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Food & Wine

Rosé All Day

July 28, 2017
2016 Seriously Cool Rosé

I was sitting next to two people at a restaurant recently and it was impossible not to overhear their conversation as they discussed their wine selection. “They have rosé – I love rosé!” Not surprisingly, they both got the rosé, while I sat there wondering what exactly they were expecting in that glass and whether it would live up to their expectations. They had asked the waiter about choosing their wine – no wine list was consulted – and rosé is not a varietal, so it was impossible to know if it would actually suit their tastes. It can be crisp and dry, sickly sweet, a balanced off-dry or anything in between.

I also love rosé, but I would have had A LOT more questions. My favourite rosé wines tend to be from the South of France. I love my pink wines very crisp and very dry. I love to pair them with light, summer dishes or to sit back on the patio with a glass of good rosé and a fun summer read. It’s my jam, as long as it’s not too sweet or, well, jammy.

Remy Pannier Rosé d’AnjouThat’s not to say I can’t enjoy a well-made off-dry (slightly sweeter) style – sometimes summer events just call for those. I recently tried the Remy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou at a tasting and was very impressed with this affordable French find ($15.20 at the LCBO). There was strawberry and lime on the nose and lots of sweet, candied strawberry on the palate. We tried this both at room temperature and chilled and while the nose was more muted when the wine was served at a lower temperature, I found the fruit much more vibrant. A pleasant sipper for those looking for a well-made and affordable off-dry option.

Ontario also has some pretty great options for rosé, although it’s always wise to ask questions about what’s going to be in your glass. Because, like with any region, there are going to be differences in quality, taste profile and brix level. Want a super sweet summer sipper? Girls Night Out has you covered. Want something more subtle? Let me help you out!

Two Sisters Vineyard 2016 RoséTwo Sisters Vineyard makes some on Ontario’s best wines – and that shows in their price points. If you’re looking for a bottle under $20, this is not the winery for you. That said, I consider their 2016 rosé well worth the money. With watermelon, cherry Lifesaver and a bit of citrus on the nose, this wine smells like summer. And with hints of watermelon, peach and strawberry on the palate, it tastes a bit like summer too. A well-made wine that will be perfect on your patio.

Another Ontario favourite in our house is Chateau des Charmes (CDC) and their always impressive collection of rosé wines. We received a sample of their 2014 Rosé sparkling wine, which is made in the traditional method with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and Shawn liked it so much that he picked up a bottle for our anniversary in June. This is everything I love about pink bubbles – crisp, refreshing with notes of summer fruit on both the nose and palate. And given the quality – two years on lees, disgorged by hand – you’re getting a very well-made product at a very reasonable price ($29.95 at the LCBO). We expect to pop a lot more CDC corks this summer.

Chateau des Charmes 2014 Sparkling RoséLast year, we were all about CDC’s Rosé 2015 Cuvée D’Andrée, which is their estate grown and bottled still rosé, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir, so I was excited to check out the 2015 vintage. It didn’t disappoint. CDC has managed to make high-quality wines affordable and this easy-drinking pink sipper is perfect on the patio or on your dinner table paired with summer favourites like salmon or barbecue.

Ravine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet RoséRavine Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet Rosé was a recent purchase after having it as part of the Sip and Sizzle Niagara pairings. This well-made, very balanced dry wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, so the flavour profile is slightly less fruit-forward, but there are still notes of strawberry and tart cherry to keep this summer-friendly. We enjoyed this with slightly-sweet chicken wings recently and were quite pleased with the pairing.

Southbrook Winery sent a sample of their 2016 Seriously Cool Rosé and Shawn and I were eager to check it out. The Seriously Cool range of wines provides a less expensive alternative to some of Southbrook’s higher-end and organic wines. They tend to be well-made and balanced at a price-point that the average consumer can easily afford. They also have one of the most eye-catching labels out there. Luckily, the wines tend to hold up, so you won’t walk out with a wine you chose for the label and end up disappointed in this case. Lots of strawberry and peach on the nose and palate for this easy-drinker, which, while dry, might come off a tad sweet for someone who likes a more austere rosé. Shawn and I both approved, though, as we enjoyed it alongside salmon burgers on our patio.

