Most of my Facebook friends not only know I love wine but many of them are wine lovers as well. At least once a week I get a quote that seems to speak directly to me, so I wondered just how many there were. From the historical and famous to the ones that make us laugh out loud, I found hundreds of quotes that seem to fill the glass where we often find life’s meaning.
Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. -Benjamin Franklin
Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. -Pope John XXIII
I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food. -W. C. Fields
Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living. -Robert Mondavi
Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages. -Louis Pasteur
It’s funny how true some of these quotes ring, so if you’ve found one you love make sure to share it with all your friends. Because next to wine, laughter is the best medicine.
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?
Recently I had a chance to visit the newly renovated Tundra Restaurant and lobby bar in Toronto’s Hilton Hotel. Quintessentially Canadian from decor to cuisine the restaurant has won several awards in the past. The textures used to create this new space are visually pleasing, warm and inviting, making both hotel guests and restaurant patrons feel like they’re enjoying a true Canadiana experience with a modern twist.
Keeping it local on many levels Executive Chef Kevin Prendergast changes the menu seasonally and even has his own herb garden at the hotel. From salmon to lamb chops, Cornish hen to grilled octopus the menu has something for everyone. I got a chance to sample several things off the fall menu including the seared duck breast which was my favourite. One thing I noticed on the menu that I really liked was the fact that each dish came with a wine recommendation.
Since so many people get intimidated by trying to select a wine to pair with their meal and this takes away the stress and makes everyone feel like a sommelier.
Along with international wines they also carry a good selection of Ontario VQA wines and even have a house red and white provided by a Niagara vineyard which they serve at special functions. So many people are realising its important to support our local growers and its nice to see that along with individuals restaurants are stepping up to the plate.
So whether you’re planning on staying the night or just looking for a place to enjoy dinner with friends, check in and check out the menu.
Wine and music. I can’t imagine life without them. Of course my family and friends push them out of first and second place – but really they’re so much a part of my greatest memories: Sunday dinner, Lucia party (A Swedish Christmas celebration), graduations, birthdays, travels or a gathering of great friends.
I’ll create a playlist for most special occasions, whether it’s a trip, a workout, music to cook by, laid-back tunes and most recently wine-tasting and wine-studying. My husband is my fiercest critic and greatest fan. He loves telling people my playlists degenerate towards the end – but he always downloads them to his iPod, so they can’t be all that bad.
Every once in a while on a Friday or Saturday night, I will pick a few bottles and wrap them up in a paper bag after they’re opened. All I need is a few minutes to forget which is which – but if you want to be sure, get someone else to mix up the order. I started by trying three wines, each from a different country and each a different kind of grape. A Rioja from Spain, a Cabernet Sauvignon from California and a Chianti. If you have never done it before, get a few details about each wine and see what you can pick out from the appearance, aroma and taste. If you know you’ve practiced, challenge yourself and get three California Cabs or three Australian Chardonnays from different regions.There are lots of great web sites to give you the ABC’s of Wine Tasting from Wine Spectator, bottle notes, or the Wine Doctor. IYellow Wine Club founder Angela Aiello sums it up for first timers with 5 easy steps:
If you do it with friends and each brings a bottle – then you can afford better wine. Experimenting is a lot of fun definitely worthy of a playlist or two. Building your own is also one of the great pleasures of life so give it a try. Here is mine:
Lis’ Wine-Tasting Playlist
Your Body Is a Wonderland – John Mayer (as is the body of a great Cab)
Your Song – Elton John (great swirling music)
You Really got a Hold on Me – Smoky Robinson and the Miracles (tried a great Barolo lately?)
