Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Choo Love

It's been too long since I posted anything about shoes! In an exciting use of Christmas and birthday gift money last week, I bought my first pair of Jimmy Choos. I'm debuting them today. So, without further ado, the Choos: 
Aren't they glorious! 
 By the way, it is currently -21C in Toronto, and with the wind chill it's -27C, so I'd like to point out that this shoe choice is an open act of rebellion against winter and locking up our toes in boots and multiple layers of socks all the time. we can't accept it quietly! SPRING SHOES NOW!

Bask in your freedom, feet!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coming to an Ontario Farmers' Market Near You!

Good news for us wine lovers, and not so good news for addictions and mental health professionals: the Ontario government has announced that they're going to expand the 'Our Wine Country' program to promote VQA wines in the province. What does this actually mean for us? It means that the government is going to allow VQA wines to be sold in farmers markets!

While my work-brain is saying 'hm... that is a change that will further erode the system of alcohol sales that we have, which is actually a really good tool for the taxation and control of alcohol, and especially effective at limiting sales to minors,' my wine-brain is saying 'THIS IS AWESOME!'

You see, I lead a little bit of a double-life when it comes to alcohol-related things. Part of my professional work involves asking the government to make sure that they put programs and systems in place to limit the health-related harms of alcohol. Alcohol, sadly, is a leading killer of people, not only through accidental death (vehicle collisions, violence, falls, drownings), but through various cancers (stomach, colon, throat, liver), accidental poisonings, chronic diseases (depression, cirrhosis, hypertension), and acute health events (stroke). It is also highly addictive, with 15% of people who drink alcohol experiencing addiction.

There have been lots of studies looking at how the availability of alcohol interacts with rates of drinking and alcohol addiction, and the relationship is direct: make alcohol more widely-available, get higher rates of injury, death, and addiction attributable to alcohol. At the same time, the Ontario government makes money hand over fist from alcohol sales. The LCBO hands over billions of dollars (8 billion last year, I think), which mostly go into the health-care system, and much of which ends up being used for alcohol-related harms. In 2002, alcohol-related injuries and deaths cost 5.2 billion hard-earned tax dollars - that's quite a lot, wouldn't you say? And that was a long time ago, too. So maybe they should raise the costs and keep a tight hold on where and when alcohol can be sold. Maybe this would do a better job of protecting the health of the people of Ontario, as well as our money.

That said, as you probably know if you're reading this blog, I'm a wine sommelier by hobby and really enjoy all kinds of alcoholic beverages. I used to live in Quebec, where craft brewed beers were available in the depanneur across the street, and I could even take my empties back to them to get my deposit. I embraced the ability to drink bottles of wine in public parks, and to go to 'bring your own' restaurants for delicious meals accompanied by what I liked to drink best.

With each relaxation of Ontario's prohibition-style liquor laws, my soul sings "ahhh, civilization at last!" But, I know that we're not doing ourselves any favours by drinking greater amounts of alcohol, and I feel for the 1.5 million people in Ontario who struggle with alcohol dependency and may now have to avoid the wonderful farmers markets when wine invades that formerly alcohol-free space.

It will be interesting to see what kind of program the government is able to come up with that involves whatever level of sales control they find appropriate. It will be convenient to be able to buy wine at the farmers' market, but I'm assuming that the teenage farm helper will not be the one to sell it to me, nor that she will have the responsibility of carding people who look under-age. I also wonder what they will need to do to control the pricing and the revenue. There are a lot of challenges, to be sure.

My wine-self hopes that this program will get up and running by this summer, if they can get all the policy kinks straightened out, but it might not come to fruition until next year. And since 2013 was such a banner grape-growing year, there should be plenty of delicious VQA wine for sale in 2015. Wouldn't it be great to grab a bottle while picking up some veggies for dinner? I do think so. Let's think positively, wine friends: wine at farmers' markets could be just around the bend.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Australian Wine Tasting Eve

Last night I had the pleasure of joining a group of Somms for an Australia-specific wine tasting night. I forgot my phone, unfortunately, so you'll have to endure some LCBO website images. We tasted more red than white, which is perhaps unsurprsing, though a little unfair. Though I don't drink a lot of Australian wine, the whites that they produce can be more elegant and restrained than some of the big, fruity Shirazes that they've become so famous for. Here are the highlights, according to me.

courtesy of the LCBO.comI surprised myself with my favourite white wine of the evening, because it was a Chardonnay. I don't usually prefer Chardonnay over other white varietals, but the Sticks 2010 from Yarra Valley is a particularly lovely example of ripe, unoaked Chardonnay. The nose was was full of fruit, ranging from lemon peel, lemon curd, and lime juice, to white peach, ripe kiwi, and apricot. The palate burst with juicy flavour, adding mandarin and granny smith apple. There was a pleasant roundness to the wine, which might come from a tiny bit of malo-lactic fermentation, or perhaps from sitting on lees. This was certainly one of the most complex Chardonnays I've tasted, and it was delicious with a soft goat cheese we had on hand.

courtesy of the LCBO.comMy top red of the night was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra. The Coonawarra region is notable for its 'terra rossa' - red earth - which is said to give the wines a particular elegance. The region also has a moderate climate, meaning that it's not as hot as some of the other growing regions in Australia. This allows the winemakers to produce a less alcoholic and less jammy-tasting wine than in some other regions. Wynne's Coonawarra Estate Black Label 2010 Cab Sauv had ripe strawberries, red cherries, spice box, and a touch of cedar on the nose, with a palate to match, adding flavours of tea, cherry pit, and a touch of graphite on the mid-palate. This was a medium bodied wine, with well-integrated alcohol and tannins. It was delicious with sliced prosciutto, the acid in the wine cutting through the fattiness of the meat.

courtesy of the LCBO.comSince one of Australia's earliest produced and most famous style of wine is a sweet Semillon, we also got the chance to try a little desert wine. De Bortoli's 2009 Noble One, a 100% botrytis-infected Semillon wine, is not to be missed if you like sweet wines. With a nose full of candied oranges, honeycomb, ginger, and toast, a palate to match, and mouth-watering juiciness, the Noble One was an excellent match for salted fois gras on baguette. Don't miss out, this is delicious.