Four festive Caribbean cocktails to try this holiday season

For children, the holidays are a time to sample the latest and greatest in seasonal confectionary; an all-you-can-eat feast of whatever cookies and sweets their relatives baked that year. For adults, the holidays represent a time to indulge in sweet things of a more liquid and alcoholic variety. Mulled wine, snowballs, and spiked eggnog may headline the list of festive favourites for many cocktail drinkers, but they certainly aren’t the only drinks you should be filling your glass with this season. 

For a bit of mixological inspiration, we looked to the sunny islands of the Caribbean: renowned both for their love of rum and fruity flavours and their general enthusiasm for the holidays. We embarked on a bit of a Caribbean tour to bring you signature recipes from four different destinations. Inject a little tropical sun into your festive fun this year with these flavourful, punchy cocktails that are quintessentially Caribbean.

The Bahamas: Goombay Smash

The Goombay Smash is a rum-based cocktail with a historic pedigree in The Bahamas, originally formulated by Emily Cooper on Green Turtle Cay. While the original recipe may remain a secret, versions of the drink have spread to all of The Bahamas’ major islands, impressing locals and visitors alike with its strong fruity flavour.

Recipe:

  • 11 ounces dark rum
  • 11 ounces light rum
  • 11 ounces coconut rum
  • 11 ounces apricot brandy
  • A whole can of pineapple juice (46 oz)

Mix in a container and shake vigorously before serving over ice. 

Anguilla: Sorrel

Sorrel is a tangy, intensely aromatic brew with a trademark red colour derived from the plant of the same name – a close relative of Hibiscus. Sorrel drinks are the holiday drink in the Caribbean, and that includes Anguilla, the luxurious yet quiet island known for embracing the holidays with its own dedicated “Festive Season”. This a cocktail that smells as delicious as it tastes and immediately conjures nostalgic memories for many Anguillian drinkers. 

Recipe:

  • Sorrel petals – 4 ounces
  • Ginger- 2 ounces
  • Cinnamon- half a stick
  • Cloves- 4
  • Lemon or orange rind (let this boil and steep overnight)
  • Add ¼ water

Combine ingredients in heatproof bowl

Boil water and pour over mixture. Cover, and refrigerate overnight

Strain the mixture, then chill it again. Strain once more if desired. Add rum to dilute or sweeten your liking and enjoy!

St. Martin: Guavaberry Kir

Guavaberry is one of St. Martin’s most famous flavours and exports. Boasting a complex flavour profile including woody, sweet, and spicy notes, Guavaberry is carefully cultivated on both the French and Dutch sides of the island and used in jams, spreads, and spirits. This simple cocktail highlights the incredible flavour of Guavaberry Liqueur. Feel free to substitute raspberry liqueur or your favourite fruity schnapps if you forgot to bring some Guavaberry back with you on your last trip!

Recipe:

  • 1oz St Maarten Guavaberry Liqueur
  • 5oz Champagne

Pour pre-chilled liqueur into a frozen champagne glass. Top with chilled champagne and dress with a small curl of orange skin. 

Antigua & Barbuda: Hibiscus Sangria

Nothing says “indulgence” like Sangria, and where better to get a Sangria recipe from than one of the capitals of indulgence, Antigua and Barbuda? This dual-island destination may be known for its mix of excellent resorts and wild beauty, but it’s quickly developing a reputation for excellence in mixology! Here’s a fresh take on using the familiar ingredient of sorrel to achieve some truly refreshing flavours. 

Recipe:

  • 1 bottle of red wine 
  • 1 cup of sorrel juice 
  • 1/2 cup of hibiscus tea 
  • 1/2 cup of brandy or rum 
  • Assorted fruits (pineapples, oranges, limes, grapes)

To brew your own hibiscus tea: place several (2-3 fresh or ¼ cup of dried flower) petals in a teapot and cover it with boiling water; allow to steep for approximately 5 minutes. Strain and bring to room temperature (preferably the tea should be chilled). Combine red wine, sorrel juice, and hibiscus tea with brandy or rum. Add sliced fruits of your choice to the mixture. Using a ladle, serve the beverage in a glass of your choice. Ensure you include a mixture of the fruit for a festive holiday beverage.

