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Cheers to Betty White

On Monday, January 17, Betty White would’ve turned 100 years old. Sadly, she was taken away from us on December 31st, the very last day of a challenging year, 2021. A global movement started to mark her 100th birthday, asking people to give as little as $5 to their favorite animal charity, because Betty White was such an advocate for animals. Imagine passing away 17 days before you turn 100, and people saying she ‘left us to soon’.

I participated in the challenge, donating money to the Halifax Cat Rescue Society. I chose this particular charity because of this fella.

Gabriel

Gabriel is my second forever foster from the Halifax Cat Rescue Society. They look for forever foster homes for cats that still have lots of life left, but have an illness that makes them unadoptable. Gabriel is FIV+, so I provide a loving home and all his food, they pay all his vet bills. I’ve had Gabriel for almost 4 years, so there is lots of love to be had by these kitties.

Leo

Leo was my first foster from HCRS, and sadly he died just before I had him 2 years from Feline Leukemia. But he was so sweet and I loved taking care of him for his final years. As you can see Leo loved his life here.

Betty White’s show business career spanned 8 decades, and her love of animals even longer than that. She was an activist and supported many organizations to make lives better for cats, dogs, and all kinds of critters.

So let’s raise a glass to Betty White. Betty also loved her wine. She has been quoted as saying “A glass of wine a day will help you live longer, let’s live forever”.

She was living proof!!

My friend Angie and I shared a wine Tuesday evening that was definitely a treat celebratory wine.

Francis Ford Coppola Directors Cut Cabernet

My nephew Brady wanted to give me a bottle of wine at Christmas and I told him I loved Zinfandel. So when I opened the gift and saw the label, I thought it was the Director’s Cut Zinfandel, which I have had several times, as you used to be able to get it in Halifax. When I opened the wine and tasted it, I did a second take, and realized it was Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh My God! It was delicious. Hands down the most full-bodied wine I have ever had. It was so full and heavy on the palate, I wish I had one to have with a steak LOL. You can’t get it here in Atlantic Canada, but starting in Quebec and heading West you can. If you see it, pick it up, it’s a great wine.

Regular readers know I love to cook, I love to eat, and I like to share recipes. Sometimes I try recipes that don’t work out as well as I would have liked. Case in point – Orange Chicken. It didn’t turn out horrendous, I ate it, but the sauce was a little sweet for me.

Orange chicken

I love Chinese Food and I’m always trying the recipes at home. So, I wasn’t sure where I was going with this piece of chicken first, so I always marinade boneless skinless chicken breast.

So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so I started with a marinade of salt, pepper, Chinese 5-spice, balsamic vinegar and orange juice. A site I use a lot for recipes is ‘Rock Recipes’, originating in Newfoundland, and let me tell you, this man can cook. Check it out at www.rockrecipes.com I love this site, but I’m not as talented as Barry is.

Check out his Orange chicken recipe or his double crunch honey garlic chicken. I did the flour with the spices and the egg wash. In the flour I had salt, pepper, garlic powder, Chinese 5-spice and a little ginger. However, the mistake I made, I didn’t dry off my chicken pieces before adding the coating. Why is that important? The breading won’t stick to the chicken. You can see the breading falling off as it’s cooking.

I used a cast iron frying pan, and the chicken turned out delicious, just not as pretty as the recipe. I also found the Orange Chicken sauce a little sweet, so I only used half the chicken with that sauce, and used the offer half in a sweet Thai chili sauce. I’ll definitely do the process again, learning from my mistakes. That’s the fun thing about trying new things in the kitchen, they don’t always turn out, but you still have to try.

Last but not least, my wine of the week..

Monte Antico Toscana

I have many friends and readers in Newfoundland, so this wine is available both here and in Newfoundland. A fantastic Tuscan wine that costs under $20. This is a Super Tuscan wine, consisting of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, an absolute perfect blend. This is a great food wine, because of the 3 grapes, it will go with anything you serve for dinner.

A big thank you to everyone who donated to their favorite animal charity this past week. I hope everyone is doing OK in January, it can be a long month.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Storm Wine & Burgers

For the second Friday night in a row, all of Nova Scotia including Halifax was hit by a whopper storm. This one started with sideways rain and strong winds, and then the temperature plummeted and it turned into hail. As you can see by my BBQ this morning, you can’t even call it a snowfall, it was a hailstorm.

I lost my television service, I guess the winds knocked something out. So for the rest of the weekend, I have no tv. That’s Ok, I have a great book and a challenging puzzle on the go. It is a chilly day with temperatures right now -13-degrees with a wind chill of -26. It’s a great day to stay inside and drink some wine.

Before the storm started, I did use my BBQ. Not only did I rotisserie a chicken to make a pot of homemade soup, I did some burgers.

Some ‘Oh My Jesus’ Burgers. This is a burger with cheddar, mozzarella and provolone cheese, with bacon, carmelized onions, balsamic glazed tomatoes, jalapenos and more bacon. Probably one of the best burgers I have ever made

I sliced cherry tomatoes and put salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar, with a little brown sugar and cooked that down. In the next dish are sliced red onions, jalapenos, some bacon chopped up finely, butter and brown sugar. That cooked down until the onions carmelized, which is about 20 minutes.

It was pretty delicious.

Anciano Garnacha

This wine is fantastic and it’s on sale right now. Under $13 a bottle. That’s not a typo, it’s on for $12.99. I’ve written about it before, it may not look familiar because it has a new label. It used to look like this.

Garnacha, the Spanish word for Grenache, is the grape, which is the same grape used in Cote du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape. These grapes, however, are fully ripe when picked so it’s not as boozy and it’s very smooth. From Valencia Spain it’s a spectacular wine for the price point. Fruity with notes of fig. Not oaky, not bitter or boozy, just smooth and delicious. Definitely worth picking up and trying.

When I was training to become a Sommelier, Alsace became one of my favorite regions for white wines. I found the history really interesting, it’s in Northeastern France, bordering with Germany, and over the years it has alternated over who controls it, France or Germany. Wines from Alsace can be pricey, but this is a great example of a wine from Alsace, and it comes in at the $20 price range, so it’s affordable. Wines from Alsace have some sweetness to them, unlike it’s cousins, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

And last but not least, my first new wine of 2022

Enfant Terrible Cote du Rhone

Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing terrible about this wine. EnfantOCTerrible Rouge Aoc Cotes Du Rhone is in limited quantities, and for a limited time, at the moment. It’s a Cotes du Rhone at a great price point, $16.99. It’s a beautiful complex wine with several grape varieties, Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. The wine growers for Enfant Terrible are not harvesting their grapes when everyone else is, they wait for full maturity. What this means for the wine is it’s smooth and fruity with a full round feel on the palate. I had to check my receipt again, just to make sure I only paid $16.99 for this fantastic wine.

I hope everyone made out ok in the storm. Stay safe out there.

Darlene

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Wine Trends of 2022

Every year, I take one of my first wine blogs of a New Year and talk about upcoming trends in the wine world. I’m always reading about wine and so I find it interesting when they come to fruition. In the past, I have written about wine in cans, Rose becoming even more popular and online wine sales growing. Here’s a few trends to look for this year.

  1. Chilling Red Wines

Putting light and fruity red wines into an ice bucket, just like you would white wines, has been a practice of Sommeliers in culinary hot spots like New York and San Francisco for years now. This trend has taken off everywhere. It’s no longer taboo to chill red wines, and people were once embarrassed for putting ice in red wine, but our room temperatures are too warm for red wine. This is a topic that comes up in every wine tasting. People admitting to chilling red wine. Well, I do too. I try to bring it down to 15-degrees Celsius. And your lighter fruitier wines like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel taste much better when chilled. Here’s a wine you can try chilling and let me know what you think.

Bread & Butter Pinot Noir

This wine has made a bit of a comeback in my wine rack. I’ve had it the last few Friday nights and I just love it. Smooth, easy to drink and much better when chilled. It’s $23 a bottle and available in just about every province in Canada. I enjoyed it while home for Christmas as well.

2. Low Alcohol Wines

People are choosing a healthier lifestyle and many people can be conflicted with choosing healthy and still enjoying their favorite beverage, whether it be with a meal or all on its own. Wine makers are listening, and more are coming out with low alcohol or zero alcohol wines.

Nova Scotia’s award winning winery Benjamin Bridge has come out with a non-alcohol version called Piquette Zero.

I haven’t tried it yet, but their website describes it as

“Piquette Zero is a lively and delicious alcohol-free wine-style beverage, offering a creative and unprecedented craft option to industrially dealcoholized wines that are so often stripped of their character.”

3. Cocktails will be popular and simple

One of my favorite cocktails

I made this cocktail for guests last Christmas and have served it several times since. Easy. Cranberry juice, Prosecco, lime juice and fresh cranberries in the glass to give it a festive look, and a lime wedge. You could take it a step further by adding a liquor like Grand Marnier.

Beauty of Chaos Cabernet

I have tried this beauty recently, and it’s appropriately called Beauty of Chaos. On sale right now, it’s under $17 a bottle. From the Columbia Valley in Washington State, this big juicy Cabernet is a great wine at a great price. Gorgeous berry flavors.

Well, the Omicron variant has hit Atlantic Canada hard. I did get to Newfoundland for Christmas, which was awesome. As the sign says, wine is the glue that is holding this shitshow together.

Stay safe everyone. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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The First Day of 2022

The 1st Day of 2022

I think many people were expecting to kick 2021 in the ass, and celebrate 2022 in style. Unfortunately, Omicron said ‘hold my beer’. I think this is how many of us are approaching 2022. Very cautiously!

If you’re nervous, you’re not alone

I apologize for the absence, but I just got back yesterday from 12 days in Newfoundland. It was a great Christmas, albeit very quiet. Sadly, I didn’t get to visit any friends, but I did have a great time with family. My Mom turns 87 January 5th and we were being super careful.

Happy New Year to all my readers. Thank you for joining me in another year of discovering great wine at affordable prices. I’m not sure how you celebrated New Year’s Eve, but I was in PJ’s by 5 p.m. and in bed by 9 p.m. But I crossed over on the Newfoundland ferry the night before and didn’t get a lot of sleep. I did, however, BBQ on New Year’s Eve.

Preparing the spice mixture

This might look like a wonky omelet in the making, but it’s the starter of my meatballs. In this bowl, bread crumbs, milk, 1 egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian season, hot sauce, & a little BBQ sauce.

Flavor
Love these aluminum pans

This is what the finished product looks like.

My sauce recipe is very simple

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup

And I used a little curly parsley as a garnish. Delicious, and you can freeze them, and have them any time you need a quick meal.

Ok. Let’s talk some wine. Normally the first wine blog of the year talks about upcoming wine trends. But I’ll do that next week. I want to share a couple of gifts I received.

I’ve been blessed

To say my family went a little overboard on the gifts, would be an understatement. I did very well.

My friend Sandra gave me this Prosecco.

I love Prosecco

I love Prosecco, it’s so festive. I haven’t had this Villa Francesca yet, but I am willing to bet it’s delicious. It’s so affordable, this particular one is $18 a bottle, and Prosecco is crisp and refreshing and goes with everything.

My nephew Brady, who I stayed home longer than planned so I could see him, gave me this beauty.

Francis Ford Coppola Zinfandel

I’ve had this wine before, and it’s a gorgeous treat wine. It’s about $50 a bottle and I had bought this one year before to watch the Oscar’s. It is after all, Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Cut Zinfandel. You used to be able to buy it here, but apparently the one store that carried it, is not carrying it anymore. That makes this gift all the more special. From Sonoma County in California, this is a rich and full-bodied wine, that I’ll be saving for my next feed of baby back ribs or a steak.

Maggie’s 1st Christmas

On a closing note, this was Maggie’s first Christmas with our family and what a fun time she had. The gorgeous scarf she is wearing was a gift from me, and made by my friend Angie. It has her name on it and looks so cute on her. She also received lots of toys.

I hope all of you had a Christmas as wonderful as Maggie. Till next week, Cheers. And Happy New Year

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A Few of My Favorite Wines from 2021

2021 is almost over

Today is my first day of holidays for just over 2 weeks, and tomorrow I’m heading to Newfoundland for Christmas. I didn’t get home last year because we were on another Covid lockdown, so I’m really looking forward to this year. 2021 proved to be another interesting year to say the least, but it went surprisingly fast, for me anyway. I was really happy to do a couple of wine tastings this year, I got home to Newfoundland in July, my first visit in a year. And I’ve had some great wines. I’d like to share a few of my favorites from this past year.

Back in March I had this wonderful new white wine. A great priced Chardonnay out of California, Trinity Oaks. The grapes come from sustainably vineyards and they plant a tree for every bottle they sell. This Chardonnay was wonderful with pear and citrus flavors and priced around the $22 mark.

Last March I also introduced you to the newest member of our family.

Maggie at 8 weeks

Riley picked up Maggie, the addition to our family, at Coastal Breezes in Antigonish and we took her to the airport. She still has her tongue out for most pictures. This is Riley with Maggie in his arms.

Maggie & Riley

Maggie is a bit too big to be in Riley’s arms now. And I just spent last weekend with her, and she’s grown more.

More Beautiful every day
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A fantastic Rose wine

This past Summer I had a wine tasting and I bought this Rose. The Gerard Betrand Cote des Rose was excellent. I think it was the best one I’ve had this year. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, it is not sweet in any way and priced under $20. The bottle is exceptionally pretty but not as good as the wine inside. It’s crisp and vibrant and I absolutely love this rose wine.

This past year also saw me making new friends, one being a wonderful lady who reads my blog every week.

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Jean

This past year also had me reconnecting with childhood friends.

Me & Shane

Shane and I have been friends since early teens, and although we have both lived in different parts of the country, we saw each other when we could. Well, now we both live in Nova Scotia, and I’m over the moon happy to see him when I’m in Antigonish or when he comes to Halifax. Here’s to seeing a lot more of Shane in 2022. He loves wine, just like me! Shane also introduced me to one of my favorite wines of 2021.

Bolla Le Poiane Ripasso

Ripasso reds are such interesting wines. The Valpolicella grape juice is poured over the must and skins of Amarone, giving it a complexity that is delicious. And it’s not often the price of wines go down, but I saw Shane last weekend and he pointed out that the price of this wine dropped $3 permanently. Even a better deal.

It’s been a challenging 2 years, 22 months with Covid, and my family lives in Newfoundland. Thankfully I have been able to see them. But I have to say a big thank you to my friends. I have been blessed with wonderful friends and they got me through many tough times in 2021. Here’s to more great times in 2022.

You may remember my sister Jackie gave me a gorgeous BBQ for Christmas last year.

It has the steak sear zone.

Which cooks an amazing steak.

I’ve tried and shared many recipes.

I do a lot of cooking.

But I digress. Let’s talk some more wine.

Dogajolo

I discovered this Italian red this past week, and will definitely be buying it again. Under $20, the Dogajolo Toscano red is a Super Tuscan, Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. A gorgeous medium bodied wine that makes a great addition to any Christmas get together.

Well, that’s it for me for today. I would like to take a moment to wish every reader of my wine blog a very Merry Christmas, and here’s to a great 2022. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Darlene

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Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Hello December! At work on Wednesday, I couldn’t believe it was already December 1st. This Fall just flew by, even November where it seemed it rained every day

This is what my BBQ looked like for most of November. It was a windy and wet one. Today it’s sunny and we have a wind chill of -12-degrees. Hello December!

Grumpy Xmas
I miss Grumpy Cat

My sister and my brother-in-law are coming this week on Tuesday. Yay! She is one of my favorite people on the planet. And I love him, he is the brother I never had. I’m so excited.

They are crossing over the ferry tonight, heading to Antigonish, where their son Riley is going to St. FX University. So, while she is here, I may make this dessert. Jackie loves chocolate, and I know she would love this Chocolate Lasagna.

Chocolate Lasagna

You can find the easy to make recipe here. Oh, and Maggie is coming too.

So Maggie is going to stay with Riley and Jackie and Craig are coming to Halifax on Tuesday to do some Christmas shopping. I took a couple of days off this week to spend with her, and then on Friday evening I’m heading to Antigonish to spend the weekend with all of them. So, there won’t be a wine blog next weekend.

Let’s talk some wine. Well, first, let’s talk when wine and beer meet.

A local craft beer company, North Brewing, has teamed up with Benjamin Bridge, the award winning winery in the Annapolis Valley, to create Blanc Grisette conditioned on the skins of Sauvignon Blanc. It was so delicious. Crisp and light, I enjoyed this after work yesterday evening. I loved it.

I booked my trip home yesterday, going home for Christmas for 10 days. Because of a Covid lockdown, I couldn’t get home last Christmas, and it was our first Christmas without my Dad. So I’m really looking forward to getting home for Christmas this year. My mom drinks white wine, and this is one of her favorites.

Apothic White

Although I find the Apothic red wines OK, I really like the white. It is available in every province and it’s priced at around the $20 mark. It’s a delicious blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Grigio, and it’s a great addition to any Christmas party. It’s a wonderful food wine, because Chardonnay will bring the body and the texture, Riesling and Pinot Grigio will bring acidity and provide a perfect balance. If you try this wine, I would love to know what you think.

Esteban Martin

I decided to try this new wine from Spain a little while ago. It’s a Garnacha – Syrah blend. Garnacha is Grenache, so it’s comparable to a Cote du Rhone from France. This is a great wine, normally priced under $17, and now on sale. So a great time to try it. Great peppery notes and wine critic James Suckling gave this wine, which is under $15, 92 Points.

