Category Archives: California

Wedding Wine


 

wedding shotOnce upon a time, on a perfect beach in Maine, one hundred people held up their glasses to toast the marriage of soul mates.

What is a wedding if not belief in the future?

Looking at Rhiannon and Scott, surrounded by family and friends who gathered to rejoice in this moment, you can’t help but believe.

I have often written about Maine (likely because it often includes the imbibing of a fair amount of wine).  What made this wedding so special – they chose to begin their future in a place that honours the bride’s past.

Rhiannon, her siblings and my girls – along with a host of others, have spent precious days together on that beach for 25 years.

mia and maine 155And this day couldn’t have been more perfect.

goddessThe bride and her attendants looked like Goddesses as they made  their way down the beach.

tears

 

 

The catch in Rhiannon and Scott’s voices as they spoke their vows.

The relief that some of us felt (OK it wasn’t ONLY me)  that we were thankfully wearing sunglasses so those tear-filled  eyes wouldn’t show.

 

 

What does this have to do with wine?  

sunflowers

Wedding wine, of course – the challenge of making choices that will have everyone coming back for more.

Last summer, while making our way through scores of bottles, during our week at the very same beach , one evening was devoted to the tasting of potential wedding wines.

Among the 10 of us, we had plenty of familiarity drinking wine and a fair amount of experience  attending weddings. Testing wines is a tough job, but that’s what friends are for.

 

Where do you start?

  • Set your budget. Parents Sandra and Randy wanted to spend somewhere between $10-20 a bottle. Extremely attainable.
  • Pick your varietals. After much discussion which included the merits of Merlot and the shunning of Chardonnay (wrongly so) – the plan was a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
  • Find an expert: Erin from Old Port Wine Merchants and Cigar Shop in Portland couldn’t have been more helpful. She had great suggestions and if there was something Sandra was looking for that she didn’t carry or didn’t fit the budget – Erin found something with a matching flavour profile.

Here’s what they settled on:

Cameron Hughes Chardonnay 2012 Cameron Hughes Monterey County  Chardonnay $16.00

 

scicia

 

2013 Scaia –  Veneto 2013  Garganega/Chardonnay $9.95

cab sauv

 

2012 Avalon –  Cabernet Sauvignon California  $10.99

pinot

 

2013 Angeline Pinot Noir  California 2013 $10.99

fume blanc

 

2013 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County $14.00

 

Excellent choices to celebrate with dear old friends, raise a glass with new ones and toast to Rhiannon and Scott’s future.  A Once Upon a Time kind of day that will undoubtedly  end with Happily Ever After.

Cheers!

 

Value added suggestion:

One of the many times husband Steve and I visited the tasting bar at the Summerhill LCBO, a couple planning their wedding  told us  about Luccarelli Primitivo Puglia IGT – $10.95. Turns out it  is the most popular wedding wine.  Though now Steve thinks all young couples we meet at the tasting bar are picking wedding wine – which can prove to be occasionally awkward but awfully fun.

Weekend Wine Picks from Canada, California and an Italian Best Buy

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One of the many things I love about a long weekend…there is one more day to drink wine. I have a rule (with the odd exceptions) not to drink Monday-Thursday except on a holiday weekend. Sitting in the backyard sampling wines and listening to good music is one of life’s great pleasures

 

 

California ruled my Friday night visit.

aug31wine 014Diamond Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Napa Valley is the LCBO’s wine of the month. For good reason. Winemakers described 2012 as ideal and excellent conditions and this full-bodied cab – perfect for the barbecue –  delivers. $23.95

aug31wine 013

 

 

 

My next Californian – Jekel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Arroyo Secco, Monterey County.  My husband and I loved this wine –  we love big wines and this was full-bodied, fruit forward without oak trying to steal the show.  Good value at $19.95

 

aug31wine 017

Raise a Glass to BC and Niagara.

The second visit left me  tipping my hat to VQA wines from BC and ON. The Sperling Pinot Noir 2012  from the Okanagan Valley was a show stopper.  It was delicious this afternoon  and will only improve with age. $27.95

 

 

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Creekside Estate Winery Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – fresh and inviting on this warm weekend. At $17.95, great value.

 

 

 

 

aug31wine 021Best Value Wine: My wine find for the weekend was a modest unassuming wine tucked away on the bottom shelf of the tasting room. Tormaresca Neprica 2012  from Puglia over delivered.  A blend of Negroamaro, Primativo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – clearly not for the faint of palate. What can I say? At $14.95 in Vintages, I bought five. Ok –  true confession – the next day I bought a case.

