Tag Archives: wine review

Weekend Wine…

5 Nov

What will I be diving into this weekend?

Welcome to The Show, by Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon (LCBO#622001, $10.10). As far as I know, this has been discontinued from good ol’ LCBO, but that might be temporary. I pray it’s just temporary.

This doesn’t just have a kick ass label, the stuff the bottle is just as stellar and loud. Crafted with grapes from California’s Central and North Coasts, this is richly coloured (thanks to a 11% addition of Petite Sirah that on its on will stain your teeth for days) and goes down smooth. It’s got punch, with cherry preserves with a touch of spice and yummy vanilla flavours. This sucker is a star! It’ll bring a ray of sunshine into the mucky, yucky weather that’s forecasted and with the steaks I’ve been dreaming of all week, it’s gonna kick some serious butt.

So, what are you drinking?


It’s all good…

18 Jul

The Good Earth Food and Wine Company folk are literally haunting my dreams.

Since last week when the Chief and I made a visit about our next Harvest issue (stay tuned), my mind has been obsessed with sugared pecans, medium-dry Riesling and cherry preserve topped Canadian cheese slathered on home-made crostini.

Honestly, get thee to Good Earth immediately, if not sooner. As their website is so cleverly divided, they’ve got Good Food, Good Wine, Good Times and Good People. You really can’t go wrong.

Enjoy pizza from the wood-oven or impeccably dressed greens fresh from the on-site garden while you take in the view from the patio. Swing by The Pantry Shed to stock up on the aforementioned sugared pecans, double-smoked bacon (insert drool face here) or jams. Sip & Savour your way through a flight of three wines matched with three bite-sized appetizers – the ’08 Cabernet Franc with the sundried tomato and oregano pinwheel was unbelievably mouthwateringly good.

Regardless of which path of wonderous delight you choose, you’ll be even more lucky if owner Nicolette Novak stops to chat. The joy she exudes for her work is contagious – and all the staff have drunk the kool-aid. These aren’t just Good People, these are Great People.

We left Good Earth with smiles from ear to ear and a bag of goodies each. They just might tide us over until our visit next week.

I’ll tell ya what definitely didn’t make it for long in my presence – The Good Wine 2009 Rosé.

Called the “little sister” of the Cab Franc, this wine has the same affect on The Good Earth patio as caesars do at cottage parties – you see one, you want one. It’s a happy wine, smelling of candy apple and tasting like strawberries, but is less sweet than both those flavours insinuating. Both my glass on the patio with lunch and my bottle back at home went sayonara lickity split. Isn’t that really what it’s all about – enjoyment?

Do yourself a favour and take yourself down to Beamsville. Enjoy the good life.

The Screwcap?

17 Jul

“Always carry a corkscrew and the wine shall provide itself.”

– Basil Bunting

I try to talk myself out of it.

I take out that pair of shoes I don’t really wear because they hurt after any considerable walking distance or that extra black tank top that’s identical to the other two I already have in my bag. I start with the smallest suitcase possible in attempts to limit my available space, knowing I’ll cram something into that tiny front pocket if given the option. But, despite any of these perfectly rational measures, I still over pack. There are just very few things I’m willing to leave behind just in case – one such thing is a corkscrew. I find it to be the necessary travel companion, besides good company and banana-chocolate chip muffins.

Yes, most hotels these days have a chinzy plastic opener in the room. Yes, I don’t need one when I’m going to an all-inclusive resort where every Cuban server has two that they guard with their life. Yes, I normally travel in places where buying one would be less than a problem.

I pack one anyways.

So, it’s probably not surprising that I slipped one into my giraffe-print tote in preparation for a trip south of the border for a recent long weekend. I mean, a winery stop was guaranteed with my bestest (we kindly refer to her as ‘Charlotte’ in these parts) beside me.

Alas, I never ended up using it. It eventually got piled under Boston souvenirs, a seafood bib and one particularly sandy bathing suit. Though it wasn’t for a lack of trying that my poor buddy didn’t make an appearance – the wine was a-flowing. However, we were blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to be surrounded by refreshing, affordable whites and rosés all bottled under screwcap.

