This is how I felt when I walked into the LCBO this past weekend.
There are some fantastic new wine picks this week that are worthy of attention. I spent some quality time at the tasting bar and my shopping cart went from 0 to 12 faster than I could say Vino Nobile de Montipulciano. These wines range from affordable (under $20) to downright cheap ($14.95) and every single one of them will make you cheerful.
Three Ring Shiraz 2013, Barossa Valley, South Australia $18.95 Full-bodied plush with pepper, spicy, great buy. The big fruity full-bodied attack down the middle at its best. This is the perfect wine for steak or stew, burgers or any kind of beef, or just for sipping.
Di Majo Norante Ramitello 2011 $18.95 – Molise, Italy
Before I taste a half ounce of swanky wine in the LCBO tasting room, I always start out tasting a wine I can actually afford. This one was a real pleasure. It is a blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Aglianico grapes so it carried some decent body and plummy flavours. Wine Spectator gave it 90 points.
Monasterio de las Vinas Reserva 2006 $14.95 LCBO $15.45 SAQ – Spain This is the value buy of the week. It’s a medium-bodied blend of 70% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo and 10 % Carinena. At that price, get a six-pack.
Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2013 $25.95 – Midi, France 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Carignan – – medium to full bodied with a lovely long finish. This was my splurge of the week and worth the extra few dollars.
Hope you enjoy the choices. Have a great weekend and let us know what you are drinking!
A weekend when the weather was spectacular and the wine even better.
Here are a few suggestions if you are looking for some great new additions.
Topping the list:
CASTANO SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2012 – This suggestion came from wine writer Eric Schneider who has made some great recommendations to date. Sadly, they often are gone by the time I get to the LCBO so this time I took no chances. I headed directly to the store after work on Friday only to find out the mass release was only coming on Saturday. So I was at my local LCBO when it opened at 9:30 and picked up a case. This better be good, I thought. And it was. The Spanish blend is 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Garnacha. It’s a big wine, perfect for a barbecue. According to Eric, is it best between 2015 and 2018 – but it will never last that long in our house. I am actually regretting not getting a few extra at $16.95. Don’t wait.
WIRRA WIRRA CHURCH BLOCK CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2012 – Also in the big bold section of the wine rack. I saddled up to the tasting bar at the LCBO after I couldn’t get my hands on the above-mentioned Solanera and tested a few. This one was terrific. It comes from McLaren Vale – which is one of my favourite sources for Australian Wines. Lots of dark fruit, a touch of vanilla, and spicy finish. My OTC – official tasting companion’s love for wines with “an attack down the middle” would be pleased. $19.95
SPLUGE-WORTHY: STRATUS CABERNET FRANC 2010
I must admit Cabernet Franc is not a go to wine for me. Most often, I find it best in a blend, but on it’s own a little rough around the edges. This wine is worthy of a solo. It brings out the best of the varietal. It will not disappoint. $38.20
A perfect way to spend last weekend, and wishing you some wine adventures coming up. Let me know if you come across a gem.
Summer is the time to throw the routine out of the window. Explore new tastes. If you are a red drinker, as I am, it’s a good time to sample a new white. After my three-week digital detox at the beach, I returned to my favourite LCBO last weekend. Some of my old wine picks were gone and a whole lot of new potential picks moved in. I am thrilled to say some of the new releases are worth getting to know much better.
My whites of the week:
Bastianich Adrianico Friulano 2011 DOC
This wine is from Friuli, the northeastern most region of Italy famous for its whites. This one is fruity and medium bodied. Lemon, peaches and pears stand out and could pair nicely with a salty dish. According to the Bastianich Winery web site, the ideal pairing is proscuitto either on its own or in a pasta with light cream sauce.
You could almost smell this wine from inside the bottle. Highly aromatic and no mistaking this for anything but a New Zealand import. There is nothing subtle about the nose. An explosion of citrus and grass, it makes you think you have just rolled in the cuttings of a freshly mowed lawn. It is crisp, crisp, crisp. Ideal if you like wine with a bite. But cautious Sauvignon B. lovers may well find it overwhelming. $18.95
True confessions, I am enjoying a glass right now. The gentleman at Summerhill’s tasting room RAVED about it. At that price, I had to pick one up – and the only reason I picked just one was because I was on foot. It is much more subtle than Spinyback. More asparagus, grassy, and melon stand out. And it is lovely and smooth with a nice satisfying finish. I highly recommend this one, but don’t wait. I doubt it will last long on the shelves.. $13.95
M. Chapoutier Invitare Condrieu 2011, Rhone
My return to the tasting bar meant I had to find a white worth splurging on. This one was extremely worthy. Condrieu is so smooth, songs should be written about it. This one was elegant, balanced, rich, full-bodied, exotic. I might just dream of this wine. $65.95
No red you ask? What about a Canadian wine? I have to work my way back slowly, but I promise both will be featured prominently next week. There are so many great releases that need sampling!
