A Wine Bar Worth Wowing About

A Wall of Wine Picks
A Wall of Wine Picks

With wine consumption in Canada growing faster than anywhere in the world, it’s not surprising that wine bars are popping up on main streets and neighbourhoods right across the country. And happily one of those neighbourhoods is mine. Over the past few years, Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood has become a favourite of foodies –  for brunch, dinner or a glass of wine.

From Pic Nic Wine Bar at 747 Queen St. East  with its fabulous charcuterie platters and 25 wines by the glass, to Enoteca Ascari at 1111 Queen Street East which has a menu of interesting wines three times longer than the food selections. Both places have a great atmosphere with staff who love talking about interesting wine finds.

But a new wine bar came to town just before Christmas and it could very well become a regular stop after I took my daughters there a couple of weeks ago.

Guess which daughter didn't pick from the Wine List
Guess which daughter didn’t pick from the Wine List

We stopped into Skin and Bones Wine Bar for a drink and settled in for a lot more.  There are some 40 wines available by the glass, most if not all, are only available on consignment. And there are some great choices.

skin and bones


I picked a Merlot Seven Hills 2009 from Walla Walla, Washington. This one was deep red, and deeply delicious. Fruity with silky tannins – it was my first choice and I committed with a 6 oz glass.



My Favourite
My Favourite


My second was my favourite –  Paolo Bea Sanvalentino 2007 is a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Montepulciano grapes. This lovely wine from Umbria has structure and elegance.


While my eldest daughter was lured in by the sexy cocktails, my younger daughter took up the wine list challenge. She picked two: the Ribolla Gialla La Tunnella, 2011 from Friuli -Venezia region in north- eastern Italy. Light bodied with and interesting flavour from a grape that I had never tasted.

Mia's Favourite
Mia’s Favourite

But it was the Marc Bredif Vouvray 2011 that won her taste buds, hands down. The pale gold wine from France’s Loire region is made from the Chenin Blanc grape. She found it fresh and fruity and wants me to add it to her list of faves that I serve with Sunday night dinner.

NB: If you are looking for a white and want to try something beyond the world of Chardonnay – Vouvray has been getting some great buzz and is worth a try. The bonus is it  reasonably priced.

There are all kinds of interesting wines to taste. Niagara wines are represented with a Cuvee Catherine Estate Blanc de Blanc Carte Blanche 2007 sparkling from Henry of Pelham, a Riesling Stellalucha 2009 from Colaneri and a Cabernet Franc Dolomite Cave Spring Cellars 2008. There is a wine from Greece, others from the lesser travelled regions or wines from  grapes that are not the typical headliners. I could have sampled all night.

The atmosphere at Skin and Bones  is pleasant and spacious.  The bar goes on for ever. The service couldn’t have been better. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable and  didn’t twitch when I asked if he could bring the bottles to the table for a little photo op.  Oh and the other headline from Skin and Bones – the food also worth the visit. It is not an extensive menu, but what we sampled was simple and delicious. Check out the menu at www.skinandbonesto.com.

While I have heard complaints about an influx of wine bars in the area – I say bring ’em on!


Skin and Bones: 980 Queen Street East, Toronto



G’Day Australia

UnknownAs I sit here writing this the celebrations have already ended. Being fourteen hours ahead of us, it’s already tomorrow there.  But it’s not just in the land down under they celebrate Australia Day, here in Canada there are many places where Aussies practically out number the locals.

In Whistler often dubbed “Whistralia” there are so many young Australians working there they actually have the biggest Australia Day celebration anywhere in the world outside of their homeland.

imagesWith the recent release of Les Miserable starring Australian hunk, Hugh Jackman the historical story of hard-working convicts is once again of interest to people.  While the fictional story of Jean Valjean is set in early 19th century France, it could be compared quite easily to the real life stories of many convicts sent to Australia by the British government for petty crimes during that same period. Some Australians would like nothing better than for the world to forget this bit of history while others have used this unique story as an opportunity to market their product.  I don’t generally purchase wine based on the label but when I received this bottle I was totally intrigued.  19 Crimes is inspired by the actual list of crimes you could be transported to an Australian penal colony for (rather than being hung of course). Check out the list of punishable crimes here.