That’s it for me this week. Till next week, Cheers

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Wine Tastings Are Fun

Some they tasted blind

Last Saturday evening I did a wine tasting. It was my 4th tasting in this building. We had some first-timers and some familiar faces. We had a lot of fun, some great laughs and we tried some great wines. My challenge for this wine tasting was two fold. It was important I didn’t bring any repeat wines, and I wanted to mix it up a bit.

A fun group of people

Some of you might feel intimidated at the thought of going to or attending a wine tasting. Don’t be! I’ve done wine tastings for as few as 6 people and as many as 30. Although last Saturday’s wine tasting was in the Common Room of an apartment building, I’ve done most in people’s homes. Get a group of friends together in your home, bring someone in that knows wine, and it will be fun and informative. Food is always a nice touch. Most people do a charcuterie board style with cheese, crackers and some meats.

So let’s talk some wine.

Grand Pre Sparkling

We kicked off the evening with a locally made Sparkling wine, from Grand Pre Vineyard in Nova Scotia. Champlain Sparkling Brut was named after Samuel de Champlain, the person credited with mapping Nova Scotia. This wine was made in the traditional method and is a gorgeous dry Sparkling wine.

Then we did comparisons, in both a white and a red. Let’s start with the white wine that won the evening.

Vinho Verde

Hands down the winner of the evening. Vinho Verde is a region in Portugal that is putting out some great wines at even greater prices. It is not a grape variety, it is a region. Most have some effervescence, this one had very little. Vinho Verde means green wine or young wine. Beautiful wine with great acidity and priced at $13.99. Pick one up this season to enjoy with family or friends. Great food wine.

As I mentioned earlier, we did a comparison of a couple of expensive wines, with reasonable priced wines, to show people that great wine doesn’t have to be expensive. We tasted them blindly, I had the wines in paper bags and we tasted them side by side. The lower priced wines won both times.

The top photo is the Heritage Chateauneuf du Pape, priced at $55. Almost 3 times the amount of the Cote du Rhone in the bottom picture. Most people liked the bottom wine more. Both from France, both from the same region, Cote du Rhone, and both made with the Grenache grape. The Cote du Rhone on the bottom also has Syrah added. It’s less than $18 at $17.78 and what a deal. Spectacular wine. And a great wine to have with your favorite comfort foods, now that the temperatures are dropping.

That’s it for me for this week. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Making November A Little Less Dreary

November in Halifax

We had a fabulous September and October weather-wise here in Halifax, but we’ve seen our fair share of rain in November. There’s a special weather statement in effect for Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, we could get over 150 mm of rain with high winds.

People have asked why I’m putting up some Christmas lights a little early, well it makes things look less dreary. Plus, they bring me joy, and we could all use joy.

My foyer

This is what outside my apartment door looks like right now. The lights in the holiday swag are battery operated and so pretty.

Gabriel

Here Gabriel is checking out the Christmas decorations in my entrance way. Not sure what to think, although this is our 4th Christmas together.

You know what also brings me joy? Probably not too hard to guess, since you’re reading a wine blog. Wine. And food. I get a lot of joy from food as well.

Wings & Potatoes on the BBQ

I do love grilling all year round, and experimenting with new recipes. I normally do wings in the air fryer, but I tried a dry rub, grilled them, and finished them in the air fryer for crispiness. They came out pretty good!

Let’s talk some wine. I have a wine tasting tonight, where we are doing some comparisons between grapes in different price ranges. I’m really looking forward to it, as there are a couple of new wines I’ll be featuring tonight. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

Many new wines have arrived at the NSLC recently. I tried one last night.

I love the label and had to try the wine. Plus it had a great price point, $12.49. Love the lips, and how they call it ‘easy going red’. To my friends in Newfoundland, it’s available there as well, and it’s on sale there right now. It’s a fun and easy to drink red blend. I looked everywhere on the Internet and on the bottle, and no where could I find the grapes used in this wine. But it’s tasty and definitely worth the purchase.

Bu Vivere Sangiovese

This is another new wine I’ve tried in the past couple of weeks, a Sangiovese out of Italy. This is another great value that will only be at our liquor stores for a limited time, it’s $14.99 a bottle, and it’s fresh and fruity with some spicy notes. It’s a great bottle of wine to bring if you’re invited somewhere for dinner.

I know I didn’t do a wine blog last weekend, I had company all weekend, and just didn’t get the chance. i’m really looking forward to my wine tasting tonight, and sharing some of the new wines I’ll be introducing tonight.

I’ll tell you all about them next weeki’ll tell you all about them next week
Cheers

Darlene

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International Merlot Day

International Merlot Day

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog, knows I’m a huge Merlot fan. It’s luscious and sexy, easy to drink and very food friendly. Merlot is known as a chameleon because it adapts to many climates, taking on the character of both its location and winemaking techniques. Which makes Merlot so interesting. Depending on where its grown, and who the winemaker is, it can have subtle nuances. I find it a super interesting wine. Here are some of my favorites.

Carta Vieja Merlot from Chile

Chile is producing some fantastic Merlot wines. Chile is producing some great wines period. Although Merlot was bought to South America in the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the Chile & Argentina wine boom of the 1990’s that people started appreciating the Merlot made there. This is a great Merlot for $18.

This one is fantastic as well, also from Chile at just $20 a bottle.

Santa Ema Gran Reserve Merlot

Merlot is also a big grape in a Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux labels its wine by region, so it’s a little more hard to determine which has more Merlot, and which has more Cabernet Sauvignon. A Bordeaux is always a blend, and If you buy a wine from the Left Bank, regions like Haut-Medoc, Margaux or Paulliac, they will contain Merlot, but be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. The Right Bank of Bordeaux is Merlot dominant. Regions like Saint Emilion and Pomerol. These tend to pricier Merlot wines.

Chateau Le Puy

This Chateau le Puy is a spectacular wine, and is a blend. 85% of this wine is Merlot with some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. Bordeaux wines age extremely well so at $36, this is a great value.
A wine from next-door to this region, is the Château Puyfromage

This wine is also from Bordeaux, it’s also a blend, and comes frm right next-door to the region of Saint Emilion. Merlot is still the dominant grape but it’s a little more affordable at $22.79 a bottle.

Another French Merlot

This Merlot is also from France, but much more affordable, I tried it last night for the first time. Baron Philip De Rothschild Merlot is on sale in my area right now for less than $15 a bottle. I found this to be a softer Merlot, some notes of raspberry, coffee and spice. Tasty, but definitely a softer medium bodied Merlot, whereas most Merlot wines are more on the full-bodied side.

Candor Merlot

And last but not least, one of my favourite Merlot wines. California can make some beautiful Merlot wine, and this one from Paso Robles is so very good. This wine is luscious and plummy on the palate. (Plummy is a word, right?) I just love it, and it comes in that around the $25 price range.

That’s it for me for this week. Have a fun weekend. Don’t forget to put your clocks back and enjoy the extra hour sleep. and our trip to Bordeaux France is going ahead in April 2022, check out all the details here. I would love to see you on the trip.

Darlene

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Fun Facts About Wine

I must be a Genius

If this statement is true, I must be a freaking genius! I know wine can be responsible for some witty come-backs and awesome dance moves. We are going to have a bit of fun in this week’s wine blog with some fun facts about wine and I’ll tell you about a couple of new wines I tried this past week.

Did you know grapes are the most planted fruit in the world.

Now, grapes are used in making more than just wine. Some people eat them as is (boring!), they can also be used to makes jams, jellies, and juice. My favorite way to consume a grape, happens to be in a glass. A tonne of grapes can also produce 720 bottles of wine, so here’s to a tons of grapes.

Wine is mentioned in the Bible

There are all kinds of references to wine in the bible. The Bible also speaks of wine in general terms as a bringer and concomitant of joy, particularly in the context of nourishment and feasting. One of my favorite quotes “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart”

During the early Roman times, it was forbidden for women to drink wine.

I’m a Champion

Officially, by Roman law, drinking wine by a woman was a crime and even the death penalty was sentenced. In addition, at Roman “parties”, the closest ones could kiss the girl on the lips to see if she had not been drinking before. Thankfully I wasn’t born back then. Whew! Hey, if you’re kissing my lips, there’s going to wine on them. Just a heads up.

 “Aroma” is the term for the fragrance of young wine, while “Mellow” is for old wine.

When I was studying to become a Sommelier, I learned the importance of smelling wine. Smelling your wine, is an important part of the tasting ritual. Wine tasters will stick their noses deep into a glass (an important reason not to fill it too high) and inhale deeply, then angle the glass this way and that as they continue to assess the wine’s aromas. In blind wine tastings, the aroma was very important in identifying a grape variety. My instructor used to say, you identify by your nose and confirm by tasting. And swirling the wine helps release the aromas. As a matter of fact, you’ll see me smell the wine first, swirl and smell it again. We learn the different aromas that are released by swirling.

Spitting wine can be acceptable.

But honestly, why spit. When I was studying to become a Sommelier, we tasted many wines each evening. One night it was up to 50. In a case like that you have to spit. At a wine-tasting event, it is also acceptable to spit the wine out. It is OK to take a sip of wine and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds and then decide to swallow or spit it out. This allows people to taste many different wines without getting drunk.

Fred, Angie, Joan & Me

My friends Fred & Arla got home from Alberta recently and we got together to have a glass of wine with Angie and Joan. We shared a wine that was given to me by my niece and her husband, when I had them over for dinner last Sunday.

Doug Gilmour 93 Red

I met Doug Gilmour briefly at the Radio Station I work at, when he was in for an interview while visiting Halifax. He was such a gentleman, kind and gracious to the staff. At the time, I had no idea he was such a wine lover. Apparently, wine has long been a passion of the Maple Leafs legend. I definitely would have chatted about that if I had known. Doug Gilmour 93 comes in both a white and red, and we enjoyed the red the other evening. It was a very interesting wine. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, and I can honestly say, it’s the first time I have had Pinot Noir mixed in with a traditional Bordeaux type of blend.

That’s it for me for this week. Happy Halloween!

Darlene

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Re-connecting with Friends

I had the most wonderful week this week, and I wanted to share. The person in this picture was one of my best friends growing up, we met when we were in our early teens and hung out together. I also learned to skateboard because of this guy, he was excellent on a skateboard when we were younger. We grew up in Corner Brook Newfoundland together and as we turned into adults, we moved to different parts of the country. The last time I saw him was 15 years ago, when I lived at home for a few years and he was home visiting from Toronto. Now he and his husband have retired in Antigonish and I live in Halifax, and he was coming to town. We reconnected over several wonderful bottles of wine. How’s this for a blast from the past.

We were kids, all dressed up for a fancy night out at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook. Somewhere I have a picture of myself and Shane, when I went to Shane’s high school graduation with him in 1978. We’ve been friends for a long time, and I think I have met the person who loves red wine as much as I do. Before dinner we shared a bottle of awesome wine. A Ripasso.

Everyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows how much I love Ripasso. Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone wines are indeed special and unique. Shane had a great name for Ripasso, he called it Baby Amarone. Amarone is produced with grapes dried for 3 months, Valpolicella Ripasso is made with 2 fermentations, the first one with fresh Valpolicella grapes and the second one in contact with Amarone skins. This La Poiane Valpolicella Ripasso was spectacular. A great price at just $25.99, we enjoyed it while catching up, but it would also be fantastic with food.

As a matter of fact, we continued with the Ripasso theme over dinner. We went to Amano, an Italian Ristorante in downtown Halifax. It was my first time there and it was fabulous. I had the most delicious roasted beet and arugula salad to start, and then I had the Penne alla Boscaiola. I couldn’t tell you how to pronounce it, but it was penne sauteed with roasted chicken, bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, parmigiano and a demi-glace.

The picture is a little dark because the restaurant was a little dark. Shane had the Margherita pizza, which he let me try, and it was delicious. Very much like the Margherita pizza I had in Rome. And the wine we had while enjoying our fantastic food? This Ripasso

This isn’t my picture

The Zenato Ripasso is only available at Bishops Cellar here in Halifax, a privately owned gorgeous wine store next to the restaurant we went to. But it is available at most provincial liquor stores across Canada. This too was a wonderful treat. It was lush and had a gorgeous lingering finish. I would definitely buy this wine again.

We finished the meal with coffee. Shane had an espresso and I pulled a rookie wine drinking move. I had a coffee and Bailey’s topped with lots of whipped cream. It was tasty, however, as I said, a rookie move on my part. Every experienced red wine drinker knows not to mix creamy stuff with red wine. Tip for my readers. If you are drinking red wine, stay away from whipped cream.

So that’s it for me for this week. Yesterday was a fun day at work! I had a delivery of some wine from New Brunswick, from a friend and colleague who travelled up there.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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I Love Fall

One thing I know for certain, Atlantic Canada is a stunningly beautiful place in the Fall. Between the gorgeous colors and the cooler crisp temperatures, it is my all time favorite time of the year. I currently live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I am originally from a beautiful area of Atlantic Canada, Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The West Coast of Newfoundland is home to the amazing Gros Morne National Park, Marble Mountain Ski Hill and this is where I grew up.

Steady Brook on the West Coast of NL

This next picture doesn’t do the view justice, as I was grilling last night, as the sun was going down, I tried to capture the gorgeous sky and the pretty Fall colors. Yes, I keep clear lights on my balcony all year round. Now that it is getting darker much earlier, I like them on when I’m out using my barbecue.

The view from my deck

It’s also a great time for comfort food and great wine. I have a great maple curry chicken pasta dish I made this past week. I’ll share the recipe shortly, yes, that is homemade cheese toast and a robust red to compliment.

Bowtie pasta with cheese toast
Trapiche Reserve Malbec

Speaking of robust reds, my friend Angie bought this Trapiche Reserve Malbec and shared with me. I don’t buy a lot of Malbec, but I enjoyed this very much, and it’s as wonderful on the wallet as it is on the palate, coming in under $15. Plum and spice notes, with a hint of vanilla. We were playing our weekly game of Rummikub but it would also go nicely with food.

Bread & Butter Pinot Noir

I know I’ve written about this wine in the past, but I bought it again last Friday night. I was do some meal prep for my nephew, and was sipping along. This is so smooth and so flavorful, it’s one of my favorite PInot Noir wines and it’s only $22 a bottle. And that really is a great price for a great Pinot.

Maple curry chicken pasta

I don’t know why, but I don’t eat a lot of pasta in the Summer. So last weekend, I made one of my favorites, a maple curry chicken pasta. I cut chicken breast up in bite size pieces and cooked that in olive oil and some curry powder. I used bowtie pasta, but you can use penne. This is so quick and easy. Saute onions and bell peppers, add the cooked pasta & cooked chicken, and pour in maple syrup. Let that simmer. Then I normally add cream and curry paste, but I was out of curry paste, so I used curry powder, heavy cream and some of the pasta water to make the sauce and let that simmer. Oh, and I added bacon. I mean, pasta is so much better with bacon.

You could enjoy this with a hearty white wine, like this one

Trinity Oaks Chardonnay

Or you could try this new red, which I enjoyed last night for the first time

It’s very seldom I see a red wine in a clear bottle. A rule of thumb, any wine, whether red or white, that comes in a clear bottle should be consumed within 3 years. Which is why most whites are in clear bottles, the majority of them should be consumed within 3 years. So I was a little concerned when I got this home and realized it was a 2016. It was on clearance, regular priced at around $17, on for $13.50. Honestly, I feel our liquor store was a little late putting this on clearance.

It was the Bree Merlot from France, and I love Merlot from France, normally. Most of the French Merlot wines I’ve had have been in Bordeaux blends, but I love the Left Bank of Bordeaux where Merlot dominates. And although it was good, I could tell it was starting to show its age. There was a little bit of a bitterness, but otherwise it was tasty. I wish I had found it earlier. But the fruit still shone through and the empty bottle this morning will tell you it went down more than OK.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and although everyone will admit, the last 19 months have been extremely challenging, I hope we can all find something to be grateful for. Much of Canada is experiencing its 4th Wave of Covid-19 and some families and friends are not able to get together for Thanksgiving for the second year in a row. This has been very tough for many people, and hard on people’s hearts and mental health. Covid fatigue is a real thing, and I understand it completely.

Me voicing ads

But this weekend I am going to focus on the good things, and there are many of them. I have a great family, my Mom will be 87 in 3 months and she is doing great. I have a sister whom I adore, and her family is my family too. I have wonderful friends, that I feel I can count on and have helped me a lot over the past 19 months. I have a job that I really enjoy, (most of the time LOL). And I am grateful for this little fella, Gabriel.

Gabriel

Gabriel is a cat that was severely abused, and I started fostering him over three years ago. He was so scared when I first got him, he lived under the bed and hissed at me for 3 straight months.

Gabriel feels safe now

Now he’s turned into Mr. Social. He greets my friends at the door, and is just a gorgeous kitty. As you can see he had parts of his ears chopped off, and had his teeth kicked in, so you can understand why he was hesitant to trust. He is the baby of the household now, and he knows it.

Me & Tigger

I wasn’t always a cat person, I adopted Tigger when I lived out West and together we lived in 8 cities and towns in 4 provinces. He was over 20 years old when he passed, I had him for 20 years and the vet figured he was 5 months old when I adopted him. This is what good living looks like, Tigger was well known and well loved.

