Apr 12

SIngle Malt… Vodka? It’s true from Still Waters Distillery

This hidden gem is tucked away in an industrial part of Vaughn just off highway 7 is the first true Ontario Distillery. Still Waters Distillery was started just over three years ago by Barry and Barry. Despite my suggestions to call it Barry and Barry Distillery they are still producing some amazing spirits. They are both fanatical whisky drinkers and it shows, they are definitely onto something. They are the first in Ontario to make a single malt Canadian Whisky, and with outstanding quality they have already been winning medals under the radar. They are almost at the bottling stage and have had their whisky aging in three different american bourbon barrels for almost three years.
Still Waters Logo
Barry and Barry love their whisky and decided to start bringing over some obscure scotch that were only available at select distilleries in Scotland. The amazing thing is that they have never been to Scotland themselves. They saw the potential in barrel aged spirits and purchased casks from Scotland. When the casks arrived they had a license to bottle single malt scotch in Canada. If you are unaware, scotch can only be classified as scotch if it is produced and bottled in scotland.  They are forced to classify these “single malt scotches” as single malt whisky. If you are  scotch lover like me and are looking for a “scotch” that is not available in the LCBO or outside of Scotland this is a stop for you.

The Single Malt…… Vodka?

This vodka is like nothing I have ever tasted in my life. It comes from a single grain (two row malted barley) and is suprisingly smooth. Barry and Barry definitely take pride in their spirits and it shows in this vodka, It is triple distilled and cold filtered to ensure it is crystal clear. The nose is very surprising and very grainy; the vodka has so much flavour you would be hard pressed to think you are drinking one. There is a very flavourful taste which was fantastic and the finish was no different. When drinking vodka I usually wait for the burn in the back of the throat or mouth and this has absolutely none. It is like it didn’t even touch the back of your throat leaving no burning whatsoever. You do know you drank a vodka though as it does start to warm up your belly and chest.

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Stalk and Barrel


The best part about their whiskies is that they are all numbered and barrel aged for a minimum of three years. I suggested they age some for 10 – 18 years but I think the demand for their whisky will not allow this to happen. Each whisky that comes out of the cask will have a barrel number and bottle number. You can track the individual casks you are interested in at caskbook.com. The first single malt barrel release will happen sometime in april with a soft launch so stay tuned for details. Some bottles could potentially be available in the LCBO if they get their act together. Single Malt Canadian WhiskyIt was not quite ready when I got my first taste from Cask #4; however, it is already fantastic and I would have taken a bottle home for sure. In the next 5 or 6 months as this barrel ages it is only going to gain flavour and add a smooth, velvety and creamy texture to it. This single malt whiskey will be winning awards soon so keep an eye on them. The bottles will go fast as people are already Inquiring about buying complete casks.


Corn Whisky

The corn whisky was also a bit surprising for me, as I tend to have negative feeelings towards corn being added in whisky.  They have also added a malted barley to add some natural enzymes and create some sugar. The corn whisky has a very sweet nose and will be a great easy drinking whisky when it is released.

Rye Whisky

This will actually be a true rye whisky as they are using 80 to 90 percent rye grains where some competitors use as low as 5 percent when creating a rye whisky. This rye has a definite grainy nose and will be great when it is done aging in the bourbon barrel casks.


 Blended Canadian Whisky

This award winning whisky did not disappoint and was amazing. It won the silver medal at the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards scoring 92/100. The nose was subtly sweet but gave a hint of its complex nature. The flavour had many different levels to it as it has a unique spiciness that leaves you wondering what they have added to it. Unfortunately it was already sold out by the time I found out about this place, so I didn’t have a chance to take any home.


Not having a ton of knowledge about brandy I was excited to see what this spirit had to offer. The Still Waters Brandy starts its life as a red wine from the awesome Southbrook winery in Niagara. The brandy is smooth and creamy like a dessert and has a sweetness similar to a fine caramel. This easy drinking brandy will definitely be in my nightcap glass a few nights a week. It makes me want dessert and would be a perfect digestif after a hearty meal.