You Can’t Make it Love – Michael MacDonald ( who has a voice like the deepest Shiraz)
You Are so Beautiful – Joe Cocker (frightening, but I have thought that about a great glass of wine)
Humble Me – Norah Jones (I could be thinking about the great winemakers Antinori and Gaja – more or likely their wine)
How Deep is Your Love – Bee Gees (or how deep is the colour in your glass)
How Do You Keep the Music Playing -Tony Bennett and George Michael
So Right – Paul Simon
Sara Smile – Hall and Oates
This Guy’s In Love With You – B.J.Thomas
Up on the Roof – James Taylor and Carole King (because they go together in perfect harmony like wine and music)
Into the Mystic – Van Morrison
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (because it may be one of the most perfect songs ever written)
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac version
Drive All Night – Bruce Springsteen ( because anyone who would drive all night to buy his woman some shoes deserves toasting)
Heart of Mine. – Boz Scaggs
Through the Fire – Chaka Khan (because I can hit the high notes in my dreams. Or in my car. Only if I am alone..I promise)
Tiny Dancer – Elton John ( because you might have had enough wine to sing along – though watch the wax if you hold up a candle instead of a lighter- concert style) Also a favourite of my blogging partner whose name is Tina Daenzer and back when well-known sportscaster Rod Black hosted Canada AM he would sing to Tiny Daenzer when she arrived at the studio (minus the wine in the mornings of course)
Still Crazy After all These Years – Paul Simon (because Paul Simon is such a genius)
Thunder Road (the acoustic version or any version for that matter) – Bruce Springsteen ( because he could be the greatest songwriter of our time. This is his greatest song and this is such a powerful version that it can pair with a wine that’s rough around the edges or smooth as silk).
And if you are exploring Italian – throw in a little Andrea Bocelli, Chris Botti’s Italia CD is divine, and Chiara Civello, the best Italian-English singer you have never heard of will keep you coming back for more.
Whatever you choose to add to your playlist, whatever memory it brings back, whatever wine you pour in your glass, so long as company is selected with care, you will have the perfect blend.
Holding your friends close can be tough to do in these busy times. Not enough time for visits, calls or catch-ups.
For the past 22 years, I’ve been so lucky to be able to spend this calendar week with a stellar and eclectic group of people in the state of Maine. And during the week I would hold them very very close because that week (which eventually became two) would last me the whole year.
We refer to each other as the Maine friends, not because the friendship exists only on our sandy beach, (and none us of actually comes from there), but because the Maine friends believe there is no better place to spend this week each year.
Yes, the water turns your lips blue, the traffic on transit day means the drive from Montreal could take you 5 or 10 hours and the weekly fee for the cottage keeps creeping up steadily. There were years of the 60 cent dollar that left you wondering if there was a point where it didn’t make sense (or cents) anymore. After all, PEI is beautiful.
When we moved to Toronto eight years ago, the driving time doubled, but who cares? This was OUR week, on OUR beach so OUR kids could grow up with blue lips, powerful waves and a beach that stretched for miles.
I always loved the fact the kids would pick up where they left off. The blue-lipped gang would explore the rocks, spend hours body surfing and run at the sound of the ice cream truck. Of course there were also the dramas. We even used to bet how long before the first kiddie meltdown. But the dramas never lasted long. It was Maine. And Maine never lasted long enough.
Two years ago, my girls, now in their twenties, carted down a load of books, a bottle of sunscreen and counted their blessings because they love it every bit as much as they did when they played in the tidal pools.
Other beach regulars would call us The Canadians. They watched our kids grow. That’s what the woman from Connecticut told me every year when we exchanged reading suggestions. She also loved watching the compound grow. There were always the drop-ins, those invited guests who easily slipped into the relaxed pace of the week. It took at least three summers before they could be called regulars proving they were more entranced by our beach Big Chill than scared off by the big chill of the water. Then they had to take the Pledge not to reveal more about the location other than it was near Old Orchard.
This is the first time in 22 years my husband and I can’t be there. No illness or depressing reason other than being kept home by a work thing that couldn’t be changed (try explaining to the IOC that you would really appreciate it if they held the Olympics a couple of weeks later). I am handling it like an adult. It’s been put in perspective, and my often Pollyanna-like optimism reminds me that “I’ve been so lucky to have been able to go for 22 years and we will definitely be back next year”.
