Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Summer Wine Musings

July 19, 2017

Back from holidays in Eastern Canada, so a few holiday wine musings (in no particular order):

Rose

We love it in summer! I’ve written in the past how I like a touch of sweetness in Rose, but we had a number of bone dry Provence versions while away, and they were outstanding in the heat!

Red wine in Summer

Most people stay away from reds in the summer, especially the ‘big ones’.  But we had some great, full bodies reds in restaurants! Chateauneuf, Languedoc, Brunello…they were amazing in an air conditioned environment. And they were great with some of the French food in Montreal and Quebec City.

Restaurant Wine

On average, the wine lists were just okay…not a broad selection, pretty expensive and the wine by the glass was pretty pedestrian. So I brought my own most of the time!

But at the Gypsy Tea Room in St. John’s, Newfoundland – what a list! Quality and price. They had the ’05 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde by Guigal for $120…a 95 pt wine for cheaper (by half) than what you could by the ’14 in BC stores. Had to buy it…and it was stunning!

Riesling

What a great go to wine, even on the plane! Is it a touch sweet sometimes – yes. But refreshing, nice acidity, never worse than good!

Wine Across Canada

Finally, it was interesting to compare wine – selection, price, stores. In general, I was quite impressed with prices, as they were lower on average than in BC, even in the government stores. Selection was both different and surprising – not as many Chateauneufs and Barolos, for example, but the selection of Languedec and other South of France wines was very impressive! And hats off to the Vintages Store in Ottawa – downstairs from the regular store, and had more fine wine than I have seen anywhere in BC!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

 

 

 

Holiday Blog #1 – Red Wines

December 4, 2014

Alright, three blogs left for 2014, so let’s focus on holiday wines. Today, we will start with red wines, with recommendations for all occasions. White wines next week, and we will finish with sparklers and sweet wines the week before Christmas.

1. Open Houses/Big Dinner Parties

In a lot of ways, this is the toughest category, because while you need to potentially serve wine to a lot of guests – and want it to be good – you also don’t want to break the bank. So you need to try and keep the wines to under $15 if possible.

My first “go to” region is the Cotes du Rhone in the south of France (and the regions around it). Even with the vagaries of exchange rates, there are lots of relative bargains out there. Most of these wines are blends – mainly Grenache and Syrah, with a smattering of Mourvedre and Carignan mixed in – but the big reason they are popular with many people is they lack oak. That means instead of cedary, woody aromas and flavours, you get cherries and berries, herbs, earth and pepper. Up here, my best pick is the Vin de Pays by Domaine la Bastide, a GSM mix that goes for $10.95 a bottle. The Ventoux by La Vieille Ferme is also a good bet for a few bucks more. And don’t worry about the vintage – the style is very consistent from year to year.

Spain is another obvious choice for value reds you are going to serve in quantity. My only caution here is that the main grape used in the cheaper wines – Garnacha (the Spanish version of Grenache) – is often oaked, which can take away fruitiness and add in woodiness. So be careful! A very consistent producer is Castano, which makes La Casona for $9.99 and Monastrell for $12.49. There is no oak in either that I can taste.

2. Small Dinner Parties

If you are having only a few friends over, you can afford to spend more per bottle (since you are going to serve few of them). If you want to keep the tab under $25 a bottle, I have a few suggestions.

Back to the Cotes du Rhone! The 2012 vintage is on the shelves and it is very good, better than the 2011 (if not as good as 2010). Most of the wines – again, made of Grenache and Syrah – are ripe, medium bodied, and have little evidence of oak aging. Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages will cost anywhere from $18 – $25. Look for Famille Perrin (the makers of Chateau de Beaucastel), Chapoutier (including his Bila Haut wines from the Roussillon) and Delas Freres.

If you like Shiraz, this is also a good price point, because you can avoid the overly sweet, syrupy cheaper wines. Personally, I love the blackberry jam and licorice you find in the best wines. Vintage variation isn’t that big a deal (because of the climate consistency). Recommendations would be the wines from d’Arenberg, Shotfire Ridge, Kilikanoon, and Penfold’s.

