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!

Picking Wine: The Myth of a Right and Wrong Choice

Sampling some bubbly at Chateau des Charmes
Picking the Right Wine

A friend of mine came into my office after she received a quick lesson in wine pairings from Kevin Brauch,  The Thirsty Traveler (@drinkingrobot).  Marcia said the lesson left her  determined to learn more about wine so she won’t feel intimidated visiting the wine store. Two days later, I heard the same message from another two colleagues who talked about the stress of   picking the wrong wine.

There is no such thing as a  right and wrong wine. Just like there is no such thing as a right song or a wrong song. Be it Lou Reed (RIP) or ABBA,  it simply comes down to a matter of taste (my husband might disagree on the ABBA point). Coincidentally it came up again at a wine club event, which you might think would be full or cork dorks, but you would be wrong – they are just people who love wine.

October 2013 039
The Wine Lesson

Someone asked  what happens if you can’t smell the wine notes or aromas that have been identified.  Brian Schmidt (@benchwineguy), the winemaker at Vineland Estates,  expressed it beautifully. Essentially, as they say in Jersey, fuhgeddaboudit. Schmidt said the wine industry could not have done more to complicate the drinking of wine. “It’s like we made it sound like if you don’t taste certain flavours in a wine, you are not part of the club. Just enjoy it“, Schmidt said.

 

Then he promptly proceeded to prove his point by admitting, that  on a hot day, he enjoys sipping from a bottle of Mateus. Mateus??? Cue the gasp from the alleged cork dorks.

Remembering Mateus
Remembering Mateus

Remember Mateus? The stubby shaped flat bottle looks snazzier now than when I smuggled it into a party in the 70’s.   Apparently Mateus also continues to be one of the top selling wines in Canada.

Schmidt couldn’t have used a better example. Enjoy what you enjoy. whether it is Yellow Tail, Fuzion, or a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild (though that one will cost you a mortgage payment). I attended a wine seminar a couple of years ago and everyone was raving about an Australian Chardonnay and I didn’t like it at all.  I assumed it was because I didn’t know enough about wine. And while I am sure it was very fine wine, it’s not very fine to me.

So there is no  reason to feel intimidated when walking through the LCBO, SAQ or any other liquor store.  It’s an adventure. And the more you try different grapes, countries, regions, the more you will start to recognize the type of wine you like.

So Many Glasses, So Little Time
So Many Glasses, So Little Time

And the same thing goes for wine critics – Peter Gago, the man responsible for the jaw-droppingly good Penfolds, says by sampling their picks, you find out if you have similar  tastes.

For example, I love Italian wines. There are regions that I pick from that I know will not disappoint. They may not all be award winners, but when I pick a wine from  Tuscany’s Bolgheri region, I am 90% sure I will be very happy with my pick. I feel the same way about a Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. The quality and price can vary widely – but at whatever level – my risk is minimal because I like that style of wine.

So if you have enjoyed a few of my wine picks, here are a few more, including one that made my taste buds somersault for joy.

Luis Canas Crianza 2009, Rioja, Spain $17.95

A Spectacular Spanish Wine
A Spectacular Spanish Wine

I randomly picked up this bottle. It  was the last on the shelf which is often a good sign (Sorry Mr. Leaside who, seconds later, asked a staffer where he could find Luis Canas.  I slinked away hugging mine tightly). I tried it that night and it was spectacular. Smooth, full-bodied, with raspberry and dark cherry notes.  I went to the LCBO web site to see where I could buy more and picked up the last 5 bottles at the Danforth Store. Incredible value for $17.95. If you see them, buy them (or let me know and I will.) Apparently they have the potential of aging well. As if.

 

Cheval Quancard Reserve Sauvignon-Semillion 2011, Bordeaux, France $14.95

A Great Value Bordeaux
A Great Value Bordeaux

This wine is my white find of the week. My daughters prefer white to red so I always have a few on hand. This one particular wine had me wishing they switched to red so I could finish it off. It is fruity and full of flavour, slightly creamy  with lovely aromas. I loved the wine and especially loved the price!

