as always, especially for a first time in a new space. Tip of the hat to Joan Culliton; we're looking forward to next year's extravaganza. (So is our babysitter - she made a killing off of us.)

This year's discoveries:

Domaine la Casenove 2005 Shiraz/Carignan/Grenache (Roussillon, France) - Aromas of violets and plums, with pepper on the palate. Smooth, velvety texture. Excellent with pungent, creamy blue cheeses.

Palatine Hills 2006 Proprietor's Reserve Gewurztraminer (Niagara) - Floral nose; light, crisp body, with subtle fruit and not too much of the usual cloying sweetness. This was a silver-medal winner in the "other whites" category. Classic match for spicy stuff like Thai or Indian.

Vignoble Rancourt 2007 Noble Blanc Riesling/Chardonnay; 2006 Merlot; and 2006 Meritage (Niagara) - The Noble featured the best of both varietals without clashing, and opened up well after warming to reveal notes of lychee, apple and a wee bit of vanilla. The Merlot had a lush red fruit nose, but the tannins were a bit tight. Could stand to sit a bit longer. Good "pizza" wine. Hubby did the Pepsi challenge between the '04 and '06 Meritage, and the latter won out, with big raspberry flavours and well-balanced tannins.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2006 Rkatsiteli (Finger Lakes, New York) - Grassy, mineral nose, a bit chalky, almost. Cooked apple, ginger, with medium body and a hint of tropical fruit.

Ranui 2004 Pinot Noir (New Zealand) - Hubby's pick. Light fruit, peppery, with soft tannins and a tart cranberry finish.

Fuzion Shiraz-Malbec (Argentina) - High acid, medium tannin, and LOTS of warmth off the alcohol. Big fruit, easy on the palate. No wonder it's so popular.

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