The SAS Blog: Stories, Wine Highlights, Events, Recipes, etc.

January 22, 2016

Jan 21 Twenty Valley Icewine Discovery Pass Pick!

There’s only one problem I have with the Discovery Pass program.

It’s hard to pick which wineries to go to. So many of the pairings are just too delicious.

Here was my situation. I was only going to be out in the Bench for one afternoon. There are eight tickets in the Discovery Pass. So I was trying to split them up evenly – go to four in Beamsville, and four in Niagara-on-the-Lake. But as I read through the Discovery Pass booklet, my dilemma became clear. How on earth could I only pick four? So many of the pairings sounded so good.

I didn’t think I could possibly do any more. Then I remembered the pairing that was awaiting me at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. Listen to this. The Discovery Pass listing promised “….succulent sweet potato gnocchi swimming in an herbed mushroom butter sauce paired perfectly with Sue-Ann’s multi-gold medal winning 2012 Vidal Icewine.”


This was so good. Sweet potato gnocchi and Icewine is a perfect match.

- See more at:
January 21, 2016

2016 Xerox Icewine Gala in the Grand Ballroom of the Fallsview Casino


Friday, January 15th At the Fallsview Casino thirty-five Niagara wineries were showing their Icewines and a couple of table wines with a series of food stations dotted around the ballroom offering bite-sized plates of amazing food and a spectacular series of sweet tables. Great band and great energy in the room. Michael and I divided up the tasting chores. I concentrated on the Riesling and Vidal while he tackled the red Icewines. My top scoring wines were:

 Ravine Vidal icewine 2013(93)

Trius Vidal Icewine 2012 (93),

Vieni Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014 (92),

Riverview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2014(92),

Sue Ann Staff 2012 Vidal Icewine 2012 (92),

Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2013 (92)

 Tawse Chardonnay icewine 2013(92).

Saturday, January 16th: After breakfast Michael and I were ferried to Jordan Village for the Twenty Valley Icewine Festival. The wineries were set up in a series of tents. The weather was mercifully fine to be tasting outdoors. Braziers in the shape of pine cones had been placed around to help participants warm up.

Finished the afternoon by watching the ladies' barrel-rolling competition before heading home.


Sue-Ann Staff competing in the barrel rolling competition

January 20, 2016

Winter WineFest 2016 Jordan...TV Cogeco & St. Catharines Standard videos

Check out TV Cogeco coverage of The Twenty Valley Tourism Association 7th annual #WinterWineFest2016 in Jordan Village...



@StCatStandard video

Glasses were raised to wine, winter and Canadian life in Jordan Village this weekend.

Thousands of people bundled up for Twenty Valley’s annual Winter WineFest, eager to take in the sights of the quaint village and sample creations from 23 of the area’s wineries.

Originally from Sault St. Marie, Jennifer Kersley and daughter Rowan, who recently moved to St. Catharines, were pleased to be spending a winter day outdoors.

“This is something we’d never do there in the winter,” Jennifer said of her former hometown with a laugh, adding Saturday’s sunshine made for a comfortable stay outside.

Debbie Perkin and Brigitte Jahn travelled to the festival on a packed tour bus from the GTA.

It was the first time at WineFest for the new friends, who met on the trip up.

But, Perkin assured, it likely won’t be their last.

“I just love it here. I’d give it a 10 out of 10,” she said, crediting wineries and food vendors for top-notch creations.

It was a similar sentiment felt by Dave and Carolyn Courtney, who made their inaugural festival appearance Saturday.

The event, he said, had an upbeat vibe and offered a reminder of the beautiful spaces Niagara has to offer.

“Sometimes you forget what’s right in your own backyard,” he said, while enjoying a glass of wine alongside his wife and watching the outdoor concert.

“It’s good to be Canadian.”

For Cheryl and David Mock, making the trek to Jordan Village has become tradition.

The Rochester, N.Y., couple annually turn their visit to the festival into a weekend stay in Niagara, exploring different parts of the region each time.

“We come every year. We love the barrel rolling, the incredible entertainment and delicious food and wine,” Cheryl said.

The winemakers’ barrel races is a highlight for many visitors, who come out to watch winery representatives toss barrels end over end in hopes of manoeuvring a course in the fastest time.

Reigning champion Dan Stouck, assistant winemaker at Malivoire Wine Co., returned to successfully defend his title. He was joined in the winner’s circle by first-time participant Jessica Reese, of Vineland Estates Winery, who came away with the fastest time among the female barrel rollers.

“The biggest challenge was staying with (the barrel),” the cellar technician said.

“It has a mind of its own and it’s really hard to control.”

Stouck called his secret to his success a mixture of power and technique.

“I do a lot of barrel rolling,” he said with a laugh, adding his daily work provides plenty of opportunity for practice.

