Moving Forward

Hope you like the new look

All I can say is WOW! And thank you. The feedback was amazing. I appreciated every comment on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and in personal emails and texts. I hope you like the new look. Several people commented that the black background with white print was a little hard to read. I would also like to take a moment to welcome all our new readers. This blog originates out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. So it was nice to see all the new readers from the United States this week, in addition to Ireland, Turkey, Venezuela, Norway and India. Welcome one and all.

Welcome to the new readers

My good friend GK who set up my original blog 12 years ago, called and told me I needed to update the style. As a matter of fact, I think his exact words were ‘For the love of God girl, that blog style needs to be updated, make it cleaner, more modern.’ One of my friends who gave me feedback, FM, said I should share some of the comments. He was curious as to what the other readers had to say. So I will, protecting their identity, using just their initials. Long time reader of my blog RS, & his wife M, who lives in Newfoundland gave this feedback.

Good afternoon Darlene, I look forward to your blog each Saturday. Maxine and I are wine people as well, we were white wine drinkers at the beginning, but now it’s red and almost all red. We do buy a bottle of white every now and then. You know I like to cook, and I do enjoy your recipes. Some of the wines you feature you can’t get here on the rock, and the wine here is a little more expensive than in Nova Scotia. In my opinion just keep it going as it is. Cheers.”

The recipes will be staying

One of the constant themes with the feedback, was ‘Keep the recipes’. I had a friend tell me this past week, we are always struggling to find new recipes that are delicious and easy, so keep them up.

JL from Alberta had this say to say

Love your blog, Darlene. I think adding some recipes is a great idea …..in my opinion! 😄😄🤗

I have a couple of friends with the initials A.M. and here they are with their thoughts.

Love all the recipes!”

Would certainly welcome new recipes, along with your wine reviews, Darlene. Have enjoyed both in the past!👍

The recipes are staying

So the recipes are going to become a part of the blog, which I’m super happy about. I’m even practicing short 2 minute videos on preparing and seasoning my dishes. This comment from KT bought a smile to my face

Someone wants to know what is your suggested wine pairing for a BBQ deboned turkey, injected with white wine and sage and rubbed with apricot jam?😁. Just so you know, I recommended a Riesling!

Crispy outside, fluffy inside

This week, I want to share the easy way to make crispy potatoes in your oven or on your BBQ. I use these aluminum pans a lot when I BBQ. They help keep your BBQ cleaner and are perfect for grill cooking. You can buy them at the grocery store or the dollar store, but Costco sells 30 for $6.

I did these on my BBQ

One of the things I have learned this year is how to master the art of crispy potatoes without a deep fryer.

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes in whatever size you like. I’ve made them to look like fries, but I’ve also done this with bigger chunks.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bath of cold water and let them sit for at least 30 minutes
  3. Pat dry on a dishtowel
  4. Rub cornstarch on your hands and lightly coat the potatoes with the cornstarch
  5. Add vegetable oil, and cook in an oven of 400-degrees or on your BBQ until they are done. Times will vary depending on grills and ovens, but 25-minutes is a good average.
  6. Hold the salt till the towards the end, as putting the salt on raw potatoes will take some of the moisture out, and your potatoes won’t be as fluffy on the inside.
  7. Salt is mandatory though, when it comes to potatoes.
Delicious and crispy

Another reader suggested not doing a ‘grocery list’ of wines, just do one per week. With the recipes and everything else, one wine per week is great. So that’s what I’m going to do, and the wines will vary from red, white, sparkling, rose, and even a scattered dessert wine.

This week’s wine is from Cupcake.

Cupcake Cabernet

This week this wine was $3 off and priced under $14 here in Nova Scotia. Regular price is around $16 so it’s still a great value. I’ve had the Cupcake Red Velvet before, and because it contains Zinfandel, there is a tinge of sweetness there. My friend Angie, who I shared this with, said when she saw the name Cupcake, she thought it might be a sweetened red wine, but it isn’t. We both enjoyed it. One thing this vineyard does is pick the grapes when they are very ripe, which adds richness and a velvety palate. Great news, they make a wide variety of wine styles. Winemaker Jessica Tomei believes wine pairs best with good friends and family and great food. There is something for everyone, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sparkling and Rose. Which Cupcake wines are available in your area?

Who’s with me

Well, that’s it for this week. Thank you again so much for the feedback. Keep it coming, I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Enjoy the weekend, Cheers

Darlene

Food For Thought

Looking for advice

This week’s blog is a little different, as I am reaching out for feedback from the people that regularly read my blog. A penny for your thoughts, if you will.

Don’t see these any more in Canada

I would like to share a little history on this blog. I started this blog, and bought my name dot com, in 2009. Believe me, it wasn’t a bidding war, no one else wanted it LOL!! Back then I wrote about whatever was on my mind. The blog was called ‘In My Opinion’. I wrote about movies, current events, news, food, wine and anything else that crossed my mind.