Whew! A lot of rosé in my glass recently and I’m sure there’s more to come as the summer progresses. Do you have a favourite pink wine? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

Spirits and Cocktails

Fun Summer Sipping Suggestions

July 13, 2016
Social Lite sugar-free vodka coolers

It’s hot in the city these days, so Shawn and I have been experimenting with some alternative options for patio and cottage sipping. We have to balance a lot of things—he prefers beer, I don’t like to drink anything super sugary and neither of us has the time to make anything super complicated.

This year, we’ve had the opportunity to sample a few options that we wanted to share with you for days when wine may not be at the top of your wishlist (I rarely have those days).

Ernest Cider from OntarioErnest Cider – I like to have the occasional cider as an alternative to beer or wine. It’s a great option at pubs or restaurants where the house wine sounds dodgy, and with so many great Ontario craft options, I usually have some interesting selections to choose from. Ernest Cider impressed me with its adorable packaging, but I was much more interested in what was in the can and that was quite good too. A little sweeter than the bone dry cider I usually prefer, this had a more natural sweetness from the addition of local honey and some cane sugar so it wasn’t a sugar bomb. Shawn and I both enjoyed this one, as the apple really comes through and the carbonation is nice and crisp. We’d both have this again on a patio.

Giffard 1885 Creme de Violette gin gimletSocial Lite Vodka Cocktails – I like a cocktail once in awhile too, but I don’t like having sugar-sweetened drinks if I can avoid them. Social Lite understands that not everyone wants something sweet, so this Toronto-based company developed their line of sugar-free cocktails to appeal to health-conscious sippers like Shawn and I, who want a convenient cooler without all the sugar. First things first, these are not sweet, so if you’re hoping to replace a sugary cooler, this will throw you off. For us, it took a minute to adjust to the flavour, as both the lime and ginger and the lemon cucumber mint flavours seemed a bit bitter on first sip. But once your palate adjusts, they are a really nice sipper. We both preferred the lime and ginger (I’m not a cucumber fan at all, so this is more about my preferences than the quality of the drink) and are thinking these will be our cottage coolers of choice moving forward.

Giffard Lichi-Li Martini is a fun pink sipperGiffard Liquers Crème de Violette and Lichi Li– So first I tell you I avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and then I suggest syrups? Yep. Because with a liqueur you can get a pop of flavour without a huge amount of sugar and I like the ability to play around to make a slightly-sweet drink that will be fun and summer-ready. Shawn can’t handle lychee scent or flavour at all (he asks me to keep my lychee martinis on the other side of the table at restaurants), so I was on my own to try this one. And I liked it. I made a Lichi Martini with 1.5 oz vodka, ½ oz of Giffard Lichi-li and some fresh lime juice to taste. I found it a little strong, so I cut it with a bit of diet ginger ale. The drink was pink and fun, but not too sweet..

With the Crème do Violette, I made a Violet Gimlet with 2oz of dry gin, ½ oz of Giffard Crème de Violette and 1 oz of fresh lime juice (they suggest lime cordial, but I wanted something with less sugar). It was pretty good, but a bit strong, so we again cut this with a bit of diet ginger ale to taste. Shawn and I had fun making these easy-breezy cocktails and I look forward to playing around with these syrups even more over the summer!

Chateau des Charmes Cuvée d'Andrée 2014 RoséChateau des Charmes – 2014 Rosé Cuvée D’Andrée – I couldn’t resist adding in a wine to this list because my honest-to-goodness go-to summer sipper is usually rosé and this is a really good one. With strawberry, lemonade and oranges on the nose and lots of ripe fruit on the palate, this Pinot Noir rosé is bright pink and bursting with flavour. We have already gone through two bottles and the summer is only just starting. It’s perfect for a night out on our patio, pairs well with just about everything and is a fun option to bring to a barbecue—especially at a $16 price-point.

So what are you sipping this summer? Do you have a go-to cocktail without all the sugar? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social!

*We received these products as samples, but our opinions are all our own.

