Author Archives: Travis Oke

About Travis Oke

Wine writer / consultant

Make it go faster

“Siri. Answer the question that i want to ask”.

That’s how easy i want the internet to be – think for me and find it before my fingers can type, swipe, or touch the words or icons that i need to find. I want information now. I want my information highway to be Montgomery Scott “She can’t take anymore Captain” fast.

Warp Speed Mr. Sulu

Warp Speed Mr. Sulu

I can hear brother-in-spain saying  “Use Google and you’ll find it soon enough”.  Well i’m sorry but we both know that’s not soon enough.

I searched for almost 5 entire minutes before i could find the list of Beaujolais Nouveau wines that will be released at the LCBO this Thursday.  I know there’s a certain irony that most people “poo poo” Nouveau because it doesn’t age and is ready too quickly for their liking. Nuts to them. I like “new Beaujolais” [rough translation] and i want it now!

Here’s what you can expect from the Nouveau at the LCBO this year.  The wine will be young, effervescent, and fruity, and red, and in a bottle until you get it into your glass [unless you follow brother-in-spain’s advice and use a twisty straw].

Dubœuf Gamay Nouveau at around $11 [and i do love the clever little œ connected together like bff’s in a funny french name]

Dubœuf and Drouhin will each have a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau for about $16 – which i still find a ridiculous price for a Nouveau but i’m a sucker and will still buy it. I hope lots of people who come to my party buy them.

The Italians will make a couple and maybe even an Ontario one – but I dismiss them all because i like to summarily dismiss things – unless the people at Chateau des Charmes make one again this year.  I’m tweeting to find out right now but the internet is so slow – yeesh.

[yes i’m a little excited about nouveau]

Craft Hipster

It’s fun, when you’re 50, to poke fun at the younger generation. So for my Halloween costume this year I went as a “20 something hipster”.  One ironic moustache and several well drawn and/or outdated tattoos later I was a hipster.

It was also a ruse to allow me to talk about craft beer all night – and I brought a lovely one to the party from Lake of Bays – Stamp Hammer oak aged amber lager.

Back to my tattoos for a minute.  They were drawn so expertly that everyone assumed they were real.  Honestly, the “vital signs” one that flatlines and then says “carpe diem” may become a tattoo if i ever get over my fear of needles and hep b.

Stamp Hammer is only available in October and November so you may want to stop reading now and go the the LCBO.  A dark amber, i found it slightly spicy, not overly hopped, and a vanilla from the oak barrels that rounded the lager out into a smooth finish. Everyone loved it.

LCBO 439430 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 9.95

Also, my spider-web elbow ink rocked.


Last call

Summer is gone and gone with it is my taste for summer drinks.  It’s an odd time of year.  I’m not quite ready for big red wines or stout ale, and yet I don’t want a cider, pilsner, or crisp riesling anymore either.

This is what happened last week on the patio formerly known as OX.


My wife tried the cider, I had the Stonehammer harvest ale, and my daughter the Stonehammer dark ale.

It was a nice autumnal experience. A leaf or two dropped into our pints …


…a beautiful wasp stopped in for a visit …


And then the teenagers took over the “nature in a pint glass” game and made their big sister M’s drink a little over the top nature crazy.  She drank it unfazed at her sisters’ tomfoolery. We do have fun.  And round 2 … was the Stonehammer Dark. It became the official pint of the Oke family’s “patio and reading afternoon”.



Ice to see you

In one of my favourite Simpsons opening scenes ever McBain appears from within an ice sculpture Venus de Milo and  … well take a look for yourself

It was with this in mind that i brought an ice wine up from the cellar to celebrate the end of summer.  Interestingly nobody was very interested [how paradoxical] in the ice wine.  They’re a picky crowd.  In the past i’ve heard things from these relatives like “i don’t really like white” and “i don’t really like sweet wine” and “shut up Travis” [actually that’s what i hear most from them].  So i thought maybe they needed some learning.

This Peller Estates Vidal Icewine was a gift from a friend, something i wouldn’t normally buy for myself – but i may have to change that in the future. It was a beautiful ending to the day and to the summer.  For those who don’t know, icewine grapes are picked at -10 degrees and then pressed while frozen. This allows only small quantities of Bacchus’ sweet nectar to be extracted. The wine exhibits light floral and peach notes and finishes with a taste of honey suckle. It was delicate and exquisite.  Award winning in fact.

