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Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

December 21, 2016
Pommies Cider Gift Pack

So we’re furiously getting ready for the holidays at our house and most of our gifts have been purchased, but I know there will be one or two last minute things that pop up (they always do). So if you have to brave the long pre-holiday lines at the LCBO or a liquor store near you, here are some great gift ideas for that one you forgot was on the list!

Pommies Cider Holiday Gift Pack – When I grab a cider, it’s usually from Pommies. This Ontario cider company won my heart years ago and I still gravitate to them when it’s on the menu at restaurants. We have more than enough glassware, but for a new-to-cider drinker, this is a really fun option. Shawn and I both swear that drinks taste better with the right glass and this is a jam-packed gift set with four ciders and two glasses.

Thornbury Spiced Apple Cider is a great last minute holiday giftThornbury Cider – Need something smaller, but still want to go with cider? Create a DIY gift with Ontario’s Thornbury Cider. One festive Spiced Apple Cider and one glass, plus some cinnamon sticks to add to the holiday feel and ‘voila’ you have the perfect hostess gift to head off to that holiday party.

Otazu Premium CuveeOtazu 2012 Premium Cuvee – If you show up at my house with a good bottle of wine, you won’t be turned away this season. Otazu Premium Cuvee has great earthy notes and lots of spicy bramble on the nose. A food-friendly Spanish wine that would pair well with red meat, this is great for winter sipping and a pretty fantastic hostess gift when you’re heading to a party.

 

 

last-minute-3Mercat Brut Nature Cava – Bubbles are my go to for pretty much everything, especially when I need a last minute gift I know people will enjoy. This Spanish Cava was a favourite at a recent sparkling tasting I attended and is a nice, dry option that won’t break the bank. It will definitely be appreciated as a hostess gift or at your holiday brunches. I have a bottle set aside for holiday sipping and will gladly welcome anyone who shows up with more.

What are your go-to options for gifts when you’re racing against the clock? Share them in the comments or on social!

* The ciders featured were samples I received and the wines were tasted at events where I was a guest. All opinions are my own. Seriously, bring me some more Mercat.

Holiday Cheer

Wine Lovers Holiday Gift Guide 2016

December 4, 2016
This wine gift box is the perfect gift for the wine lover on your list.

It’s that time of year when you have to decide what the wine lover on your holiday gift list wants. If they’re like me, the answer is John Szabo’s new book on volcanic wines. I’ve worked with some of my favourite wine friends and bloggers to put together a few other ideas for gifts to get the wine lover in your life.

gift-guide5 First, I’m going to give another huge plug for John Szabo’s latest book: Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, which is the perfect gift for someone truly passionate about wine education. This is an informative read that will keep the wine geekiest among us happy for hours. I’ll be following up with a full review in the new year, but for now it’s topping my wish list and I know many of my wine-loving friends are hoping to find this under the tree on Christmas morning.

I’m also going to suggest Icewine. This one is a bit of a surprise, as I love Icewine but have never been big on having it in the house. We like it in moderation, so it’s the type of thing I’d only pull out when we had guests over and even then you hardly make a dent in the bottle. Enter my discovery of Icewine cocktails! Add a little to your favourite sparkling wine for a special treat or mix it into a martini for a hint of sweetness. Now that I understand the versatility of this Canadian favourite, I’m all about having it on hand. The 2015 Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine comes in a cute package (perfect for gifting) and is a great pairing for blue cheese or a fun addition to your holiday cocktails.

Charlene Theodore and Megan Munro, Chew Street Blog:
“Chew Street has teamed up with Swell Made Co. to curate two holiday gift packs for the holiday season.  One of them is perfect for the wine lover on your ‘nice list’ this year. The Wine Love Gift Pack is a collection of chic, witty and fun items from stationary to totes specially packaged for the holidays.  For each one purchased, Chew Street and Swell Made will buy a Christmas dinner for clients of the Yonge Street Mission, an organization that has served Torontonians in poverty with dignity since 1896.  The Wine Love Gift Pack ($62.00CAD) is perfect for the oenophile, casual wine enthusiat, or wine newbie who likes eye-catching, minimal design.

The gift pack includes:

  • WINE Pendant + Chain
  • I Got Wine in My Bag Black Tote Bag
  • This Calls For Champagne Keytag
  • Thank You note for your recipient informing them of their contribution to the Yonge Street Mission.”

Fresh sparkling Riesling is a fun holiday sipper from NiagaraAngela Aiello, Wine Expert & Founder of iYellow Wine Club:
“Fresh Sparkling Riesling – one of my local Holiday go-to wines. My favourite grape just got better! Celebrate Ontario with this great bottle of bubbly! I may have bought a couple cases and sent a case to my sister, and a case to my mom too.”

