Monday, May 31, 2010

organic in a tetra pack

I have been interested in trying organic wine whenever I find it, and if I can afford it; this organic wine comes in a tetra pack. I couldn't resist. Look how pretty the packaging is. These cartons are from Italy and are $12.95 each. Affordable. Unfortunately I wasn't crazy about either of them.

The Sangiovese was my least favourite. It drinks more like a Beaujolais Nouveau, which isn't a bad thing, just not what I was expecting.

In the glass: it was very light and fruity with a nose of candied strawberry and cherry. There was very little tannin, and a slight acidic bite to hold the structure in this wine. It was a little flat on the palate and had a short, fruity finish. It might actually go really well with some spicy food, or would make a great sangria.

The Chardonnay was a little better. You could turn it into a spritzer - perfect for the up-coming weather.

In the glass: some promising aromas of lemon, fennel, tea, peach, and apricot lead to a light-bodied mouthfeel with a rather short, and slightly bitter finish.

So why bother posting them? Well, you might like them. The ladies who were drinking them in the middle of the day at my house liked them, and they are organic, and they are reasonably priced, and there are benefits to drinking wine from a tetra pack:

1. They're better for the environment, so you can feel smug about it.
2. They crush and take up very little room in the recycling box, so your neighbours won't see how much you drink.
3. You can take them to work and people will think it's juice.
4. They travel more easily than a bottle (see point number 3).
5. You don't have to make the trip of shame to the beer store to return the 900 of them that you drank this past month.
6. They are lighter, so you can carry more home (see point number 4).
7. You can drink them in the park without being noticed.

Since the full labels are not in the photo:
Ciao Organic Chardonnay Carton, Veneto, Italy
Ciao Organic Sangiovese Carton, Abruzzo, Italy

Sunday, May 30, 2010

grill magic

My friend Joe made this makeshift grill. Have I mentioned that he is magic? He filled that teracotta pot with coals, lit it, and then proceeded to barbecue up a storm.

Smelts. Merguez sausage.
And lamb chops.

While he was doing that, I was drinking this.

In the glass: a light, aromatic wine with a floral nose backed up by some tropical fruit, honey and peach. I also detected a slight minerality, and a bit of an earthiness - pretty complex for a wine that is only $11.00. Round and smooth with just a little acid, this is easy to sip. It finishes off with lingering tropical fruit on the palate.

This wine is made from the Verdejo grape, thought to be originally from Africa but now grown extensively in the Rueda region of Spain, and the Viura grape, which is also called Macabeo and is one of the grapes used in making Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain. Although wine has been made in the Rueda region of Spain since the 11th century, the regions official wine status is fairly recent - since 1980. The area is known for its extreme weather, and the Verdejo grape is a good match; it's hardy and thick skinned.

The wine went well with Joe's meal, and there was a lovely vegetable couscous to go with all that mixed grill, but I'd had too much of the aforementioned wine to remember to take a photo.

Word: our modern word barbecue is thought to come from barbacoa which in the language of the Taino people of the Caribbean meant 'sacred fire pit'.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

the view from me

Favourite things to be looking at on an (almost) summer's day: the lake at my mom's house; the birds; my feet - up. Favourite people to be sharing cocktail hour with: Mom & John; Bailey the dog; Dave. I'm sipping this old favourite, which was somewhat chilled from making the trip in the cooler, and that's okay. In fact, everything is going to be okay. Gotta go. Really busy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

weekend wine buy: peller estates

Over a roast leg of lamb, I opened this lovely bottle of Ontario wine. Thank you Bethany Harpur for the suggestion. I feel my education in Ontario wine is just beginning and Bethany is a great resource. You can find her here if you haven't already found her blog. Actually Bethany suggested the Private Reserve version, but all they had was the Family Series in my LCBO, so I bought it. We really enjoyed it. I was supposed to save this bottle for a tasting that I am to be running a bit later in the summer; however, every time I passed the basement door I could hear it calling to me and finally, I could resist no more. It's okay, at $12.45 I can afford to go back and buy a few more - and I will.

