Sunday, December 8, 2013

T'is the Season for Wine

Ho Ho Ho !! It's that time of year again. There's Christmas parties to attend, a gift for the boss (even if he doesn't deserve it) or a special gift for that someone special. Luckily I have an "inside man" at the North Pole who has the list of best wine buys for the Christmas season. I've looked through the list and pulled out all of the best wines with prices that won't make you cringe like Scrooge

 So let's get started with a couple of sparkling wines to start the party season.

Mumm Napa Cuvee Brut Prestige - California

A blend of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this California sparkling wine is assembled in the traditional method of making champagne. It's a medium bodied sparkling wine with good effervescence and a nice "biscuity" aroma. Citrus and stone fruit coupled with a creamy mouthfeel make this an above average sparkling white wine. Serve it chilled to your guests as they arrive for the party. Pairs well with most seafood appetizers and dips.
Price - under $26 (LCBO - 217273)

Val D'Oca Presecco Superiore DOCG - Valdobbiaedene Italy

A Bright, clear and crisp sparkling wine from Italy. Nice effervescence with a  fruity refreshing crispness. The wine is made from 100% Glera grapes done in a champagne style.
Price - Under $16 (LCB0 - 340570)

How about some white wines for parties and appetizers.

2012 Fairhall Downs Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough New Zealand

A classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region with aromas of lemon, lime and that distinctive New Zealand vegetal bouquet. Pale yellow colour with a crisp and clear taste of grapefruit pith and lime. Great for turkey dinner or with appetizers.
Price under $19 (LCBO Vintages 990580)

2010 Ghost Pines Chardonnay - Sonoma, Napa and Monterey Counties California

A classic full bodied Chardonnay. The grapes are sourced from vineyards in Sonoma (70%), Napa (20%) and Monterey (10%) and then they get the full treatment of sur lies aging, malolactic fermentation to soften the wine and storage in french and american oak. Golden in colour with aromas of pear, apple and vanilla. Flavours of butterscotch, honey and vanilla and a soft mouthfeel. Makes for a nice gift or for a Christmas party
Price - under $20 (LCBO - 308122)

Some red wines to keep you warm a night.

2010 Chateau de Galifay Cairanne - Cotes du Rhone Villages, France

A nice blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes gives this Cairanne a dark ruby red colour with aroma's of mint, blackberry and some spice. It has a medium to full bodied mouth feel with flavours of cherry and plum. The wine has mild tannins and a medium to long cherry finish. I nice wine to serve with roast beef or Swedish meatballs
Price - $16 (LCBO Vintages 290080)

2010 Seghesio Zinfandel - Sonoma County California

Looking to suck up to your boss for a promotion ? Buy him a bottle of this premium Zinfandel and he'll know that you know how to spot a good buy. This wine is of consistently high quality year after year. Flavours of black licorice, dark fruit and pepper with mild tannins and a long finish of fig and blackberry. A great sipping wine in front of the fire while you decorate the tree.
Price - under $30 (LCBO Vintages - 942151)

2011 The Wolftrap Syrah (blend) -  Swartland South Africa

A big bold South African blend of 65% Syrah, 32% Mourvedre and 3% Viognier yields a dark red wine with aromas of blackberry and some black pepper with rich flavours of dark fruit. The Syrah has a long dark fruit finish with some fairly mild tannins.
Serve this wine with beef ribs or a Sunday roast
Price under $14 (LCBO 292557) 

Good Value Wines

Whether you're having a party with lots of guests or hosting Christmas dinner and don't want to run out before the turkey is served, here's a list of wines at reasonable prices.

