Chris Bacon’s “Flotilla”


Flotilla by Chris Bacon

‘Flotilla‘ is a beautiful painting! One of the most moving I’ve ever experienced. There is fluidity, movement, emotion, softness, strength, and innocence in this work.  At nearly 30 inches wide, it’s a large piece, with a real presence. The original work of art is available, or as a hand-made print from the artist…

Bacon grew up in many places around the world as his family followed his father’s work relocations. One of Chris’s favourite childhood locations was Bermuda. He returns often. He is equally drawn to the north and camps and canoes often. He was recognized in 2004 with the Master Wildlife Artist Award from Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, in Wausau, Wisconsin.

– The Wine Baron

Wine Hackaton: Pinot vs Bonarda — The Wine Culturist

Have you ever met a wine hacker? I have. Last week I found myself in a narrow brightly-lit room in a far-flung corner of the city, rubbing glasses with Argentina’s hippest wine bloggers at the grandiosely-named PinotBonarda Wine Hackaton. Now let me be clear; there were no geeky, unwashed techies in ironic oversized T-shirts here (ok, […]

via Wine Hackaton: Pinot vs Bonarda — The Wine Culturist

Beauty Fades From the Train


Philip Craddock Writing Portfolio

You stand tall in the train, suspended by a solitary rusty metal chain which you clutch in your worn-out hands. The other grey commuters sit in silence, eyes staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, seemingly without anything to look forward to as they are shunted from point A to point B in their black and white lives.

She sits down in the seat opposite you, in Technicolor, and for a moment you allow your eyes to take her in and your imagination to run wild and free. God, she is beautiful. Her pink hair (you guess it may not be her natural colour) drapes down to her shoulders, carefully styled just enough to not look too unkempt whilst still not detracting from that “Don’t give a damn” persona that you imagine she likes to wear most days.

Her smooth skin is still flush with hope, her lips relaxed into…

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Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010

A Brunello that’s elegant and true

 We enjoyed this beautiful wine last night with sliced baguette and aged cheeses, including parmigiano (a great match).

Brunello must spend at least 2 years in barrels and cannot be released until the fifth year after harvest. A patient investment to produce an outstanding wine.

We immediately noticed its deep dark red. Complex notes of ripe black cherry and spice contribute to an overall classy and delicate wine. It is smooth as silk and yet has more body than many Brunello’s.

It elegantly makes its presence known.

A past star in Vintages, it has now moved into General List (LCBO # 434696). About $35. 10 Bonus Air Miles in April 2016. Great time to buy. Highly recommended.

The next hot trend – Ontario about to burst forth with micro-distilleries


Spirits Start To Emerge in My Consciousness

I’ve been a wine aficionado for a long time. But I haven’t been able to resist the lure of spirits either. They’ve gradually tugged at my attention and they’re winning me over. They’re fascinating and equally full of culture and lore. So with this post, I am embarking on an undiluted journey into the wonderful world of spirits.

My first notice of distilled liquor was of Single Malt Scotch. I remember working on a major project and going to the neighbourhood bar after hours. They had a display of Scotches set up on the counter. I decided to order one of each over the next several days. I liked the different flavours, personalities and histories. From there I branched into blended whisky, Irish whiskey, gin, and absinthe, among others. Ah, so many to encounter. A delightful quest!

Dramatic Growth in the U.S. – Emerging Now in Ontario

As reported at a recent American Distilling Institute (ADI) conference, micro-distilleries have grown from 50 in 2005 to around 300 today (in the US), and that number could grow to 1,000 in less than 10 years. “The renaissance has happened to wine, beer, bread and vegetables,” ADI President Bill Owens says of the craft revolution. Now, he says, is simply the time for spirits. The industry is set to enjoy similar growth to that of craft beer in the ’90′s. There is no similar organization in Canada. The boom is just starting in the Great White North. There are a few micro distilleries in Ontario right now, but according to one industry proprietor, he’s hearing of 2 or 3 potential startups per week. The trend is rising rapidly!

There are many types of spirits to explore. Visit your local micro-distillery to discover. According to Time, whiskey is the quickest growing micro category in production in the US and that seems to be the initial trend in Ontario as well. The range of products made by craft distilleries goes far beyond standard spirits. There are so many different types a craft distillery can make, so many creatively cool ingredients to add for personality, and a myriad of techniques that can be tried to add to products’ artisanal appeal. They’re making pear-based eau de vie in Pennsylvania, artisanal moonshine in Arkansas, and brandies in Napa Valley. Ontario’s doing some very innovative stuff too.

Here’s a list of the better known craft/micro distilleries in Ontario:

66 Gilead, Bloomfield –
Dillon’s, Beamsville –
Magnotta Distillery, Vaughan –
Mill Street, Toronto –
Still Waters, Concord –
Toronto Distillery Company –
Vieni, Beamsville –
Waverley Spirits, Perth –

I visited 3 of these craft distilleries to see what’s going on. Here are my findings:

Still Waters Distillery, Concord, Ontario

Barry and Barry of Still Waters
Barry and Barry of Still Waters

Still Waters Barrels lovingly aging whisky
Still Waters Barrels lovingly aging whisky
Launched in January 2009, this is Ontario’s first micro-distillery, founded by Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein. They make everything by hand in small batches with a beautiful custom made pot still from Germany. Every batch is hand made right from the grain to the bottle. They proudly produce whisky, vodka, gin and brandy. Each product has that distinctively clean and characterful taste that you can only get from a small producer. Excellent products! You can find some of them in LCBO, but most of them are available only from the distillery in Concord Ontario or via their online shop. I particularly enjoyed their Single Malt, Rye, and Cask Strength Whisky.

