The Fruits of Their Labour

I love long weekends

This weekend is Labour Day weekend, and I’d like to dedicate this blog to all the workers involved in making our favourite beverage…Wine! A hats off to the workers that we do not see or meet. There are so many people involved in the making of your favorite wine. From the people who plant the vines, cultivate and harvest the grapes, and to those that are involved in the wine-making process, Cheers to you this Labour Day weekend. I’d also like to say a big thank you to the people who stock the shelves and help bring this awesome beverage into our lives.

On another note, I was double-checking to see how to spell Labour Day, and our American friends spell it ‘Labor’, while the British spell it ‘Labour’. And since Canada is still a British colony, I’ll go with Labour. But I digress, let’s talk some wine.

Yes, yes it is!

My friends Fred and Arla are leaving today for Alberta. They have a grandson Sage that’s almost 2, and another one on the way. So they are going up to take care of Sage while their son & daughter-in-law have baby #2. So we had a little get together last night, to have a farewell sip. Fred and Arla are both drinking whites at the moment. This is one my friend Angie bought for the occasion.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio

Ruffino has been making wine for 140 years, so they are pretty darn good at it. This is a bright and lively white wine with great acidity and gorgeous herbal and lemon flavors. It’s a great deal normally under $16, and it’s even reduced further right now. It’s also super food-friendly. Yes, it’s totally acceptable to drink white after Labour Day 🥂

Before I tell you about a great new value red, let’s talk ribs.

It’s not officially a long weekend until I do some baby back ribs. My hometown of Corner Brook Newfoundland had its first Ribfest this year, and I missed it by one weekend. I had recognized one of the participants from Ribfest in Halifax.

Rule #1. Take off that fatty membrane layer at the back of your ribs. It keeps fat in and flavor out.

In my baggie, I put brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, BBQ sauce and then orange juice. That’s going to marinate all day, and then I’ll slow cook them in my oven for about 2 hours, and finish them off on the grill. I’ll put some grill marks on the ribs but then I’ll move them to indirect heat to finish cooking.

I’ll let you know how they turn out. In the mean time, I love red wine with baby back ribs. My favorite is probably Zinfandel. And here’s one that won’t break the bank. The Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel is rich and juicy and priced under $18. It’s more of a medium bodied wine, compared to those in the $30-$40 price range that are much more full-bodied!

if you’re up for a treat this weekend, you might want to try this Zinfandel.

I presented this wine and one of my last winetasting before Covid.

1000 Stories

Here’s a very interesting and complex Zinfandel wine, 1000 Stories bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel. I’ve had positive and negative experiences with bourbon barrel aged wine. I have had wines where the bourbon overpowers the flavour of the wine, and it’s boozy in the back of your throat. This one doesn’t do that, the bourbon is quite mild, and the price point is about $38 a bottle.

Meanwhile, here’s a great value wine I had this past week.

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon

This is available everywhere, and in Newfoundland Nova Scotia, it’s on sale right now. From one of the top wine-producing regions in Chile, the Maipo Valley is producing some fine tasting wine at extraordinary decent prices. It’s rich and dark in the glass with beautiful flavors of plum, cassis, oak and mint. It’s a fantastic value, and worth the try.

I’m so excited, I have a wine-tasting coming up this Friday night. I’ll tell you all about it next weekend. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Wine Writer’s Block

I’ve been writing a wine blog since before I started my journey to becoming a Sommelier, and that was almost 10 years ago. Since then I have written over 600 wine blogs. And sometimes, you come to a brick wall. I started this wine blog today a couple of different times, and erased the titles and the topics. It’s naturel a person will have some writer’s block every once in a while.

So, while I’m in a bit of a rut today about writing wine blogs, I’m going to try to get you out of your wine-drinking rut. So many people buy a wine they like and keep buying it. Hey, I have some staples in my wine rack. Go to’s, that you know are good. And wine is expensive, it’s not like most people can afford to buy a wine, especially a treat wine, and not like it. But there are safe ways to expand your wine palate.