Let us know if you have tasted something that’s worth a shout out!
When it comes to wine, just like travel we all have our regular go to destination…each spring I visit a stretch of the Mayan Riviera that I just love and while there are definitely other great beaches in the world for some reason every year I return to same place. It’s the same with wine, considering there is so much great wine from around the world I always seem to go back to the Italian ones.
Trying to step out of my comfort zone this summer I decided I would take a trip around the world one bottle at a time via the wines offered up at my local liquor store. Considering I live in the burbs the selection isn’t half bad. My buggy was full and the total came to a tidy sum but I tried to make sure I kept to bottles under $20 so as not to break the bank because even for this adventure there was a budget.
I ended up with wines from Spain, Alsace, France, South Africa, Italy, California, Australia and even a couple of local ones from Ontario. Some I loved, some not so much and others really surprised me when I wasn’t expecting them to. Here’s the ones that really surprised me and are worth taking a trip to the liquor store for.
Red Guitar: Old Vine Trempranillo Garnach 2010 Navarra,Spain $12.95 (total steal) My husband and I were totally surprised by this one as we tend to shy away from Spanish wines. I’m not sure why, as Spain is well known for some really great wine but usually I defer to Italy when it comes to full-bodied reds. This has a deep ruby colour and tasted of rich dried fruits and spices. It was terrific with the grilled t-bone steak and fingerling potatoes. We both said we would definitely buy it again.
Porcupine Ridge 2012 Syrah Swartland, South Africa $14.95 This comes from the boekenhoutskloof winery
and is named after the crested porcupines that live in the region. Tasting of blackberries, spices and vanilla it’s also a great match for grilled meats and we enjoyed it with pork tenderloin medallions, fingerling potatoes (these are my hubby’s favourites so they make the menu a lot), ripe tomatoes with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and some fresh basil.
Willy Gisselbrecht Sylvaner 2011 Alsace $13.95 But it’s now on clearance for $10.25 so if you want to try it you’ll have to hurry. This is a terrific full-bodied white wine that goes extremely well with seafood especially oysters. Certainly not as appreciated as a Riesling which is definitely the most respected grape varietal from Alsace, a Sylvaner from a good producer can certainly hold it’s own. It was cool and refreshing and as I’ve already searched the LCBO data base I’m going to my local store where they still have 6 bottles to pick up the rest.
Ascheri Barbera D’Alba $14.45 Piemonte, North West Italy this one was recommended by a friend who had it recommended to them by the sommelier who insisted it was a great go to wine if it’s on the wine list when you are out for dinner. The first time I tried it I knew this would be something I’d have on hand in the cellar for those everyday occasions. Made from 100% Barbera grapes which have now become the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy after Sangiovese and Montepulciano. It’s medium bodied and amazing with pasta.
So take a chance because you never know what you’ll find and hey for under $20 you can barely get lunch at a fast food joint never mind a great bottle of wine to go with dinner.
Are you willing to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone? If you find a great wine you’d like to share let us know.
One of the truly wonderful pleasures of traveling to the coast of Maine each year is the anticipation of the perfect summer meal: lobster.
To me, it is as much a sign of summer as the scent of wild roses that line the sea wall, the sand that finds its way into every crevice in the cottage, and the damp towels hanging over the railing.
Chipper has been providing lobster to my family and friends for as long as I can remember. Look up Central Casting for Lobster Fisherman and you will find his picture. He is the real deal. He has the New England twang, the weathered complexion from years of early mornings at sea, and a perpetually cheerful attitude. Chip is always smiling, always happy to see you, and he is the most accurate weather forecaster on the planet.(Sorry, Jeff Hutcheson)
The first time I cracked a lobster it was from Chip’s Catch of the day. He held a huge party in his workshop some years back and steamed more lobsters than I had ever seen. His family and friends, his loyal summer friends and their friends feasted on the freshest claws and tails all night, then danced off the garlic butter. One year he took all the kids and a few of the adults out on his boat to show us his favourite lobstering spots.