Leo aka Batman

After Tigger died, I didn’t know what to do. So I fostered a kitty cat that was very sick. He had feline leukemia and had limited time, but I got 2 years of wonderful enjoyment out of this ‘little’ fella! I swear Leo had it so good he hung on a lot longer than anyone thought he would. I always said he didn’t want to give up the treats or the good life. I only ever have 1 kitty at a time, and they seem to love all the attention.

So, let’s talk some wine.

Ruffino Prosecco

I’ve tried a new Prosecco recently and if you are planning on having any kind of celebration this weekend, try it. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine, that is tasty and inexpensive. This wine is $20, and most of them are under $20, so they are easy on the wallet. This one is dry and crisp with a light acidity and nice tart citrus flavors. Great for your appetizers, and we enjoyed this with a charcuterie board, and it was wonderful.

655 Miles Cabernet

Here’s a wonderful new red I’ve tried recently. 655 Miles Cabernet Sauvignon out of California. When I bought it, it was $17 and what a great price on a great wine. Well, I just checked and its on sale here in Nova Scotia, so I’ll definitely be adding a couple of bottles to the wine rack. It’s actually a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvigngon, 5% Petite Sirah and 3% Syrah, so it’s a super interesting and complex wine. I searched and searched but couldn’t find the reason behind the name, 655 Miles. But it’s a beautiful bottle and the wine is full-bodied with a generous lingering finish and good tannins.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend to my Canadian friends and readers, and to the rest of the world, have a great weekend. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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New Friends & New Favorites

Riley & Maggie

Starting this week’s wine blog with some serious cuteness! 2 of my loves, my nephew Riley and my sister’s Bernadoodle puppy Maggie. Yes, she is a puppy, about 8 months now.

Something exciting happened to me in the past week. I got to meet one of my readers that lives in Ottawa. When you’ve been writing a weekly blog for several years, no matter what the topic, you always question yourself and “are people reading”? That’s why I really appreciate any comments and feedbacks, and the friends and readers that share my wine blog with their family and friends on social media and through email.

Jean from Ottawa

This is Jean from Ottawa, and when I met her I had to give her a hug. I felt I knew her through our mutual friend Angie, and she said she felt she was getting to know me through my wine blog. That’s why I’ve always felt wine is so much more than just a beverage. It helps make a good time even more special and brings friends, old and new, together.

My friend Judy

Jean was visiting so my friend Angie decided to open a special bottle of Champagne that she received for a very special birthday. The above picture is of my friend Judy, who I also met through Angie, enjoying the special champagne.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne

I love a good dry not sweet Champagne, and this one was damn near close to perfect. When you see the word ‘Brut’ on a label, you know the wine inside is not sweet, it’s dry. Champagne is made with 3 grapes, 2 of which are red. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with no skin contact. Sparkling wines are made worldwide, but you know when you see the word ‘Champagne’, it came from Champagne France. No other sparkling wine is allowed to use that word, even if it’s made in the same traditional way, using the same grapes. The winemaker, also called the Blender, has the job of combining grapes and vintages so that the ‘House Champagne’ tastes the same year after year.

I tried another awesome white wine this past week.

Director of Fun Richard

This is my friend and the Director of Fun for Atlantic Tours, Richard. Richard came to my building last week and did a talk to some of the residents about upcoming trips. We enjoyed a glass of wine, and one of them was a white Bordeaux. Go to http://www.atlantictours.com and find out about our River Cruise to Bordeaux France in 2022. This fantastic blend consists of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and Muscadelle. The 2018 we enjoyed received the honors of Best Value Buy of 2019 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. With its gorgeous bright flavors, I think Richard told me it’s on sale right now for $15 or $16 right now. Still just around $20 a bottle, it’s a great wine.

Before I get into my new red, and I have tried a couple of new ones recently, I have to tell you about a pork tenderloin recipe that changed my mind on pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin it’s like a blank canvas, and really needs a lot of flavour thrown at it. If it’s overcooked, it’s pretty boring. I have found a fabulous pork tenderloin recipe.

It starts with butterflying the pork tenderloin. My stuffing was simple. I sauteed onions and apples in butter and oil, with a dash of cinnamon and a drop of maple syrup, and salt and pepper of course. I added that mixture to the bread crumbs and stuffed the tenderloin.

Bacon makes it better

I’m not usually one for bacon wrapped meat, but my friend told me about this recipe and I decided to try it.

Then I put that on the grill.

Always let it rest

I used a meat thermometer to bring it to a medium, 145-degrees. Then I covered it in aluminum foil and let it rest.

Oh. My. God. It’s like the bacon became part of the tenderloin, and was so moist and tasty. I’m addicted.

Now, The new red wine…..

Roscato Dark Red Blend

Richard bought this red to our event, and I really enjoyed it. it’s a fantastic value at $16.99 and it’s a red blend that consists of Merlot and two indigenous grapes from Italy, Teroldego and Lagrein. it’s medium to full bodied, it has been aged in oak, but the fruit definitely shines from the wine. It’s plump and juicy with subtle hints of coffee, vanilla and chocolate, and a perfect wine for meat.

Here’s to a wonderful week of new friends and new favourites. Cheers

Darlene

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The Reds of Last Week’s Wine Tasting

Last week I told you I did my first wine-tasting in 19 months, and we had such a great time. We did 8 wines at this particular tasting, so last week I covered the first 5 wines, which were the sparkling, the rose and the whites. This week I’m going to share the red wines.

We had 3 red wines, and started the evening with a Pinot Noir

MacMurray Pinot Noir

From the Russian River Valley in California, I love this Pinot Noir. One of the ladies who didn’t think they liked Pinot Noir, because their experience in the past was a ‘wimpy’ one, like this. This is not a full-bodied wine, it’s medium bodied, but lots of flavor. I found how they used the oak was very interesting. It spent 8months in both French and American oak, but the really interesting part was 20% new barrels and 80% used barrels. The used barrels imparts less oak flavor onto the wine, but ages it smoothly.

Septima Gran Reserva from Argentina

This wine is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. When I opened this wine during the wine tasting, the cork crumbled in my hand. I was very concerned. I tried the wine, and although it hadn’t gone skunky yet, you knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the wine was tainted. This is a big bold full-bodied red, great for red meat. All the ladies agreed it wasn’t their favorite wine to sip on, but would compliment food, and I had to agree. Even though it was breathing for about 90 minutes, it didn’t soften the wine. This wine comes in at $42.50 a bottle.

And last but not least, my personal favorite of the evening

Casella 2010 Cabernet

I don’t usually take Australian wines to a wine-tasting, but on a leap of faith from Alex at the NSLC, I took this wine and it was my favorite. Many lesser priced Australian wines can have manipulated oaky flavors, and be a little too oaky for me. Not all, but many. This was not the case with the 2010 Casella Cabernet Sauvignon. It was spectacular. Full-bodied but the oak didn’t overpower, and the 2010 vintage has won awards all over the world. This wine was $50 a bottle, and I have to say it was totally worth it. This is a wine you can sip on its own, or enjoy with food.

Relaxing weekends

If you are interested in having a wine tasting in your home, reach out to me at darlenemyers@hotmail.com. I can do a wine tasting that fits your budget. Next week, I have a Champagne to share with you, a pork tenderloin that changed my mind on pork tenderloin and a new red.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Wine Tastings Are Back

Last Friday I did my very first wine tasting in 18 months. Ask me if I was excited. It was so great to start them again, and what a way to kick off another wine-tasting season. We had so much fun and so many great wines.

Such a fun group

A very big thank you to Barb for hosting and to Donna for passing along my name, and to all the ladies who made it such fun. I hope the rest of your weekend was just as fun. We had some great laughs, tried some good wines, and some great wines. And the higher priced wines weren’t necessarily the best ones. We did 8 wines, and I’m going to start with the whites this week, and I’ll cover the reds next week.

We actually started with a Rose wine

Gerard Bertrand Rose

I absolutely loved this wine, and some of the ladies had had it before. This should become a new classic. It’s an excellent price at just $19.99 and a vibrant non-sweet rose wine that’s a blend of 3 grapes, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. I think it’s my new favorite rose. I’ll definitely be buying it againn.

Then we tried an amazing sparkling wine from award winning winemaker Jean Benoit Deslauriers at Benjamin Bridge here in Nova Scotia.

The hand-crafted small lot 2015 Brut from Benjamin Bridge was spectacular. Normally when I do wine tastings, I bring a great sparkling wine at a great price, like a Prosecco. However, when it’s a limited edition, small lot, and there was literally only 2 bottles left, you had to have one. Once this is gone, it’s gone, so what a wonderful treat for the ladies to share this wine. I have also bought the non-vintage Brut which is about $28. This beauty was $50, but it was a spectacular example of a traditional made sparkling wine, and we enjoyed every sip.

The true temperature of ‘room temperature’ red wine is always an interesting discussion at wine tastings.

The next white was a bit of a surprise to us, as it was the most expensive but no one picked it as their favorite.

Rose Rock Chardonnay

Oregon is one of my favorite Pinot Noir producing areas. And I thought that since Oregon is so similar in terroir to Burgundy France that the Chardonnay would be exceptional as well. This wine was $52 a bottle, and sadly, I don’t feel it was worth the money. The slogan is ‘French Soul, Oregon Soil’, and although I didn’t find the Chardonnay overly oaky, one of the ladies couldn’t drink it because she found it oaky. Everyone has a different palate. It was tasty, but I’ve tasted better for less money.

And now for the wine of the week, and the hands down favorite white from last week….

Picpoul De PInet

This is always an interesting wine to bring to wine-tastings. No one has heard of the ‘Picpoul’ grape. Picpoul, also known as Folle Blanche, is originally from the south of France, and was used initially in making Cognac and Vermouth. This was a fantastic wine and most everyone was shocked to learn of the $17.50 price tag. It had subtle citrus flavors and just the right amount of acidity. This is a wonderful food wine. The ladies had a charcuterie board which paired very well, and it would also be great for appetizers and salads.

Thank you again ladies, next week I’ll cover the red wines we did.

So our wine tour to the Niagara region of Ontario didn’t go on October 2nd. The rising number of cases were concerning, so we played it safe. I do, however, have a Nova Scotia wine tour to tell you about, a day trip.

Myself and my friend Richard Arnold from Atlantic Wine Tours are doing a day trip to the Annapolis Valley on Tuesday, October 12th. We are going to visit 3 wineries and do tastings, and have a lovely lunch. All the details can be found right here!

The Annapolis Valley

The colors are just gorgeous in the Fall of the year in the Annapolis Valley, and Richard is from there, so he doesn’t an awesome tour. I hope you’ll come join us for a fabulous day in Nova Scotia.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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The Fruits of Their Labour

I love long weekends

This weekend is Labour Day weekend, and I’d like to dedicate this blog to all the workers involved in making our favourite beverage…Wine! A hats off to the workers that we do not see or meet. There are so many people involved in the making of your favorite wine. From the people who plant the vines, cultivate and harvest the grapes, and to those that are involved in the wine-making process, Cheers to you this Labour Day weekend. I’d also like to say a big thank you to the people who stock the shelves and help bring this awesome beverage into our lives.

On another note, I was double-checking to see how to spell Labour Day, and our American friends spell it ‘Labor’, while the British spell it ‘Labour’. And since Canada is still a British colony, I’ll go with Labour. But I digress, let’s talk some wine.

Yes, yes it is!

My friends Fred and Arla are leaving today for Alberta. They have a grandson Sage that’s almost 2, and another one on the way. So they are going up to take care of Sage while their son & daughter-in-law have baby #2. So we had a little get together last night, to have a farewell sip. Fred and Arla are both drinking whites at the moment. This is one my friend Angie bought for the occasion.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio

Ruffino has been making wine for 140 years, so they are pretty darn good at it. This is a bright and lively white wine with great acidity and gorgeous herbal and lemon flavors. It’s a great deal normally under $16, and it’s even reduced further right now. It’s also super food-friendly. Yes, it’s totally acceptable to drink white after Labour Day 🥂

Before I tell you about a great new value red, let’s talk ribs.

It’s not officially a long weekend until I do some baby back ribs. My hometown of Corner Brook Newfoundland had its first Ribfest this year, and I missed it by one weekend. I had recognized one of the participants from Ribfest in Halifax.

Rule #1. Take off that fatty membrane layer at the back of your ribs. It keeps fat in and flavor out.

In my baggie, I put brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, BBQ sauce and then orange juice. That’s going to marinate all day, and then I’ll slow cook them in my oven for about 2 hours, and finish them off on the grill. I’ll put some grill marks on the ribs but then I’ll move them to indirect heat to finish cooking.

I’ll let you know how they turn out. In the mean time, I love red wine with baby back ribs. My favorite is probably Zinfandel. And here’s one that won’t break the bank. The Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel is rich and juicy and priced under $18. It’s more of a medium bodied wine, compared to those in the $30-$40 price range that are much more full-bodied!

if you’re up for a treat this weekend, you might want to try this Zinfandel.

I presented this wine and one of my last winetasting before Covid.

1000 Stories

Here’s a very interesting and complex Zinfandel wine, 1000 Stories bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel. I’ve had positive and negative experiences with bourbon barrel aged wine. I have had wines where the bourbon overpowers the flavour of the wine, and it’s boozy in the back of your throat. This one doesn’t do that, the bourbon is quite mild, and the price point is about $38 a bottle.

Meanwhile, here’s a great value wine I had this past week.

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon

This is available everywhere, and in Newfoundland Nova Scotia, it’s on sale right now. From one of the top wine-producing regions in Chile, the Maipo Valley is producing some fine tasting wine at extraordinary decent prices. It’s rich and dark in the glass with beautiful flavors of plum, cassis, oak and mint. It’s a fantastic value, and worth the try.

I’m so excited, I have a wine-tasting coming up this Friday night. I’ll tell you all about it next weekend. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Wine Writer’s Block

I’ve been writing a wine blog since before I started my journey to becoming a Sommelier, and that was almost 10 years ago. Since then I have written over 600 wine blogs. And sometimes, you come to a brick wall. I started this wine blog today a couple of different times, and erased the titles and the topics. It’s naturel a person will have some writer’s block every once in a while.

So, while I’m in a bit of a rut today about writing wine blogs, I’m going to try to get you out of your wine-drinking rut. So many people buy a wine they like and keep buying it. Hey, I have some staples in my wine rack. Go to’s, that you know are good. And wine is expensive, it’s not like most people can afford to buy a wine, especially a treat wine, and not like it. But there are safe ways to expand your wine palate.

  1. Attend a wine tasting if you get the opportunity
Wine tastings are fun

I’m so happy. Wine tastings are starting up again. Now that we can have 25 people in a room unmasked and not social-distanced, I have been booked for 2 wine tastings so far this Fall. Wine tastings are fun and a great opportunity to try different wines at a fraction of the cost. People who go to wine tastings and find a wine they like, tend to take pictures of the wine and pick it up the next time they are out. You don’t even need to hire a Sommelier, gather a group of friends, have each person bring a wine they like, and then the group can try all the wines. However, a Sommelier is a well-trained knowledgeable wine steward who can guide you through a wine tasting, and also pick out a wide variety of wines. It’s a fun way to expand your wine palate.

2. Choose a grape you like from a different country

If you like Pinot Grigio, most of what you’ll find is Italian. Try looking for a Pinot Grigio from a different country, or try its cousin, Pinot Gris. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, try one from a different country than what you are used to. Compare Old World to New World. Because most Old World Wines, those from France, Italy etc, label by region and not by varietal, ask for help. There are big differences between the way California or France would make a wine. Weather has a huge impact on the taste of wines as well, and you’ll probably will be able to detect nuances. Try a Pinot Noir from Canada and try one from Chile, you’ll detect some differences.

2. Try a different grape altogether, but in the color of wine you like.

You’ll feel empowered. If you are a white wine drinker, try a totally different white. If you’re a red wine drinker, try a different red. Again, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Tell your wine store staff member what you like about your favorite wine, and ask them to recommend something different. You’ll feel like the Queen or King of the wine world.

Let’s talk some wine

Pinot Noir is such a great wine for Summer. First of all, you serve it slightly more chilled than you would a big bold red like Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, it’s medium-bodied and the perfect pairing for anything you serve on a plate. This Montes Pinot Noir is from Chile and is a great value, under $19. (It’s also on sale right now here in NS)

There won’t be a wine blog next Saturday as my sister Jackie is coming to town, and I’m helping her get her son set up in a new home in Antigonish.

Till the next time, Cheers

Darlene

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What’s Hot? A Lot!

Damn, It’s hot!

I read this past week there are almost 300 forest fires burning in British Columbia, and 85 of them are in the Okanogan Valley. The Okanogan Valley is home to some of Canada‘s greatest vineyards and wine producers. When wildfires were burning in places like the Napa Valley in the, I got asked by many people how that would affect the wine.

CTV ran this story this past week on how smoke affects wine and what winemakers can do to help alleviate the bitterness and smoky flavors that these wildfires can cause. You can read the full article here, but make no mistake, wildfires in any winemaking region will affect the taste of the wine.

Humidity drives me crazy

Atlantic Canada is in the middle of an extreme heat wave, with high humidity. Not my favorite weather. 🙄 Yesterday saw temperatures of 29° and with humidity it felt like 39°. I’ve always said, extreme heat is no different than extreme cold, it makes it almost impossible to get outdoors and do anything, unless you have a pool in your backyard, which I do not.

