Kristen recently traveled with her new job to the Canadian Rockies area on the west side of Canada and carefully documented the wine trends and local grapes of the area.
First stop: Vancouver
Vancouver, the famous western city of the Canada, was a surprisingly clean city. Not much trash to be seen on the streets and city hosts a large Asian influence with noodle shops and tea leaf importers on nearly every corner. The skyscrapers sparkle in the glow of the snow covered mountains that surround the city, and the light from the sun that reflects off the bay. Our hotel, the Georgian Court, was a stunning modern hotel that – with its spa-like features – won the award for best public bathrooms. They keep a beautiful Italian restaurant on the grounds that includes a jazz lounge, wine dinner room, and a classic bar.
Their menu offered lots of fun wine cocktails, my favorite being The Rose Garden.
Its a mixture of elderflower liquor and black raspberry puree, topped with a sparkling rose wine. It was floral with a slight fruit finish that reminded me more of cranberry than black raspberry. It was not very sweet but instead felt like the alcoholic version of fruity green tea.
Second Stop: The overnight Via Rail train through the Rockies
If you have never experienced a Canadian train before, I highly recommend it! I will warn you that it is definitely NOT for anyone who hates small spaces. However, the train supports three lovely dome cars for viewing the scenery, and even serves a bottomless champagne toast as the train disembarks. The attendants poured the Angels Gate Brut VQA Beamsville Bench 2012 vintage which was 100% Archangel Chardonnay. The winery in located in the Niagara region of Canada. Niagara is home to many Canadian wineries, much like the Finger Lakes region in New York State. It was crisp and tasted of golden delicious apples with notes of citrus and peach. I highly recommend trying this vintage. The average price is around $29 per bottle.
The dining car also served some of Canada’s local grapes and local wineries. The first wine I tried was Union White: a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc from Ontario. It was the perfect match for my scallop and shrimp lunch. It bursted with citrus, white peach, and even a slight pineapple finish. It was bright and medium bodied with a slightly lingering finish.
The second was Konzelmann Estate Winery‘s Baco Noir also from Ontario. The Baco Noir grape is a native hybrid grape grown in parts of the USA and Ontario. I would say this wine was medium bodied and very fruit forward and slightly sweet. It reminded me of a less sweet version of blackberry wine. Rich and yet not very heavy on the taste buds. It will make a great pairing for Italian dishes!
Third stop: Jasper
This adorable mountain town feels like you finally made it to the north pole and Santa is busy working in the toy shop. Between the Christmas lights and wild elk constantly walking around the town, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic. The bitter cold was the perfect pairing for O’Sheas Irish Restaurant’s Mulled Wine special. The chef makes a fresh batch each morning and says it’s his grandmother’s recipe from Belgium.
It. Was. Incredible.
The balance of fruit, spice and sweet was unmatched by any mulled wine I’ve had before. The chef tops off each glass with warm pieces of citrus and it went perfectly with hot poutine and my buffalo burger. His recipe is a guarded secret but my guess is that a slightly sweeter red wine was used as a base with some brandy and fruit juices.
Later that night, the Downsteam bar had a cocktail list that seemed longer than the Bible. I could not decide between the local wines and great cocktails so I challenged the bartenders to make me a drink that had both. I was not disappointed. They created a red wine whiskey sour made with local wine, maple whiskey, and topped with a few drops of maple syrup. The foam on top tasted almost candy like while the drink itself was fruity with a toffee finish. It has a thicker body than most cocktails, and the whiskey helped make for a clean finish. I have no idea how the drink is made, but I think I have some experimenting to do.
Fourth stop: Banff
Banff feels like the trendy younger sister of Jasper. It is still surrounded by gorgeous mountains yet the town is much more alive with a wild night life and slightly more youthful crowd. It’s a skiers paradise with trendy shops, restaurants, and a mountain gondola that will take you up to the clouds! Here we dined at the Maple Leaf which is a 5 star restaurant. A trend I noticed in Canada is that wine by the glass is not very popular. Most restaurants sell their wines by the bottle and can have extensive selections. In all honesty, we tried many wines that night from dry reds to crisp whites. I highly recommend asking the waiter’s advice because they are trained on the latest wine specials of the restaurant and will help match the meal you order. Hands down the best spot for wine pairing!
Last Stop: Calgary airport
Our last destination was the Calgary International Airport. We arrived early for our 12 pm flight and with limited options ended up at a Chili’s. To my surprise, they had a whole mimosa menu to choose from. My personal favorite was the Chambord Mimosa. This cocktail is a scoop of Frozen Top Shelf Margarita, a splash of Chambord, orange juice, grenadine, topped off with Martini and Rossi Asti Prosecco. It tasted like a tropical ice cream soda aka what you wish your aunt’s sherbet party punch tasted like. It was bubbly, creamy, fruity, and ice cold. My favorite way to wake up!
My fellow winos if you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies please try the local delicacies and tell us what you think!!