Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sunny Toronto

Sure, it starts to get dark around 4:30 in the afternoon, but Toronto can be sunny in the winter as it was yesterday. Mind you, it was also 8 degrees below zero, so there's that. We had a rehearsal at the Royal Conservatory of Music, one of Canada's leading musical institutions. Here is a photo of the original building that has since been added on to with new construction on one side and at the back:

I also paid a little visit to the LCBO another uniquely Canadian institution. Canada, traditionally, was a bit conflicted about sinful things like alcohol, so in most provinces, sales of alcoholic beverages are tightly controlled by the government. LCBO stands for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The Quebec equivalent is the SAQ, the Societe des Alcools de Quebec (sorry, no accents on this keyboard), and in British Columbia it is the BCLDB, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. These shameful products are usually sold out of dull, generic government buildings. On the other hand, provinces like Ontario and BC are more and more producing fine wines and are justifiably proud of them.

I ran into another wine aficionado just before coming to Toronto which reminded me of my interest in ice wines. Ice wine (Eiswien in German) was invented in Germany, by wineries in the Moselle valley. Sometimes, if you let your grapes fully ripen in late fall, which gives you those luscious late-harvest wines, you get caught by an early frost which ruins the grapes by the time they thaw out. But sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century vintners started to crush the grapes when they were still frozen which gives a highly concentrated juice as the water is taken out in the form of ice crystals. The result is a sweet, completely natural wine, balanced by good acidity. Other sweet wines, like Sauternes, are created by a fungus, referred to as "noble rot" that causes the skin of the grapes to degrade and some of the water to evaporate, again resulting in a more concentrated juice.

The two main nations that produce ice wine are Germany and recently, Canada. So I dropped by the LCBO and picked up a couple of bottles of ice wine to take back to Mexico with me. Very little of this wine is exported and, as far as I know, none to Mexico! I also picked up what I hope will be a good Barolo to go with the Christmas turkey:

Ice wine is traditionally made with the Riesling grape, but in Canada is often made with the little-known Vidal blanc grape:
Vidal blanc (or simply Vidal) is a white hybrid grape variety produced from the Vitis vinifera variety Ugni blanc (also known as Trebbiano Toscano) and another hybrid variety, Rayon d'Or (Seibel 4986). It is a very winter-hardy variety that manages to produce high sugar levels in cold climates with moderate to high acidity.
Ice wine is not cheap as the whole crop has to be picked all at once, often in the pre-dawn so the grapes are still frozen when they are crushed. Save it for a special occasion!


Will Wilkin said...

Is that "minus eight" Fahrenheit or Celsius? Regarding ice wine, I never heard of it and as I'm about to out now and buy some wine to drink as I paint my Christmas cards, I will look for an ice wine --though my original plan was probably a lot cheaper, ie, a 1.5L Italian red for around $13. Since I adopted a wellness lifestyle a few years ago, I've been pretty much on a wine-and-cheese-Paleo (haha! get it?) diet. I still have 2 vices (from the very-low-carb perspective): fruit and alcohol (both metabolized by the liver). But even in booze I've sought what I hope is the healthiest path, and that led me to Oxley gin, an English brand that uses cold distillation to freeze out the water rather than heat distillation to vaporize the alcohol. I'm hoping the lack of heat is a way to conserve whatever phytonutrients might be in the botanicals.

Bryan Townsend said...

Will, that is a very well thought-out rationalization for drinking gin! About the best I have heard.

Ice wine is a Canadian specialty and it is rarely exported. It is wine made from grapes that were crushed when they were frozen. Rather expensive, but quite special. It is a sweet dessert wine, all natural, and the sweetness is balanced by good acidity. If you see some, give it a whirl!

Bryan Townsend said...

In Canada they use Celsius.

Will Wilkin said...

I set my car thermometer to celsius so I am getting used to a real-world feel of what those numbers feel like. I admit the metric system is infinitely more rational than measuring by the king's foot and gulps of the dram...but since I don't like anything new, I voted for Trump assuming he would eliminate the metric system. Alack! It seems in politics I am always doomed to disappointment. Please just give us back our king so we can get back to making music! To my friends in Britain, I apologize for the American Revolution.

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh, heh, heh! The metric system in Canada came along when I was in my teens. I quickly adopted the more rational temperature scale, but never did adapt to my height in meters. I will always be 5'11 in my mind. I'm pretty much ambivalent about miles or kilometers, and I'm fine with measuring things in grams and kilos. In music. of course, we are still going by Hertz (vibrations per second) and MM (beats per minute).