Wine – A Labor of Love

Labor Day

It’s the Labor Day long weekend, and it got me thinking of how much love goes into making a bottle of wine.   When we enjoy our favorite red, white or sparkling beverage this weekend, let’s take a moment to salute the labors of multitudes of hard-working people.  From grape growers, viticulturists, vintners,  field workers, to  bottlers, distributors, and of course retailers just to name a very few.

Wine grower 1 Wine grower 2

Wine grower 4  Wine grower 3

Right here in Nova Scotia, there are 22 grape growers and almost two dozen wineries.  They contribute 196 million dollars to the Nova Scotia economy and we have an Atlantic Wine Institute based at Acadia University.  On a national level, the wine industry contributes 6.8 billion dollars to the national economy.  I bet you never realized how much you were helping the local, provincial and national economy by opening a bottle of wine, did you?  Well now you can feel even better about enjoying your favorite beverage.


Canada is one of the premier producers of ice wine, getting renowned for ice wine internationally.   Ice wine is made from grapes that have frozen on the trees, and harvest is usually done in late fall, or even as late as January, when temperatures have dropped below -10 degrees.  And then the grapes are pressed while frozen to produce a sweet concentrated piece of heaven.  One of my absolute favorites is an ice wine from right here in Nova Scotia.  The Borealis by Benjamin Bridge is a little piece of heaven.  Gorgeous amber color in the class and rich sweet flavors of apricots and peaches.  It’s elegant and I would rather have this for dessert than any chocolate convection.  I’m not kidding.  And for this Labor Day weekend, I am thrilled and super excited to be visiting this vineyard and meeting the winemaker.  That’s  how I’m celebrating Labor Day and I couldn’t be happier.

Avondale Tidal bay

Before I move on, I have to salute another local wine, that I tried yesterday for the first time.  It’s from Avondale Sky winery, and it was their 2013 Tidal Bay.   For those of you that don’t know what Tidal Bay is, it is Nova Scotia’s signature wine.  Tidal Bay reflects the terroir, coastal breezes and cooler climate of its birthplace.  And each one is different.  The wineries have guidelines that they have to follow, and a list of grapes they can use, but essentially each one is different.  Each Tidal Bay is also a signature of the winemaker from each winery.  My friend Dan told me he recently tried a Tidal Bay and loved it and then the next night tried a different one, and didn’t like it.  I love the fact each one is different.  This one from Avondale Sky was rich in the mouth and crisp and bright all at the same time.  Beautiful flavors of apple and peach and some warm toastiness.  I loved it.   Here’s what the winemaker had to say and you get to appreciate how each Tidal Bay is unique:

“This wine is a blend of nine separate ferments. A complex combination of different yeast, different fermentation vessels (96% Stainless, 4% Barrel fermented), different levels of natural sweetness, different terroirs, and of course different grapes were used to build as much complex character into this wine as possible.”

Here’s what I have on my menu this weekend


And this is the wine I’m going to be having with it

Pierre Amadieu label  Pierre Amadieu Bottle

You know how much I love discovering new wines.  Especially great wines with great price tags that don’t break the bank.  The Pierre Amadieu Cote du Rhone is a fantastic blend of Syrah and Grenache.  One of the surprising things I learned on my journey to becoming a Sommelier, was that the poorer the soil, the richer the wine.  And the grapes for this wine were grown in soil that was poor and stony.  Well it produced a great wine, and at $17.99, (yep, under $20) makes me love it all the more.  Rich plums and blackberries with a hint of oak.  No matter what you plan to throw on the grill this weekend, this could be your wine.  Pierre Amadieu is a family owned and worked winery in the Cote du Rhone region of France, and have produced a wonderful wine.  Hats off to them this Labor Day weekend.

goodbye summer

Long weekends and wine go hand in hand together.  And this long weekend, stay safe and drink responsibly.  But do take a moment to enjoy your favorite beverage as we say goodbye to Summer.  (sniff sniff!)  And salute all the people who were responsible for bringing that beverage to you.

Till next weekend, Cheers



But I Thought I Liked This Wine!

