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Red, Red Wines for Winter

February 20, 2017
Chateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc

It’s been a red, red wine season at my place with big, spicy reds sounding pretty perfect on cold winter nights. I’ve been lucky to have a few sample bottles on hand that ensured there was always something new to try. Here are a few of my recent favourites.

Southbrook 2015 Triomphe Pinot NoirChateau des Charmes 2015 Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Franc is a grape that Ontario does extremely well and this 2015 from Niagara’s Chateau des Charmes is an excellent example. We cracked this one open for Shawn’s birthday and it was bursting with big, bold flavours. Lots of ripe red fruit, well-balanced spice and a hint of black pepper on the finish. This was one of the best Ontario wines I’ve had in the last few months. I highly recommend.

Southbrook Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir – With cherry, raspberry, plum, vanilla and root beer on the nose and lots of red fruit on the palate, this Niagara sipper has a longish finish with lots of fruit. A pleasant and very drinkable wine from one of Ontario’s most reliable wineries.

Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet SauvignonLouis M. Martini 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is available for just a little while longer at the LCBO and it’s well worth seeking out. A value-priced California Cab Sauv, this has smoked meat, cassis and big red berries on the nose. The palate is smoky and earth with nice fruit on the finish. A nice wine to pair with dinner.

What do you have in your glass this month? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social.

*These three wines were samples–opinions are most definitely my own.

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The Best Wines I Tried in September

October 3, 2016
Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Cabernet Franc is an organic wine from the Niagara region.

It’s officially autumn! I love this time of year so much and I’ve been signing up for races and yoga classes to celebrate the start of a new season. Even though I’m well past school age, September always seems like a great time for fresh starts and heathy changes.

And I’ve had lots of great wine in my glass this month to share with you! Shawn and I have been traveling and tasting and having so much fun on our wine-infused adventures. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come. But up first, a few of my favourite sips from the past few weeks.

Southbrook Vineyards 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc – I am a big fan of Southbrook wines and of Ontario Cabernet Franc in general, so I was pleased when this sample arrived.  And as I inhaled the aroma of this Ontario red, it felt like fall in a glass – black and roasted pepper, blackberry and wet earth on the nose and lots of earthy, spicy goodness on the palate (blackberry, strawberry, a bit of chili pepper). Even better, it’s organic, which is something Southbrook takes very seriously. I had this with a dish of wild rice and beans that Shawn made for me and it was a perfect mix of earthy flavours on a cold, rainy evening.  I had spent my day taking an html and CSS course at Camp Tech (which I highly recommend) and let me tell you, a glass of this wine with a big bowl of rice and beans and getting sucked into part four of the excellent ESPN documentary on O.J. Simpson made for a pretty perfect way to end the day.

Seriously Cool Red from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, Ontario.Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Red Blend – The Seriously Cool series is more of an entry-level wine for Southbrook, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. With its colourful and memorable label, it’s hard not to want to pick up a bottle. With dark chocolate, smoked meat and plum on the nose and black cherry and roasted plums on the palate, this is a really good food wine. Shawn and I cracked this bottle on a Monday evening, after we returned home from an adventure in Norfolk County (we’ll talk more about that another time). To celebrate the last day of our longer weekend, he made grilled cheese sandwiches with turkey bacon and we enjoyed an evening of comfort food and a marathon session of The Walking Dead (we’re trying to get caught up before the new season starts). This wine paired quite nicely with vacation day binge watching.

Burning Kiln Sparks sparkling wine is a lovely option from Norfolk County.Burning Kiln Vineyards – Sparks – There’s very little in life that I like more than a good sparkling wine. It doesn’t have to be French Champagne (not that I’ll ever turn that down), but a well-made sparkling will always steal my heart. Such is the case with Burning Kiln’s Sparks, which is made with seven different grape varietals and has a little bit of biscuit on the nose, along with nice notes of lemon that follows through on the very crisp palate. It’s a pleasant, refreshing sparkler and it paired quite nicely with the perch tacos I enjoyed on the winery’s patio last weekend. Burning Kiln is on a beautiful piece of property in Norfolk County, a place that has seriously captured our hearts. We can’t wait to go back, and when we do I know that more of this sparkling will be enjoyed.

Levendi Winery 2015 Reserve Chardonnay – I was lucky to recently attend the Napa Valley tasting event in Toronto (more on that in another post soon) and there I discovered Levendi wines. Their lively and fresh Chardonnay was a stand-out for me with balanced acidity and pineapple, pear and apple notes. This is a very good example of a California Chardonnay that could work both with food or on its own. A nice sipper that I hope to have again soon. This one is available via agent in Ontario, but you can grab their Cabernet Sauvignon (also very good) at the LCBO for a limited time.

So what did you drink in September? Share what you tried and loved in the comments below or on social.

Coming up in October on the blog, we’ll continue to look at the wineries of Lake Erie North Shore and our German wine adventures and I’ll give you a deeper dive into two recent tastings I did this past month, which I wanted to dive into with more detail. And I may even share a few more personal posts about my recent wine foibles – I’m told they’re pretty funny!

*All wines tasted this month were either samples or tasted at events where Shawn and I were guests. And thank goodness for that because my wine budget is already completely out of control and running this blog is a very expensive hobby! Opinions remain, as always, our own.

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The Best Wines I Tried in June

July 4, 2016
Chateau des Charmes 2012 Chardonnay from Niagara, Canada

June was a pretty impressive month for wines in my life. I had the opportunity to taste so many new-to-me wines that I hardly know where to start. Some of them will have to wait for single event posts, but below you’ll find many of the wines that kicked off my summer in style.

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard 2013 Riesling Reserve DryHermann J. Wiemer Vineyard – 2013 Reserve Dry Riesling – In July, Shawn and I are spending several weeks in Germany, so we had to slip in a few Rieslings to get us in the mood. For my money, Hermann J. Wiemer’s Finger Lakes winery is making the closest thing to authentic German Riesling that I’ve tasted in North America. This had pear, lime, green apple and a hint of petrol on the nose and a lovely sweet pear note on the palate. A delicious example from one of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes.

Pol Roger ChampagnePol Roger Champagne – Reserve Brut – Shawn’s band was playing on our seventh wedding anniversary in June, but he knew that a good Champagne would keep me from being disappointed that my anniversary was spent in a club and not having a fancy dinner. He chose a good one, as this had lively, crisp bubbles, apples, citrus and biscuit notes on the nose and lovely apple, peach and pear notes on the palate. He was definitely in my good graces after this bottle.

Debbie Travis Pinot GrigioDebbie Travis Fine Wine Collection — Pinot Grigio – I had a fabulous time meeting Debbie Travis at the launch of her new Pinot Grigio. She was absolutely engaging to chat with and I was so interested in hearing all about her retreat in Tuscany (I’ve definitely added a week there to my bucket list). I am always a little bit leery about celebrity wines, but I was impressed with her interest and knowledge about Italian wine and happy to learn that Niagara’s Pillitteri Winery is making her wines – they are known for their high-quality winemaking and this was no exception. A lively and well-made Pinot Grigio, this is an easy-drinking summer patio wine that I have already suggested to a few people looking for a good value wine to enjoy at the cottage.

 

Chateau des Charmes – 2012 St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay – With butterscotch, pineapple, lemon and a hint of smoke on the nose, pineapple on the palate and a smoky butterscotch on the finish, this full-bodied wine paired very well with our summer barbecue during a recent cottage stay. With our mustard and beer marinated chicken wings and macaroni salad, this was a creamy, dreamy combo from one of Niagara’s best wineries. And if oaked Chardonnay isn’t your cup of tea for summer sipping, this is a wine that will age well so you can hold onto it for this winter and several to come.

Ox-Eye Vineyards 2012 Cabernet FrancOx-Eye Vineyards – 2012 Cabernet Franc – I was lucky enough to be gifted this Cabernet Franc from the Shenandoah Valley by a fellow blogger and I was so glad. For fans of Niagara or French Cabernet Franc, this may be a surprise, as it’s more fruit forward and I got little of the bell or black pepper notes I’ve come to expect from a Cabernet Franc. For a student of wine, it was such a pleasure to see how terroir really does influence a wine and I look forward to trying more Virginia wines in future.

Columbia Crest Chardonnay from Washington StateColumbia Crest Wines – I can’t choose a favourite from the recent Columbia Crest Wines tasting with iYellow Wine Club. Shawn and I both loved the lively and refreshing Chardonnay, which had lemon and orchard fruit on the nose, balanced acidity and tropical fruit on the palate. It was a nice, light summer option. The Merlot, which had strawberry, chocolate and coffee on the nose, which followed through on the palate was impressive for the price-point. The Cabernet Sauvignon had some earthy notes on the nose, alongside plum and blackberry. The palate held chocolate, blackberry and a hint of anise. All of the wines clock in at under $20 at the LCBO, making them a great value for the quality.

Columbia Crest winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca was an engaging and entertaining speaker who had everyone in the room wanting to head to Washington State to check out the wines. Of Spanish descent and from a winemaking family who had settled in Argentina, Juan fell in love with Washington winemaking after his first visit. He had anticipated a wet, dreary region and was shocked to discover that they get almost no rainfall in that area, making it practically high desert viticulture. This has meant he can determine exactly how much water his grapes receive, giving him so much control over the concentration of his grapes. This tasting has me excited to discover more of Washington’s delicious, value-priced wines.

And a special shout-out to the girl’s night out I had recently where each lovely lady brought an amazing wine. While the night was not about tasting notes, I was blown away by the quality of the selections. From a 2014 Domaine Chatelaine Pouilly-Fumé to a Brut Cattin Crémant D’Alsace (quality pink bubbles at a value price), to a complex and delicious 2012 Red Stone Riesling, the white wines were on point. The Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro paired perfectly with pizza and the 2013 Blason Del Valle Malbec won my heart amongst the reds. This was an evening about friendship, but I am certainly blessed to have friends with such great taste in wine.

What were your favourite wines in June? Have you tried any of the above? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

*The Chateau des Charmes was a sample. The Columbia Crest and Debbie Travis wines were tasted at events where I was a guest. All opinions are my own, as always.

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The Best Wines I Tried in May

June 6, 2016
Lush Sparkling Wine at Kitchen 76 Restaurant in Niagara

May was a jam-packed month and I spent lots of time running, writing and attending wine events. Shawn and I also took a trip to Niagara and discovered some wonderful new wines, as well as enjoying some delicious meals—I highly recommend Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Winery, if you’re visiting the area.  Watch for more on our Niagara visit on the blog soon, but for now here are just a few of the memorable wines I tried last month.

Two Sisters Vineyards Lush Sparkling Rosé

Two Sisters Vineyard Lush Brut Rosé – Niagara, Ontario – While we loved the food at Two Sisters, we were also very impressed by the wines. This dark pink sparkling rosé was a perfect accompaniment to my meal. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it also includes a dosage of Cabernet Franc. The quality of this sparking is obvious and I loved the strawberries and orchard fruit notes on the palate.

Two Sisters Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Franc – Niagara, Ontario – Full-bodied and lush, my tasting note for this wine starts with a simple word that conveyed my feelings: delicious. There’s no bell pepper on this Cabernet Franc, just a rounder, peppery note lending to a nice balance of earthiness and big, red fruit on the palate. An amazing example of how well Cabernet Franc can be done in the Niagara region, this is a bottle that’s well worth the $48 splurge.

Angels Gate Winery V red wine blendAngel’s Gate Winery Angel’s V – Niagara, Ontario – Shawn and I almost always stop in at Angel’s Gate Winery when we’re in Niagara, we love the staff (Kara is amazing) and the wines always impress. This time, we had the chance to try their newest release, a Bordeaux blend that includes vintages from 2002 to 2012. With a deep red hue, this wine opens up beautifully after some time in the glass. There’s lots of deep, lush red fruit on the nose and, while this one really needs some age on it, it’s drinking fairly well now. I expect this will be extraordinary in a few year’s time.

Red 2014 wine blend from Quai du Vin WineryQuai Du Vin Estate Winery Signature Series Red 2014 – Ontario – A blend of red hybrids wasn’t at the top of my list of things to try, I’ll admit it, but winemaker Jamie Quai has consistently impressed me with his wines and I was willing to give this one a go. Turned out, it was one of the stand-outs for me at the recent event for Ontario’s Southwest. I will come right out and admit that I didn’t plan to review this wine, so I didn’t take notes, but even a few weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. Shawn and I both highlighted it as a very drinkable and approachable red that made us (well, me) reflect on how hybrids in the right hands can be made into some really good wine.

La Crema Monterey 2014 Chardonnay from CaliforniaHonourable Mention:

La Crema 2014 Monterey Chardonnay – Monterey, California – With notes of butter, Meyer lemon, creamed corn and mango on the nose, I knew this would be a big California Chardonnay and I was hesitant about how much I would enjoy it. But I poured a chilled glass on a warm summer night, sat out on the patio sipping and found it quite enjoyable. The mouth feel is nice, with buttery notes and some pineapple on the finish. While it was rightly pointed out when I posted about this one on Instagram that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea for a warm evening, I found a chilled glass was fine. However, a lighter wine might work better if you’re looking to have more than one glass on the patio. And when I paired this wine with a grilled chicken sandwich on a buttery bun, it worked well. This is a reasonably affordable Cali option if you’re looking for a wine to pair with roasted chicken.

Have you tried any of these wines? What did you think? Did you try any fabulous wines in May that you want to share? Post about them in the comment section or on social!

*Some of these wines were sent as samples and others were tried at the winery or at events where I was a guest. All opinions, as always, are my own.