And it’s great that they now have true 3 year aged Canadian whiskies. Their patience has paid off (and their barrel cellar is expanding rapidly).

Dillon’s, Beamsville, Ontario

Geoff Dillon
Geoff Dillon

sampling of Dillon's products
Sampling of Dillon’s products
Dillon’s is a cool place to visit, even on a hot day! The people here are cool, the products are gorgeous, and they’re here to make an impact in the enjoyment of spirits. Going to Wine Country? Then add Dillon’s to your itinerary.

Geoff Dillon gives a terrific distillery tour. Lauren Huggins and her co-workers will look after you at the tasting bar. Everyone at Dillon’s will make you feel welcome.

The vodka (essentially Grappa, because it’s made from Niagara wine grapes) has far more interesting flavour than regular vodka. This is a great spirit.

The gin is the best I’ve ever had to this point. It makes the perfect Gin and Tonic.

And here are my notes for “The White Rye”.

dillonryesm THE WHITE RYEColour: perfectly clear

Nose: Grain mash, Asian pear, rock candy, white pepper, hint of licorice and an almost wisp of ginger

Flavour: same, with hint of vanilla

Finish: lingering

Overall Impression: A beautifully crafted white rye that’s a delight to enjoy straight or as base for a cocktail

Vieni Estates

Vieni Wine and Spirits from Wine Baron on Vimeo.

Vieni opened in 2013. Situated on 175 acres, 190 meters above sea-level on the brow of the Niagara Escarpment, Vieni combines centuries of tradition with modern technology. As well as offering a large range of whites, reds and icewines, winemaker Mauro Salvador will be releasing a selection of Charmat Method sparkling wines. And the big news is that Vieni is the first craft winery in Ontario to make Grappa and other spirits distilled from local fruit. Visitors can taste the range at the winery, picnic in the vineyard, hike the property’s section of the Bruce Trail and enjoy a stay in the beautifully updated B&B where every room has a stunning view of the vineyard.

Concluding Thoughts:

So get out there people, and discover the wonderful world of craft distilleries. You thought you knew spirits from going to the liquor store? There’s so much more. The small producers are the ones that will welcome you warmly, educate you, provide innovative and highly interesting products, and they’re nearby. Drop me a line and let me know how you make out … @thewinebaron

Rhone Valley wine region in 7 days

Visiting the Rhone Valley wine region

I had the good fortune to visit the various Rhone valley wine regions for seven days. The areas within are visually beautiful. The wines of the North can best be described as elegant and delicate. In contrast, the wines of the South are rustic and full of personality. Probably my favourite wines of Planet Earth.

This has been one of the great experiences of my life. Share it with me.

The Rhône valley produces a host of exciting wines under various Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) designations. The major appellation in production volume is Côtes du Rhône AOC.

The Rhône is usually divided into two sub-regions, each with its own vinicultural traditions. The Northern Rhône (Rhône septentrional) and the Southern Rhône (in French Rhône méridional). The northern region makes red wines from the Syrah variety, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region produces a large range of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of several grapes. The most famous  appellation is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Here are the links to the wonderful experiences of all seven days. Enjoy!


Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four and Day Four continued

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Thanks for experiencing it with me,

The Wine Baron

On the lookout for truly great red wines? Look into this one. Structure, balance, and very impressive

What do we have to do to get truly great wines?

I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m not impressed often enough with the red wines people bring to the house when I’m entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the gift, and even more thankful that they’ve come so I can enjoy their company. That means a lot to me. But let’s face it, there are a lot of just so-so wines out there, especially reds. Part of the reason is that it costs more for the winery to make a decent wine than many of us are willing to pay. We should up our budget a bit.

We should up our wine budget.

This is the single most effective way to acquire better wines. Buy less often if you have to, at least your purchase will be enjoyable.

That said, I don’t want to necessarily place the burden on my guests to buy more expensive wines. Not cool. But maybe I can drop a few hints on great wine regions, eh? Yeah, I think I’m on to something.

Go for Wine Regions that Deliver!

Ok, so now for a little list of lesser-chosen wine regions that generally produce truly great wines (with one or two varietal suggestions from each). Some of these come at a slight premium, but won’t break the bank:

  • Kremstal, Kamptal, Südsteiermark, Austria (grüner veltliner, riesling, sauvignon blanc)
  • Abruzzo, Italy (montepulciano d’abruzzo)
  • Southern Rhône, France (Côtes du Rhône Villages, usually with multiple varietals, including grenache)
  • Languedoc-Roussillon, France (just about any type, especially grenache based blends, but don’t get the cheapest)

And now here’s an example of a Côtes du Rhône Villages that a dear family member brought over during the holidays. A delightful wine that impressed me immensely.

Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages
Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages

Domaine Grande Bellane Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010

A blend of 30% grenache and 70% syrah, this wine speaks volumes to the palate. My first impression is that it has a gorgeous palate, with complexity and balance. Not too much of any particular flavour nuance, not too intense with tannins. Just right. The deep colour and aromatic bouquet lead to wonderful flavours of dark cherry, plum and subtle spice within an elegant, yet slightly rustic overall presentation. It pairs beautifully with red meat, game, and a wide variety of other foods.

2012 Carabella Pinot Noir, Oregon. Best PN I’ve had in years.

Oregon knows how to do Pinot Noir

Robust, earthy, great berry fruit. Outstanding wine. In Vintages from time to time.  I had this one with the rep and the product consultants at Bayview and Sheppard.


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