There were so many things to give thanks for this week. Surrounded by family and friends, watching my 84-year old mother arm wrestle any one who dared to challenge her. My wonderful nieces and nephews exploring the city. My lovely daughter dancing the night away in the kitchen with guests from 8-84. And of course, toasting the whole night with some terrific wine picks that I highly recommend.
Giuseppe Campagnolo Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 Corvina Blend $16.95 Medium bodied and fruity. This was perfect to serve before, during, and after our turkey dinner. 13.5% In the Vintages section, but going fast.
The People’s Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand 2011 $16.95 I was looking for a Pinot Noir to serve with turkey and this one caught my eye. Admittedly this time it was the label that stood out – often a detractor in my mind – but I do like Kiwi wines and this light bodied pick with cherry and raspberry notes turned out to be a crowd pleaser.
Julian Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva 2007 Blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is only $16.95 This was my favourite of the bunch. If you are looking for an affordable red – this one is worth sampling.
A little trip around the world in wine made for great Thanksgiving feasting. Just in time for this week at the LCBO, where Vintages is celebrating my favourites – great Italians. Time for some sampling in the tasting room this weekend. Salute!
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.
Bougrier 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.
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.
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”.
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! .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Some friends of ours just got back from Tuscany with that look in their eyes. You know, that look that says for at least a few moments, a few days, a few weeks – all was right with the world. There was no rush, no anxiety, no reason to consider anything except the perfection of where you are sitting, and equally important, what you are drinking.
Their tales of joy sent me straight to the Italian aisle for this week’s red wine picks. A couple of VQA’s round them out.
Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2012, Fielding Estate Winery Beamsville Bench, $21.95 Gold in the glass with citrus aromas, pear and peach. Rich and lovely over dinner or just a warm conversation at twilight.
Burrowing Owl, Merlot 2009 VQA Okanagan, $41.95 An award-winning wine that is wracking up the hardware. Full-bodied and plum juicy with a strong finish – this winery looks worth visiting as much as the wine was worth tasting.14%
Palazzo Vecchio Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2007 DOCG $23.95 Some refer to this wine, aged two years in oak, as a Baby Brunello. While the price is friendlier than a Brunello – this baby can easily stand on its own long and luscious legs. This doesn’t just feel like home to a lover of Italian reds … it feels like Christmas. 14%
San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 LCBO $26.95 SAQ $27.00 It’s easy to splurge in the tasting room but it is a double-edged sword. You get to taste a great wine for a buck, but after you taste it, you really, really want to take it home. This is one of those. Blackberries, black cherries, and spice are dominant in this wine. Riserva’s must be aged at least 24 months, and it should even improve with age, if, unlike me, you can wait. Worth splurging for yourself or a really good friend. 13%
Finally, what to drink with your Thanksgiving turkey, white wine lovers can do well with a Riesling or Pinot Grigio, but if you are like me, a lazy long turkey dinner with a glass of Pinot Noir or Chianti is the idea of holiday perfection.
Happy Thanksgiving! To family, friends and good music and great wine!
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in BC’s Okanagan Valley received top honours this week. Wine Align, the online wine rating service awarded it Winery of the Year, snatching it from Ontario’s Tawse, which has won for the past three years.
The award of distinction is based on five of its wines that received gold and platinum medals at this year’s National Wine Awards. They are:
Mission Hill Riesling Reserve 2011 – Platinum 100% Riesling – This was the first wine in the flight of award winners. This wine would turn me into a regular Riesling drinker. The nose sent me to a peach and honey heaven. It was perfectly balanced, with a deliciously long finish.
Mission Hill Chardonnay Reserve 2011 100% Chardonnay . Citrus meets a hint of coconut. Aged in oak for eight months, it is very subtle.
Mission Hill Perpetua Osooyos Vinyard Estate 2010 Chardonnay 100% Chardonnay This is part of the winery’s Legacy series of Premium wines.
Mission Hill Compendium 2009 – Platinum – This is a Bordeaux-inspired blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Also part of the Legacy Series, it is wine-making at its finest. Complex, full-bodied and elegant.
Mission Hill Riesling Icewine 2011 – Admission – I know it is very unpatriotic to say I am not a fan of icewine because we produce some of the best in the world……but there are no absolutes. This was simply outstanding. Exceptionally balanced so the sweetness was perfect and not overwhelming, which is why they are often not my favourites. If you get the chance, try this one.
