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.


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.






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.