Best of

The Best Wines I Tried in April

May 4, 2016
Taittinger Rosé Champagne

It makes me smile when I look back at my April tasting notes because my cup truly runneth over with great wine finds. It’s especially surprising when you consider that this was the month where I took a few ‘dry’ weeks, but those were followed by large tasting events (and lots of spitting). It was also my birthday month, so Shawn and I opened a few of our better bottles to celebrate over that week (no spitting there). The results below showcase just a few of the best, as I think I’ll save my California Wine Fair finds for a separate post.

Birthday Wines:

Black Hills Estate Winery 2012 Syrah is a lovely B.C. red wine.I confess that I didn’t open any bottles on my actual birthday (I went to dance class instead), but that week Shawn and I did open two fantastic wines on other nights: Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne, which is a lovely example of a great Champagne – strong, fast bubbles, notes of green apple, peach and almond and just an overall well-made sparkler.

Black Hills Estate Winery 2012 Syrah—This B.C. wine came highly recommended and it did not disappoint. With black pepper, chocolate and plum on the nose and spicy, peppery plum on the finish, this wine would be a great accompaniment to earthy pasta dishes or red meat. We also very much enjoyed it all on its own.

Trivento's Amado Sur Malbec is a nice example of the grape.Malbec World Day:

On April 17 we celebrated Malbec World Day with the lovely iYellow Wine Club crew and a nice selection of affordable (and easily available) wines. With some of the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever eaten on hand to help showcase what to pair with Malbec, this event had lots to offer. My favourites? Susana Balbo 2013 Malbec, which had a rich mouthfeel with dark, spicy berries and a good structure. The oak worked well here and the result is a good, food-friendly wine.

We also really enjoyed the 2014 Trivento Amado Sur, which had vanilla, smoke and cherry on the nose and a nice fruity richness on the palate. Another good food wine that was also very drinkable.

California Dreaming:

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are nice California wine optionsLa Crema 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and 2013 Pinot Noir –  Confession: I didn’t expect to like the La Crema Chardonnay all that much. As a general rule, I prefer California Sauvignon Blanc over Chardonnay, but I am always willing to give a wine a chance and this worked out well. This wine had lots of yellow apple, Meyer lemon and pineapple on the nose and had buttery apple notes on the palate. It would have paired perfectly with mac and cheese or fettucine alfredo or anything with a bit of buttery sauce. But this wasn’t a wine where the oak was overpowering and I enjoyed it as much the following day as the first fresh glass (possibly even more).

The La Crema Pinot Noir was quite nice and a little more subtle when compared to California’s bigger, more alcoholic Pinot. I had a glass on a night when Shawn was out and left him a note saying he should try it soon lest I drink it all without him. In the end, we both enjoyed this food-friendly, earthy wine with its lovely red berries and smoky chocolate flavours.

Fielding Estates 2015 Rose Wine is a great patio sipper from Niagara.Thinking Pink:

I had a chance to taste through a wealth of rosé recently and there were many I’d love to mention, but I’ll start with three that have been on my mind quite a bit since the tasting.  Taittinger appears here again because, while it’s mostly out of my budget, it’s worth the splurge. The Prestige Rosé is a well-made rosé champagne with tight, fast bubbles and a hint of spiciness that worked well with the raspberry and current notes. A delightful wine with lively acidity to save for any celebration where pink bubbles are called for.

Fielding Estate 2015 Rosé – In my haste to get to another event, I almost didn’t try this Ontario rosé and that would have been a shame, because it’s one that I keep going  back to and thinking how much I’d like to have it again—on a sunny day while sitting on a patio and without a spittoon on hand. This light-pink sipper has peach, strawberry and citrus on the palate and just screams out for summer sipping.

Campo Viejo Rioja – A Tempranillo-based rosé, this was a surprising treat with lots of big, ripe red fruit on the nose and a very balanced palate featuring notes of red apple, mango and lychee. I’ll be looking for a bottle to add to my patio sippers this summer.

Whew! That doesn’t even include the stand-outs from County in the City and the California Wine Fair, so watch for those soon. What were your favourite wines last month? Share them in the comments below or on social.

*Some of the wines I tried were samples or tasted at events where I was a guest. All of my opinions are my own.