Anne Louise Bannon, Oddball Grape:

“When I’m asked what do wine lovers really want for the holidays, I usually say more wine. Which might intimidate non-wine folks. But fear not. One of the best gifts Michael ever got was a gift certificate to a really great wine shop. It came from my daughter and the shop was in San Francisco, where she lives. We live about 600 miles away in Los Angeles. Michael had a blast picking out his wines – bottles he’d probably not have bought for himself. But better yet, what a sweet way for the kid to suggest we come up and visit. So a well-thought out gift certificate can be a great way to give the wine lover in your life more wine. Unless, of course, you’ve got the funds to hire a sommelier to stock your cellar. That would be even better.

Making wine at home can be fun.“Assuming the wine lover in your life isn’t already making her or his own wine, one of the most fun gifts you can get them is a home wine-making kit. You can find them online or at a local home brew shop. There are few things more exciting than making it yourself. But be aware, even though that first wine may actually be pretty grim, wine-making can be very addictive. It won’t be long before your wine lover is finding ways to buy (gasp) real grapes and talking about harvest and brix and acetobacters. And talk about a rabbit hole. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard professional winemakers tell us that they got their start when a spouse bought them a kit for the holidays. It’s how we started.”

Have some ideas we haven’t covered? Share them in the comments or on social!

 

Holiday Cheer

Six Wines for Holiday Parties

December 14, 2015
HolidayParty3

The holiday season is in full swing and we’re all juggling events and activities. That can mean lots of trips to the liquor store to pick up this or that. To help make those trips easier, here are our thoughts on six wines you might want to pick up on your way to a party (or as a last-minute holiday gift). There are so many fabulous wine choices available, of course, but here are a few we’ve sampled recently and thought you might enjoy too.

Joiy (4 X 250ml) – I fell hard for this New Zealand sparkling wine at a recent event. It’s a Riesling-based sparkling that comes in four small bottle and calls itself “bottled happiness.” That’s not an overstated claim. On its own, with a silly straw or with a wedge of lemon (yes, added to the wine – crazy, but delicious), this sparkling is as charming and fun as its winemaker, Chris Archer, who I hope to profile on the blog soon. With fabulously pretty packaging, a pop of citrus flavour and a low alcohol content, these are great as a hostess gift, stocking stuffer or to serve at your holiday party. Hurry, though, they are currently only limited edition at the LCBO. Since these are pretty perfect for summer patio sipping, I hope that will change.

Quinta da Aveleda 2014 Vinho Verde – This Portuguese white has been ranked in the top three best buys in Wine Enthusiast magazine for the last three years, which had me intrigued to try it. With peach, grapefruit and floral notes on the nose, this blend of Lureiro and Alvarinho is refreshing, light and crisp with great acidity and a long finish. I love the fruit-forward styles of Vinho Verde and this is no exception. Pair this with turkey at your holiday meal or have it with appetizers or seafood.

Kaiken 2013 Reserva Malbec – I had a glass (or two) of this bold red from Argentina during a recent meet-up with my blogger group. It paired perfectly with great conversation and I was glad I chose it. This is a young red, but still quite soft and drinkable. There was vanilla, cherry, chocolate and raspberry both on the nose and the palate. This is a nice, affordable option to pick up for a holiday get together with friends or for a quiet evening in over dinner.

Killibinbin 2012 Scream Shiraz – This South African Shiraz had smoked meat, plum and spice on the nose and a bold pepper finish on the palate. A good choice for a hearty roast dinner or any big, red meat-centred dish. Shawn and I enjoyed this on its own, but both agreed that food would make it even better. Drink now or cellar for 3-6 years.

Perez Cruz 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Cherry, plum, black pepper and blackberry are all on the nose of this full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. With red fruit on the palate and a medium-long finish, this is an affordable choice for a red meat-heavy dinner or as the big, bold red option at your holiday party. You know there’s always someone at the shindig who prefers a heavy red during the winter season.

Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne
This is the highest-priced selection on this list, but sometimes you just need a special gift for someone on your list. Or you may be looking for a well-priced French champagne to kick off the New Year. I recently had the chance to sip Taittinger at one of their Toronto events and I was so impressed. With lovely baked bread notes on the nose, perfect bubbles and lots of peach, plum and citrus notes on the palate, it hit all the right buttons for this sparkling lover. Sometimes nothing says ‘I think you’re awesome’ like a bottle of champagne.

*All wines reviewed in this post were provided as samples or tasted at events where I was a guest. Opinions are, as always, my own.

 

 

Holiday Cheer

Wine Lovers’ Gift Guide

November 30, 2015

Last year I started what I hope will be an annual tradition of asking some of my favourite wine friends what they would like to receive for the holidays this year. For most of us wine lovers, we already have a cornucopia of wine glass charms (there is no party big enough to use all of the ones in my collection), corkscrews and novelty wine glasses. So what does the wine aficionado on your gift list really want this year? Well, here’s some advice from a few people in the know.

