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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.

Food & Wine

Three Red Wines To Kick-off September

September 5, 2016
Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit” is a lighter red for Autumn sipping.

The other day, I sent out a tweet saying that it felt like red wine weather was here. And in Toronto over the Labour Day weekend, that certainly feels true. I’ve heard that the heat and humidity, which has felt like a heavy blanket over the city all summer, will return. But right now I’m taking the opportunity to run through cool breezes, sit on the patio sipping big cups of tea and curl up on the couch with my hubby drinking big glasses of red wine.

I unrepentantly love autumn and its perfect running weather, chunky sweater cuddles and humidity-clearing breezes. It makes me want to drink the boldest, spiciest wines. I don’t do pumpkin spice lattes (protein smoothies, maybe), but give me a wine with a kick of black pepper, deep earthy notes or a touch of anise and I’m all in.

Granted, I drink red wine (and white) all year long, but this summer heatwave had me reaching for rosé or very light whites more often. In anticipation of the fall season, Shawn and I tested out a few lighter-bodied reds that had arrived as samples and I wanted to share our thoughts below. These are great transitions from summer into fall drinking, as you ease your way towards Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope you’ll share what you’re drinking this fall in the comments or on social.

Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir is a great light red wine for fall.Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir

Like much of the country, Shawn and I watched the last Tragically Hip concert on CBC in August. We weren’t enormous fans growing up, but like for many Canadians the Hip was just always there, woven into the fabric of our lives. Given that we weren’t super fans, I didn’t anticipate that this night would be so emotionally charged. I had chosen this wine because I wanted something Canadian for the evening and it paired nicely with dinner (chicken breasts done with a light tandoori glaze). We had tried to get a bottle of the Tragically Hip wine, but that was sold out province-wide (we had a bottle from the previous vintage that we had opened a few months earlier, it was OK wine, nothing special, but I kind of wish I’d held onto it a little longer so we had it for this night).

This CDC wine was a nice selection, it has notes of root beer, dark cherry and hints of milk chocolate on the nose. It’s earthy and balanced on the palate with dark red fruit and some cherry chocolate notes. It’s very food-friendly and very well-made (most CDC wines are), but I’ll always remember it as the wine in my glass during one of the most memorable nights I’ve had. When I broke down sobbing, watching a man with brain cancer scream and cry while giving the last performance of a lifetime, I didn’t really need wine, but I did raise a glass more than three hours into the show to toast one of the most brilliant, heart-breaking, powerful performances I’ve ever seen. And, like many of the important things in life, this wine will always be part of that memory.

La Crema 2014 Monterey Pinot Noir is a good option for cool weather sipping.

La Crema – 2014 Monterey Pinot Noir

OK, I don’t have anything half as memorable as the story above to tell you about drinking the La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir. We received it as a sample and it’s available via Vintages right now (September 3, 2016 is the release date). I like La Crema wines – they have a Canadian winemaker and I find that they’re well-made and very drinkable. I got smoke, root beer, dark cherry and wet soil on the nose and lots of earthy notes and a bit of anise on the palate (fellow blogger Jason Solanki said it had lots of notes of tea and I can see that too), as well as some black pepper and clove on the finish. I liked it and Shawn did too.  It paired well with pizza and was a nice addition to our movie night. If you like California Pinot Noir, this is very much worth picking up.

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit” is a flavourful red wine for fall.Chateau des Charmes – 2014 Gamay Noir “Droit”

As a general rule, I don’t like to include two wines from the same winery in a wrap-up post like this, but I like Chateau des Charmes wines a lot and this one is very different than the Pinot Noir (plus, my review is a lot more standard for this one).

First, a confession, I struggle with Gamay. It’s just not my grape. I have many a wine-loving friend who absolutely loves Gamay and they are always telling me I will find one that just blows me away. So far, that hasn’t  happened, but I think of it the way I think about not liking watermelon – I get that everyone else likes it and it’s just me, so please don’t let me colour your thinking on this grape.

This is especially true here because this CDC wine is a very good Ontario Gamay. It won gold at the Ontario Wine Awards and the National Wine Awards, it’s extremely well made and the nose is just lovely – wet grass, black pepper, red current, stewed plums and a wonderful spiciness. It’s got black pepper and dark red fruit on the palate and has a tart, spicy freshness that just screams fall sipping.

This was another pizza and a movie night wine in our house and it paired well with both our Mediterranean chicken pizza and Johnny Depp’s Black Mass.  While Gamay is not my ‘go-to’ wine, I hope you’ll try this one because there’s a good chance it will be yours.