0Each label of the 19 Crimes brand has the photo of a different convict.  When you go to the 19 Crimes  website you can find out more about your particular convict.  Mine is named John Boyle O’Reilly, an Irish-born poet who was arrested for Mutiny in 1866.

The wine itself is from Victoria, Australia and produced by Baileys of Glenrowan which has a remarkable history of its own.  Started in the 1860s, when Richard Bailey and his family arrived in Australia.  They originally set up a store in Glenrowan to supply miners on nearby goldfields.  When the goldfields dried up and the miners moved on the Bailey’s turned to farming and became one of the first families to plant a vineyard. They produced their first vintage in 1870 and the business was passed on through the generations but is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates. With another connection to a true crime story Glenrowan was also the place where bushranger Ned Kelly was captured in 1880.

Made up of a blend of Shiraz Durif (otherwise known as Petite Sirah) the tasting notes state it is dark red in the glass with legs that cascade slowly due to its concentration and power. Sadly I’ve checked and it’s not available at the LCBO only out in BC liquor stores.

0Maybe some day soon we’ll get it here otherwise a visit to the land down under will give you a chance to try this wine and of course the many other fabulous Australian wines.

So Happy Australia Day to all those celebrating around the world.

What’s your favourite Aussie wine?



Wednesday Wine Picks


The holiday season may be over but the crop of new wines that hit the LCBO last week are worth celebrating.   They include some promising Spanish wines worthy of exploration aWeekend Pickslong with  a great selection of BC wines. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting either place, I can say I am a big fan of their wines.

Chardonnay’s from the  Mission Hill estate, the awesome Pinot Noir from Burrowing Owl, or the Bordeaux Blends of Osoyoos Larose, there is gold in them thar BC vineyards and finally they are available in the east.

I sampled the Burrowing Owl  Pinot Noir 2010 VGA from the Okanagan Valley – it is a splurge to doubt at $41.95. It is supremely balanced with strong notes of cherry and other red fruit.

There is rarely a Rioja that has brought me disappointment in my wine tasting life. It could be luck, or it could be great wine-making – I like them big and bold and plan to get better acquainted with my friends from Rioja, Navarra, and my pick for the weekend : Virgen Del Aguila Artigazo 2007 from DO Carinena – just south of Rioja  region $18.95.

I admit I did try a couple of the other new releases that are absolutely worth the splurge. 

A Bolgheri Beauty from ItalyI Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri 2009 DOC  from the west coast of Tuscany – which is super Tuscan territory. This is  beautifully smooth, complex, fruit forward with rich tannins and a lovely finish. It is $23.95 and worth the splurge.

The Maitre D' by MollydookerMy other splurge-worthy suggestion is by a favourite Australian wine maker that has never disappointed, Mollydooker The Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from South Australia. The deep purple colour and black cherry jammy flavour characterizes the  full-bodied and luscious wine. The finish is long, fruity and entirely worth the price. Buy two, one to drink now and one to save for later.  Oh and their labels are delightful. $29.95


Finally if you can still find it, Three Rivers  River’s Red from Columbia Valley, Washington – I may have mentioned it before because it was one of my favourite wines from my wine class. But if you haven’t tried it yet, hurry while there are still bottles left. At $19.95, it is a real bargain.

Give them a try or explore the LCBO’s new bounty and let us know If you have sampled a wine worth sharing.



How Sweet It Is

I’m not much of an Icewine lover but for some reason I always seem to wind up with a bunch in my cellar (I’ll bet they were re-gifted to me because the other people didn’t want them either).  But since its Icewine season and Canada is known for making some of the best in the world I figured I’d give it another try. While we’re not the only Icewine-producing country in the world, thanks to our cold Canadian winters we’re pretty much guaranteed to produce a big batch annually.