  1. Attend a wine tasting if you get the opportunity
Wine tastings are fun

I’m so happy. Wine tastings are starting up again. Now that we can have 25 people in a room unmasked and not social-distanced, I have been booked for 2 wine tastings so far this Fall. Wine tastings are fun and a great opportunity to try different wines at a fraction of the cost. People who go to wine tastings and find a wine they like, tend to take pictures of the wine and pick it up the next time they are out. You don’t even need to hire a Sommelier, gather a group of friends, have each person bring a wine they like, and then the group can try all the wines. However, a Sommelier is a well-trained knowledgeable wine steward who can guide you through a wine tasting, and also pick out a wide variety of wines. It’s a fun way to expand your wine palate.

2. Choose a grape you like from a different country

If you like Pinot Grigio, most of what you’ll find is Italian. Try looking for a Pinot Grigio from a different country, or try its cousin, Pinot Gris. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, try one from a different country than what you are used to. Compare Old World to New World. Because most Old World Wines, those from France, Italy etc, label by region and not by varietal, ask for help. There are big differences between the way California or France would make a wine. Weather has a huge impact on the taste of wines as well, and you’ll probably will be able to detect nuances. Try a Pinot Noir from Canada and try one from Chile, you’ll detect some differences.

2. Try a different grape altogether, but in the color of wine you like.

You’ll feel empowered. If you are a white wine drinker, try a totally different white. If you’re a red wine drinker, try a different red. Again, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Tell your wine store staff member what you like about your favorite wine, and ask them to recommend something different. You’ll feel like the Queen or King of the wine world.

Let’s talk some wine

Pinot Noir is such a great wine for Summer. First of all, you serve it slightly more chilled than you would a big bold red like Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, it’s medium-bodied and the perfect pairing for anything you serve on a plate. This Montes Pinot Noir is from Chile and is a great value, under $19. (It’s also on sale right now here in NS)

There won’t be a wine blog next Saturday as my sister Jackie is coming to town, and I’m helping her get her son set up in a new home in Antigonish.

Till the next time, Cheers

Darlene

What’s Hot? A Lot!

Damn, It’s hot!

I read this past week there are almost 300 forest fires burning in British Columbia, and 85 of them are in the Okanogan Valley. The Okanogan Valley is home to some of Canada‘s greatest vineyards and wine producers. When wildfires were burning in places like the Napa Valley in the, I got asked by many people how that would affect the wine.

CTV ran this story this past week on how smoke affects wine and what winemakers can do to help alleviate the bitterness and smoky flavors that these wildfires can cause. You can read the full article here, but make no mistake, wildfires in any winemaking region will affect the taste of the wine.

Humidity drives me crazy

Atlantic Canada is in the middle of an extreme heat wave, with high humidity. Not my favorite weather. 🙄 Yesterday saw temperatures of 29° and with humidity it felt like 39°. I’ve always said, extreme heat is no different than extreme cold, it makes it almost impossible to get outdoors and do anything, unless you have a pool in your backyard, which I do not.

Looking for something cool to drink? Let’s talk some beverages

Black Fly Coolers are awesome

On a really hot day, I like a cool drink, but I don’t like them sweet. This Summer I’ve discovered Black Fly coolers, I have Vodka Grapefruit on the right and Vodka citrus on the left. Decisions Decisions! I also picked it up in Vodka punch. I like the coolers, they are very refreshing but not sweet.

Classic White Wine Spritzer

Did you know, for most of my 20’s, I didn’t like dry wine, red or white. So I drank white wine spritzers, basically red or white wine, with something fizzy added. It can be sparkling water, 7-up or soda water, and lots of ice. And you can include a garnish if you like. And that’s how I initially got introduced to wine. It is still a great cocktail on a Friday evening when it’s really warm out.

Before I tell you about a couple of great red wines I had this past week, I made a homemade peach BBQ sauce. I was at a Farmers market and they had baskets of peaches. So I picked some up and decided to try a peach BBQ sauce. Now the recipe called for bourbon, and I didn’t have any so I substituted tequila.