Looking for something cool to drink? Let’s talk some beverages

Black Fly Coolers are awesome

On a really hot day, I like a cool drink, but I don’t like them sweet. This Summer I’ve discovered Black Fly coolers, I have Vodka Grapefruit on the right and Vodka citrus on the left. Decisions Decisions! I also picked it up in Vodka punch. I like the coolers, they are very refreshing but not sweet.

Classic White Wine Spritzer

Did you know, for most of my 20’s, I didn’t like dry wine, red or white. So I drank white wine spritzers, basically red or white wine, with something fizzy added. It can be sparkling water, 7-up or soda water, and lots of ice. And you can include a garnish if you like. And that’s how I initially got introduced to wine. It is still a great cocktail on a Friday evening when it’s really warm out.

Before I tell you about a couple of great red wines I had this past week, I made a homemade peach BBQ sauce. I was at a Farmers market and they had baskets of peaches. So I picked some up and decided to try a peach BBQ sauce. Now the recipe called for bourbon, and I didn’t have any so I substituted tequila.

My peach BBQ sauce

In a saucepan, I combined tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, molasses and chopped peaches in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. I let that cook down for 10 – 15 Minutes. Added the tequila and some Frank’s hot sauce, because I wanted to make it with a bit of zip. Then I put it in the food processor to smoothen out all the chunks. You can also use an immersion blender, which I do have. Let it cool, and put it in a mason jar. It was my first time and it turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Now for a great wine I was given as a gift this past week. My friends Fred & Arla gave me this bottle of wine last weekend and what a treat. The only thing is, NSLC (the liquor store in Nova Scotia) stopped carrying it.

Orca Red Wine

A blend of Grenache (90%) and Syrah (10%), it has an alcohol content of 15%, so be careful, it can knock you on your a$$! It was delicious though, but let me tell you about a wine you can actually get here.

Carpineto Tuscan Red

This was an interesting red, from the Tuscany region of Italy. It’s a Super Tuscan because it’s 70% Sangiovese, and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. A Super Tuscan is the name they put on wines from Tuscany Italy that are made with ‘non-Italian’ grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is under $20 a bottle and it was on sale recently so I picked it up. Let it breathe for a bit. You can get this wine across Canada including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and to my Newfoundland friends, it’s on sale there too!

Stay safe everyone. I’ll be here hoping for an end to this heatwave. Autumn is coming up really soon, right? Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Homeward Bound

Saw lots of rain

Newfoundland folk artist Eddie Coffee wrote and sings a song called ‘Grey Foggy Day’ and of the 10 days I spent in Newfoundland recently, it rained for 8 of them on the West Coast. But it didn’t matter, I got to visit my family and it was for the most part relaxing.

Maggie turned 6 months old and weighs in at an impressive 51 pounds, but the sweetest puppy with the nicest disposition. Too Cute

I did a new recipe in the past week, chicken with a citrus chimichurri. Turned out delicious. I cut chicken breasts in half and pounded them out so they were the same thickness.

Citrus Chimichurri

In the citrus Chimichurri I put olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice and some of the lemon zest, honey, salt, pepper, fresh basil, some thyme, an some fresh parsley, I used both curly and flat leaf. I am growing both flat leaf and curly parsley but my favorite is the curly parsley. I marinated the chicken in half the Chimichurri and basted with the other half.

Curly Parsley on the left

Anyway, the chicken turned out amazing, and I will definitely be making that recipe again.

Delicious

Ok, let’s talk some wine. I normally dedicate this blog to great wines under $25. However, every once in a while I tell you about a treat wine. Well, that’s what I had while in Newfoundland. For my birthday, my sister and my brother-in-law did steaks and someone they do business with, bought 2 bottles of wine. We only went through one the first night.

Chateau St. Jean Cute du Rhone

This was a big bold wine, it’s a GSM blend, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Grenache, which is the grape used for Chateauneuf du Pape, is a boozy grape. It tends to have a high alcohol content. This wine is 14.5% and you could taste it. This company also makes a Chateauneuf du Pape, but it would be a little more expensive. Those wines tend to start at $50 and go up. A great idea to let it sit for 30 minutes, but I would definitely decant this wine. It was a beauty though, and a great value at $25 a bottle. Good tannins and good spice, made it a great pairing for the steak. Apologies to my any readers in Saskatchewan, as I was researching the wine I discovered it’s $32 a bottle there. Yikes. I thought we paid a lot for wine.

If I had my time back, I would have had them open the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed this wine on my last night there, and it was stunning. You can get this wine across Canada, but not here in Nova Scotia. It’s worth picking up. The closest to us would be either Newfoundland or Quebec.

This is a little more expensive at $30 a bottle and what a treat it was. Deep, rich and intense in flavor, this would be a gorgeous steak wine. But I enjoyed it on my last night in Newfoundland gabbing with my Sister. The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Petite Syrah and Merlot. Rich and delicious. This was definitely my favorite wine of the trip, and worth the treat price tag. These brothers have a unique way of making the Cabernet, they de-stem, but don’t crush the grapes entirely. They let some full berries ferment 8 – 10 days. They say it adds more flavor. I can’t argue with them, it was a great wine.

That’s it for me for this week. I didn’t take a lot of pictures while I was home. I was busy helping my sister set up her new trailer, I have some pictures of that I’ll share next week, and other than that who wants pictures of rain. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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The Tour to Niagara is On!

Yes, I’m this excited! I have a couple of trips planned, all within Canada, but still, I’m this excited. The wine tour to the Niagara region in Ontario, including a 2-night stay in beautiful Quebec City and the 1000 Islands Boat Tour is going ahead for October 2nd. And this is where we are staying in Niagara Falls.

Embassy Suites by Hilton

Lots of exciting news this week. I am getting on a plane Thursday for the first time since Christmas 2019 and heading to Newfoundland for 10 days. And then, October 2nd, we are leaving Halifax for a wonderful 7-night tour that I would love you to come on. Come join us, there’s room, and we are going to have so much fun. If you like videos, Richard and I did a video a while back explaining the full details of the tour, and you can view it here. Richard is the President and Director of Fun for Atlantic Tours, and honest to God, he’s so much fun, you would think he was a Newfoundlander himself. LOL

I’m going to share the readers digest version of the tour.

Manoir Victoria Quebec City

First we leave Halifax on a brand new comfortable motorcoach bus and head to Quebec City for 2 nights. We will be staying at the Manoir Victoria Hotel in the heart of Old Quebec City. There we will be given a guided tour, we will have some free time to explore and we are going to discover some great food and wine. I have never been to old Quebec City before so I’m super excited about this part of the trip.

And then it’s on to Niagara Falls. We are staying at the beautiful hotel seen above, the Embassy Suites by Hilton. Over the next 3-night stay, we will enjoy a guided tour of Niagara Falls, plus we will be visiting 6 of the top wineries in the Niagara region. Not all in one day of course, but the best part is we will have a designated driver, so we can enjoy these wineries to the fullest. Some of the wineries include

Wayne Gretzky Winery

Wayne Gretzky not only has an award winning winery, but he also has a whiskey tasting room on site, in this spectacular 20,000 square foot facility.

We will also be visiting Peller Estates, along with 4 other wineries. You can visit 2 wineries, or you can come to all 6, it’s completely up to you. 13 Meals: 4 Dinners, 2 Lunches, 7 Breakfasts are included in the price, and we are going to have so much fun. Come with us.

Thousand Island boat tour

We are going to finish it up with the Thousand Island Boat Tour before we head back home. You can join us from anywhere. Check out the details at http://www.atlantictours.com. You’ll probably talk to Peggy and she can help with any questions you might have.

So, last week I told you I had some ribs marinating, and would give you the recipe this week.

Ribs marinated for 10 hours

Marinades can change, and I never measure amounts. Here’s what I put in my marinade. You can mix and match, or use whatever you like. Brown Sugar, Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, liquid smoke, and BBQ sauce. You can use any sauce for the marinade, but when you are finalizing the ribs on the grill, use a good thick one, it will stick to the ribs better. Then set your oven to 275-degrees and slow cook those ribs for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Then I put them on the grill, on in-direct heat. What I mean by that, is one side of my BBQ is on, and the other is not. I put the ribs on the off side, to allow them to finish cooking, slowly. That’s when I’m basting with my good BBQ sauce. This is the one I like, Bulls Eye Sweet & Sticky.

I also put the ribs directly on the heat for a minute or two each side. I let the heat carmelize those sugars from both the sauce and the marinade, and put those real nice grill marks on your ribs. Did I take a picture after my ribs were done. No, I was too hungry. Trust me, they turned out great. And this is the wine I had with them.

Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon

Normally, I like a big bold Zinfandel with ribs, but this time a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon also did the trick. This is actually a blend, even though the majority of the wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon. That is the main grape of the wine, but there is a small bit of Merlot and Zinfandel in this wine. It was rich and decadent, and I just loved it with the ribs. It felt like a real splurge, even though it was under $20 a bottle. To my Newfoundland friends, you can get it there, it’s $1 more.

Corner Brook, NL

I just wanted to let everyone know there will be no wine blogs for the next 2 weeks. Heading to my hometown of Corner Brook, Newfoundland on Thursday and I’m there till Sunday August 2nd. I’ll tell you all about my trip when I get back.

Stay safe, enjoy Summer. Cheers

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The Winds (Wines?) of Elsa

Elsa hit my deck hard

The Winds of Elsa? or the Wines of Elsa? Either way, Tropical Cyclone Elsa hit the Halifax area last night and while some people didn’t get any damage, my patio wasn’t quite as lucky. Yes, this is a picture of my brand new barbecue with a full 20-lb tank of propane inside, and yes, it was attached to the deck by 2 bungee cords. Didn’t matter, Elsa sent all my herb plants flying and my BBQ toppling. So that’s what I’m doing today, clean up. How was your experience with Elsa? People who live on the front of our building didn’t receive any wind at all. I guess I was in the path. Oh, and slept through it all.

Apparently that was me last night. Let’s look at some great food and wine.

First, a couple of new food dishes.

Chicken Flautas
Sweet & Sour Meatballs

My friends Mike & Kim in Newfoundland introduced me to chicken flautas 15 years ago. Delicious. Boiled or roasted chicken, (You can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. ) shredded, add sauteed onions and garlic. Lots of garlic, they are garlicky! Add salsa and cheese and roll them up in a tortilla shell. And then fry them in a pan till browned on all 4 sides. These flautas, my Mom’s recipe for sweet and sour meatballs, and some rice made for a great weekday meal. I have ribs marinating today, and I’ll share those with you next week. Put them in the marinade last evening, that’s going to be tasty.

I’m going to share some great wines you can have with foods based in a sauce, in this case, a sweet and sour sauce.

A Rose is a great choice

Angie with Arrogant Frog Rose

Arrogant Frog is a great Rose wine and a fan favorite among my friends. It’s made with the Syrah grape, has wonderful acidity and is a great way to compliment a food with a heavier sauce. Perfectly priced at $17.

Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel

Another grape that goes well with a sweet and sour sauce would be saucy Zinfandel. Zinfandel’s peppery notes pairs very well with the smoky components of a sauce. You can also check for an American ‘red blend’, as many of them contain Zinfandel. For my Newfoundland friends, here’s a couple of great Zinfandel wines.

Gnarly Head Zinrfandel

Gnarly Head Zinfandel is an old vine Zinfandel, which means the flavors are really enhanced. It is found everywhere in Canada and is priced under $23 a bottle.

Cupcake Red Blend

A wine like the Cupcake Red Blend is a Zinfandel based red wine with Merlot & Petite Sirah added to make it a blend. Delicious and priced between $17 and $19. I looked for this yesterday at the NSLC on my street, but they were sold out of it. It would have been a great wine to have with my ribs tonight.

And last but not least, a brand new wine I had last night. Loved it. You have to let it breathe.

I had the 2015

When I first opened the bottle, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. The wood overpowered. So I let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes, and boy was it enjoyable. You need to either let this breathe for 20 – 30 minutes or decant it. Keep in mind, it was bottled 6 years ago in 2015, so in a case like that, when you first open the bottle, oak would be predominant. This wine was only aged 3 months in French Oak barrels so it shouldn’t be oaky. This is a beautiful Super Tuscan blend from Italy, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, in equal parts. Beautifully balanced with lots of body. Priced under $20 a bottle, I enjoyed it.

Well I have to dance myself down my hallway, I have my barbecue grates soaking in the bath tub.

Till next week, Cheers

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I’m A Fool for the Cool

I’m not a fan of humidity

Although it’s cool here in Halifax today, we had a few really humid days this past week. Temperatures were like 28° with a humidex of 35°, that’s a little uncomfortable for me. In true eastern Canada fashion, however, temperatures hit a high of 13° yesterday.
My heart goes out to people in the western portion of our country, where temperatures are in the high 40s and low ‘50’s, and for our readers outside of Canada that’s Celsius degrees. Lytton, BC hit the highest temperature in North America, earning a mention on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. Sadly, a fire evacuated and burnt much of the town, and our hearts are going out to everyone there.

With temperatures that high, I barbecued during those couple of days.

This pork chop was a new recipe, and a winner! The easy to make glaze consisted of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and a little orange juice. Tasty! that marinade would also work on chicken.

If you’ve been watching the Food Network lately, you’ve seen iconic Canadian Chef Mark McEwan promote this wine. It was also featured on a couple of episodes of the latest Top Chef Canada. The reason being, Sauvignon Blanc is so food friendly. This Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc, it’s from New Zealand, and was the very first wine I ever got tested on in my training to become a Sommelier. Gorgeous flavors of passion fruit and grapefruit, make it a great summer wine. It pairs fantastic with seafood, and also your favorite summer salad.

For my friends in Newfoundland, there is a wide variety of Stoneleigh products available, including a sparkling. If any of my readers try that particular wine, can you let me know what you thought? I am going to get home this Summer, and would love to hear opinions.

Valpolicella Ripasso

Ripasso in Italian means ‘to pass again’, and that’s what happens with the Valpolicella grape juice. It is ‘passed over’ Amarone skins and picks up those rich deep flavors of the Amarone. This is a great BBQ wine, with cherry flavors from the Valpolicella and fig and chocolate from the Amarone skins. It’s on sale here right now, so it’s a great time to try it. We don’t have access to it here, but my friends in Newfoundland can get a dry Zonin Rose Brut. I’ll be trying that when I go home this Summer.

Stay safe everyone. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Summer has Landed!

Wine Goals!

Many people here in Canada really look forward to summer. Maybe because our winters tend to last a little longer. The weather has warmed up, the kids finished school yesterday and as we open up from our 3rd wave, people are talking about going to see family and friends throughout Atlantic Canada. What does summer look like for you? Is it camping? Is it barbecuing? Is it sipping wine on the patio? (Yes!). If you’re like me, it could be all of those things and many more.
I want to share some favorite summer wines, but first I’d like to tell you about a new refreshing cocktail I tried for the first time this week .

On a hot Wednesday evening this week, I tried the new vodka citrus drink from Black Fly. Black Fly is made here in Canada. Do you want to know how hot it was? There were about 12 ice cubes in this glass before I poured. This was tart, refreshing, and not too sweet. I have a few from this company to try, including vodka cranberry and vodka punch. They also do drinks with rum and gin, and you can get a variety pack as well. Perfect for Summer and available in all 4 Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada.

Speaking of summer, did you know I do really good baby back ribs? I’m kind of known for them to my close family and friends . I have a nephew Brady, who works at IOC in Labrador City, who is trying to duplicate my recipe. I made a rack of ribs this past week, because it does take several hours to get delicious fall off the bone ribs.

If you were to ask me about one of my favourite meals, it is baby back ribs, crispy wings, rice and corn on the cob. It’s really too early for corn on the cob here in Nova Scotia, so I made this dish with corn, carrots, apples, red onion and bacon, which turned out to be really delicious. (I cooked the red onion in the bacon fat))

The key to great ribs, chicken or any kind of pork is marinating.

My marinade was brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper, a little bit of hot sauce, maple syrup, a little bit of orange juice and barbeque sauce. I like them to sit in the marinade for about six hours and then I slow cook them in a 250° oven for 3 hours and then I finish them off on the grill. Yummy!
Here’s the wine I enjoyed with this meal.

La Baume Syrah

Rarely will you ever see the French call this grape by its other name, Shiraz. They prefer Syrah, and this one from Domaine De La Baume is wonderful, and it’s around $18.
I promised my friend Daphne in Newfoundland last weekend that I would feature wines that she could get in Newfoundland. She told me she reads the blog, but she can’t get most of the wines I feature. Although you can’t get this particular Syrah, you can get one from the same region in the same price range.

I am definitely going to Newfounfland this summer to visit my family, and I promise to try this wine while I’m there. Like the La Baume, this Syrah is also from the Languedoc region of France and comes in under $18. I can’t wait to try this wine when I go home.

Last but not least, I am going to finish the blog with a refreshing rosé wine, and yes it’s available throughout Atlantic Canada including for my friends in Newfoundland

The Pelee Island Rose blush is a great wine for Summer. It also brings to light how much more we pay here in Atlantic Canada for wine from even the rest of Canada. This wine is $12.95 in Ontario, it is $18.99 here in Nova Scotia and $19.99 in Newfoundland. Hard to believe isn’t it, that’s a big difference. However some great news for my Newfoundland friends, it’s currently $2 off there! It’s not a dry Rose wine, it has some effervescence. But it’s very food friendly and wonderful if you’re just sipping on the patio.

