What’s In The Box?

Surprise Delivery From The LCBO

So after a very long wait we finally got the call that our wine had arrived at the local LCBO store.  If you missed our previous blog Italian Wines – A Little Rant, A Little Rave we explained we attended an event in late 2011 where we had the chance to meet some of Italy’s most famous female winemakers, sample their wines and place an order.  With almost eight months going by, the wine has finally arrived.

Together we ordered 22 bottles from various vineyards…one’s we loved, and others we enjoyed and thought were a good value because of their price point.

The one we really loved was the 2008 Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi Tenuta Di Castiglioni priced at $21.95.  Coming from Tuscany one of Italy’s most famous wine regions the vineyard of the Frescobaldi estate of Tenuta di Castiglioni is situated in the Chianti Colli Fiorentini zone, in the area of Montespertoli.

This is the estate’s iconic wine, and the labels of the bottles prior to the 2009 vintage, like the ones we purchased presented the caption as “Tenuta di Castiglioni”.  There were only about 10,000 cases of this vintage bottled and the wine itself is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and sangiovese; aged for two years in new oak.

It’s been so long since we tasted it but I remember it being dark in colour, full-bodied and tasting of cherries and dark berries.  I’d like to say we’ll be able to taste it again soon but we’ve decided to lay it down for a few years and let it get even better.

The wine we bought the most of (12 bottles) which we really enjoyed and thought was a great value was the 2007 Bosco Montepulciano d”Abruzzo.  Since it’s taken so long for the wines to arrive (and of course being the curious type) I checked in at the LCBO if they were already carrying these wines and could we have just walked in and picked them up without the wait.

The LCBO had a Bosco Montepulciano d”Abruzzo on general list for $7.65 and I was trying to figure out why we paid $15 per bottle when there was nothing on the label of our bottle that distinguished it from the one in the store.  It wasn’t a DOCG instead of a DOC, the label didn’t say Reserve (which generally means nothing by the way) so I”m assuming it was the vintage…ours is a 2007 and in the store was a 2011.  So of course you know we’ll now have to go and pick up a bottle of 2011 and compare it to the 2007.  This sounds like a project for Sunday when Italy takes on Spain in the 2012 Euro cup finale.  Viva Italia!!!!!

This wine is produced and bottled in Pescara which is in the Abruzzo region of Italy.  Pescara is located on the Adriatic coast and even though it’s a coastal city it’s climate is influenced by the surrounding mountains making for hot dry summers…perfect for making great wine.

There were of course other wines we purchased and as we uncork them we’ll let you know what we think.  But until then a toast to bella Italia a place we feel makes great wines and is near and dear to our hearts.

Rare Bottle of Wolf Blass

Autographed by Wolf Blass

Ok, so it’s not rare but it’s definitely special.  Some years ago I had the chance to meet Wolfgang Blass, the man behind the wine.  He’s a sweet and charming gentleman with a lovely German/Australian accent who is most often seen wearing his signature bow tie.  He happened to be on a press trip to Canada celebrating his 75th birthday and very kindly autographed a bottle of Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon for me.

Now considering I work in the media and often get the chance to meet celebrities, rock stars and Presidents I’m really not much of an autograph hound.  I don’t collect stuff because I hate clutter but, “Wolfie” was just so darn cute and he insisted on presenting me with the autographed bottle.

It’s been sitting in my cellar ever since and I was always reluctant to open it, but since you can’t keep this kind of wine for ever I figured I might as well enjoy it before it goes bad.  Just opening the bottle reminded me of our meeting and made me smile.  I swirled the wine in the glass, raised it to my nose and the fruity scent was so delicious I couldn’t wait to take a sip.

Now, of course you’ll want to know was it worth opening or should I have kept it for its sentimental value.  It was definitely worth opening…the rich fruity flavours of plum and black currant tasted delicious and I savoured every sip.

These days the founder behind the popular brand is still a stateman for Wolf Blass but the company itself is owned by a much larger global wine company called Treasury Wine Estates. But no matter who owns this company, whenever I uncork or unscrew a bottle carrying the Eaglehawk emblem on it’s label I’ll think of the charming and charismatic gentleman with the bowtie.

Wolfgang Blass

Cool Chardonnay

Cool Chardonnays

This morning I had the chance to meet winemaker Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estates and Chef Erik Peacock of Wellington Court Restaurant in St. Catharines.  Both are involved in the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration happening in Niagara July 20-22.  This event promises to be amazing as winemakers and winery proprietors from around the world gather to interact with wine enthusiasts.  Over the three days there are panel discussions, IQ challenges, luncheons and a kick-off concert at Jackson Triggs Winery featuring the Arkells.  The highlight of the event will be the Saturday night dinner catering to 650 guests under the stars as some of Niagara’s top winemakers go “Beyond the Barrel”.  They’ll be trading in their corkscrews for whisks and spatulas to create chardonnay-inspired dishes that will be sure to temp everyone’s tastebuds.  As with anything freshness is key and the dish Brian will be featuring that night (with Erik’s help of course) is Ontario pan-seared pickerel with celeriac remoulade.  I’m really looking forward to the event even though I won’t be able to attend the dinner but hope to learn more about cool climate Chardonnays.  If you’re interested in attending the event you’ll find a link just off to the right.