No complaints here, the weather was beautiful and these wines hit the spot with our mostly seafood and potato chip diet.

Even our stop at Newport Vineyards (about 10 minutes from Easton Beach – trust me, make a day out of it and see the mansions and the gorgeous beaches) found us putting rosé in the trunk.

Enter Newprt Vineyards 2009 White Merlot ($14.99 US).

If you ever get a chance to hit up Newport Vineyards, this definitely has purchasing potential. I mean, taste your way through their wine list and I’m sure you’ll find something worth the bucks, but my money is on the White Merlot. A great mix of snappy acidity and strawberry sweetness, this is a enjoyable summertime sipper. It’s not the most complex wine on the market, but since when does that matter? It’s gulpably good and it goes down quick with zippy cherry and berry notes.

And hey, it’s screwcapped, so your corkscrew can remain buried at the bottom of your bag, right where it belongs. Basil was right – carry a corkscrew and even if you don’t use it, the wine will provide itself.


14 Jun

So, the FIFA World Cup has begun. Footie fans are running amuck, drinking at 10 a.m. and sticking flags out of their cars. I may not make friends here, but I like football football. As in big, burly men crushing into one another, Hail Mary’s and the latest gossip about Brett Favre’s return (or retirement – depends on the week). In order to get through a month of soccer hijacking the sports channel, I’m going to do what I do best… drink.

Did you know that World Cup host South Africa has a wine history that dates back 1652?!? I sure didn’t.

Way back then, these crazy bunch of Dutch traders decided that they’d had enough of the Portugese monopoly over the Cape sea route (they really liked spices, okay?) and so Jan van Riebeeck was tasked to grow a garden and supplies for their ships that would stop along their travels.

Vines were imported in 1655, and there’s even six acres of that original planting preserved in a botanical garden today. Finally, in 1659, our adventurous and hardworking Jan wrote a sweet little diary entry that read:

“Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes, and the new must was tested fresh from the vat.”

You just know Jan and his buddies got a little tipsy and someone shaved someone’s eyebrow.

From that storied history comes a great wave of wine. There’s the impressive cross-pollintaion of Pinot Noir and Hermitage that created Pinotage, the first uniquely South African grape variety and in 1965, the single largest selling branded wine in the world, Lieberstein. And South African wines have just continued to get better and better.

I thought I’d share two stand outs from the 16 participants at the SA tasting I was lucky enough to attend last week on the eve of kick-off. (It is kick-off, isn’t it?) Hopefully, you’ll either enjoy them with your favourite team’s match, or in place of having one.

Ken Forrester ’09 Chenin Blanc (VINTAGES 2011, $15.95)

A great full wine with a lot going on. Baked apple pie is the first thing I recognized on the nose, but it has layers of melon, honey and carmel. It’s an approachable, everyday drinking wine that can shake up your obsessive Pinot Grigio habit. It’s not too sweet, nor too oaky. It’s just, honestly, delightful. It’s definitely on my list and it should be on yours.

Graham Beck ’09 Chardonnay/Viognier (#140608, $11.95)

Seriously, just go try this bottle. It’s a great price and I’m in love with Viognier right now. It cuts the Chard so nicely, and adds such a great nose and interesting other layer to this wine. You get citrus from the Chardonnay, peaches from the Viognier. If you haven’t tried this grape, get out there and do it. Trust me.

Ladies Man…

27 May

I caught a little slack from a friend the other day after my Rosé Uncorked post. It seems he – the everyman, the future McDreamy, the athlete, the politick – thinks that it was directed only at the ladies.

“Guys like rosé too!” he pleaded. “Yeah, but most rosé drinkers are girls,” I argued. Then a bunch of sexist insults were thrown about (mostly kidding) and I managed to escape his wino wrath reasonably unscathed.