Sue discovers Riesling

You remember Sue from a couple of weeks ago.  In a blog about the wonderful undiscovered Riesling, my good friend Sue had Riesling for the first time with Chicken Pad Thai, Sushi and a couple of other spicy dishes.  She loved it!  Guess what?  Sue went out to the same restaurant, had a different dish, ordered the exact same Riesling, and hated it!  So she says to me “I had that same wine again last night and hated it”…. “How is that possible”.  Through further investigation, I discovered that Sue had a ‘sweet dish’, and that she didn’t like the sweetness of the Riesling with the sweet dish.

So many times I have heard, “the first time I had that wine I really liked it, and not so much the second timeOR ” I tried that wine before and I didn’t really like it, but now it’s very good”
Guaranteed, each time this happens, somewhere along the way food was involved.  I understand when someone just doesn’t like a wine.  But when you like a wine one time, and don’t like the same wine at a different time, chances are something in your mouth is clashing with the wine.
blue cheese
Personal preferences and palate differences have a huge impact on if you like a wine with certain food.  I know people who don’t like wine and cheese.  Personally, I love wine and cheese together.  One of my instructors in the Sommelier training I am taking,  do not like wine and cheese together.  He says the salt and fat in the cheese do not make a good combination for him with wine.  So I am going to give some examples of clashing food and wines, but keep in mind, this is my opinion, and you may actually enjoy the pairings.  No one is right and no one is wrong when it comes to wine… it’s all personal preference.
Asparagus and Wine:
Asparagus     spy valley
Vi fume blanc  Summer Salad
Asparagus is a very tricky food to match with wine, as is many green vegetables, including salad.  The trouble with asparagus, and some salads, is that they are very vegetal (grassy), as well as acidic and strong.  Some times when speaking about asparagus, people use the word urine.  Now it just so happens, that when some people describe Sauvignon Blanc, they use words like cat’s pee and grassy.   Sauvignon Blanc or Fume Blanc (the American version of Pouilly Fume).  the French Pouilly Fume and Fume Blanc are both made entirely of Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  And these wines can cut through that grassiness with its crisp acidic flavors.  Pair acidic with acidic.   So if you don’t like the wine in your glass, I would look at the vegetables on your plate.
Spicy food
I have heard a few Sommeliers say, if you’re going to have spicy food, drink beer.  Well that doesn’t work for us non-beer drinking people.  I want wine.  And for the regular readers of this wine blog, you know my go-to wine for spicy food is the beautiful Riesling.  I did a whole blog on it a couple of weeks ago.  The touch of sweetness in the Riesling is the perfect match to the spicy food.  However, if you are a ‘red only’ wine drinker, choose Pinot Noir.  It’s not sweet, but it’s so soft and subtle that it doesn’t clash with the food.  Or a Beaujolais.  The hint of sweetness in that red, and it’s served a little more chilled than most reds, would fare well.   Residual sugar in wines cools down the spice and creates a balance.  Remember ‘Sweet with Heat!”
Kung fu Riesling Gaspereau Riesling
 Here are some of my favorites.  A couple of great Rieslings that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.  Check out the blog ‘The Gorgeous Undiscovered Riesling’ on this subject.
Beaujolais Cote de Beaune
Here’s a nice Beaujolais available all over.   Beaujolais is made entirely from the Gamay grape and comes from the Burgundy region of France.  All other Burgundian reds are Pinot Noir, this is made from Gamay.  12 million bottles of Beaujolais are made and sold each year.  This is a popular wine.  This one by Louis Jadot has gorgeous flavors of candied cherries, raspberry and is light and fruity.   And speaking of Pinot Noir wines from Burgundy, the wine on the right is one of my favorites.  I love Pinot Noir and love the French Burgundian style.  On a side note,  I love what Oregon is doing with Pinot Noir as well.   The wine on the right is a beautiful Pinot Noir from Joseph Druin.    It’s medium bodied with lots of earthy flavors, spice and gorgeous bright vibrant fruit.  This wine goes with anything and everything.   Even if I didn’t know what was on the menu, if I had to choose one white and one red that was the most versatile, I would choose Chardonnay for the white and Pinot Noir for the red to put on the table.
Wine Time
I don’t know about you, but my hand is up.  Thanks for reading, till next week – Cheers

Wines I’m Enjoying While On Vacation!

Mom and Dad

So here’s a picture of my mom and dad, they are up visiting from Newfoundland.  Dad will be 84 very soon, and my Mom will be 80 on her next birthday.  They are in great shape, and we are having a lot of fun.   From a previous blog, you may remember that my Mom is a Chardonnay drinker.  Here’s a new one we discovered this week and we both loved it.