Time flies and I’m sure by Monday, I’ll stop thinking about what I would be doing this very minute on my beach – whether I would be helping to take orders for Goldthwaites for “arrival night” dinner on the beach or arguing what Billy Jo Macallister really threw off the Talahatchee bridge. I would have mused at least a dozen times that it doesn’t get better than this.
I would have already unpacked my 24 interesting bottles of wines picked up in tax-free New Hampshire and my dozen books for beach reading plus the selections I’d have picked for others because after 22 years you get to know the reading preferences. I would have made the bed with my sheets ridiculously-ironed and spritzed so when I crawl into them and look out window at the ocean and hear the sound of the waves, I would sigh. Because this is my happy place. It’s the place where I am most true to myself. It’s the place where my children will take their children, and it’s the place where I can hold my dearest Maine friends oh so very close.
Our never-ending wine education sent us back to the classroom last week to learn about Chardonnay. The event: the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference. The seminar: Extreme Winemaking 101. Winemakers from Niagara, BC, the Sonoma Coast, Australia, Burgundy, Argentina gathered to talk about the challenges of producing Chardonnay in often difficult conditions.
“We play Chardonnay the way a musician plays a Stradivarius to express the terroir,” said Jean Lupatelli of Decelle-Villa in Burgundy. But that symphony is often complicated.
“You’ve got to be cruel to be kind,” said Australian-born Craig McDonald who leads the wine-making team at Hillebrand Winery. He said over the past nine years there has been only one season with landmark conditions.
Still, there’s a reason Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. And we got the chance to taste six of them. Many of these wines are not even available on the market yet. While I have never been a card carrying member of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club, I must admit it is not my go-to varietal. But I believe in keeping an open mind, and what an opportunity for a pair of novices like us to be exposed to the vast differences based on terroir and technique. Both our favorites was the 2010 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay , from the Sonoma Coast. Its flawless finish is the product of a big fault, the San Andreas fault line that created incredible soil diversity.
The Chardonnay sampling didn’t stop there. After class there was a luncheon where they set three bottles on each table, all different. Once you finished sampling yours, you could bottle-switch with other tables. Chardonnays from Jura, Burgundy, Prince Edward County, Oregon and many other regions were represented. I am happy to say my luncheon favourite was local. Vineland Estates Reserve 2009 was terrific. Citrusy and bright, crisp and well-balanced, it is a perfect match for my summer playlist. It’s only available online and on site – so that means there’s another road trip in the near future!
The conference officially kicked off in the evening with the spectacular “Explore Your Senses Dinner” hosted at Jackson Triggs. We met some of the 56 winemakers at various sampling stations and the evening’s menu consisted of Chardonnay-inspired dishes like Miso Glazed Pork Belly with Pineapple, Cilantro and Cucumber, Oysters with Peach Chardonnay Mignonette and other delicious dishes. The end to a perfect evening came when Canadian rockers, The Arkells took the stage at the outdoor amphitheatre. Going back to class has never been sweeter.
From the Montreal Jazz Festival to the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta to the Boots and Hearts Festival in Ontario, great music abounds across Canada during the summer months. But when it comes to outdoor festivals you’re often dealing with huge crowds, long lineups and nasty porta-potties. Besides these venues generally serve beer (so not me) or wine that I don’t want to waste my money on.
So where do you get great music, award-winning wines and gourmet cuisine in a venue that feels like you’re at a private party in someone’s backyard? Well, I definitely think you need to check out the Jackson-Triggs’ Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series.
Nestled in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake in southern Ontario the open-air concert amphitheatre is situated on the Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate in the heart of Ontario’s wine country. Their concert season runs from June until September so there are still lots of great artists to see.
We’re heading down there on Friday to see the Arkells and I’m really looking forward to it. They’re a great Canadian band and here’s hoping they’ll rock the house (or the vineyard). If you’re interested in checking it out here’s a list of the concerts still taking place this summer.
