Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year, New Wine

We all have our wine preferences. Some of us prefer whites over reds. Others resolutely stick to a particular region. Some stick to a particular grape. For others, wine has to be big and bold, like a full-flavoured “Super-Tuscan (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot), Cabernet Franc or Italian Nebbiolo.

Why not add a new resolution to your 2008 list? How about exploring beyond your boundaries and tasting wines that you wouldn’t normally? It can even be as simple as trying organic wines to coincide with your decision to live a “greener” life. Or you can open the door of possibilities wide and give your taste buds a treat…or a shock. Be adventurous!

Try some varietals you’ve never heard of, or wines from different regions or whites if you love reds. Even pop the cork on a sparkling wine like a Spanish Cava to enjoy with your meal instead of saving bubbly for special occasions. Just try something new. Discovery can be rewarding—and fun.

Do you like whites, but fear the power of reds? Try a rosé or some “starter reds” like Pinot Noir (aka French Red Burgundy) or Merlot to get you taste buds whetted. Gamay (aka French Beaujolais) is also a good bet. Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes have lighter skins, therefore they don’t have the powerful and often astringent tannins some white wine lovers don’t like.

So far, so good? Try an easy sipping Italian Barbera, which is full of berry flavours and has low tannins.

If you want something with more body, try a Cabernet Sauvignon, Aussie Shiraz, French Syrah, Bordeaux or a California Zinfandel.

Been there, done that? How about a big, rich Argentinean Malbec, an earthy, fruity Italian Chianti (Sangiovese is the main grape) or a medium-bodied, fruity Spanish Rioja (Tempranillo is the main grape)?

If you think whites are too wimpy or boring, try an oak-aged Chardonnay, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Riesling (German brands tend to be sweeter than North American or French) or a full-flavoured, spicy Gewürztraminer.

Want something crisp and clean? Dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, French Muscadet or a unoaked Chardonnay might be what you’re looking for. How about soft and fruity? Try a Chenin Blanc.

Maybe you’ve never tried sweet wines before. A nice off-dry or sweet German Riesling would be good. Or Muscat or Sauternes. Maybe a BC ice wine would be a tasty sipper with dessert (or instead of it). Or try a fortified wine like Madeira, Port or Sherry.

Still unsure? Think about flavours and aromas you like.

Do you love floral scents and can’t wait until stone fruits, like peaches and apricots, are in season? Try a Gewürztraminer or a less floral French or Californian Viognier.

Love spices of all kinds? Again Gewürztraminer is the perfect white choice, along with Riesling, Pinot Gris (aka Pinot Grigio) and Viognier. For reds, Shiraz (aka Syrah), Tempranillo and Zinfandel are good bets.

Do you love the smells of raspberry jam and dark chocolate? Try a powerful Chilean Carmenère.

Like crisp mineral smells? Try Riesling or Chablis (unoaked French Chardonnay).

How about fresh baked bread with strawberry or peach preserves? Champagne might hit the spot.

Can’t get enough of earth and leather? Try a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (mainly Grenache) or Spanish Garnacha.

Like anything loaded with red berries? Shiraz, Zinfandel and Barbera are good bets. Cabernet Sauvignon offers darker fruit flavours, like blackberry, black cherry and cassis.

When it comes to trying new wines, your options are many and so are the days in a year, so start tasting and enjoy! By experimenting you’ll discover new wines to love and new food pairings to make your meals even more enjoyable.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Magnotta Special Reserve Gewürztraminer 2006

Who made it: Magnotta Winery
What varietal(s): Gewürztraminer
Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Why drink it: It’s really good.
Extra, extra: $13, 13.7% (VQA, available from them, in person or online)
Serve slightly chilled (8- 10°C or 46-50°F)

This is a truly yummy Gewürztraminer. Very aromatic, flavourful and refreshing, it has aromas of tropical fruit, green apple, pear, citrus, and lychee.

Stainless steel fermented, it’s crisp with a nice, balanced acidity. It’s light-medium bodied and dry, but with a faint residual sweetness in the mouth.