Sadly not all of these wines are available across the country unless by special order. Why we can’t order our own wines directly from the winery as they do in the US continues to be a mystery. But here are a few wine picks that are available for your sampling this weekend.
Cave Spring 2011 Riesling Estate VQA Beamsville Bench ($17.95) There was a cornucopia of Ontario releases at the LCBO this week. I am on a mission to get reacquainted with Riesling especially because there are such fine examples from BC and ON. If you like citrus with a touch of honey and pear – you will like this wine. It is fresh and appealing. Perfect with Sushi.
Domeco de Jarauta Lar de Sotomayor Vendemia Rioja 2010($17.95) Spanish wines are often overlooked in the showy presence of their neighbouring spotlight hoggers in Italy and France. This Rioja has some punch to it. It is full-bodied with notes of black and red fruit. 90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano grapes. Great value.
McManis Syrah 2011 ($19.95) Speaking of big and luscious, this Californian delivers in every way. This wine will keep you warm sitting on a patio with a blanket because you are not ready to move indoors just yet. Red fruit jammy with a touch of pepper. I highly recommend it.
Enjoy your wine-shopping this weekend. The women of wine are heading to the Big Apple and some highly recommended wine bars and we will report back next week.
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!
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.
Young 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.
Wines 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.
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.
While 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..
Ironstone 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.
This week’s wine picks celebrates an Ontario red, white and a honey of an Italian, all under $20.
Cantine Riondo Vinea Garganega 2011, This weekend’s wine finds come from the LCBO’s Tasting Room at Queen’s Quay – where I am quickly becoming a regular – all they need is a cosy chair and WIFI . I started with an Italian white called Garganega from the Veneto region. It is light and crisp, aromatic with honey, peach and grapefruit notes. It medium-bodied with good balance. At $13.95, it is a excellent value wine.
Rockaway Vineyards Small Lot Reserve Red Assemblage 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Savignon and Merlot got a strong 89 from Sara d’Amato from WineAlign.com. It is earthy, spicy with dark fruit and the blend also has a good strong finish. Currently featured in the Vintages section and well priced at $16.95
Malivoire Riesling 2011, VQA Ontario
Vive le Riesling. I have vowed to drink more of this grape that inspires awe among many wine professionals, and nose wrinkling by the uninitiated. I have always found Rieslings to be too sweet. But I have been told I am simply drinking the wrong ones. Well, this yet-to-become a Malivoire Riesling fan picked a good one. This was dry, aromatic, with the sweetness balanced by acidity. At $15.95, I would happily buy the Vintages release again.
Let us know if you have a favourite wine pick of your own.
Rolf Binder Ma I? Have This Evening Shiraz/Mataro 2009 (Barossa Valley, Australia)
Great value alert: I love to start with a wine that tastes like it should cost much more. This Barossa Valley red is a blend of 80% Shiraz and 20% Mataro grapes. It is structured and elegant with blackberry and hints of dark chocolate. And I admit it, I am a sucker for an Australian wine with a lovely label and this one is a beaut.The Australians and Californians often have great labels and still manage to get the wine right. All too often the memorable label is a strong sign that the wine will be anything but. And I must give honourable mention to Ontario’s Megalomaniac wines that produce award-winning labels and terrific wines. More on the art of the wine label next week.
OK I was seduced by a wine I love at a price that seemed too good to be true. This is another great value wine. Strong cherry and tobacco notes, the wine is extra dry. It could benefit from decanting. While this is not as smooth as some of the wines of its Tuscan neighbours, you don’t often see Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at this price. 12.7% alcohol.
Quinta Da Lixa Pouco Comum Alvarinho 2011 $14.95
This white from Portugal’s Minho region is aromatic and crisp. Think citrus, think lime – a wine that is ripe with opportunity. It is fresh and balanced, but with substance. At $14.95 – if you haven’t ventured past Charodnnay and Pinot Grigio, give yourself a new grape to try. It comes from northern part of the country, a region best known for Vino Verde – refreshing whites with a green tinge.