Morgan Cellars Chardonnay

It’s the Morgan Bay Cellars 2012 Chardonnay.  And it’s delicious.  It not only comes in a great price tag of $16.99, but it’s produced under Agrobiological principles and sustainable development.  And did I mention it’s delicious.  Gorgeous flavors of apples, pears, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla, make this a wine rack staple.   The picture is a little blurry, but then again the bottle is empty.

Wolf Blass Premium

We had a steak dinner the other night.  We went and got some beautiful local beef, had tremendous beef tenderloin from certified humane beef and I thought it was a great time to crack open a good bottle of wine.  This is the Wolf Blass Premium Shiraz from 2010 and this sells for about $28, but totally worth it.  It was a great steak wine with gorgeous dark rich fruits, black pepper, hints of chocolate and a nice oak smoothness, which in no way over-powered the wine.  I love an Australian Shiraz with a steak and this wine was a match made in heaven.

Chapel Hill Shiraz

Here’s another Shiraz I have enjoyed while on vacation.  Now while on vacation, we went to visit friends in New Brunswick.  And on the way back stopped at a Liquor outlet depot.  I know!  An outlet store for liquor.  And one of the tremendous values they were featuring was this Chapel Hill Shiraz from the spectacular McLaren Vale region of Australia.  This sells for $18.99 in my home province, and we got this wine for $9.99.  Do you know what the saddest part of this story is?  I only bought 2 bottles.  I had this as we barbecued burgers, and it’s a great burger wine.  That beautiful Australian Shiraz with flavors of licorice, blueberry, black pepper and oak notes.  What’s not to love!

vacation 2

Well, that’s it for now.  I have tried more wines, all new, while on this vacation, and I will fill you in during a later blog.  Got to go enjoy some more of my vacation.

Till next week, Cheers



The Gorgeous Undiscovered Riesling

Red and White

I have a confession to make!  I have a shameful confession to make…. Before I started my journey into becoming a Sommelier, I only drank red wine.   I didn’t start tasting and enjoying white wines until I started this journey 3 years ago.  And now, I hear friends saying the same thing ‘I only drink red wine’.  Recently, I had two great friends, Sue and Jayme Lynn, who I had the pleasure of introducing to Riesling.  On separate occasions, we went out to lunch, had Chicken Pad Thai and Sushi, and they let order the wine.  I ordered Riesling.  I love Riesling.   And Chicken Pad Thai is just one of the reasons.

I love Riesling

One of my instructors and President of the Atlantic Division of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, loves Riesling.  And he brought this love affair to class and shared it with us, and now I’m on the Riesling bandwagon.  And even if you have tried Riesling and didn’t like it for some reason, try a different one.  It comes in dry and sweet, (personally I like a little sweetness to off-set spicy food), it’s light, fruity and floral.  Some aging Rieslings have that petrol aroma, which I’m not overly fond of, so I like the newer fresh fruity Rieslings.  Here are some I’ve had lately that I loved.

Wine Birthday Me

I know you’ve seen this picture of me enjoying Riesling before.  Look at the pure joy on my face, and why wouldn’t you think ‘I want me some of that joy’.   Here’s the Riesling I was enjoying that day.. the J. Lohr Riesling from California.  Yummy.

Here’s a picture of my friend Sue discovering Riesling for the first time… Look at that joy

Sue discovers Riesling


J Lohr Riesling  Kung fu Riesling

Here’s a Riesling that I’ve enjoyed recently and it was fabulous!  Kung Fu Girl Riesling is reasonably priced at around the $20 price range, has gorgeous stone fruit flavors like apricot and peach, is perfectly balanced in my opinion, between sweetness and acidity and an overall a great value.  Kung Pao shrimp or Kung Pao chicken, this is your wine.  All Asian, Indian and spicy fare.  And you know, the food doesn’t have to be spicy.  I love Riesling all by itself, and with chicken.  This is a very versatile white wine.  Here’s a local beauty from Nova Scotia and Gaspereau Vineyards.

Gaspereau Riesling

I love love love this Riesling.  Gaspereau Vineyards does an awesome job of balanced Riesling and at $17.99, this vibrant Riesling is one you should try if it’s available to you.  It’s made right here in Nova Scotia, and I love the fact I can get this wine.

