Seven Things to Know about Icewine

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A closer look at the Champagne of Canada

This month, you can find us holed up by the fireplace at Soho House Toronto sipping the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine. Paired with dessert (or drunk instead of), House favorite Stratus Red Icewine is comprised of four different red varieties, all harvested by hand: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Syrah. The result is a beautiful ruby-hued sip, intensely rich in cherry and strawberry jam flavours, with peppery raspberry notes.

So step aside, maple syrup, here, we take a closer look at one of Ontario’s most valuable liquid assets.

Icewine was accidentally discovered in Germany in the late 1700’s by farmers trying to salvage a frost-ridden grape harvest. Centuries later, and not at all by accident, a local Niagara winery with German roots called Inniskillin entered its 1989 Vidal Icewine at Vinexpo in Bordeaux where it won the Grand Prix d’Honneur and captured the world’s interest. They rest, as they say, is history.

Known for its intense flavours and rich, viscous texture, icewine is produced from grapes that are left on the vine after the fall harvest. When temperatures drop to below -8ºC, the frozen grapes are handpicked and immediately pressed to create thick, rich wine that is highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity. The juice evolves into a product that’s richly flavoured and sweet, hence icewine’s steeper price point compared to grapes harvested during the typical season.

Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold enough to ensure an almost annual icewine crop.Canada is the largest icewine producer in the world, with 96 wineries producing the product in the highly regulated, globally accepted, traditional method.

China is the country’s top export destination. Because of Canada’s unique growing conditions (let’s not talk in code: our bitter cold winters), Canadian icewines are darlings on the international stage.

There is a government policy that requires icewine to be made exclusively from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine. Any other method and it cannot be called icewine, in the same way ‘Champagne’ is a a controlled name.

Icewine should be chilled at 10-12 degrees Celsius, and poured in small servings, to be suitably savoured.

Once a bottle is opened, icewine will keep well in the fridge for three to five days, thanks to its naturally-occurring sugar content.

—Written by Karen Cleveland

Post-Modern Manners, on CBC Q

I had a great time as a guest on CBC Q – you can find the “listen” icon below the image on the landing page, here.

Post-Modern Manners: What’s rude in the age of oversharing?

Conflicted about taking that selfie? Perhaps you’re right to overthink it. Small dilemmas illuminate bigger shifts in culture and society — and norms forming around these micro decisions will define acceptable behaviour in the 21st century.
So, let’s talk about post-modern manners. Joining guest host Daniel Richler to discuss etiquette in the digital age we have:
  • Jen Agg, owner of the popular Toronto restaurants The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner.
  • Karen Cleveland, etiquette advisor at MannersAreSexy.com
Click here or on the listen button above to hear the full segment (audio runs 0:13:15) and tell us: how would you handle the situations we described on air?
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(Originally appeared on CBC Q, Feb 2, 2015)

Holiday crowds getting to you? What did you expect?

 

Expect to see lots of other people shopping this month, plan to be patient

Sure, there will be lots of people at the mall ahead of Christmas. But there will also be lots of people in stores on Boxing Day and in the days leading up to New Year's.Sure, there will be lots of people at the mall ahead of Christmas. But there will also be lots of people in stores on Boxing Day and in the days leading up to New Year’s. (CBC)

Patience is key

Whether shopping for gifts or party supplies this month, Toronto-based etiquette expert Karen Cleveland says Canadians should have two things on their shopping lists — patience and empathy.

Because that’s what they will need when standing in line and dealing with grumps they encounter, likely before and after Christmas Day.

Shoppers at Toronto Eaton CentreFigures posted to the Statistics Canada website indicate that Canadians spent more than $4 billion on food and drink at large retailers in December of last year. They also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on gifts in many different retail categories. (CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, consumers spent more than $4 billion on food and drink at big retailers last December, as well as hundreds of millions in various retail categories. The numbers suggest that consumers will find it busy whether they are seeking Boxing Day bargains at the mall, or simply trying to pick up groceries through Dec. 31.

Cleveland said another key is for shoppers to remember that “our time is no more valuable than anyone else’s time.”