Jackson Triggs Chardonnay (750 ml) - $10.05 (LCBO - 328518)
Lindeman's Bin 85 Pinot Grigio (750 ml) - $10.95 (LCBO - 668947)

Cono Sur Bicicelta Pinot Noir (750ml) - $10.95 (LCBO - 341602)
Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec (750 ml) - $13.95 (LCBO - 230474)

Enjoy the holidays and please don't drink and drive.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Kim Crawford Wine tasting - Oct 2 2013

What a great day! It's a warm sunny October afternoon and Natalie Maclean invites me to Maxwell's Bistro on Elgin Street in Ottawa to sample some great wines from Kim Crawford vineyards including their new sparkling wine "Fizz Methode Traditionelle 2009" which will hopefully make it into LCBO stores in the near future. The chef at Maxwell's Bistro prepared a variety of delicious plates to be paired with the wines while we had a chance to talk to Kim Crawford winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst about their wines.

Here's the lineup of Kim Crawford wines we sampled

Kim Crawford Fizz Methode Traditionelle 2009

2013 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc

2012 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

2012 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir

2007 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir

The interesting part of this wine tasting was the contrast between the regional variety wines like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and the "Small Parcels" Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc and Rise & Shine Pinot Noir. They're all great wines but the Small Parcels Sauvignon Blanc with it's pronounced minerality and the increased new oak content in the Pinot Noir take the Small Parcels wines to the next level in aroma, taste and finish. The Unoaked Chardonnay was a real treat. I was expecting a crisp citrus type of chardonnay but the 80% malolactic fermentation produced a softer fruit filled and aromatic wine that would work very well with most chicken and seafood dishes. It paired nicely with the shrimp tempura we were served.
I really enjoyed talking to Anthony Walkenhorst in about grape harvesting, the different yeasts that are used in their signature Sauvignon Blanc wine and the selection of new and used oak in the Pinot Noirs. It was a relaxing few hours talking about New Zealand, grape harvests, winemaking and enjoying some great Kim Crawford wines.

Special thanks to Kim Crawford wines, Maxwell's Bistro (great food !) Natalie Maclean and Constellation Wines for hosting the event.

Cheers !!  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 signs that your Sommelier is not very good

Here's some tell tale signs that your Sommelier is not very good.
  1. He describes his wine tastings as fun, interactive and "pants are optional"
  2. He thinks Gewurztraminer is one of the wizards from a Harry Potter movie.
  3. He doesn't know that the "t" in Merlot and Pinot is silent
  4. He uses body odours to describe wine aromas
  5. He describes the colour of a Chianti as "like that sweet 1976 red Camaro I nailed Suzy Wazawinski in at the prom. Budda Bing!" 
Here's my picks for this week

2010 Angus The Bull Cabernet Sauvignon - Australia 

 Big flavours on this dark red Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Goulburn Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Central Victoria and Heathcote. This dark red Cabernet has aromas of ripe black cherry and vanilla. The flavour is rich with cherry, dark chocolate and some black licorice. It has a long smooth dark fruit finish with well rounded tannin's
Price - under $20 (LCBO Vintages)
What else but a BBQ'd steak

2010 Ghost Pines Chardonnay -  California

With grapes harvested from Sonoma, Monterey and Napa this Chardonnay offers the best from each county. A golden wine with aromas of peach, apple and vanilla and a soft mouthfeel. This chardonnay got the full treatment with sur lies aging, Malolactic fermentation and barrel aging in french and american oak for that signature California oaked Chardonnay taste.
Price - under $20 (LCBO Vintages 308122)
Great with pan fried or grilled halibut

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beer Prices in Ontario too high ?

I know... You're probably saying "What is he doing talking about beer prices on a wine website". Well I've always been a supporter of a responsible open market for beer and wine sales in Ontario. I've posted numerous blog entries on the LCBO and it's ridiculously high wine prices and now I see that the first cannon volley against any plan to sell beer outside of The Beer Store has been fired by the Brewers Association of Canada.
IPSOS Reid was commissioned by the National Brewers Association of Canada or Brewers Association of Canada (BAC) to do a market study on beer price comparisons between the provinces. By the way,  3 board members on the BAC are also the President of Labatts, the Chair of Sleemans and the CEO of Molson Coors which conveniently owns "The Beer Store" so  the market study is totally impartial (wink, wink). They just want to make sure everyone is aware that the beer monopoly they control is way better than any free market system.    