A tantalizing food journey through San Juan, Puerto Rico

With a blowtorch in one hand and a rocks glass in the other, Dennis Rivera meticulously lights a small pile of tobacco leaves sitting on a slab of wood from a Spanish white oak sherry barrel on fire and places the glass on top to infuse it with the smoke. Rivera, a brand specialist at Puerto Rican rum distillery Ron del Barrilito in Bayamón, is creating a cigar fashioned — a twist on an old fashioned — made with ingredients like chocolate and orange bitters, cocoa powder, and rum instead of rye.

“It smells amazing already,” he says. “This is a cigar simple syrup. We do it here ourselves; we create the tobacco syrup in house.” Ron del Barrilito is the oldest Puerto Rican rum, made in the same way since 1880, but the cocktails on offer in the visitor’s centre are fresh takes on classic cocktails. Here, rum bottles fetch as much as US $750 for a collector’s edition that’s been aged for 35 years.

After touring the premises and learning all about the history of the business and the distilling process, the tables have turned, and now I’m the one mixing drinks by taking part in a mixology class offered on site, concocting three rum-based drinks, including a pina colada.

Nicknaming the one-ounce shot glass “Monday” and the two-ounce glass “Friday,” we follow the instructions and skillfully create some top-notch cocktails. The reward is not only to drink the fruits of our labour — everyone in the class is also presented with an official certificate for successfully completing the course.

Now, who said drinking couldn’t be educational?

A gastronomic adventure

The next morning, as local chef Nivia Villanueva arrives at Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras, a traditional market in San Juan, her eyes light up when she sees the abundance of fresh local produce on offer just a few short weeks after the destination was hit by Hurricane Fiona.

“Look at this!” she says with excitement, holding up a large avocado that’s quadruple the size of the typical ones found in grocery stores back in Canada. “We also need peppers, onions and garlic.”

 

Our mission today is to pick up the ingredients needed to prepare a typical Puerto Rican feast for lunch. We’ll soon be whipping up dishes like mofongo, a local favourite made from fried mashed plantains. Since moving back to Puerto Rico to be part of the solution and recovery efforts after the devastating impacts of hurricanes Maria and Irma back in 2017, Villanueva has been on a quest to share her love for cooking and the history of Puerto Rican cuisine with travellers. She strives to source local ingredients as much as possible as well as to support nearby farmers and small businesses.

“I share my passion for Puerto Rico’s culture and cuisine, emphasizing local products and my secret ingredient — a pinch of love,” she explains. Although the bounce back was much quicker this time around (there are barely any traces of impact left in the San Juan area), the Puerto Rican-born chef wants to get the message out that the island is open and ready for visitors. By night, we’re told the area surrounding the market transforms into a vibrant spot for nightlife with ample bars to choose from.

Food: a cultural connection

After gathering all the necessary ingredients for our gastronomic venture, we head to Villanueva’s condo apartment to get cooking. Our group is spread out across the kitchen chopping vegetables and mashing the plantain down in small wooden containers. Progress is made quickly and a short while later, we’re lining up to plate our concoctions. The end result is quite possibly the best tasting meal I’ve ever had a hand in cooking.

The next day, Elliot Cintron of The Spoon Experience guides me through the picturesque cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan to five culinary stops while also stopping by some interesting sights in the area like the smallest apartment building in San Juan — which fits between his outstretched arms — and La Puerta de la Bandera, a large colonial door with the image of the Puerto Rican flag alongside some street art. I’m on the Sunset Walk & Taste Tour, which is as much about food and drinks as it is about getting a historical overview of the 500- year-old city.

Our first stop is Chocobar Cortés where almost everything on the menu has a chocolate element from the avocado toast to the aptly named chocoburger. Even the cocktails incorporate the sweet ingredients with options like a chocolate old fashioned using chocolate bitters. We’re here to sample frozen chocolate — essentially the opposite of hot chocolate and more like a chocolate shake, which hits the spot. Another delicious stop is at Singular restaurant for cocktails and Arroz Congri, a dish made up of black beans and rice in this case topped with steak. The restaurant is located in the Hotel El Convento, a historic hotel in the historic walled city of Old San Juan set in a former Carmelite convent dating back to 1651.

