Simplifying Wine!


So we had another great wine tasting last weekend, and we tried 6 new wines and had a lot of fun.  I have been doing a lot of tastings lately and one of the greatest accomplishments I get from a wine tasting is simplifying wine a little bit.  Wine can be a complex topic, there are so many different kinds of wine, grapes, wine-making styles from so many countries, it’s no surprise people can be a little intimidated buying wine.  One of my main goals in a wine tasting is to help take some of the mystery out of buying wine and to help simplify it for people.


There’s no better way to do that than to get a great group of people together and try some new wines.  New wines tends to bring out lits of questions, and we like that, because the more we know, the easier buying wine gets.  And that’s what we did last weekend.  Here is an example of a pairing we did from 2 Pinot Noir Wines from France.  One was twice the price of the other, and the group was split down the middle as to which one they liked the best.


I love this wine.  Le Fou means ‘Madman’, and the owner decided to call it that, because his neighbours thought he was crazy for planting Pinot Noir in the south of France, known for its Syrah and Grenache.  I think this wine is tremendous value as it comes in just under $17 a bottle here in Nova Scotia, but it’s medium-bodied with lots of flavor.  There are some pepper notes accompanied by tart cherry and a very food friendly wine at a price you can open any night of the week.


We tasted the Le Fou side by side with this wine, a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France.  It’s a popular opinion that the Burgundy region of France provides some of the greatest Pinot Noir wines in the world, especially from the Cote de Nuits region of Burgundy, where this wine originates from.  The 2015 vintage is considered exceptional because of things like weather conditions and grape maturity.  I found this to be a delicious and well structured wine with spicy notes.  Although this wine was closer to the $30 range, I found it tasty and a great treat wine.

And now my wine of the week… a great find from Italy


This was the last wine of the evening, and probably the biggest hit of the evening.  Definitely a wine I will be showcasing in other wine tastings.  Montepulciano is a region in Tuscany, but it’s also a grape.  And that’s the case in this wine, it’s the grape Montepulciano from the Abruzzo region, thus the name Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  This wine is fairly new to our local liquor store and I just loved it!  It was rich and full-bodied and extremely smooth to drink.  I love that their goal is quality from cluster to glass.  And at $22.99, I will definitely be buying this wine again.  As a matter of fact, I am invited to party this evening where there will be pizza on the menu and I think I may bring this wine.

Wine Understands

Well, that’s it for this week

Have a great weekend everyone.  Till next week, Cheers





Wine FAQ’s

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I’m doing another wine tasting tomorrow and I’m excited.  There are 20 people coming to this one, and that means lots of questions.  There are a couple of people coming that it will be their very first wine tasting, and one of the ladies was asking me what to expect.  As I told her, this is your wine tasting.  I’m only there to pick out some different wines for you to try and to answer all your questions.  As I do more and more wine tastings, I realize there are a few of the same questions that get asked every time.  So this wine blog is all about answering questions, and I have an awesome new wine for you to try as my wine of the week.

What makes a good wine?

Drink the wine you love and love the wine you drink.  That’s all you need to know about what makes a good wine!  Think about it.  I have a couple of friends who only drink white wine.  So if you were to give them a glass of Bordeaux, no matter how high the quality of the Bordeaux, they are not going to like it.  So to them, it’s not a good wine.  But I love Bordeaux, so I would find it a good wine.  Wine is a matter of personal preference.  Have fun and try new ones, but drink the wine you love, and don’t worry about whether anyone else thinks it’s a good wine.  People’s opinions will vary, and no one is wrong.  That’s why I called my blog Wine – In My Opinion.

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What temperature should I serve my wine?

The topic of wine temperature always comes up.  Sadly, many people won’t try red wines because they don’t like the warm taste to their lips.  Many people, including most restaurants, serve red wine too warm.  When it was stated that red wine should be served at room temperature, they meant the room temperature of  the underground wine cellars.  And remember, hundreds of years ago, homes were not as warm as what they are today.  The average room temperature in a home is 23-degrees Celsius.  Way too warm to serve wine.  Red wine should be  served between 13° and 16°C  and some people like their big heavy wines,  like Cabernet Sauvignon, served  at 18° , and this is fine.  White wine should be served betwee 9 & 11 degrees, and ice wines as cold as you can.