This year a glut of lobster pushed down the market price making it almost impossible to earn a living. So Chip took his tasty catches and friendly attitude and opened up his own lobster shack. He steams them on the spot, sells them at bargain prices and sells out pretty much every day. One or two for the night’s feast and one for a homemade lobster roll the day after.
It doesn’t hurt that this year’s catch is the tastiest ever.
So what to pair with your lobster feast, or the next-day delicious lobster roll? Something light and crisp such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris is a good choice for the main event. Tread carefully with the Chardonnays because some can be too creamy for the rich lobster meat. And for day after rolls, you cannot go wrong with some sparkling like Prosecco.
For our first traditional steamed lobster feast, the gals went with a Sauvignon Blanc (rapidly becoming my favourite white this summer).
Coppola Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Diamond Collection – vibrant, fresh, grassy and crisp. It was a perfect match and so was the price – $12.00 (US prices but a good crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will never steer you wrong). One of my personal favourites is Dog Point Vineyard 2012 at $22.95.
Pouilly Fuisse 2011 Louis Jadot from Maconnais, France at $22.00. Citrus and vanilla notes and ever-so-gently oaked that did not overpower. This was a perfect Chardonnay for the meal.
Then Alex arrived…bearing wine. Alex Manikas is the owner of Toronto’s uber steakhouse Bardi’s which has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 1994. And he brought two winners.
Groth 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley. Mama Mia that was one spectacular wine! Rich, crisp, aromatic and only $19.00. Unfortunately purchased here and not available at the LCBO, but if you are traveling to the US, put it on the list!
Then out came the star of the night. And it was a shining Chardonnay.
Talbott 2011 Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Monterey County, California. This is a big Chardonnay, but so well- balanced, the flavours performed as harmoniously as the Beach Boys in their heyday. It has a buttery rich feel with notes of pear, peach and the oak did not overwhelm. Thank you Alex.
And for the sparkle..
La Marca Prosecco DOC from Italy LCBO $17.95 $13.95 US (ouch) This lovely was perfectly chilled and an ideal pair for just about anything including our day-after Lobster Roll.
Doesn’t it just make you want to visit your nearest lobster pound? If you are ever in on Route 9 between Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise – drop in on Chipper. You will not go home disappointed!
There are times in many of our lives where the pure joy and bliss you feel is hard to describe. Generally they come from time spent with the ones we love, witnessing a wedding or cradling a new-born baby. And while those are extremely special moments mine came during a recent trip to a beach house in Maine.
Growing up I was never one of those girls who spent endless hours giggling on the phone with friends and I seemed to understand the ways of boys better than teenage girls. But as I get older I greatly cherish the relationships I’ve built with a particular group of women introduced to me by my blog writing partner, Lis. Her extremely giving nature draws people in and over the years she’s generously shared her closest friends with me. And oh what lovely friends they are…smart, funny, accomplished, beautiful and generous of spirit.
For thirty years Lis and her family have rented a beach house in Maine each summer for a couple of weeks enjoying the sun, sand and warm ocean breeze…ok, occasionally the breeze isn’t so warm since we are talking about the Atlantic. This year she arranged the house for an extra week themed around wine, women and song and invited 5 friends including myself.
The six of us drove down in a caravan of two cars and the laughter of the road set the tone for the week along with our first shopping trip to the liquor store. I know it looks like a lot but we thought it would last, ha who were we kidding. There were equal amounts of white and red from around the world and if you’re looking closely even a bottle gin in the corner of the cart to start off cocktail hour.
Mornings were meant for long walks on the beach (exercise was necessary after all the food and wine) but no pressure if you just wanted to laze around the house and have a second cup of coffee. Days were for sitting in the sun, reading beach books, swimming in the ocean and sipping wine.
Our nights were filled with delicious dinners, more wine and singing along to Lis’ amazing playlist. Some days we even sat on the beach long after everyone else had left just chatting as the sun went down. And as the tide went out again in the late evening we sometimes snuck back down to the beach whispering and laughing as we walked in the dark along the water’s edge.
It was all so uncomplicated and easy as if we’d been friends for life. Everyone chipped in with the cooking and cleaning and there was even a big jigsaw puzzle on the table that everyone just seemed to pick away at in hopes of finding that one elusive piece nobody could find. I’m extremely competitive so it almost killed me to leave before the puzzle was finished.
At the end of the week I was the first to leave and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and believe when I say I’m not the mushy type. But at a certain age when you start to feel like the world doesn’t see you anymore these women made me feel amazing not only about myself but the possibilities of what life still has to offer.
