The annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo made its way to the Metro Convention Centre again this month and provided me with two days of enjoyable exploration -- even more than my inaugural visit last year.
I pretty much leave the food to the foodies at these events and focus on beers, liquors and primarily white and sparkling wines that I haven't tried before.
Much to my delight, there were a lot more beers at this year's expo than there was last year. Here's an overview:
Mill Street Doppel Pils
With a seven-per cent alcohol content, this is the strongest Czech-style pilsner in the Canadian market. It's gold in colour, reasonably crisp in taste and is quite decent.
Mill Street Paradise IPA
This one is even stronger at 7.2 per cent and has a floral aroma and a medium hoppiness that makes it quite drinkable.
Nickel Brook Le Paysan Saison
This has a nice bouquet and offers a hint of orange and pineapple mid-taste, a bit of spiciness afterward and a nice finish. It's 5.7 per cent and is a very good, almost elegant, brew made with Amarillo hops that add just the right amount of bite.
Nickel Brook Pumpkin Ale
This is a dark orange/amber-coloured beer, as you'd expect, but doesn't provide much pumpkin bouquet or flavour. The 5.7-per cent brew doesn't have any spiciness or cinnamon either and I found it lacking.
Nickel Brook Bertwell AT Shilling
I don't normally drink a lot of Scotch ales, but enjoyed this wet-hopped version that was made as a single batch experiment. There's a slight citrus element to it and a subtle sweetness that would make the dark amber, five-per cent brew a nice dessert beer. It's made from hops only available in Ontario, so it's recommended for locavores.
Nickel Brook Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout
This black, 8.5-per cent, 65-IBU stout is aged in bourbon and pinot noir barrels and the roasted malt bears traces of chocolate and coffee flavours. I'd recommend this as a good bedtime beer.
Beau's And Boom Gose The Dynamite
This excellent unfiltered beer is brewed with sea salt and coriander that gives it an interesting sweet and sour appeal. There's a strong citrus bouquet and grapefruit taste in this straw-coloured, 4.6-per cent beer.
Beau's Dark Helmut
This 7.3-per cent German black lager has the definite roasted coffee and chocolate elements of a stout along with the crispness of a lager. It's a combination that works well.
Spearhead Moroccan Brown Ale
This has a mildly fruity bouquet and is brewed with dates, figs, raisins and cinnamon. It's unfiltered and offers a nice blend of hops and fruit. I'm usually not a big brown ale guy, but this six-per cent brew is really good.
Spearhead Belgian Stout
This unfiltered, six-per cent stout is brewed with Demerara sugar, orange curacao peel, coriander and Trappist ale yeast, and its flavour offers a mix of coffee and fruit.
Creemore Mad and Noisy
This is dark copper in colour and pours with a nice head. It's solidly hoppy and I like it.
Granville Island Hefeweizen
There's coriander in the ingredients and the flavour profile is banana and cloves. It has five-per cent alcohol and is one of my favourite Granville Island beers.
Granville Island Winter Ale
This dark amber, 5.5-per cent beer has a vanilla aroma and chocolate and vanilla flavours that complement each other well. It's very good.
Lake of Bays Crosswind Pale Ale
There's a bit of hoppiness in this ale, which has mild pear and apple elements. This five-per cent beer is solid but not exceptional.
Rickard's Oakhouse Winter Lager
This 5.5-per cent, oak-aged beer came out this month and will be available until the spring. The oak comes through and adds a hint of smokiness and vanilla, but I wasn't particularly impressed.
Railway City Black Coal Stout
This six-per cent offering pours black with a nice head and is on the bitter side of stouts, but is okay.
Railway City Honey Elixir
This St. Thomas, Ont. brewery (which is moving into a larger space) makes this 5.5-per cent lager with local honey, but it's not too sweet like I find some honey beers.
Wine was in the title of this show, so of course I had to enjoy my share. This isn't all of them, but a cross-section:
Anselmi San Vincenzo 2011
You can't drink a fresher white wine, as the process used to make it ensures that oxygen only gets into it once you uncap it. This extra dry white will appeal to Soave fans, and the well-bodied 12.7-per cent alcohol wine offers a vague pineapple bouquet. It sells for $14.95 at the LCBO.
This extra dry, pale-coloured Argentinian riesling has peach and pear aromas, and the pear also comes through in the flavour of this nice 13.5-per cent product that retails for $10.95 at the LCBO.
