The Maine Event; When life’s a beautiful beach

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.

stairsGrowing 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.

beachFor 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.

cartThe 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.

all on the beachMornings 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.

lynnOur 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.

puzzleIt 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.

book&wineSitting 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Bubbly For Your Buck

Since we don’t profess to be experts just wine enthusiasts, sometimes when it comes to recommendations we look for a little help from our friends.  And because our main love is big bold reds we figured if we wanted to add some cheer to your New Year we’d better get some advice.

 

Ange-about-usThis summer we met Ange Aiello the founder of iYellow Wine Club, a social wine club based in Toronto with monthly wine events, wine tours and newsletters.  With over 4000 members, they count on Ange to know her stuff and she definitely does, especially when it comes to local. And we say what better way to boost the economy than by buying local.

Ange is fun, charming and bubbly so who better to suggest the perfect bottle to pop on New Year’s Eve.  From the budget basics to the luxurious here’s her list:

Affordable and fun bubbly
1- Mionetto Prosecco – Italian and delicious $11.95
2- Moscato Spumante – sweeter and sparkly $12.95
3 – Wolf Blass – traditional method, dryer and a great with lots of appetizers $17.95
4- Trapiche Sparkling Brut – $11.95

Local Bubbly
1- Peller Estates Ice Cuvee Rose $32.95 – Sparkling wine made like champagne with cabernet Franc Icewine
2 – Chateau Des Charmes Brut $23.95 – dry and delicious
3 – Jackson Triggs Entourage Brut – perfect for the holidays
3 – Casa Dea Brut – $18.95 – A great local bubble from Prince Edward County
4 – Henry of Pelham Rose Catherine – declious and perfect and pink!
5 – Sparkling Icewine – $79.95 – a delight to share and spoil with, start or end a meal with!

Luxurious Bubbly – Champagne (From France and over $40.00)
1- Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne $67.85
2- Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne $59.95
3- Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Champagne $44.55

Ange also shared her suggestions on Canada AM recently and if you want to watch the video here’s the link http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=832987&playlistId=1.1090712&binId=1.815911

She’s also got a couple of upcoming ice wine tours to Niagara in January that should be a blast so check out the wine club if you’re interested in tagging along.

imagesEven though sparkling wines and champagne are what we know best the one thing we do know is they go with everything. So whether you’re just popping the cork to cheer in the New Year or pairing it up with dinner nothing makes you smile like tiny bubbles tickling your taste buds.

So raise a glass and celebrate the New Year with us as we will be thinking of all of you.  May  2013 be an outstanding year not just for the vintages you choose to drink but also for you, your family and all your friends.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Never Too Old To Learn Something New

No matter how old I am, or the fact my children are long past the days of report cards, September will always be back to school time for me. A couple of years ago, I decided to further my wine education. I had been to a couple of wineries in Italy and California. I certainly had sampled many wines. And I watched Sideways and Bottleshock – I figured I knew a fair bit –  so I convinced my partner in wine Tina to take a course at George Brown College.

HOLY GRAPES!!!

Soooo many study notes

The first thing I learned was I know absolutely nothing! My first six weeks of notes upon notes upon notes – confirmed it. I admit, I am a bit of a control freak. And facing week after week of “What do you smell?”

Deep breath. Pause. Second Deep Breath……um…red wine?  No, I did not smell “Smores”.

I would break into a sweat when called upon to analyze a wine. I envied those who knew all the answers.  Why exactly did I put myself through this classroom torture?

Because ever so slowly, it started to make sense. I became a study fiend. I traded in my novels for the textbook. I memorized the wine regions out loud before going to sleep. I studied my index cards on the treadmill to the entertainment of others at the gym.

I survived and even passed Wines One. The next semester signed up for Wines Two – which is similar but goes into more depth and like anything, helped to find a semi-permanent spot on the rapidly-running-out-of-space-on-the-hard-drive that is my brain.

The other reason the torture is worth it – you get to try an incredible number of wines – between 8-12 wines  each class.  It is such great exposure to the world of wine with classmates who are either enrolled because they work in the industry, or like me, they simply loved to drink wine.

Our teacher Serge Jancic, took it one step further in Wines Two….the term paper. I had not tackled one of those for 30 years. Before Google. OMG, another reason to love Google. While I stressed about the assignment, I ended up loving it. I made so many discoveries  – from amazing wines, regions, writers, columnists etc.

At the end of the day, it is a lot of fun. And it worked a completely different part of the brain than my day job. I met great people who love wine as much as I do. And while my wine knowledge is still ever so limited, it has sparked my curiosity to learn more  –  and isn’t that the real gift  of education?

So it being September and all, I am heading back to class again – this time to study New World Wines – but this time, (being that occasional Control Freak) – I am starting to read up now so this time I might be one of the smart asses with the odd right answer!

Stay tuned.

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Mystery?

Last week I got an interesting delivery at the office.  It started with an email from the shipping department saying I’d gotten a package from a “No Name Sender”.  Already curious, I quickly opened the box when it arrived at my desk.Inside was another box…a wooden one this time, you know the kind you sometimes get a fancy wine gift in.  The box was rather light to contain a bottle of wine and stamped on the front were the words “The Label Project”, so I wasn’t really sure what it was all about.
The Mystery Box
I’m naturally curious but as a journalist, I’m downright nosey and hate not knowing all the facts.  sI quickly opened the box and laughed out loud when I discovered a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey inside with a letter.Now I’ll admit I’ve read the trilogy because I was curious about all the hype but my fantasy is not to be dominated and tied up in someone’s cellar unless that cellar happened to contain the world’s finest wines that I would be allowed to drink.
Wondering what the book had to do with the wine box I quickly turned to the letter which was actually an invitation to be a part of a global wine adventure called The Label Project.   They sent the book as a reflection on first impressions and just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover the letter stated a pretty label is not an indication of how the wine tastes.Sent to 140 bloggers from 12 different countries the invitation consists of a two-week challenge to go beyond the label and uncover the wine inside the bottle.Over the next few weeks we’ll all receive three unique deliveries, each containing; one bottle of “label-less” wine, a sensory clue (smell, taste and sight), facts about the region and tasting note clues to get us guessing.