Mar 12

Reif Estates Winery

Reif Estates Winery is located in the heart of Niagara on the Lake and is one of mine and OneBlondChef’s favourite spots to visit. They have very friendly and knowledgable staff who have a flair for hospitality. The winery itself was founded in 1977 but opened in 1983. From that day on Rief has been doing it right and producing some outstanding wines.


The Wine and Chocolate Experience

Gillian and I were privileged enough to be treated to the complete Wine and Chocolate Experience. If you have never tried a wine flight (see photo) before I would start with wine and chocolate because, of course, who doesn’t like chocolate?  Though some of the below pairings would seem counter-intuitive, trust Archie (Sommelier) to perfect the experience.


2007 Late Harvest Riesling Paired with Smooth Dark Chocolate (54% Cacao)

I do not usually enjoy reislings but this one had an intriguing subtleness to it. At first on the palate was definite pear and as you let the wine heat up in your mouth it turns in flavour and forms into raisin. The sweetness in this wine definitely cuts any bitterness in the dark chocolate and even adds a velvety smoothness otherwise unnoticeable.

2010 Reserve Merlot Paired with Medium Dark Chocolate (60% Cacao)

A very full bodied Merlot with a wonderful nose of deep dark berries and earthy undertones. If you like full bodied wine that will figuratively stick to your teeth, you will love this one. The wine is somewhat on the acidic side and  works very well with the paired medium dark chocolate.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Paired with Extra Dark Chocolate (70% Cacao)

This wine is amazing and definitely my favourite so far from Rief’s entire selection, I had to take home a bottle. This wine has a very aromatic nose of earthy, peppery and spicy tones that I could not get enough of. The most I can say is that this is a very well balanced wine that was the catalyst of a personal ‘a-ha’ moment. When paired with the extra dark chocolate the two undergo a complete change and bring out an otherwise hidden “third” flavour. The earthiness of the wine and earthiness in the chocolate neutralize each other and bring out a hidden sweetness and fruitiness. The new flavour was so smooth and creamy, it was delectable, like a fine desert. I could not believe the transformation and am excited to show this to friends, family, and any one who will listen.

2009 Vidal Icewine Paired with Milk Chocolate (40% Cacao)

I have to admit, I was highly skeptical of pairing the sweet milk chocolate with a similarly sweet icewine, however, the two paired so well that I was definitely put in my place. The icewine and chocolate brought out a creamy caramel and a toffee smoothness in each other that was delightful. Of course, just when I think the experience is almost over, Archie brings out a 2005 vidal icewine to pair with the same milk chocolate; this was like a dream in your mouth, so smooth and creamy that I really couldn’t get enough.  This inspired me to try it at home later, but you can read more about that in my post “Icewine Pairings Gone Wrong”.  Aging icewine will dull the sweetness and add a creaminess, will cause the sugars to caramelize and crystalize, and the flavours to mellow while bringing down the acidity. I highly recommend aging a good icewine as it is definitely worth the wait.


The Icewine Experience

This was my first experience at Rief Estates Winery and I am truly inspired to share the passion and begin to bring others back. I will take you briefly though this experience that I got to share with Ayngelina. The icewine flight consisted of 4 different wines paired with equally delicious food.

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2011 Select Late Harvest Vidal Paired with Pear and Sweet Potato Soup

I have an affinity for Vidal Icewines and was able to pick out the flavours of apricot and definitely some honey. It paired very well with the soup and seemed to bring out flavours that were never there before.

2008 Reisling Icewine  Paired with  Apricot and Apple Turnover

I have to say that still having just come from lunch this turnover was so good that I could not bear to put it down. The apricot in the turnover was without a doubt enhanced by the paired icewine.

2011 Vidal Icewine paired with a Pear, Blue Cheese and Pecan Streusel Tart.

This was a great icewine and perfectly paired with the savoury and sweet tart. The blue cheese was outstanding in this tart and it was only going to get better with the next wine, this however, remains the best pairing.