Just when I think I can’t possibly squeeze in even more food, Cintron brings the group to Señor Paleta, an ice-cream and popsicle shop utilizing local products. The locations of the food tour stops vary slightly each day but one thing is for sure — no one leaves hungry.

—STORY BY ANN RUPPENSTEIN

Hotel brand seeks foodie “CEO” for new job sampling food on all five continents

Sampling Mexico’s sizzling street tacos, inhaling the bold aroma of Turkish coffee, uncovering the tangiest chimichurri in Argentina – it’s a job any foodie would covet and now, it could be yours. Ramada® by Wyndham, one of the world’s most well-known hotel brands, is searching for its first-ever Chief Eats Officer (“CEO”), a newly created role that will take one lucky job-seeker around the globe as they help the brand uncover and share some of the world’s best culinary and cultural delights. Best of all, the gig comes with a $10,000 payday and bragging rights as the most mouth-watering job ever.

Known for its diverse portfolio of award-winning hotels in more than 63 countries around the globe, Ramada helps travelers sample the world. The appointed “CEO” will be tasked with uncovering the culture and cuisine throughout five different continents and creatively showcase their finds on the brand’s social media and marketing channels. In exchange, the selected candidate will receive $10,000 and a $150 daily travel stipend to help them make the most of their globetrotting adventure. The “CEO Comp Package” also includes paid accommodations and air travel, an upgrade to Wyndham Rewards Diamond membership and bucket-list travel experiences.

Known for its diverse portfolio of award-winning hotels in more than 63 countries around the globe, Ramada helps travelers sample the world. The appointed “CEO” will be tasked with uncovering the culture and cuisine throughout five different continents and creatively showcase their finds on the brand’s social media and marketing channels. In exchange, the selected candidate will receive $10,000 and a $150 daily travel stipend to help them make the most of their globetrotting adventure. The “CEO Comp Package” also includes paid accommodations and air travel, an upgrade to Wyndham Rewards Diamond membership and bucket-list travel experiences.

For more information and how to apply, visit www.ramada.com/ceo.

Bottoms up! Just in time for summer, a new take on a Cuban classic

Maria Teresa Bacallao Maceyras is inviting Varadero vacationers to quench their thirst in the same manner that Ernest Hemingway would during his many years in Cuba.

Tour guide Bacallao Maceyras notes that Varadero has seen the opening of the Floridita bar, patterned after the famed watering hole in Havana.

The community has had a Bodeguita del Medio — again modelled after a famous Havana namesake bar — for close to a decade.

Hemingway used to say during his Cuba time that he’d visit El Floridita for his daiquiris and the Bodeguita del Medio for his mojitos.

“Ernest Hemingway didn’t really visit Varadero,” Bacallao Maceyras reports.

Nevertheless, Hemingway — who loved Cuban cocktails — would appreciate the two additions to Varadero’s bar scene, she adds.

El Floridita’s Varadero bar has a metal bust of Hemingway and staff sport the same red aprons their Havana counterparts do.

Pedro de la Conception says those visiting Varadero’s Bodeguita del Medio will quickly be made aware that they aren’t the first visitors, with its walls coated with a staggering number of signatures of previous guests in the same manner that its Havana counterpart is.

Indeed, the bar once removed thousands of names because the walls were becoming overwhelmed by signatures, he says. “Imagine 25,000 a year every year for nine years.”

Cuban music will be heard in a structure that has light blue walls and a red-tile roof, and displays a large Cuban flag.

And de la Concepcion is confident that those who stop at Varadero’s Bodeguita del Medio for a mojito will leave convinced that they got great value for their money.

“This is the mojito place,” he confidently states. “The best mojitos and the best restaurant are in the Bodeguita del Medio.”

Bourbon, breweries and beyond in Louisville, Kentucky

Bourbon aficionados will clearly find Kentucky a spirit-ed place.

The state accounts for 95% of the production of the distinctively American spirit of bourbon, and is cheerfully promoting both the alcohol and bourbon-related tourism attractions to potential visitors.