My peach BBQ sauce

In a saucepan, I combined tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, molasses and chopped peaches in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. I let that cook down for 10 – 15 Minutes. Added the tequila and some Frank’s hot sauce, because I wanted to make it with a bit of zip. Then I put it in the food processor to smoothen out all the chunks. You can also use an immersion blender, which I do have. Let it cool, and put it in a mason jar. It was my first time and it turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Now for a great wine I was given as a gift this past week. My friends Fred & Arla gave me this bottle of wine last weekend and what a treat. The only thing is, NSLC (the liquor store in Nova Scotia) stopped carrying it.

Orca Red Wine

A blend of Grenache (90%) and Syrah (10%), it has an alcohol content of 15%, so be careful, it can knock you on your a$$! It was delicious though, but let me tell you about a wine you can actually get here.

Carpineto Tuscan Red

This was an interesting red, from the Tuscany region of Italy. It’s a Super Tuscan because it’s 70% Sangiovese, and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. A Super Tuscan is the name they put on wines from Tuscany Italy that are made with ‘non-Italian’ grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is under $20 a bottle and it was on sale recently so I picked it up. Let it breathe for a bit. You can get this wine across Canada including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and to my Newfoundland friends, it’s on sale there too!

Stay safe everyone. I’ll be here hoping for an end to this heatwave. Autumn is coming up really soon, right? Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Homeward Bound

Saw lots of rain

Newfoundland folk artist Eddie Coffee wrote and sings a song called ‘Grey Foggy Day’ and of the 10 days I spent in Newfoundland recently, it rained for 8 of them on the West Coast. But it didn’t matter, I got to visit my family and it was for the most part relaxing.

Maggie turned 6 months old and weighs in at an impressive 51 pounds, but the sweetest puppy with the nicest disposition. Too Cute

I did a new recipe in the past week, chicken with a citrus chimichurri. Turned out delicious. I cut chicken breasts in half and pounded them out so they were the same thickness.

Citrus Chimichurri

In the citrus Chimichurri I put olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice and some of the lemon zest, honey, salt, pepper, fresh basil, some thyme, an some fresh parsley, I used both curly and flat leaf. I am growing both flat leaf and curly parsley but my favorite is the curly parsley. I marinated the chicken in half the Chimichurri and basted with the other half.

Curly Parsley on the left

Anyway, the chicken turned out amazing, and I will definitely be making that recipe again.

Delicious

Ok, let’s talk some wine. I normally dedicate this blog to great wines under $25. However, every once in a while I tell you about a treat wine. Well, that’s what I had while in Newfoundland. For my birthday, my sister and my brother-in-law did steaks and someone they do business with, bought 2 bottles of wine. We only went through one the first night.

Chateau St. Jean Cute du Rhone

This was a big bold wine, it’s a GSM blend, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Grenache, which is the grape used for Chateauneuf du Pape, is a boozy grape. It tends to have a high alcohol content. This wine is 14.5% and you could taste it. This company also makes a Chateauneuf du Pape, but it would be a little more expensive. Those wines tend to start at $50 and go up. A great idea to let it sit for 30 minutes, but I would definitely decant this wine. It was a beauty though, and a great value at $25 a bottle. Good tannins and good spice, made it a great pairing for the steak. Apologies to my any readers in Saskatchewan, as I was researching the wine I discovered it’s $32 a bottle there. Yikes. I thought we paid a lot for wine.

If I had my time back, I would have had them open the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed this wine on my last night there, and it was stunning. You can get this wine across Canada, but not here in Nova Scotia. It’s worth picking up. The closest to us would be either Newfoundland or Quebec.

This is a little more expensive at $30 a bottle and what a treat it was. Deep, rich and intense in flavor, this would be a gorgeous steak wine. But I enjoyed it on my last night in Newfoundland gabbing with my Sister. The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Petite Syrah and Merlot. Rich and delicious. This was definitely my favorite wine of the trip, and worth the treat price tag. These brothers have a unique way of making the Cabernet, they de-stem, but don’t crush the grapes entirely. They let some full berries ferment 8 – 10 days. They say it adds more flavor. I can’t argue with them, it was a great wine.

That’s it for me for this week. I didn’t take a lot of pictures while I was home. I was busy helping my sister set up her new trailer, I have some pictures of that I’ll share next week, and other than that who wants pictures of rain. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

The Tour to Niagara is On!