That’s it for me for this week, till next week Cheers.

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Wines for Dear Old Dad

My Dad

This marks my first Father’s Day since my dad passed last July, 3 months before he turned 90. It’s been a year of firsts, his first birthday, first Christmas and now first Father’s Day without him. He was a wonderful dad, and always had a smile on his face. He lived a great life and we all miss him very much.
Dear old Dad wasn’t very much of a wine drinker, but he was the first one to pour me and mom a glass. As a matter of fact, my Dad always went to the store and got Mom’s wine. it was after my Dad had passed, that my Mom went into the liquor store for the first time and bought her own wine. That was a new experience for her. He also loved great food.

I have to share with you the chicken that changed my life LOL. Anyone who was willing to listen this past week, I told them about this chicken. I brined my first chicken last weekend.

I took out a chicken early Saturday morning out of my freezer to thaw. Later that afternoon I boiled water, sugar, brown sugar, peppercorns, molasses, lemon, rosemary, thyme, & garlic. Once it cooled to room temperature, I added more cold water. It’s very important you do not put raw chicken in warm water, because it will create a safety hazard. Then I put the pot with the chicken and my flavored brine in my fridge and left it there until late Sunday afternoon. You can brine for 6 to 12 hours, however because I was having this chicken for Sunday supper, I brined for 24 hours. Then, because it was a beautiful evening, I fired up the barbeque and put it on the rotisserie.
I don’t have a picture of the finished product, because once it reached an internal temperature if 165° and it rested, I carved the chicken and started eating. O.M.G! It was that good, and I ate so much, I forgot to take a picture. It was so good I almost went door to door in my apartment building to say “You have to try this”! But I didn’t.

Let’s talk about some cocktails. On a beautiful sunny day, I know many Dad’s enjoy a beer while working the grill. So for Father’s Day we are also going to feature a beer. Now, here’s one of my favorite beers. Made here in the Maritimes.

Crafty Radler

If someone had told me a few years ago I would love beer with grapefruit and tangerine, I don’t know if I would have believed them. But I do! Made by Pumphouse Brewery in Moncton, New Brunswick, this delicious blend of beer, grapefruit and tangerine hits the spot on hot Summer day.

At the NSLC yesterday I noticed many of Nova Scotia Tidal Bay wines were on sale. These are fabulous for sipping on patios as the weather warms up, or enjoying with your favorite chicken or seafood. These wines truly reflect the terroir of Nova Scotia and I’ve never had one I didn’t like. Some of the ones on sale this week were Benjamin Bridge, L’Acadie and Grand Pre, just to name a few.

And last but not least, I tried a new red this past week and it was yummy.

Delicious and on sale right now

What a pleasant surprise this was. The Amado Sur Red Blen is an Argentinian blend of Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah. I looked for it on our NSLC website and couldn’t find it anywhere, however, it’s there. I saw it again last night when I was there. It’s in the Argentina section and it’s on sale right now for $16.99. Jon Thorsen who writes my personal favorite wine blog, the Reverse Wine Snob, check it out here. Jon started this blog because like me, he feels wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. He calls it a delightfully rich and fruity blend, and says it’s vegan friendly.

The wine-maker says its a great wine to go with steak, and it would be, but I had a little something of many items on my plate last Saturday night, and it went great.

Rice, wings, taco boats & a skewer

I do like variety on my plate, and yes it’s unusual I don’t have a vegetable on it. Don’t judge! It was Saturday night.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there. Have a safe wonderful weekend.

Till next week, Cheers

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Smart People Drink Wine

Great news for wine lovers

There’s a reason for wine lovers to celebrate tonight. Not only because it’s Saturday night, but because drinking wine makes you smarter. At least according to Yale neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd. Now, I’m not Albert Einstein, or Albert Wine-stein for that matter, but that’s great news to me.

Dr. Shepherd says wine exercises both sides of your brain. Wine drinking requires sniffing& swirling the wine on the different sides of your mouth. Shepherd points out that this activity is a complex motor process involving several areas of the brain. The researcher covers the connection between interpreting wine flavors and the brain in detail in his book, “Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine.” And since wine requires use of so many of your senses, including smell and taste, it makes sense.

So here’s to great wine and smarter wine-drinkers.

So last week I told you I was taking care of the food for a few friends getting together on a balcony. We are allowed to get together on a balcony, not inside. Now some people froze, it was chilly, although 2 days later there was a heat wave warning.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

So we had 2 salads, a Caesar, and a Mediterranean Orzo salad. Orzo is a pasta that looks like rice, but actually is a pasta, and is great in a salad. I added red pepper, red onion, chickpeas, tomatoes, fresh herbs & feta cheese. You can add whatever you like to give it a splash of color.

Lemony Herb dressing

Then I made this delicious lemony herb dressing. And it’s even better the next day. In the dressing is fresh lemon juice, the zest of the lemon, 1 clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, salt & pepper and of course olive oil. Delish!

Marinated chicken skewers

We also had some marinated chicken skewers. It’s the Chef Spencer Watts recipe that I had mentioned in a previous blog. That recipe is here.

Taco boats

I also did taco boats, because the store was sold out of the small taco shells, but these worked out better when we were sitting on a patio. They were much easier to handle, and less mess. (My apologies for a next day picture, I forgot to take a picture the night before, and this was left-overs.) The homemade salsa, lime cilantro crema, and dipping sauce for the skewers were a hit as well. I had so much fun doing this. I want to do this for our next get together.

Now let’s talk some wine, & cocktails – my intelligent friends. This past week we had a heat wave for 2 days, so on days like that, I like a nice cold refreshing drink. Can you say Arriba! (I know you have to more mature to remember Speedy Gonzales, but that’s what he would cheer.)

Speedy Gonzales

Speedy Gonzales would love these. I know we did.

Just before this latest lockdown, my friends and I had a Mexican themed food night. And what better way to kick off the event than with a classic Margarita from Jose Cuervo, featuring the famous Jose Cuervo tequila. Jose Cuervo has been making tequila for 250 years and now they are making these delicious mixed drinks. They are affordable and not at all sweet.

Here’s another drink that is not the least bit sweet. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks. Before Riley went back to Newfoundland, after his first year of University, he handed me one of these, and said ‘give it a try’. Well, the only danger with this drink is that you can’t taste any booze and it went down pretty fast. Wouldn’t take long to go through a 6-pack. Delicious and refreshing and the watermelon is one of 3 new flavors introduced this past year.

My friend Angie shared this wonderful wine with me this past week. It was easy to drink and not overly oaky. I figured the winemaker can describe it even better than I can.

“These Reserva wines reflect the varietal character, which combined with an ageing of 6 months in French oak barrels, make them to stand out for their freshness, fruit and balance.”

Errazuriz was started by two great wine-makers, Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. And the winemaker for estate, Francisco Baettig, has won winemaker of the year for Chile, and has been nominated for one of the ‘best winemakers in the world’. So you know it’s a great value at just $16.99

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Till next week, Cheers

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Wine In The Great Outdoors

I know Summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, but it’s supposed to be sunny and 27-degrees today. The great news this week, restrictions have eased a bit here in Nova Scotia, as we entered Phase 1 of the reopening from our 3rd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are allowed to gather in groups of 10 on a patio outdoors. Today, it’s supposed to hit 27° so me and 6 friends are gathering on a patio. Can’t wait to drink wine, catch up and share some laughs.

Every once in a while I get a bit of writers block, it’s to be expected when you write a one blog every single Saturday for over 10 years. So I decided to go through my archives, to see if I could get any new inspiration or even update previous wine blogs. I realize that the first Saturday of every June, I tend to write a blog that centres around a barbecue. Now I know in previous blogs I show many pictures featuring me cooking food on the grill. The guys at work call me the “Queen of the Barbecue for good reason. LOL 😆

Eating healthier

I tried to eat a little healthier this week, made a Caesar salad dressing without eggs. I am a person who doesn’t like eggs. I know, me and Guy Fieri from the Food Network, he doesn’t like eggs either. This was a delicious dressing, from a blog called ‘Once Upon a Chef’. Click here for the recipe.

Balsamic Honey Glazed Carrots

I also found some organic multi-colored carrots this past week and did this Balsalmic Honey Glazed Carrot dish. Simple, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, honey, balsamic vinegar and some parsley to finish. The recipe is here. I’m also looking forward to the fresh corn. This wasn’t quite as juicy and delicious as I like my corn. I can’t wait for the peaches and cream corn to come out.

It’s early for the corn.

I’m so excited to be providing the food for tonight’s get-together, I’ll share some pictures next week. It’s going to be simple, sitting outside, patio food. Marinated chicken skewers, mini tacos, a Mediterranean Orzo salad, and the above Caesar salad.

Jackie & Craig

I also want to take a moment to say Happy 34th Anniversary to my sister Jackie and her husband Craig. When Jackie was 17 she started a part time job at McDonald’s, and Craig was her first customer. 4 years later they married and have 2 gorgeous children, Brady & Riley. And of course a fur-baby, Maggie. I’ve introduced you to Maggie when she was an 8-week old puppy. Jackie sent me this picture this week, wow, is she growing. Check out the size of her paws.

Now, let’s talk some wine. First for the white.

La Vielle Ferme White

I went to my friend Angie’s this past week, and she bought out the red version of this wine, and I said to her, I need to get another of the white. This is a spectacular white wine, I absolutely love it, and its under $15 a bottle. It comes from France, and has been hailed around the world as a spectacular value for the money. It’s a blend of 4 white grapes and has delicious flavors of peach, pear and honey. Great wine.

Speaking of great blends, here’s one for the red wine drinkers.

One of my favorite blends in the world, is a GSM. GSM usually is the abbreviation for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Sometimes the M is Merlot. Either way, it’s a fantastic juicy blend with great structure, and a nice lasting finish. I had a red wine this week that I tried for the first time, and I’m not sharing it, because I wasn’t really that fond of it. Don’t get me wrong, the bottle got finished. But one of the things I really noticed was that as soon as you swallowed, it was gone, all of the flavor and any remnants of the wine. I like a nice finish, and you won’t be disappointed in this. Under $20 and a great wine.

If you’re grilling this weekend, have fun and let me know what you grilled. Have a wonderful weekend, till next week, Cheers

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The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting

I miss wine tastings! 30 to 40 times a year people would hire me to come to their home, gather their friends, and I would facilitate a wine-tasting. One of the main reasons I love wine tastings, is that it gives people a chance to try different wines that they normally would not buy at their local wine store.
Wine is not cheap, at least here in the eastern part of Canada. We pay a lot for wines. As I welcome our new visitors and readers from the US, Germany and Australia, we pay at least double, & sometimes triple, what you guys pay for the same bottle of wine! We really love our wine. Let’s take a look at the 5 ‘S’s’ usually associated with a wine tasting.

See

Take a look at your wine, ensure it is not cloudy. A cloudy wine can be caused by a second fermentation in the bottle, normally caused by huge shift of temperature. It’s harmless, but the wine won’t be necessarily pleasant

Swirl

That wine may have been in that bottle for a couple of years, swirling releases many different aromas and flavours. It has become second nature to me, I automatically swirl a glass of wine every time.

Smell

Smelling the wine, after swirling is very important. So many of the different flavours & aromas are picked up when you smell the wine, and it will definitely make tasting the wine more pleasant.

This is all we can have during a lockdown

Sip

Everyone’s favourite part, sipping the wine. Training to be a Sommelier, when we would taste wines at every class, the sipping will confirm many of the aromas you picked up when smelling the wine.

Savor

Does the flavour linger? One of the things I don’t enjoy about some wines, is that soon as you swallow it, the flavour is gone. I like when that flavour lingers in your mouth, that’s enjoyment to me.

Before I tell you about the white & red wine of the week this week, can I show you my first attempt at making tacos. I know, first? I’ve made quesadillas, and I make fajitas and stir-frys a lot, but this was my first true attempt at making a taco and they were delicious

Cilantro

It started with me purchasing, and replanting a cilantro plant. I’m so excited, cilantro is one of my favourite herbs, and this plant looks like it’s going to make it!

Homemade Salsa

Then it’s my delicious homemade salsa. I’ve been making my own homemade salsa since the beginning of the pandemic.

Lime Cilantro Crema

At a particular restaurant here in town, they serve lime and cilantro sour cream, and I’ve always loved it. When I bought the taco kit at Costco with a group of friends, they provided a line and cilantro Crema. Again, delicious. The knock-off recipe is here.

I did pretty good.

I sautéed chicken breast with onions, peppers, and a homemade taco seasoning. Then, I added cheese and some coleslaw on top, my homemade salsa, and the lime and cilantro Crema. I will definitely be making this meal again, served it with some coleslaw on the side and some rice. Easy peasy and out of this world delicious.

Let me show you a great white and red wine.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling


Kung Fu Girl Riesling is dry, but just touches on the off dry, which makes it so perfectly delicious with tacos or any Asian cuisine. There’s great acidity and just a little tinge of sweetness on the tip of your tongue. Serve it chilled and it’s a great partner for many of your favorite meals, priced under $20 here.

A Pinot Noir / Syrah Blend?

I didn’t know what to think when I saw this label at the NSLC. A winery in France took the thinnest skin grape, Pinot Noir, and paired it with the thickest skinned grape, Syrah, also known as Shiraz. It is a very uncommon blend, but was it ever delicious! I have a couple of friends who say they don’t like Pinot noir, becauses it’s wimpy. I’m going to challenge them to try this wine. This wine is not wimpy, it’s a medium to full-bodied wine with lots of flavor, very food friendly and priced under $17. I would love to hear what you think on this unique blend.

Stay safe everyone. Till next week, Cheers

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Long Weekend Wines

A long weekend, another one during a full-blown lockdown here in Nova Scotia. So let’s face it, it’s more important than ever to have something to look forward to this weekend, so why not enjoy some great wines and delicious cocktails.

Last year during the first lockdown, my work colleagues and I would end the week by having a virtual happy hour. We have started doing that again this year. This was my cocktail of choice to kick off the long weekend yesterday.

Cranberry Gin Smash

I stopped drinking coolers many many years ago because I couldn’t handle the sweetness. Sorry Bacardi Breezers, loved you but could only drink one at a time. I think that’s why I started drinking wine. Manufacturers have acknowledged this, and now there is a wide variety of flavored coolers at your favorite liquor store that are not sweet. This is one of them. The Georgian Bay cranberry Gin Smash was refreshing and delightful, and will be making another appearance in my refrigerator. And you can buy them separately!! I love that. I like being able to mix and match cocktails at the liquor store.

This long weekend, unofficially the kick off to Summer, is also a great time to enjoy a Rose wine.

Long weekend Rose

As most of you know, I am planning to do a trip to the Niagara Wine region with Atlantic Tours this year, and in Ontario, there is a company called Long Weekend Wines. They make a white wine, a red wine and also this Rose, which I have to get my hands on when I can finally travel to Ontario. It’s under $14 a bottle and its a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Two hardy red wine grapes, but of course with limited skin contact to make it a rose.

Ok, so we’ve covered a gin cocktail, a rose wine, and before I tell you about a fantastic find I discovered this past week, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes. I watch a lot of Food Network, and the chefs are always doing their take on a fried chicken sandwich. So I decided to give it a try.

Fried Chicken Sandwich

I have to say it turned out pretty good. It was tasty, but it was so messy to make, or maybe I’m a messy cook. So I took a chicken breast, sliced it in half, and then pounded it to even thickness. (That was fun!!) Then I made an easy batter of flour, corn starch, salt & pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. Then I added enough water to make the batter the same consistency of pancake batter. Keep in mind most recipes I find are made for 4 – 6 people, and because I live alone I cut all these recipes down. I’ve even seen where chefs have used beer instead of water, to give it a unique flavor. This is what my batter looked like.

The batter

The batter was easy to make, I just kept adding water till it was like pancake batter. And then I dunked in my 2 pieces of chicken breast, and fried them in oil in a frying pan.

It made for a delicious sandwich, I cooked it 3 minutes per side, and added ham, lettuce and cheese to make it kind of a BLT. Like I said, delicious, but messy. There was a lot of spatter of oil from the frying pan, so I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong there. Any tips out there would be greatly appreciated.

Now I have to share the fantastic find I discovered this week.

Whenever I’m at the liquor store and I see a red sale sign, I tend to check out the wine. We are, after all, in the middle of a pandemic that has lasted for over a year. I picked this up and Oh My God! It was delicious and had great body, and the 3 grape blend provided a nice complexity. Sit down, because this wine is on sale right now here in Nova Scotia for $12.49 a bottle. From the Mendoza region in Argentina, it’s definitely worth checking out this long weekend.

Stay safe everyone, and till next week Cheers

A great personality makes for a great wine-drinking friend

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Lockdown Fantasies

My fantasies involve travel

My apologies for those who tuned in because of the title and were a little disappointed of the clean nature of my fantasy. This is, after all, a wine blog. And I’ll be honest, all my daydreams and night dreams right now, involve travel. It’s the one thing I’m really looking forward to when the world returns to some sense of normalcy. Whatever that new normal may look like.

Jackie & I at Pearl Harbour

Probably one of my favorite people in the world to travel with is my sister Jackie. We’ve done a few ‘sister’ trips, just the two of us, and I’ve also travelled with Jackie & her family. We’ve been to Florida, Hawaii, Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas, New Orleans, Mexico, and we’ve ziplined together in Haiti. And that’s been just a few of our destinations. I talk to my sister almost every day, she’s in Newfoundland, and right now I’m looking forward to the day I can visit her. We are both looking forward to our next trip.

