Cuvée 2017 – The Grand Tasting

There’s no better way to celebrate an accomplishment, than with a good party.

I’m talking a classy, sophisticated, elegant party. One where you get all dressed up, drink some spectacular wine, nosh on delicious food, and hang out with some of your favourite people. A party like this scores extra points with me if some ’80’s music is involved somewhere too.

Last Friday, the Cuvée Grand Tasting ticked all of these boxes for me. Even the ’80’s music, which got lots of people rocking on the dance floor at the After Party.

But before we get into stories of the ’80’s antics and the fun of the evening, let’s talk about why Cuvée was happening in the first place.

The history of Cuvée goes all the way back to 1989, when the very first event was held. Back then, sixteen wineries participated and around 350 people attended. Fast forward now to 2017, which had 48 wineries and around 750 people attending.

That’s already a good starting point for some celebration. But that’s not all. The growth of the wine industry as a whole in Ontario is booming. The LCBO recently stated that sales of domestic wine have gone up more than seven percent since last year. Also, the wine industry is a major player in the provincial economy, generating more than $4 billion annually in revenue, tourism and job creation.

Four. Billion. Dollars.

That’s incredible, don’t you agree?

With all the good stuff happening, I think the only way we can go is up.

But at Cuvée, we’re not only honouring what has already happened in the wine industry, we’re celebrating the potential for the future too. Proceeds from the Cuvée wine weekend go to support grape and wine scholarships and research initiatives at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). You can read the list of this year’s scholarship recipients and the other award winners here.

We’ve certainly got some passionate, talented – not to mention hardworking – people supporting the rise of this industry.

And to celebrate these people, and all their accomplishments, we need a good party.

So let’s talk about it.

As media, we were able to enter the event an hour and a half before the rest of the attendees. I thought this would give me plenty of time to get around the room beforehand, but it went so fast!

I started off my night at the Westcott table.

Westcott makes some incredible wine overall, but to me, their Chardonnay is heaven on earth. Jess poured me a glass of their 2015 Reserve Chardonnay, and we chatted a bit. From the look on my face, it seems a bit serious.

It must have been about shoes. Actually, I chatted with several women about shoes that night. The consensus is that while we all love high heels (and some women had some stunning ones), standing in them for several hours is not high on our list of fun things to do. I’ll tell you honestly, by the end of the night, I was walking to the car with mine off. Well, in the Convention Centre, anyway.

But back to Westcott. You guys know I’m a fan by now, right? Gorgeous wine, and they are truly some of the nicest people I’ve met since moving here.

Speaking of lovely people….

Vadim from Kacaba is always ready with a big smile and passionate enthusiasm for the wine he is pouring.

Just watch this, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Kacaba Vineyards 2013 Silver Bridge Syrah  was beautiful, and what a gorgeous presentation in that sleek decanter. I must get one.

While I was sampling and chatting, Ken made his way around the room to take more photos.

Then he caught up with me at the Creekside table.

I had both of their offered wines that night, but started with Creekside’s 2013 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, which I really liked. To me, a lot of Sauvignon Blanc can be too puckery, too acidic, I sometimes feel like I’m sucking on a lemon if I drink it. Not this one. Ten months of barrel ferment and aging seemed to round it out for me – and I think you all know by now that I love oak.  This is a Sauvignon Blanc I will definitely buy and enjoy.

By this point, there were only a few minutes left of the media time (I told you it went fast!), so I was happy to bump into this gang and catch up a bit – The ever-so-dashing Denny and John from The Wine Boys, and the lovely Kimberley from Niagara Culinary Tours. We compared notes, and sent each other off to try some of our particular favourites.

Then the rest of the attendees came in to join us. The music turned up, the lights dimmed, and the party really got underway. You get a small taste of it in the clip below.

At this point, I headed for the food. Last year, I was too busy talking and tasting and missed out on it. Not this year. There was so much incredibly delicious food.

Two of our favourites came from Benchmark.

Benchmark offered a Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli

And a Reuben Sausage Strudel with Marie Rose Sauce and Arugula Salad.

I’m not a big goat cheese fan, but I honestly couldn’t taste it in the ravioli, and it was delicious. And the Reuben sausage strudel? Ken went back at least four times for one. It was that good.

I also had the very tasty Citrus-Cured Albacore Tuna and Avocado from Bolete

And lots of cheese. The cheese platters were so generous, and the students were kept very busy continually making them.

There was so much more too. One of my other favourites was from Fallsview Casino Resort – a Sweet Pea Gnocchi, with Ontario wild mushrooms, truffle pecorino, baby kale and red pepper crème. I unfortunately do not have a picture of that one, but it was delicious!

And the desserts. Oh my.

The rest of the evening was spent sampling, people watching, talking to friends and meeting some new ones.

Time went so quickly and before we knew it, it was time for Après Cuvée.

A nightclub-like atmosphere, serving sparkling wine, beer, and cider.

That ’80’s music though.

Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” were just a few of the ’80’s hits that made all us forty-somethings happy. There were some fun clips on my Instagram stories, which of course are gone now. But everyone was having such a good time, and it was awesome.

What a fantastic party to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of our wine industry.

I can’t wait to see all that will happen next.

Hope you’ll join us in 2018.