In the glass: a faint hint of dill that quickly gives way to richer aromas of black cherry, black currant, vanilla, and dark chocolate. This medium to full-bodied wine is very smooth with a long finish reminiscent of all that dark fruit. I wrote 'lovely' on the sidebar of my notebook next to my tasting note for this wine, and that's what it is, a lovely, easy to drink example of what goodness can come from Ontario vineyards.

Peller Estates is a very grand looking winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake that began, like many wineries in the new world, by European immigrants: in this case a gentleman from Hungary named Andrew Peller. He started his Ontario grape growing venture in 1969, so the Pellers have been making wine for a very long time, as Canadian wine timelines go.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

it's all about the service

On Sunday evening, while in Toronto, we ventured out for dinner and ended up on Ossington Avenue at a lovely spot called Delux. I couldn't find a website for them, but there's a review with location information here. The food was great, and reasonably priced. I had a roulade of poultry, Dave had gnocchi, Joe had steak and frites, and Laurie had pickerel. The charcuterie plate was to die for. The most lovely thing about the place though, was the service. When our server discovered I was interested in wine and was moving on to our second bottle, he usurped my choice and brought us this bottle: a 1998 Gran Oristan. He had just a few left in his cellar and thought we'd appreciate drinking this aged Tempranillo. I was touched by the thought, and he was right. I certainly don't get to drink twelve year old wine very often. It is a lovely bottle of wine.

In the glass: the aromas were dominated by earth, saddle, some tobacco and spice, but there was still a nice and lively fruitiness to the wine with some dark cherry and blueberry on the nose. I was detecting other complexities like fennel, and vanilla, and floral notes. A lovely food wine, it paired well with the array of dishes we were having: medium-bodied with a decent backbone of acidity. A spiced cherry flavour lingered for quite a while on the finish.

If you are in Toronto, or going to visit soon, I highly recomend you go and get some delish at Delux. It has a lovely wine list that is not too daunting to navigate, the servers are well-versed in things that are wine, and most importantly they were very intent on us having a great dining experience.

And on another service-related topic. A few months ago my Toshiba laptop died, suddenly, after barely a year of use. At the time I took it to PC Cyber, a computer repair shop here in Ottawa (Toshiba was completely unhelpful and I will not rant about that now). PC Cyber told me that my laptop was un-repairable, charged me a little fee for coming to this conclusion and sent me home. I decided to bring it to Joe in Toronto. Joe has not only fixed the thing, he has made it better and given me more gig-thingies, so now maybe I can edit video on it. Hooray. So, if you live in the Toronto area, and you need computer help, call Joe. He runs a little business called thinkjar and you can find him here. He's magic.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

drinking in a different area code

We're in the big smoke for the weekend visiting Joe and Laurie because they are very entertaining, and because we love them so.

They have fed us cheese.

And wine.

In this glass: just a simple, easy to drink wine with some sour cherry and grapefruit on the nose and a slightly bitter finish ($12.95).

And homemade gravlax.

And more wine.

In that glass: delicate aromas of lavendar and violets, cherry, oregano and tobacco. This is a medium-bodied, low tannin, lovely glass of wine. It went really well with the cheese ($12.95).

And slow grilled pork... and more wine.... oh the laughs we're having.