The Ipsos Reid market study compared Ontario beer prices with Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. Thanks Ipsos Reid but I don't think anyone from Ontario routinely drives out west through Manitoba (which also has cheaper beer prices than Ontario) to BC or Alberta to buy beer so I think you can take those two comparisons and put them in the trash can. I have no idea where they got their Quebec beer prices but it's pretty clear that you guys got ripped off. Never buy beer from a guy selling it out a van in a parking lot.

The study goes on to compare beer prices for an adjusted tax rate and a normalized tax rate. There's also surveys about distribution, selection and serving alcohol to minors which has nothing to do with price comparisons and more to do with the propaganda campaign of how Ontario will descend into an abyss if the TBS is not there to monitor Ontario beer consumption.

So lets stop at this point and answer the obvious question. Instead of hiding behind the tax numbers, lets look at what the average Joe would pay if he bought a 24 of beer in Quebec and the same brand in The Beer Store.

Here's the "markuncorked market study" of Ontario versus Quebec beer prices (based on my sales slips)

Corona Extra (TBS Ont - $40.95 on sale)     Corona Extra (Que - $28.94)
Save $12 by shopping in Quebec

Stella Artois (TBS Ont - $46.95 reg price)    Stella Artois (Que - $28.94)
Save $18 by shopping in Quebec

So Ipsos Reid and the BAC, these are the numbers that count when I shop and this is why (BAC pay attention here because this is important!!) every weekend you can see Ontario plates heading to Quebec to buy beer. It's that simple. Buy two cases of beer and put $30 back in your pocket every time you buy suds in "La Belle Provence".

Here's my beer pick for this week

Spaten Munchen Lager

For 5.2% ABV, this German lager has a nice crisp, clear and almost light taste to it. It's not too hoppy for a german beer and it has a citrus finish that refreshing. Great for drinking on the patio with friends or with grilled pork chops on the BBQ
Price - 2.05 per can (LCBO)

Cheers !

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Great Neighbours

Some neighbours come over to borrow a cup of milk or sugar, maybe a lawnmower or a strong back when they need to move 15 railway ties stored in their backyard behind a shed. So when a friend down the street shows up with a nice bottle of wine to taste, I immediately put them in the "good neighbour" category.

So there I am sitting on the porch, my feet up on the coffee table enjoying a glass of wine with my better half watching boats go by on the river while the sun is setting in the distance. Out of the dusk we can hear some familiar footsteps and whistling coming up the driveway. It's my neighbour Dave with a bottle of wine in his hand. He had just purchased a case of wine and tried the first bottle which he really liked. Dave enjoyed it so much that he saved the last quarter of the bottle and wanted me to try it as he knows that I also appreciate a good bottle of wine from time to time. What a great neighbour !

So here's Dave's pic of the week. Thanks for dropping in Dave.

2010 Domaine du Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem - M.Chapoutier
Cotes du Roussillon Villages  - Latour de France

A dark and rich blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan grapes. This full bodied wine is full with aromas and flavours of plum, dark berries and maybe a bit of licorice. The tannins are quite full and a little rough. This wine should age nicely in the next 2 to 5 years
Price - under $25 (LCBO- Vintages)
This wine would pair well with some St Paulin semi-soft cheese.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Canada Day !!!

Happy Canada Day everyone !

This is one of my favourite holiday weekends of the year. It's warm, sometimes hot, with daylight that goes well  past dinner which means you can sit out on the deck with your friends enjoying a nice glass of wine without flicking on the lights and attracting the swarms of bugs. Lets celebrate all that is good in the great white north we call Canada. Invite your friends over, fire up the BBQ and turn up the music. It's party time !

In honour of celebrating all that is Canadian, I've compiled an all-star Canadian list of wines paired with food and music that says I am Canadian ..Eh !

