Saturday, 29 December 2012


To North Gronby:  On my second day in Skåne I drove north about 17 kilometers  from Trelleborg on the Baltic coast to the small village of North Gronby to visit the Hällåkra vineyard and winery.  I arranged my visit in advance with owner Håkan Hansson, who graciously shared his experience of starting Hällåkra on the land that had been his parents' farm and then invited to try one of his wines.

Rondo 2010:  The Rondo grape is a hybrid varietal commonly cultivated for red wine in northern Europe due to is resistance to disease and the fact that it is early to ripen, similar to the Solaris hybrid.  When I tasted Hällåkra's 2010 Rondo it reminded me of a Pinot Noir.  I detected dark berries and an earthy aroma.  Upon tasting I also picked up a hint of black licorice with the more predominant sour cherry flavour.  I immediately thought it would pair well with poultry but Håkan added that it also complemented game meats and lamb.  I purchased a bottle the next day in a Systembolaget in Malmo to bring home to Ottawa.

Hällåkra Vineyard & Winery:  Håkan began to cultivate grapes in 2003 on the land previously farmed by his family.  The land is approximately 12 kilometers from the Baltic coast on hilly terrain with gravel in the soil.  Rondo vines make up 80% of the 4 hectares of plantings with the remaining 20% of the yield made up of Leon Millot and Regent (both hybrid red varietals).  The goal is to steadily increase the number of plantings annually to reach the goal of 45,000 vines (there are currently 10,500 vines at the vineyard).  Winemaking commenced at Hällåkra in 2003 with support from a Danish winemaker and in 2008 the first wines were sold commercially through the state-owned Systembolaget.  Over the years Håkan has developed a network of supporters who help with harvest and promote or attend summer events in the beautiful garden patio.  He is also establishing contacts in the chemistry department at the University of Lund to support research related to vinification.  The conference centre at the vineyard, operated by Håkan's wife, provides the couple with the opportunity to pair Hällåkra wine with local cuisine. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012


Vineyard in Klagshamn:  On my first afternoon in Skåne I was lucky to see a sign for the small town of Klagshamn and then, almost immediately, a sign for the vineyard.  I received a friendly welcome from viticulturist Murat (Murre) Sofrakis despite the fact my arrival was unannounced and the tourism season had ended.  He explained the basics of the terroir (the chalky soil with high pH levels, the cool summers and temperate winter tempatures) that led to the choice of grape varietals commonly planted in the province. Solaris, a hybrid grape varietal developed in Germany and recognized for its resistance to disease, early ripening, and high yield even in poor climatic conditions, is one of the most widely cultivated varietals in the region.

The Klagshamn vineyard does not have its own winery but collaborates with Ahus winery to produce the Interkardinal wines.

Interkardinal Solaris Kaxig 2010:  Murat generously offered me a bottle of the 2010 Solaris wine to take with me on my travels.  I chilled it at my hotel in Trelleborg, the southernmost town in Sweden.  

Tasting notes: I found the wine very enjoyable to drink on its own or with cheese.  The aromas of citrus, flint, melon, and honey were reminscent of a Riesling but the acidity was pleasantly lower and the flavours of green apple and lemon cleansed the palate.  I also perceived a hint of black pepper or allspice on the finish, which complemented the cheese very nicely.   It would be a wonderful pairing with fish.

Vingarden i Klagshamn is operated by Lena Jorgensen and Murat Sofrakis, seen here with their fuzzy friends!


Saturday, 15 September 2012


Skane:  Diligent internet research helped me discover that Sweden indeed produced wine in the southern province of Skane (pronounced something like Skoner, the "a" having one small circle over it when written properly in Swedish!). After taking my first two courses in the sommelier programme at Algonquin College in the winter of 2012 I decided to visit wineries in the countries I travelled to for work.  I believe I first learned there were vineyards in Sweden after randomly thinking Oland would be an interesting island to visit (still on my wish list!).  I have now learned that one of, or the largest, vineyard in the country is on the island of Oland but it is not yet producing its own wine.  Further internet research led me to two sites that helped me find the wineries I wanted to visit: Skane - Sweden's Wine Country and  Wine Routes in Skane

After searching for the vineyards' websites to find contact information(most are only in Swedish), I sent emails to four or five.  I had only one confirmation of availability to meet me but I decided to go ahead with my rather ad hoc wine tour.  I'm so glad I did because I received a friendly welcome at each vineyard.