Laurie's Homemade Gravlax - which is amazing

2 pieces of centre cut salmon (approximatly 1 lb each)
3 tbsps crushed peppercorn
3 tbsps crushed coriander seeds
2 tsps dry mustard
4 tbsps salt
4 tbsps sugar
1/2 - 1 cup of fresh dill
1-275ml bottle of gin (any will do - Laurie used Beefeater)

-mix all the dry spices (except the dill) in a blender, or food processor
-rub most of the spice mix (leave a few tbsps aside) over the flesh side of the salmon pieces
-then layer the salmon by placing the first piece skin side down in a loaf pan, and sprinkle half the gin over the fish, add the dill, and then place the second piece of fish skin side up, rub the last of the dried spices into the fish, and then sprinkle the rest of gin over the fish
-cover with plastic wrap and weigh it down (Laurie puts another tray on top of the fish and fills it with canned tomatoes)
-every 12 hours flip the salmon over
-leave it in the fridge for a minimum of 48 hours

Thursday, May 20, 2010

weekend wine buy: cavallina

Although it has been chilled white wine weather here recently it is supposed to drizzle this weekend; so, we'll be sitting under the overhang on a friend's deck in Toronto warming our insides with this little piece of sunshine from Sicily. It's cheap, and easy to drink; it's only $7.95.

I first tried this wine during a tasting exercise with a classmate. We were trying Italian wines and pairing them with Italian menu items. We found that this wine went well with much of the food and surprisingly, with many of the cheeses: goat, parmesan, and a soft, washed rind style. It's actually quite difficult to pair cheese with wine; cheese comes in such a wild array of textures and tastes, and can be quite salty. Salt can accentuate the perception of alcohol in wine leaving a hot sensation in your mouth. I'm thinking a trip to that cheese shop in Kensington Market where we always go while we are in Toronto, and a lot of this wine, and it'll be a happy weekend. Meatballs in a tomato sauce are another great option for this wine, or burgers, or pizza, or grilled vegetables, or salami... okay, I'll stop.

In the glass: a deep ruby wine with notes of dark cherry and plum, violets and mineral, smoke, oregano, and fennel. For the price, this wine has a bit of complexity on the nose - probably a result of the blending of the two grapes: Nero d'Avola and Syrah. Medium-bodied, it's a fairly low acid wine with some mild, soft tannins on the finish.

The grapes for this bottle come from fields next to Marsala on the western tip of Sicily and are tended to by the Pellegrino family who have been operating their estate since 1880.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

nice people drink wine

Last night, on a beautiful, late Spring's evening, under the aroma of a lilac tree in full bloom, in the company of nine lovely people, I tasted five wines from British Columbia. What more could a girl want on a Tuesday evening? Nita had extended an invitation to me to attend a wine tasting at her classmate Jane's home. I didn't have to bring anything, and I didn't even have to drive. How nice is that? Wine tasting is a learned skill and unfortunately (or not), it's not like riding a bike. Once you start to hone your senses, it's good practice to keep exercising them, otherwise it's easy to forget. Really. It's more like learning a new language: if you haven't used that word in a few years, it's not so easy to access in the memory vault. So, I'm thrilled to get the opportunity to taste wine whenever I can, and in the company of a group of eager, and practiced oenophiles is just a bonus.

This is what we tasted:

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay, 2006, Okanagan ($19.95)
-pineapple, butter, caramel, banana... a luscious example of Chardonnay with that tropical fruit lingering on the finish.

Township 7 Chardonnay, 2007, Okanagan ($21.95)
-some butter and tropical fruit on the nose, but then a nice balance of citrus on the palate; lighter bodied than the Mission Hill and a little more acidic; this is a great sipping wine.

Quail's Gate Pinot Noir, 2007, Okanagan ($24.95)
-tea, earth, red fruit like raspberry, cherry and rhubarb, violets, tobacco, smoke; this is a fairly complex wine; silky tannins and a nice long, fruity finish.

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Okanagan ($22.95)
-deep, and full-bodied with sweet spice, stewed fruit, cedar and vanilla on the nose; lovely ripe tannins and a long spicy finish.

And this was an extra treat, not available at the LCBO:

Red Rooster Cabernet/Merlot, 2007, Okanagan
-initially green aromas of asparagus and dill permeated, but they soon gave way to some dark fruit aromas of blackberry and cherry, rounded out by some earth, vanilla and cedar; this was nicely balanced with a long cherry and cedar finish.

I liked them all. Hmmm... anyone for a trip to BC?