July 20 Arkells
July 21 Adam Cohen
July 28 Kathleen Edwards
August 17 Chantal Kreviazuk (Sold Out)
August 18 Raine Maida
August 25 Sarah Slean & Royal Wood w Niagara Symphony
It was a truly amazing experience travelling to Iqaluit for the very first time. Like most people I had some preconceived notions about what to expect so I took some precautions. I packed a parka along with my outdoor gear and safely put a nice bottle of Chardonnay in my suitcase just in case a good bottle would be hard to find. Since there’s no place to actually buy wine or spirits you have to go to a bar or restaurant to get a drink which can get quite costly. There are no roads to Nunavut and the only way to get supplies is by plane or sealift. If you’re visiting at the tail end of the year before the sealifts start coming in with new supplies the selection can leave a lot to be desired especially for enthusiasts.
I probably didn’t need the parka since it was July but there were definitely days when I wore a hat, gloves and my down vest. To boot the bugs were out in full force and I swear the mosquitos were the size of hummingbirds so I often walked around with a very attractive bug net over my head.
The rugged beauty of the place was breath-taking and if you were a true outdoors person you would absolutely love it. I on the other hand I’m a bit of a city girl and even spell camping h.o.t.e.l. so I’m not really sure this was the place for me. I took this photo at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park about a kilometer (a 30 minute walk or in in case of the locals a 5 minute cab ride) outside of Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital. Being there in the summer definitely had its advantage. When there’s practically 24 hours of daylight you have the opportunity to see a lot in a short period since you can go sight-seeing at midnight if you really want to.
Dining was a bit of a challenge as the cost of food in Nunavut is extremely high. In the better restaurants most entrees were priced at around $50 and your choice of wine was often just red or white. We did however have some lovely meals at the Frobisher Inn at the Gallery Fine Dining Room. The food was a tad pricey (so was the wine) but it was delicious, especially the fresh Arctic Char.I’m really glad I had the chance to experience this beautiful and majestic place but I’m not sure I would be able to survive there for a long period. I met lots of people who definitely love living there and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else especially in a big city like Toronto where I live. Not that Toronto is my happy place either it just happens to be the place I live right now. In my dreams I reside in a lovely little villa in the Italian countryside where I can enjoy endless bottles of great red wine.
Long weekends are all about food, family & friends and of course great wine… and I think this time around we covered off all the bases. We started off with a beautiful dinner under the stars and since there was still some hope Italy could win the Euro cup we drank plenty of red Italian wines. My partner in crime in this blogging venture is always on the lookout for great wines under $20 and never ceases to amaze me with her finds. She kindly hosted the dinner in her charming backyard and with so much delicious food the fellow (my husband) in the picture was so full he practically went into a food coma. Her find of the week was a bottle of Spadina Una Viola Syrah from Sicily that was pretty darn good and for only $14.95 it’s definitely worth checking out. Of course it seems when we get together there’s always more than one bottle involved and by the end of the evening we were singing and dancing the night away. Sunday was of course Canada Day and it promised to be an all Canadian Day…starting with blueberry pancakes make with local berries and real maple syrup to a great bbq dinner that included a lovely bottle of Ontario Chardonnay from Vineland Estates. It was a 2009 Chardonnay I received from winemaker Brian Schmidt with a creamy mouth feel yet lovely and light and a perfect match for the bbq’d chicken, corn and roasted sweet potatoes. It was such a beautiful weekend to be outdoors enjoying the amazing weather and I really hope our neighbours to the south have as great a day as they celebrate Independence Day.
During the summer I do tend to drink more white than red wine because I love the cool crisp taste on a hot sunny day. I’ve been enjoying more Canadian wines especially from the Niagara region and can’t wait to head back down there for a few vineyard tours. There’s a great Chardonnay celebration going on down in Niagara from July 20-22 which we’ll attend because since we’re definitely not experts we try to take every opportunity to learn more about wine. There’s a link to the celebration on the right of the blog so check it out and come on down for some tastings.