“There’s so much culture around the bourbon heritage,” says Jessica Morgan of Louisville Tourism while citing her city’s Urban Bourbon Trail.

Bourbon distilleries fled Louisville for the countryside during the Prohibition era in the United States but have now returned in force, with 10 urban distilleries opening since 2013.

Louisville visitors can opt for Bourbon City Cruiser tours that use a tuk-tuk-style electric-powered vehicle operated by a tour guide who will take them to distilleries and cocktail bars.

North of Bourbon in turn enables people to dine in an oversized replica bourbon barrel, while bourbon-themed accommodations are available in the Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel Distil, B&B-style Chateau Bourbon, Louisville Marriott East and the Omni Hotel.

“The downtown area is thriving and vibrant and has really come back from Covid,” Morgan continues.

Morgan noted bourbon is used in many Kentucky food dishes. “We have a phrase — ‘Eat your bourbon.’”

Louisville also has a burgeoning craft beer scene, with the Brewgrass Trail — the name of which is a take on the state’s popular bluegrass music — linking 18 independent breweries.

Other downtown Louisville attractions include the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, home of the famous baseball bats, the Muhammad Ali Center, which tells of the boxing great, who was from Louisville, and a host of museums.

Tourism authorities also praise Louisville’s varied architectural styles, with Old Louisville being a registered historic district that has the largest collection of restored Victorian mansions in the United States. The district comprises more than 40 city blocks of Beaux Arts, Cateauesque, Italianate, Neclassical and Queen Anne-style homes.

Daytime Old Louisville walking tours are available, as are nightly ghost tours that describe why Old Louisville was once named “One of America’s Most Haunted” districts.

Gina Christ-Kohler of Meet Northern Kentucky notes Air Canada has restarted twice-daily Toronto-Cincinnati service, with the Cincinnati airport actually being found in Kentucky.

The Ohio-Kentucky border is defined in part by the production of alcohol, she says, adding area visitors will find “breweries on the Cincinnati side, distilleries on the Kentucky side.”

Kentucky marks the spot where the northern United States meets the southern United States, she continues.

Christ-Kohler, who hosted tourism industry staff at a Toronto Blue Jays game during a Toronto visit, adds that baseball fans will appreciate Cincinnati, home of the storied Cincinnati Reds.

Meanwhile, Anne Sabatino Hardy of Lexington visitors bureau visitLEX labels the Lexington area both the “horse capital of the world” and the “center of the thoroughbred culture” in the United States.

Visitors can go on guided tours of area horse farms while in a state that’s home to the famed Kentucky Derby.

Those visitors can also see retirement homes for race horses.

Officials also praised Kentucky’s natural side, noting it has 29 state parks and landscapes include caves, with Mammoth Cave National Park home to the longest known cave system in the world.

Some Kentucky caves can be explored by kayak or by paddle boards.

Angela Blank of the Kentucky Department of Tourism says tourists will enjoy Kentucky’s “incredible musical heritage.”

An all-female team of chefs and artisans are bringing their talent to this luxury Mexico hotel

UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya, the redefined, adults only all-inclusive hotel located in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, has announced the women-powered line-up for its fourth annual gastronomy series, Superbia Summer.

From July 11 to Aug. 21, the hotel’s multi-sensory experience will feature an all women roster of chefs, mixologists, and local artisans all coming together to showcase their talent from different regions of Mexico. Each week will feature one chef, one mixologist, and one artisan implementing their unique twist to transform the hotel’s experiences.

Additionally, this year’s event will also include a variety of pool activations, live entertainment and more. Superbia Summer invites guests to indulge in paradise and embark on a journey through the senses alongside the following talent:

  • July 11-17: Chef Marcela Bolaño, Mixologist Rocio Frias, Artisan Carina Barbachano

  • July 18-24: Chef Regina Escalante, Mixologist Mafer Tejeda, Artisan Cristina Arnedo

  • July 25-31: Chef Lupita Vidal, Mixologist (not confirmed), Artisan Juana Gomez

  • August 1-7: Chef Marta Zapata, Mixologist Fatima Leon, Artisan Claudia Ponce De Leon

  • August 8-14: Chef Adria Montano, Mixologist Claudia Cabrera, Artisan Paloma Santa Cruz