Coming up in the fall, I’ll return to my monthly wine round-ups and there will be lots more wine travel posts, as Shawn and I want to share more about our trips to Germany and Lake Erie North Shore. Shawn will also be covering Toronto Beer Week (he’s scheduled to do his level 2 Prud’homme Beer Specialist in October!) and I’m working on a whole bunch of new winemaker profiles to share with you! It should be a fun few months here at Upkeep.

*We received all three of these wines as samples, but all opinions (especially my long, rambling ones about The Tragically Hip) are our own.

Food & Wine

An Affordable Red Wine Round-up

November 12, 2015

As the weather turns cooler, many people start to gravitate towards bigger, bolder reds. I confess that I drink white (and rosé) all year round, since it’s all about what wine goes well with what we’re eating. But I do find there are nights when a glass of red wine feels like a chunky knit sweater – perfect for fall.

So what have Shawn and I been drinking so far this season? Here’s a red wine round-up of some wines you might want to consider for affordable fall sipping.

Root: 1 – 2013 Carmenere – Colchagua Valley

Root: 1 – 2013 Carmenere – Colchagua Valley – This wine was recommended by one of my favourite wine lovers, Kari Macknight Dearborn (@slowoeno)It’s a reasonably-priced Carmenere from Chile that’s bursting with red fruit and spice. For $13.95, it’s a great price-point and Shawn and I have been finding it an easy go-to for the hearty and earthy meals we love in the autumn or even just when we want a glass at the end of the day.

Colio Estate Wines 2013 Hat Trick NHL Alumni Cabernet Merlot

Colio Estate Wines – 2013 Hat Trick NHL Alumni Cabernet Merlot – Ontario – Pairing up with the NHL Alumni Association, Colio Estate Wines has scored a wine that will appeal to hockey fans across Canada. This is an easy-drinking, relaxed wine that has big red fruit flavours and a hint of vanilla. While I probably won’t break this big, bold red out for fancy dinners, I would definitely have it again for a relaxing evening in. Shawn and I both liked Hat Trick more than we expected and I suspect he may request it again for Hockey Night in Canada viewing. At $14.95 it’s highly likely I’ll agree.

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz

Jacob’s Creek – Double Barrel Shiraz – South Australia – Red wine finished in aged whisky barrels? I went into this tasting thinking I was going to be drinking something with a smokiness brought on by the barrel age, but I was completely wrong about that. I tried this at an event put on by iYellow Wine Club, which meant I got the chance to talk to Jacob’s Creek representatives about the wine and what aging it in whisky barrels actually achieved – turns out, it’s got much more to do with texture than taste. This tasted like a Shiraz that had been aged far longer than it actually had. It’s very drinkable right now, with the tannins at a much more subtle stage. While I got a few smoky notes on the nose, that didn’t play out at all on that palate, instead I got lush strawberry, dark chocolate and dried spice notes. It was the smoothness and mouthfeel, which they attribute to first aging the wine in French oak before moving it to Scotch whisky barrels for finishing, that really impressed me. For $19.95, this is a good value red worth checking out.

Golden Leaf Estate Winery 2011 Merlot

Golden Leaf Estate Winery – 2011 Merlot – Norfolk County – When we visited the wineries of Ontario’s Southwest this summer, I was excited to see so much vinifera. At Golden Leaf Estate Winery, I was particularly impressed with their Merlot, which was well-balanced and full of bold flavours. While the vines in this region are still relatively young, wines likes these make it clear that in the right hands they can produce very good reds. This one is winery only and retails for, I believe, $19.95. Certainly worth it to see how a local producer is putting his own stamp on Merlot.

 

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Tempranillo Rioja

Montecillo Crianza – 2010 Tempranillo – Rioja A good food wine, this 2010 Tempranillo from Spain had cherry, plum, menthol and smoke on the nose with some chocolate notes on the palate. Shawn and I had this on a cool evening at the cottage and were wishing we’d opened it with the steak he made on the barbecue instead. Lesson learned. Available at the LCBO for $14.95.

Angel’s Gate Estate Winery 2011 Mountainview Pinot Noir

Angel’s Gate Estate Winery – 2011 Mountainview Pinot Noir – Beamsville Bench – The biggest splurge on this list, Angel’s Gate Winery’s 2011 Pinot Noir is well-worth it at $26.95. Complex, well-balanced and beautifully structured, this wine is layered with nuanced flavours. With earth and smoke mingling with cherry and spice on the nose and a lovely, medium body weight, this is a great option for when a lighter red wine is called for. The finish is medium-long and it has a nice subtle cherry and spice combo on the palate. If you’re looking to spend a little more for a very high-quality wine, this is my pick. Available at the winery or order online (I recommend a winery visit, as it’s one of the prettiest places in Niagara).

Do you have a red wine pick for the season? Share it in the comments or on social.

* Some of these wines were received as samples or tasted at events, others I purchased. Either way, opinions are all my own.