Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Day with Trius Wines Part 1: All About the Wine

Even covered in snow it's still beautiful
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited out to the Hillebrand Estate to spend the day learning about Trius Wines along side Winemaker Craig McDonald as well as eat some delicious local food from Chef Frank Dodd.  When I first received the invitation which came via messenger with a gorgeous Trius box filled with an empty 1.5L bottle.  I have to admit I felt quite fancy to receive such an invite.  When I learned that the invite was to learn about the Art of the Blend and blend our own wine AND that the event was taking place on my father's birthday I knew I had to ask if there was any way I could bring him along.  Lucky for me Melissa, my contact with Trius' PR company, was more than happy to accommodate.  And Dad was so excited at the prospect of the day that he did all he could to make sure he got up to Toronto for the day.

Friday morning rolled around and we waited excitedly, unsure what the day would hold.  My dad is a planner so he must have asked me 4 times if I had an itinerary for the day or knew anything about what was going on.  It never occurred to me to ask because I knew there'd be food and wine and they were picking us up so no need to worry about driving, for me that's all I needed to know.  Plus it made for a better birthday surprise for him. 

At 11:30 am on the dot there was a knock at the door that I answered to find the driver of a black stretch limo, surely it must have been the wrong house?!  But no, it was there for me and Dad.  How fancy!?  The last time I was in a stretch was for my wedding and prior to that I can't tell you when. Not a shabby way to ride down to wine country!  In the limo already was Sarah of Sommelier Scribbler.  Before even knowing she was a sommelier, Dad got talking.  You see, even though he lives in Boston, he loves the Niagara region and comes up here twice a year to buy wine.  It just worked out perfectly that this trip was just in line with need for a few bottles.  

As Dad and Sarah talked about all the different Ontario Wines and different vineyards I have to admit I felt a bit out of my element.  Do I like wine?  Absolutely!  Drink and cook with it? Absolutely! But I don't pretend to be well-versed in the nuances of wine and how to pair them.  I'm a know-what-I-like kind of girl and I love trying new wines, but that's kinda where it ends.  Finally after over 2 years in Toronto I am really getting into what the region has to offer in terms of wines and was so excited to learn more today. 

We picked up two more limo-mates, Monika from SO, Trius' PR agency and Danielle from and then we were off.  We were the first car to pull up to the Hillebrand Estate and while the vines were bare and the fields were covered with a fresh dusting of snow it was still beautiful.  I can only imagine what it looks like in the summer.  We were led down a ramp to into the sparkling wine cellar that was itself sparkling from all of the candlelight and glass.  There was a large table with the early platings of what we would soon eat and a few high top cocktail tables.  We all eagerly clutched our Trius boxes and empty bottles which we were asked to bring to hold our blends, as we waited for the second limo to arrive.

Stored sparkling bottles (upper left); Trius Brut on ice (upper right);
glass of Trius But Rose (lower left); candlelit cocktail table (lower right)
Michelle Brisebois, the Hillebrand Estate Manager, kindly collected out bottles as glasses of Trius Brut were served.  I am a huge fan of anything that sparkles, wine or otherwise, and this was the perfect way to start off the afternoon for me!  I had never had Trius Brut before and I have to say I loved it and am fairly certain it will be my go to sparkling wine moving forward.  Light and dry with the fresh taste of citrus, I was in heaven.  The other limo arrived carrying 6 more writer/bloggers and then we got into the nitty gritty of the day.  I say that like it was alot of hard work, when in fact it was the exact opposite. 

We were welcomed to the winery by Michelle and were introduced to Chef Frank Dodd and Winemaker Craig McDonald.  Our first course of food was served and paired beautifully with the Trius Brut Rose.  The scent was infused with strawberry and I got fresh green apple on my first sip.  Another dry sparkler that I'm sure will also be added to the collection of sparkling that's now growing in my basement.