Jane was an amazing hostess, very relaxed and I immediately felt comfortable seated on a deck full of strangers in her company. She fed us an amazing bacon and onion tart which went quite nicely with the Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, I forgot to stop and take a picture as I was stuffing it in my mouth; it was just too good. And then she fed us this rhubarb and custard flan. Doesn't it look lovely with all the hosta fronds? I'm going to make it tonight with some rhubarb from my garden.

Thank you Jane!

Monday, May 17, 2010

in response to brian

Brian is my co-worker and a friend. He reads my blog from time to time, and allows me to stand in his doorway at work and ramble on about wine, even though he is primarily a beer drinker (who has been known to dabble in a bottle of red wine occasionally). I in turn am happy to field his many simplistic questions such as: "where do we go when we die", and "are there other dimensions beyond space and time"? Brian's a philosoper, a bit 'out there', and maybe too clever for this space and time, but he sure makes chat around the water cooler much more interesting.

When Brian saw that I had tasted the Argento Cabernet Sauvignon he made a point of telling me that he prefers the Malbec. Well, actually he mistakenly bought the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the next day wondered aloud at my office door why I wasn't drinking the Malbec, because "It's so much better"... this from a beer drinker.

In response to Brian I went out and bought a bottle of each the Malbec and the Cabernet Sauvignon, to taste side-by-side in order to compare. I have to say I liked them both, but still prefer the Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a little more complex, has more structure (acid and tannin) and is a bit lighter on the palate which makes it more food friendly. Did I mention Brian's a beer drinker?

Argento Malbec in the glass: is a low acid, low tannin, rather smooth wine. It has aromas of smoke, blackberry and dark fruit, vanilla, and a notion of mineral. It finishes up with lingering fruit on the palate.

So, if you're more like Brian: a deep thinker, a little abstract, and somewhat of a rebel, you might like the Malbec, and if you're more like me: structured, analytical, and uptight (hence the need for all the wine), you might like the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

a glass of wine

Last night I met my friend Lisa for a chat and a glass of wine (or two). We ended up sitting at the bar at Play, but not after racking our brains for possibilities. We wanted wine, and we wanted a nibble. Some of our options were pubs and we weren't sure they'd have a decent wine selection; some of our options were too restaurant-like and we didn't want a full meal.

Where do you go when you just want a snack and a glass of wine?

On another note, I read this article in Toronto Life Magazine. Despite the drop in taxes on alcohol, as a result of the HST, alcohol prices are not going down. It seems the LCBO is worried that we'll all become alcoholics should our booze become too cheap. I feel safer already.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

weekend wine buy: trumpour's mill

I'm still on a Prince Edward County binge.

I think that before I started to study and really contemplate what was in my wine glass, I wouldn't have appreciated this wine for what it is. I was always wanting big, full-bodied wines (but then I have also been known to buy Yellow Tail, so there you have it), and this one is on the lighter side of red. Today though, happily, I can say that I appreciate what a very well made wine this is, and for the price it's a great deal. It's complex and delicate, and I absolutely love it. This is a perfect wine for this time of year: light, each mouthful filled with promise, just like spring.

In the glass: I found aromas of earth, violets, cherry, leather, bitter chocolate, and a hint of strawberry. It leaves a lingering taste of sour cherry (and I was tasting a little anise as well) on the palate. The light body, and low tannins make this a juicy mouthful ($14.80).

We had this with some Basque shrimp and chorizo sausage. It paired well with the tomato and sweet pepper base, but the sausage itself was a bit too overpowering. It would have been fine with only the shrimp. This would be good with some salmon perhaps. I sipped a glass on its own before eating and was tempted to just drink the whole bottle that way, savouring all that it has to offer.

Gamay (Noir) is the same grape used in making Beaujolais Nouveau (which is made in a very particular way) and is thought to be indigenous to the village of Gamay in Beaune. It's also grown in the Loire, Niagara (where we have our very own clone, Gamay Droit, the result of a mutation in the Chateau des Charmes vineyard), and plantings in Oregon are increasing.

