Celebrating Canada Day with Great Wines

Canada flag 

This is the 147th year that we celebrate Canada Day, which honors the anniversary of Confederation, when Canada became a country separate from the British Empire.   It was known as Dominion Day until 1982, and Newfoundland has a beer called Dominion Ale.

Dominion ale

But today we are here to talk about wine!   Are you grilling this Canada Day?  Regular readers know what a huge fan I am of Old Vine Zinfandel and I found a new one.  It’s call Brazin!  Yep, that’s not a typo… Brazin.  I had it last night with my BBQ chicken, and thought I would start my long weekend celebrations a little early.


Big bold flavors of mocha and spice with lots of ripe fruit on the palate.  Little hints of chocolate and vanilla with a nice long finish.  I’ll be having this one again!  Perfect as well with BBQ ribs, if that’s on your Canada Day menu, or a juicy steak with pepper… heaven!

Jimmy Shiraz bottle

Here’s another great BBQ wine for your long weekend.  Jimmy Shiraz, from Australia, which comes in under $20.   This 100% Shiraz has those gorgeous plum and spicy peppery flavors.  Grapes were picked late season so they are very ripe and luscious, and this wine will go with anything you put on your grill.  Also a great wine to go with Mom’s roast.

Genesis Syrah

Using the same grape, Syrah, this wine from Genesis is another great BBQ wine.  This is from the Columbia Valley in Washington State, just south of British Columbia and this region is putting out some fantastic wines.   If you haven’t tried wines from Washington State or Oregon, try one this weekend.  This Genesis Syrah has rich flavors of cherry, blackberry, nutmeg and a touch of vanilla.    And for the white wine lovers, here’s the bottle I have in the refrigerator right now, to enjoy this evening.

490 Chardonnay

490 Meters Chardonnay is what’s on my menu this evening.  A great way to celebrate Summer with this fresh fruity Chardonnay with lip-smacking flavors of fresh fruit salad and peaches.  Some citrus notes and a good clean finish.  Love a nice chilled Chardonnay on a gorgeous summer day.

Wine Happy woman

I am one happy woman this weekend.  4 days off, the weatherman is calling for sunshine for all 4 days and of course there will be wine.  Enjoy your Canada Day, till next week – Cheers



It’s the 1st Day of Summer!

Summer 1 Summer 2

It’s finally here!  The 1st day of Summer!  There were days this past winter that I’m sure some of us thought this day would never come.  But it’s here, and we all know what that means.  Sunny skies, shorts and flip flops… and of course our favorite wines enjoyed on patio decks.  As you can tell, I love Summer.

Summer 3

So, when the temperature outside heats up, I like the temperature in my wine glass to go down.   But that’s just me.  So here are a few of my favorite Summer wines.

Pinot Grigo f0d2e-2011-menage-a-trois-pinot-grigio

Pinot Grigio… the quintessential summer wine.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  The Gabbiano on the left is from Italy.  Light and crisp with citrus and pear flavors, perfect with summer salads, chicken and or all by itself on the deck.    The Menage a Trois Pinot Grigio is also light and crisp with great acidity and a great food wine.

Alianca with salad Portuguese style chicken

Here’s another great wine for Summer.  The Alianica Vinho Verde from Portugal, and this  picture is taken in my house, enjoying a Buffalo Chicken Southwestern Salad.  This wine and salad go hand in hand.  It’s also a great wine to pair with those spicy dishes you like, found in Asian or Indian cuisine.   And made for the Portuguese style chicken called Peri Peri.

Lohr Chard Label  Casillero chard label

I’m a Chardonnay girl, and I love California Chardonnay.  It’s my mom’s favorite wine as well, so it’s going to be a staple in my wine rack this Summer.  J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay is full-bodied and rich and full of gorgeous mango and apple flavors.  This is also one of my favorite chicken wines.  No matter how I do chicken, a Chardonnay seems to be perfect with it.   Another country making kick-ass Chardonnay is Chile.  This Casillera del Diablo is fresh and fruity and a beautifully made Chardonnay at a very reasonable price.