The Splurge of the Week
Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2010 (South Australia) $29.95
I love this wine. I love this winery’s philisophy and I would love to have its two founders, Sarah and Sparky Marquis ,over for dinner. Mollydooker is Aussie slang for left hander – because Sarah and Sparky are both lefties. Just last month, I wrote about Mollydooker’s Maitre D’. This week I was delighted to see a new and equally distinctive label on the shelf at Vintages. The Boxer is a guaranteed crowd pleaser if you like full-bodied, fruity, rich, bold, delicious – and I could go on and on wine. While this style of fruity, highly alcoholized wine is not to everyone’s taste, it has a lot of fans. Sarah and Sparky’s story is as rich as its wines. They went from the brink of bankruptcy to almost overnight success. Check out their fabulous web site. It is as creative as their labels. Their wines get rave reviews and they can’t produce enough of it. It is a splurge, but I am sipping it as I write, and it is ripe with blackberries, blueberries, spice and plenty of promise that keep delivering. Alcohol: (hold on to your hat) 16%
What attracts your eye to the bottle? The label, the grape, the region or the rating?
Every two weeks, LCBO’s Vintages delivers a flutter of joy to my inbox. If you are over 40, it’s the same kind of greedy excitement you felt when the Sears’ Christmas Wish Book came to the door. If you are under 40, it could be the Victoria’s Secret, Restoration Hardware or Canadian Tire catalogue that gives you the same kind of thrill. The Vintages online catalogue features the new releases and each edition spotlights one particular region. Last week, joy of joys – the feature: Tuscan Triumphs – featuring many affordable wines and others that are wishlist worthy.
While I start to make my way through the new releases, a few of them made The Women of WIne’s weekend picks.
Teruzzi & Puthod Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2011 DOCG (Tuscany)
The Italian white is fresh and lively- think citrus and green apples – pale straw coloured and nicely aromatic with a creamy texture. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano appellation was the first wine designated DOC – an Italian mark of quality. It was later upgraded to DOCG or quality guaranteed. The Vernaccia grape is grown in the stunning area surrounding San Gimignano, the Tuscan town declared a UNESCO heritage site. If you have ever seen the movie Tea With Mussolini, starring a trio of British treasures: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright, part of the film was shot there. Like this wine, the movie too, has a big finish. I won’t spoil it, but definitely worth watching with a glass of this wine in hand.
The scent of a good Chianti is one of life’s true pleasures. This deep ruby wine is full of plum, cherry preserves, spice and chocolate notes. Its tannins will make you pucker so decanting is a good idea. This is 100% Sangiovese and comes from Chianti Classico, an area within the gorgeous Chianti region. This wine also has the favourite WOW (women of wine) characteristic. It tastes a like it should cost more than it actually does. 13.5% alcohol. $18.95
Out of the New World WIne
Barista Pinotage WO 2011 (Western Cape, South Africa)
Pinotage is South Africa’s specialty. It is a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir and when it is good, it is very very good. The name is highly appropriate. Barista is like sipping from a strong cup of coffee with mocha flavours all wrapped up with red fruit and oak. I have not always been a big fan of Pinotage, but some of the latest releases have been terrific. And at $14.95, so is the price. 13.5% alcohol. Have it with a burger or even biscotti.
Deal of the Week
Vina Alicia Paso de Piedra Malbec 2008 (Mendoza, Argentina)
This is an exceptional value wine. Deep and delicious with black cherries and spice. It is 100% Malbec, the signature grape of Mendoza which produces 70% of the wines of Argentina. This wine is full-bodied and fruity. And if you need an official rating for proof, uber-critic Robert Parker gave it a 92 points. Not bad for $19.95. Buy one for yourself, one to hold and one to gift to someone you love.
Splurge of the Week: A Few More Dollars But a Lot of Delicious
Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, (Tuscany)
Cherries and spice and everything nice – this is a superb example of this noble wine of Tuscany made by Poliziano, one of the region’s top producers. Some refer to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano as a baby Brunello at a more affordable price. I am a big fan and not just because Montipulciano is one of my favourite places on the planet. Sure, like any type of wine, some are better than others, but when a Vino Nobile is well-produced – like this one, it is elegant, giving, well-structured and keeps you wanting more. It is 85% Prugnolo Gentile (a Sangiovese clone) and 15% blend of Canaiolo, Merlot and Colorino grapes. Pick up a bottle, they are going fast – or even better – get yourself to Montipulciano – it will taste even better. I promise. 14.5% alcohol. $25.96
Have a great weekend. Let us know if you try out one of the picks or if you have another to suggest.