Santa Margherita Prosecco
This sparkling wine is dry and not too sweet. It has 11.5 per cent alcohol and sells for $17.95 at the LCBO. It's okay, but nothing exceptional.
Cave Spring Riesling Dry
There's a slight sweetness to the finish of this very good VQA wine. It's pale yellow with hints of grapefruit and pineapple on the nose. It has 11.5-per cent alcohol and retails for $14.95 at the LCBO.
Open Sociable Sparkling VQA
There are apple and citrus aromas and a touch of sweetness to the flavour, which bears traces of apple and pear. It's refreshingly off-dry and has 12.7-per cent alcohol. This Ontario wine sells for $13.95 at the LCBO.
Muscedere 2011 Riesling
This is only available for $16 at the winery, near the southern tip of Canada just west of Leamington, Ont. It's a light-bodied, semi-dry white that wasn't particularly exciting.
Muscedere 2011 Rose
This light-bodied, off-dry wine is slightly sweeter than the Riesling and sells for $14 at the winery.
This 11.5-per cent wine comes from a Rheinhessen, Germany winery that doesn't have its products available in Canada yet, which is a shame because it has a full body and a citrus flavour with a nice finish.
Dreissigacker Bechtheimer Riesling
This is supposed to be a step up from the previous wine, and while it has 0.5-per cent more alcohol and a mellower character, I prefer the entry level version.
Yalumba Y Series Riesling
This pale straw-coloured, extra dry wine comes from Australia's oldest family-owned vineyard and is light-bodied with a grapefruit bouquet and flavour. It has a higher acidity and 11 per cent alcohol. It retails for $15.10 at the LCBO.
This medium-sweet product from an 18-month-old Niagara on the Lake, Ont. winery has a lemon aroma and a flavour that bears notes of apple, which adds a crispness to its finish. It sells for $18 at the winery.
Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc VQA
This Niagara region winery makes my favourite Ontario riesling, which I prefer over this light, crisp and extra dry wine that has 12.5 per cent alcohol and retails for $14.95 at the LCBO.
Trumpour's Mill 2009 Semi-Dry Riesling
The name describes an aspect of this wine, which has a combination floral and citrus bouquet and some peach in its flavour before a clean finish. The LCBO sells it for $14.95.
Pelee Island Moscato
This fruity, medium dry Ontario wine is pale pink and medium-bodied with notes of melon and citrus. It has 12 per cent alcohol and retails for $9.95 at the LCBO.
Muskoka Lakes Georgian Bay Rose QC
This seasonal Ontario wine is made with apples and cranberries and is quite refeshing. It has 12.5 per cent alcohol and sells for $16.95 at the LCBO.
Muskoka Lakes Cranberry Blueberry Wine
This is a very good, 11-per cent alcohol, off-dry table wine that's nicely balanced with the two titular fruits. It also goes for $16.95 at the LCBO.
Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde
This light and crisp wine is pale yellow with pear, apple and citrus aromas and flavours. It's easy on your head and your wallet with 8.5 per cent alcohol and an $8.95 price tag.
I also tried several liquors and liqueurs, including:
This tequila has been in Canada for seven months and is made with 100-per cent agave that comes from the highest elevation of any tequila in the world. It's sweet and slightly citrus and is an easy-drinking, 36-per cent tequila that sells for $49.95 at the LCBO.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This bourbon is made from corn, rye and barley malt and is aged eight years in oak barrels. There's vanilla in the nose and it has a complex but pleasing flavour that includes vanilla and toffee.
Crazy Uncle Blood Orange Rosemary Maple Punch
This is new to the LCBO, where you can purchase a litre-sized jug for $17.95. It's all natural, 14-per cent alcohol and reminds me of a mulled wine.
Mathilde Pear Liqueur
I was told that this is a big favourite of Kim Kardashian. It has 18 per cent alcohol content, but smells stronger than that. Luckily, the taste is milder and on the sweet side. It's made from French pears with no additives or preservatives.
Xante Pear & Cognac Liqueur
There's a subtle hint of vanilla and oak in this more rich offering, which is 17 per cent alcohol and has a bright harvest yellow colour.
This is an interesting combination of strawberry cream liqueur and tequila that's sweet and tasty and would make a nice addition to desserts or sipped on its own over ice.
Tag No. 5 Vodka
This 40-per cent alcohol, gluten-free vodka is made with corn in Oakville, Ont. It's distilled four times and filtered five times to produce a smooth flavour that I enjoyed both on its own and mixed with pineapple juice.