I know this week’s blog is short and sweet… I have the folks in town… but I’m begging you… please please please try a Riesling… especially with food.  You’ll love it

Till next week, Cheers



Wine Basics – The Wine Tasting

Basic wine

There’s rarely a day goes by that I don’t get asked an opinion about wine and I always feel honored and a little humbled that people respect my opinion about wine that much.  Recently a very good friend of mine said she would love to take a wine course to learn some basics about wine, but she couldn’t afford it right now.  So from that, I decided to pass along some basic wine knowledge – free of charge!

wine camp

Let’s Call it Boot Camp for Wine!  And let’s start with a basic wine tasting.

The first step in wine tasting is to identify color and clarity.  The color is the easy part.  It’s either red, white or rose!   However, different grapes tend to be different shades of red, white etc.  For example, is your red wine maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or even brownish?   Is your white wine pale yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or brown in appearance?   Next… look at the clarity.  I find this step very important.  I like a wine clear, without cloudiness, especially in my whites.  Is the wine dull or brilliant?  If it’s a white wine that you drink on a regular basis, and you find this particular bottle cloudy… it’s probably been compromised.   Certain reds can have sediment, not every winemaker filters the wines.  These wines should be decanted, gently, leaving a bit of the wine along with the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

The first of the senses to enjoy wine, other than sight of course, is the olfactory sense.  Your nose.  Very important.  It will usually tell you if a wine is ‘off’.  And by off, I mean if it has been compromised in any way.   With the invention of screw caps, this is happening less and less.   Also, in our training to become a Sommelier, we use our nose to identify a wine in blind wine tastings, and it’s confirmed by tasting it.   I always smell a wine.. and you don’t have to be an expert to do this, and people won’t think you’re a wine snob.  I love Pinot Noir, and one of the things I love most about Pinot is the array of aromas.  They are earthy – and I love closing my eyes and actually picturing the vineyard, the soil and the grapes growing.
wine swirling
Most people will smell, then swirl, and smell again during a wine tasting.   Why?  Because the initial smell will give us those up front and most prominent aromas, and then by swirling you vaporize some of the wine’s alcohol and then the subtle aromas come to life.   If you’ve seen this process, you have probably seen a person stick their nose in a glass, so that the rim of the glass circles their face.  This is so aromas don’t escape through the glass.  The smell of a wine is one of the reasons I like a big bowled glass that narrows in at the top.   The big bowl allows the wine to aerate.  After all, it’s been stuck in a bottle for a few years, especially if you are drinking red, and swirling just released all those yummy aromas and flavors.

Then comes the best part… the tasting!  Most people will swirl it around in their mouth because it allows you to take in all the components of the wine.  The tannins, that which makes the mouth water, acidity, alcohol content and residual sugar.  If one is out of whack for you (not exactly a wine term) then you may not find the wine balanced.  One of most desirous traits in a wine, is that it is balanced, and that term can mean different things for different people.   My definition of a balanced wine is where the concentration of fruit, the tannins,  and the acidity are all working together to make a wine delicious.   Balanced wines are symmetrical and tend to age gracefully.  It’s important to me one does not over power the other, unless, it’s what I want.  For example, if I’m eating a big juicy steak, or pasta with lots of cream sauce, I want a wine that is a little heavy on the tannic side.  See what I mean?  I am personally not a fan of wines where the alcohol is over-powering.  Other people love the burny taste in their throat.  Everyone has different things they love about wine, and that’s the beauty of wine.  We all like different things.


And last but not least, it’s the finish.  And what I mean by a ‘finish’ is how long the flavor of the wine lingers after you’ve swallowed it.  You may have read wine reviews or heard people say ‘nice lingering finish’.   This is a very important trait to many people.  You want the beauty of the wine to stay with you for seconds after you swallow it, to continue to enjoy it.   In some wines, as soon as you swallow the wine, a second later the flavor is gone.  And that’s OK too.  It doesn’t mean you don’t like the wine.

Wine home

Here’s what I always say when someone asks me if something is a ‘good wine’!  If you like it, it’s a good wine.  I’ve had people say in the comments section of this blog that I need to improve my taste in wine.  But really, if I like it, I think it’s a good wine.  And the truth of the matter is, I could write about expensive wines all day long, but I like to write my blogs about wines we drink every day.

Till next week, Cheers