I'd love to know if you try it; let me know what you think of it.

Word: Gamay du Rhone, and Gamay St-Laurent are actually the French grape Abouriou.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

just chardonnay

Last week my father-in-law, Jack, had us over for dinner. Having recently lost the love of his life, and missing dinner time conversation, he either frequents our table, or we his more than usual these days. You see, Jack is very charming and sociable, and he also loves food and wine; I in turn love Jack. On this particular occasion he informed me that he was getting scallops. Jump for joy, we never splurge on such things and I quickly offered to make a lemon risotto to go with those delicate, and briny little pillows from the sea. I quickly consulted my copy of What to Drink with What You Eat (this is an excellent resource for food and beverage pairing) and then dutifully ran out and bought a bottle of this Colio Estate Chardonnay to go with our meal.

When we arrived Jack informed us that he had changed the agenda and we were having salmon with a tomato and onion relish instead. What, no tender little bivalves? Had I known, I may have chosen to get a Pinot Noir, or a Gamay even. And what about my risotto? Well, I was so distraught I had to down pretty much the whole bottle of Chardonnay before dinner. Okay, I shared some of it with the risotto. But then that meant we were drinking Jack's homemade wine with dinner (which isn't actually all that bad; it's sort of a peachy Pinot Grigio).

In the glass: this Chardonnay has a simple nose of red apple, lemon, and a hint of tropical fruit. It's an unoaked Chardonnay, so there is none of the buttery, caramel aromas that go in-hand with oak. For me, that's a good thing. This is a medium-bodied wine with a little acidity; it has a fairly short citrus finish. For $10.95 this is a good table wine, and would have made a decent companion to the scallops which were to be done in a creamy, herb sauce. I'm a fan of the wines from Colio Estate and would have to say this isn't my favourite of their wines. I didn't however, seem to have a problem throwing it back before dinner.

A few days later we had Jack to dinner. "Tell him we're having curry" I told Dave. Jack LOVES curry. And then at the last minute I decided to have baked lentils and sausage instead. Sorry Jack.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

and gifts from colio estate

This bottle of sparkling wine went with the fresh herbs from my garden: chive, mint, parsley, which went with the chicken and mango salad that we had for lunch today, which went well with Mother's day. Unfortunately it was more like hot toddy weather out there today... oh Spring, why have you forsaken us so? All the more reason, perhaps, to indulge in some afternoon bubbly and greenery from the backyard.

This is an interesting blend of Riesling, Traminer and Pinot Noir. It's a great price for a sparkling wine and it's local which makes it even better.

In the glass: fresh and frothy with grapefruit, lime, mineral, and something akin to pea shoot, or cucumber on the nose; this is a simple, but nicely balanced sparkling wine with a long citrus finish ($14.65).

UPDATE: I just cheked the LCBO website and apparently they are not carrying this product anymore. Pity. There are a few left at Bank/Walkley, Richmond/Kirkwood, and Bank/Riverside.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

spring's gifts

Hallelujah, the first of the bounty from my garden has arrived. It's just a snippet of what's to come, but picking herbs at the beginning of May... well, I'm rushing out to the liquor store right now to buy a bottle of bubbly in celebration.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

weekend wine buy: sandbanks

I was reminded this week of how much I LOVE Prince Edward County. Okay, so I've only been there once, but ever since I took a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake (about 8 years ago, long before I ever started thinking so seriously about wine) and read about PEC as an up-and-coming wine region, I have been fantasizing about the place, sucked in by some glossy magazine pictures. I finally went a couple of years ago and experienced physically what I already knew metaphysically: I LOVE Prince Edward County. It's the epitomy of bucolic, rolling countryside with antique shops, and fields of green which are now punctuated with the geometry of vines affixed to wire. I have a not-so-secret fantasy of being able to afford a piece of land there, of being able to build an off-the-grid house, and of sitting on my back porch while I watch the breeze ripple through someone's vines. For now I am content to wait, watch contractors cut holes in my roof and run up and down the stairs with power tools, and sample some of The County in a glass. This summer I have a wedding to attend in Prince Edward County, so Dave and I will be happily going back to sniff (and drink) our way through the terroir.

