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Kathleen Wynne says yes to selling wine at farmers’ markets

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

The will-they-won’t-they storyline between the LCBO and Ontario corner stores has been alternately intriguing and infuriating Ontarians for over 25 years (counting from former Liberal premier David Peterson’s hope-stirring election promise in 1985). The province is right on schedule for a new but contrived-seeming half-measure to make it look as though the concept is progressing, but will probably just send it spinning off into political oblivion for another five years. Enter Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, who yesterday announced a new plan for extra-LCBO booze sales—not at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Mac’s, but at far less convenient farmers’ markets.

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Have cocktail, will travel: three popular bartenders-for-hire who are ready to shake and deliver

Have Cocktail, Will Travel: three popular bartenders-for-hire who are ready to shake and deliver

(Images: Luis Mora)

Any good holiday party shares a few key components: a killer playlist, an energetic crowd and, of course, a festive beverage or two. Instead of plying your friends with mulled wine or store-bought nog, we recommend hiring a pro. Your guests will be impressed, and you’ll have time to enjoy the party instead of worrying about the status of everyone’s glass. Here, three stellar Toronto mixologists who will bring the bar to you.


Adam Graham, The Saint TavernAdam Graham,
The Saint Tavern

His drink menu spans classic aperitifs to fizzy cocktails to end-of-the-night Chartreuse hot chocolate. $500 a night, plus supplies. adam@thesainttavern.com.

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Introducing: The Dock Ellis, an unusually hip sports bar on Dundas West from the owner of The Emmet Ray

toronto-restaurant-the-dock-ellis-11-intro

Name: The Dock Ellis
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Contact Info: 1280 Dundas St. W., 416-531-2300, facebook.com
Owners: Alain Pitout, Callum Woods and Andrew Kaiser, the owner of the The Emmet Ray on College Street
Chef: Trish Gill, formerly the sous-chef at Beast on Tecumseth

The Food: Cheap, inventive bar snacks. A basket of nachos subs house-fried wontons and braised beef for typical chips and chili, and jumbo chicken wings are spiced with fruity scotch bonnets (or, for the truly intrepid, suicide-style ghost peppers). For $18 a head, Sunday’s tailgate brunch brings a Southern-style feast of hush puppies, pork ribs and blood sausage rolls.

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Eight warming winter beers to keep stocked this holiday season

Eight warming winter beers to sample this holiday season

On snowy, sub-zero days, the ideal drink is one that warms you up, inside and out. This year’s batch of seasonal craft beers does the job nicely. They’re bigger, bolder, sweeter and warmer than their summertime counterparts, and laced with festive flavours like cranberry and clove. Here, eight beers to keep you cozy this winter (available at the LCBO now unless otherwise noted).

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Five amazing bottles from Ontario’s new crop of big, bold red wines

Rising temperatures are remaking Ontario wine, producing grand reds never seen in our cool climate

Five amazing bottles from Ontario's new crop of big, bold red wines

Big reds are booming. The province’s cool climate and short growing season are known for producing lightweight pinot noir and gamay, not bold shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. The hot 2010 vintage, however, overturned conventional wisdom. Bordeaux grape varieties, including cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, flourished with ripe flavours and richer textures. Niagara even produced a few excellent shirazes. But global warming can’t take all the credit. After several years of experimentation, winemakers are increasingly savvy and turning out more refined versions every year. Here, five big, bold homegrown reds.