Then in 2012, I started my 5-year journey into becoming a Certified Sommelier. Just so you know, it doesn’t take everyone 5 years. I moved to a different province, which interrupted my studies, and also took a trip one Spring with my sister, that had me passing on a particular course for that year. So, in 2012, my blog became entirely focused on wine, and I renamed the blog ‘Wine, In My Opinion” and since then “Wine, It’s Just My Opinion”. And the reason I did that, is that I have met many wonderful people who have totally different palates than mine. And they are not wrong, I’m not wrong. No one is wrong when it comes to which wines you love, that’s the beauty of winelovers everywhere.

Learning how to make homemade pizza

Then, back when the pandemic started, and I started learning new recipe ideas, learning how to make homemade bread, and learning a whole bunch of easy delicious recipes that I wanted to share, the blog went from being just wine, to wine and food. Those that know me, know I absolutely love to cook. My friend Angie says there is total joy on my face when I start talking about food and recipes. And back in May I learned how to make homemade pizza dough, and shared it with you, my readers. People went wild. Hundreds of new readers, lots of feedback, and people really enjoyed it. So I started experimenting with adding food to my wine blogs. Because after all, what goes better with food, than wine.

I shared pasta dishes.

Pasta with chicken & spiniach

I shared recipes for marinades, sauces & aiolis.

Sweet Thai Chili Aioli

I shared recipes for meats done on the grill.

Ribs, still my favorite protein

And this recipe for garlic parmesan potatoes took on a life all it’s own, with almost a thousand comments, questions, & requests for the recipe on Facebook and Twitter.

Garlic Parmesan Potatoes

This past week, I decided to do some meal prep, and shared this picture from my kitchen on Facebook and Twitter. It was +4-degrees here in Halifax and a perfect evening for grilling. And I love to grill. People went crazy again. LOL. Lots of comments and feedback.

Meal prep

Pictured are a new potato medley, pork chops, chicken skewers, garlic glazed carrots and I’ve been trying new recipes for cauliflower including a maple buffalo sauce and a homemade honey mustard glaze. I found cauliflower on sale at a Farmer’s market here in Halifax so I decided to buy a couple and try some new recipes. And I shared with my friend Angie, who really doesn’t like to cook. But she’s a great taste-tester and gives me feedback on new recipes.

So here’s where you come in!!

I need your honest feedback on the direction of this blog. I’m going to be honest, sometimes it’s tough getting up every Saturday morning and writing a wine blog. I get writer’s block, and I sometimes struggle to write about wine topics that appeals to people. That’s where the food starting coming in. It’s a perfect compliment to wine, and everyone has to eat. And let’s face it, we are always looking for new simple cooking ideas, so we are not eating the same food again and again. This is a struggle for people, which is why food companies like Hello Fresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food are doing booming business. We’ve all seen this meme, and there is a lot of truth to it.

I’m also thinking about doing a short video in the blog. From my kitchen, showing how easy it is to prepare some of these recipes. So I’m asking for the reader’s opinion. Please be honest, please be kind. But whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the comments below, I really would like to have your thoughts on what you would like to see in my blog. Just wine, keep with the food, expand into other areas but still include wine? I really really need your feedback. For a while, I felt it kind of turned into a grocery list of wine, and readership did start to drop. Then when I introduced food, boom!! Readership quadrupled some weeks. Thank you in advance.

I do have a new wine of the week…

A great Italian Rosso

Had a steak last night, with wings, onion rings and potatoes. I got home late, so I was starving, and ate it before I could take a picture. And I tried this new wine with it. Delicious. It’s from Tuscany and it’s 70% Sangiovese and 30% other grapes. The reason they don’t name the other grapes, is because they change up the 30% from year to year. Other red wine grapes grown in this region of Italy include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This was an easy to drink tasty Tuscan red wine, that is on sale right now for $15.99. It’s a great value and a great wine, and I highly recommend it.

Till next week, Cheers. And thank you for the feedback.

Darlene

The Pandemic’s Most Popular Wines

2020 was an interesting year, and the only reason I’m looking back, I was curious about the most popular wines. This information was compiled by Mast of Wine Dr. Liz Thach, a wine writer, educator and a consultant. And although it’s an American study, I’m pretty confident the numbers will be quite similar here in Canada as well.

Not surprising, Cabernet Sauvignon was #1. Here’s a great example of why!

Chateau Souverain was my #1 top pick last year for it’s great taste and great value. Under $20 a bottle, In 1943 Lee Stewart was miserable as a Sales Executive in San Francisco and bought a winery and 30-acres in Napa Valley. In 1944 he named the winery Chateau Souverain because his daughter liked the name, as it sounded like Soverign. In 1973 the winery moved to the Sonoma region of the Napa Valley and they have been making great wine for many decades. How can they do it at the price they charge, I don’t know, but I am grateful. A great full-bodied food friendly wine.