And while they may gripe on social media, many shoppers realize what they are getting into, if they choose to head to the stores. As Cleveland puts it, when Christmas shopping rolls around, we all know “it’s not our first rodeo.”

On the retail side, the businesses selling merchandise to the public know what to expect when these shoppers pack the stores — and clearly, it’s something they like to see.

But knowing that that these same people are feeling the stress of the holiday season, retailers employ strategies to help their customers to get what they need as quickly as possible.

‘A marathon, not a sprint’

At Dollarama, shoppers will have seen more cashiers on hand and longer store hours this month. The discount chain also takes steps to ensure its shelves are well-stocked.

That’s the “simple but successful formula to keeping customers happy (and not cranky!) during the holiday season,” spokesperson Lyla Radmanovich told CBC News in an email.

Extra helpMany stores have extra help on hand to deal with the many customers hitting the stores this month. (CBC)

Ditto for Sobeys Ontario, where spokesperson Monika Strzalkowska says the chain ensures there are “plenty of staff on hand” for the busy holiday period.

Having more hands on deck seems to be a standard approach across retail.

Michael LeBlanc of the Retail Council of Canada said many retailers will bring on temporary staff, to help deal with the increase demand from customers.

“Holiday sales are a marathon, not a sprint,” LeBlanc said in a recent telephone interview, suggesting that it’s not just the shoppers feeling the stress.

Retailers will also take steps to ensure post-Christmas shopping runs smoothly as well. LeBlanc said that’s part of the reason there are restrictions on returns after Boxing Day — so that people seeking deals can do so unencumbered.

Just as Cleveland advises, LeBlanc said people heading to stores should bring some patience with them, whether they are picking up gifts or making returns.

“A little bit of patience goes a long way,” he said.

(Originally published on CBC, December 2014)

Feel like a Grinch? How to handle the office gift pool

When it comes to money decisions, it can be hard to figure out the right thing to do. Money is about power, emotion, morality, and security, among other things. So in this space, we gather a few experts to weigh in on a financial quandary.

This week’s question: How do you opt out of your office (holiday, maternity, etc.) gift pool without looking like a jerk? Can you?

Ramona Packham, HR expert and founding partner of RPHR Consulting:“Choosing to opt out can be an awkward and difficult message to deliver. A few appropriate responses may be: ‘Thank you for including me in this, but I have already done something for John/Jane,’ or ‘Thank you for including me, but I am opting out this year.’ Or, you could contribute what you can afford: $1 to $2. In the past, an office I worked in had a gift exchange for the Christmas party. A price limit was set at $10 — it was fun trying to find outrageous gifts for that amount. At the party, you opened a gift or you could steal someone else’s that had already been opened. Inexpensive and fun!”

Robert R. Brown, author of Wealthing Like Rabbits“As with so many other things in life, the best option is to be polite, honest and clear. If appropriate, reach out privately to the recipient of the gift and let them know that your decision was financial, not personal. (This is not a good time to do your Michael Corleone impression.)

Some people prefer to contribute only to certain types of gifts, like maternity, especially when they have been the beneficiary of a similar present themselves. So, when someone at the office announces that she’s expecting, start tossing a toonie into a jar every week until the baby showers begin.

In regards to the annual December gift gorge, get in front of the issue next year by stepping up early and suggesting that the gift pool be replaced by voluntary, anonymous donations to a local shelter or charity. No one looks like a jerk then.”

Karen Cleveland, etiquette expert: “The pressure to bow out of contributing to an office gift can be tempting; but while you prevent a small hit to your wallet, it might hit your reputation. Celebrating milestones together or jointly contributing to a shared cause are important for team building and creating solidarity. And, your colleagues might very well kick in to generously buy you a gift some day. Knowing that, you can relax, take a deep breath and pull out your wallet. If the gift pool is going towards someone that you’ve never met or worked with, you can politely bow out by explaining that you ‘haven’t had the pleasure of working with X, so it wouldn’t feel appropriate contributing to a gift.’”

(Originally in National Post, December 23, 2014)

Christmas Etiquette on Global News Vancouver