2005 Vidal Icewine paired with a Penicillin Infused Blue Cheese.

2013-01-27 14.46.51I have to say I was very, very skeptical about this as I am very allergic to penicillin.  I did survive and it was probably the best blue cheese I have ever eaten. It was so creamy and smooth and comes from Sudbury. This is a unique savoury blue cheese that was prepared with sea salt. This aged icewine is unbelievable, is so smooth and has a subtle sweetness to it.


Feb 20

Sharing the Passion at Reif Estates Winery

Do you have a passion for wine or just like to drink it? Well do I have a treat for you. I would like to introduce you to  Archie Hood, a very passionate, knowledgable and entertaining sommelier at Reif Estates WInery in Niagara on the Lake. Archie is quite the character and is one of the guys that everyone seems to know and love in the Niagara region.

I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two amazing wine flights hosted by the legendary Archie. The first was the Icewine Experience with Ayngelina wich is only available in the winter. This was an amazing introduction and made her realize its not too sweet, very complex and very mellow. I had such an unbelievable experience it was all I could talk about for weeks. I was so excited to start sharing Archie’s passion for wine I had to take Gillian back as soon as possible. Gillian and I received amazing hospitality and got treated to the Wine and Chocolate Experience. A little chocolate never hurt anyone, as if the wine wasn’t enough to get me through the doors. I will post more on these awesome wine flights soon and as Gillian said “Pay it forward with Passion” (OneBlondeChef, 2013).


Sharing the Passion, Education, and a few Life Lessons

Archie is so knowledgable in many fields he is like an experienced fisherman. He will throw you out 100 different tangent lines of information in what seems to be random or perhaps a little tomfoolery at first. However, every one of these lines has been purposefully cast with the skills of a true craftsmen. He is not only able to keep them all straight and reel them all in with purpose, but ties them all delightfully together in a fun-filled way. He will leave you walking away with a new-found passion for wine and an experience that you will want to share with your family, friends, or anyone that will listen.

The 8 Second Sip…

8 seconds? I thought that was only for bull riders. I assure you that once you have learned this tasting technique, and of course with a little practice you will be changed forever. The best part of this is that it  works wonderfully for craft beer, spirits, and even food too. After trying this technique for the first time it totally made the wine come alive and reveal its hidden secrets. With practice you will find yourself tasting things, finding complexities and textures you never thought you would from a wine.

After taking the wine into your mouth the tendency is use your tongue as a shovel and just suck it all back. I have to admit I am definitely guilty of this on many occasions. Once the wine is in your mouth make sure it hits all of your taste buds and the sides of your cheeks by swishing it around in your mouth. Do not be shy at this point as it will help to get the flavour. In the first two seconds after the wine is in your mouth you are only looking for one of the 5 tastes; sweet, salty, bitter, sour or umami (savoury). Try to visualize in your mind the taste of the wine and hold it there. 



The next two seconds you are looking for a flavour and texture. It doesn’t have to be right it should just be the first thing that comes to your mind. This takes practice and everyone will have a different flavour profile stored in their brain. The flavour profile will depend on how you were raised and what flavours you like or have been exposed to more often in your lifetime. The flavours you like or have experienced a lot of, you will have a larger profile and be able to call to mind these flavours much easier. A good hint to help practice this is to look at the label and have a starting reference point or something to look for. Chances are you can pick out of the flavours or might even have a different one all together. Keep in mind you are not wrong as wine tasting is personal. After-all, if you have never tried passion fruit before, how will you find it’s flavour in a wine?

From the four to six second mark you are looking for the acidity in the wine. The acidity in the wine will start to “excite” the taste buds on your tongue (fingerlike projections called papillae) and start vibrate and produce saliva or “water”. The more acidic the wine the more excited the taste buds and therefore more water will be produced. Different wines will vary greatly on the level of acidity, but should still be balanced. 

