Congratulations to the Ontario wine industry for celebrating 25 years of Cuvée. For the last quarter century, at the end of February/beginning of March, a very special weekend celebration takes place in Niagara wine country. It’s called Cuvée. This year it ran from March 1 to 3.
The festivities kicked off with a Grand Tasting Gala on Friday evening at the Fallsview Casino & Resort in Niagara Falls. Here many wineries (over 40 this year) were set up around a ballroom pouring some of their wines. Each winery was asked to provide a singular wine in the style that is used at prominent wine events around the world. In other words, one of their best products! Many of the winemakers were on hand to answer questions about their creations.
To accompany the wines, many top local chefs, at individual live cooking stations set up amidst the winery booths, created culinary offerings to accompany the wines. Chefs present this year included Ray Taylor, Fallsview Casino Resort; Chris Smythe, Escabèche at Prince of Wales Hotel; Frank Romano and Don Dyson, Inn on the Twenty; Stephen Treadwell, Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine; Tim Mackiddie, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate; Jason Dobbie, Zees Grill at Shaw Club Hotel; Giovanni Del Priore and Leonardo Priore, Criveller Cakes; Manager Bruce Worden C.C.C. with Dan LeBlanc, Sam Seaver and Professor Philippe Corbiere, Benchmark Restaurant at The Canadian Food and Wine Institute.
Later in the evening, ‘Après Cuvée’ took place with live music and dancing. More wining and dining continued. It was a spectacular event where the Ontario wine community (producers, retailers, restaurateurs, journalists and consumers) came together to celebrate the vinous treasures and gastronomic bounty of Ontario.
Earlier in the evening at the gala certain awards were presented. The Cuvée Award of Excellence in Viticulture, sponsored by BASF Canada Inc., this year was given to David Beyers, Vineyard Manager at Ravine Vineyards Estate Winery. Terrance Van Rooyen, Professor at Niagara College Teaching Winery was recognized with the Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence for honing the skills of future cool climate winemakers for Canada and the world. (The VQA Promoters’ Awards from Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) are also announced and presented at the university on Saturday morning at a special Experts Tasting for industry folks. This award acknowledges those who have helped PR Ontario wines throughout the past year. This year’s recipients were: from the LCBO, Charles Ronzio, from Waterloo; from the Hospitality industry, James Muir, Wine Manager, CN Tower 360 Restaurant; from the Media, Rick VanSickle, Wines of Niagara; and the Promoter-at-Large, Harald Thiel, Chair of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration and Proprietor, Hidden Bench Vineyard.
Throughout the rest of the weekend (Saturday and Sunday), there were all kinds of special events, tastings and culinary opportunities taking place at individual wineries. This was called ‘Cuvée en Route’. Consumers could purchase a weekend passport ($30 per person available at participating wineries) and travel around to the different wineries partaking of these events. Passport holders also had the opportunity to purchase the special winemaker selections unveiled at Friday’s Cuvée Grand Tasting Gala. Details are at www.cuvee.ca.
Perhaps best of all, proceeds from the Cuvée Wine Weekend go to the Niagara Community Foundation. Established in 2000, the Niagara Community Foundation has raised almost $20 million and granted over $4.8 million from its endowment fund created to support local charities working in the arts, heritage, environment, social services, health, education and community development.
I was at the very first Cuvée back in 1989 and attended many over the years. I even filmed an episode of my past TV show, Vine and Dine, at one. The venue has changed over time, but the concept has remained intact. Inspired by some of the world’s most prestigious wine events, Cuvée celebrates the best of Ontario wine and cuisine, and is not to be missed. It’s never too early to mark your calendar for next year’s edition. Tentative dates: Feb. 28 to March 2, 2014.
Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge & consultant