Yes, I’m this excited! I have a couple of trips planned, all within Canada, but still, I’m this excited. The wine tour to the Niagara region in Ontario, including a 2-night stay in beautiful Quebec City and the 1000 Islands Boat Tour is going ahead for October 2nd. And this is where we are staying in Niagara Falls.

Embassy Suites by Hilton

Lots of exciting news this week. I am getting on a plane Thursday for the first time since Christmas 2019 and heading to Newfoundland for 10 days. And then, October 2nd, we are leaving Halifax for a wonderful 7-night tour that I would love you to come on. Come join us, there’s room, and we are going to have so much fun. If you like videos, Richard and I did a video a while back explaining the full details of the tour, and you can view it here. Richard is the President and Director of Fun for Atlantic Tours, and honest to God, he’s so much fun, you would think he was a Newfoundlander himself. LOL

I’m going to share the readers digest version of the tour.

Manoir Victoria Quebec City

First we leave Halifax on a brand new comfortable motorcoach bus and head to Quebec City for 2 nights. We will be staying at the Manoir Victoria Hotel in the heart of Old Quebec City. There we will be given a guided tour, we will have some free time to explore and we are going to discover some great food and wine. I have never been to old Quebec City before so I’m super excited about this part of the trip.

And then it’s on to Niagara Falls. We are staying at the beautiful hotel seen above, the Embassy Suites by Hilton. Over the next 3-night stay, we will enjoy a guided tour of Niagara Falls, plus we will be visiting 6 of the top wineries in the Niagara region. Not all in one day of course, but the best part is we will have a designated driver, so we can enjoy these wineries to the fullest. Some of the wineries include

Wayne Gretzky Winery

Wayne Gretzky not only has an award winning winery, but he also has a whiskey tasting room on site, in this spectacular 20,000 square foot facility.

We will also be visiting Peller Estates, along with 4 other wineries. You can visit 2 wineries, or you can come to all 6, it’s completely up to you. 13 Meals: 4 Dinners, 2 Lunches, 7 Breakfasts are included in the price, and we are going to have so much fun. Come with us.

Thousand Island boat tour

We are going to finish it up with the Thousand Island Boat Tour before we head back home. You can join us from anywhere. Check out the details at http://www.atlantictours.com. You’ll probably talk to Peggy and she can help with any questions you might have.

So, last week I told you I had some ribs marinating, and would give you the recipe this week.

Ribs marinated for 10 hours

Marinades can change, and I never measure amounts. Here’s what I put in my marinade. You can mix and match, or use whatever you like. Brown Sugar, Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, liquid smoke, and BBQ sauce. You can use any sauce for the marinade, but when you are finalizing the ribs on the grill, use a good thick one, it will stick to the ribs better. Then set your oven to 275-degrees and slow cook those ribs for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Then I put them on the grill, on in-direct heat. What I mean by that, is one side of my BBQ is on, and the other is not. I put the ribs on the off side, to allow them to finish cooking, slowly. That’s when I’m basting with my good BBQ sauce. This is the one I like, Bulls Eye Sweet & Sticky.

I also put the ribs directly on the heat for a minute or two each side. I let the heat carmelize those sugars from both the sauce and the marinade, and put those real nice grill marks on your ribs. Did I take a picture after my ribs were done. No, I was too hungry. Trust me, they turned out great. And this is the wine I had with them.

Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon

Normally, I like a big bold Zinfandel with ribs, but this time a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon also did the trick. This is actually a blend, even though the majority of the wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon. That is the main grape of the wine, but there is a small bit of Merlot and Zinfandel in this wine. It was rich and decadent, and I just loved it with the ribs. It felt like a real splurge, even though it was under $20 a bottle. To my Newfoundland friends, you can get it there, it’s $1 more.

Corner Brook, NL

I just wanted to let everyone know there will be no wine blogs for the next 2 weeks. Heading to my hometown of Corner Brook, Newfoundland on Thursday and I’m there till Sunday August 2nd. I’ll tell you all about my trip when I get back.

Stay safe, enjoy Summer. Cheers