Gold Medal – Korea Wine Challenge 2012

Gold MedalDecanter World Wine Awards, UK 2012

Gold Medal – Wine China Competition 2012 

Peller Estates Private Reserve Vidal Icewine VINTAGES#: 18564   |   200 mL bottle  $26.95

Italian 101

Two of my kids are taking Italian in school this year. So i thought i would brush up on my own Italian lessons and investigate the world of grappa [Italian for moonshine].

Grappa is made from grapes – specifically the distillation of skins, seeds, stems, and pulp that is left over after the pressing of the grapes to extract the juice.   Actually, the best white lightning i’ve ever tried was some home-brew prune flavoured grappa.  It’s good to have Italian friends.

I recently obtained a beautifully shaped bottle of Bottega Grappa [$29 LCBO] in order to study the italian language and culture a little more in depth.  I also obtained a bottle of Limoncino, a lemon flavoured digestif that comes in a peculiar flounder shaped bottle [and by peculiar i mean that my daughters exclaimed “awesome” at the sight of it].

The grappa I drank two ways – ice-cold and room temperature.  Ice cold i loved the cool feel on my tongue and the warmth it created on the way down.  However, room temperature is where Bottega’s Grappa shines. The light, floral, taste of the grapes came through in such a delicate manner with a slight honeysuckle sweetness on the finish.  Yikes, this goes down easy!


The Limoncino was beautiful in the bottle and glass, but nobody on the tasting panel [my wife, brother-in-spain, his wife, or M] developed an affinity to it.  So i served it to my Italian neighbour who has just finished an al fresco meal and she finished it happily.  I guess no matter how much i love Italy, i can’t hide the fact that i’m not Italian.


We did have fun with the photos for this blog.  Anyone else seen a 31 yr old make bunny ears over a glass of grappa?  Didn’t think so.  We’re not Italian, but we know how to have fun.




Green Eggs and Ham

Do you know that Dr Suess’ classic Green Eggs and Ham is all about trying new stuff?  I didn’t really know his books had a point to them [10 Apples Up On Top baffles me and i can already juggle!] but i’m starting to revisit these classsics in an attempt to answer many metaphysical questions of our world.


We should try new stuff.  I recently purchased a bottle of hot banana peppers and now keep it in my fridge. I was inspired by the Harveys employee [also a student at my school] who asked me if i wanted banana peppers on my veggie burger.  Kids know stuff.  It was delicious.

I’m pleased to see that the LCBO is trying new stuff.  Recently i purchased a Syrah from the region of Jumilla in Spain.  Honestly, i didn’t even know Jumilla exported any Syrah. I guess i’m not surprised that they grow it – Jumilla is basically Spain’s answer to the Cotes du Rhone – but it seemed daring of the LCBO.  Usually we import Spanish Rioja, Ribero del Duero, and then get crazy with a Monastrell or two. But I applaud somebody’s daring Dr Suessical approach to buying wine last month.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that Luis Gutierrez, from rated it a 92.  Well done Luis G!  Thanks for convincing somebody at the LCBO to try Green Eggs and Ham.  I drank it in a glass, with a spouse, beside a daughter, in the rain, with a goat, and on a train [except for the rain and goat and train].

VAlceño Premium 50 Barricas Syrah 2012 VINTAGES#: 398933  $13.95

85% Syrah/ 15% Mourvèdre This may be the best value wine i’ve purchased in years


Also, I realize the irony, writing about green eggs and ham and promoted the Veggie burger at Harveys [best veggie burger around]. Maybe green eggs and ham will inspire you to try their veggie burger next time and give a cow a break.


How interesting that  the week after I get back from my first visit to Tennessee – the moonshine mecca of the world – I find a distillery open in my home town!  [maybe I’ll let you be the judge of how interesting that is – read on]

The people at Dixon’s Distillery have been building and distilling for over a year and just opened up their doors to help with public consumption this August. I didn’t even know Guelph needed a craft distillery until we got one. Thanks to mayor Cam Guthrie for ending prohibition so early in his term.

As one who dabbles in his own dark magic – converting cheap American vodka into premium gin – I am always keen to chat it up with fellow elixir makers and sample their potions – so i had a great time with co-owner Vicki Dixon, chatting up the finer points of distilling. Finer points like how to put some of that into my glass so that i can taste it.

White lightning, vodka, and gin is what they make from locally sourced grains and water.  Finally a healthy use for water.  They even age some of the moonshine with an oak spiral in the bottle to give it a bourbon character.

I have the unaged moonshine in my freezer right now because I like drinking it cold.  I really like that i can taste the grains through the alcohol – more so than any spirit I’ve had before. Straight up it makes a fine martini.

You can pick up a bottle of your own for under $40 at the distillery. It’s worth a visit and a much shorter drive than to Tennessee.


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