Thinking about it later, he was kinda right. As a girl, people don’t think I like football. But I do. People don’t think I should be able to chug a beer. But I can. People don’t think I can put up a tent by myself. But I have.

So, I opened up my mind hole for a second and came up with two rosé’s for the gentlemen out there. Sorry that I didn’t include you the first time. Hope you enjoy! (And ladies, these are equally as delicious for womenfolk – so don’t be afraid to bust them out. We’re all friends here in Roséland.)

Fielding Estate Rosé (VINTAGES #53421, $15.95)

The Chief recently called this wine, “More serious and austere than fun and fruity.” I would have to agree. It’s got a ruby hue and a snazzy black screw cap.  This wine was created using the saignée method, meaning red grapes were soaked only briefly with the skins and then treated as if they were a white wine, NOT a mixture of red and white wines thrown together to make a pink one – this is all about craftsmanship.  It’s a mixture of Pinot Noir, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, with a touch of Merlot and Syrah thrown in for good measure, all blended together in perfect harmony. It smells of cranberries and snappy pepper and is sharp and dry in the mouth. Enjoy it before the meal, or alongside grilled fish – I’m thinking seared tuna personally, but whatever fin you fancy to throw on the BBQ will do.

If you are more in the mood for a rich rosé? Then you’ve simply got to look to France. The Mas des Bressades ’09 Rosé Tradition (VINTAGES 950576, $13.95).

It’s from the Rhone region of France (which produces seriously awesome reds – Syrah – and whites – Viognier, but that’s another post) and is soaked in sunshine. Bright jolly rancher pinky red in colour, this wine balances refreshment with luxurious mouthfeel. Smells of strawberry and rose garden and tastes like diving into the first fresh berries of the season. Though easily downed on its own, it’ll go great with fresh summer salads, topped with grilled chicken. Yum! Kinda a hoity toity boring bottle, but that’s the French for ya – if it’s not your thing, just stick it in a decanter. May I recommend this one?

Uncorking Rosé…

13 May

Tis that time again. The sun is shining (well, not today), the patio bars are open (again, not today) and the local wine stores are stocking their shelves with plentiful pink bottles (this, unlike the others, is actually true). Having already tasted a few rosé’s this pre-summer season, we can arm you with info to take into consideration when your mind wanders to this often under rated sipper.

First up is Beringer’s California Collection ’08 White Zinfandel (LCBO 239756, $9.95).

The price is definitely right on this baby, but it’s not my favourite of the bunch. It’s just a touch too sweet for my taste, but the strong strawberry nose and nice, lush finish along with the pale pink colour make it an attractive party wine to keep on hand and it’s easily available. Let’s be honest, when you’re out on the deck with your girls, it could be nice to have something to kick off the evening that doesn’t break the bank. It’d be a nice compliment to Asian style chicken skewers or even fried mozzarella.

If you’re looking to buy locally, Malivoire’s Ladybug ’09 Rosé (VINTAGES 559088, $15.95) is a great bet.

It’s priced a little higher, but for those extra dollars you get loads more layers of flavour. Light in the mouth, but with loads of fruitness (we’re talking cranberry, strawberry and raspberry), this wine is bursting. It’s drier than your mouth the morning after a kegger, and perfectly balanced to serve with food. Because it’s made with 86 per cent Cabernet Franc, it’s a great pair with anything garlic. I’m thinking whole slow-roasted cloves smushed into a divine dip with super crunchy crackers. Or, go with what the winery recommends – a hot dog with all the fixins.

Yesterday we were lucky enough to be at the Montes tasting at Toronto’s Spoke Club. The event started off on the right foot because of this stand-out bottle, Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah ’09. This bottle will be available within the next 45 days, but there’s still plenty of the ’08 left on LCBO shelves (VINTAGES 37887, $14.95).

This is just plain yummy. Winemaker Aurelio Montes believes this wine is “just meant to be” and he’s right. It’s bright colour makes it fun and lively, while the palate has a subtle spiciness and hints of strawberries. Montes believes strongly that because this rosé is made from Syrah (the grape has major oomph) it serves a double purpose as a solo sipper or a great accompaniment to food. He recommends to serve it alongside sushi or a lush risotto. All in all, the ’08 is fantastic, the ’09 follows in its steps.