3. Special Occasions

Last but not least, some special occasion red wines. Here you either want to enjoy a great bottle with someone, or perhaps just show off a bit! The price tag starts at $40 and can go up – way up! The other thing to consider, though, is the maturity of the wine. If you open up a young Bordeaux or Barolo that cost you $75 or more, you (and your guest) may be very disappointed by the harsh, tannic wine.

Instead, I look to California. Cabernet Sauvignon can be a good bet, as most of the wines are made in such a fruit forward style that they drink beautifully when young (as well as aging well). Beringer and Caymus are two famous names to look for… their “regular” Cabs start at about $45 (and their reserves are over $100). But they taste fabulous!

Another option can be old vine Zinfandel. Young wines almost explode with ripe blackberry fruit, but without the jam you get in Aussie Shiraz. Ridge Vineyards is my favourite (look for Geyserville and Lytton Spring blends for about $50), along with Ravenswood. If you want a real treat, try to find a Turley, a cult wine for sure, but can be worth the $60+++.

So there you go…some red wine options.

Next week, the whites!

Stephen

“HOT” SUMMER WINES

July 31, 2014

We are heading into the BC day long weekend up here in British Columbia, so I thought it appropriate to blog on holiday wine dinners (particularly since we are having folks over on both Saturday and Sunday nights!) and, in particular, “hot” summer wines.

It has been hot here – very hot for the Lower Mainland of BC – so all we have really been drinking is white and Rose. And, given that heat remains in the forecast for the weekend, that will be the focus of my recommendations.

So let’s start with Roses, shall we?

Without getting into specific wines, it really comes down to two options (assuming you throw out the sickly sweet White Zinfandels) – bone dry, or slightly off dry. Personally, I like both, although the hotter it gets, the more I favour the slightly off dry versions. Same if you are going to have spicy food, and we are planning BBQ tandoori chicken, so that applies to us.

Either way, however, you have lots of options. The south of France is famous for dry Roses, of course, although some of them are getting quite pricy (well over $25!). Personally, I don’t think Rose should be more than $20, and I certainly found lots of those in our last trip to France. You can also look for dry Roses from many other countries, including Spain and Argentina.

For the off dry Roses, you need to be a bit more careful (so you don’t end up with something too sweet). My “go to” place is actually our home province, which produces a number of wines rated “1” in sweetness.

And what about white wines?

Well, the options are virtually endless, although once again the hotter it gets, the more I find that a touch of sweetness actually makes things better. Think Riesling and Gewurztraminer here, which also match well with spicy or bbq food. Alsace and Germany are the most famous locations for these wines, although many of those can be too sweet. So also look to California, Washington, Australia (for Riesling) and – again – my home province of BC.

Other whites worth looking at are those that finish crisp and dry – Viognier, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and even Pinot Gris. B.C., California, Washington State, and Oregon are good places to go for these wines. You can try France but white Bordeaux (Sauvignon/Semillon blends) and Condrieu (for Viognier) get real expensive, real quick.

The only white wines I tend to stay away from in the heat are wooded Chardonnays. While I love them, their richness can be a bit much sometimes when the thermometer gets red!

Speaking of “red”, what if you need to serve a red wine in the heat?

Well, I would go for something you can actually chill a bit, which means Gamay. The classic is Beaujolais, but that is getting expensive as well. So look to the new world (BC and California) for other cheaper options. Put in an ice bucket for 15 minutes before serving and then take out. There will still be structure from the red grapes – and nice berry fruit – but it will be refreshing when cooler!

So there you go – some suggestions for “hot” wines to celebrate any summer holiday!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

DIFFERENT WAYS TO PUT “WINE” INTO YOUR HOLIDAYS!

June 25, 2014

I am going to try and take most of the next couple of weeks off, which got me thinking about all the ways I could make “wine” part of my holiday, especially since we won’t be spending a lot of time away from home.