2011 Angels Gate Gamay Noir VQA
A nice ruby coloured Gamay Noir from the Niagara region. Raspberry and some spice as well as a little bit of smoke. This wine is well suited for BBQ pork tenderloin with some roasted root vegetables. A layered wine like this requires  some great jazz music in the background from performers like Diana Krall or Oscar Peterson.
Price - under $13 (LCBO -  107714)

2010 East Dell Estates Unoaked Chardonnay VQA

Light, clear and crisp with lots of citrus flavours and some green apple. The perfect wine for a hot Canada Day weekend sitting on a patio in the Byward market enjoying a fresh chicken Ceasar salad while listening to Canadian rock legends like The Stampeders, The Guess Who or Neil Young.
Price - under $14 (LCBO - 609867)

2011 G.Marquis The Red Line Riesling VQA

Lots of aromas in this Riesling like peach, melon and honey. It's off dry with a really nice peach and melon flavour. We're a multicultural country so why not pair this wine with that order of Thai or Chinese that you and your friends are splitting. Plug in the MP3 player and play some Great Big Sea or Tragically Hip hits.
Price - under $12 (LCBO - 274670)

Cheers.... Go Canada Go !!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Wines

So you went wine shopping and picked out a wine that you thought you would really like. The ambiance is set (maybe some Steely Dan on the stereo), the bottle is uncorked, a glass is poured, the first taste of the fermented grape juice hits your lips and you think to yourself that this wine is about exciting as zip lining across the prairies...nothing, bland, boring.
 Well it happens. Not every wine out there is going to give you that euphoric "Eureka!!" moment. There are some wines that are exceptional, some are good, some are mediocre and some are just ... blah!
 The good news or silver lining is that you can pick out the good ones from the bad ones. It takes a lot of practice but after tasting a lot of wines, you begin to notice things like how a wine finishes. Is there a long or short finish of fruit after you tasted it or does it disappear once it goes down your gullet? Are the tannins to strong or too weak. Is the acidity level too high and the wine has almost a sour or bitter aftertaste to it.
 Stick with it my friend. Be brave and keep trying different wines to find that exceptional wine. If you do find it, let me know so I can try it.

Here's my picks for this week.

2011 Las Moras Reserve Chardonnay - San Juan, Coyo, Argentina

 Theses grapes are grown in the Zonda valley, a protected area at nearly 3000 feet above sea level with mountains on the east and west side. This means that even though the daytime temperatures may be high, the late sunrise and early sunset keeps the area relatively cool.
A nice golden Chardonnay stored for 12 months in french oak and 6 months in the bottle. Lots of citrus and pear like fruits blended with vanilla flavours and an oaky finish.
Price - under $13 (LCBO - 270025)
Pairs well with salmon or chicken wings

2012 Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet - South Eastern Australia

Lots of fruit like plum and dark berries flavours with some spice in this purplish Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Australia. A full bodied blend with a nice balance between the Shiraz and Cabernet and at 13% ABV it doesn't have a hot finish from too much alcohol.
Price - under $15 (LCB0 - 311795)
Pairs well with most beef dishes like roast beef or stew

Cheers !

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sommelier .. Schommelier

    After a tough week at the office, you rush home, clean yourself up and head out with your favourite gal to a local restaurant to meet friends for dinner. You exchange the usual  pleasantries, asking about their kids, bragging about your own children and picking up the latest gossip about how one of the neighbours down the street had to find an apartment after that embarrassing incident with the babysitter. The waiter finally arrives with the ice water, menus and the wine list. Everyone flips open the menu and starts browsing the selections. I'm engrossed in the menu trying to figure if I can order some sort of low calorie entree that comes with fries so that when the waiter brings the meal, I can exclaim. "Oh ! That comes with fries? I thought it would be a salad"
    One of my friends will pass the wine list to me and mutter something like "OK Mr Sommelier. You pick the wine." (with a definite hint of sarcasm in his voice). Should I say thank you or smack him in the back of the head with the wine list ?

 Later that weekend, your relatives are coming over for dinner. You greet them at the door with a smile and they thrust a bottle of wine in your face like their serving you a subpoena and say something like "I don't know if you'll like this Mr Sommelier but here you go." Should I say thank you for the wine or should I scold him like a grade 2 teacher for not applying himself (got that a lot in grade school) or maybe refuse to serve him dinner until he gets a better wine?