In the glass: this Reisling has aromas of grapefruit, lemon, and mineral with hints of hay, and unripe peach in the background. It's light and crisp with a tart, lemony finish ($14.75).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

cinco de mayo

It's Cinco de Mayo today and we're celebrating - any old reason will do - with this bottle of wine, and this spicy chicken (which is dead easy to make: blend a couple of canned chipotle chiles to a smooth paste and stir in some canned diced tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper; cover the chicken and bake; serve with rice, a wedge of lime, some avocado, goat's cheese, or sour cream, and chopped lettuce).
Rick Bayless says that Tempranillo goes well with chipotle chiles; its fruitiness and low tannin are a good match to the heat and smokiness of the chile. This particular Tempranillo comes from a southern region of Spain close to Valencia. I was reasoning that a bottle from a warmer region of Spain would be a little fruitier and perhaps fuller-bodied than one from the Rioja region which is further north. This was fruity, but more of a medium-bodied wine than I thought it would be. I'll have to let you know how it pairs with the chicken.

In the glass: this is a fruity, lively wine. It has aromas of black cherry, black berry, violets and tobacco with soft tannins and a mild acidic bite. It's simple, but nicely balanced ($10.55).

Tempranillo is grown all over Spain. There is speculation as to whether it is an autochthon of the Rioja region, or a relative of Pinot Noir, transplanted at some point in history by the French. Either way, it is in Spain where the grape has taken hold and its long history in that country is reflected in the numerous names attached to the grape in the various regions where it grows: Aragonez; Tinto de Santiago; Cencibel; Tinto Fino... the list goes on. Tempranillo is also a major grape contributing to Port production in Portugal where they call it Tinta Roriz.

Or you might prefer something like this.

Or this.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

tasting pinot noir

Recently Nita and I went on a Pinot Noir tour with Kent Currie from the LCBO. You could have come too, it was one of the Tutored Tasting series put on by the LCBO this spring. Nita and I are going to be running a wine tasting soon and we're in the process of assessing how others run their tastings. Oh the work of it all. So, armed with our paper and pencils we set off in the name of research.

The tasting was most helpful. Kent gave us a quick story on the specifics of the grape and then reviewed each area we were tasting from as we sipped our way through Prince Edward County, Oregon, Champagne, California, and a few other places on the wine globe. It was an hour long tasting, long enough to drink six wines, but not so long that it was onerous. Considering we tried a $100 Champagne and a $50 bottle of wine (things that would never cross my palate on my budget), I'd do another of these tastings again. The tasting was reasonably priced at $35.

This is what we tasted:

Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut, Champagne $99.95
-grapefruit, raspberry, mineral and yeast on the nose with a dry, pithy finish.

Rosehall Run, Prince Edward County, 2007 $18.95
-a light wine with violets, cherry, and hint of beetroot on the nose with a crisp, fruity finish.

Cave de Jolimant Edelweiss, Switzerland, 2008 $18.95
-drinks almost like a Beaujolais Nouveau with candied aromas of strawberries and violets leading to a light peppery aroma. Juicy on the palate.

Amity Vineyards, Oregon, 2007 $23.95
-earth, tobacco, cherry and cinnamon on the nose with a mellow, cherry finish.

Cloudy Bay, New Zealand, 2007 $46.95
-earthy and floral with slight sour cherry and spice aromas. This had a long, smooth, anise tinged finish.

Abyacacia, California, 2008 $19.95
-a slightly darker wine with cherry and black current aromas; some vanilla, spice and smoke as well with a hint of tannin and spice on the finish.

I liked the Pinot from Oregon; Nita liked the one from New Zealand.