The competition has been a crowd pleaser for years, said event manager Dorian Anderson, who felt the races, in combination with the sunshine, helped to pack the festival grounds Saturday.

She estimated that by Saturday afternoon, about 3,500 people had already passed through the festival’s gates. That’s in addition to the 350 guests who braved Friday’s rainfall for the opening night concert.

“It looked incredible under the lights,” she said, impressed by the event’s transformation to include a new European market style with lights strung throughout the main outdoor area.

“It shows off the charm of the village a lot better.”

Winter WineFest annually helps to kickoff the Niagara Icewine Festival, which continues until the end of the month.




January 17, 2016

January 17, 2016


Celebrating Winter with some Liquid Gold

It started as drunken one-upmanship among a gaggle of winemakers.

“Over a harvest dinner in 1999 at Creekside, all these burly winemakers and I started bantering about who could roll a barrel better,” Sue-Ann Staff told me over a plate of gnocchi and icewine. She’s a leading Ontario winemaker, and I could tell by the uptempo staccato of her storytelling this was going to be good.

“So we all got up and started competing right there and then in the cellars rolling a barrel end over end for about 100 feet. I didn’t just win against all the men; I smoked them! It was hilarious. There was smoke coming from the guys’ ears!”

At the time, she said, she was super fit and competitive having just finished 18 years of figure skating. She’s also very striking, which I imagine threw off her opponents.

The Winemakers’ Barrel Roll Challenge is now an official annual event at the Niagara Icewine Festival, on right now. Watch the race today in Jordan at 1:45 p.m.

Like the barrel rolling, the Niagara Icewine Festival started small and mushroomed into a big deal. Now in its 21st year, it draws 25,000 bon vivants from all over North America.

The quality of Icewine throughout Ontario has never been better. After making icewine in the province for 32 years, local winemakers are hitting their stride, consistently striking the right balance between sweetness and mouth-watering acidity in pretty much every bottle. Good balance is key to pleasure because it lets the wine finish cleanly, rather than cloy — like a mouthful of honey.

The festival kicked off last night with 1,000 people swanning about at the Xerox Icewine Gala — a black tie, $185-a-head soiree at the Fallsview Casino Resort.

For the rest of this weekend, the festival centres on Jordan Village in Niagara’s Twenty Valley region. Catch an outdoor concert, sit down to multi-course meals by celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, watch the Winemakers’ Barrel Roll Challenge and sample all kinds of local wines paired to culinary creations. For a cool and intimate vibe, hit tonight’s after-party in the century-old cellar beneath Cave Springs Winery.

Next weekend, Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) takes the torch and transforms the Heritage District into an icewine village. Sidle up to the world’s largest icewine bar, watch the icewine cocktail competition and sample icewine-inspired food and wine pairings to live music.

NOTL also offers activities throughout the festival such as cheese seminars and the annual White on Ice Dinner — a heated, tented outdoor event where six chefs present complete micro-meals with wine, followed by dancing under the stars.

During the third weekend, Jan. 29 to 31, the festival hub moves indoors to the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls where 20 wineries and 10 top chefs showcase deliciousness to live music.

As well as the goings-on in Twenty Valley, NOTL and Niagara Falls, 40 participating wineries offer unique food and wine pairings developed for the festival, available all three weekends. They’re available a la carte for $10 each, or buy a $40 Discovery Pass ($30 for non-drinkers/designated drivers) to taste at eight wineries of your choice.

In short, the Niagara Icewine Festival is a world-class culinary affair right in our own backyard. And huge fun. See you there!

January 06, 2016

Winter WineFest January 15-17, 2016

Have a listen to Whitehorse now - and then enjoy them again at‪#‎WinterWineFest2016‬. They are our headliners at our Opening Night Concert on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 on Main Street, Jordan Village. Some tickets still available:

Thanks to CBC Radio 2's Top 20 Chart for their continued support of Leave No Bridge Unburned.

Check out their top 30 #1 hits from 2015 featuring Downtown at #1...

See More
Official video for the song "Downtown" from the album Leave No Bridge Unburned, out February 17, 2015 on Six Shooter Records. Pre-Order the…
December 31, 2015




It's been a remarkable year for Fancy Farm Girl wines!
First launched in the LCBO in February 2015 the FRIVOLOUS WHITE & FLAMBOYANT RED have been very well received! Thank you one and all for purchasing and enjoying these had a hand in its success! Thank you for your patience as well. We have heard many stories of the LCBO being OUT OF STOCK over the holiday season. exciting future lies ahead as they are re-released and re-launched in new LCBO programs in February 2016. More stores... more wines. So do keep tuned in for new exciting details to follow in 2016....Cheers!