 People seem to think that when a Sommelier is around, there opinion doesn't matter anymore. For me it's exactly the opposite. I would prefer that people have an opinion about wine. I want them to tell me why they like or dislike a wine.  As a Sommelier, my job isn't really about telling you what wine you should buy as much as it is getting you to be as passionate about wine as I am. Try different wines, take risks, talk about wine and most of all.... enjoy it

Here's my picks for this week.

2011 East Dell Black Cab - VQA Ontario

A interesting blend of 42% Baco Noir, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Cabernet Franc with a dark red colour and aromas of blackberry and spice. It's been aged for 12 months in french oak so there's some tannic structure from the grapes and the oak. Lots of dark fruit flavours and a sweet spice on the palate.
Price - under $14 (LCBO 609875)
An easy drinking wine on it's own or paired with grilled pork chops.

2011 J Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay - Monterey California USA

Nice straw yellow chardonnay from California with a lot of fruit like apple, pear and nectarine mixed with butterscotch. 50% of chardonnay under went malolactic fermentation to soften it's acidity. Aged sur lie in a combination of american, french and hungarian oak barrels gives it a toasty oak flavour of biscuits and nuts. A lot going on in this wine
Price - Under $19 (LCBO 258699)
Paired this wine with a vegetarian pizza on multigrain crust which worked quite well.
Cheers !!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Great Canadian Wine Match

So here's a good idea that's just in time for summer entertaining and BBQ season. Natalie MacLean ( is holding a wine matching contest called "The Great Canadian Wine Match". The contest is a challenge to find Canadian wines that pair well with the six categories of food that she has selected (chicken, beef, fish, pizza, cheese and dessert). You can vote for your favorite Canadian wine, vote for my selection (hint) or submit your own suggestion if it's not on the list. I will be submitting wines that I've tasted and matched with food. If you like the wine I suggested, just hit the vote button and your franchise will be counted. The more votes I get, the farther my wine selection goes up the list to the top (hint, hint)

Here's the wines that I selected for the The Great Canadian Wine Match.

Under the Chicken Category
2008 Strewn Barrel Aged Chardonnay
A nice golden yellow chardonnay that pairs nicely with Greek marinated BBQ chicken and a Greek salad with a few dolmades on the side.

Under the Beef Category
2009 Elevation Vineland Estates Cabernet 
A nice blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with flavours of cherry and dark fruit.

Under the Pizza Category
2009 Bergeron Estates Winery Gamay
A lighter wine with nice aroma and flavours of cherry, spice and pepper. Not overpowering when enjoying it with a pizza

Under the Cheese Category
2008 Pelee Island Winery Pavillion Eco Trail Chardonnay Auxerios
50% Chardonnay and 50% Auxerois, this off dry white has good acidity balanced with some nice fruit that would pair well with a slight salty cheese.

Under the Fish Category
2008 Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Inox Chardonnay
A nice crisp chardonnay with pear and apple flavours. There's no oak in this wine to mask the flavour of the fish. Just a real mineralty to it which allows it to pair well with any white fish.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wine Price Levels

I recently got an email from someone who read my blog and was a little frustrated at the price of wines I had posted for tasting. "$34.95 for a bottle of wine!!" he wrote." I can't afford to go out and buy expensive wine all the time. I'll have to cut back on diapers". The wine he was speaking about was a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape which can be a little pricey. Why so expensive?
 Well....the wine market is basically divided into price levels or hierarchies. There is certainly a big inventory of wines in the under $20 price range that will satisfy a good percentage of the wine drinking population. You can also find many varietals like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir that crossover into the $35 to $75 range and are obviously of better quality. However, you'll only  find premium wines like Barolo, Brunello, Amarone, super Tuscans and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in this upper price range because they use special vinification or harvesting techniques to produce a higher quality of wine. A good example of this type of wine is an Amarone. Three different grape varietals are dried on straw mats before they are crushed. This produces a more intense flavour but the wine is produced in smaller quantities. Anything over $75 are premium wines produced in limited lots from high end wineries or dessert wines like icewines or Sauternes.
 Feel free to stay in your price comfort zone but treat yourself every once and a while to a Brunello or Chateaneuf-du-Pape to taste the higher end production value.