 

Angela Aiello – Founder, iYellow Wine Club, blogger, writer, media personality and wine lover in chief

Bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles

Nothing signifies the holidays quite like a bottle of Champagne. A family business since 1934 founded by veteran Pierre Charles Taittinger, this is one of my favourite Champagne houses. Small bubbles, a perfect taste profile and flawless bend of grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonny and Pinot Meunier) make this the perfect gift for someone who has helped make this year special and successful. Keep a few bottles on hand for yourself, because you know you worked hard too!

Learn more about Angela and iYellow Wine Club on her website.

 

Andre Proulx – Blogger, wine writer, media personality, newbie winemaker and Saskatchewan’s best wine export 

 

Sauvignon Blanc – and please no more f***ing corkscrews

For Christmas this year, I don’t want new wine glasses, or a new corkscrew, or the newest decanting doohicky from wine scientist XYZ. This past year I had the opportunity to travel to California and taste A LOT of wines. The biggest surprise for me was how much I fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t think Sauvingnon Blanc will ever by my favorite varietal, but this year I truly learned how Sauvignon Blanc expresses the terroir of where it’s made.  I’m not even talking about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc either … it’s good but there is a lot more to this grape than big bell pepper bombs that kick you in the face (not that there is anything wrong with that). My suggestion is setting a budget and picking up a few bottles from around the world for your wine loving gift recipient. For $60 you could get 3 bottles for $120 you could get 6 and do a virtual trip around the world!

Some SB picks from Andre:

Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc 2014 — Californian Sauv Blanc won’t be cheap … but it’s worth a taste. Bright citrus flavours will dominate but a satisfying heavy almost oily texture on your mid palate is what makes this unique.

Trius Sauvignon Blanc VQA —  This is regular list at the LCBO and always great bang for your buck. The signature of Ontario Sauvignon Blanc is very bright and crisp acidity. This wine from Trius has tropical fruit written all over it with aromas and flavours of passion fruit and pink grapefruit.

Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc —  New Zealand Sauv Blanc doesn’t have to be twenty bucks to be good. This is everything you would expect with savory flavours taking front and centre stage roasted herb, grassy notes and bell pepper mixed in with bright citrus notes.

Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Organic —  This Sauv Blanc from Chile strikes a nice halfway point between New Zealand and the Trius Sauvignon Blanc. You will have hints of citrus and tropical as well as savory.

Domaine De Saint-Pierre Sancerre 2013 — Sancerre is one of the quintessential oyster wines. This will be bright and crisp with lots of citrus notes and just hints of herbaciousness on the finish.

Learn more about André and read more of his reviews on his website.

 

Krista Lamb – Wine blogger, cork dork and lover of all that’s nerdy about wine (yep, that’s me)

Books, books and more books

Every year, I send my mom my Chapters Wish List and ask her to get me wine books for Christmas. She just sighs in resignation now and accepts that there are some things I just don’t get sick of receiving. While I agree wholeheartedly with Angela and André’s picks (Shawn, if you’re reading this a bottle of Taittinger and some California Sauvignon Blanc will put you on my ‘nice list’), I also want some new wine reads. While I already own these three, I think they’re perfect picks for any cork dork on your list.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justine Hammack – Looking for a great guide to the basics of wine and the breakdown of wine styles and regions? Look no further. I’ve been a huge fan of the Wine Folly blog for years and this book showcases all the reasons wine lovers and those looking to learn flock to the site for information. I love how this book, like the blog, focuses on a visual layout that’s refreshing, vibrant and easy-to-understand.

The Wine Bible 2nd Edition by Karen MacNeil – I’ve often said that The Wine Bible got me through my wine classes and it’s really true. I read the first edition cover-to-cover and plan to do the same with this extensive update. Watch for a full review soon, but for now I can assure you that any student of wine would be lucky to unwrap this on Christmas morning.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-it-All by Richard Betts with Crystal English Sacca and Wendy MacNaughton – So this is not a wine book, but for wine lovers like me who are fascinated by spirits too, it’s a fun and informative overview of whiskey. I’m planning to take a spirits course in 2016 and this irreverent board book will be on my personal required reading list.

Shawn Davidson – Patient husband of a wine lover, beer student and spirits lover

Spiked coffee, please

O’Casey’s Irish Cream Liquor – While I’ve learned to love wine by osmosis, on Christmas morning there’s nothing better than a cup of coffee with Irish cream. O’Casey’s is an affordable option with hints of caramel and chocolate that will make a great gift option.

What wine items are on your wish list this year? Share them in the comments or on social!

*Some of the items reviewed were received as samples, opinions are our own.