Vineyard Visits:  I stayed in the most southern region of the province, along the Baltic coast. Although July and August are the best months to visit the vineyards, I was able to visit four wineries in two days (despite the fact I did not have directions to three of the four and I was not in any rush to visit as many as possible).  I visited:  Fladie Mat & Vingard, Vingarden i Klagshamn, Hallakra Vingard and Doman Sanana.  The first two vineyards I found quite by chance as I drove from the Malmo airport, through Lund, toward the small towns of Fladie and then south to Klagshamn during the afternoon of my first day in Skane.  I was lucky to pass by prominent signs at both places that pointed me in the direction of the vineyards. After spending the night in Trelleborg, the next day I visited  Hallakra Vineyard, in North Gronby, having made an appointment in advance with the owner, and then I found Domana Sanana after asking for directions in the town of Skillinge on the south east coast.  These latter two vineyards also produce their own wine.  
I'll write separate blogs about three of the vineyards (the owner of Fladie Mat & Vingard was not there but the chef at the conference centre and restaurant welcomed me to walk around the beautiful grounds).

Today, on my third day I considered driving to Arild, about 1 to 1.5 hours north of the city of Malmo, but decided I needed to stretch my legs and discover this port city on foot.  Arilds Vingard of Annette and Jonas Ivarsson was suggested as a good choice to visit by Murat Sofrakis of Vingarden i Klagshamn and I have since found interesting tasting notes on their wine.  But I will wait for another opportunity to visit them.

Skane, an Emerging Wine Region:  Once Sweden became a member of the European Union in 1995, changes to the Swedish monopolies on alcohol production and sales were negotiated.   See an interesting paper by Paulina Rytkonen on the emergence of wine in the province of Skane, traditionally an agricultural area. The temperate climate, soil and other characteristics of the terroir make Skane ideal for certain grape varietals common grown in Germany and Denmark. Grape cultivation and wineries emerged at the end of the 1990s, 1998 or 1999, when the first vineyards were planted. Wine-making commenced a few years later as the vines began to yield adequate grapes. 

Travel Tips:  It is best to visit in July or August. Some of the wineries I had hoped to visit, such as Ahus Vingard on the eastern coast, were not open.  After the busy summer tourist season the vineyard owners may take advantage of the quieter month of September to take their own vacation before the grapes are harvested in October. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012


My search for mead:  In the winter I came across a recipe for a chicken dish that called for mead.  Who knew that mead was difficult to find?  I did some research on the internet and found only two places (meaderies) in the province of Ontario:  Munro's Honey & Meadery ( in Alvinston, Ontario and Rosewood Estate Winery in the Niagara Peninsula (    Since I had already planned a visit to Pelee Island in July I decided to wait and visit Alvinston (west of London, Ontario) rather than purchasing online.

Mead history:  Mead is claimed to be the first consumable alcoholic beverage dating back 10,000 years.  Mead is simply the fermentation of honey and water and was believed to be medicinal, according to ancient Greeks or even magical, according to the Celts. The term "honeymoon" may refer to the Celtic wedding tradition of toasting the bride and groom with mead to ensure a long marriage and the newlyweds drinking mead for a lunar cycle to ensure a successful and fertile union.  See the Rosewood Winery site for more information on mead.

Munro Honey & Meadery:  I had a ferry to catch to Pelee Island from Leamington, Ontario at midday so I arrived early on Saturday morning to Alvinston.  The saleswoman cheerfully poured each available type of mead for me to taste.  Unfortunately the semi-sweet mead, their most popular mead, had sold out.  I did not enjoy the blueberry or other fruit-flavoured mead as the sweet fruit overwhelmed the delicate honey flavour but the dry and sweet meads were both enjoyable and one of them, hopefully, will suit the chicken recipe that initiated this mead quest.  At the suggestion of the saleswoman I also purchased Golden Aged Mead, although none was available for tasting.  It is a dessert mead with a rich honey-brown appearance.