Bachelder Chard

I have also fallen in love with the Chardonnay wines from the Burgundy region in France.  Thomas Bachelder is making wines in Canada, Oregon and France, all in the Burgundian style.  I love how the fruit shines through, even though the Canadian version spends about 17 months in oak, it doesn’t over-power the wine.   I love Bachelder Chardonnay wines, and if you haven’t tried one, you should.

Predator  Tempranillo

I just can’t do a wine blog about Summer wines without touching on my favorite summer reds.  The regular readers of this blog know I love Old Vine Zinfandel and Predator is one of the best.  I just love it.  The wine on the right is a new find, and quickly becoming a summer staple.  The Finca El Encinal has been given 94 Points, and I wrote about it last week.  Delicious Tempranillo wine that loves grilled food and pork.

wine optimist

Till next week, please drink responsibly.  And here’s hoping your glass is always half full this Summer.





90+ Points That Won’t Break The Bank!

90 Points

I know some people aren’t a big fan of wine scores, but I am.  And here’s why.  Wine scores make it easy for the average consumer to buy a decent wine without having to be a Sommelier.  Most people when they go to their favorite wine store or liquor store, it can be confusing to buy wine, especially from countries that do not label by grape varietal, but by region.  A rating system makes it easy for them.  Allowing for the fact that not every person likes every grape variety, however if you like a Shiraz, and you see one at 90 points or more, you don’t have to be a wine expert to figure out that, the 90+ wine could be a pretty decent wine.   There are other scales some critics and wine associations like to use the 1 to 5 scale.  Me, I like the 100 Point System designed by Robert Parker.  As a Sommelier in Training, Wine Blogger, Wine Writer and Wine lover I like the easy to understand language of the 100 Point System.  When I say to someone at work, 92 Points, they know I really really like the wine.


Once a year, our local NSLC store puts out the 90+ list.  I love this time of the year for discovering new wines, new wines that are at least 90 points, and I especially love it if they come in for a great price.  Like this one…..

Santa Rita Reserve Syrah

The Santa Rita Reserve Syrah was given 92 Points by Wine & Spirits and it comes in at the delicious price of just $16.99.  I can’t remember if I have ever seen a wine at 92 Points for $16.99, so of course I had to buy it and try it immediately.  Fantastic wine.  It’s my new best deal at my local Liquor store.  Santa Rita is one of Chile’s historic wine estates, founded in 1880.  So they have been making wine for a very long time, and they hit it out of the ballpark with this one.  This 100% Syrah beauty is flavorful with ripe dark fruits and some spice.  Great wine for BBQ season, and will also pair well with pizza, pasta and OH, does it not scream out for pork!  This has become a new staple in my wine rack.


Here’s another beauty.  94 Points by Wine & Spirits and under $20!  That is not a typo.  $19.99 for this gorgeous Finca El Encinal Tempranillo.  It’s the stuff dreams are made of.   Here’s what Wine & Spirits had to say

  Pay no attention to the toasted oak scents that introduce this wine, because they soon leave the scene. Fix your attention instead to the generosity of its fruit, voluptuous and smooth. This is richly layered in flavors (some closer to meat than fruit), with a density that traps and wraps in a lovely way. All in all, a complex wine and an astonishing value. Finca El Encinal is a project from the traditional bodega Franco Españolas de la Rioja” 

And here’s what I have to say.  I had this wine last night with a creamy pasta dish I made.  It’s a kick-ass pasta dish if I do say so myself, with a homemade green olive paste and four cheeses baked in the oven.  I know!   There are a lot of complex flavors in that pasta dish with the different cheeses, olives, garlic and different spices.  And this wine went perfectly with it.

Finca Antigua label  Finca Antigua white

Here’s another Spanish beauty that rated 90+ and came in at under $20.  The Finca Antigua Crianza made from a blend of grapes that will tantalize your senses.  Tempranillo (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Merlot (20% and Syrah (10%)  It was then aged in French oak for 12 months .   The grapes were also harvested a little later than usual, in late September and early October.  You know what that means…It will be rounder and fuller and  it’s a fantastic wine for any meat you would want to serve…can you say BBQ !   It also comes in a white variety at an even better price.. $16.99 here.  Made from the yummy Viura grape, one of my favorite white grapes in Spain.  It’s a light-bodied white with fruit and citrus flavors and moderate acidity.  The vineyard, Finca Antigua, was named after the old vines growing on the estate when the Bujanda family bought the vineyard,  in the middle of the La Mancha, which is known for being one of the best wine sites in Spain.