We each have to work out the grape varietal and region the wine is from and send our answers by email at the end of the two-week period.

So what’s the point of all this cloak and dagger intrigue you ask? Well it looks like a bit of fun detective work while enjoying wine and let me just say this couldn’t get much better for me.

The thing that gets my heart pounding is not an erotic novel but a good old fashion mystery.

Stay tuned for the next chapter after the first wine arrives!

Quote Me!

From Galileo to William Shakespeare there are many famous wine quotes but none that embody how we feel about our favourite drink like the quote from famed California winemaker, Robert Mondavi.

In his autobiography, “Harvests of Joy” he wrote “Wine to me is passion.  Its family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.”

That quote pretty much says how we, The Women of Wine feel about life, love and the pursuit of a good bottle of wine.

There has been famous wine quotes since our favourite nectar of the God’s was first served up, many somewhat serious yet poignant.

“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.”  Homer, “Odyssey (9th c. B.C.)

“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”  Benjamin Franklin

“In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it.” Napoleon

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” – Ernest Hemingway

Lately we’ve run across a lot of great quotes that made us laugh so we thought we’d share them with you.  Many I’m sure you’ve even seen on various websites or pin boards. We’re not always sure who to accredit them to and they may not stand the test of time like those attributed to Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin but they sure as heck make us laugh out loud.

“I wish I could trade my heart for another liver.  That way I could drink more and care less” – Funny lady Tina Fey

“A good friend brings over a bottle to share.  A best friend brings two so you can each have one” – unknown

“If I ever go missing I want my picture on a wine bottle instead of a milk carton.  This way, my friends will actually know I’m missing”.

And since we all know Sip Happens!!! Grab a glass, pour yourself some wine, and relax and enjoy.

Great Wine Reads

I’m a big reader – there are always 2-3 (more like 4-5) books on the go on my night table. There are magazines and another couple of books in the bathroom, on the coffee table and always one in my gym bag (sometimes it takes me a little longer to read that one). because I never know when I’ll have a few minutes or 20. After I took a wine class, the need and desire to learn more about what I’m drinking has led to a growing wine collection – not just the text book variety which, I learned the hard way, are always required to weigh at least 10 kgs. Here are some fun and fast  favourites that are worth making their way to a reading spot near you.

Educating Peter

Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert by Lettie Teague

If you love movies and love wine – this book is fun quick read by Lettie Teague who writes a terrific column for the Wall Street Journal. She takes on the challenge of teaching the elements of wine to  Peter Travers (no relation), the long-time film critic for Rolling Stone magazine whose favourite wine is a flabby Chardonnay. This is not wine school. This is a fun ride through varietals, regions, peppered with analogies to movies and movie makers.  It won’t change your life, but it will have you wishing to have Lettie Teague as a teacher when you look at the wines they sampled together – simple little bottles from the $599 Harlan Estate to a $4000 bottle of Screaming Eagle. And where else would you find out what Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese and Peter Jackson pick from the wine list?

Red, White and Drunk All Over

Red, White and Drunk All Over by Natalie Maclean

Now I LOVED this book. Natalie Maclean, Queen of www.nataliemaclean.com,  takes you on a journey of her wine experiences while making you lust after some of her stops along the way. COME ON, she tours Domaine Romanee Conte – which ONLY  produces one of (if not THE) greatest Burgundies of all time with owner Aubert de Villaine. She spends a few days in the fields with one of California’s most colourfull wine makers Randall Grahm – founder of Booy Doon Wines. He describes himself as a vinarchist and  “champion of the ugly-duckling grapes” which is one of the reasons he became known as a Rhone Ranger. And that’s just the first two chapters.  What I really liked about this book, is Maclean’s approachable style.  Each chapter is  a great experience with lots of information thrown in. It is educational – but not dull or intimidating in any way.  Honestly, by a few pages in  you just wanted to be riding shotgun on that adventure.

A Hedonist in the Cellar

A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine by Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney exploded on to the bestseller list (and on to my night table) with Bright Lights, Big City in 1984. Now one of my go-to sites on Saturday morning is the Wall Street Journal where he writes a wine column.  There’s nothing stuffy about this collection of essays from McInerney’s days as a wine columnist for House and Garden magazine.  McInerney blends his extensive wine knowledge with his ability to tell a great story. It’s so well written that there are descriptions imprinted in my memory. Who else would describe  the notoriously difficult Pinot Noir Grape as ” the source of  more heartbreak  and tears than country music radio “?  His essays take you around the world:  from the most modest wine store – where the writer was first exposed to the joy of wine  to a restaurant table  in Italy for a chat with Angelo Gaja – one of the greatest

living wine makers. It’s no wonder Salon has called McInerney,  the best wine writer in the U-S.

So many to choose from

There are so many more great wine books out there. And coming soon will be a few suggestions on books about wine pairings (a couple are still on the night table). But just writing about these ones has made me want to read them all over again!