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How do I know if a wine is bad?

On Thursday evening I opened a bottle of wine and knew instantly it had gone bad because of the smell permeating from the bottle.  It was this wine..

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I have had it several times before, it’s a great wine for BBQ food, so I did know it had gone bad. I bought it back to my NSLC and they exchanged it no problem.  Now keep in mind there was one small sip taken out of the bottle.  They may raise an eyebrow if most of the bottle is missing!  About 10% of corked wines do go bad, and about 4% of screw caps.  It amazes me how many people tell me they have never returned a bottle of wine.  Which means some people open a wine, maybe for the first time, and think they don’t like that particular wine.  How I knew this wine was bad was because of the skunky vinegar smell.  Sipping it confirmed it.  If a wine tastes like it sat open in a barnyard, or has any sharp ‘off’ smell, pour the glass back in the bottle and return it to the wine store where you bought it.  Believe me, they’ve all taken back wine.  Wine’s too expensive to waste.

And now it’s time for my wine of the week… I’m so excited because I LOVED this wine…


This is the Magnifico Rosso Fuoco Primitivo.  From the Puglia (pronounced pool-yah) region in Italy, this is a magnificent Primitivo wine.  Primitivo is the Italian version of Zinfandel.  This wine had a really nice medium to full-bodied feel and the jam flavors are a compliment to this wine, not a detriment.  There are spicy notes to compliment the juicy plum flavors and I had this wine with baby back ribs that I did last weekend.  If there’s a heaven, I want this wine and baby back ribs to be a part of it.  It was wonderful, but this wine would also pair well with stew, lamb, beef, and especially any kind of gamey meat.  (I’m from Newfoundland, this pairs well with moose)

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If you have any questions about wine, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Have a great weekend, till next week, Cheers




Goodbye Summer!

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Although the last day of Summer is not officially until September 20th, Fall hit Nova Scotia right on September 1st this year.  The temperatures started to drop almost immediately and the nights were cooler for sleeping.  Hello Autumn!

Two weeks ago I was hired to do a Summer wine tasting, and I met 8 of the nicest people.  They wanted a ‘summer-themed’ tasting with lots of chilled white  and rose wines.  They wanted a goodbye to Summer tasting and we had a fabulous time while sharing some great wines.  I even tried a couple of new ones that night.

Let me introduce you to  one of the surprise hits of the evening.

Grand Pre Rose

This wine was not originally on the list.  My local liquor store was sold out of the one I originally planned to bring.  But what a great surprise this turned out to be.  The rose wine from Grand Pre Winery in the Anapolis Valley in Nova Scotia was a treat.  It was bright and crisp with lovely citrus flavors, and everyone loved it.  A tremendous value at just $15.99 a bottle, this is a great appetizer wine and a great wine for the upcoming Thanksgiving turkey dinner.


On that evening, we featured 3 different Sauvignon Blanc grapes done in 3 different styles from 3 different countries, and this was the hands-down winner.  In my opinion, no one does Sauvignon blanc like the Sancerre region of France.  This was refreshing and crisp with gorgeous citrus flavors. It was very simply good, nothing over-powering and I feel the wine-making was done to perfection.  The picture on the bottle is the actual Chateau in the centre of the region, which was built in the 10th Century.  This wine is priced at $34 but so worth it.  Honestly, it’s going to be hard to go back to $18 Sauvignon Blanc.

LIghtfoot Riesling

Although I didn’t get the Rose wine from this vineyard, as they were all sold out, I did have the opportunity to try the Lightfoot and Wolfville Riesling.  So good.  Lightfoot and Wolfville is probably Nova Scotia’s newest winery, established in 2009 and they are completely organic.  This fabulous Riesling was aged in the bottle for over a year before release, and the peach and marmalade flavors were in a word – Yummy!  There were only 66 cases of this wine released, so if you see a bottle, nab it before it’s gone.

And my wine of the week…


We featured two wines that night that were 100% Aglianico grapes.  One was a Rose from southern Italy and this full-bodied red.  And it was considered the best wine of the evening, and let me tell you those people have good taste.  From Campania, this wine is delicious with rich dark fruit flavors and a smoky note that would have it pair very well with stews, roast beef and barbecued food.  You know, all the comfort foods you love for Fall and winter.  This is a treat bottle of wine, coming in at $44 a bottle, but it is so very good.