In the last two seconds as more water is produced the wine and water will balance each other out. The solution in your mouth is balanced when your mouth stops producing water. This is a very unique feeling, but it is pretty easy to tell when it is perfectly balanced. Now for the moment you have been waiting for, you can now swallow the wine.

When you have tasted the wine try this technique a few times and keeping in mind what flavours are coming to mind. This is a personal experience and there is no wrong answer so have fun with it. Make sure you try this each and every time and soon it will be second nature and you will start to impress your friends. Thanks for joining me on this wild ride of wine tasting and stay tuned for my posts on the wine flights themselves.


Feb 11

Dillon’s – Small Batch Distillers

Looking for something local, cutting edge, and not available in the LCBO? Well I have a treat for you.

Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery is located only 20 minutes from the heart of Niagara on the Lake in Beamsville.  Having only opened on December 9th 2012 and already gaining momentum, it is only a matter of time before this is a staple behind every bar. This place is going to be huge so make the trip before you have to book tours weeks in advance, or I will be the one saying I told you so. They have transformed an old warehouse into an amazing distillery with a tasting room as they are currently renting the space from Angles Gate Winery.

Dillon’s is a trend setter and I might even be as adventurous enough to say a game changer. What they are doing is revolutionary and people from all over the world will be coming to figure out just how the heck they are doing it. They are keeping it Canadian, as they are using local ingredients and making it work in unbelievable ways. The philosophy of Dillon’s is to utilize modern techniques to produce traditional tasting spirits and they already have it pretty much perfected. They are still in the growth phase so take note and watch as they continue to impress and expand.


Geoff Dillon – The Distiller

Geoff Dillon is very charismatic and blew me away with how passionate, and knowledgeable he is about spirits.  Geoff Dillon has a degree in Chemistry and Business, so he is well suited on both fronts. He got his passion for the finer spirits from his father Peter. Geoff has travelled around the world learning the different distilling techniques in various countries. I would say he has them all perfected and is currently producing three amazing spirits with more in the works. I cant wait to see what they come out with next as I am sure they will be equally awesome.


The White Rye

This white and completely colourless rye surprised me, and far surpassed my wildest expectations. I was skeptical about the white whiskey as some of the other ones I have tried before were not even close to this calibre. This is a game changing rye, as it is “in your face” about it’s flavour and has nothing to hide. This rye is not barrel aged and gets all its flavour from the 100 percent Ontario rye grains. Typically barrel aging will be where most other ryes will get their flavour from,  although there currently is some Dillon’s White Rye aging in three different barrels. So let’s face it a little colour, or more flavour, can only make this fantastic rye better. The first release of the barrel aged rye is set for 2015, and I am already counting down the days. Get your hands on some of this first batch White Rye before it’s too late.

Vodka Method 95

Gluten allergy? No worries, the vodka is gluten-free and is made from local Niagara region wine grapes (gamay noir, pinot noir, cabernet franc, and merlot). This lightly filtered vodka is so smooth on the palate, it almost glides to the back of your throat. It has a subtle hint of grape flavour which helps to remind you of its origins as a wine. The Vodka Method 95 gets its name from the pure 95.2 alcohol percentage that it comes out at. Most others will try, but Dillon’s has this method perfected and will come out at the same percentage every single time.  It is a great vodka and I would put it up against any of the vodka heavy weights. Watch out for this vodka coming to drinks near you.

Like your Swedish and Polish friends, you can take it anywhere and mix with your superficial acquaintances, but come time to impress those tall artsy bubblies, nothing beats a cool Canadian like this one.

Unfiltered Gin 22

I have to start out by literally saying “I don’t like gin, but I would definitely drink this” (Drunkntrvlr, 2013). Those were the exact words out of my mouth after trying this gin for the first time. It’s so good that I am currently drinking a gin martini as I write this. The  Unfiltered Gin 22 was possibly my favourite, as it was like nothing I had ever tasted before. That is saying a lot coming from a scotch lover. It is super smooth and easy to drink with a nice bouquet of florals. The best part about this gin is, it is all local, as it also originates from Ontario wine grapes. The number 22 on the gin is from the amount of florals that give the gin its flavour; which might I add, are grown nearby in the Dillon’s back yard. I got the opportunity to try the gin in a cocktail with soda and some in-house made lemon bitters. This light and refreshing cocktail is what got me hooked, and will be the perfect dock drink this summer.




