Monday, December 14, 2015

Six Wines for Holiday Parties


Joiy sparkling wine from New Zealand
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 Vinho Verde wine
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 Malbec 2013 Reserva Wine
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 Scream Shiraz Wine
Killibinbin 2012 Scream Shiraz – This Australian 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 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Wine
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
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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dr. Konstantin Frank Biography – A Book Review

Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ
As part of our 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference welcome package, Shawn and I received copies of Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ. This was the perfect gift for me, as I’m always interested in reading about the history of winemaking in the regions we visit. I eagerly dug into this book in the early fall and I wasn’t disappointed.

As you might expect from the title, this book concentrates solely on Dr. Konstantin Frank and his family, who were pioneers in bringing vinifera to the Finger Lakes. Dr. Frank’s legacy in the area is a big one and author Russ lays out all the reasons his acclaim is so deserved. If you’re looking for an overall history of the region’s winemaking, Evan Dawson’s brilliant Summer in a Glass may be a better bet, but this book provides a deep dive into one family’s extensive and lasting contribution to American wine.

Dr. Frank was a German man raised in the Ukraine and forced from his home during the war. A renowned agricultural scientist, he managed to grow vinifera successfully in the Ukraine’s cold climate and had re-built a comfortable life after his original displacement by running a viticultural program. When he learned that he and his family were not safe from the Soviet round-ups of German nationals, he decided he had to once again give up the life he knew. Having already lost several family members, he arranged for a friend in the Soviet army to smuggle his small family out of the Ukraine, before making their way to New York.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2014 Gruner Veltliner Finger Lakes
I enjoyed this wine in The Finger Lakes
There, he struggled to find work (despite speaking numerous languages, English was a challenge for him), but was determined to use his experience in agricultural science in his new country. He eventually talked the Experimental Station in Geneva into hiring him, where he quickly made waves with his assertion that vinifera could be grown successfully in the Finger Lakes. At the time, French hybrids were the only wine grapes accepted as viable in the area, but based on his experience growing vinifera in the Ukarine, Dr. Frank was adamant that it could be grown in the Finger Lakes.

Over the years, he was able to use his knowledge and experience to prove that he was indeed correct and that vinifera could grow and flourish in the region. His experiments with different grapes and growing conditions helped to inspire and educate other local winemakers and many credit his influence with the fact that vinifera is widely grown in the Finger Lakes today. But the path to this acceptance was a long and bumpy one and it certainly makes for a good read. 

Dr. Frank’s dogged determination to see his dream of high-quality vinifera as the only wine grapes grown in the Finger Lakes was, however, not to be. While he railed against hybrids, they still make up a large and successful part of Finger Lakes wine production. But there was much more to Dr. Frank and to his company’s continued success in creating some of the best vinifera wines in New York State.

There’s lots of interesting tidbits about the region’s history in this book and it’s clear that Russ has done extensive research about the family. An enjoyable and informative read that will appeal to any wine history buff.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Wine Lovers Gift Guide 2016

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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pairing Wine and Indian Food at Pukka

Herb-infused chicken tikka at Pukka restaurant
Herb-infused chicken tikka
Pairing wine and Indian food isn’t easy. That’s one of the reasons Pukka’s wine program is so impressive – with co-owner Derek Valleau and top Toronto sommelier Peter Boyd working together to create something truly special and unique. Pukka hosts regular wine pairing events and their wine list is a top notch selection of wine options that work well with the array of spices and flavours that are the trademark of Indian meals.

And the food at Pukka – oh, the food. I was recently invited back for a blogger dinner to try out the new menu and was more than happy to attend. The general consensus at my table and in the room was that Pukka is one of the places in Toronto that is genuinely delicious all around.
Cocktails at Pukka restaurant in Toronto
There was a deep sigh of relief when we discovered that the beloved okra fries are still on the menu (and likely to remain there permanently due to their popularity), but there was so much new to discover.

While their wine program is top-notch, they have also recently developed a cocktail program that highlights fresh and natural ingredients. I was happy to be able to try a coconut martini, as there was no refined sugar in the drink.

2014 Vina Esmeralda Torres wine
We all dug into Tandoori calamari (a personal favourite), herb-infused chicken tikka and string chaat for our first course and paired it with the 2014 Vina Esmeralda from Torres, a white blend featuring Gewurtzaminer and Muscat. A rare wine from the region, it is very floral on the nose with peach, orange and tropical fruit notes. This unique mixture of flavours and acidity paired well with all the appetizer dishes, though I particularly liked it with the calamari.

2012 Vizcarra Senda del oro from Ribera Del Duero
The second course was the boatman’s fish and prawn curry, pumpkin curry, Punjabi chicken and beef short ribs (which I didn’t try). For this course, Peter selected a red wine, the 2012 Vizcarra Senda del oro from Ribera Del Duero. This medium-weight red worked quite well. I’m told it was best with the beef short ribs, which makes sense, but I thought it was a good weight and just bold enough to pair well with the curry and strong spicing in all these dishes.

