Monthly Archives: May 2014

Water of Life

I like my eau-de-vie so good that it performs miracles.  Let me explain. Loosely translated “water of life”, eau-de-vie comes in many forms.  The Italian version is grappa [prune grappa my favourite]. My favourite French version – Armagnac.

Armagnac is the oldest of brandies – more complex than Cognac if you ask me.  Armagnac warms me right in the middle of my soul [well maybe just my chest]. Recently I was sent a sample of a 12 yr old Grand Assemblage from the Darroze family.  This is what they have to say about it …

After 10 years in contact with the oak, Armagnac starts to take on the aromas of ageing. The fruit that is still present, is accompanied by the first aromas of soft spices such as liquorice and cinnamon. Still quite fiery, this eau de vie will become more complex after a few minutes breathing in your glass.



 In the 14th century, Prior Vital Du Four, a Cardinal, claimed it had 40 virtues:

It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits.

Who am I to argue with a Cardinal? Also, a little emboldening of the wit never hurt me.

Most controversially, the traditional French gourmet dish ortolan has traditionally been prepared by force-feeding an Ortolan [wee bird] before drowning it in Armagnac and roasting it. The dish is now legally prohibited due to laws protecting the bird but I am certain the tradition continues.  The French don’t take “Non” for an answer when it comes to food.

Armagnac can be found in your Cognac and Brandy section – but you may need to ask your LCBO or Vintages consultant to bring some in for you if there isn’t any there [yes they do that]. I was pleased to discover that one of my Vintages consultants, Sarah, also loves Armagnac and is planning to bring in another one next September.  Just in time to warm my soul.

Oh, and how cool is this sample? Science meets eau-de vie.   Merci and Danke


Riesling for Masai – The Godfather of Wine

This Saturday May 24th anyone who lives within a gas tank’s drive of Guelph has an opportunity to do the following …

  1. Do something good by raising $$ for the Bracelet of Hope
  2. Drink the queen of Ontario wine – Riesling
  3. Meet the Godfather of Ontario wine – Donald Ziraldo, Order of Ontario, Order of Canada ! [I don’t have either one of those – do you?]

My man Orest, at the Scottsdale LCBO, is running another of his brilliant tasting events Saturday from noon – 4 pm. For $10 [donation to Bracelet of Hope] you get to try samples of Ontario Riesling, meet owners and wine makers, eat delicious food, meet the Godfather, and shake hands with the irrepressible Orest Poluch [once you meet him you’ll see why he can’t be repressed]. Here’s some of the information that you may need to convince you to tell one and all and make it to this event.

Orest has named this event the 8th Annual Ontario Consumer Riesling Challenge despite me lobbying him to rename it Riesling for the Republic or alternately Ziraldo’s Here! Get Your Butt On Over

Confirmed wineries below: if looking at #15 doesn’t get you excited about next Saturday then nothing will.

1. BURNING KILN WINERY  ( wine maker present )





6. FEATHERSTONE ESTATE WINERY & VINEYARD ( winemaker/owner present )

7.  FOREIGN AFFAIR WINERY  ( owner present )




11. ROSEWOOD ESTATES WINERY   ( winemaker present )

12. SUE-ANN STAFF ESTATE WINERY     ( winemaker present)



15. ZIRALDO ESTATE WINERY  ( owner present ) Donald Ziraldo, Order of Canada, hon Doctorate Brock U


Local food purveyors involved:

Ouderkirk & Taylor will be providing cheese/preserves

Rheo Thompson from Stratford providing chocolate.

Bread by (Quican Inc. ) Quentin William Johnson

Greek Olive oil from TITHOREA a new retailer dealing specifically in olive oil from Greece.

A new southwest French inspired  bakery in town called Eric the Baker will provide sweet and savouries.

And Guelph’s own Planet Bean (100% Organic, Fair Trade coffee). Showcasing a new coffee from Congo.


Craft beer breweries are taking the level of marketing to a new level. A clever hashtag seems to be born every minute [#wellyoneoff my current favourite].  New flavours and names are pushing the craft beer envelope [Muskoka’s Legendary Oddity reminds me of premium gin and what the heck is that falcon/peacock/scary antler deer thingy on the label?].

Lake of Bays Brewing Co.  is speaking Canada’s true love language – hockey – through their NHL Alumni Signature Series. Last year they released China Wall Vienna Dark Lager, a beer dedicated to the Leafs’ legendary  goaltender Johnny Bower.  This year’s edition is Cujo Imperial Golden Ale. If I have to explain who Cujo is then you likely aren’t interesting in this blog post anymore.


LCBO 383653 | Price $ 11.95 

Only 16,000 bottles have been produced – I have one of them – and I know what my annoying Leafs fan brother-in-law is getting for his birthday [he’s only annoying because he’s a ridiculously optimistic Leafs fan – the only thing worse than an arrogant Habs fan – which I’m]. The Cujo is delicious. It starts off with sweet notes of caramel and honey, continues with some nice orange and grapefruit marmalade hops, and ends up with a nice dry finish. Very refreshing and not so hoppy that it blows your head off.  My brother-in-law and I found ourselves conversing back and forth between hockey and beer for the entire sitting.  And isn’t that what a great Canadian ale is meant to do.

Now Habs fans, don’t worry,  rumour has it that Jacques Plante gets honoured next with  Jake The Snake Imperial Pilsner, a white ash wood aged strong lager. Go Habs.


I love fear mongering as much as the next guy.  That’s why I am fascinated by the timing of a Provincial election and the Beer Store ad campaign “Good Kids”.

Every fearful person knows that the corner store guy will sell beer to any teenager who walks in with a crisp new twenty in his hand.

My favourite part of this ad – that really does appear on TV [no, my American and European friends, I am not making this up] is the eyes of the kid at the 20 second mark of the ad.  I swear his eyes turned a werewolf yellow the first time I saw it on TV.  There’s no doubt in my mind that underage werewolves will get to buy beer at the corner store given the chance.

I actually don’t mind having to go to the LCBO or the Beer Store to get my beer [no, my American and European friends, I am not making this up that’s what the beer store is called in Ontario]. I know that it seems archaic to the rest of the world but hey – this is Ontario – Upper Canada as we used to call ourselves.  Let us indulge in our archaic nature.

Scary kid huh?