Sitting there with my toes in the sand, the sound of the waves washing against the shore I realized life couldn’t be more perfect. So for all the times life lets you down remember there will be other times when life’s a beautiful beach. We’ve only been apart for a short time but I’m missing my marvelous friends and hope this is the beginning of an amazing new tradition.
With 400,000 acres of this vinifera varietal planted around the globe there’s a world of Chardonnay to choose from. For a time consumers shied away from this once popular wine because many felt it was being over-oaked and people’s palates were craving something a little more crisp and cool.
But over the last few years Chardonnay has made a big comeback especially those from cooler climates. As Ontario’s (and the world’s) most popular grape from unoaked to Chablis style there’s a wide range of styles to suit everyone’s taste.
It’s so popular again, that today, winemakers, cellar masters, sommeliers, and wine lovers around the world will celebrate International Chardonnay Day. There are lots of ways to join in the celebration online Twitter is @coolchardonnay with hashtags #chardday and #14c2013. Facebook is /CoolChardonnayCelebration, and Pinterest is pinterest.com/i4c. Many wineries will have special offerings today but if you can’t make it out to one, just chill a bottle, crack it open and toast this new trend that everyone seems to be enjoying and join in the online party.
Here in Ontario, today marks the kickoff to the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration taking place July 19-21 in Niagara. Sixty-two winemakers from 11 countries will offer up a taste of the world’s best chardonnay to wine enthusiasts at events ranging from intimate vineyard lunches to the main event “The Cool Chardonnay Wine Tour”.
If you’re looking for information on Chardonnay Day activities and the i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) you’ll find it here www.coolchardonnay.org
It’s enough to force you off the street and into the closest SAQ (Quebec’s answer to the LCBO).Excuses, excuses …. pretty much any time you visit Montreal is a good reason for a stop at the SAQ.
Searching for Wine in an April Snowstorm
My mother has gotten used to the fact that even after spending five hours in the car, my first pit stop is the small but well-stocked liquor store around the corner from her place. She stopped taking offence after I made sure I also stocked her up with her favourites.
They have their version of Vintages. Many have a tasting bar. And they have incredibly helpful staff. But there are a few differences:
Fans of French wines will be overjoyed by the SAQ which has a richer selection of wines from France. There are Italian wines that are only available on consiognment in Ontario. But sorry Quebec, whenever you can find the same wines in both provinces, the LCBO version is typically cheaper.
Another difference – the tasting philosophy. LCBO is very strict about making sure you taste no more than a total of 2 oz of wine (4 x 1.2 oz – that math combination I have learned well!).
In Quebec, it’s pretty much self-serve. Load a few bucks on to your tasting card and keep tasting until your card runs dry. Now I haven’t spent a whole day there, so maybe someone would eventually get thrown out, but the expectation is you know better than to drink too much at the liquor store.
This time I tasted a FANTASTIC Saint-Joseph from the Northern Rhone quite aptly named Hedonism. SO good that a bottle of this sexy red ended up in the cart. 100% Syrah, it exudes luscious strawberries and spice. This one is medium to full bodied like most Saint-Joseph reds and would go nicely with a juicy beef burger or beef stew. Yum. WIne Spectator gave it an 89 rating.
Alcohol 13% $27.40 SAQ
Here are the some of others that made it into my Mom’s personal tasting room.
Valley of the Giants Cabernet-Merlot 2009 from Western Australia $16.95 This very affordable Australian was flying off the shelves. Excellent value.
I live in a world where finding a great bottle under $20 is my mission, but when it comes to the rich and famous the cool darkness that cloaks their cellars often hides a world of thieves and villains. You may not care some rich guy just got duped into paying thirty thousand dollars for wine that turned out to be fake but like any great novel, counterfeiting, heists and prison definitely make for great intrigue.
Recently a court case seven years in the making finally saw billionaire Bill Koch sue California entrepreneur Eric Greenberg over 24 rare bottles of wine he says are fake. Koch bought the bottles at auction along with a number of others spending a total of $3.7 million. Koch alleges Greenberg knew or should have known the bottles were counterfeit thereby making this fraud. Greenberg denies this and in the years leading up to the trial both men have already spent somewhere in the amount of $13 million on legal fees. Mr. Koch feels it’s his duty to blow the whistle on the counterfeit problem in the wine world and while I may not be in the same league as these collectors I to would be upset to learn my bottle of single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was really just a mix of varietals from a bunch of different vineyards. Should Koch win he is seeking both monetary and punitive damages but in the next case prison was the end result.