  • August 15-21: Chef Celia Florian, Mixologist Majo Cruz, Artisan Gaston Gallardo

“Women have always been at the forefront of UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya’s identity. From ideation to execution, the hotel would not be what it is today without the powerful women-led team behind it. This year, on the heels of its fifth anniversary, we wanted to pay homage to our roots and bring in a number of exceptional women across the food, beverage and arts industries to showcase their talents,” said Irma Yeo, Director of Sales at UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya. “Incorporating a memorable multi-sensory event into a culturally immersive, all-inclusive experience while highlighting outstanding women demonstrates our commitment to offering our guests a curated, one-of-a-kind vacation.”

UNICO 20°87º Hotel Riviera Maya redefines the all-inclusive vacation experience and offers an unfiltered view of modern Mexico. From the concept, to the rustic-meets-modern design, and even the cultural art displayed around the property, UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya is completely ideated by women.

Born out of a desire to create an unparalleled journey within the region while encompassing relaxed luxury and cultural immersion, UNICO 20°87° celebrates five years as the new standard for the sophisticated travellers looking for an all-inclusive vacation. Located south of Playa del Carmen in Mexico, this exceptional, adults only, all-inclusive hotel features 448 lavishly appointed guest rooms boasting predominantly ocean-views with semi-private swim-up pools on all ground floor rooms and outdoor double-hydro spa tubs on all remaining rooms, an in-room mini bar stocked by guest preferences, three expansive pools, a state-of-the-art wellness gym, a full-service spa, five globally-infused gourmet restaurants, six bars and lounges, and two swim-up bars. 

Summer Sippers

Splash a little Chablis in your glass and take a sip. Suddenly you’re in France. Same holds true for Champagne, Rioja, Barbaresco, and all the rest—wines that take you to these fabulous places. Pair the wine with food from the same region and things get really trippy. Enjoy a little European escape with these six smart summer sippers and suggested nibblies.

os-rose

PROVENCE ROSÉ AND TAPENADE

Score: 90 | $19.15

For a taste of the South of France, enjoy the 2020 Carte Noire Rosé from Provence, France (Vintages Essential 319384). This pale coral blend of Grenache and Cinsault swirls with delicate  flavours ofripe red fruit laced lightly with  wet stones, dried herbs, and green olive.

Pair it with tapenade — an olive and anchovy spread seasoned with capers, garlic, and lemon — spread on small pieces of toasted bread, and bring the Côte d’Azur to you. 

os-chablis

CHABLIS AND OYSTERS

Score: 91 | $32.80

Staying in France, head north to Burgundy for the 2019 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Drouhin-Vaudon (LCBO 284026). In Chablis, the grapevines grow in soil rich in Kimmeridgean clay, which produces a stony, slightly saline-style Chardonnay, shimmering with crisp acidity. And this bottle is a prime example. Each sip is silky, seamless, and scented with seashells.

Pair this beautiful Chablis with oysters, lobster, or any fish dish at all. The match is pure perfection.  

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CHAMPAGNE AND SMOKED SALMON

Score: 92 | $57.50

For a brilliant bubbly, pour the NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne from France (LCBO 537605). Each glass shines straw-coloured with golden inflections, while tiny bubbles bead to the surface. The attack engages instantly with the fragrance and flavours of buttery brioche, baked apple, and a touch of almond. Elegant, quenching, and dry.

Serve this Champagne with smoked salmon on toast points for a little je ne sais quoi in the afternoon. Or add a salad and suddenly you’ve got lunch. 

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BARBARESCO AND MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Score: 90 | $29.95

Head to Piedmont in northern Italy with the 2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco DOCG (Vintages Essential 160143). This pale expression of the Nebbiolo grape fans out with gorgeous, elegant complexity. It’s whispered with violet and earth, cherries and chocolate, and blackberries and olive, forming a sheer, allusive tapestry of flavour that is fabulously food friendly.

Pour this Italian classic with a bowl of mushroom risotto or kick it up a notch with shaved truffles, truffled cheese, or even a drizzle of good-quality truffle oil on top.