We hit quite the storm in Aruba

The above picture was taken when we hit a Tropical storm in Aruba. It was pouring rain so we hit the cocktails. This was lunch, and we finished at 2 a.m. in the Casino. We are great travel partners. Hard to believe, but she doesn’t like wine.

Niagara Falls

What got me thinking of travel again? This past week Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours & Travel, and I did a webinar to about 40 people on our upcoming trip to the Niagara region of Ontario for a wine tour. Right now, if its safe to travel, the trip is planned for October 2nd. If it’s still not safe to travel, we will do it in 2022.

Wine vines in Niagara

It’s going to be a fabulous trip that includes Quebec City, Niagara Falls, wine tours and lots of laughs. Check out the full itinerary of our week long trip here.

So this was the scene on my deck last evening

I cooked up a feed

It was a gorgeous sunny evening here and I was in the mood to cook.

All the essentials

I had all the essentials, olive oil, salt, pepper, my new recipe for molasses butter and my meat thermometer. Yes, I said molasses butter. One of my recipes last night was for a pork chop glazed with molasses butter (easy) and served with an apple bacon chutney. Oh. My. God.

Easy to make molasses butter

The butter was easy. Melted butter, molasses, 2 cloves of garlic minced and brown sugar. A delicious glaze for pork, and I used it on a chicken breast too, which I have yet to eat.

The chutney wasn’t hard either. I chopped up some red onion, and I used my small cast iron frying pan on the grill, because I wanted to cook everything on the grill. You could do this on the stovetop. I just didn’t want to go back and forth between the grill and the stove.

Onions & Olive oil

I cooked the onions in olive oil till they were a little glazy and then I added my chopped up apple.

You let the apples cook down a little, you want them slightly soft. Once this is done, if you are using uncooked bacon, you would chop the bacon up and add it now. The apples, onion and bacon all cook together. I was using already cooked bacon, as I didn’t have a fresh pack of bacon, so I chopped it up in small pieces and added it last.

Season the apples with some cinnamon. (& nutmeg if you have it.) Then you add a little unsweetened apple sauce, apple cider vinegar, & brown sugar. The vinegar is very important as it will really balance the sweetness. This simmers for 20 minutes to let the apples get really soft and all the flavors marry together. I got this recipe from a Canadian chef, Spencer Watts, and you can get the full recipe with amounts here.

It was magical. Definitely one I’ll be making again. Let’s talk some wine.

If you’re wondering what I had in my glass for BBQ bonanza, it was this wine

Menage a Trois Red Blend

The Menage a Trois red blend is a decadent red blend and the perfect BBQ wine. The blend consists of Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, and on their own they are great BBQ wines. Put the 3 grapes together and boom, one of the best for grilled meat. A perfect love affair if you will. This wine is on sale right now in Nova Scotia, for under $17 a bottle. It’s regularly under $20, so still a great value.

The winery makes several white Menage a Trois wines including a Chardonnay and this Pinot Grigio, which we can get here.

Menage a Trois Pinot Grigio

This wine was given 91 Points and the Pinot Grigio is the perfect way to get a little fresh. 100% Pinot Grigio grapes, this wine seduces with a great balance of acidity and fresh fruit. Priced under $20, another great wine for enjoying on the patio this Summer.

I would like to say hi and issue a big welcome to all our new readers, especially those joining us last week from Ireland and Alaska. I hope you enjoy the wine journey.

Till next week, Cheers

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Wines Mom Will Love

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and a big thank you to all the Mom’s out there. I’m very lucky that my Mom is still going strong at 86 years young. She just bought a brand new car. My dad passed away last July at almost 90, and they had a bigger car. So she sold it and bought this sporty little number, and now zips around town like she’s 60!

Mom & her new Red sporty car

This next picture was taken a couple of years ago, while we were at the Canada Games Centre in Corner Brook, walking, while I was home for a Christmas visit. She still walks almost every day. She is living proof keeping busy, keeps you young.

Mom & I out walking

My Mom is a white wine drinker, and this is one of her favorites.

She loves Chardonnay out of Argentina. This is a very fruity wine, with gorgeous aromas and flavors of apple and pineapple. As a matter of fact, when Mom was here visiting one Summer, we were playing cards and both enjoying a glass of this wine. My older sister, who doesn’t drink wine, said ‘Is someone eating an apple”? The wine spends a little bit of time in French oak barrels so I didn’t find this Chardonnay really oaky. At just $15 a bottle, you should probably buy your Mom 2.

1st Pizza Making Night

Back when we were able to get together with friends, I learned to make pizza. Now I make it and freeze it. It’s quick and easy, especially after a stressful week in lockdown, and that’s exactly what I had last night. Buffalo chicken pizza. Normally my dough is thinner, more flatter. I normally take a fork and punch some holes in the dough, so it doesn’t rise up in the oven, but I was in a rush and forgot to do that this time. It was still yummy. Also, on the pizza, I used 75% tomato sauce and 25% BBQ sauce, for a little extra zip. Hard to tell with all the mozzarella I used.

And the wine I had with this easy Friday night meal? The Finca Las Moras Malbec.

Malbec is the flagship grape of Argentina and since 2011 has been the most cultivated grape in Argentina. Malbec started out as being one of the grape varietals allowed to be used in a Bordeaux blend. When frost hit in 1956 and wiped out 75% of the vineyards, Bordeaux didn’t plant as much. However, it made its way across the water and became the star of Argentina.

Look at that color

Look at the beautiful rich deep color on this Malbec. When I was training to be a Sommelier, one of the things that made Malbec easier to identify in blind tastings was the color. Beautiful inky purple, the Malbec grape is a small dark grape with thick skin. This creates a full-bodied wine with lots of flavor but has medium tannins, so it’s very easy to drink. The empty bottle in my recycling bin is all the proof you need.

As I had mentioned in last week’s blog , my friend Nancy and the fine folks at Univins & Spirits had given me some Argentinian wines to try and write about. This is my awesome friend Nancy who represents a ton of great wines from Univins & Spirits. I’ll be honest, I love wines from Argentina, so I have had all of these wines before.

Last but not least, all my friends I work with at the Radio station will know how much I love this next wine. If you’ve ever asked me for a great wine at a great price, chances are you’ve tried this wine. It’s hard to believe that I have to use a stock photo of this wine, considering how many bottles have been consumed in this house!

The Dada 2 is a Merlot, and it is one of the most luscious wines you could drink. It is a delicious wine with a full mouth feel and lots of flavor. I’m heading out today to pick up some ribs to do on the barbecue tonight, and this is a perfect wine for that. Whatever is on the menu for Mother’s Day tomorrow, this wine will match.

Thank you to Univins & Spirits

Again, a big thank you to Univins & Spirits for the opportunity to taste and write about their wines. Of all 6 wines shown here, they are all under $20, and they are all fantastic. It’s hard to believe such an amazing array of wines are available at such a great price point. How fast do you think you’d become Mom’s favorite if this is what you gave her tomorrow.

That’s it for me this weekend. Stay safe, and till next week, Cheers

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Don’t Wine For Me Argentina

Couch Wine Tour

Although our first full week of full lockdown did provide some challenges, it also held a very bright spot for me. My friend Nancy Johnston and the fine people at Univins and Spirits, shared some Argentinian wines with me and asked could I share them with you.

I get asked all the time where the greatest values in wine are located and Argentina is definitely at the top of the list. These are excellent quality wines at easy to swallow prices. And although Malbec is widely considered the ‘National Wine of Argentina’, they are doing fantastic things with other grape varietals.

I know everyone is missing travelling at this time, and we can’t go in person. Let’s take a little trip to Argentina through our wine glass.

My in-house wine tour

Outside the city of San Juan, lies the Pedernal Valley & Tulum Valley, which are becoming more and more acclaimed for great quality red wines. It is hotter and drier in these Valleys, as opposed to Mendoza, which is the biggest wine making region in Argentina. What does that mean for the wine? Grapes ripen faster, which means a more full-bodied wine with a little higher alcohol content. Don’t mistake that for ‘boozy’, as the wine is not boozy at all, and the alcohol content comes in at around 13.6%, which is very average in a red wine. This Cabernet Syrah blend from Finas Las Moras, is a delicous blend of the two grapes. It’s medium to full-bodied, with a very generous mouthfeel. It’s a perfect pairing for when you are enjoying a grilled piece of meat, and the $16 price tag means you can enjoy more than one bottle.

Smooth and delicious

Do you know what blew me away about the Fincas Las Moras winery? It was founded in 1993. It’s so hard to believe it’s that new. They started small and now export to 45 countries around the world. When you think of wineries in France and Italy making wine for hundreds of years, this vineyard has been doing it since 1993, and doing it really well. This Syrah is an absolute delight. Do not confuse this Syrah with some of the heavy-bodied, oak-laden Shiraz wines out of Australia. Although Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, it is referred to as Syrah in France, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. Some people have written that Shiraz is ‘New World’, and Syrah is Old World, however, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand are New World wine-making regions. Australia called it Shiraz and kind of made that name its own, and in the U.S. it’s generally known as Shiraz. This Syrah is light to medium bodied, fruit forward and very food friendly. A steal at $15.

And last but not least, one of my favorite wines from Argentina.

After a stressful week, La Mascota Cabernet Franc is a great way to eend the week, it’s perfectly balanced and elegant. Cabernet Franc is the mother grape of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was once known as a ‘blending’ grape’ in Bordeaux, but it is so interesting and complex on its own. Hand harvested and aged in both French and American oak for 15 months, this gorgeous full-bodied wine has rich fruit and spicy notes. A fantastic wine for under $18.

A very big welcome to all of our new wine loving friends, from near and far. I see that our new friends and followers are from Canada and the U.S., so welcome to my wine journey.

Stay safe everyone. Till next week, Cheers

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Stay The Blazes Home 2.0

Here we go again

Effective 8 AM yesterday morning, the Halifax region of Nova Scotia went into a pretty severe lockdown as it seems our third wave is upon us. I was really disappointed, I had a wine-tasting booked for last night with a small group of people (8). Needless to say that got cancelled. I got tested on Monday, as all residents are being encouraged to get tested, and thankfully I was negative. Even better news, this coming Monday I get the first shot of my vaccine. Obviously, because of this lockdown, our Atlantic bubble will not be happening May 3rd, moved from the original date of April 19th. Fingers crossed this four week lockdown does the trick, because Nova Scotians are very good for the most part, of doing what it takes to get this latest outbreak under control.

Riley & Maggie

In other news, this week I headed to Antigonish to pack up this handsome young man, my nephew Riley finished his first year of university at St. FX. Here he is, with their new puppy Maggie. I’m going to miss him until his return in September, as he is definitely one of my favorite people in the world. He’ll be 19 this year, and this young man loves to eat, it’s a good thing I love to cook.
This is him and I a couple of years ago, at the airport, as we were parting ways after two weeks in Barbados.

He was heading to NL, me to NS

So that’s what my week was like. Let’s talk a little bit of wine. Wine is the one thing that help make lockdowns a little more pleasant. First, a great white wine.

Eco Sustainable

First, let me say, it is a complete coincidence this white wine has the word corona in it. My friend Joan bought this wine to a little get together a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. As you can see from the sticker, Mezzacorona, in the Italian Alps, is a designated Eco sustainable Vineyard. This means from grape growing, to wine making, Mezzacorona aims to protect the environment with different sustainable practices. This is a very flavourful Pinot Grigio wine, notes of pear and cantaloupe, with a little spice on the finish. A great value, priced under $16 here in Nova Scotia.

My red wine this week also hails from Italy, it is the Boira oak-aged Sangiovese. I didn’t even realize it was organic when I bought it, and as you can see it is also labelled vegan friendly. Aren’t all wines vegan friendly, they’re made with grapes? No! Most wines go through a fining process, which removes small particles and makes the wine super clear, something that can’t be done with just filtration alone. Some wine-makers use egg whites, egg shells, or casein, a protein found in milk, which would mean the wine is not officially vegan-friendly. Although I didn’t get to do my wine tasting last night, one of the most popular questions I get at wine tastings, is a light smooth red wine that white wine drinkers will like. This is the wine. Very smooth, easy to drink, very light on the tannins. A nice wine for $17.

I need this glass

I definitely need this wine glass, stay safe everyone! Till next week, Cheers

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Helpful Hints

Cheers

So, I’m a little late getting out my wine blog this week, because I had a DIY home project. My friend Maggie was kind enough to come down and help me with this particular project. When I asked her to help, never in a million years did I dream it would take us 6 1/2 hours or feel like it put our bodies through a boxing match. So here’s a wall in my living room I painted a dark brown almost 9 years ago. (That’s Leo, watching a cat movie)

Leo loved watching cat movies

My sister gave me the wallpaper for Christmas to do it in a different style. When I asked my friend Maggie to help, who knew putting up wallpaper was going to take such a toll on our poor bodies. This is hard work folks. LOL

But it’s now done in a wallpaper that looks like distressed barn board and I absolutely love how it turned out. And although the blog is called ‘Helpful Hints,’ that has more to do with wine than home improvement.

So, this is the type of helpful hint I’m good at. You’ve all seen the meme ‘Being an adult is wondering what to make for supper for the rest of your life”? The below hint helps with that problem.

This is one of my helpful tips

I’m kidding. I’m going to give you a few helpful hints around a wine bottle, to make your life a little easier.

  1. When to Decant a wine and why?

Decanting wine is all about exposing the wine to oxygen, or you may have heard it as ‘letting the wine breathe’. Aerating the wine, especially many reds, can release more of the wine’s aromas, and soften the tannins. Most red wines are stuck in a bottle for a few years, not moving. Decanting shakes it up. When I was studying to become a Sommelier, they would first have us smell and taste a wine without decanting or swirling. Then they would get us to swirl. It’s amazing how the wine comes alive, especially the aromas.

A great program to be in

2. How can I keep my opened wine a little longer?

During our Tuesday night girls night, one of the ladies bought a bottle of wine that she opened on Saturday night. When she took a sip, she said ‘it didn’t age very well’. It was a white wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Many people feel because the wine has a screw cap, and it closes easily, it’s keeping the wine. Helpful hint. If you choose to put the cork half way in, or screw the cap back on, your wine is going to be exposed to the elements, and it’s not going to last very long. Invest in a good wine stopper that seals. Plus a red wine will last longer than a white, and always refrigerate it.

Can you think of another song where you can use a wine?

3. I drink white, but I would like to start drinking red. What should I start with?

I get this a lot at wine tastings. The biggest shock people face when going from white to red is the temperature of the wine. So, it’s OK to chill your red wine. Start with some lighter reds and work your way up. Try a Pinot Noir, chill it, and see what you think. Another wine to try is Beaujolais, it’s light and fruity and should be served chilled as well. I don’t know if I would go from a light white to a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz.

On that note, let’s take a look at a couple of new wines. First, a gorgeous white wine.

From Banfi Vineyards in the heart of Tuscany Italy, comes this fantastic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. You get the body of the Chardonnay and the light acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc. I really loved this wine. The Tuscans really know how to make great wine and with Italians the wine is all about the food. That’s why I think some of the most food-friendly wine in the world comes from Italy. This one is up there on the list. At $16.99 it’s a great deal.

And for my red, I’m going to stay in Italy.

I believe this was my first time trying this wine, and I loved it. We got together and had lasagna and Caesar salad, and the Italian wines hit it out of the ballpark. Ernest Hemingway called Valpolicella “a light dry wine as friendly as the home of your favorite brother”. I think this is more of a medium bodied wine, but so tasty and so smooth. Under $20 a bottle, try it. Even if you are trying red for the first time.

It’s been one of those weeks. Till next week, Cheers

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How Merlot Can You Go

Cheers

I’ve been on a real Merlot kick lately. I love Merlot.

Merlot is the #1 grape varietal in France and the #2 varietal in the world, behind Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is a full-bodied grape but less aggressive than Cabernet Sauvignon, as it’s not as tannic. (A tannic wine will get your two jawlines singing) It’s smooth and lush, and great for pairing with food. Before I get into some of the new Merlot wines I have tried recently, I wanted to share this with you.

4 years ago yesterday

Yesterday marked 4 years since I became a Certified Sommelier.

I worked really hard for 5 years to get this Certification, so I was really proud. Hundreds of hours in a classroom and even more time spent studying. I always joke and say I loved the homework, but believe me, this was a lot of work and I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Considering I do not work full time in the wine industry, one of the reasons I keep writing this blog is so that I don’t get rusty on wine. (Other than the drinking part) Doing this blog not only encourages me to continue trying new wines, it also has me reading up on what’s happening in the wine world & the latest trends.

I have it framed and proudly displayed

So let me share with you some of the new Merlot wines I have tried lately.

Ghost Pines Merlot

I’m not sure if this is being discontinued in Nova Scotia, but I believe it was originally around $27.99 and it was on sale for $21.99, and I think I may have bought the last one at my neighbourhood NSLC. I enjoyed this, it had a real smoky flavor to it, which paired wonderfully with the meat I had on the grill. You would be hard pressed to find a rating from a wine critic less than 90 Points on this wine, it’s that good. If you see it, and it’s on sale, I recommend you scoop it up.

