Cuvée 2018 toasts 30 years of excellence in Ontario wine

With the Cuvée Grand Tasting celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, organizers have pulled out all the stops to highlight the best VQA wine and food Ontario has to offer.

Organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the Cuvée Grand Tasting is the largest celebration of Ontario VQA wine and food of its kind. This year’s event takes place Friday, March 23 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, with the Cuvée en Route passport program once again extending the wine celebration all weekend long at participating wineries.

Cuvée is the most prestigious and largest celebration of Ontario wine, with more than 750 people attending last year’s gala. Proceeds from the weekend support grape and wine scholarships for Brock’s oenology and viticulture students as well as industry-driven research initiatives at CCOVI.

Cuvée manager Barb Tatarnic said the Grand Tasting allows guests to enjoy wines from 48 of Ontario’s top winemakers, and culinary delights from celebrated local chefs. Exclusive tastings will be available from up-and-coming wineries and restaurants, as well as the favourites guests have come to know and love.

“We always strive to bring a mix of new and unique wine and culinary partners to Cuvée, as well as highlight the event’s long-standing partners,” Tatarnic said. “This year will be a true testament to that commitment, as we ring in 30 years of winemaking excellence with our best event yet.”

Each of the 48 wineries will present two of their winemakers’ favourite wines at the Grand Tasting, offering a rare chance to learn about each selection directly from the winemaker who created it.

The gala will also feature 12 of Niagara’s top chefs, who will showcase deliciously creative dishes at live cooking stations. A new addition this year is The Restaurant at Bench Brewery, a soon-to-open eatery in the historic Bench Brewing Co. building in Beamsville led by Chef Erik Peacock.

“He brings culinary talent as well as his philosophy for ‘going local’ to The Restaurant at Bench Brewery,” Tatarnic said of Peacock. “The restaurant doesn’t open to the public until June, so we’re thrilled that we can offer guests of Cuvée an exclusive sneak peek of what they can expect when it opens this summer.”

Established culinary partners, such as Scotiabank Convention Centre’s Centreplate, are also putting a fresh spin on things this year.

“Being able to showcase a dish for the 30th anniversary celebration of Cuvée at the Scotiabank Convention Centre is a true honor,” said Chef James Price, of the homemade miso he will be serving this year. “For an event like this, I like to present something unique and hand-crafted. I also can’t wait to see what all of the other talented chefs are going to bring to the table this year.”

Yvonne Irvine, Assistant Winemaker at Creekside Estate Winery, is excited to present two of Creekside’s favourite wine selections and its new-to-the-market Rood Apples Cider at Cuvée.

“Cuvée is one of the highlight events of the year and it is always filled with inventive and delicious food from Niagara’s top chefs with some of the best wines that Niagara has to offer,” she said. As a consumer, this is a really great opportunity to sample Niagara’s best.”

The newly created Winemaker of Excellence Award will also be part of the celebration this year, paying further tribute to the talented people who propel the industry forward. The winner will be announced before the kickoff to the evening’s Après Cuvée after party, which features live music from the Associates, Icewine, sparkling wine, cider and local craft beer.

“The Winemaker of Excellence award will appropriately round off the evening as we celebrate excellence in Ontario winemaking,” said Tatarnic.

This year’s culinary stations include:

  • The Restaurant at Bench Brewery (new to Cuvée)
  • Benchmark, Niagara College
  • Centreplate, Scotiabank Convention Centre
  • Hob Nob Restaurant and Wine Bar
  • Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate
  • Karma Kameleon (new to Cuvée)
  • Taris on the Water (new to Cuvée)
  • The Righteous Monger – Artisan Ontario – Pingue, Hand and Duncan
  • Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine
  • Zees Grill / Shaw Club Hotel
  • Criveller Cakes
  • Italian Ice Cream

A complete list of participating wineries can be found at

Tickets that include both the Friday night Grand Tasting and the weekend-long en Route passport are available online at for $200 per person. Tickets for the en Route passport only are $30.

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