This premium product is highly regulated in Canada by the  Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario and the Vintners Quality Alliance BC with sugar levels, temperature, grape varietal and production all needing to meet strict standards.  Producers in those regions may not use the term “Icewine” on their label unless it’s VQA certified or risk a hefty fine.  This level of quality control also means a hefty price tag ranging anywhere from forty to a few hundred dollars.

0Having invited friends over for an intense night of gaming (no not video but old school board games) I grabbed one of those tall thin bottles and stuck it in the fridge. The one I chose had a beautiful label and I soon realised it wasn’t Icewine at all but a Sauvignon Blanc made in the Recioto style of sweet Italian wines called Profondo Fumoso Bianco from Colaneri Estate Winery.

Different from Icewine it’s sometimes referred to as a straw or raisin wine where the grapes have been dried to concentrate their juice.  The result is similar to the Icewine process but also works in warmer climates.

As I mentioned I’m not really a lover of sweet wines so I figured I’d serve it over fruit and ice cream to add a little zing. Well everyone enjoyed it so much we quickly pulled out some glasses and finished off the bottle.  Not available at the LCBO I remembered I had received this bottle as a gift from the lovely Betty Colaneri. So if you’d like to try some you’ll have to pay Betty a visit down in Niagara at the Colaneri Estate Winery and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Along with a range of lovely wines all sporting artisan labels, Betty and the staff are gracious hosts that make the trip well worth while. At $29.95 it’s well below the cost of a traditional Icewine and definitely delicious.

After enjoying this wine I may have to re-evaluate my opinion of ice/sweet wines and enjoy them more often.  Also since Valentine’s day is quickly approaching the one thing I always did enjoy using Icewine for was to inject strawberries and then dip them in chocolate – basically can’t go wrong there and your hopefully your Valentine will reward you with a sweet kiss of thanks.

Love it or leave it – how do you feel about Icewine?






Wine App Worth a Second Look

Natalie MacLean's Wine Picks and Pairings
Natalie MacLean’s Wine Picks and Pairings



Tina talked about some of the easy to use apps over the weekend, including that crazy one I want to stay far away from that shows how much alcohol can age you. I included a few that I used regularly and some that didn’t overly impress the first few visits. http://wp.me/p2KSbj-oE

 Wine Picks and Pairings: Natalie MacLean’s app  definitely impressed the second time around. I poked around and  found  all kinds of features that will have me coming back.  My favourite:  the top 10 best value wines at the LCBO outlets  closest to your home. You can sort by price, score or wine type. I love this feature.  When you select a wine, it will give you Nat’s review and/or a full review. 

Top 10 Best Value Wines in This LCBO
Top 10 Best Value Wines

There are also pairing features that sort by your wine, food or occasion. You can store the names of your favourites, add them to a shopping list or to a virtual cellar if you pick one up for home.  For those of you far more organized than I, it allows you to keep track of everything you have in your cellar (or for most of us – the wine rack). You can also scan the barcode of a wine  to get and store the information and it allows you to share reviews of wine you are excited about. Nice work!

This app is easy to navigate and full of useful information. Available for Iphone/Ipod Touch, Blackberry and Android.


Apps For Wine Lovers

It seems these days there’s an app for everything and wine is no exception, actually you’ll find dozens at the app store most of which are free.  They range from apps that help you pair foods, practically making you an instant Sommelier to ones that help track the wine in your cellar and can handle a collection of 3000 bottles or more.


