The 100 Point Rating System

Did you know the 100 Point Rating system in wine was created by wine critic Robert Parker in the 1970’s?   And it’s very commonly used today.

It is essentially a 50-100 point rating system which correlates to an ‘A-F’ grade on the wine.   Anything with an 85 or higher rating was considered an above average or good wine with a 90+ Rating considered outstanding.   Not only was this rating system popular with consumers, as it made buying good wine easier, it was also popular with Wine retailers and merchants, who had a great Marketing tool in their hands
In my opinion, it is the name of the blog – this man is genius.  If you enjoy wine, but don’t know much about wine, going into a Liquor Store or Wine store to purchase wine, it can be an intimidating thing.  I hear this all the time from people.   And, because French wine tends not to be labelled by their grape, but by region, it can make French wine a little more difficult.  This man, Robert Parker, made buying a good bottle of wine a little easier.   Good for him.   The average person can walk into a store, see a bottle of wine with a 90+ Rating, and feel that they are getting a decent bottle of wine.
Not everyone is a fan of the 100 Point Rating System.    Many critics say it is flawed because it downplays the influence of terroir and tradition – what some consider to be two very important guiding influences in the making of Old World Wine.  Terroir is the influence of soil, slope, elevation, exposure and climate.  Tradition relates to the traditional ways of making wine still being used in France and other parts of the world.
Bordeaux is divided between the Left Bank and the Right Bank.  The Left Bank still uses a Classification system that originally was devised for the 1855 Paris Exposition.  Because of this rating by vineyard, Bordeaux experienced great prosperity and the price of the wine increased because of it.   However, Bordeaux has had its ups and downs since then.  Crops wiped out, frost ruining crops, add World War 2 to the equation and you have a bleak economic condition in Bordeaux.  People weren’t buying the wines.   Then came the vastly over-priced 1972 vintage which caused the entire Bordeaux market to crash.  People were not buying Bordeaux wines even though prices were slashed
It took an American wine critic to change things.  Imagine how the French felt about that.  Along comes Robert Parker, an American Wine writer, that gave Bordeaux a much-needed boost in the World market.  Parker predicted the success of the 1982 vintage and a whole new game was in play.  Higher prices and new customers in new markets soon followed.   It is said he likes a particular kind of wine, full-bodied with lots of oak.  And many critics like to refer to it as the ‘Parkerization’ of wine.   Mr. Parker has said he scores wine on how much pleasure they give him.  You see,  with the 1855 Classification system, it was the position and reputation of the ‘Chateau’ that determined how much they charged for a bottle of wine, dating back unchanged from 1855.   Parker noted with the obscurity, corruption and other problems of this system, his ‘consumer-oriented’ approach was made necessary.
And although Robert Parker is not responsible for all the changes, as consumer demand and fame started to grow in Bordeaux, Robert Parker’s fame grew with it.  And I would like to thank him.  I am training to become a Sommelier and learning about the regions of France, and let me tell you first hand, it can be confusing.  Robert Parker made buying good wine easier for all of us.  Cheers Mr. Parker.
Till next week, I hope you enjoy a bottle of wine that Robert Parker has given a good rating!

A Celebration of Food & Wine!



By now you may have guessed I’m a big lover of wine.  I’m also a big lover of food.  Oh yes, as anyone at work can attest to… I love to cook and I love to eat.   Sometimes I love to do both at once, eat while I’m cooking –  while enjoying a glass of wine, of course.  And except for a waistline a little bigger than I would like, life is good – Life is very good.  So let’s have dinner together.

We’ll start with the salad.  This is one I’ve made recently, and actually make it quite a bit.  The secret is in the homemade dressing, and trust me, it’s simple.  (And don’t worry, this is still a wine blog – I will be pairing with my favorite wine for the dish)

Summer Salad


Salad Greens

Dried cranberries

Real bacon bits

Red & green peppers cut up

Toasted pecans (you can use almonds),

Blue cheese, but I use fresh parmesan a fair bit… it’s your choice of cheese.

I’ve mixed up this variation by adding sliced beets, sunflower seeds, apples or pears, carrots and a variety of other things I find in the fridge.  It’s a free for all really

Darlene’s Secret Dressing:  (Ok, time for the big unveil)

Olive Oil (please please please – use good stuff)  It makes such a difference in the taste

Balsamic Vinegar (I get mine from the same place I get my Olive Oil and use flavored balsamic like Maple or Cinnamon and Pear.

Real Garlic (I used minced)

Brown sugar

A grainy Mustard .. I use Maille  (here’s a picture of the one I use).. Available in every grocery store

Now shake these in a jar… shake well, till you get the consistency you like. Drizzle over the salad…

Normally, salad is wine killer.  There aren’t many wines that go with salad, especially if you use an Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar base.  But crisp white wines with good acidity will make all the difference in the world.  A crisp acidic wine like Sauvignon Blanc.  A Riesling also works, but if you don’t like the sweetness of a Riesling try one of the many fantastic Sauvignon Blanc wines out there.  Here’s a few of mine.


These three are all from the Marlborough region in New Zealand, famous for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  But our local Liquor store carries 120 different Sauvignon Blanc wines and there are great ones from France, Australia, California and Canada.

Main Course – Caprese Chicken

Want to impress people with a dish that is so easy you’ll be a bit embarrassed?  Caprese chicken.  Buy those super thin chicken breast, chicken breast cutlets, and cook.  As the picture is above, I do mine a lot on the grill.  However, to keep your grill clean, go to the dollar store and buy those aluminum foil baking pans.  Mozzarella cheese is melted on this, and could cause quite a mess on the grill.

– Thin Chicken Breasts

– Mozzarella Cheese

– A slice of tomato per breast

– Balsamic Vinegar

Cook the chicken , and in the final stages, put mozzarella cheese on top, and a slice of tomato.  Let cook.  (you can grill the tomato as well, and then lay it on top)  When you remove it from the grill, drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top.

I know… you’re looking for the rest of the recipe.  That’s it… simple… serve with rice or potato side and your favorite vegetable, and your guests will love it and you’ll look super handy in the kitchen.

Matching wines!  Name your favorite wine, and chances are it will go with this dish.  I’ve served this with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Merlot just to name a few.  And here are some of my favorites.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay is my all time favorite.  And yes, it’s a treat wine.  For more information about this wine, click here.

Here are some more of my favorites that are all under $20.



The first one is Dreaming Tree Chardonnay, and Dave Matthews the musician is one of the owners.  Great wine.  Then there is Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir from California, which will go with any chicken dish you can serve.  And finally The Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington State.  The name says it all.

Desserts – ensure what’s in the glass is sweeter than what’s on the plate.  Here are a few excellent dessert wines.


The first two are from right here in Nova Scotia, the first one is Blomidon Ice Wine, rich textured and refreshing.  The second one is Benjamin Bridge, and if you haven’t tried it yet, their Nova 7 is fantastic.  This ice wine is another fantastic wine from winemakers Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Peter J. Gamble, it’s Borealis.  And the third is another Canadian great – Inniskillen Ice Wine.

Until next week – Cheers







Grateful for Good Friends, Good Food & Good Wine

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and it’s a time to enjoy family and friends and give thanks.   I have been very blessed in this lifetime with a great family and fantastic friends, and I love to enjoy the times with good food and wine.


Many of us will be serving turkey this weekend, and the age-old question for turkey dinners is ‘Which wines go best with turkey’?   I have a couple of favorites that I would like to share.

How about trying a wine you’ve probably never heard of before?  One of my favorites is the crisp refreshing Viognier.  Vee-what?  Pronounced Vee-Oh-Nay, this crisp white wine is a perfect complement to turkey.  The one pictured is probably my favorite, Stags Leap Viognier, one of the more pricier ones, but you can get Viognier starting at about $15.99.  Elegant, crisp with perfect acidity.  Other great options for a white wine to go with turkey are Riesling, Pinot Grigio and my other favorite Sauvignon Blanc.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are both crisp, well-balanced and again, has that perfect combination of acidity that will go well with the turkey, stuffing and potatoes.  Riesling is a little sweeter, but pairs with some of the saltier foods that may be served this weekend.    Some perfect examples are pictured below.


But Darlene, I only drink red wine.   No worries… we have a red for that.   Like Pinot Grigio, its red cousin, Pinot Noir, can also go with turkey.  Generally, Pinot Noir is light to medium bodied, so it doesn’t over-power the turkey.  And it’s peppery flavors can really compliment the gravy.  Pinot Noir also has bright acidity to compliment the turkey and soft tannins which pairs well with green vegetables.  A couple of my favorites.


Chateau St. Jean is a beautiful Pinot for under $20 and the Pierre Andrew Volnay is a French Burgundy wine, which is Pinot Noir.  It’s a little more pricey, at about $45, but a beautiful soft wine with lots of flavor.   These wines go well whether you are serving turkey or ham.   If you can’t find either of these, head to the New Zealand section of your Liquor Store or Wine store.  New Zealand makes beautiful Pinot Noir, as well as some of the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted.

Other reds to consider for Thanksgiving dinner is a Beaujolais, young and fruity, you need to drink it quite cool to preserve the flavors.  The one below is one I have recently tried from Louis Jadot.  Believe it or not, sparkling reds or whites will also pair well with turkey.

But Darlene, I’m not serving turkey, I’m serving ham.  Another delicious Thanksgiving meal.  Maybe you’re like me and serving both.  Pinot Noir’s go great with pork, as does a beautiful California Zinfandel.   Check out this one from St. Francis, but be careful, it has 15.7% alcohol.  And although the alcohol doesn’t over-power the taste the wine, you will feel it once you get near the end of the bottle.  And if you think that may be a little much, the next one is Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, a beauty of a wine for under $20.


On this Thanksgiving Weekend, I would be re-miss if I didn’t thank each and every one of you for joining me on my journey to becoming a Sommelier.  I appreciate and are humbled every time you take time out of your busy day and week to read my blog.   All comments and feedback are greatly appreciated, and are always welcome.  Wine – In My Opinion also has a Facebook page with daily anecdotes, wine reviews and fun comments about wine in general.   You can find it here

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family.  Cheers




Wine – My Fall Favorites!


Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  I love the cool crisp feel and the gorgeous colors.  I believe I fell in love with Autumn growing up on the West Coast of Newfoundland.  The pictures above are of my hometown, Corner Brook, Newfoundland.  A small town surrounded by trees and water and it is gorgeous in the Fall.    It’s also time for comfort food, and sitting in front of a fireplace with a great glass of wine on a cool evening.

I thought I would share some of my Fall favorites for wine  (and maybe even some food)

Ahhh,,, comfort food.  Pizza, pasta, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, pot roast, and turkey… just to name a few.  We all have our own version of what comfort food is.   And one thing I know for certain, there is a wine out there for you!


Here is one of the best deals in the Liquor store today – In My Opinion.  At $15.99 a bottle, this is a gorgeous wine.  It is predominantly Merlot, which gives it all its plump juicy fruit flavors, with some Syrah (Shiraz) and Cabernet Franc for structure and body.   This is the Marilyn Munroe of full-bodied wines.   Dada means a favorite subject or obsessive idea….And, wine is one my favorite subjects, and some might say a little obsessed.   Maybe that’s why I like this wine so much.  Or could be all those smoky plum flavors that come alive in your mouth with a hint of oak that does not over-power the wine.  Yeah, that’s it.  Also, this wine is made and bottled with no Sulphur Dioxide, no sulphites.    Hmmm, no headache?   And it will go with most of your favorite comfort foods, mac and cheese, pizza, pork chops and is big enough to handle beef as well.


Comfort food is just that… comfortable.  It nourishes our soul, and we start to feel good and let go of anything that resembles a bad day.  Wine that goes with comfort food should do the same thing.  If you’re idea of comfort food is ooey gooey mac and cheese, here’s a great wine.  One of my favorites hails from California and is the J. Lohr Chardonnay.  At around $20, here’s another great wine you can enjoy any night of the week.  Aromas of nectarine, pear and apples greet you and will bring back memories of Mom’s apple pie.  Gorgeous buttery smooth with a hint of vanilla toastiness from the oak barrels, and you’ll find yourself cooking comfort food more often.


There’s no way I can write a food and wine blog without mentioning my favorite comfort food – pasta.  And probably my favorite wine varietal – Old Vine Zinfandels.  The St. Francis Old Vine Zinfandel is a flavorful beauty but be careful, it packs a punch with 15.7% alcohol.  Believe it or not, the alcohol doesn’t over-power the wine – but if you’re a cheap drunk, you may want to be extra careful with this one.  For every 3 bottles of wine opened in the United States, 2 of them come from California.  And for good reason – they make great wine.  This one is zest and balanced and full of spicy cherry flavors.  Zinfandel is very food friendly so it will go with pretty well anything.  And if you don’t like the thought of that much alcohol in your wine, try one of these Old Vine Zinfandels.  They will be a welcome addition to any dinner table and they are all delicious.


I have a confession to make.  The response to my last 2 blogs have been so overwhelming, that I actually got writer’s block thinking about it.  I want to thank everyone for reading and sharing my blog, I am very appreciative and very humbled that you would take the time out of your busy lives to spend a few minutes with me and my thoughts on wine.   A very big thank you to my good friend and colleague in Radio, Anthony, who helped me with this bout of writer’s block.   Anthony is a genius in the Production room, and he too, learns something about wine every day.  So I went to him and he came up with the topic of today’s blog.

I would like to welcome all my new Twitter followers from the United States and abroad over the past few weeks, and all my friends here in Canada as well.  I love having you as part of my journey to become a Sommelier.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in Canada, and next week’s blog is dedicated to all of you.  I will be giving thanks to great friends, great wine and great times together.