Sterling California Merlot

This wine was so good! And for a week, it was on sale here. Still a great value at $17.99, I picked up a couple of bottles when it was $15.99. A note to my Newfoundland friends, this wine is available at the NLC as well. The Vintner Collection from Sterling represents a distinct quality, and Wine Spectator says it was plush and well spiced. And that’s what Merlot is all about!

Think Outside the Box

I like to think outside the box when it comes to my wines, so its always fun to try a Merlot (or your favorite wine) from a different country. Chile is producing some fantastic Merlot wines. Chile is producing some great wines period. Although Merlot was bought to South America in the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the Chile & Argentina wine boom of the 1990’s that people started appreciating the Merlot made there. This is a great Merlot for $18

And last, but certainly not least, the biggest treat in my two weeks of Merlot madness! It was amazing. Here’s what the winemaker had to say.

“Our 2017 Sandstone Merlot has inviting notes of ripe fig and pomegranate, with a hint of sandalwood. This delicious Merlot bursts with berry flavors from cranberry, grilled cherry and acai, finishing with a nice lingering acidity.”

Wente was named American Winery of the Year in 2011 and it started in 1883 with Carl Wente. 4th generation siblings, Eric, Phillip & Carolyn took it over in the late 70’s. This family has been making wine for a long time, and they know how to make it right. It’s a great price at under $24. Sandstone refers to the soil the Merlot grapes were grown in. Some of the great wine regions, like Bordeaux, have Sandstone. You’ll really notice it makes a difference in the wine.

Have a great weekend everyone. Till next week, Cheers

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Does Your Easter Bunny Bring Wine?

This is how my Easter weekend is going

I thought this cute little GIF perfectly describes how I am spending my relaxing Easter weekend. And yes, my Easter Bunny does bring wine, and I hope he does for you too.

I want to share something that happened to me this past week, it happens on a semi-regular basis. So this happened a few days back.

The wine was compromised

This picture may not show it well, but I opened a bottle of red wine, and the cork was all wet and red. I knew instantly the wine was compromised. One sip confirmed this with a strong vinegar taste. So I put the cork back in the bottle and returned the remaining wine back to the NSLC. They are excellent, and will return your wine if you bring it back. (not empty of course) Most people don’t know this but anywhere from 2% to 8% of wines are corked, with the lower number being synthetic closures. Which is why synthetic closures and screw caps are becoming more and more popular.

Cork, from trees mostly grown in Portugal, started becoming the favorite stopper, replacing glass stoppers, back in the 1600’s. Too many of the glass stoppers would break. But cork is a) becoming much more expensive and b) it reacts to temperature spikes, high temperatures and movement. A compromised wine can smell vinegary, like the one I had did, but mostly they smell like a wet dog. It’s that moldy, damp wet dog smell in reds, and in white wines it will smell like cooked fruit or also like pronounced vinegar.

Another way to tell if your wine has been affected is if the cork is protruding from the bottle top. However, just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean the wine inside hasn’t been compromised. Or, as in my case, the entire cork was soaking wet with wine, not just the very bottom of the cork. The best ways to tell is smell and taste.

Did you know most people didn’t realize you could bring back tainted wine? You can, and they will graciously exchange it for you. Too many people have tainted wine and thought “I don’t like this wine”, or they pour a bad wine down the sink. That’s what I used to do. But wine is expensive, and your liquor store knows a certain percentage of wine will be off.

I love a good feed

I’ve had to use up some remaining 2020 vacation days in March, as our year end is March 31st, so I’ve been doing some cooking. No surprise there. Yes, that’s a feed of ribs you see in that picture.

Can’t grill without wine

I did some kabobs. My sister Jackie, absolutely loves chicken kabobs, hands down her favorite BBQ food. So I’ve been trying new recipes, with new marinades. This tasty marinade, in front of the glass of wine, consisted of olive oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and a touch of ginger. I’m very careful when cooking with ginger, I use it in a bottle. I find it can over-power the food, unless you are careful, or unless you love ginger. Again, I marinated my chicken in this combo for a couple of hours, and set aside some of the marinade to use while cooking.

Invest in a meat thermometer
A Nice steady temperature

These two pictures are very important for my cooking and grilling. A meat thermometer and a nice steady temperature. When I’m grilling, I try not to keep the lid open for long. Let the grill do the work. However, I open the grill at times to bring temperatures back down.

And my friend Sharon gave me this wonderful meat thermometer for Christmas, and it was one of my favorite gifts. You need a meat thermometer because the days of guessing if the meat is done is so 1980’s. Our moms did this. ‘Oh, it looks like it’s done, so I’ll leave it in the oven for another 20 minutes just to be sure’. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on overcooked meat. My mother was scared to death of meat that was done any way less than well done. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

But my biggest cooking accomplishment over the past few weeks has been scalloped potatoes. This is a favorite with my sister and all my nephews. My sister, who doesn’t generally cook as a rule, told me to ignore if the recipe says 60 minutes, you need 90 – 100 minutes to properly cook scalloped potatoes.

My trusty mandolin

You can buy a mandolin anywhere for less than $20. I love mine, and find it so handy.

It makes perfect potatoes for scalloped potatoes. Would you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but the easy recipe I used is right here! Just so you know, I cooked them covered for 1 hour 25 minutes, and then uncovered and cooked for another 15 minutes. They were tender, cheesy and delicious. I also added some freshly grated parmesan in all the layers and a mozza/cheddar blend on top.

But enough about food, let’s talk some wine.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio from Italy

To our weekly games night, Joan bought this beautiful Pinot Grigio. Ruffino is a staple in Italy, making quality wine there for 140 years. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, this wine is under $15 and just a gorgeous white wine.

Avalon Cab is on sale here in NS

For the red this week, this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi California. Lodi, with its beautiful Mediterranean climate, is more known for Zinfandel, but the soil and climate of California, produces some spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon wines. This easy to drink Cab with its hints of vanilla, spice and chocolate, is a perfect pairing for whatever else the Easter Bunny brings this weekend. Priced under $20 normally, it’s on sale here in Nova Scotia right now at $17. My apologies for snapping this photo, above my cat food dishes. LOL.

Have a safe wonderful Easter weekend. Till next weekend, Cheers

Darlene

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A Wine Holiday For you

Isn’t Everyday National Wine Day?

Let me tell you Saturday is my favorite day of the week. Hands down. The day I can sleep in, and relax and do what I want. And Saturday night feels like a little holiday. You see I can sleep in on Sunday, but I always say ‘I’ll be going to bed early tonight, because I have to work tomorrow, so I better get up’. There’s none of that crap on Saturday. But as I was laying in bed this morning, I realized I had a little writers block. Which happens to me every once in a while. And as I lay there wondering what to write about, I thought, ‘there must a some kind of wine holiday today’. LOL. As it turns out there is a whole list of wine holidays I didn’t know about. I didn’t include the ones that were in January & February, I’ll include them early next year. I thought I would have a little fun with them.

Just so you know today is……

March 27: International Whisky Day (However, I am not a whiskey drinker at all, but Happy Day to all my Whiskey loving friends)

April 17: World Malbec Day

May 1: International Sauvignon Blanc Day

Carmen Reserve Premier Sauvignon Blanc

This line of wines from Carmen are excellent values, because they are so delicious and come at a great price. This Carmen Reserve Premier Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and dry with herbal notes & great acidity. A perfect pairing for shellfish, sushi and really any appetizers. Less than $15.

May 9: World Moscato Day

May 13: World Cocktail Day (My cocktail of choice, happens to be wine)

It’s how I feel about Wine Wednesday

May 15: World Whisky Day (Wait, what? Isn’t today International Whisky Day?)

May 2: International Chardonnay Day

Trinity Oaks Chardonnay

I had the chance to try a new Chardonnay this past week with my friend Angie and I said to her “this is my new favorite Chardonnay”. I can’t tell you how much I loved this wine. Why? Because it wasn’t overly oaked, it wasn’t ‘buttery’, the Chardonnay grape was allowed to shine with gorgeous pear and citrus flavors. Plus, as an added bonus, they have partnered with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit that’s planted over 180 million trees, Trinity Oaks plants one tree per bottle purchased.  Win-Win! You get a great wine and a tree gets planted. $22.99 here in Nova Scotia.

May 25: National Wine Day – (Please, any day can be National Wine Day! In My opinion, anyway.)

June 4: International Cognac Day

June 11: World Lambrusco Day (Remember Riunite wine from the 80’s? It was a Lambrusco wine)

June 25: International Rosé Day

July 22: Shiraz Day (Also happens to be my birthday!)

It’s always Wine O’clock somewhere

August 1-5: International Albariño Days (It’s a white grape varietal out of Portugal. Totally unfair that this wine gets 5 days.)

August 4: White Wine Day

August 18: International Pinot Noir Day

Meomi Pinot Noir

Meomi Pinot Noir is one of the best value Pinot Noir wines in the wine store for two reasons. 1. It’s under $25, which is unusual for a spectacular Pinot Noir. 2. It truly is a spectacular Pint Noir. Priding themselves on fantastic coastal California wines, when I visited the Napa region in 2001, many winemakers will tell you the coastal California breezes add a special terroir to the grapes like no other region.

September 2: International Cabernet Day

September 17: International Grenache Day

October 9: International Pinotage Day (Buy a good one from South Africa, not the ‘coffee flavored’ pinotages.

October 15: Champagne Day (Don’t feel compelled to wait this long.)

Cheers!

October 28: Carignan Day (Known for being used in blends, if you are not familiar with this grape, it really adds a beautiful touch to red blends)

November 7: International Merlot Day (I don’t know about Paul Giamatti, but I’ll be drinking me some Merlot on this day, I’ve recently founds a few new ones, which I will share with you next week)

November 11: International Tempranillo Day

November 17: National Zinfandel Day (It’s an American celebration, but don’t tell anyone.)

November 18: Beaujolais Nouveau Day (a.k.a. The worst Gamay Noir you will taste this year)

November 24: Carmenère Day

December 4: Cabernet Franc Day  (If you haven’t tried Cabernet Franc on it’s own, outside of a Bordeaux blend, you don’t know what you’ve been missing)

December 20: Sangria Day (In other words, take all that leftover red or white wine from those previous days and mix it with a bunch of chopped fruit.)

And now for my wine of the week…..

Trinity Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

A little earlier in the blog I wrote about the Trinity Oaks Chardonnay, and it truly is one of my favorite Chardonnay wines because of the complexity, which sometimes gets lost in a Chardonnay. The complexity can also be found in the Trinity Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, and it too, will plant a tree for every bottle purchased. The grapes come from both Coastal California and Lodi (known more for its Zinfandel, but features beautiful grape-growing weather). Try this beautiful Cabernet with your next meal featuring beef, you’ll love it. It too is $22.99.

Wine pairing is easy!

That’s it for me for this week. Thank you for reading

Darlene

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What’s Your Wine Name

Deep Moon Merlot

It’s Saturday morning, and let’s have a bit of fun. I saw this chart this past week, and chuckled, and thought “I have to pass it on to you”. Let me know in the comments below what your wine name is. Mine is Deep Moon Merlot.

I have to share with you what else this week bought. Meet Maggie

Maggie is a Bernadoodle that belongs to my sister Jackie. Her son, Riley is going to St. FX University here in Nova Scotia. He picked up the dog, and I met him at the half way mark to get this little doggie on a plane to his new forever home.

Cuteness overload

I got to visit with my nephew Riley this past week. Saw him briefly on Tuesday in Truro, and of course when I saw him Tuesday, I had to bring him a load of food. That’s what an Aunt Dar does! He’s coming up again this coming Friday so I guess I’ll be cooking Thursday night, I’ll share any new recipes.

Fajitas, Rice, Homemade cookies

This week I also completed my latest puzzle, my 18th since the pandemic started. A gorgeous puzzle of St. John’s Newfoundland.

St. John’s Newfoundland

I did some cooking, this probably comes as no surprise to anyone.

Brown rice, a salad with beets, almonds, parmesan and a homemade vinaigrette. The chicken is done by sautéing onions and garlic, orange juice, and some fresh herbs. Here’s my homemade vinaigrette, and the one suggestion I would use is to buy a decent olive oil. It is estimated 80% of olive oil is not ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’ or even olive oil in some cases. There is no regulation when it comes to olive oil, which means you can put olive oil on a label, and it doesn’t have to be in the bottle. Here’s a great way to test it. If you can’t drink it from a spoon, it’s probably fake. I have a couple of different olive oils.

This is my everyday oil

If I’m cooking, I don’t use the super expensive one from a wonderful place here in H.R.M. called Liquid Gold. I use this organic one I buy at Costco. If the olive oil is the star of the show, like it is when you make homemade salad dressing, this is the one I use.

Please don’t spend $4 on olive oil, I would be willing to bet it is not olive oil. The one on the top is a great buy at $15 for two bottles at Costco, and the Liquid Gold is the best, and is about $20 for a bottle.

Here’s my homemade salad dressing, combine ingredients & whisk

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Grainy mustard
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Brown sugar

Easy and delicous.

Let’s talk some wine.

An Italian Classic

If there’s one thing Italian winemakers excel at, is making food-friendly wine. They are the king of the world, the largest wine producer in the world. Even when I visited there in 2017, where ever you ate, they would bring out a carafe of wine. You had no idea of the grapes, or if they made it in a back room. But it was delicious, and whether you drank white or red, you could be guaranteed it was going to compliment the food. It had been a long long time since I’ve had the Campfiorni red Rosso. Made with 3 grapes that are indigenous to Italy, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Whenever you see Rosso on a bottle of Italian wine, although the word means ‘red’ in Italian, they tend to be blends. This wine, I had the 2017, it is medium-bodied, easy to drink and very food friendly. Masi is famed for its Amarone, and they use that method to make this wine, called Appassimento. It’s the process of drying the grapes to enhance flavor. It makes for a beautiful wine that feels like its been aging forever. A spectacular wine for $22.

For my white loving friends, they make the Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio

Again they use an Appassimento method, drying Verduzzo grapes to add to the Pinot Grigio to add a unique complexity to the wine. This one is only $17. My friend Jakke, who works at the NSLC up the street from me, told me she found some great videos on YouTube of Sommeliers talking about wines under $20. They are fantastic, and it’s a great idea to give you some new ideas about wines. Here’s the thing that will kick you in the pants, what Americans and Europeans pay for wine, we pay double and sometimes more. The first video I watched, they were talking about the beautiful Bogle wine, and the first thing that hit me was the host said she had paid $14 for it, but the average price was $12. That wine is $25.99 here. Our friends South of the border have a huge selection of great wines under $20, us, sadly not so much! That’s why I’m here.

Don’t believe it!

Well that’s it for me for this week. As much as I love wine, do not believe it when it tells you you can dance!! LOL Learn from my mistakes.

Have a great week

Darlene

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Losing An Hour of Wine This Weekend

This would be me during an upcoming election

This is the weekend the clocks go ahead. Personally I never understood why they do this on the Saturday night / Sunday morning, and we lose an hour of our weekend. I’m all for changing it to 4 p.m. on the Friday. Who’s with me? Yesterday it was 15°C here in Halifax, this morning it is 0° with a windchill of -7°C, that’s Atlantic Canada for you!

It’s a great time for red, white or sparkling

Like you, I am looking forward to longer and warmer evenings. As most of you know, I grill all year round, but let’s face it, grilling is best when the weather is warmer. Speaking of the grill, I have a new recipe for chicken skewers. Do not ask me why I seem to be obsessed with food on a stick lately. Now don’t get me wrong, for people with kids, it’s a great way to get them to eat vegetables. I must still have some kid in me, because I love them. I love how fast they grill up and how great they look on a plate. I’m having a big of an issue finding the length of skewer I want.

There is a mid-size range

These are the two size skewers I have in my pantry. The shorter one is a little more ideal than the really long one. (That thing is a weapon, you probably don’t want to give that one to kids) There is a size in the middle though, I’ve had them before. I just can’t seem to find them in Halifax. I have an awesome new recipe for Grilled Honey Chili Lime Chicken Skewers. However, you don’t need the skewer. You can make this recipe for any cut of chicken you wish, and it can be done on the grill or in the oven. I have a new grill and I love using it, but many times I’m using it like an oven.

2 chicken breasts = 10 small skewers

So I cut up the chicken in bite size pieces, and marinated it in this recipe. I cut up 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I also love boneless skinless thighs. Like I said, you can use any cut of chicken you like. You can even do this recipe on a full roasted chicken. Here’s the marinade:

  • fresh lime juice
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • honey
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of brown sugar (I’ll tell you why shortly)
  • red chili flakes
  • a splash of orange juice or chicken broth

Boneless skinless chicken, like boneless pork, is a blank canvas and they will absorb all the flavors you want to throw at them. Which is why marinating is so important with these two meats. Why the brown sugar? Not only does brown sugar contain molasses, which is a whole new flavor level, it also carmelizes on the grill and adds a gorgeous flavor.

My basting sauce is simple

On my skewers, along with the chicken, I cut up red onion, cherry tomatoes, and some peppers. It gives the skewer big pops of color. Then while grilling, I kept brushing with this simple sauce.

Don’t they look awesome!

What I was brushing them with was a little olive oil, a little orange juice, and fresh cilantro chopped up. That’s it, the oil ensured it would get golden brown, the juice adds some acidity, and the cilantro just added a good swift kick in the chicken bits! I eat them over rice, over salad, and sometimes if I’m hungry enough I eat them like a popsicle! LOL

I’ve got 2 wines for us this week, a white and a red. Let’s start with the white.