Food and mead pairing:  I haven't tried the chicken recipe yet but I have soaked fresh peaches in the Golden Aged Mead, as suggested by friendly saleswoman.  Mead soaked peaches over ice cream! Divine!

Honey products at Munro:  It's worth the drive to Alvinston, if you like honey!  After watching bees work busily in a hive enclosed within glass panes, I sampled honey at a tasting station. Munro  has hives all around the region and produces a variety of honey and blended products.  I couldn't resist their  honey-cinnamon butter, honey with cinnamon, raspberry-jalapeño honey and buckwheat honey. The raspberry-jalapeño honey is exquisite in salad dressing over a kale salad with goat cheese, on roast chicken and drizzled over vanilla ice cream.  

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Social-Political History of Pelee Island:  The Island was inhabited by aboriginal peoples  (the museum on the island displays interesting archaeological treasures) prior to colonial presence.  Thomas McKee, a British commander,  leased the land from two First Nations in 1788 to begin farming, while the aboriginal peoples maintained rights to hunt and fish on the island.  The McCormick family then purchased the island outright in 1834 and alloted land to various family members for settlement.  British loyalists and First Nations peoples repelled attacks from the United States on more than one occasion in the first half of the 19th century.  For more information see

Geography and Natural History:  Pelee Island, in Lake Erie (the smallest of the Great Lakes) is the most southern inhabited point in Canada.  The lsland is approximately 42 square kilometers and, due to its southern location, it has unique flora and fauna that cannot be found in other parts of Canada.   The short hike through the Fish Point Reserve Nature Reserve explains the special species of turtles, trees and plants on the Island.  At this reserve, the Pelee Island Bird Observatory monitors the migration of birds (see  The Stone Road Alvar, a unique limestone plain, is also home to numerous rare plant species.

Vineyards on the Island: The first winery on the Island, Vin Villa, started to operate in the mid 1860s and the Pelee Island Wine company was formed with agent J.S. Hamilton in Brantford, Ontario in the 1890s.  The winery won international prizes in Paris, France according to and maintained production into the early 1900s.  Tobacco and other cash crops became popular on the Island and in southwestern Ontario generally.  In the last few decades grape growing was reintroduced given that the Island's microclimate, with the most frost-free days in Canada at 196 days, has a long growing season and is conducive to a number of grape varietals. Pelee Island Winery has vineyards of approximately 550 acres on the Island and the Erie coast and opened the Pavilion on the Island in 1992.

Wine Tasting at Pelee Island Winery: The Pavilion at Pelee Island Winery offers free wine tastings (up to three wines) or, for only $5, you can go on a brief tour and taste 5 wines.  The Pelee Island Winery's Pavilion appears to be a special meeting place on the island.  On the weekends there is live music in the afternoon and the residents of the Island (only about 350 year round residents but over 1000 in the summer months) and local businesses often hold meetings at the Pavilion. They have an area where you can grill your own food and enjoy your meal with a bottle of Pelee Island Winery wine at retail prices. When my friend joined me on the Island we cycled in the heat and then enjoyed a bottle of Alvar Chardonnay Gerwurtztraminer (an interesting but not spectacular blend) with our own selection of cheeses at one of the picnic tables outside the Pavilion. During my various tastings I was pleasantly surprised by a number of their wines, most notably: 2008 Pinot Gris, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Vinedresser, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - Petit Verdot, and the Cabernet Franc Icewine.  We also enjoyed a bottle of nicely chilled Pelee Pink, a slightly sweet rosé with a hint of burnt sugar and orange, with our spicy homemade pizza.  See

Outdoor adventure on the Island:  During my one week visit I complemented my wine tasting with various outdoor activities.  I cycled around the Island a number of times(there on bicycle rentals available near the ferry dock from Comfortech Bike Rentals), swam at the various sandy beaches scattered a long the shores, hiked the easy trail to Lighthouse Point, explored the shoreline and Fish Point Reserve and kayaked along the East Shore one evening, after the wind calmed down.  At the end of every day I was treated to a spectacular sunset from my shoreline deck.

Tips:  Book your travel on the ferry in advance (, especially if you want to take your car to the Island.  And stay for several days to experience the wine, nature and hospitality that the Island has to offer. See for links to accommodation and activities on the Island.