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RIOJA RESERVA AND MANCHEGO

Score: 93 | $27.45

Skip over to Spain with a glass of the gorgeous 2015 Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva (LCBO 32656). From the muted aromas of vanilla and cherry-cola to the generous sweep of smooth flavour, this wine offers immediate pleasure. It is a cashmere crush of black cherry, burnt sugar, and cola nut—but dry—before tapering to a long finish of rubbed oregano.

For a touch of Spanish charm, serve this Rioja Reserva with some slivers of Manchego cheese. Crackers optional.

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AMONTILLADO WITH MARCONA ALMONDS

Score: 93 | $17.95

Or take a trip to southern Spain with a sip of Emilio Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado (Vintages Essential 375097). This fortified wine made in the sherry style, and is bone dry, amber toned, and complex. Expect aromas of roasted nut, caramel, coffee, and orange that echo on the palate.

Serve this Amontillado well-chilled with a handful of salted Marcona almonds from Spain.  Magic.

So, stock your wine rack, pantry, and fridge with these European wines and foods and get ready to experience some exciting getaways from the comfort of your deck or dock.

Holiday Wine & Cheese Pairings

To take you through the season in style

Nothing is easier (and smarter) than serving a delicious wine with a fabulous cheese. It’s effortlessly chic and makes holiday entertaining a breeze. To set you up for success, here are five brilliant wine and cheese pairings to add panache to classic holiday gatherings…

Holiday Open House

WOODED CHARDONNAY AND GRUYERE2017 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, California

Toasty and refined with creamy-crisp flavours of lemon meringue pie, toasted coconut and vanilla.

Available at LCBO | $19.95

One seriously compelling pairing is oaked Chardonnay and Gruyere, a hard cheese from Switzerland. The combination will dazzle your guests. Simple yet oh-so-good. Set a big wedge on a cheeseboard with crackers. Grate some onto thin toast points and broil it. Or bake some Gruyere, onion, mushroom tarts. Any way you slice it, you can’t go wrong.

traditional-grana-padano-cheese-cutting-board-with-grapes-and-walnuts

Office Party

SAUVIGNON BLANC AND FRESH GOAT CHEESE2018 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

A juicy attack of guava dappled with orange, lemon and lime, as well as coriander and parsley.

Available at LCBO | $17.95

The crisp, gently herbaceous flavour of Sauvignon Blanc tastes like it was made to serve with fresh goat cheese. Spread it on crackers, crumble and broil on flatbread, or bake it in thumbprint-sized phylo cups with chives sprinkled on top, and all you need is a bottle of the wine to bring finesse to the office party.

Hanukkah

MANISCHEWITZ WINE AND CREAM CHEESENV Manischewitz Blackberry, New York

Blackberry jam in a glass—but liquefied and gourmet—with a firm alcoholic backbone sustaining the vinosity.

Available at LCBO Vintages | $9.00

When observing Hanukkah, you can lift the festivities with Manischewitz wine and cream cheese treats. The combination of the sweet, jam-jar goodness of the wine works very well with cream cheese. Whether it’s rolled in nuts, cheese-ball style, baked into latkes, or just spread on toasted bites of challah—the pairing is downright delicious.

 

Christmas Day

BAROLO AND TRUFFLED PECORINO2014 Marchesi di Barolo La Tradizione Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

Allusions of tar and roses underpin bright fruit—dusty cherries and plum purée—with hints of coffee, earth and chocolate.

Available at LCBO Vintages | $42.95

For a real treat at Christmas, pair Barolo, one of Piedmont’s most revered wine styles, with truffled Pecorino— otherwise known as pecorino al tartufo. The earthy elegance of Barolo pairs famously with the gamey goodness of truffles, especially when the truffles imbue hard, salty Pecorino. It’s a hedonistic combination. Truffled Pecorino needs no embellishment, so serve it simply with crackers or toasts and pour the wine.

 

New Year’s Eve

CHAMPAGNE AND GRANA PADANONV Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne, France

Baked apple, white flowers and toast edged with warm vanilla and nuts. Delicate and elegant.