Blu Giovello

Every Tuesday evening myself and 3 friends get together for a games night, we play a game called Rummikub. Every week Angie and I alternate bringing a red wine, and Joan and Elaine alternate bringing the white wine. This is the wine Joan bought this past Tuesday, and it was one of the most unique Pinot Grigio wines I have ever tasted. It was very dry, with very little acidity, but it had beautiful flavors of lemon-lime and stone fruit. I can’t eat fish, but if I could, this would be the perfect wine for an oilier fish. This wine is $19 here in Nova Scotia and $12.90 in Ontario. How’s that for a price swing in Canada. Each week I am noticing new readers from the U.S., and Alison from Oklahoma told me she comes on to my blog to check the price of the wines I’m featuring, because it makes her feel good when she goes to buy them.

I tried a brand new red this past week, and it was spectacular

My friend Maggie and I were having coffee last weekend and she was telling me she was discovering some fantastic wines out of Chile. Chile is still one of the great values in the wine store, and I’ve been wanting to try this one. The Valle Del Maipo, which means Maipo Valley is home to the most prestigious wines that come out of Chile. It is known as the “Bordeaux of South America”, but let me tell you, the wines are a fraction of the price. I paid $20 for this Merlot and it was stunning. This was so well balanced, and still very young, as you can see I enjoyed the 2018 vintage. Full-bodied, rich and supple, this was a beautiful treat.

Enjoy the weekend, I personally think that any weekend where they take an hour away, should be an automatic holiday on the Monday. But that’s just me.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

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Moving Forward

Hope you like the new look

All I can say is WOW! And thank you. The feedback was amazing. I appreciated every comment on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and in personal emails and texts. I hope you like the new look. Several people commented that the black background with white print was a little hard to read. I would also like to take a moment to welcome all our new readers. This blog originates out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. So it was nice to see all the new readers from the United States this week, in addition to Ireland, Turkey, Venezuela, Norway and India. Welcome one and all.

Welcome to the new readers

My good friend GK who set up my original blog 12 years ago, called and told me I needed to update the style. As a matter of fact, I think his exact words were ‘For the love of God girl, that blog style needs to be updated, make it cleaner, more modern.’ One of my friends who gave me feedback, FM, said I should share some of the comments. He was curious as to what the other readers had to say. So I will, protecting their identity, using just their initials. Long time reader of my blog RS, & his wife M, who lives in Newfoundland gave this feedback.

Good afternoon Darlene, I look forward to your blog each Saturday. Maxine and I are wine people as well, we were white wine drinkers at the beginning, but now it’s red and almost all red. We do buy a bottle of white every now and then. You know I like to cook, and I do enjoy your recipes. Some of the wines you feature you can’t get here on the rock, and the wine here is a little more expensive than in Nova Scotia. In my opinion just keep it going as it is. Cheers.”

The recipes will be staying

One of the constant themes with the feedback, was ‘Keep the recipes’. I had a friend tell me this past week, we are always struggling to find new recipes that are delicious and easy, so keep them up.

JL from Alberta had this say to say

Love your blog, Darlene. I think adding some recipes is a great idea …..in my opinion! 😄😄🤗

I have a couple of friends with the initials A.M. and here they are with their thoughts.

Love all the recipes!”

Would certainly welcome new recipes, along with your wine reviews, Darlene. Have enjoyed both in the past!👍

The recipes are staying

So the recipes are going to become a part of the blog, which I’m super happy about. I’m even practicing short 2 minute videos on preparing and seasoning my dishes. This comment from KT bought a smile to my face

Someone wants to know what is your suggested wine pairing for a BBQ deboned turkey, injected with white wine and sage and rubbed with apricot jam?😁. Just so you know, I recommended a Riesling!

Crispy outside, fluffy inside

This week, I want to share the easy way to make crispy potatoes in your oven or on your BBQ. I use these aluminum pans a lot when I BBQ. They help keep your BBQ cleaner and are perfect for grill cooking. You can buy them at the grocery store or the dollar store, but Costco sells 30 for $6.

I did these on my BBQ

One of the things I have learned this year is how to master the art of crispy potatoes without a deep fryer.

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes in whatever size you like. I’ve made them to look like fries, but I’ve also done this with bigger chunks.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bath of cold water and let them sit for at least 30 minutes
  3. Pat dry on a dishtowel
  4. Rub cornstarch on your hands and lightly coat the potatoes with the cornstarch
  5. Add vegetable oil, and cook in an oven of 400-degrees or on your BBQ until they are done. Times will vary depending on grills and ovens, but 25-minutes is a good average.
  6. Hold the salt till the towards the end, as putting the salt on raw potatoes will take some of the moisture out, and your potatoes won’t be as fluffy on the inside.
  7. Salt is mandatory though, when it comes to potatoes.
Delicious and crispy

Another reader suggested not doing a ‘grocery list’ of wines, just do one per week. With the recipes and everything else, one wine per week is great. So that’s what I’m going to do, and the wines will vary from red, white, sparkling, rose, and even a scattered dessert wine.

This week’s wine is from Cupcake.

Cupcake Cabernet

This week this wine was $3 off and priced under $14 here in Nova Scotia. Regular price is around $16 so it’s still a great value. I’ve had the Cupcake Red Velvet before, and because it contains Zinfandel, there is a tinge of sweetness there. My friend Angie, who I shared this with, said when she saw the name Cupcake, she thought it might be a sweetened red wine, but it isn’t. We both enjoyed it. One thing this vineyard does is pick the grapes when they are very ripe, which adds richness and a velvety palate. Great news, they make a wide variety of wine styles. Winemaker Jessica Tomei believes wine pairs best with good friends and family and great food. There is something for everyone, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sparkling and Rose. Which Cupcake wines are available in your area?

Who’s with me

Well, that’s it for this week. Thank you again so much for the feedback. Keep it coming, I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Enjoy the weekend, Cheers

Darlene

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Food For Thought

Looking for advice

This week’s blog is a little different, as I am reaching out for feedback from the people that regularly read my blog. A penny for your thoughts, if you will.

Don’t see these any more in Canada

I would like to share a little history on this blog. I started this blog, and bought my name dot com, in 2009. Believe me, it wasn’t a bidding war, no one else wanted it LOL!! Back then I wrote about whatever was on my mind. The blog was called ‘In My Opinion’. I wrote about movies, current events, news, food, wine and anything else that crossed my mind.

Then in 2012, I started my 5-year journey into becoming a Certified Sommelier. Just so you know, it doesn’t take everyone 5 years. I moved to a different province, which interrupted my studies, and also took a trip one Spring with my sister, that had me passing on a particular course for that year. So, in 2012, my blog became entirely focused on wine, and I renamed the blog ‘Wine, In My Opinion” and since then “Wine, It’s Just My Opinion”. And the reason I did that, is that I have met many wonderful people who have totally different palates than mine. And they are not wrong, I’m not wrong. No one is wrong when it comes to which wines you love, that’s the beauty of winelovers everywhere.

Learning how to make homemade pizza

Then, back when the pandemic started, and I started learning new recipe ideas, learning how to make homemade bread, and learning a whole bunch of easy delicious recipes that I wanted to share, the blog went from being just wine, to wine and food. Those that know me, know I absolutely love to cook. My friend Angie says there is total joy on my face when I start talking about food and recipes. And back in May I learned how to make homemade pizza dough, and shared it with you, my readers. People went wild. Hundreds of new readers, lots of feedback, and people really enjoyed it. So I started experimenting with adding food to my wine blogs. Because after all, what goes better with food, than wine.

I shared pasta dishes.

Pasta with chicken & spiniach

I shared recipes for marinades, sauces & aiolis.

Sweet Thai Chili Aioli

I shared recipes for meats done on the grill.

Ribs, still my favorite protein

And this recipe for garlic parmesan potatoes took on a life all it’s own, with almost a thousand comments, questions, & requests for the recipe on Facebook and Twitter.

Garlic Parmesan Potatoes

This past week, I decided to do some meal prep, and shared this picture from my kitchen on Facebook and Twitter. It was +4-degrees here in Halifax and a perfect evening for grilling. And I love to grill. People went crazy again. LOL. Lots of comments and feedback.

Meal prep

Pictured are a new potato medley, pork chops, chicken skewers, garlic glazed carrots and I’ve been trying new recipes for cauliflower including a maple buffalo sauce and a homemade honey mustard glaze. I found cauliflower on sale at a Farmer’s market here in Halifax so I decided to buy a couple and try some new recipes. And I shared with my friend Angie, who really doesn’t like to cook. But she’s a great taste-tester and gives me feedback on new recipes.

So here’s where you come in!!

I need your honest feedback on the direction of this blog. I’m going to be honest, sometimes it’s tough getting up every Saturday morning and writing a wine blog. I get writer’s block, and I sometimes struggle to write about wine topics that appeals to people. That’s where the food starting coming in. It’s a perfect compliment to wine, and everyone has to eat. And let’s face it, we are always looking for new simple cooking ideas, so we are not eating the same food again and again. This is a struggle for people, which is why food companies like Hello Fresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food are doing booming business. We’ve all seen this meme, and there is a lot of truth to it.

I’m also thinking about doing a short video in the blog. From my kitchen, showing how easy it is to prepare some of these recipes. So I’m asking for the reader’s opinion. Please be honest, please be kind. But whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the comments below, I really would like to have your thoughts on what you would like to see in my blog. Just wine, keep with the food, expand into other areas but still include wine? I really really need your feedback. For a while, I felt it kind of turned into a grocery list of wine, and readership did start to drop. Then when I introduced food, boom!! Readership quadrupled some weeks. Thank you in advance.

I do have a new wine of the week…

A great Italian Rosso

Had a steak last night, with wings, onion rings and potatoes. I got home late, so I was starving, and ate it before I could take a picture. And I tried this new wine with it. Delicious. It’s from Tuscany and it’s 70% Sangiovese and 30% other grapes. The reason they don’t name the other grapes, is because they change up the 30% from year to year. Other red wine grapes grown in this region of Italy include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This was an easy to drink tasty Tuscan red wine, that is on sale right now for $15.99. It’s a great value and a great wine, and I highly recommend it.

Till next week, Cheers. And thank you for the feedback.

Darlene

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The Pandemic’s Most Popular Wines

2020 was an interesting year, and the only reason I’m looking back, I was curious about the most popular wines. This information was compiled by Mast of Wine Dr. Liz Thach, a wine writer, educator and a consultant. And although it’s an American study, I’m pretty confident the numbers will be quite similar here in Canada as well.

Not surprising, Cabernet Sauvignon was #1. Here’s a great example of why!

Chateau Souverain was my #1 top pick last year for it’s great taste and great value. Under $20 a bottle, In 1943 Lee Stewart was miserable as a Sales Executive in San Francisco and bought a winery and 30-acres in Napa Valley. In 1944 he named the winery Chateau Souverain because his daughter liked the name, as it sounded like Soverign. In 1973 the winery moved to the Sonoma region of the Napa Valley and they have been making great wine for many decades. How can they do it at the price they charge, I don’t know, but I am grateful. A great full-bodied food friendly wine.

Wine Tours sure changed in 2020

So #2 on the list, might surprise many people, but it doesn’t surprise me…. Chardonnay. Chardonnay is still the most planted white wine varietal in the world, so its not surprising that it’s the #1 white wine and the #2 overall wine in sales from 2020. Chardonnay comes in many different styles, from rich and buttery, to crisp and clean. Some are heavily oaked, while others don’t see oak at all.

Bread & Butter Chardonnay

I am going to provide a better picture of one of my favorite Chardonnay wines.

Discovered this Chardonnay at the 2019 Wine Show

This wine is also based in Napa Valley. A gorgeous full-bodied hearty white wine, I loved both this Chardonnay and its sister wine the Bread & Butter Pinot Noir from the 2019 Wine Show, and they actually made the top of my list that year. There’s richness in the vanilla and almond flavors with a slight minerality that make it perfect for your next dinner. Sadly, you can no longer get this wine here in Nova Scotia, but you can in other parts of Canada and around the U.S. I’m really looking forward to having it again once we are allowed to travel. It’s still available in Newfoundland, so now I’m really looking forward to that trip home.

Don’t embarrass yourself at the Wine store

Red Blends have made huge leaps in the hearts and palates of wine lovers, jumping to #3 on the list for 2020. Red blends are gorgeous, getting the best qualities of 2 or more grapes. They are fairly inexpensive and appeal to a large group of people. And not all are sweet. I know some people think red blend wines are sweet, especially after tasting wines like the Apothic wines. But Bordeaux wines are all blends, and they are not sweet at all. Like this one for example.

Menage a Trois Red Wine Blend

This is a great example of a non-expensive great tasting wine blend. Menage a Trois Red wine blend is made up of, you guessed it, 3 grape varietals. Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are the 3 grapes that make up this blend. Hearty, juicy, and tasty with structure from the Cabernet, the founders of this winery wanted to experiment ‘threely’. They created 3-grape blends that have become iconic, but only because of the name of the wine, but because of the great wine in the bottle.

Would love to know

And now for my wine of the week…

It was no surprise to me to see Pinot Grigio make its way to #4. It’s surprising that a couple of years ago, this delicious crisp light wine didn’t even make the Top 10. Pinot Grigio is winning hearts all over North America with its crisp light flavors and fantastic price tags. You can get a fabulous Italian Pinot Grigio for under $15, and you can choose from a wide variety at that price range. This one pictured, was shared with me by my friend Arla, who loves Pinot Grigio, and who has shared her love with this wine with her friends. This is a great wine and I believe she told me she paid around $11 for it.

Before I sign off, I have some news to share.

Because of Covid-19 and the numbers being what they are in Ontario and Quebec, our June trip to the Niagara region, which included a stop-over in old Quebec city, has been moved to October 2nd. Yes, we will still be staying at the Hilton in Niagara Falls, pictured above. And October is going to be such a pretty time of the year to go.

Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours

My friend Richard Arnold, co-owner of Atlantic Tours, and I chatted yesterday afternoon, and we both agreed the trip had to be moved. I’m excited about the October date. We are travelling by Motor Coach through Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. The leaves are going to be gorgeous, and the company is going to be fun. Come join us. Only a $50 deposit will hold your space. That’s not a typo. A $50 fully refundable deposit will hold your spot on this fun trip. Check out the details here.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our upcoming trip. We all need something to look forward to, so why not make it this awesome 8-day trip.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Featured

Love Is In The Air (Nope, that’s Wine)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m here to help with gift giving ideas for the special person in your life. Wine! If that special someone in your life is a wine-lover, like myself, here are some great suggestions.

Roses, romance, dinner, Champagne? Champagne can sometimes be hard on the wallet, with prices aiming towards $100 per bottle. Try an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava.

Hola Spanish Cava

Hola is how people greet each other in Spain, and that was the reasoning behind the name. It’s crisp and dry, which means not sweet. Made with the Traditional method, just like Champagne, it’s a show-stopper at just $21.99.

However, if it is Champagne you’ve been craving…. here’s a beautiful one.

Top Chef Canada Winner Renee LaValee

Renee LaVallee is a winner of Top Chef Canada and the acclaimed chef and owner of the Canteen in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She teamed up with Duval Leroy Champagne House in the Cotes des Blancs region of Champagne France, to partner and create this beautiful Champagne.

A better picture of the bottle

They have been making Champagne for 160 years, and I was thrilled to meet Renee at 2019’s Port of Wines Show at the Casino Nova Scotia. She said this Champagne is in harmony with her style of cuisine. I loved it, it woke my palate up, when I tasted it. A beautiful treat for that special someone, or a gorgeous gift. Renee LaVallee’s Champagnes from Duval Leroy sells for $69.99, and in my opinion, that’s an excellent deal for this great Champagne.

If the person in your life is a white wine lover, you can’t go wrong with Pinot Grigio or a Pinot Gris, it’s the same grape variety.

Kim Crawford Pinot Gris

As a matter of fact, the gris means ‘gray’ in French, because it’s a white grape with a grayish tint to it. True story. And if you see the word ‘Grauburgundur on the label, it’s a Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio from Germany. (Spatburgundur is German Pinot Noir) This wine hails from New Zealand, and although New Zealand is better known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, they do grow a wide variety of grapes. With its gorgeous flavors of peach and honey, if fish is on the menu, this is the wine for you.

Truth!

Before I tell you a great wine for the red wine lover on your list. Let me share what I had last night. A steak. And I do my steak very simply. Melted butter, I did put some fresh herbs in the melted butter last night to try it. I saw it on the Food Network. But you don’t need them, not for a steak. Sea salt and ground pepper. That’s it.

Then I heat up the Sear Zone on my grill, and put a beautiful char on the steak. 1 minute, turn, 1 minute flip, 1 minute turn again.

My Sear Zone
Isn’t that a beautiful sight

So, here’s a great red wine to serve on Valentine’s Day, especially if you are celebrating with a good hearty protein.

Last week I was telling you about the fantastic wines that are coming out of Paso Robles California, and here’s another one. Paso Robles is now on my bucket list as places I would like to travel to. Like the Napa Valley, I think it would be like wine heaven, gorgeous scenery and great wine. At least that’s what I hope Heaven is like. This wine is racking up great wine reviews, I even read one from a guy who said he hadn’t had a great Merlot in a while, until he had this one. It’s under $2 a bottle.

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend to all my readers. Happy long weekend here in Nova Scotia, it’s the Family Day weekend.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene