Wine Tasting with Friends

First of all I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for reading the blog in record numbers last week.   If it was your first visit, I hope you enjoy my weekly blog about wine and food.   To my dear friends who read it each week, thank you for your support on my journey with wine.

I had a little dinner party Wednesday night, and a few friends and I got together to try some new wines and enjoy some good food.  We started the evening with a refreshing Pinot Gris from New Zealand.

Single Estate - Pinot Gris

The Marlborough region of New Zealand is famous for Sauvignon Blanc, and this was my first time trying a Pinot Gris from the region.  Wow, it didn’t disappoint.  The 2012 Single Estate Pinot Gris, which is the one we shared, is only the second crop of Pinot Gris from the Ara Vineyard.  2011 was the very first release.  Very light and clear in the glass with aromas of pear and nectarine.  This vibrant crisp white wine has citrus flavors in the mouth and is very expressive.   Recommended pairings include your favorite summer salad, asparagus, or all by itself on the deck.  It is $21.99 here in Nova Scotia and very much worth it.

The next wine we cracked open was the Audrey Wilkinson Winemaker’s Selection 2010 Shiraz from Hunter Valley.   Big bold wine.  Can easily go with steak, BBQ ribs and other heavy grilled foods.    A dark red color in the glass with purple hues.   Big rich dark fruits on the nose with a hint of chocolate and a floral note.   Those dark red fruits are on the palate, aged in French oak, it finishes very smooth.  The winemaker is Jeff Byrne, originally from right here in Nova Scotia.  If you are a regular reader of the blog I had written about him before.  He went to Australia to surf, fell in love, and moved to Australia.   Started working in a vineyard, and then took the necessary education to start winemaking and the rest is history.   Jeff makes great wines.

One of my guests that evening was just getting into wine.  And although the Pinot Gris was her favorite, we did crack open to try a Beaujolais.

This was the one we tried, the 2011 Beaujolais Superieur.   Now a Beaujolais wine is very light and fruity.  It’s a thin-skinned grape and has very low tannins.  Any Beaujolais is the wine I generally recommend when someone wants to make the transition between white and red.   Light purple in color, fruity with hints of cherries.  This is a wine you would chilled, which again helps people making that transition from white to red.  Beaujolais wines tend not to be expensive, and this one came it at about $15.

The last one we opened was a Lytton  Springs Zinfandel.  Made up of mostly Zinfandel , it also has Petite Sirah and Carignan.   Because I served my Maple Dijon Chicken (check out last week’s blog for the recipe) and honey roasted potatoes with a couple of different cold salads, I needed a very versatile wine.  One very food friendly wine, and this is the one I chose.  The vines are 115 years old and it produces a spectacularly smooth wine.   If you were to check out some of the ratings on this wine you will see 93’s and 95’s.  Aged 14 months in the barrel,  the aromas of black cherry, mint, and vanilla make for a beautiful wine.

I have been asked to share my favorite salad, so here is the recipe.  The secret is in the homemade salad dressing, it’s my favorite.   Enjoy the Pinot Gris, or a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc with this salad.

Summer Salad



  • Leafy greens
  • Diced peppers (I use green, red, yellow and orange)
  • Cucumber sliced
  • Real Bacon made into bacon bits.
  • Blue cheese or grated Parmesan cheese  (pick your favorite)
  • Cranberries
  • Toasted Pecans
  • You can also add your favorite ingredients.  I have used beets instead of cranberries at times and fresh fruit like pears

Salad Dressing:

  • Olive Oil  (please use a high quality olive oil)
  • Balsamic Vinegar  (I have been experimenting with flavored balsamic vinegars as well)
  • Grainy Dijon Mustard
  • Fresh garlic
  • Brown Sugar

Combine all the ingredients, mix well, and drizzle the dressing over the salad.   Enjoy with your favorite wine.

Till next week, thanks for reading and In Vino Veritas  (In wine there is truth) .