Tandoori calamari at Pukka restaurant in Toronto
Tandoori calamari
Choosing wines that work so well with Indian food isn’t easy, so I wanted to ask Peter more about how he made his selections. He admits he’s learned a lot in the two years he’s been working on the wine program at Pukka. “Most of the learning was about structure, I'd say. I came in knowing that the food variations would require wines with loads of fruit, and that played out as I knew it would,” he says.

“But I assumed that high alcohol wines would be more of a problem with spice levels. As I became more familiar with the kitchen's output, I realized my fears were unfounded as they weren't pushing the limits, chili-wise. So, modern, 14-plus per cent New World wines fit in more easily than I first imagined. Still, the 'gotcha' moment came with Rhône Grenache. Fruity, yes, but not especially dense and full-bodied (despite moderately high alcohol), Grenache was a surprise supplied by Derek, and it really works.”

String chaat at Pukka restaurant in Toronto
String chaat
When diners come to Pukka, they may initially be thinking about beer (or one of the excellent cocktails on offer). Beer is the traditional drink to pair with Indian food, given how difficult it can be to find a wine that works well with all the different flavours and spices. For Peter, getting patrons to take a chance is the first step. “My advice would be to step outside your comfort zone, your usual ruts. Ask for some assistance - and ask for the most qualified person currently on duty to help you with wine,” he says.

 "The whole world seems to be trying to 'curate' every minute of their existence. Remember that it's one night, one meal, one small bit of discretionary income. Take a flyer, a night off from chasing perfection, and remember that we all learn a boatload more when we are wrong, or when things aren't perfect,”  he says.

This is great advice, which has served me well in my own wine journey, as taking a chance is all part of the magic of the wine experience.

Pumpkin curry at Pukka restaurant in Toronto
Pumpkin curry
At Pukka, thankfully, there are many skilled staff to help with wine pairing decisions and frequent event nights where patrons can come in and learn about how to pair Indian dishes with wines from various regions. These are great opportunities to learn and Peter is already planning a busy 2016 schedule.

“I'm looking forward to more dinners and wine dinner themes,” he says. “I can't get too weird with themes at this point because we are trying to fill spaces at the tasting table but it's always fun to explore the outer limits, bring new wines to the table! Most of all, I'm looking forward to new dishes from the Pukka kitchen. We already have some customer faves that can't be taken off the menu for fear of revolt, but new stuff is always fun and mind-expanding. At last night's dinner, they produced a spinach and fig tikka that was outstanding! I hope it makes it to the regular menu.”

Pukka is truly one of my favourite places to eat in the city and I can’t wait to return. Thank you to the staff for the opportunity to enjoy this media dinner and to Peter Boyd for answering my many questions.

You can learn more about Pukka on their website and visit their events page to find out about the next wine and food pairing event.

For more blog reviews from the dinner at Pukka (which focus much more on the food than the wine) check out these great posts from some of my favourite bloggers:

The Yum Yum Factor
Libby Roach 
KiKi's BFF

*While my meal was complimentary, my opinions are most-definitely my own.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wine on Tap – Learning about FreshTAP

Wine on tap wine taps
I’ve written about wine on tap a number of times on the blog. It’s one of those trends I hope becomes the norm at restaurants across Canada. Why? Because it’s environmentally friendly, you are always assured of a fresh pour and it makes good economic sense.

And with FreshTAP coming to Ontario, the opportunity to have local wine on tap has expanded greatly. This is a way to keep local wines cost-effective for restaurants and for patrons – something I’m definitely in favour of.

With wine on tap there’s zero waste when it comes to wine—there’s never a need to throw out a bottle that’s been open too long, nothing is ever corked and the wine is always fresh. The kegs, which hold the equivalent of 26 bottles, are good for 20 years and the program ensures that they are cleaned to the highest standards using a 15-stage sterilization program, and installed using exacting specifications.

Vineland Estates Winery in NIagara
Vineland Estates
I recently had the chance to talk to Allan Schmidt of Vineland Estates, who has been instrumental in bringing wine on tap to the province. Vineland Estates was actually the first winery in Ontario to make wine on tap a priority and they are leading the charge with FreshTAP. Allan had seen the process in Manhattan and was impressed with how it was being used for even very expensive wines. After looking into it more, he realized it was a great fit for Ontario.

“The slogan sums it up,” he says. “Smarter, fresher friendlier. It’s smarter because it reduces restaurant costs, fresher because it reduces the chance of oxidized wines normally associated with wine by the glass programs, and friendlier because of the waste reduction for the restaurant and the planet.”