Here's this weeks picks

D'OH - Dolcetto, Piemonte Italy DOC

This wine is not for everyone. It's a light to medium bodied ruby red wine with aromas of strawberry, pepper and some spice. It is a little high in acidity which gives it's raspberry fruit a tarty taste but the 12.5% alcohol level and mild tannins would make it a nice red wine to drink on a hot summer night. This wine would pair well with a creamy tomato based sauce or pork tenderloin.
Price - under $13 (LCBO)

  2012 Fairhall Downs Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough New Zealand

A light yellow Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region with signature  aromas of grapefruit pith, lemon zest, herbs and that hint of New Zealand vegetal bouquet. The wine has good acidity which gives it that long grapefruit finish. This wine would pair well with most seafood like deep fried clams, shrimp or grilled salmon on the BBQ.
Price - Under $19 (LCBO)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wine with Friends

 It's always nice to get together with friends in the neighbourhood and share a glass of wine in an informal wine tasting format. There's no special glasses, marking sheets or pressure. Just a relaxed atmosphere of friends chatting about life, gossip and humorous tales intermingled with comments about the wine. Everyone brings a wine they want to try. There's no theme, no right or wrong. Just wine to sample and enjoy. So here's what the group of us tasted and enjoyed by the fire listening to each other talk and occasionally laughing out loud. Good times indeed.

 Perrin & Fils Les Sinards Chateauneuf-Du-Pape - Rhone, France
From the epicenter of the Rhone valley comes a big bold Chateauneuf-du-Pape consisting of mostly Grenache (70%) with some Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. A full bodied blend with aromas of ripe dark fruit and a long lasting cherry finish with some noticeable tannins.
Price - $34.95 (LCBO) 
Pairs well with beef stew or grilled pepper steak.

Kitchen Sink Red Table Wine - California, USA
Interesting wine. The grapes are sourced from California and not a specific appellation but the result is a nice blend of 38% Zinfandel, 34% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petite Syrah (plus 2% other). Aromas of plum,  dark fruit and pepper with flavours of dark fruit in a medium finish. The ABV is 13.6% so the wine is easy drinking with a medium to full bodied feel. The vintner's notes say that 15% of the wine was aged in oak which is noticeable on the finish. Tannins are relatively mild.
Price - $12.95 (LCBO) 
This wine pairs well with plate of assorted mild to medium cheese

2009 Tenuta Di Ghizzanho Veneroso - Tuscany, Italy
Another nice Tuscan blend of Sangiovese (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%). There's a lot going on in this wine. When it's first opened an earthy aroma comes out but after sitting for a few minutes the fruit starts to come out. 16 months in 2nd, 3rd and 4th use french oak gives it some depth and the tannins are pronounced but smooth. A full bodied wine with a long sour cherry finish
Visit their website at . Lots of good information on their harvesting and vinification.
Price - $29.95 (LCBO)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Taste Ontario 2013 !

  Once again it was a great display of Ontario wines and vintner expertise at the Taste Ontario! media event held on February 11 2013 at the National Art Gallery on Sussex drive in Ottawa. It may have been freezing rain, ice pellets and snow outside but inside the atrium at the NAG everyone was all smiles while tasting some exceptional Ontario wines.  I managed to sample some wines plus talk with a few of the wine producers which is a real treat for me because they talk so passionately about their craft and they don't mind the constant barrage of questions.
 I tried to find a selection of wines that are not in the general list at the LCBO or wines that I don't always see at the local LCBO / Vintages because they are produced in limited supply, sold only to restaurants or only available through the vineyard. It's encouraging to see some wine producers are experimenting with non-traditional Ontario varietals like Gruner Veltliner, Semillon and Zinfandel. It shows that Ontario wineries are not afraid to think outside the box and try new grape varietals. I look forward to seeing and tasting those wines at future Taste Ontario! events.

