Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wine Pairing with Pumpkin Squash Soup

Did you ever stumble upon a wine and food pairing that seemed unlikely but turned out to be a winner? Sometimes you think a wine should work well with a dish but the wine is either too strong and it over powers the flavours of the meal or maybe the dish is too spicy and the wine tastes like water. Wine and food pairing can be hit and miss at times even when the pairing rules tell you that a wine should work well with certain foods.
 Recently, I was tasting a Zinfandel from Paso Robles California that I planned on writing up in this blog when my son-in-law Ben offered to make us dinner. The main course was a delicious rich pumpkin and squash soup garnished with chopped chili infused pistachios. Sounds good?...It was rich, smooth and delicous. Normally I would pair a hearty or rich vegetable based soup with a Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc but I had already opened the Zin so I decided to try it.

The 2012 Paso Creek Zinfandel paired really well for a couple of reasons.
  1. The spiciness of the chili infused pistachios gave the soup a bit of "hotness" which seemed to mellow out the relatively high alcohol content (14.5% ABV) of the Zinfandel. This brought out the dark fruit of the wine.
  2. The nuttiness of the pistachio's blended with the dark fruit of zinfandel and the creaminess of the soup blended together to produce a rich smoothy texture.
It was an unplanned wine and food pairing that turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

2012 Paso Creek Zinfandel - Paso Robles California
Aromas of dark fruit, dark chocolate and some spice. The dark fruit continues in the flavour with some mild tannins and a long fruit finish of black cherry and spice.
Price under $20 LCBO Vintages (279810)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vacation Beers

I was recently on vacation in the southern USA and I had an opportunity to try some different beers while we toured around the beaches of North Carolina. Here's a sample of the suds I tried while slurping oysters and munching on crab cakes.

 Landshark Lager - A favourite of mine when I travel south. It's a lighter lager like Corona but without the bitterness at the end. You can stick a lime in it but I prefer it plain because it's crispness and smooth after taste make this the ideal beach beer.

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Jack O'Traveler Pumpkin Wheat Ale - This wheat ale is a shandy inspired brew which gives the pumpkin flavours a kind of pumpkin pie sweetness. Easy drinking and not overwhelming.

Web site :

Magic Hat Scream Pumpkin Ale - Really enjoyed this beer as it had flavours of pumpkin, nutmeg and some cinnamon. There's was a nice crispness to it with a full flavour of pumpkin.

Web site :

Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale - A nice clear golden coloured crisp ale with flavours of pumpkin and spice. Not a heavy pumpkin ale which allows it to pair nicely with a turkey dinner or a burger. 

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Things I've learned since becoming a Sommelier

Here's some tidbits of wisdom I've picked up while becoming a Sommelier.
  • Never try to use plastic food wrap after a bottle of Amarone. It ends with some swearing, a whole bunch of plastic wrap in a ball and food that will probably go stale by morning.
  • Being a Sommelier does not mean that you're from an African country whose primary export is pirating oil tankers.
  • The more Chianti I drink the more likely that I will do a Hannibal Lecter impersonation
  • Decanting that fourth bottle of wine during a dinner party usually ends with a lot of spillage.
  • Put a lock on your wine cellar door. Trust me on this one.
  • After a few tastings of different Irish whiskeys, my voice begins to sound a lot like the Lucky Charms Leprechaun 
  • Gewurztraminer is German for "difficult to pronounce wine"
  • Never lick the outside of a tasting glass even if it's really good wine. 
  • Getting your Sommelier certification does not mean that you passed the "drinking test"

Here's my wine picks for this week

2008 ValleAndino Syrah Reserva Especial - Colchagua Valley Chile

Great deep purple colour in this wine. Rich aromas of smoke, spice and dark fruit. Flavours of dark currants, pepper and that richness that Syrah / Shiraz has long established. A long full bodied finish of fruit and some tannins.
Price is under $14 (LCBO Vintages - 272682)
BBQ sausages would pair nicely with this wine

2012 d'Arenberg "The Hermit Crab" - McLaren Vale Australia
With 55% Viognier and 45% Marsanne making up this lively little blend it was easy to find the aromatic notes of apricot and honeysuckle. Nice citrus flavours with a little pear and the 14% aged oak on the Viognier side gives it a nice medium long finish with some softness.
Price is under $20 (LCBO Vintages - 662775)
I paired this wine with a BBQ sauce and maple syrup glazed salmon fillet with roasted red potatoes

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

For a Good Friend

Earlier this year, my brother-in-law and good friend passed away.  He appreciated wine as much as I do and not only loved to discuss wine but the region it came from and it's history. On his last trip to France, he drove many kilometers out of his way to bring me back a bottle of Sauternes from a local vineyard in the Bordeaux region because he and his wife thought I might like it. That's the kind of person he was and will be remembered as. A kind and gentle man who always tried to make everyone's life a little bit better. I will truly miss our long chats about wine and history.