Baby back ribs

Speaking of awesome barbecue foods that this wine would pair well with, see below for my recipe for baby back ribs.  I finish mine on the grill because  I like those grill marks and it’s a great chance to baste and turn.  I’m known pretty well among my friends and family as a good ribber.  If you try the recipe, let me know how they turn out.

Darlene’s Baby Back Ribs

I’m going to do the recipe in the style that I make them.

  1. First, and very important, use the tip of a knife to start to peel back the tough layer of skin that is on the back side of the ribs.  We call it the membrane.   Once it starts to lift, I use 2 pieces of paper towel to peel the rest of it off.  This is a very important step as it keeps fat in and flavor out so you want it gone.
  2. Then I marinate my ribs. In a bowl I mix, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, a few shakes of Frank’s hot sauce, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, and then add a bottle of barbecue sauce.
  3. Let the ribs sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours, or even over-night.
  4. Then pre-heat oven to 275-degrees and let the ribs slow cook in the oven for 2 ½ – 3 hours.
  5. Then it’s time to head to the grill
  6. I put them on the top rack and keep turning and basting in barbecue sauce for an hour.
  7. When I take the ribs off the barbecue, I’m careful, because they are cooked to fall off the bone perfection at this point.
  8. Tent the ribs, put them on your cutting board and put aluminum foil over them for 10 minutes. This allows all the juices to settle.
  9. Then I cut the ribs and serve them up. A note to use  your favorite barbecue sauce, I like the Bulls Eye Sweet and Sticky personally, but you choose your favorite and try different ones.

Well, that’s it for this week.  Til next week, Cheers







Fall Into Wine

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First of all, let me say a very big thank you for all the feedback I received last week.  I very much appreciated it.  I really liked hearing things about the blog you liked, like finding the good values – great wine at great prices, and I even had someone who knew I loved to cook, to include some of my favorite recipes as a pairing. I read them all and over the coming months you may get a new flavor to the wine blog.  Keep the feedback coming!

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So my favorite season is upon us.  I love Fall.  I love the gorgeous colors, the cool nights for sleeping and the harvest of local fruit and vegetables.  The fact that it is also grape harvesting season in the wine industry brings a smile to my face as well.  Probably not a coincidence for that timing.

I`m going to start this blog off because a favorite value of mine, that hasn’t been available for a long time is back, and it`s a favorite of mine for 2 reasons, it’s great wine and it’s a great price!


This is one of those great wines that tastes like a $40 bottle of wine but is $18.00 a bottle.  It`s the Hoya de Cadenas 130th Anniversary edition from Spain and it is so smooth and easy to drink.  This is a blend of some of my favorite grapes including Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Bobal.  Bobal is a grape that originated in Valencia Spain and is named for the latin word Bovale, in reference to the shape of a Bull`s head.  I find this wine to be extremely elegant and it’s complimented by flavors of cherry and spice and very subtle oak.  It`s back at our local liquor store so stock up while it is still here.


While we are in Spain, let me tell you about a new wine I tried this past week.  It`s the Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha.  Garnacha being the Spanish pronunciation of the French grape Grenache.  Fans of Apothic Red might like this wine, as there is a slight tinge of sweetness added.  It`s a medium-bodied wine with flavors of raspberry and some sweet winter spice.  It`s well priced at $15 a bottle here in Nova Scotia, and I have many friends who love the Apothic Red, with that hint of sweetness, and this is a wine that you might want to try.  Great wine for pork.

And now my wine of the week,


In previous blogs, I have talked about Valpolicella especially Ripasso.  This is a Valpolicella Superiore – what’s the difference you might ask?  2 things, grape selection and ageing.  It has to be aged for one year before release but traditionally Superiore is aged 2 years.  Valpolicella Superiore is considered the second step on the way to Amarone.  This fabulous wine is $25 and worth every dollar.  Here in Halifax, Superiore wines range from $20 to $52, so this is good value. Very smooth and tasty abd the palate comes alive with flavors of cherry, plums and spice.   The perfect wine for pasta and pizza.  My apologies for the cat dish in the background.  LOL


I hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend

Till next week, Cheers