 Enjoy your weekend. It may not be a long one, but hopefully this will save you time at the LCBO giving you more time to savour.

Cheers

 

 

Pizza and Pinot; The Perfect Pairing

January is of course the month of resolutions and right at the top of the list is losing weight.  While I’m not opposed to dropping a few pounds I’ve come the realization I’ll never be super model thin because I love food and wine and pretty much hate exercising.  My one concession has been to stop drinking during the week in hopes of saving a few calories for the weekend.

unnamedI’m a great cook and actually enjoy making a nice meal so my husband and I rarely eat take out, but every once in a while the urge strikes so Friday night we ordered pizza.  And since Friday constitutes the beginning of the weekend I also got to open a bottle of wine. Wanting to enjoy a nice red but something not too heavy, the perfect choice was of course a Pinot Noir.

0304105I opted for a California wine from the Buena Vista Winery founded by Agoston Haraszthy a Hungarian immigrant, who was a man of many talents.  A  farmer, vintner, respected author and businessman he also operated the first commercial steamboat on the upper Mississippi River and became the the first town marshal and county sheriff in San Diego.

Agoston Haraszthy
Agoston Haraszthy

Often referred to as the “Father of California Viticulture” he introduced more than three hundred varieties of European grapes in that state and helped Buena Vista become California’s first premium winery in 1857. Unfortunately the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista” died in 1869 in an alligator-infested river in Nicaragua but even with the challenges of the depression, prohibition, and phylloxera Buena Vista Winery not only survived but prospered. Now a part of the Boisset Family Estates the vision and legacy created by The Count 150 years ago lives on through the family’s passion.

unnamed-1Coming from their Carneros vineyard the 2009 Pinot Noir has intense fruity flavours yet a graceful elegance.  It had a pale ruby colour and tasted of ripe berries.   I usually go for the under $20 wines unless it’s a special occasion so at $24.95 I went a bit over but considering the pizza cost about $7 it all evened out.  This wine would also be amazing with roast chicken or turkey, a nice pork loin or salmon but let’s be honest it went down pretty darn good with a good old fashion slice of pizza.

 

 

 

 

Wines To Love in January

SO many wines, so little time.

Over the holidays I tried so many terrific wines, I missed a few blogs because I was too busy drinking. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Some were spectacular splurges and others were fabulous finds that are budget-friendly. Since getting financially fit is the second most common resolution, this week is dedicated to bottles that won’t break the bank.

vouvrayBougrier Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2012  AOC, Loire, France $13.95 I sampled this wine walking into an LCBO looking for a red or three and I couldn’t pass  up this white charmer.  This wine is a tad sweet but not overwhelmingly so.  Pale gold and fruity with aromas of peach, pear and mango. I really enjoyed this wine, especially at that price. 12% alcohol ,Food Match: Pesto, Rich Seafood  with a little Taylor Swift or Sophie Milman playing in the background.

 

A Stressed Spanish Sensation
A Stressed Spanish Sensation

Buried Hope, Tempranillo 2010, Ribera del Duero, Spain  $19.95 This  wine was a perfect match from the first sip. It’s  rich and full-bodied – fruity with cherry, plums and a touch of spice. It is nicely balanced and will only improve with time. I loved this wine and will be clearing some space for a few extra bottles. 14% alcohol . Food match: Roast Pork, Steak aux Poivre served with some Dave Matthews or Mumford and Sons.

Deep and Delicious
Deep and Delicious

Buried Hope, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 North Coast, California, $19.95 Grown in the massive area which encompasses the North Coast, this California Cabernet is earthy and smooth. Makes you wish you were sipping a glass in a cottage overlooking the Pacific. Cherry and vanilla notes, nicely balanced. 14.2% alcohol. Food match: meat, meat and more meat – and Foreigner blasting “I’ve Been Waiting”.

A Bargain from South Africa
A Bargain from South Africa

The Pavillion, Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, South Africa, $12.00 I knew nothing about this wine. It came by way of a party. It looked great in the glass – purpley-red with the kind of full-bodied swirl that I am a fan of. Produced by Boschendal Estates, this blend has lovely blackberry and spicy and a pleasure to drink with friends. What surprised me most was the price.  Alcohol 14%  Food match: Roast Beef or a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and the Rolling Stones with plenty of Satisfaction.

I hope you enjoy these tasty bargains. If you have a favourite value wine, let us know. Coming soon, the wines of B.C’s Osoyoos , wines worth splurging on, and the wines of Sicily.

Wishing you a 2014 filled with memorable occasions and memorable wine!   .