If you are from the UK or Australia you will know what bitters are, and will no doubt love these. Dillon’s will be offering a wide range of bitters, however they will be only seasonal. They are Peter Dillon’s life work and are outstanding. The best part is that all of the fruit and florals are grown in their backyard; what ever is ripe at the time will be in the bitters. The first batch of pear bitters sold out quickly, but they are also currently offering orange, lime, lemon, cranberry, and their own DSB bitters.






Feb 08

Niagara on the Lake is all grown up…

With over 30 wineries situated in Niagara on the Lake it is easy to see why this has been a destination for wine lovers. Niagara on the Lake has so much to offer and it is only going to get better in 2013. Toronto was named one of the top travel destinations in the world in 2013. I think Niagara on the Lake will be one of the hottest travel destinations in Ontario this year. Toronto should expect an influx of people throughout the year due to the recent face lift. With Niagara Falls a tourist must-see, I can only hope people take the time to give wine country a chance.


Niagara on the Lake has come into its own as I was able to discover recently. I was invited to explore the region with Ayngelina. As a winter destination, it really surprised me with how much there was to do. 



 Niagara on the Lake’s Development

In its infancy Niagara on the Lake was growing grapes from all Canadian vines and was producing mainly grape juice. Then in 1975, Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo created Inniskillin Winery and were granted the first winery license in Ontario. Without these two innovators, wine country could have been called Welch’s grape juice county, cooking wine country, or boxed wine region. (Not that I have never drank wine out of a box, or some wines that belong in reductions.)  Karl and Donald then saw the regions potential for growing vines and started grafting and importing vines from Europe. The first decent wines in the region were being produced but would take some growing up before they hit the main stage.


Niagara had a long awkward adolescence as it started coming into its own. It took a while for Niagara on the Lake wineries to start producing some decent wines. Wines were being produced but it was taking some time to perfect the grapes and winemaking techniques. The wines being produced were not being well received globally and were not the award-winning wines this region is producing today. It was not really known as a great wine region yet and was still getting bullied from the big regions like Nappa or European wines. That was all about to change as Niagara started to find its voice and perfect its image.


Niagara on the Lake is finally all grown up and is rapidly becoming a heavy weight in the wine scene. The wines coming out of this region are only getting better and better every year. This region is currently producing some of the best ice wine in the world and is starting to gain some limelight on its table wines.


Wine Barrels

Niagara-on-the-Lake is changing face

In the past few years a lot of the restaurants have been revamped and you can expect some amazing meals from this region. I had the absolute best food and wine pairing experience at Zees Grill created by renowned chef Jason Dobbie. I am going to write a whole post on this called “the best meal I have ever eaten”, so stay tuned.


There is also some great accommodation in the area with hotels and bed and breakfasts for every type of traveller. I was fortunate enough to stay at the Niagara’s Finest Inns – Shaw Club Hotel, and couldn’t have been happier. With a modern feel and only minutes away from some amazing wineries, I know exactly where I am staying every time I go back.

 Craft beer? In Niagara Region? Yes, it’s happening!!!

Niagara is not only for wine lovers anymore. With what is now an amazing food scene and the emergence of craft breweries. Yes, you did read that right, Niagara on the Lake has a craft beer scene. Now that I have your attention…


With craft beer in the mix, Niagara on the Lake can’t get any better. The Niagara region now has three craft breweries, Oast House, Silversmith Brewing, and Niagara College Teaching Brewery. All three are producing some unbelievable craft beers, and this region will soon be for craft beer lovers too. Niagara on the Lake is going to be one of the most traveled to destinations in Ontario. I would suggest making the hour drive from the city and checking it out as soon as possible.