Sundays Are Bittersweet

Sunday Dinner

I love lazy Sundays but they’re definately bittersweet.  It’s the last day of the weekend and tomorrow it’s back to work for most of us. I always wish weekends could last just a little longer but for me Sunday is also a day based around food and family, which makes for a happy end to the week.

Somehow I think I enjoy my kids company more now than when they were growing up because they’ve become smart and interesting adults and our dinners together are always fun and packed with good conversation.

My older son who doesn’t live at home anymore generally comes over most Sunday’s with his girlfriend and at the moment our younger son is living at home again waiting to leave on his next international adventure.  He’s off to Korea this time and won’t be home much longer and when he leaves most likely he’ll be gone for a year or more so we try to get together as often as we can when he’s home.

We all love good food so we plan out what we’re having and every one pitches in.  During the summer months we try and keep it light so today we opted for stuffed salmon, with shrimp and crab, a little rice and a beautiful caprese salad.  If you’re going to go for fresh mazarella then you’ve got to spend the money for the buffalo.  It’s totally worth it…all it needs is a little extra virgin and fresh basil and it will be a melt in your mouth taste explosion.

Of course no meal at my house is complete without wine.  A lovely glass of white wine to finish it off and you’ve got a meal worthy of a fine dining experience without the cost of eating out.

I opted for the Alianca Vinho Verde from Portugal, it’s crisp light and well-balanced and was a perfect match for the salmon.  I actually picked up four bottles of this today because at $8.95 you can’t really go  wrong with this one for summer.

A Beautiful Summer’s Night

I always look forward to Friday nights in the summer and at the end of a busy week it’s just nice to unwind and relax in my beautiful backyard.  For me there’s nothing better than sitting around and sipping a cool glass of wine on an evening like that, so on my way home I stopped at the liquor store to pick up a bottle or two.

Now I have nothing against beer or hard liquors like rum or vodka but I’m a wine drinker and generally during the summer I prefer something light and cool so I stick to whites and a good Sauvignon blanc covers that off nicely.    I’d never had this particular wine before but the bottle just sort of jumped out at me.  The label was blue and white with words like tranquil, cool, relaxed and peaceful with a starfish on it.  From South Africa it was called “the beach house” and for under $10 it seemed like a good value especially since it was listed as a Best Value on the 2012 wine guide.

Being such a great night some of the neighbors popped by to enjoy a glass with us and well the guide was right…it was easy drinking, cool and refreshing and everyone enjoyed it.

A Gift From A Friend

As I mentioned I do not profess to be a wine expert only a wine lover.  I will try just about anything once and I’m always happy to try a wine I haven’t had before.  Recently someone brought me a bottle of James Oatley Tic Tok, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia and since my husband bbq’d up a nice steak I thought we should crack it open.

It was medium bodied with a nice fruity taste but also a bit savoury which was perfect to go with the steak, even though my husband went a bit heavy on the pepper.   I try not to criticize too much since he does all the work so happily I just drink a little more wine and smile like it’s the best meal of my life.

Since it was a gift I figured I should check out the price and found it’s $15.95 at the LCBO which is a good price point for most people for a half decent bottle of wine.

I checked out the webpage for the winery and found out the winemaker, Robert Oatley is a fifth generation Australian a direct descendant of the convict, James Oatley, who was born in Warwickshire, England in 1770, the same year that Captain Cook discovered the east coast of Australia.

James Oatley was a clockmaker who was found guilty of stealing, punished with a life sentence and sent to Australia. He was officially pardoned in 1821 he was appointed Keeper of the Town Hall Clock by Governer Macquarie.

The label on the TIC TOK bottle was designed by Bob’s grandson James, and features an arrow, representing both the hands of a clock and the British Empire’s symbol for Government Owned Property, stamped prominently on convict uniforms of the day.

Many wineries have amazing historial stories and aside from enjoying a great bottle of wine,  should you decide to gift this to one of your friends you’ll have a great story to tell during dinner.


Italian Wines – A little Rant, A Little Rave



Late last year we attended a great event put on by the LCBO.  From north to south, they invited the women of some of Italy’s most prominant wine making families.   From Piedmont to Tuscany and down to the Abruzzo, it was an evening that showed not only the strength of the women involved in the industry but the wines were absolutely delicious.

So as the evening ended we couldn’t leave without putting in an order.  We paid half up front and left excited that we’d soon be enjoying more of these great wines.   We knew it would be about six months until the wines arrived from Italy and they were almost forgotten about until the notice arrivedthat they’d arrived at the LCBO warehouse.

Calling in straight away to settle the bill in hopes we would crack a bottle that same weekend our hopes were dashed when we were told it would take another 4-6 weeks for the warehouse to process the order.  Seriously?

If and when they arrive we’ll be sure to let you know if they were as good as we thought.  Now I’ll just dream about our next trip to Italy so we can visit some of these great vineyards ourselves.


Great Wine under $10.

Great Wine under $10.

Alianca Vinho Verde 2010

It was so hot last night I decided a salad was the perfect meal.  Feeling like a glass of wine I was looking for something nice and light.  Someone had recommended I try the Alianca Vinho Verde 2010 from Portugal.  It was slightly spritzy in the glass like a soft Procesco.  It was fresh tasting and a perfect match to the salad.  You’ll want to serve this chilled and even without the meal to accompany it, it would make a great wine to sip on a sunny summer afternoon.