The first and most obvious one – for those who have a wine cellar – is to drink more of those special wines during vacation! Usually that is reserved only for weekends, but if you have enough (or enough interest), then a special wine every night can really add to your time off. And, if you are not going away (like us, for the most part), it can even make you feel like you are somewhere else, especially if you pair the wine with a special meal.

Even if you don’t have a wine cellar, however, you can still make this part of your ‘staycation’. Take the time to go to your local wine store and buy a few wines that you wouldn’t normally purchase. Whether it is the price level, style or even quantity, just the purchase alone will make it feel like you are on holidays!

And what if you are going away somewhere?

Well, if you are eating in restaurants, you can apply the same principle as above. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either! You can focus on wines from the place you are visiting, for example. We were in Seattle earlier this year, and found a restaurant which not only had great Washington wines, they were also 20% off by the bottle! Wines by the glass are another option (albeit with the caveats from last week’s blog). Have a white with your appetizer, a red with your main, maybe a sweet wine with dessert…you can probably do all of that for the price of a whole bottle!

Another way to treat yourself is to have a glass of wine at lunch! This is a great way to fit into the local culture – if you are in France or Spain, for example, everybody does it – and in the heat, there is nothing like a glass of cold Rose to quench the thirst. It can also be a great way to experience a highly rated restaurant economically. Often it is hard to get reservations, and too expensive, to eat in the best places for dinner. But lunch? Same food, cheaper prices, and same wine list. It can be a really luxurious way to spend part of an afternoon.

So there you go – lots of ways to make wine part of your vacation, whether you are staying home or going some place wonderful!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOLIDAY WINE BLOG – BEST DEALS TO STOCK UP ON

December 5, 2012

Okay, next up are my picks for “best wine buys for the season”. These are the wines that you can either get by the case (if you are hosting a party) or take as a host/hostess gift. Regardless of the situation, you won’t break the bank…and your friends will be impressed with the quality of your wine selections!

Let’s start with white wines this time – a perennial best buy, and a newcomer that has blown me away the last couple of vintages. The first is the Viognier that Chilean winery Con Sur makes. Yes, it is on the ripe side for a Viognier, made in that fruit cocktail style. And, yes, it is so fruity that you almost mistake it for being sweet (although it’s not). But for the price — $10.99 – it is hard to beat. And it will turn more than a few heads at any holiday party.

The other white is the same price, but may be an even better value. I am not normally a big fan of South African wines, but the Two Oceans winery is doing some amazing things for ridiculously low prices. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc might just be the best overall wine bargain around – classic, dry SB, with touches of herbs and grasses around crisp, dry citrus fruit. It tastes like it should cost $10 more, but is only $10.99 to start with! I imagine in places with lower alcohol taxes this is probably a $5 wine, which makes me cry!

On to the reds. A repeat from last year’s list and another perennial best buy in its own right, the Vin de Pays from Domaine de la Bastide is what an every day wine should be. It is made from Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, etc) and exhibits that classic south of France style – dry, with earthy black cherries and no oak. A pleasure to drink, and amazing at $10.25.

At a buck and a half more, Castano’s Monastrell is also a great deal. Different grape, but the wine tastes very much like the Bastide, although perhaps a bit earthier. It is my favourite wine deal from Spain, and again has no oakiness at all. At $11.97, you can afford more than a couple of bottles.

So what about sparkling wine, then? Not usually something you consider a bargain…but there is, once again, a great value wine out there! It is also from Spain, the NV Brut by Segura Viudas. It is made in the classic “cava” style – green apples, crisp, dry but also fruity, with nice bubbles. At $15.99, it is affordable enough to serve at an open house!

Finally, sweet wine. Not many will serve sweet wine during the holidays, but if you are having cheese, nuts, etc., you would be surprised how well it goes (and will be received). If you want to go that way, try the 2011 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Chilean winery Concha Y Toro. A Sauternes “look a like”, it is golden yellow, with sweet fruit on the nose and nice caramel/toffee flavours. A little goes a long way with sweet wine, so at $14.99, a couple of bottles will probably do.

So there you go! A selection of best buys that will make any party, house warming, event, etc. a hit. And they won’t break the bank!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com