by Barbara D. Ritchie

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF) has been on Toronto’s November calendar since 1922.  To promote and sell Ontario wine, they initiated an annual wine judging competition in 2008.  This year was the 4th event and I was one of 10 judges along with Jamie Drummond, Head judge in 2009 and 2010, sommelier and Director of Programs and Editor of Good Food Revolution.  This year’s head judge was Jeremy Day, who launched Toronto’s Café Taste and now runs Café Taste: Events, focused on VQA events including the café Taste Ontario Wine Pavilion at this year’s fair.

Of 120 wines submitted by 23 wineries, four were awarded gold medals.  The Grange of Prince Edward 2009 Trumpour’s Mill Riesling was the white wine winner and the Best Overall White.  Aromatic with characteristic petrol notes, it shows lemon lime flavours and a mineral backbone.   Chateau des Charmes Brut, Methode Traditionnelle, Estate Bottled won in the sparkling category.  This equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir displays lemon and lime flavours with a yeasty character on the palate.  In the dessert category, the winner was 2010 Peller Estates Private Reserve Vidal Icewine.  Mango and peach flavours interlace with lemon and honey notes in this luscious wine.  Southbrook Vineyards Cassis took the gold in the fruit wine category and the Best in Show wine.   Black fruit flavours, are underpinned by black licorice notes and hints of orange.

Best Overall Red was awarded to Pondview Estate Winery 2010 Cabernet Merlot, one of the newest wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake.   Its lush palate of dark plums and cherries has underlying vanilla and cedar notes in the long finish.

Nick Liu of Niagara Street Café (left) in a bakeoff against Howard Dubrovsky of L.A.B. (right,) with Food Network’s Chef Lynn Crawford. Photo: Michelle Dunn

This year the fair also held its 2nd annual chef competition, celebrating the McIntosh apple. It pitted two Toronto chefs — Nick Liu of Niagara Street Café against Howard Dubrovsky of L.A.B. — in a bake off overseen by Lynn Crawford of Food Network’s Pitchin’ In and Toronto’s Ruby Watch restaurant.  Kevin Brauch, host of the Thirsty Traveller TV show and floor reporter for Iron Chef America, was Master of Ceremonies.

Barbara D. Ritchie is a wine writer, lecturer and internationally accredited wine judge, who has travelled extensively throughout the main wine growing regions of the world. Her working knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and German facilitates her in-depth winery profiles. A distinctive aspect to writing is her suggestions for food and wine pairings.

Barbara has judged at the California State Wine Fair, Ontario Wine Awards, Toronto Wine & Cheese Show, Santa Cruz Mountain Wines, Ontario Fruit Wines and George Brown Culinary College. Barbara has also been on the judging panel at Italy’s prestigious Banco d’Assaggio.