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Food & Wine

A Father’s Day Gift Guide for Wine Guys

June 13, 2016
Dujardin Fine V.S.O.P. Brandy - a great Father's Day gift idea.

It’s almost Father’s Day and I know there are a lot of great dads being feted this spring. So what do you get the dad who loves wine? Here are a few suggestions that might go over better than a new tie or another sweater.

Wine & War is the perfect book for a wine-loving history buff.A Great Wine Read

This blog has been chock full of wine book reviews over the last year and I have no intention of slowing down. Because wine lovers are always looking to learn more about the wines we adore, a book is a great gift option. My dad loved all history and Shawn loves war history, so I know that’s a theme many dads might enjoy. I’ve mentioned Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup before and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s hard to put down this 2002 book, which details the lengths French winemakers went to while trying to keep their wines out of Nazi hands in World War II and what happened when they succeeded (and failed). This is the perfect read for any wine-loving history buff.

Dujardin Fine V.S.O.P. Brandy - a great Father's Day gift idea.Brandy

I haven’t spent much time drinking brandy, but I know it can be perfect for gifting. I received a bottle of this Dujardin Fine V.S.O.P., which is Brandy distilled with select French wine, to review and was pleasantly surprised. There was maple, toffee and banana notes on the nose and it was quite drinkable on the rocks. Shawn and I also tried a Horse’s Neck cocktail, which mixes one ounce of Dujardin with four ounces of ginger ale (we opted for diet, as I prefer not to drink sugary sodas). It was a pleasant drink and surprisingly sweet, but nice for an evening on the patio.

Zenato Winery Amarone della Valpolicella makes a good gift for a wine loverA Special Bottle of Wine

What wine-loving dad doesn’t want a special bottle on Father’s Day? If you can’t afford Bordeaux, or want to try something different, you might want to consider Amarone. I recently had the chance to meet winemaker Alberto Zenato and try the 2011 Classico Amarone della Valpolicella his winery makes. Made in the appassimento style, Amarone is a special treat. This one had a deep, smoky vibe and big, lush fruit with a hint of sweetness. I’d say cherry and chocolate with a touch of smoke. And I was impressed with how passionate the Zenato family is about promoting and protecting the traditions of Amarone. Worried about producers who are making lower-quality and lower-priced Amarone and using the name without following the strict rules for making this wine, the Zenatos have banded together with 12 other wineries to create Amarone that reflects the traditions and will continue to impress. This is a gift dad surely won’t mind drinking now or cellaring for several years.

These are just a few ideas from me, but I’d love to hear yours! Guys, what do YOU want for Father’s Day this year? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social.

*The Dujardin was tasted as a sample and the Amarone at an event where I was a guest. All opinions are, as always, my own.


Food & Wine

Top 5 California Wine Fair Moments

May 24, 2016
White and rosé wines from Birichino and Bonny Doon at the California Wine Fair.

The California Wine Fair in Toronto is a great opportunity to try a selection of the best wines from the state. While the trade tasting can be quite busy, the public event in the evening is typically more relaxed and a great value for the wines you experience. This year, I attended the media tasting earlier in the day and had the opportunity to take an incredible class on California Pinot Noir from one of my greatest wine writing inspirations, Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. I would be hard-pressed to pick just five favourite moments from the day, but I wanted to highlight a few of the stand-out selections.

Tasting 13 fascinating California Pinot Noir wines with Karen MacNeil.Learning about California Pinot Noir with Karen MacNeil

I’ve said many times on this blog that The Wine Bible got me through my early wine classes and it remains one of my go-to wine resources. With that in mind, there was no way I would miss out on a Pinot Noir tasting with Karen MacNeil.  At this session, we tasted through a wealth of new-to-me Pinots from smaller California producers, which showcased some of the best of the varietal being grown in the state. Very little of this wine is available here, so I won’t go into too much detail about tasting notes but in tasting 13 of MacNeil’s hand-picked favourites, you could really see the diversity of the grape and the quality of Pinot that California can produce. I don’t think we get enough of the really good stuff in Ontario, so we sometimes overlook this grape when buying from California, but this tasting inspired me to seek out some of these producers when I next visit the state. My favourites from the tasting? The 2013 Laetitia Vineyards and the 2013 McIntyre Vineyards.

Red wines from Birichino at the California Wine Fair.Birichino and Bonny Doon

One of my favourite booths every year is the one shared by Birichino and Bonny Doon Vineyards. The wines are just so unique and interesting—and so very good. I wish the LCBO would offer these more regularly, as it’s such a treat to be able to explore a different side of California winemaking. The Birichino Vin Gris and the Bonny Doon Vin Gris De Cigare were two of my top picks of the event and the 2013 Birichino Grenache was my favourite red wine of the day. Even the heavily floral Birichino Malvaysia had me impressed—I am such a fan of winemakers that go beyond the boundaries and make wines that are outside the box, yet still very drinkable.

Ca'Momi Cabernet Sauvignon was a stand out at the California Wine FairCa’Momi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

California Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic and this one with strawberry, smoke, dark raspberry and tar on the nose and a nice fruit-forward palate, is very enjoyable. At $25.95 at the LCBO, this is a good value sipper if you want to drink California Cab without breaking the bank.

Liberty School 2013 Pinot Noir was a stand-out at the California Wine Fair in Toronto.Liberty School 2013 Pinot Noir

I was in a Pinot Noir kind of mood after the Karen MacNeil tasting and I really enjoy Liberty School wines (their Zinfandel is a perennial favourite in our house), so this 2013 Pinot Noir was a good option for me. The nose is herbaceous with smoke, green pepper, cherry and dark red fruit, there are herbal notes on the palate with a good bit of salt on the finish and some great dark fruit notes that make this a good food-friendly wine. The Pinot Noir is currently only available via agent in Ontario, or you can visit the winery on your next trip to Paso Robles, which Shawn and I heartily recommend. Our 2014 visit was a highlight of our California trip.