I would like to dedicate this posting to my friend and brother-in-law Doug who is dearly missed by all his family and friends. Here are a couple of his favourite varietals.

Perrin & Fils Les Sinards Chateauneuf du Pape - Chateauneuf du Pape, France

Where else could you find such a distinctive wine produced in the heart of the Rhone valley and cloaked in Papal history. A blend of 70% Grenache with some Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. A deep dark rich red wine with a long cherry finish with some pepper. Some noticeable tannins on the finish
Price - under $35 (LCBO Vintages - 926626)
Great with Sunday roast beef dinner

2009  Montecillo Crianza La Rioja - Rioja Spain

100% Tempranillo grapes aged in American oak for 12 months and stored in bottles for further aging. A dark red wine with aromas of ripe red fruit like cherries and some cedar. Lots of cherry flavour with a firm tannic structure that doesn't overpower the long cherry finish. Excellent wine to sip while listening to flamenco guitar music on a warm summer night
Price - under $15 (LCBO - 144493)
Pair this wine with your own little tapas bar of olives, aged cheeses and fresh bread.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bargain Wines - Part 2

Some people like shopping for electronics, some like a good book or magazine and some people are into shoes. Myself...I enjoy surfing the shelves of my local liquor store. I came across another gem from the LCBO clearance sale that's on till February 2nd 2014. I almost missed it as it was on the bottom shelf in the corner of the Vintages section. A nice Aussie Chardonnay from the Margaret River area of south western Australia.

2011 Brookland Valley Verse 1 Chardonnay - Margaret River, Australia

Everything an Australian chardonnay should be. Sur lie aging for six months, some malolactic fermentation to soften the texture and a little oak to bring out the butterscotch gives you a great straw coloured chardonnay with flavours of pink grapefruit and some pear.
Price - $14.25 (originally $17.95 - save $3.70) - Vintages
This wine paired well with a pork tenderloin prepared in a Greek style sauce with feta.

Cheers !!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bargain Wines

   It's that time of year at the LCBO when they put the end of bin wines on clearance and there are usually some terrific bargains to be had. You need to do a little research before heading to your local LCBO as not all stores have the same selection of wines. I use the product search tool on the LCBO web site or the Vintages web site (see my home page for a link) to search for some good bargains. The bigger the outlet, the more wines will be available so if you have a Saturday afternoon to kill, you could try one of the bigger stores and look through the Vintages section for some great wines. The price discount can be anywhere from $1.50 to $5 per bottle depending on the original listed price. More expensive wines ($40 and up) will have bigger discounts.

Here's one that my wife found and it's a great buy at $14.25 (save $4.70)

2009 Familia Mayol Malbec - Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina

Oak aged for 12 months this dark and rich Malbec has aromas of cherry, spice and some menthol. The wine really excels in the flavour end with dark cherry, some spice and a long smooth finish of cherry.
Price - originally $18.95 but on sale for $14.25 (Vintages) 
Pork tenderloin, beef short ribs or most BBQ dishes would work well with this wine.

Cheers !!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A New Year and New Resolutions

It's a brand new year and that means that it's time to make some resolutions. A time to reflect on changes we'd like to make in our lives and maybe new paths to follow. The usual promises to shed some pounds and get in shape. It's either lose weight or figure out a way to work jogging pants into my daily wardrobe.

  I was out for a New Years day dinner at a local restaurant and found myself talking to the waiter about wine. He was very enthusiastic about wine and asked for my recommendation on a good red wine to buy. I pondered for a few seconds before suggesting a nice California Zinfandel which I thought he would like. After the waiter left I started to rethink my suggestion. Here's a guy that obviously enjoys wine so my job as a Sommelier is not necessarily to tell him what to buy as it is to stoke that fire of enthusiasm for wine. So I called him back to the table and said "Forget about the wine that I told you buy. My recommendation is that you try different wines. Go outside your comfort zone. Maybe try a Zweigelt from Austria or a Primitivo from Italy, maybe a Rioja from Spain, a port from Portugal or a Baco Noir from Ontario. Try as many different wines as possible."

So my new year resolution is to suggest to you as reader of my blog to try new wines. Be bold, be daring and try wines that you wouldn't normally buy. Here's a few suggestions to get you started.

Try a ...

  • Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand
  • Malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina
  • Chardonnay from the Sonoma County or Central Coast region of California
  • Riesling from the Alsace region in France
  • Amarone from Veneto region of Italy
  • Baco Noir from Ontario
  • Gamay Noir from Prince Edward County
  • ....keep trying different wines

Cheers !