So here's a few wines that I thought were exceptional.

2010 Reif Estates Meritage - Niagara River VQA

A nice blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. This Meritage was stored mostly in French oak and some Hungarian oak and reveals flavours of dark fruit and some pepper. The tannins are a little more refined which gives it a nice softness. It's not overpowering but it has a full bodied feel to it.

Price - $24.95 - Vintages

2011 Rosewood Estates Semillon - Beamsville Bench VQA

This isn't a wine you see very much of in Ontario so I was curious to see what it offered. I was pleasantly surprised by it's abundant aroma of grapefruit and lemon. The wine has good acidity which gives a nice crisp mouthfeel but also a slight sweetness to offset the acidity. This wine is only available at the Rosewood Estate vineyard ( or in some restaurants. It would pair well with most white fish dishes or a cheese and fruit plate.

Price - $15.00 - Rosewood Estate vineyard

2010 Vineland Elevation Cabernet - Niagara Escarpment VQA

As the name implies, the grapes are sourced from the highest elevation in their vineyard. A nice blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot yields rich flavours of dark berries, cherry and some black pepper. The wine was aged in french oak for 16 months which gives it some tannic structure but it's not harsh. A good match with beef or simply on it's own.

Price - $25 - LCBO  

Cheers !!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stocking the Wine Cellar

  When it's time to restock the old wine cellar, I try to pick up a variety of wines that will obviously age well but are also a little off the beaten path so that there's some mystery when I open them. The day that you finally pull the cork and draw in that first aroma is like opening a Christmas present. Is it a good smell, a bad odour or no change at all? Has it gotten better with age, is it past due or does it need another year in the cellar? Sometimes you hit that magical sweet spot when a wine reaches it's full potential and you're left with a warm feeling of satisfaction after the first taste.
  There's always a bit of risk when you select the wines to be stored for future consumption as you never know how well they will age. You can certainly perform some do diligence and search the web to find which wines age better than others. Personally, I only age wines for 3 to 5 years because wine in my house is like a bowl full of M&Ms at a kids birthday party. You know it's not going to last very long. Although I do stock some Bordeaux's for long term aging (5+ years) as a kind of wine cellar experiment. I like to enjoy wine with friends and family rather than treating it like an investment. To each his own.
 Some people will cellar a case of wine, some like half cases but I prefer to buy 3 bottles to start and try one before I commit to further purchases. If I'm not particularly fond of the wine then I will store the other 2 for future use and move on. If I do like it, I can always go back and purchase additional bottles at a later date.
  As always you should store your wine in a cellar with the proper temperature and humidity or in a wine refrigerator to prevent the wine from degrading or spoiling.
So here's my latest picks for the ole wine cellar.

2011 Garnacha Centenaria - Coto de Hayas - Rioja Spain
  I tried this wine recently (I told you they don't last long in my cellar) and I am impressed by it's rich dark fruit flavours and hints of clove. This is 100% from the Garnacha grape variety (Grenache) and was stored for 4 months in American oak barrels. I'll try another bottle in 2014 to see if the spiciness is still there.
Price -  $17 - LCBO (Vintages)

2010 Bonterra Zinfandel (Organic) - Mendocino California
Zinfandel's are not known for their aging ability like it's California cousin Cabernet Sauvignon but there are some Zins that age well and I'm willing to invest a few bucks in this organically grown Zinfandel to see how it ages. They've also added some Petite Sirah for added depth in colour and taste
Price - $17 - LCBO (Vintages)

2010 Ring Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon - Margaret River Australia
A big bold Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon stored in a combination of French and American oak barriques. According to the tasting notes supplied by Ring Bolt, this wine can be enjoyed through to 2022. I'm sorry my little Cabernet friends, you'll never see that date.
Price - $20 - LCBO (Vintages)