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Sparkling Wine

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Bubbles Make Everything Better

October 9, 2017

I was recently asked if I had to choose one type of wine to drink exclusively for the rest of my life—my desert island wine—what it would be. It was a tough question, but my head and my heart kept going back to one thing—Champagne. Not sparkling wine or Prosecco or Cava (although I enjoy all of them in the right circumstances), but the beautiful bubbles that only one region in France can truly perfect. Champagne has always tugged at my heart and on a desert island it would pair well with a diet of fish and mango, wouldn’t it?

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut ChampagneOn my recent trip to Spain I drank quite a lot of Champagne. Starting an evening with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne or their delicious Rosé Champagne was a decadent treat and a perfect way to kick off an evening of Spanish tapas and the bold Tempranillos of Campo Viejo (our hosts for the trip). Sitting in my hotel lobby chatting with new friends and enjoying the nuanced flavours and aromas and the delightful fizziness of well-made bubbles, it’s hard to imagine anything more perfect.

That may be why I found the sparkling wine tasting I attended a few days after my return from Spain a bit anti-climactic. Not that I expected bubbles on the level of the PJ I enjoyed on my trip, but so much of what was on hand was underwhelming. When done well, sparkling wines can be transformative—and they can transform food into an exciting and unique experience. But so many I tasted that evening were overly sweet or dry but lacklustre or overly acidic. Some were, frankly, just unpleasant.

But I hate being *that* wine writer, the one that complains about the cheap sparkling wine after spending a week drinking wines that retail for $70+ at the LCBO (and for good reason, since Champagne is painstaking to make) and there were some standouts at the tasting, so let’s talk about those:

Four sparkling winesPiper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut – OK, so I just talked about reasonably-priced wines and I’m starting with one that retails for $50+, but hear me out – it’s delicious. There’s tart fruit on the nose, the wine is balanced and flavourful and for a celebration (or a night when you just want Champagne), this is a good option.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Rosé Brut – This long-time favourite of mine continues to stand up. It’s well-made and so drinkable. I love the hints of raspberry and apple on the palate and how balanced it is. This is a go-to in our house for celebrations and movie nights when you just want something perfect to pair with popcorn or potato chips (yes, we’re those people).

Labouré-Gontard Cremant de Bourgogne Brut – If you’re looking for a less-expensive, but still dependable sparkling wine, Cremant do Bourgogne often works well and this is a great example of that. With citrus and brioche on the nose, this pleasant, dry sipper had a nice balance of fruit and acidity on the palate.

Jackson Triggs Entourage – This was an unexpected find for me, as I’m not always drawn to JT wines. But the Entourage surprised me with its ripe summer fruit notes and hints of sweetness that were refreshing. Reasonably priced, this is a good option for patios or parties.

Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Les Pierrieres Another stand-out I tried in Spain was the Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Les Pierrieres Champagne, which we discovered at a lovely little boutique wine shop and enjoyed on the last evening of our trip as we wound down from a decadent and somewhat overwhelming meal. It was a wonderful experience to try such a unique Champagne from one of the region’s more avant garde producers and I wish I’d been more awake (in my defense, it was 2 a.m.). Any chance to try a wine from one of the more experimental winemakers in the region is quite intriguing. I know I enjoyed my glass immensely and it gave me much to ponder, as it held so many of the characteristics I love about Champagne, but had an almost earthy quality counterbalanced with pronounced acidity that was delightful and unique. I hope to have the opportunity to taste more of this producer in the future.

What are your favourite bubbles? Are you all about Champagne too or do you prefer something sweeter? Maybe you love dry Ontario sparklers or go crazy for a good Cava? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social!

 

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

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!

 

Best of

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.