Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Sweet Treat for Summer: Canadian Icewine!

Canadian Icewines, often described as “liquid gold” are a treat that all of us should experience at least once in our lifetimes. 
The first question that comes to mind when talking about Canadian wine is: How? How is viticulture even viable here, so north in latitude to ripen grapes?
Indeed, all four wine appellations that make wines in Canada: Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia, enjoy very cool climates, described as continental-maritime. This entails a short growing season with less than the minimum 1500 sun hours required to achieve ripeness and a spring frost proneness enough to discourage anyone.  This was why historically, vine growers planted and experimented only with hybrid crosses, such as Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Marechal Foch, deemed better suited to withstand these harsh conditions than traditional vitis vinifera varieties. It was not until the 1980s that growers began uprooting some of these hybrids and began replacing them with vinifera plantings of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc. 
But to answer the question I posted at the beginning, viticulture is only possible here, mostly due to the proximity to large bodies of water, the Ontario and Erie lakes, that naturally moderate temperature in the vineyards and reflect their much needed sunlight. Besides we are talking about icewine production here, a style of wine made from frozen grapes. But, how does this magic happen? 
Icewine is a luscious, dessert wine crafted from naturally frozen grapes, purposely left to mature on the vines, until temperatures drop sufficiently to at least 17.6º F or -8º C. This usually occurs between the months of December and late February. Once frozen, these super sweet grapes are harvested by hand and pressed immediately, usually on crushers located outside the wineries. Here the juice is separated from the ice, yielding a concentrated nectar. Fermentation can take up to 6 months, due to the high sugar content in the must, which is measured in brix. All Canadian icewines must contain a minimum of 38 brix + of sugar by law. Such amounts will, for sure, slow down the fermentation process, with yeasts dying before consuming all of it, leaving plenty of residual sugar behind. The resulting wine is sweet, light, low in alcohol, with high acidity, featuring delightful aromas, reminiscent of Sauternes or German TBAs, with notes of peach, apricot, pineapple, lychee and quince. Some grapes may or may not be affected by Botrytis Cinerea or noble rot, adding complex notes of lanolin and honey to the wine's profile.  
Similar to what happens in Europe, Canada’s VQA system regulates all aspects of viticulture and winemaking, including the grapes allowed in each appellation, the minimum weight limits and the minimum brix on the grapes. No sweet reserve is allowed in icewine production and wines must have a minimum of 125 gr/lit of residual sugar in them, though 138 gr is typical.
The favorite grape used to make icewine is Vidal Blanc, but wonderful samples also come from Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon. 
Wondering about what to pair with these seductive wines? Foie gras and blue cheeses offer a delightful savory-sweet contrast, but also spicy cuisines like Thai or Indian can complement icewines beautifully. Additionally, they pair exquisitely with sweet desserts such as fruit tarts, crème brûlée, panna cotta, cheesecake or simply they could be served on their own as a luxurious finale to any meal.
Beyond icewines, Canada produces many other delicious wines including late harvest, sparkling, and dry wines from both vinifera and hybrid varieties. Ontario stands as the most significant of the four Canadian appellations, producing 75% of all wines. It boasts a rich winemaking history, with vineyards established as early as the 1860s on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
My recommendations: I had the pleasure of attending my first Canadian wine tasting in late March, these are just some of my favorite wines tasted while there:
Inniskillin Gold Vidal Icewine 2021 $70
Enticing, with plenty of layers of dried apricot, orange marmalade and ripe mango. Lip smacking acidity balances its delicious sweetness. 

Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2022 $93
Truly fabulous, showing elegant notes of red fresh fruit that includes raspberry, red cherries and strawberries.  Very expressive with lively acidity and a long spicy finish.

Reif Estate Grand Reserve Vidal 2019 $90
Decadent, displays succulent apricot marmalade, white peach and honey notes. Unctuous, yet vibrant with acidity.
Stratus Riesling Icewine 2022 $77
Packed with delicious minerality, offering caramelized pineapple, citrus and quince preserve notes. Its cleansing acidity balances the generous finish.

Malivoire Icewine Gewurztraminer 2019 $65
Creamy and rich, it offers rose, lychee and spicy ginger notes. Intensely long and mouth filling, this was my favorite of the whole tasting! What can I say, I’m a Gewurz fan in any shape or form!

Pillitteri Family Reserve Riesling Icewine 2019 $45
Rich and lavish displaying candied lemon peel, ripe pineapple and apricot preserves notes. Seamlessly balanced with piercing minerality and a viscous, multilayered texture.
Pillitteri Market Collection Vidal Icewine 2021 $45
Palate teasing, this beautiful icewine features crème brûlée, orange rind preserves and honey blossom notes. Refreshing acidity complements its creamy richness.
So what do you say? Isn't it time to drink some sweet Canadian Icewine? Give them a try and let me know what you think. Cheers! Silvina.
#thoughtsoflawina #Canadianwines #Canadianicewines #Canada #Drinkupamerica #WineWednesday.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Thoughts from Rome!

I guess I’m officially a late bloomer, it took me years before I had the chance to visit many European cities that most people usually visit in their twenties. Mostly, because I chose to spend most of my younger years on vacations at the beach either in the US or at the Caribbean, and didn’t start my so-called cultural yearly trips until recently. 

Nowadays, It is so exciting for me to pick a different major European city for my vacation and explore it fully. It usually takes me 7 days to visit all the museums and main attractions, to try its traditional foods, and to live life like the locals do as much as possible.


This year, it was my turn to visit Rome. The trip was truly incredible, though I found a few things I didn’t really like. For starters I knew it was going to be hot and this is why I opted not to travel in the middle of summer, hoping that my mid May dates were going to be better. Well not really,  temperatures climbed to 30º Celsius most days and it was also very humid too. And then the crowds, my goodness! I started believing nobody worked anymore; there were too many people everywhere, long lines and bumping into others were annoying as I like to move quickly at my own pace, to most places.  