Charles and charles label

Another 90 point rated wine that came in at $18.99 was the Charles & Charles Post 35 Cabernet Sauvignon Blend.   It’s a blend of 58% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah from the beautiful Washington State and will go with everything from steak, to meatballs,  and from pasta to burgers.  This is a big chewy wine that will stand up for itself no matter what hunk of meat your man puts on the grill.  Dark berry fruit with a hint of spice and some chocolate, let’s sit back and enjoy this wine while the men do the cooking.

Wine Time

You know it’s wine time when you get these fantastic wines at decent prices.  Enjoy, and I would love to hear your feedback on these wines.

Until next week, Cheers





The Wonders of South African Wine

I have a confession to make.  Before I started training to become a Sommelier, my experience with South African wines were limited to say the least.  I  had tried one of the ‘manipulated Pinotage wines’ from Bertus ‘Starbucks’ Fourie, you know, the ones that overwhelm you with coffee and mocha flavors.  Not a fan.  My other experience was with another wine I had served that was so earthy, it felt like I was licking soil.   So I kind of had it in my head, I didn’t like South African wines, and I really didn’t like Pinotage.   My friend and colleague Anthony, loves South African wines and loves Pinotage.  I just didn’t get it…. And then…. a few beauties came along.



Meet Diesel.  He was the beloved dog of Beyerskloof winemaker Beyers Truter, who passed over the Rainbow bridge in 2006, I believe, and after whom the wine is named after.  Beyers Truter makes a spectacular Pinotage, a classy full-bodied version offer gorgeous flavors of spice, plum, cherry and cedar.  Oh My God, I love a South African Pinotage.


This is my friend Anthony’s favorite wine.  Barista Pinotage, under $20 and one of those manipulated Pinotage wines from South Africa.  Very pronounced flavors of mocha,  coffee, chocolate, plums and mulberry.  Aromatic and full of all those flavors.   I like it, however, I prefer the Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage.

New world vs old world

Although South Africa is considered ‘New World Wine’, the winemaking dates back to the mid 1600’s.  A Dutch surgeon planted vineyards and made wines starting in 1659 to help sailors who were travelling the ‘spice route to ward off scurvey.   And later Simon Van der Stel started the Constantia wine estate, and for a while the dessert wine that came out Constantia was considered to some of the best in the world.  However, when Van der Stel died the estate fell in disrepair.  When someone did buy it, wine makers grew high yielding – low quality wines.  So for the next few hundred wines the world didn’t know or really didn’t like South African wines.  There was a wine glut.   In 1918 the cooperative known as KWV was formed with help from the South African government to help control the growth and secure the prices with the government.  What started out as a cooperative grew in power very quickly, when they recommended that the extra grapes be used for brandy.  It wasn’t long before they controlled the entire winemaking industry in South Africa.   In 1973, 70% of grapes were used for brandy and by 2013 that number had reversed – 70% of grapes were being used for wine.  And the reputation of good wines coming out of South Africa grows with each year.

Nederburg label

South Africa can still provide good wines at very reasonable prices.  My guess would be because they are still trying to grow their reputation on the international market.  Take this beauty for example, a steal of a deal at under $15.  Nederburg is constantly winning awards for high quality wines, and in 2011 chosen as Winery of the Year in Platters South African Wine Guide.  This beautiful Winemakers Reserve Shiraz from 2011 is complex with good tannic structure and full-bodied flavors of plums, spices, chocolate and hints of oak.  I enjoyed it with my BBQ steak but it would go well with a wide array of foods including lamb, beef and pork dishes.

2 Oceans Pinot label

For my white wine loving friends, try the Two Oceans Pinot Grigio.  It will become your favorite new wine for summer and will pair perfectly with your favorite summer salad.  Named after a place on the Southern tip of Africa where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet, this Pinot Grigio is crisp and refreshing.  Complimented by gorgeous flavors apricot, peach and some floral notes, this is also a great wine to go with all your favorite seafood dishes.

Wine Happy woman

And on that note, I’m going to say Cheers – till next week.