Lemony gold in colour, it’s flavours echo it’s aromas, adding a bit of spice to the palette, with a crisp citrusy floral finish. It’s fresh, aromatic and just plain yummy.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Magnotta Winery

Magnotta Winery Tour and Tasting

While in the Toronto area, I visited the Magnotta “award winning winery” in Vaughan. A big commercial affair, I was surprised by how tasty—and cheap—their wines are. They have so many varietals I was like a kid in a candy store. They have everything from lower priced blends (most $7-10) to VQA premium vintages that have 100% Ontario grown grapes. They use both bulk juice and grapes picked from their own four Niagara vineyards or their Maipo Valley (Chile) vineyard, depending on the price point of the wine and whether it’s Premium, Vintage and/or VQA or not.

Next time you’re in the Toronto area, try one their wines, either from one of their seven Ontario stores or from a restaurant wine list.

Their wines are very affordable and worth ever shiny penny. Cheap doesn’t always equal plonk. Since you can’t buy their wines in liquor stores they pass on the savings by purchasing directly from them.

I did the winery tour at their Vaughn location (the Beamsville location also offers tours) and tasted many wines and spent a small fortune. The variety of wines available was nearly endless. I bought Blueberry fruit wine, sparkling wine, an Amarone-style wine (using dried grapes for concentrated flavour and sugars), Meritage blends and plenty of aromatic whites. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

Their buttery oaked 2004 Chardonnay (Limited Edition, barrel aged, VQA, $16.95) went deliciously well with Thanksgiving dinner. It was a perfect match for the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. Mmm. Can’t wait for Christmas dinner!

They sell six sparkling wines using both the Traditional Method and the cost-effective Charmat Method. All were ridiculously cheap and the few I tried were amazingly delicious. The 2006 VQA Magnotta Brut was $9.95 and their Traditional Method 2002 VQA Blanc de Noirs was $16.95. Jeez, I think I need a case for the holiday season.

Their VQA Meritage ($19.95) is a yummy full-bodied blend of Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot. Red fruits, smoke and vanilla oak flavours abound. A perfect winter sipper, either alone or with a nice juicy steak or roast dinner.

The most expensive wine I bought was their Amarone-style Enotrium. Delicious! It’s a very rich, full-bodied Meritage blend (Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc & Merlot). It’s big and ripe with dark fruits (cassis, blackberry, plum), hints of spice and a rich, delicate sweetness (1). It was well worth its $39.95 price tag. Yum!
Overall, I was impressed (Can’t you tell?). To be honest, I tried some Ontario wines from the LCBO that really, really disappointed me. So, I didn’t expect much from Magnotta for several reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a great place to get loads of wine for a wedding or big bash—or for inexpensive every day drinking. Wine should be affordable and Magnotta makes it easier to break open a bottle just for the fun of it or to pair with a weekday dinner you whipped up or ordered in.

Try and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PINK! Sparkling Wine by Yellowglen (non-vintage)

Who made it: Yellowglen
What varietal(s): Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Where: South Eastern Australia
Why drink it: It’s fun! Perfect for a girls’ night out or chilling with friends.
Extra, extra: $12, 11%
Serve well chilled.

Bored with the pale bubbly? Give PINK a chance.

Pale salmon pink vino and lots of bubbles give your glass a bit of life. This is a fruit-driven, refreshing sparkly perfect for everyday drinking. You don’t need a special occasion to enjoy sparkling wine, especially when there are plenty of inexpensive options, like this one.

This is a tasty and enjoyable sipper. It’s light, fruity and off-dry with moderate to crisp acidity. It has aromas of strawberry and citrus, with flavours echoing the nose, plus red berries and a hint of fresh bread.

This sparkly has been around since 2003 and, according to its maker, comes from the number one sparkling wine brand in Australia. Look for a dark bottle with vibrant pink lettering—definitely easy to spot on liquor store shelves. Yellowglen also makes a YELLOW sparkly, which I still must try.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thornhaven Estates Gewürztraminer 2006

Who made it: Thornhaven Estates
What varietal(s): Gewürztraminer
Where: Okanagan Valley (Summerland)
Why drink it: It’s really good.