Wine, Happiness, Chicken & Sommeliers in Training

When award winning Wine Writer and Sommelier, Natalie Maclean, asked me to nominate wines for the Great Canadian Wine Match, I was honored and thrilled.  I never dreamed my wine would win in any of the categories, but my pick for chicken – Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay won as the best wine for chicken.

Le Clos Jordanne makes two kinds of wine, and only two kinds.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and is probably the reason they do it so well.  Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay is the perfect treat wine, and in my opinion, the perfect wine for so many chicken recipes.   Smooth, supple, full-bodied and rich.   And a Chardonnay not over-powered by oak.  Gorgeous.

It’s a treat wine for most people.  It’s $83 a bottle here in Nova Scotia and similarly priced across the country.  So most of us don’t enjoy $83 bottles of wine every day of the week.   But you know what.  Treat yourself.  It’s worth it.  Don’t wait for a birthday or anniversary.  Make your own special occasion.  Celebrate life and a good meal with a spectacular bottle of wine.  We all need to do that every once in a while.  That’s where the happiness comes in.

When Natalie asked me to participate in a 3-way interview with Le Clos Jordanne winemaker Sebasian Jacquey (pictured above), I was so nervous I almost cancelled.  But I was so glad I didn’t cancel.  Two great people who know so much about wine, I had a fantastic evening sharing a glass of wine with these two fine people.

I also loved the name Natalie put on the feature, so that’s what I’m titling the blog this week.  Here’s the video.

Wine, Happiness, Chicken & Sommelier’s in Training

During Segment 2, Natalie asked me my favorite recipe to go with this wine.  I had a couple.  I am always getting asked for my recipes, so here is one of my favorite chicken recipes.


Darlene’s Maple Dijon Chicken

  • Chicken breasts (or thighs can be used – skinless and boneless are my preference)
  • Maple Syrup  (the real stuff – not pancake syrup)
  • A grainy Dijon mustard.
  • A couple of tablespoons of Low Sodium Soya Sauce
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • Minced garlic
  • A shake or a squeeze of lime juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and pour over the chicken.  Now, if you have time, put the chicken in the fridge and marinate it for as long as you can.  Try marinating in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day.

Ensure you have enough sauce to cover the chicken at least half way.  You can cook in a casserole dish in the oven or even on the BBQ.

I have done this one my BBQ 2 ways.  I love cooking the chicken in the sauce.  Put it in an aluminum foil baking dish and enjoy a glass of wine while this cooks on the BBQ.   (this is my favorite way.)  Or you can take it out of the marinade and cook it right on the grill.   Either way tastes delicious.

Your family will love this chicken recipe.

Enjoy your favorite wine with it.  Till next week, thanks for reading and Cheers.


Discovering New Wines This Summer

As the temperature inches up towards 30-degrees Celsius here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I come to realize that Summer is here!   And one of my goals this summer is to fully enjoy my patio.  And to enjoy a new wine each week.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I have tried some new ones that I wanted to share with you.

I have been enjoying the wines from the McManis Family vineyards for several years.  They make a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, but this past week I have had the opportunity to enjoy the Merlot.  Well, I had it with a grilled stuffed butterfly pork chop (Recipe below).  Spectacular.  Gorgeous deep purple color in the class and cherries and strawberry greet your nose.   On the palate there is a vanilla flavored oak and I’m sure I detected some caramel.  It’s under $20, which means you can enjoy it any night of the week.

Every time I see the words Mendocino County, I think of the song Mendocino County Line by Willie Nelson and Lee Anne Womack.   This is a beautiful Grand Reserve Zinfandel and comes in at about $25 here in Nova Scotia.  A nice spicy fruity Zinfandel with flavors of cherry and plum and a bit of black pepper.  Fantastic with a BBQ!


I can honestly say this is my first time writing about a Rose wine, and definitely my first writing about a Malbec Rose.  Until one week ago, I didn’t know a Malbec Rose existed.