Cheers!

Around The World; One Bottle At A Time

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.

0-1Trying 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.

0-3Red 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.

0-2Porcupine 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.

0Willy 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.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Lobster Pairings with Love from Maine

Gifts from the Maine Coast
Gifts from the Maine Coast

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)

A Palace by Any Other Name
Chipper’s Lobster Shack

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.

Dinner In the Making
Dinner In the Making

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).

Bring on the Crisp Coppola
Bring on the Crisp Coppola

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 Extrordinaire
Pouilly Fuisse Extrordinaire

 

 

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.

grothGroth 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.

The Shining Chardonnay
The 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
La Marca Prosecco

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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers to Chardonnay; Celebrating A Day In Your Honour

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.

Ontario Chardonnay_2But 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.

Ontario ChardonnayHere 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

How will you celebrate today?

 

 

California Wine Dreaming

california cruisin

There was a lot of California Dreaming going on at a recent event put on by  IYellow Wine Club..

California Cruisin’ was another brainchild of IYellow Wine Club founder Angie Aiello (pronounced I-Yellow… get it?). Angie brought 30 wine producers from California, threw in some gourmet food truck nibbles and then tweeted her friends and followers. They brought their friends, and suddenly  450 thirsty young wine lovers were crammed into a room getting a taste of California. These 20-35 somethings are the most powerful demo in advertising, and these days this demo is toasting that power with a  glass of wine.

wine wine 014Young Canadians are getting sweet on wine. Overall, the per capita wine consumption here is growing three times faster than around the world. And it is expected to be the fifth fastest growing market between now and 2017.

Looking around this event, those new stats are easy to believe.   All decked out for a Saturday night on Toronto’s King Street, this isn’t the note-taking crowd. This is the demo that still has enough brain cells to remember the stories they are told over the course of the evening. They taste the wines and the next morning over brunch – start planning their trip to California wine country.

This is not a stuffy crowd of cork dorks (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This is an engaged group eager to learn more and Angie Aiello’s wine social club provides the perfect opportunity to learn the difference between a flavourful Cabernet Sauvignon and a powerful Zinfandel.

There are so many great California wines  and thanks to  huge marketing initiative to get Canada sampling.- they took centre stage recently at the LCBO. Poke around the section and you will find some super wines at super prices.

dreaming treeWines like The Dreaming Tree Crush 2010. This red blend from the North Coast is a co-production of musician Dave Matthews and winemaker Steve Reeder. And what a blend! 78% Merlot, 13% Syrah, 6% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Syrah, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. I sent a bottle home with a good friend from Montreal and she called extolling the virtues of its mocha and coffee notes. It’s $16.95 a bottle  and it’s going fast.

 

mondavi

Tina and I moved on to Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 which was a little pricier at $34.95 but bold and concentrated, a perfect Napa Cab. Now I will admit right off I am a sucker for anything Robert Mondavi. Anyone who starts a brand new career in his fifties out of a love for wines – is worthy of  attention (ok maybe adoration). He died in his 90s and  when I visited the vineyard last year, Mondavi is regarded as a saint by everyone who knew him. The one that smaller wineries could count on when they had a bad season.

 

 I sampled a Chateau St Jean Pinot Noir  2011 from Sonoma County- an ideal wine for meat pastas or roast chicken. It is a celebration of raspberries and strawberries. It is a staff pick at the LCBO and currently on sale for $17.95.

justinWhile Napa is known for its Cabs, Sonoma its Pinots – head a little further south to Paso Robles, and you will find some superb Syrah`s. The area was made famous by the so-called Rhone Rangers – who were determined to create their own Syrah-based blends in California to rival their French ancestors. The Justin Syrah 2011 is a prime pick for those who like ripe fruit forward wines. It is not available at the LCBO yet – but well worth trying out when it come in..

obsessionIronstone Obsession Symphony 2011 has been a regular on my table. Symphony is a grape that is on the sweet side, highly aromatic and most pleasing on the palate.  Also on sale right now at the LCBO for $13.95 (I picked up two).

The California Cruisin’ evening was about sampling and learning about wines that are affordable but don`t compromise on taste.  And wine clubs like IYellow are making it cool to be a cork dork. For more information, check out IYellowwineclub.com for monthly events and classes that are not for cork dorks only.  Toronto Life voted it the best place to learn about wine. And you can follow them on twitter @IYellowwineclub.

Off to book a trip to California!

 

Pope Francis: The Secret of Sacramental 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.

Chateauneuf_du_Pape_2The 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.  0012286

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.