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This limited-edition craft beer can be yours—for $115 a bottle

(Image: PRNewsFoto/Crystal Cruises)

(Image: Samuel Adams)

Craft beer fanatics—and luxury goods connoisseurs—will want to get their dialing fingers good and primed. At precisely 8:30 a.m. on November 22, the LCBO opens its phone lines to take orders for the 2013 Samuel Adams Utopias, a rare beer coveted by aficionados worldwide. Each 710 ml golden vessel contains an international blend of beer, including a bourbon cask–aged beer from Kentucky, a port barrel–aged beer from Portugal and, for the first time, a Belgian-style ale called the Kosmic Mother Funk, which is aged for two years in Hungarian oak tuns. The resulting brew, which is meant to be sipped like a Cognac, has a mellow maltiness, a whopping 28 per cent alcohol content and notes of tobacco and dark fruit. Of the 16,500 bottles of Utopias produced worldwide, the LCBO has snagged 600, which it will sell on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll have to hustle: last spring’s allotment sold out in under three hours. To order, call the LCBO phone service at 1-800-668-5226 or 416-365-5900. [Canadian Beer News]

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A new, pop-up wine shop lets you order bottles you can’t find at the LCBO

(Image: WineWire.ca/Facebook)

(Image: WineWire.ca/Facebook)

In a province where liquor sales are controlled by the government, two little words have gained cachet among wine lovers: non-LCBO. Unfortunately, purchasing wine outside the usual channels can be tricky. Enter WineWire.ca, a year-old e-commerce site that acts as a middleman, hooking customers up with cases of wine from independent wine agents across Ontario—the same agents who stock the city’s top restaurants with hard-to-find bottles. From November 19 to 22, WineWire is taking its service offline with a pop-up shop at Front and Church. While provincial regulations prevent the temporary store from selling bottles on-site, customers can sample wines and place orders, which will be processed and delivered within a few business days. A masterful workaround, if you ask us.

WineWire.ca Pop-Up Shop, November 19–22, 45 Front St. E., winewire.ca   

 

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Go Local: the five best new microbreweries in and around the GTA

An assortment of artist-designed labels from new Toronto brewery, Collective Arts (Image: Collective Arts Brewing/Facebook)

An assortment of artist-designed labels from new Toronto brewery, Collective Arts (Image: Collective Arts Brewing/Facebook)

Five years ago, it was tricky to find a locally brewed IPA in Toronto. Today, you can stroll into any one of the city’s busy brewpubs and tailor your selection down to a specific type of hops. With more than 100 breweries in Ontario, including 30 in the GTA, the city’s craft beer scene has never been more vibrant: drinkers are educated and engaged; bars are racing to meet the demand; and a new generation of upstart breweries is pushing the envelope with their exciting, experimental and hyper-local brews. Here, five up-and-coming microbreweries you’ll want to keep your eye on.

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The planet may (or may not) be running out of wine

(Image: Geoffrey Fairchild)

(Image: Geoffrey Fairchild)

Wine lovers worldwide braced themselves last week for the ultimate oenophilian catastrophe: an impending global wine shortage. The source of the alarm? A research report from a pair of Australia-based analysts with financial services firm Morgan Stanley, who observed that the world’s 2012 wine yield was 300 million cases short of demand and predicted higher wine export prices on a global scale. Despite the raft of scaremongering articles that followed, however, there’s no need to start panicking (or stockpiling) just yet. Some experts are calling the report a bunch of alarmist bunk, accusing the analysts of overstating their thesis to justify the bank’s support for an Australian wine producer’s stock. Meanwhile, the International Organisation of Wine and Vine claims that wine production actually skyrocketed in 2013, and may be heading toward its highest level in seven years. Closer to home, Wine Council of Ontario president Allan Schmidt agrees that a world-wide shortage is unlikely and even has an extra bit of reassurance for Ontarians: no matter what else happens, thanks to extensive government regulation, prices for Ontario bottles will likely remain stable. Score one for the LCBO. [BBC News]

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Beer 101: How To Age Your Craft Beer Like A Fine Wine

(Image: Mark/oosp)

(Image: Mark/oosp)

A little-known fact about beer: while most bottles are best consumed fresh, some brews actually improve with age. The way their flavours develop depends on the beer: bigger brews get smoother and more complex; malty beers get sweeter; and sour beers get tarter at first, and then more balanced. Here, a four-step guide to aging your brews like a pro, plus some recommended bottles to stock in your cellar.