 

 

Ripa de Manderole, IGT, Tuscany, Italy $15.95

A Lovely Quaffer
A Lovely Quaffer

My third pick is a medium-bodied blend of Tuscany’s favourite Sangiovese grape blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the creation of John Matta, who has been voted Italian winemaker of the year four times since 1997. It is a friendly approachable wine that is a terrific with a simple pasta or pizza.

Enjoy your discoveries and share your favourites!

 

 

 

Get Inspired; it’s easy

BTfZpvnCMAEIRFi.jpg-thumbI met a very interesting man the other day, Joel Osteen the pastor of America’s biggest church, a best-selling author whose books spend umpteen weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list and one of the most influential people on social media. I’m neither here nor there when it comes to religion and I’m basically a W/F (Weddings & Funerals) kind of person, so I was highly intrigued as to what draws people to him and why there are so many people looking for inspiration in their lives?

1150772_10151548998151331_772431878_nWe all have hardships growing up, some more than others and I definitely had my fair share, but as things go my life has turned out pretty well. I have a great husband, healthy, smart children who now have amazing lives of their own, friends I love to spend time with and a job I actually enjoy (most of the time). Was it fate, luck, hard work or divine intervention…or maybe a little of everything combined? I can’t really answer that, but it got me to thinking about what inspires me to be happy.

0One can always use more money, vacation time and a thousand other things but as I sit here on this beautiful September afternoon in my garden sipping a cool glass of Sylvaner from Alsace I’m not sure I would be any happier on a yacht harboured by the French Riviera (ok, maybe if I was sitting next to George Clooney).  As I get older I find it’s the little things in life that make me happy, cooking something I’ve always wanted to try, and laughing when it doesn’t turn out.

0-1Uncorking a bottle of wine that turns out to be amazing, like this Remo Farina Montecorna Valpolicella Ripasso from San Pietro, $19.95 at the LCBO. Singing along to the music even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or finishing a great book I can’t wait to share with my friends.  I know it’s not always easy to find happiness in a world filled with bad news but take a minute to enjoy the small things in life and I bet it will make you smile.

0-2So kick back, skip the mall and enjoy the last beautiful days of warm weather with your friends, family or even by yourself.  Just for today, don’t count the calories, enjoy a good glass of wine just because you want to and worry about tomorrow when it comes.  Life is hard, but it’s the little things that make living worthwhile so enjoy it while you can.

And while Pastor Osteen might be making millions from his advice I’m happy to share mine for free because we all know money can’t buy you happiness (but darn, it I could probably buy me much better wine).

And while I feel it wouldn’t be right to solicit your donations feel free to send wine as we are always happy to sample something new and give you our opinion.

 

 

Wednesday Wine Picks

beach lisSummer 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:

A Crisp Northern Italian WIne
A Crisp Northern Italian WIne

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.

$19.95

 

Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand 2012 – Walmea Estates

A Classic New Zealand Specialty
A Classic New Zealand Specialty

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

 

 

Value Wine of the Week
Value Wine of the Week

Domaine de la Gitonniere, Touraine 2011 AC Value Alert!!

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 

A Splurge-Worthy White
A Splurge-Worthy White

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!

 

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?

 

 

Wednesday Wine Picks from La Belle Province

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.

Saint JosephThis 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
Valley of the Giants

Valley of the Giants Cabernet-Merlot 2009 from Western Australia $16.95  This very affordable Australian was flying off the shelves. Excellent value.

 

 

Hardy's Butcher Block
Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold

Hardy’s Chronicle 3, Butcher’s Gold Shiraz/Sangiovese 2011 $16.95

An Australian classic grape meets the varietal that is Tuscany’s claim to fame. This bold fruity wine packs a punch at 14% alcohol with herbal notes.

Food pairing: Beef Tenderloin, Flank steak

 

   Enjoy the picks and drop us a line with a favourite of your own!

Wine Crimes: Counterfeits, Heists and Prison

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.

SolderaLOGOLast 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.

blackwood Lane wineryOften 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.

StumpyMerlotIn 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?