The wines available on tap at a recent event
Restaurants are already excited about the prospect, as it makes service easier for them and is a cost-effective option. And Ontario wineries have been signing up quickly. The laws in Ontario mean that only VQA wines can be served on tap, but so far that hasn’t affected interest from wineries.


For Fielding Estates Winery, wine on tap works well. “FreshTap is a great system for both wineries and licensees that have invested in the system,” says Fielding winemaker Richie Roberts.  “On our end it’s a great alternative to traditional packaging because the wine tastes exactly as it does coming from tank. Even as the wine level in the keg gets lower, it’s well protected by a layer of inert gas, the exact same as when we work with large-scale tanks in the winery.

“Customers get to taste the wine exactly as we intended, without any risk of faulted wines from closure issues or a bottle being open for too long,” he continues. “In addition, we eliminate almost all the packaging associated with traditional wine bottles. The keg is returned after use, sanitized, and used again. This reduces both the shipping weight and amount that is recycled. From a restaurants’ perspective, wines on tap are a great alternative to having bottles kicking around for by-the-glass pours. Wine stays fresher longer, there is never any wasted wines, and the packaging takes up much less space behind the bar. Restaurants that we are working with are extremely happy with the results, which is encouraging for both FreshTAP and Fielding. Personally, I‘d love to see wines on tap continue to grow.”

And while most of the wineries currently signed up for FreshTAP are from Niagara, Allan sees the program expanding to include other wine regions very soon. “We have already had enquiries from Prince Edward County,” he says. “However, this year there is a shortage of wines available due to the cold winter damage from the last two years.” 

And for those who worry that wine on tap will be coming out of beer taps, fear not. The system is designed to be wine friendly and taps are set up using a completely different set of standards. A restaurant can’t simply use wine kegs in their beer system – FreshTAP is created specifically for wine and installed by a team that ensures quality is paramount. They know if the system is set up poorly and the wine doesn’t taste great, the program can’t be successful.

There are also only certain wines that will work for kegging. Since wines don’t age or develop in kegs, they have to go in at the exact time they are ready for drinking. That eliminates some wines as good options for the program, but ensures we will always keep up the tradition of aging amazing reds and other special wines in bottles.

“All wines benefit from storing in stainless kegs, just like a winemaker stores them at the winery,” says Allan. “But aromatic white wines retain their youthful fruit forward style far longer in a keg then in a bottle exposed to air ullage.”

With more than 100 restaurants currently adopting the program, it looks like this is a trend that’s here to stay. I’m definitely hopeful and looking forward to seeing more wine on tap programs offering VQA when I’m out for dinner.

Have you tried wine on tap? What did you think? Want to try it? You can find venues serving wine on tap here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Station Cold Brew Coffee Cocktails

Station Cold Brew and Jameson
Over the summer, Shawn fell hard for Station Cold Brew Coffee. While I gave up coffee in January, he remains a connoisseur. So when he tried Station’s cold brew and Jameson Irish Whisky combo at the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival, he was hooked.

Since then, he’s become a regular drinker of Station’s all-natural and Canadian made cold brew. We buy the coffee concentrate and keep a jug in the fridge. Even with fall’s chill moving in, cold brew is still on the menu. He prefers it for mid-day sipping and with no bitter aftertaste and less acidity than most coffee, it’s an overall smoother experience.

He also spent some time this summer experimenting with cold brew coffee cocktails. These were perfect for cottage sipping and remain great cold weather alternatives. Here are some of his fun experiments:
Station Cold Brew Coffee and Bailey's

Station Cold Brew ready to drink coffee and Baily’s: Approx 5oz to 1.5oz Baily’s or to taste, ice (Vanilla and Cinnamon Bailey’s used here, any type is fine).







Station Cold Brew coffee concentrate, Grand Marnier, whisky and milk: 2oz coffee concentrate, 4oz milk, 1oz each Grand Marnier and whisky.

Station Cold Brew Coffee Cocktails



“Iced Irish Coffee” – Station Cold Brew ready to drink coffee and whisky topped with whipped cream.

Station Cold Brew Coffee
He advises playing around with either the coffee concentrate or the ready-to-drink option to create versions that meet your own tastes.

And let’s say you’re looking for a hot coffee option for a cold winter day?

Matt Jones, whisky ambassador for Beam Suntory, offered a few great tips.

Canadian Club Maple Whisky“Bourbon and coffee go well together, Canadian Club Maple as well. Just add a dust of cinnamon and nutmeg here and there, whipped cream, and even make a bourbon vanilla whip cream. So many ways to go. There is also Bourbon/Canadian Club Maple Frappé, which is just shaken coffee with our whiskys and cream over ice,” he says.

Are you a cold brew fan? Or you prefer your coffee the traditional way? Do you have a coffee cocktail you love? Share it in the comments or on social.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Affordable Red Wine Round-up

Colio Estate's Hat Trick 2014 Cabernet Merlot
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.