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Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer

Six Wines for Holiday Parties

December 14, 2015

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.

Holiday Cheer

Wine and Chocolate Holiday Pairing Party

December 15, 2014

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few wine and chocolate pairing events. It’s a fun alternative to cheese pairing and I am always fascinated by the diversity of flavours and how unique some of the pairings can be. So when Ganong offered me the opportunity to try doing some wine and chocolate pairings for the holiday season, I was quick to say yes.

Chocolate is definitely a sometimes food in our household, but over the holidays it’s nice to indulge a little. I think a wine and chocolate pairing experience can be a great addition to your holiday party and I wanted to provide a few tips from my own experiments to help make yours a success!

A little chocolate goes a long way.
I love the idea of a wine and chocolate pairing party, but when I started my planning I quickly realized that it’s a great companion to a fabulous event. Focussing exclusively on sweet treats sounds awesome in theory, but your guests (and you) may max out much faster than you expect. Try saving the pairing for after your holiday dinner or as a fun addition to a holiday cocktail party where you’re also serving savoury snacks (and lots of water).

Offer a few pairing options.
Wine pairing success is partly skill and partly luck, because a certain amount of your success depends on personal preferences meshing with your selections. While I think dark chocolate and Cabernet Franc is pretty darn awesome (and is one of my personal pairing picks for Ganong plain dark chocolate), a lot of my wineaux friends turn up their nose at that mix of sweet and savoury. Have small wine glasses available and two wines to test per sample. While my Cabernet Franc pick may fall flat with some, they may find their heart soars for dark chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon or even Syrah.

Don’t count out white wines.
While red wine and chocolate seems a lock, don’t completely discount white wines. One of the best Ganong pairings I tried was their white chocolate and orange truffle with Chloe Chardonnay. The citrus notes in the wine were a delicious match for the orange in the truffle. And, if you’re a fan of orange chocolate, those truffles are pretty darn spectacular – pulling out a plate full of those with the Chloe Chardonnay to end off a holiday dinner may just keep you on the ‘nice’ list well into 2016.

Be a little adventurous.
When I tried the Ganong Chicken Bone Nougat (a sweet red mix that tastes like Christmas, with lots of cinnamon notes and a little bit of mint), I was stumped for a pairing. They recommend Cabernet Sauvignon, and that could work, but I was curious about other options. The closest taste match I could think of was Swedish Fish (they share a cinnamon heart sort of taste) and I checked in with my friends on Twitter for suggestions. Their thoughts? A slightly sweet Prosecco, Vidal Icewine (maybe a bit too sweet on sweet, but a fun experiment) or even a Pinot Noir. What would I pick? Likely the Prosecco because you can’t ever go wrong with bubbles and I think the hint of sweetness would be a good balance. Another option? Port! And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Chloe Chardonnay was actually a pretty good match for this chocolate too. It could be fun to try a few options and see what your guests think.

In the photos, you can see some of my picks for wine and chocolate pairing this holiday season. These may not be the wines you’d choose, so I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comment section. What pairings would you pull out to impress your guests?

Thanks to Ganong for the chocolate samples to make this post possible. They currently have a contest where you can enter to win some of your own for the holiday season. Click on the banner below to learn more.

https://ganong.com/delecto/

 

Holiday Cheer

Holiday Gift Guide

December 9, 2014

When I was putting together my plans for this holiday gift guide I thought it would be fun to include some ideas from a few of my favourite wine bloggers and writers. These are the people I turn to for suggestions, so I thought my readers might enjoy hearing their holiday gift picks. I wasn’t disappointed in the ideas I received and I’m so happy to be able to share these recommendations for what to get the wine-lover on your gift list.  

Tyler’s Pick:
My pick is a fun, yet useful wine-related item available this season at Home Outfitters.  It is a five-piece wine accessory kit in the shape of Bordeaux bottle for $24.99 and a token of good taste for the would-be wine enthusiast on your list this year.

Read more of Tyler Philp’s articles on wine at www.tylerphilp.com – A member of the Wine Writer’s Circle of Canada, Tyler is an expert on wine cellars and a great resource for all sorts of wine information.

Jason’s Pick:
Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2010 
A big, seductive Ontario red from the great 2010 vintage, this edition sports a traditional Bordeaux-blend consisting of 53% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Malbec. Would make an excellent gift that can be enjoyed now or over the next 5-8 years for that red wine lover in your life. You will find this in the VINTAGES section at the LCBO (#505610) for $38.20.

Read more of Jason Solanki’s wine reviews at his Vintages Wine Picks & Reviews site – this is a great resource to read all about the latest LCBO Vintages releases and more: http://vintagewinepicks.blogspot.ca/

Shawn’s Pick:
My suggestion is one of the most useful (and least expensive) gifts you can buy for your wineaux friends. This is a cork puller, and it is used when removing corks from aged wines. After about 10-12 years, the corks may start to break down and as you approach 20 years old, they are almost impossible to remove in one piece.

The cork puller solves this problem. The two prongs straddle the cork and you gently rotate the handle and slowly pull the cork out. It has saved me many times, sometimes when I started with a conventional corkscrew.

I acquired mine at Strewn Winery for about $8 several years ago. If you can’t find any locally, Amazon.ca has some starting at about $11, and quite a nice metal one for $16.75.

Read more on Ontario and Canadian wine at Shawn McCormick’s fantastic Uncork Ontario website: http://uncorkontario.com/

Shawn is also the moderator for #ONWineChat, which takes place on Twitter every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST.

My pick:
Lailey Vineyard’s 2013 Late Harvest Riesling
Released
on the first weekend in December, this is a limited-release wine from
one of Ontario’s premier winemakers. They only plant three rows for this
Riesling and it’s worth it to scoop some up, if you can. As a late
harvest wine, it is just sweet enough to be a perfect pairing for soft,
creamy cheese. This is a great gift idea for a wine fan or a special
treat to pull out after your holiday dinner.

Do you have another great gift idea to suggest? Be sure to leave a comment below!