Other than that, I had so many great experiences to share with you, starting with Italian food, which is and was truly exceptional in Rome. Not only because of the quality of the ingredients, but also some dishes were truly addictive, like their delicious al dente pasta (Carbonara, Amatriciana or Cacio e Pepe are a must-try of any visit), their endless pizza combinations served in squares (al Taglio), my favorite was one with radicchio on top, a combination I’ve never seen somewhere else. The fried Suppli balls (rice balls filled with meat, cheese and tomato sauce, usually served as appetizers), the Maritozzi with panna (brioche filled with sweet cream) a sweet powerbomb. The artisanal Gelatos, also served with cream on top as the locals do, and of course the delicious fried Artichokes (known in Rome as Carciofi alla Giudia), enjoyed al fresco with a glass of Prosecco. Food and coffee were truly astounding in Rome, but I also think they tasted better because of the way Romans are and live, enjoying “La Dolce Vita”, an expression they use for chilling and relaxing, in other words enjoying the good sweet life. 

Rome is so incredible, and there was so much to see; it’s truly an open museum. From the Roman ruins you will keep bumping into all around the city (Roman Forum, Largo di Torre Argentina, Marcellus Theater, Colosseum, Pantheon, etc), to their very artistic fountains (Trevi, especially, but also Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), its many piazzas (Navona, Pincio, Popolo and Spanish Steps) and many Obelisks spread all around the city, as well as their hundreds of churches with their wonderful domes, the list of things to see is endless. 

Yet to truly enjoy it all, I have a couple of recommendations for those planning a trip to Rome in the near future. The first thing will be to book your tickets to the main attractions in advance, before they sell out, so you don’t end up paying double or triple their cost to purchase them via re-vendors. Unfortunately this happened to me, I ended up paying more than the usual price to secure a ticket on my days there. Whenever possible, pay for a guided tour with skip-the-line option (I know these are expensive, but so worthy), especially for places such as the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum and the Borghese Gardens and Gallery (a truly baroque paradise). 

Know where you want to go and what you want to see. Every year once I decide my vacation destination, I start planning my trip, by watching videos on YouTube and start listing the places I am going to visit, and adding them on my Google Maps. This way I know where everything is, what is close by, including attractions and restaurants. I found that the Rome Vlog Romewise did the trick for me, to help me familiarize myself with Rome before I arrived.

Another must: always, bring comfortable shoes. Rome's streets are made of cobblestone and you will need a good pair of sneakers to support your feet, considering you will most likely spend 4 to 5 hours daily just walking, if not more. And though Rome has a subway system, subway stops sometimes are a 15-minutes walk away from most attractions, so be ready to walk everywhere. Think of this as a good way to burn the extra calories from all those Cornetto (croissants) you will have for breakfast.  

If you can’t pay for guides, download apps such as Rick Steves’ (free at Google play), he has audio tours for most of the attractions in Rome, including tours of the Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman forums. I actually did the last three, following his instructions and it worked wonderfully for me.  But you know, some museums are so big, it is almost impossible to see everything in one day, so paying for a guide to point you to the essential masterpieces helps, not only by saving you time, but also preventing you from missing the basics of your visit (like the bust that inspired Michelangelo to do his last judgment painting in the Sistine Chapel for example). 

Though tickets are needed for most things, there are plenty of things that are free, like all of the art inside Roman churches. I (a Jew) spent a day visiting most of them, to discover the wonderful sculptures of Bernini and Michelangelo and the paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael. Even access to the biggest church in the world, St Peter’s Basilica, is free, though prepare yourself for long lines.  I also took pictures of the many church ceilings, some of which have incredible baroque designs and paintings.

But what I truly enjoyed the most, was visiting the ruins, and old attractions such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum only a few blocks from my Airbnb. I was lucky enough to book my studio in the neighborhood of Monti, which was very well situated. Imagine my surprise on my first day, when I went for a walk around and saw the Colosseum only three blocks away. Visiting the Pantheon was also something else, these days is not free anymore, though you can book your entry ticket, that will cost you 5 Euros online, or at the machine outside.  I must confess, I couldn’t help and rested my hands on its over 2,000-year old columns. It was as if part of me wished these walls could talk about all the history they have witnessed.

Towards the end, I found myself fully knowing how to move through the metro system like a local, and I even stopped looking at Citymapper for a while, allowing myself to get lost in the many charming Roman streets, following only my intuition to guide me through. Of course, I also enjoyed crossing bridges to check what was on the other side, something I normally do when visiting other cities, such as Paris or London. This time, I crossed the Tiber river to Trastevere, a fun and vibrant neighborhood full of hip bars and restaurants. Now, looking at my pictures again, feels like transporting myself to Rome’s charming streets, to its history and art, allowing me to savor every moment I spent while there.

Though I was in Italy, a country with many wonderful wines, I found myself drinking what the locals drank after a long day of sightseeing. I discovered the Aperol Spritz, an orange based concoction made with Aperol, Prosecco, ice and orange slices. So delicious and refreshing, I enjoyed it with a bruschetta, as the best way to wrap up my long day adventures.

Here’s my favorite Aperol recipe, so that you can enjoy this cocktail this summer, just mix these together and enjoy!


4 oz. of a good quality Prosecco 

2 oz. Aperol

1- 2 ounces of Club soda

orange slices and ice


I guess, with so much beauty in the world to be discovered, all we have to do is just open our eyes and see it. Cheers! Silvina

#Rome #aperolspritz #thoughtsoflawina #romanvacation #dolcevita