Last December someone entered the cellar of Gianfranco Soldera’s winery, Azienda Agricola Case Basse in Montalcino, opened almost all his casks of aging wine and caused the lost of more than 16,500 gallons. This amounted to about 80,000 bottles worth of Brunello di Montalcino from the past six vintages and left the owner with almost nothing left to sell. The man convicted of the crime, Andrea di Gisi was once employed at the winery and had told witnesses he was angry Soldera had not provided him with a place to live. Recently the courts in Siene ruled that if you spill the wine you do the time and sentenced Andrea to four years in prison.
Often referred to a liquid gold wine heists are not unheard of and in recent years there have been some noted ones. Last July 5,200 bottles of wine were stolen in what was considered the largest heist in B.C history. Stolen from Blackwood Lane Vineyards and Winery in Langley B.C. While insurance may cover the $200,000 lost for the owners it can’t replace the wine.
In January 60,000 bottles of South Australian Stumpy Merlot, worth around $500,000, was stolen from two tractor trailers leaving police puzzled about where it went. And most recently thieves stole over three and half thousand bottles of champagne worth about 300,000 pounds from French producer Jacques Seloss. Authorities have no clue as to who the culprits are but say the theft was well-organized. More worrying than the loss of the champagne is the additional theft of thousands of labels and neck labels, that could lead to the production of counterfeit bottles.
And so it seems we have come full circle back to the question of how do counterfeit wines end up in the cellars of experience buyers and collectors. Well I say “gentlemen stick to a good bottle of something under $20 and you’ll never go wrong”.
OK be honest, what’s the most you would spend on a bottle of wine?
I’m not Catholic and to be honest, the only time I go to Church is for weddings and funerals, the last time being my nephew’s wedding in Italy. I know very little about the Church’s ceremonies or canons but I’ve observed the Eucharist (also referred to as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion) and know there’s real wine in that Challis.
So as the world watched Pope Francis step onto the balcony in the Vatican, I wondered where the wine they serve comes from. Does the Church have its own vineyards, is the Eucharist wine any good and could there be a secret cellar in the Vatican that houses wine just for the Pope?
According to the Catholic Church Canons, Sacramental wine, also referred to as Communion or Alter wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt meaning it must be naturally fermented with no additives. I was actually told by a Church historian that it would be sacrilegious to use anything but real wine.
The Church actually has a long history with Old World vineyards and one of the best known is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In 1308, Pope Clement V moved the papacy to the city of Avignon and it was said he was a great lover of wine. He avidly promoted the wines of the area which came to be known as “Vin du Pape” (now known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape) during the 70 years the Papacy was located there. But it was actually his successor John XXII who was responsible for the building of the famous castle that stands as a symbol for the appellation to this day.
Of course their wine now is not limited to supplying the Church and you can find a nice bottle of La Fiole du Pape a Chateauneuf-du-Pape red for $34.95. It’s a smooth full-bodied red from the Rhone in France.
I’m certain there are others vineyards in the Old World that supply wines to the Church but there’s also some well-known ones in the New World. In Australia Jesuits founded Sevenhill Cellars in 1851 in the Clare Valley. They now produce over 90,000 litres of wine annually, providing sacramental wine for both Australia and Asia along with a variety of award-winning white, red and fortified wines.
Located in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York State you’ll find O-Neh-Da the oldest still-producing vineyard founded by Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid in 1872. This is one of the last remaining wineries in the world dedicated to producing authentic sacramental wine from their original vineyard. They created a second vineyard called Eagle Crest that offers wine to the public.
There are even several wineries in Sonoma County that managed to survive Prohibition by producing sacramental wines. Among them was SIMI Winery founded in 1876 by two Italian brothers who immigrated to the US during the California gold rush. By continuing to produce wine they were one of the few wineries ready to sell wine again once Prohibition ended.
There are certainly others vineyards producing Sacramental wines around the world and generally the wines are known to be not too dry or sweet so as not to offend the palate. But how do they really taste? According to the Rev. E. Frank Henriques of Grass Valley, Calif., an Episcopal priest who is the author of The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine (New American Library, 1984) ”There’s very little sacramental wine that’s good”. Which totally leads me to believe there’s a secret wine cellar at the Vatican even though no one will confirm it.
Pope Francis has already charmed the masses and today as millions of faithful watched the Papal inauguration ceremony at St. Peter’s Square I’m sure his fan base will only grow. Considering that right out of the gate he mentioned words of wisdom I truly believe in “Like good wine we get better with age” I don’t think you even have to be Catholic to like this guy.