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Corner stores make a pitch to sell Ontario beer and wine; Liberals say no

(Image: Karl Baron)

(Image: Karl Baron)

For decades, Ontario residents have been teased on-and-off with the prospect of shopping for beer and wine beyond the confines of a government-run emporium—only for the idea to fizzle into nothing. The latest tease-and-switch was shorter-lived than most. At a Queen’s Park press conference earlier today, the head of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association made a public pitch to allow stores like 7-Eleven and Mac’s to sell Ontario-made wine and craft beer. The plan, according to OCSA CEO Dave Bryans, would support Ontario craft brewers and wine producers, improve public access to local bottles and brews and preserve the LCBO’s lucrative wholesale business. The Liberal government was quick to put the kibosh on the proposal: “We have a terrific distribution network,” said mean mommy Premier Kathleen Wynne, “and we’re going to continue to work with the LCBO to increase that distribution network.” The Liberals have committed to putting 10 LCBO outlets in grocery stores as part of a pilot program, but have no plans to allow alcohol sales in corner stores. The government, after all, has compelling reasons to keep alcohol firmly under public control. One-point-seven-billion reasons, to be exact. [Globe and Mail]

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Christmas Gift Ideas: the top six online wine clubs for the oenophiles on your shopping list

(Image: S. Lee)

(Image: S. Lee)

Yes, we know Christmas is still two months away, but sometimes the perfect gift requires a little pre-planning in order to be give-able by December 25. With that in mind, we present a simple, three-part suggestion: (1) buy early; (2) buy online; and (3) buy wine. As we discovered, there’s a whole world of wine lurking beyond the LCBO Vintages showcase. Here, six wine-delivery programs that will help you earn instant credibility with the most sophisticated connoisseurs on your shopping list.

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New to the LCBO: Iron Maiden’s badass beer

Iron Maiden Trooper Beer

(Image: Iron Maiden)

Iron Maiden fans are intense. Just ask Marcos Motolo, the Brazilian priest who festooned his body with 162 Maiden tattoos, or the British guy who changed his name to match the band’s. Now hard-core devotees can prove their fealty by slamming bottles of Trooper, a cask ale named after the band’s 1983 single. The beer, which hit LCBO shelves at the end of September, is a hoppy golden ale with malt flavours, hints of lemon and, most importantly, a creepy label emblazoned with mascot Eddie the Head.

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Eight hearty autumn beers coming to LCBO shelves this fall

LCBO Fall Releases

Along with crisper air, chillier nights and overflowing farmers’ markets, autumn means bigger, bolder brews. This fall’s lineup, hitting LCBO shelves throughout the month, includes malty porters, creamy milk stouts and festive ales laced with pumpkin and cozy baking spices. Here, our top eight picks.

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Bourbon, bluegrass and barrel-aged beers at Toronto’s inaugural Bourbon Week

Toronto Bourbon WeekIn the last year or two, bourbon has stealthily inundated the city’s most fashionable cocktail lists, replacing cosmos and martinis with Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and inventive one-offs like The County General’s Firm Handshake (Wild Turkey, honey syrup and root beer rum bitters) and Electric Mud’s Clydesdale (Jim Beam, grapefruit and agave). Now there’s an entire week devoted to the barrel-aged liquor. Toronto Bourbon Week runs from September 27 to October 3 and comprises seven events, including a bourbon brunch at Little Italy restaurant Acadia, an evening of bourbon and bluegrass at 3030 Dundas in the Junction and a celebration of bourbon barrel–aged beers at Bar Volo, as well as events at Ursa, Indie Alehouse, Monarch Tavern and Amsterdam Brewery. Tickets for individual events range from $20 to $45.

Toronto Bourbon Week, Sept. 27–Oct. 3, Various Locations, torontobourbonweek.com

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