Available at LCBO | $74.25

New Year’s Eve calls for bubbles. And nothing is quite as celebratory as Champagne, with its hallmark cooked apple, brioche, and lemon curd character. But you can step up your game by serving it with Grana Padano—Northern Italy’s famous hard, crumbly cheese rich in umami. A large wedge of this honourable cheese really needs no embellishment—so serve as is, with fizz.

 

Story by CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND

Muskoka’s Top Drops

At the lake, drinking Ontario wine feels like the right thing to do for any occasion. And local wineries can —and do—spin out some very fine juice. You just need to know which bottles to buy. With that in mind, I tasted high and low to find six hidden gems that pair perfectly with quintessential cottage moments.

ON THE DOCK
2017 Redstone
Limestone Vineyards
South Block Riesling,
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
Score: 96 | $19.15
Available at redstone.com Kick back in the sun with a glass of this sunlit Riesling. Its refreshing scent of fresh salted lime and saturated, sorbet-like attack will have you at hello. The beam-like entry tastes bright and pure, quickly unspooling with coy suggestions of white peach, lemon-lime and mango before leaving an attractive wet stone and sea salt finish. This is a stylishly complex wine with a light kiss of sweetness, mouthwatering acidity, and a sensibly low 10.5 per cent alcohol.

AROUND THE BONFIRE
2016 Tawse Winery
David’s Block Cabernet Franc,
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
Score: 96 | $50.15
Available at tawsewinery.ca Bonding around the bonfire with friends is priceless—especially over a superb bottle of red such as this. It teems with aromas and flavours of black cherries dunked in dark chocolate, while the rich centre is intriguingly scored with elements of minerality—graphite and granite as well as a toasted nuttiness. And yes, actually, it pairs with stick-roasted hotdogs, too. Ticks all the boxes while demonstrating why connoisseurs are calling Cabernet Franc Ontario’s flagship grape variety.

AS THE SUN SETS
2017 Westcott
Rosé Pinot Noir,
VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara
Score: 92 | $22.95
Available at westcottvineyards.com Pour a glass of this dry wine that drinks like a Provencal rosé and watch the sun set. All easy elegance, it shines pale coral and exudes ethereal aromas of struck steel and crushed redcurrants. The attack is silky-crisp and restrained, with wispy notes of cool linen and homemade strawberryrhubarb pie, followed by a faint but resonant twist of citrus zest on the finish. Just 400 cases of this delicate rosé were produced though, so snap it up before it’s gone.

WITH GRILLED STEAK
2017 Henry of Pelham
Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir,
VQA Ontario
Score: 94 | $24.95
Available at LCBO Vintages or henryofpelham.com Baco Noir has a cult-like following in Ontario, and this particularly profound expression tastes like it was made to pair with grilled steak. Made from 35 year old vines, it’s inky dark in colour and delivers robust aromas of macerated berries, smoky tobacco and roasted coffee. Then, a cashmere crush of dark cherry and plum, cigar box and espresso fill the mouth and stay a while. Outstanding value from a top-notch Baco Noir producer.

WITH GRILLED FISH
2017 Stratus
Weather Report Chardonnay,
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake
Score: 93 | $28.00
Available at stratuswines.com Grilled fish is a summertime staple. And it comes to life with this sophisticated white from one of Ontario’s terroir-driven producers. It offers all the concentration and weight needed to stand up to grill marks, while maintaining delicacy and elegance. Quiet scents of nougat and praline lead to a smooth entry that quietly unfolds with full-bodied flavour. Chantilly cream, sweet corn, and nuts infuse the bright citrus core, and a crème brûlée finish with a touch of grapefruit pith lend lingering appeal. A connoisseur’s wine.

IN GOOD COMPANY
2016 Leaning Post
Clone 96 Chardonnay,
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, ON
Score: 97+ | $45.00
Available at leaningpostwines.com This impressive wooded Chardonnay drinks like fine white Burgundy at a fraction of the price. Wonderfully heady aromas of smoky lime, fresh butter and cool stone draw you toward a creamy-weighty palate shot through with bright acidity. Each satiny sip unfurls with lemon curd, toasted meringue, and freshly rolled pastry with underpinnings of chalk, marzipan and honey. Polished,poised, and worth every cent. Winner of the gold medal at the Ontario Wine Awards and Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines in 2018.

Story by CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND