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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Picks: A Quartet under $20

  My, my, my…there were some lovely finds in the tasting room  of LCBO’s Summerhill branch this week. This gorgeous outlet among in my top 10 favourite places in Toronto. (Could even be top 5 !) Not only is it an archtecturally beautiful building, there is plenty of parking and the best Vintages selection,  too. My only complaint – clearly it is the favourite of many wine lovers because the shelves are often cleaned out. Still – here are four under $20 and a splurge. This week I also added some very general food pairing suggestions which I promise, will grow more refined. Cheers!

 2 creative block sauv blanc semillon2 Creative Block South Africa 2011 $19.95

 Great title for a crisp white blend . 2 Creative Block is one of a series of wines by South African producer Spier. The name comes from the Spier Arts Academy Project which involves different artists working together to create something new. Just like a blend. The 2 refers to the two grapes, 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillion blended to create a this Bordeaux-style blend.  It’s fresh and herbaceous.

Food Pairing: Pan-fried salmion, chicken with grilled vegetables

Solaria Rosso di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany $19.95solario rosso di montalcino

Brunello is a thing of beauty but not always in the budget department. Enter Solaria’s Rosso di Montacino – a Brunello light – from the same part of Tuscany, but younger and lighter.  The pretty pale ruby coloured wine is fruity – think black cherries, and delicious – thank you chocolate . It’s nicely balanced that will keep you pouring. Alcohol 13.5%

Food pairing: Pasta with tomato based sauce that has some zing.

Dandelion Vineyard Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale 2010 Shiraz/Riesling $19.95lion's tooth mclaren vale

Did you know that the word Dandelion comes from the French  “dent de lion” or Lion’s tooth?  You never know what you are going to learn when researching wine. What attracted me to this one was the blend: 97% Shiraz and 3% Riesling. The colour is a deep dark purple and the taste, big bold and fruity with strong vanilla and mocha notes. Alcohol 15.1%

Food pairing: Barbecue pork chops or ribs.

 

riojaHermanos Pecina Senorio de P.Pecina Crianza 2007 Rioja Alta  $19.95

I do love Spanish wines, but I have not learned enough yet about the producers, so it is always hit and miss. This one is in the hit category and will find its way to the dinner table again. Decanter.com gave it  4 out of 5 and I understand why. This full-bodied blend is 95% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano and 2% Granacha (Grenache in France) . It’s well-balanced and highly drinkable now or you can hold on to a few for the future.

 Food pairing: Lasagna, spicy dishes, roasted fish

The Splurgemarceau-rhone

 Domaine des 3 Cellier Marceau  Chateauneuf du Pape 2009, Rhone $34.95

When I was sampling some of this week’s finds, a woman beside me tried a French  wine from the Rhone Valley that retails for $290.00.  She said it was good (I certainly hope so!). And the server said you never know and talked about this wine called Marceau that blew him away – at a price that doesn’t replace your grocery budget for the week. Summerhill was sold out, but I found it the next day and it is definitely splurge-worthy. It is a complex wine that packs a traditional Chateauneau du Pape punch at 15% alcohol, but it is very well balanced with lots of big fruit, sweet spice and velvety tannins. Let it breathe for two  hours to get the full flavour.  A great recommendation!

Food pairing: Meat, meat and more meat

Drop us a line if you like one of the picks, or if you have your own suggestion.

Happy weekend wining! Next week will feature some SAQ specialities sampled in Montreal!

 

 

Weekend Wine Picks: Blends to Brag About

A taste of Spain, France and Italy  with a white that’s worth watching for. This week the spotlight is on affordable red blends and a splurge from Northern Italy.

Terraprima, D.O. Penendes, Spain 2007  Can Rafols del Caus $19.95terraprima

This blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Garnacha , 10% Syrah comes in just under $20, but tastes like you paid much more.  It is deep ruby, medium-bodied, fruity and herbal. Jay Miller of eRobertParker.com gave it a 90 and called it a racy red. It even comes with a story – Carlos Estevez, owner of the Can Rafols del Caus estate took a mining company to court because it wanted to create a quarry in the next valley. Estavez argued successfully the project would hurt his vines and destroy the natural beauty of the area. The judge ruled in his favour only if Estevez took over the land himself.  Enter Terraprima.  Thank you Your Honour! Good pairing with pasta.

armoiriesTerres D’Avignon Reserve Des Armoiries Cote du Rhone 2010 

Another blend – this one from Southern Rhone combines Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes. It’s dry with plenty of flavour and fine tannins. Juicy comes to mind. Best paired with slow roasted meat. And I saved the best for last. It is only $14.95 at the LCBO.

Don Jacobo Reserva  DOCa Rioja, Spain 2004don jacobo

I am a real fan of Spanish wines – they tend to be more afforable yet still pack a punch. The LCBO advertised this one as “Back by Popular Demand” and after tasting a glass – I can understand why.  Dark red cherry, with big fruit  and spice, medium to full bodied.  The blend is 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and Mazuelo(otherwise known as Carignan), Nicely aged at a terrific price, just $17.95 a bottle. I am signing up for a case.

Ironstone Obsession Symphony 2011 $14.95sym

I came across this California wine a couple of years ago on a hot summer day and I was a little weary of my fallback Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. I liked it enough to pick up another bottle this week.  Obssession  is light and lively. Aromatic, with a sweet finish. The Symphony grape is the star of this show. According to the LCBO website, it is a cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria. Perfect match for a spicy Thai dish. You will find it in general list.

Splurge of the Week: Giribaldi Barbaresco 2006 DOCG Piedmont, Italy $31.95barbaresco

Barbaresco is one of the crown jewels of Italy’s Langhe region. Like its bold and beautiful cousin Barolo, it is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Interesting little fact, Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word Nebbia which means fog, which is no stranger to the stunning valleys of the Langhe. And there is an actual town of Barbaresco and Barolo – both highly worth visiting. But in the meantime, this wine is light in colour, earthy with tobacco notes and tannins that will leave you puckering for more. Decant, decant, decant for full pleasure.

Got  a blend to recommend? Let us know.

 

2013 Wednesday Wine Picks with a Sexy Suggestion

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

Kaiken Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina  LCBO $14.95

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

 

 

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

A Rich Recommendation from Rioja
A Rich Recommendation from Rioja

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

Salud!

 

 

Finally my splurge recommendation:

Deep and Delicious
Deep and Delicious

La Vita Lucente 2010, Montalcino, Italy LCBO $28.90

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

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

 

 

Bring on the Bubbly

0Now that we’ve all had our fill of family, fun and enough food to make us feel like we should get on the treadmill, it’s time for the next round.  So whether you’re planning a night on the town, a house party or a quiet night in, nothing says “Happy New Year”  like a glass of bubbly.

There are lots of options out there from the budget basics to price popping high-end Champagnes.  But with sparkling wines being produced around the world only those made in the Champagne region of France may truly call themselves by that name, a protection originally granted by the Treaty of Madrid in 1891.

Chris McDonald, owner of Cava Restaurant
Chris McDonald, owner of Cava Restaurant

But besides sparkling wine and Champagne there’s another name you may or may not be familiar with, one I recently learned about from Chris McDonald the chef and owner of a restaurant named in its honour, Cava located in Toronto.  Recently Chris shared his knowledge of all things related to the foods and holiday traditions of Spain and presented me with a bottle of Agusti Torello Kripta.  I haven’t actually tasted it yet (saving it for our New Year’s toast) but I fell in love with the bottle the moment I saw it.

0Call me inquisitive or nosy but nothing makes me want to find out the facts more than something I’ve never seen before and I’ve never seen a bottle shaped like this.   I don’t know if this is fact or fiction but Chris’ charming explanation made me laugh out loud.  He says the bottle’s torpedo like shape is intended so you can’t put it down making it good to the last drop.

2006 Cava Kripta
2006 Cava Kripta

This particular cava was created in 1979 by Agusti Torello Mata a man who has dedicated his life to making great cava.  The grapes come exclusively from old vineyards (over 50 years) in the Penedes area in the Catalonia region of Spain.  It’s a long aging cava (minimum 4 years with the yeast) made up of 3 grape varietals Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.  Each bottle is individually numbered and the beautiful label was designed by artist Rafael Bartolozzi.

0The card enclosed with the beautiful box suggests this cava is ideal for caviar, smoked fish or meats, foie gras and curated cheese and I’ll just add my suggestion of oysters (because I love sparkling wine and oysters).  But somehow I have a feeling this cava would go with anything. Unfortunately you won’t find this at the LCBO so if you want to give it a try you’ll need to head over to Cava on Yonge Street (website is in the blogroll) and tell Chris I sent you.

But no matter what fills your glass on December 31st here’s wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and many more.

Which one do you prefer – sparkling wine or champagne?