Lis has long had the LCBO app and loves it.  I recently put it on my iphone and I’m amazed at all it does…you can browse by product (we’ll say wine of course), select a category like red wine, a country, a region and find all the wines they have in stock (brilliant).  You can  search by keyword (wine type like Merlot, Cabernet, Shiraz etc.), find the closest store and last but not least scan the bar code on a bottle to get the price, tasting notes and serving suggestions.  You can even save it as a favourite so if you forget the name of the wine you drank and loved, next time you go to the store it’s right there on your smartphone (God Bless technology).

For those living in Quebec the SAQ has a similar app and scanning the barcode will bring up all the wine info. This one has more complete tasting notes and also has a great feature where you can plug in the food you plan to eat and it will find you a wine match.

Lis often travels between Ontario and Quebec and likes the SAQ better as an app, though admits to using the LCBO one more – ok a lot more – but says it’s just because she lives here.

Wine spectator app – is alright but really for the more advanced wine drinker. A lot of their products are not available here, but their library of reviews is vast. Rarely use the app, but the web site is terrific.

Wine spectator Napa – app wine porn – fantastic guide to Napa wineries if you are heading there.

Bottlenotes – brought to you by the around the world in 80 sips ladies. I don’t use the app often, but I do enjoy their news letter.

Natalie Maclean – I find this is only useful for wines currently at the LCBO. Not a lot of detail, can’t say I use it all that often. (Updated with new information http://wp.me/p2KSbj-oS)

"Drinking Mirror" App
“Drinking Mirror” App

Lastly something a little different that was recently in the news, an app called “Drinking Mirror” created by the Scottish government showing women how their looks will change if they should continue to drink heavily.  This is meant to get women to stop binge drinking by appealing to their vanity rather than telling them about the health implications.  Asking “is drinking aging you?” the app lets you take your photo, enter your weekly alcohol consumption and then see a computer generated image of toll too much alcohol could take on your appearance.  I tried and it wasn’t a pretty site (kind of why I work behind the camera rather than in front of it). This one is something fun for a girls night out.

There’s so many more apps and if you have a great one to share we would love to hear from you.

2013 Wednesday Wine Picks with a Sexy Suggestion

A Bottle of Kaiken that Didn't Last Long
A Bottle of Kaiken that Didn’t Last Long

Kaiken Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina  LCBO $14.95

Argentina is becoming known for great value wines and this is a good  example. It is one of the reasons Argentina has become the fifth biggest wine producer in the world. Dark purpley red in colour, this beauty is full-bodied with soft tannins and fruit and spice flavours. Nice match with barbecued meat. 98% Malbec which is Argentina’s most important grape, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignion. 14.5% alcohol.



T Sanzo Vino De La Tierra di Castilla di Leon, Spain  LCBO $14.95

A Rich Recommendation from Rioja
A Rich Recommendation from Rioja

Continuing in the Spanish-speaking countries – this one from the Rioja region of Spain -also at the right price.  Yummy, delicious and fruity, it is made from 100% Tempranillo, one of the stars of Spain. Well-balanced and great value. 13.5% alcohol.  And if a rating helps to  convince you, Jay Miller, from eRobertParker gave it a 90.




Finally my splurge recommendation:

Deep and Delicious
Deep and Delicious

La Vita Lucente 2010, Montalcino, Italy LCBO $28.90

A dear friend asked me for a recommendation the day after I uncorked this lovely and the infatuation was still burning the next morning. When I read the description I sent to her, it sounded less like a wine review and more like a review of 50 Shades without the handcuffs. This is sex in a bottle. The magnificent rich ruby red colour alone is enough to make me break my No Wine on Weekdays resolution – lucky I don’t have a bottle to open. The first sip had promise, 10 minutes later – it delivered exquisitely. It’s 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese blended perfectly. With a little research, I learned producer  LucedellaVite (The Light of Life) was originally a coproduction between the Frescobaldi family – Italy’s oldest wine producing family and the late Robert Mondavi of California. The Frescobaldis have since taken full ownership, and continue to produce a terrific wine perfect for any occasion.

 Send us the name of your favourite wine under $20.