Extra, extra: $17-19, 13.1% (VQA, available in wine shops)
Serve slightly chilled.

Are you anti-white wine? Give this a try; you just might be surprised at how flavourful it is.

I love German varietals and Gewürztraminer is one of my favourite aromatic white wines. It’s the floral and fruity spiciness that draws me in and the intense flavours that aren’t typical in many whites. I always tell my I-drink-reds-only friends to give wines like Gewürztraminer and Riesling a try. They’re usually looking for an intensity of flavour, so they avoid whites after trying a few bland ones. A good aromatic white can usually get them to open up to new possibilities.

Thornhaven makes some great, award-winning wines and I’m consistently happy with their Gewürtz. I found the 2006 to be really enjoyable and refreshing. It’s also reasonably priced. With many of the Okanagan wines over $25 (and getting pricier every year), it’s nice to find one under $20.

This is a pale lemony gold wine with intense aromas of citrus, spice, grapefruit and lychee, honey and pear. I know, there’s a lot going on here! Like I said, it’s intensely aromatic. It has delicious flavours of lychee and spice. I didn’t find it as citrusy tasting as it smells, but lemon citrus is still there, along with a floral and slightly nutty taste. It’s an experience for your nose and mouth that lingers. Enjoy!

Gewürtz pairs well with rich, spicy foods, such as Asian or Mexican dishes. Since a typical Gewürztraminer is intensely aromatic and flavourful, it’s really enjoyable sipped alone. The sweeter the wine (i.e. typically German brands), the spicier the food it can handle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Red Rooster Viognier 2005

Who made it: Red Rooster Winery
What varietal(s): Viognier
Where: Okanagan Valley (Naramata Bench)
Why drink it: It’s good and it’s local.
Extra, extra: $17, (available in private wine shops)
Serve slightly chilled.

Viognier is another of my favourite white varietals. Some great Viogniers came from Northern Rhône. For those who like to eat and drink locally, a few good ones come from the Okanagan Valley.

Red Rooster, one of the first and definitely the biggest winery you’ll come across while touring the Naramata Bench, makes some enjoyable whites.

Their 2005 Viognier has aromas of pineapple, tropical fruit, citrus and light florals. It’s light, dry and refreshing with a lot of flavour. Green apple, honey and hints of citrus and stone fruit hit your taste buds culminating in a crisp finish.

French Viogniers tend to have more spice, stone fruit and mineral flavours and more intense floral aromas, so in comparison, this was more subdued, but still enjoyable.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Robertson Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Who made it: Robertson Winery
What varietal(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Where: Robertson, South Africa
Why drink it: Do if you like cheap, earthy reds. Don’t if you love fruity, full-bodied, full-flavoured Cabs.
Extra, extra: $11, 13.5%

This garnet red wine has moderate aromas of cedar, blackberry, cassis, pepper (both green and black) and a hint of herbaceousness. The woodsy cedar aroma follows through on the palate. It’s more earthy and peppery than (black) fruity. It has light tannins and is slightly tart, with a smoky, alcohol-warm finish. The flavour of this wine doesn’t stick around long after it’s swallowed, earning it a short length on the finish.

The more you sip the smokier it seems. It’s not your typical Cabernet, that’s for sure. This is an average wine. Not spectacular. Not plonk. I wouldn’t buy this particular Cabernet again, since there are so many fab Cabs out there. If you’re into the big, bold California Cabs, this is definitely not for you. It’s also not a sipper – it needs food to make it more enjoyable. Maybe a roast, a burger or spaghetti and meatballs? If you like earthy (more old world) styles, perhaps you’ll give it a try sometime. In my opinion (and taste is very subjective), there are better cheap wines out there, but if you want something cheap to drink with food or like woodsy, non-fruity wines then give it a try. If you’re looking forward to cracking open something that is so good you can drink it all by itself, skip this one.

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