Italy – Here I Come


So, this happened this week.  I booked a trip to go to Tuscany, Italy.  I’ve never been to Europe before, so it’s my first time crossing that ocean.  I am going as part of a wine tour.  Going with a like-minded group of people, who all love wine, and we’ve rented a villa in Tuscany.  And it has a pool, and there’s going to be wine, lots of wine.  Apologies to my liver in advance.  So for the beginning of this blog, we are heading to Tuscany,  The launch vibrant rolling hills of Tuscany!


I got to enjoy this beauty when I was taking my Methods in Modern Winemaking course.  This is a beautiful Classico Chianti from Marchesa Antinori.  Is it a coincidence that my first wine is from the Tuscany region, I think not!  It’s a beautiful Chianti that is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Antinori was the first vineyard to ignore DOC regulations and make a Chianti style wine that blended Sangiovese and Cabernet, back in 1971.  Others followed suit and Super Tuscan wines were becoming a fantastic hit among consumers. Regular readers will remember me talking about Super Tuscan wines in the past.  They are wines from Tuscany that incorporate non-Italian grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We enjoyed it in a blind taste test and the brownish hue told me it was an older wine. There were some wood notes on the nose, along with stewed fruits and spice.  Aged in oak for 14 months, the tannins are great on this wine and it says Italian all the way.


Another well known winemaker from Tuscany is the Frescobaldi name.  This is one of the vineyards we will be visiting on our wine tours, and I am so looking forward to it.  The name Frescobaldi and Tuscany go hand in hand, as the family has been making wine there for 700 years.  Imagine how well you do something, when you’ve been doing it for 700 years.   This is also one of the very affordable Frescobaldi Chianti wines, selling for just $18.  Medium-bodied and very fruity, its a lovely expression of a Tuscan wine.


We are going to leave Italy and head to Nova Scotia.  Isn’t it great how wine allows you to do that.  This locally made Baco Noir from Blomidon Estate was fantastic.  Baco Noir is grown in several areas of Canada, including Nova Scotia, and I love its inky dark color.  It’s a hybrid grape, which means its a cross between two other grapes, and grows well in cooler climates like Canada.  This one has hints of smoky blueberries and is a fantastic wine to go with pork dishes.

And now for my wine of the week, we head to France…


This delcious wine is from the Burgundy region in France, and is of course Pinot Noir.  Very fruity wine with strawberry and cherry flavors, and its also a very balanced wine.  Soft tannins makes for a smooth journey from  palate to tummy.  I was reading that the wine cellars of this vineyard in Burgundy contains over 100,000 bottles of wine, the oldest dating back to 1908.  Imagine getting locked in that wine cellar!  At $50 a bottle, it’s a treat, but worth it.

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Well, that’s it for me this week.   In the upcoming week I may have to be trying a few more Tuscan wines.  I don’t leave until May 19th so it won’t be all Italian between now and then?

Until next week, Cheers




Try Something New!

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Last weekend I took a wine course, ‘Methods in Modern Winemaking’, which is another chapter as I move closer to my Sommelier accreditation.  I am so close.   This course was taught by the talented winemaker of Blomidon Estate Winery in the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia.  And while we were learning, we were also experimenting.  I think we tried 31 new wines last weekend, and although I had to spit out most of them as I was driving,  there were a few that I finished.  Here are a few of the highlights.


You know how some people like to eat dessert before their main meal.  I’m going to take that approach with this week’s wine blog and start with a dessert wine.  The Chateau Coutet Sauternes Barsac comes to us from the southwestern part of Bordeaux, and is one of the oldest Sauternes producing vineyards.  Making heavenly dessert wines, I always thought I didn’t like sweet wines, until I experienced Sauternes or Royal Tokaji from Hungary.  This is a taste of heaven in a glass.  This estate dates back to the 1600’s, which means they have been making wine for a long long time…. and they are getting it right. I think it’s a perfect after-meal compliment, it will satisfy that sweet tooth without needing a heavy dessert.  Gorgeous rich flavors of apricots,honey, and vanilla.  Worth the treat, and you deserve it.


I can’t talk about dessert wines without mentioning the locally made Blomidon Vin de Paille. (pronounced Vin de Pie!)  This is an exciting new style for this Nova Scotia vineyard, as it is a straw wine.  As a matter of fact, Vin de Paille is french for straw wine.  It is 100% Chardonnay grapes laid out on straw beds to dry for a significant time at the Blomidon estate.  Once sufficiently dried, it is pressed and fermented and then it sits in oak casks for two years before bottling.  Lovely orange and citrus flavors, with a very long lasting finish on the wine, this is a winner.  And the national critics agree, one giving it 90 Points and a great price point at just $35.


So let’s head to the main course.  One of my colleagues taking the course with me bought in this wine for us to try and we all shared it together.  It was fantastic, and it’s another Canadian beauty.  From the Niagara region in Ontario, the 2011 Domaine Quelus Cabernet Franc Merlot blend was made by legendary winemaker Thomas Bachelder.  Named 2009’s winemaker of the year and known for his elegant European style, it came as no surprise this was awesome. This particular vintage won Gold at wine competitions and is regularly given 92+ points across the board.  I love a good Bordeaux style blend, and this didn’t disappoint.  Full-bodied with juicy fruit flavors from the Merlot and a nice floral note from the Cab Franc, it also has some nice tobacco flavors from the oak.  A stellar wine, and a big thank you for allowing me to share this.

And now for my wine of the week….