This Malbec, when harvested, is vinified in stainless steel at temperatures below 18-degrees.  Recommended by my friend Rayell, this wine is perfect for summer.  It’s fun and refreshing and a real conversation piece.  Aromas of grapefruit, its crisp with a real nice acidity and has a beautiful finish.   People who love red or white wine should definitely try this, and at just $15.99 a bottle, why wouldn’t you try it.

Another fun wine this summer is this gorgeous California Pinot Grigio from the makers of Menage a Trois.   I have written about their Red wine before, and I love it.  Well last weekend, I enjoyed the Pinot Grigio.  Tropical fruits, big and beautiful fruit flavors and a refreshing crisp acidity.   It’s under $20 here in Nova Scotia, and so food friendly.  Or you can enjoy it all by itself on a patio, as I did last weekend.

Enjoy the summer, and I would love to hear what new wine you have tried this summer!  Many people ask me my recipes, so here is my simple recipe for Stuffed Pork Chops.  You can also use it for pork tenderloin as well.  You can also mix and match any of your favorite ingredients

Stuffed Pork Chop.

1 butterfly pork chop  (not to thick, because it will be harder to grill)

1 piece of bread cut up into small pieces

Bacon bit – the real ones.  Or fry a couple of pieces of bacon and cut those up into small pieces

Feta cheese  (I use crumbled or feta with sundried tomatoes

I have added olives, jalapenos, sundried tomatoes and peppers for a different taste

A dash of basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients with a bit of olive oil or butter, and lay on 1/2 of the pork chop.  Fold over and secure with tooth picks.

Grill all 4 sides of the pork chop, marinating with mustard and a bit of BBQ sauce.



Everyone Deserves a Treat!

For the most part when you and I open a bottle of wine, we like to keep it reasonable.   Most of us are on a budget and that applies to our wine consumption as well.  But every once in a while, I like to treat myself.  Sometimes it’s a new pair of shoes, most times it’s a treat bottle of wine.


At $40, this is a spectacular wine.  A big bold red wine made from a blend of 5 grapes from two different regions in Italy.  Here’s how the winemaker described the sensory appeal of this wine.  (Keep in mind the winemaker is Italian, and his words have been translated into English)

“The cup is colored with a dark but bright ruby, the aromas are of great impact, with an intense fruity loads of blackberry and cherry, enriched by notes of herbs, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, licorice and a intriguing mineral touch.  On the palate shows significant structure, well balanced between the warm embrace dictated by the alcohol content and adequate freshness and the tannins are soft and very tenacious persistence”

I could not describe this wine any better than that.   I loved this wine!.

The next wine is Calera 2011 Pinot Noir from the Central Coast in California.  Winemaker Josh Jensen set out to make an incredible Pinot Noir using soil rich with limestone.  He found his spot and Calera (which means Coast) was born.   Aged in French oak barrels for 11 months, the way I described this wine to a friend recently, was it doesn’t taste like a 2011 vintage.  It tastes like it’s been aged much longer.  It’s that smooth.  With flavors of cherry, strawberry and wild herbs this beautiful earthy Pinot Noir will compliment any meal.

This wine is the 2009 Lytton Springs blend of Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane.   If you are wanting to treat yourself, this is the perfect time to enjoy this wine.  This was one of the best wines I have tasted.  There, I said it.  Originally priced at about $50, the NSLC is clearing it out at $35 and I bought 3 yesterday.  (I may go back for the rest yet – it’s that good).  Regular readers of my blog know how much I love an Old Vine Zinfandel, and this one has great cellar potential.   A powerful and earthy red wine with aromas and flavors of vanilla, raspberry, chocolate and spices.

So there we have it.  Maybe it’s for a special occasion, a gift, or you’ve just had one of those weeks where you deserve a treat, I hope you enjoy my choices as much as I did.  Let’s face it, everyone deserves a treat.