Caricature red wine blend from Lodi, CaliforniaFun red blends

I like a good Califonia red blend, preferably one that’s not too sweet, so Hope Family Vineyards’ Troublemaker is a perennial favourite (note that they also make Liberty School Wines). At this year’s show, I also tried Caricature out of Lodi, California, which I had enjoyed at the Wine Bloggers Conference Awards Dinner last year when they announced Lodi as the location for this year’s conference. Caricature is a little on the sweet side and very drinkable, but with some nice savoury notes that offset the sweet and keep it from becoming a fruit bomb. While I don’t think I’ll make it to Lodi for this year’s conference, I do hope I’ll continue to see a good selection of Lodi wines available in Ontario.

There were many other California stand-outs at the show, but these were just a few highlights I wanted to share. What’s your favourite California wine? Share it in the comments or on social.


Food & Wine

5 Things to Love at the Restaurants Canada Show

April 26, 2016
Pluck Tea Southbrook Berry Blend

If you work in the restaurant industry in Canada, the Restaurants Canada show is one of the best events of the year. It’s a fun and informative opportunity to learn about new products and services that can improve your business and impress your customers. A trade event, which is only open to those in the restaurant industry, it’s a great way to track emerging trends and find new and delicious things to add to menus. Here are a few things I hope will be appearing at local eateries soon.

Sloane Tea artisanal tea blends1.    Artisanal teas – I’ve long been a fan of Toronto’s Pluck Tea, who were once again showcasing their products here. Sloane Teas also had a booth and I was torn between two of the best cups of tea a girl could ask for – they’re both delicious. I hope more restaurants will start to realize that having quality tea available is just as important as having good bottles of wine on the list.

PEI Mussels on Mondays are a great option2.    PEI Mussels – While I’m all about oysters, I have to admit I don’t eat enough mussels. So I was pleased to see PEI Mussels making a case for restaurants to choose Canadian and offer more options. I’m hoping Canuck mussels in white wine sauce will start appearing on more menus soon.


Pure Leaf iced tea offers unsweetened options3.    Unsweetened iced tea. When I gave up sugar-sweetened drinks in September, I missed having a cold beverage to sip. Enter Pure Leaf. I like the black tea with a little milk as an alternative to soda or juice and I really enjoyed trying the new unsweetened green tea. While I usually like a glass of wine with my restaurant meals, this is a great option when you’re going for a non-alcoholic beverage. What do I need to do to get this offered at the salad place where I gravitate for lunch on days I don’t bring my own?
William Street Beer Company Ontario brewery

4.    Local craft beer. It’s everywhere these days and I love seeing restaurants supporting local breweries. From William Street Beer Co. to Mackinnon Brothers, to High Park Brewing and everything in between, there was lots of local goodness on display. Shawn and I are already planning a few weekend trips to visit some of the Ontario communities that have joined the beer revolution.
Fever Tree Tonic Water and Ginger Ale

5.    Good quality mixers. So Fever Tree is far from new, but ever since I took my recent Spirits course, I’ve been obsessed with cocktails made with high-quality ingredients. While Fever Tree does have sugar, putting it on my very, very occasional treat list, it’s so much better for my body than a cheap tonic. I can understand the ingredients in the bottel and it just creates a much more high-quality (but not inexpensive) cocktail.

What are you hoping to see more of at restaurants in the year to come? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

Food & Wine

Exploring the Wines of Chile

April 19, 2016
Caliterra 2013 Tributo Carmenere

This past fall, I had the opportunity to taste through a number of wines from Chile and learn more about an area that produces some very impressive wines. While this review is woefully late, I wanted to make sure I let you know about some of the best wines I tried that night.

Emiliana Organic Sparkling wine from Chile Chile is a region I’m particularly fond of—and with so many French winemakers setting up Chateaus there, it seems I’m not alone in that regard. In The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil talks about Chile’s reputation for inexpensive wines, which is changing as winemakers there are producing higher-quality and more expensive wines. There are still great bargains to be had from Chile, but I admit to being very impressed by the wines I tried that had clearly been nurtured by winemakers looking to move beyond good bargains.

What were some of my favourites at the tasting?

Emiliana Sparkling wine—This organic sparkler is 77 percent chardonnay and 23 percent Pinot Noir. With apple, peach and slate on the nose, this well-structured wine was a hit. And at a $17.95 price point, it’s also a great value.

Tabali Talinay Pinot Nor wine from Chile.Caliterra 2013 Tributo Carmenere – A single-vineyard Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley, this wine impressed me with lots of peppery notes on both the palate and the nose and a medium-long finish. This one will stand up to a few years of aging.

Tabali Talinay 2013 Pinot Noir – This impressive Pinot Noir is available in a very limited way in Ontario, but is worth seeking out. It’s a great accompaniment for food and a wonderful example of a quality Pinot Noir being made in Chile – one of my favourite reds of the evening.

Anakena Alwa 2010 Carmenere – Only made in best vintages, this 100% Carmenere has a nose that impresses with smoke, deep red fruit, cedar and tobacco. This tastes much younger than expected, coming off much more fruit forward. With 20 months on French oak and at least a year in bottle, this wine still had very nice fruit flavours on the finish.

You can learn more about the Wines of Chile on their website.

Do you have a favourite wine from Chile? Share it in the comments below or on social!