Please excuse the Tim Horton’s cups in the background, we were using them as spitoons during the wine tasting.  This Luis Felipe Edwards 2012 Dona Bernardo is a spectacular Bordeaux style blend from the Colchagua Valley in Chile.  The lovely lady on the bottle is the winemaker’s mother.  It’s primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with some Shiraz, Carmenere and Petite Verdot added in, for a wonderfully complex and interesting wine.  This wine is $40 a bottle here where I live in Nova Scotia and worth every penny.  If  you are going to treat yourself to a good cut of beef, add this wine to the list and make it a Wow dining experience.

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What a week for wine it’s been.  And then  yesterday I went to visit my friend Rayell and we tasted a couple of spectacular Italian wines.  I will tell you all about them next week.

Till next week, Cheers



Spanish Wines

Spanish Wines

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, NSLC, has a promotion called ‘Get To Know Spanish Wines’, and they are featuring some spectacular Spanish Wines.  I have had so much fun trying new wines from this wonderful region.  Spain has almost 3 million acres of vines making it the most widely planted wine region, but the 3rd largest producer behind France and Italy.  And although you would find about 400 grape varieties in Spain, you would have to travel to Spain to try most of them. 80% of its exports are from about 20 grapes.


One of the famous exports is Monastrell, and the grape variety shines in the Castillo De Jumillo.  Blended with 10% Tempranillo, which is probably the most popular grape variety in Spain for red wines.  I enjoyed this 2013, which was actually picked in October of 2012.  Remember the year on the bottle is the year the wine was bottled.  Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak, this particular wine and this particular wine was in oak for a year.  Very smooth, very food friendly and a great price point at under $20.


Had to share this one for my white wine loving friends.  This lovely Campo Flores Blanco is crisp and light and it’s organic.  Made from the Macabeo grape, which is also known as Viura, and it’s a great price point at $16.29 a bottle.  On the nose, I detected grapefruit and asparagus, similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but nothing about the wine on the palate suggest Sauvignon Blanc.  This is not as acidic, it is much smoother on the palate, with some lovely peach notes, and both Amber (from the NSLC)  and I were saying how wonderful it would be with food.


Here’s another wine Amber and I did a tasting on, a 2010 Old Vine Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache)  which is another great wine at around $20.  Spanish wines are such exceptional value and here’s another prime example of that.  Old vines tend to produce a little more intense flavor in the wines, and both of us agreed this one is also very well balanced with some spice accompanying the rich fruit.

And now for my wine of the week


The 2013 Faustino Rioja Crianza from 2013.  Under $20 and a delicious wine, and 100% Tempranillo.  Aged in American oak for 14 months, don’t be concerned if you detect wood on the nose when you first open the bottle.  That will dissipate in no time at all, and the bright fruit will shine through.  This is also a food friendly wine as Tempranillo tends to be.  I personally thought it was a great wine at a great price and it was fun trying a bunch of new Spanish wines recently.

Wine Friday

I am writing this blog a day early this week, as I will be up bright and early Saturday morning to go work in a vineyard for the day.  Yes, as I am nearing the end of my quest to become a Sommelier, today I head to Blomidon Winery in the Anapolis Valley to work with the talented winemaker Simon Rafuse.

Till next week, Cheers


March Madness

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It’s official.  The worst of winter is behind us.  That’s  not to say we won’t get another snowstorm (or 2) in eastern Canada, but I love to see March.  The days are noticeably longer and Spring is definitely in the air.  You know what’s also awesome about March?  More barbecues! I have tried a couple of new wines this past week, and they would be a great match at your next barbecue.


Let’s start things off with this kick ass Malbec my friend Judy bought over last weekend.  An award winner, and 91+ points across the board, including a 92 from wine critic James Suckling.  We enjoyed the 2013 vintage, and it had spent 12 months in French oak, and personally I thought it needed to breathe for 30 minutes.  You could taste wood, and it was a little hot on first sip, but once we let it sit, it was magnificent.  The winemaker, Germán Di Césare, has been quoted as saying ‘The best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle’!  I love that quote.  And we weren’t long pouring the last sip from this wonderful Malbec.  It was a dark inky purple color and very aromatic, and a  nice long finish.  Two thumbs up!


Next up, this lovely organic wine out of Italy.  The Amastuola Primitivo (cousin to Zinfandel) is a perfect wine for BBQ fare.   The organically farmed vines sit on a plateau at an altitude of 210 meters above sea level which provides slow ripening and beautiful flavor.  This wine is aged for 18 months, half in oak, the other half in stainless steel.  So, in no way does the oak overpower the wine.  Primitivo is known for its generous fruit and this one has a nice hint of spice as well.  Loved it, and for just $20, I will be buying it again.

And now for my wine of the week…


All 3 of the wines I have written about this week could easily claim my wine of the week.   Wine of the week started when I wanted to get myself out of a wine rut, because I felt I was drinking the same wines week in and week out.  I made a commitment to my blog readers and to myself that I would try at least 1 new wine per week.  This week I happened to try 3.  They were all so good.  I love discovering new wines, and here’s another that did not disappoint.  Col di Sasso means Stony Hill, and this Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes in this blend were cultivated on the most rocky slopes of the Banfi estate in Montalcino, Italy.  This was a full-bodied wine but the two grapes are blended very well and super smooth. Steal of a deal at just $19, it’s a great expression of an Italian wine.


That’s it for me this week.  Have a great weekend everyone, and till next week, Cheers