Hopefully the sun and patios will soon cooperate and follow the stocking of LCBO shelves, bringing us some warmth to enjoy these wines. Until then, well… drink a unoaked cool climate Chard or something.

Esteemed doesn’t mean great…

31 Mar

First day on the job as an intern for Vines Magazine based out of Burlington, and I get gifted a bottle of white.

I mean, come on, can I even complain about that? Not really.

Task one is to taste it, figure out the rituals behind the whole shabang. More importantly, I’m supposed to decide if I like it.


I know we’re on this great adventure into wine and all, but it’s still kind of radically shocking to hear someone wants my opinion. The first time my brother called me to ask which white to grab off the shelf for his girlfriend’s party, I nearly had a stroke. You can only imagine my surprise to hearing my boss wanted to know what I thought.

Regardless, I brought the bottle home, and dove right in. Why not leap, right?

Well, turns out it was an easy task, this ‘speaking your mind’ bit.

Welcome the Gabbiano 2008 Pinot Grigio. (LCBO# 77990, $12.95).

It’s alright. I think the word I used to my boss was ‘meh’. It’s a pretty straw colour, light in the mouth and has a good long finish (that’s how long the taste lingers around after you’ve swallowed – or spit, like the ‘pros’ do). It’s zesty, and at the finish, it kind of feels like you’ve bit into a lemon peel. It’s got dominate tart apple flavours and from all these descriptors, you’d think I’d have liked it.

I didn’t. Gabbiano is an esteemed Tuscan winery (in the North East of Italy). They’re famous for their Chiantis in the way that Choo is famous for his shoes.

Meh. They need to work on their Pinot Grigio. It’s got potential, but with so many other wines out there, I’m not in a huge rush to drink it again.

You know, unless it’s for ‘work’.


Never Drinking Anything Else Again…

23 Mar

After diving head first into a pile of wine books, websites and tweets, I have come out ready, excited and particularly curious to try several different types of wine that weren’t really on my radar.

First up was Beaujolais.

Previously, I had generally steered my wine choices away from France. I mean, yeah, they’ve done wine very, very well, but they’re also kinda – well – French about it. Call it uppity, snotty, or just very secure in their fortune, but the Canadian in me never really cared much to venture to the rolling, grassy hills of France. Well, other than Champagne… but that’s a whole other chapter.

So. Beaujolais. After serious readings, what did I know about it?

Well, this wine takes its name from a region in France. I bet you can guess what it’s called. (Yes, for the blondes in the class, that’d be Beaujolais.) I know from my Grade 12 French class that Beau means beautiful, so that’s a nice start for a wine. Jolais I can only imagine stands for ‘Amazing Wine’.

Yes folks, it’s that good. I had read that it was that good, but didn’t want to believe the hype. Someone once said it was the perfect wine, and that guy cut it with water.

Well it may not be perfect, or at least not the stuff at my price point, but it’s as close as I’ve tasted.

I sampled a bottle (or two, what can I say, I’m hooked on the stuff) of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf 2008 Beaujolais – Villages (LCBO 122077, $12.95)

It smells like red wine, but drinks like a white. It’s as tender as they describe it on the bottle. It’s full of berries and juicy.

The best part is that you’re actually supposed to serve it chilled. Yes, this is a red wine we’re talking about folks. But those Frenchies have it right, that Gamay grape is amazing cold. It’s as easy drinking as a crisp Pinot Grigio. It’s great for picnics, matches everything from light red meats to chicken pasta. I can even imagine it being awesome with Asian cuisine.

It’s not bitter, but it’s not super sweet. It’s so damn good that I might never drink anything else again.

Attention… Calling all guys!

12 Feb

Listen up! I know you think that Valentines Day is a joke, a commercial holiday to make those in relationships pay more, while singles sit on their couches crying and stuffing their face with leftover sale price chocolate.