Pouring the Raw Pinot Grigio

After a bit of sustenance we were able to try two new wines fresh from the barrel.  I'm fairly certain my father was in heaven here.  Since he loves the white and roses from the region and that's what we were trying.  Because they were fresh from the barrel and they were still a bit young Craig even referred to the Pinot Grigio we tried as raw. It was the first time I've ever heard that classification with wine.  The Pinot Grigio

Craig talking about the new Rose (upper left); glass of raw Pinot Grigio (upper right)
glass of Rose (lower left); the aftermath of our tasting and the gorge table (lower right)

The next one we tried was Trius first foray into a Rose and I have to say it's a pretty wonderful first try.  Even at this early stage I found it incredibly drinkable and as a red-wine drinker I turn to Roses alot in the warmer months as a nice bridge between red and white.  This one was so dry and fresh and may even beat out the Pinot Grigio for my pick to drink on the patio.  The rose is a blend of Merlot & Shiraz and Craig, and Aussie, joked that the Shiraz was his way of putting an Aussie stamp on the wine.  Well it worked and added a ever-so-slight peppery finish to it.  Also retailing around $14 it will be another fab summer wine.  While he didn't say it I'm pretty sure Dad will be back up in the late spring to pick up a couple cases of these beauties.

Dad chatting wine, one of his favorite things ever

We then went up to the kitchen, a gorgeous kitchen, my dream kitchen.  While I'd love to wax on about the kitchen and the incredible morsels that came out of it, this post is all about the wine and the wine sure deserves it's own post.  There were glasses and plates all set up for us.  Each place setting had 2 glasses and two different white wines.  We were challenged to guess what they each were.  I take no credit for even attempting this one.  Sarah got the Chardonnay right off the top.  It was The 'Barrel Fermented' Chardonnay 2009 and while a bit oaky, something neither Dad nor I are fans of, it was far from overwhelming. From the oaky under-tones to the buttery mouth-feel I really liked it and was pretty shocked at how much my father did too.   The second was the Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which was rich in the tropical fruit smell and according to Craig a result that, while common in traditional Sauvignon Blanc's, is new to those grown in Niagara.  It's through playing with the viticulture and really letting the sun get to the grapes as it does in other parts of the world that allows Niagara winemakers to achieve this tropical nose and citrus flavor, which is exactly what I love about traditional Sauvignon Blancs.

glasses of "Barrel Fermented" Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc

a tease of some of the tasty bites

Next it was down to the barrel cellar for Trius' "Art of the Blend." This was the part that I knew would absolutely be up my father's alley.  It was why I asked to bring him.  He even had all kinds of tasting notes from Trius wines he printed off the web, he had done his homework more than anyone else.

The candlelit barrel cellar (upper left); Wine Library (upper right)
Prosciutto curing above the wine library (lower left); Wines to build our blends (lower right)

We were divided into teams of 4 and given three reds (for Trius of course) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc and tasked with creating a blend that not only tasted great, but paired well with the tray of chocolate covered cherries we were given.  My team was comprised of Dad, Daniella (one of our limo mates) and Melissa from SO.  Now of all the teams we likely had the least amount of true wine knowledge, so we relied on Dad for that, a bit on me for help with pairing and basically our own taste buds and what we liked.  We started off by tasting each wine, with Dad & I preferring the Cabernet Sauvignon and Daniella and Melissa preferring the Merlot.  We the started playing around the with percentages of each, going heavy on the Cabernet Sauvignon first, but then realize that the Merlot paired best with the chocolate.  After a few more blends,and taking a bit more time than was allotted) since Dad suggested we compare out two favorites, we settled on our blend.  We named it the 409, since that was the time we decided on it.  Hey we knew we were the underdogs here.

Getting ready to fill our bottles with the 409 (upper left); Our final blend notes (upper right)
Corking our filled bottles (lower left); The 409 bottled, with a glass set aside for judging (lower right)

Then came the contest part of the day.  Our Art of the Blend leader and Craig tried each blend and chose a winner.  We did not take home the prize, BUT were extremely happy with our blend.  Even after trying the winning blend SeducTRIUS, which our Sommelier friend Sarah was on, the deck was totally stacked there :),  which was very nice, we all agreed that our personal preference was ours and to me that's what matters.  When it comes to wine you have to go with what you like.

The SeducTRIUS winners.  Congrats!

After a quick stop at the store for, you guessed it, a bit more tasting and some Brut for the ride back to the city we tumbled back into our limos and headed home.  All in all it was a fabulous day.  The wines were excellent, the hospitality top-notch and wait until you hear about the food!  I can't wait to return to the estate with the Boy to show him how wonderful it is down in our very own wine country.

One last shot of Dad & I on our perfect day
Make sure to check out the Hillebrand website for more info on coming events and Like Trius Wines on Facebook for info on Trius specific events.  I highly recommend taking the time to do the Art of the Blend experience or anything else they have planned since I am certain it will be as wonderful.  They gave my father a top-notch birthday, which is not an easy thing to do!


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