But, I guarantee you that it’s more than that to your girlfriend, your girl friend or that girl you picked up two weeks ago.

The thing is, yeah, the ‘holiday’ is cheesy. But Valentines Day doesn’t have to mean heart-shaped chocolate and cinnamon hearts. It’s a time of the year to show the important people in your life that you are thinking about them and care about them.

Oh, sure, you say you make the lady in your life feel special all year-round. But do you? Really? For the guys that aren’t so sure, V-Day is a built-in excuse to bring out your A-Game.

And you know a great way to do that? With wine!

You want the best bottle to impress the lady in your life this Valentines Day? Or perhaps just a bottle to give to a special friend to bring a smile their face and make them forget you forgot to call?

Look no further… From Italy, may I recommend the Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto ’08. It’s PINK, EASILY AVAILABLE and 11.95!!! Sweet baby Jesus, I make it easy for you. Most importantly, it’s not just a stereotypical bottle of Yellowtail Rose stacked beside a Valentines Day clearance sign.

If your girl is more of a bubbly kind, I can offer up another option. Niagara-based Henry of Pelham has a gorgeous Rose Brut VQA (That means its met the standards of the Vintners Quality Alliance, which generally means a superior wine). It’s a touch on the pricier side ($29.95), but she’s worth every penny, right gents?

And if you happen to be a single lady, or heck, a taken one who’s celebrating alone – these wines are mighty tasty and they’re both 12 percent alcohol.

Cheers to you and yours on this holiday all about love!

Two Chileans walk into a bar…

12 Feb

Part of this whole exploring wine thing has got to be finding out what I know and what I don’t know about wine. Another part has got to be drinking…a lot. So, I decided why not take the plunge – a blind taste test.

On the menu were two Chilean Sauvignon Blancs at two different price points (one just slightly higher) and just for fun, why not throw in a mid-priced Argentinean Sauv Blanc as well. The bottles were hidden from me, poured by my obliging boyfriend and basically left me blindsided and completely unaware.

I was certain of two things: one, I would be able to tell the more expensive bottle from the rest and two, I would make a fool out of myself.

Bottle number one. It’s a pretty yellow colour. Got some legs on her. Smells like a bouquet of sweet, hand picked flowers. Lemony in flavour. Light in the mouth. Tangy.

Bottle number two. Immediately minerally. Doesn’t smell as strong as the last bottle. Light. No to little legs. The predominant taste isn’t wine, it’s water – like Perrier. Upon further tasting, it does have some flavour. You know when you cut apples and don’t want them to turn brown, so you toss them around in a bit of lemon juice? It tastes like that. Other than that, there’s not a whole lotta oomph in this wine.

Final bottle. Just a touch darker than the others. Crisp and smoother than the rest, with less bite at the back of your mouth. Very easy to drink. A little Nutty? It’s hard to describe, but somehow it’s my favourite. I quite literally wrote down “Yummy”. It’d be great with bbq’ed shrimp and asparagus.

I revisited the wines the next night and not much had changed. The first was still yummy, and I liked it better on its second trip. It had grown on me a bit. The second, still not my favourite, but much better with the creamy pasta dish as it cleaned the palate. It’s still remarkably zesty and just a touch tingly on the tongue. It may taste like water, but man, is it smooth.

So, then… Which was the Argentinian, the cheap Chilean and which the most expensive?

My first bottle was the Trapiche Astica Sauvignon/Semillon blend (LCBO# 359083, $7.45).

The second, and least favourite, was the more expensive Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc ’09 (Vintages# 396994, $13.95).

And the final bottle, the one I enjoyed the least, was the Argentinian – Santa Carolina Chardonnay (LCBO# 259192, $8.50).

What does this all mean? Well, it means you can’t tell a six dollar difference between two Chileans, so you might as well buy the one you enjoy more, which for me was the cheaper of the two. It also means, when you stop relying on labels, you get to actually experience the wine, which is kind of the whole point, if you ask me.