Wine Tours sure changed in 2020

So #2 on the list, might surprise many people, but it doesn’t surprise me…. Chardonnay. Chardonnay is still the most planted white wine varietal in the world, so its not surprising that it’s the #1 white wine and the #2 overall wine in sales from 2020. Chardonnay comes in many different styles, from rich and buttery, to crisp and clean. Some are heavily oaked, while others don’t see oak at all.

Bread & Butter Chardonnay

I am going to provide a better picture of one of my favorite Chardonnay wines.

Discovered this Chardonnay at the 2019 Wine Show

This wine is also based in Napa Valley. A gorgeous full-bodied hearty white wine, I loved both this Chardonnay and its sister wine the Bread & Butter Pinot Noir from the 2019 Wine Show, and they actually made the top of my list that year. There’s richness in the vanilla and almond flavors with a slight minerality that make it perfect for your next dinner. Sadly, you can no longer get this wine here in Nova Scotia, but you can in other parts of Canada and around the U.S. I’m really looking forward to having it again once we are allowed to travel. It’s still available in Newfoundland, so now I’m really looking forward to that trip home.

Don’t embarrass yourself at the Wine store

Red Blends have made huge leaps in the hearts and palates of wine lovers, jumping to #3 on the list for 2020. Red blends are gorgeous, getting the best qualities of 2 or more grapes. They are fairly inexpensive and appeal to a large group of people. And not all are sweet. I know some people think red blend wines are sweet, especially after tasting wines like the Apothic wines. But Bordeaux wines are all blends, and they are not sweet at all. Like this one for example.

Menage a Trois Red Wine Blend

This is a great example of a non-expensive great tasting wine blend. Menage a Trois Red wine blend is made up of, you guessed it, 3 grape varietals. Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are the 3 grapes that make up this blend. Hearty, juicy, and tasty with structure from the Cabernet, the founders of this winery wanted to experiment ‘threely’. They created 3-grape blends that have become iconic, but only because of the name of the wine, but because of the great wine in the bottle.

Would love to know

And now for my wine of the week…

It was no surprise to me to see Pinot Grigio make its way to #4. It’s surprising that a couple of years ago, this delicious crisp light wine didn’t even make the Top 10. Pinot Grigio is winning hearts all over North America with its crisp light flavors and fantastic price tags. You can get a fabulous Italian Pinot Grigio for under $15, and you can choose from a wide variety at that price range. This one pictured, was shared with me by my friend Arla, who loves Pinot Grigio, and who has shared her love with this wine with her friends. This is a great wine and I believe she told me she paid around $11 for it.

Before I sign off, I have some news to share.

Because of Covid-19 and the numbers being what they are in Ontario and Quebec, our June trip to the Niagara region, which included a stop-over in old Quebec city, has been moved to October 2nd. Yes, we will still be staying at the Hilton in Niagara Falls, pictured above. And October is going to be such a pretty time of the year to go.

Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours

My friend Richard Arnold, co-owner of Atlantic Tours, and I chatted yesterday afternoon, and we both agreed the trip had to be moved. I’m excited about the October date. We are travelling by Motor Coach through Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. The leaves are going to be gorgeous, and the company is going to be fun. Come join us. Only a $50 deposit will hold your space. That’s not a typo. A $50 fully refundable deposit will hold your spot on this fun trip. Check out the details here.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our upcoming trip. We all need something to look forward to, so why not make it this awesome 8-day trip.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Love Is In The Air (Nope, that’s Wine)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m here to help with gift giving ideas for the special person in your life. Wine! If that special someone in your life is a wine-lover, like myself, here are some great suggestions.

Roses, romance, dinner, Champagne? Champagne can sometimes be hard on the wallet, with prices aiming towards $100 per bottle. Try an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava.

Hola Spanish Cava

Hola is how people greet each other in Spain, and that was the reasoning behind the name. It’s crisp and dry, which means not sweet. Made with the Traditional method, just like Champagne, it’s a show-stopper at just $21.99.

However, if it is Champagne you’ve been craving…. here’s a beautiful one.

Top Chef Canada Winner Renee LaValee

Renee LaVallee is a winner of Top Chef Canada and the acclaimed chef and owner of the Canteen in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She teamed up with Duval Leroy Champagne House in the Cotes des Blancs region of Champagne France, to partner and create this beautiful Champagne.

A better picture of the bottle

They have been making Champagne for 160 years, and I was thrilled to meet Renee at 2019’s Port of Wines Show at the Casino Nova Scotia. She said this Champagne is in harmony with her style of cuisine. I loved it, it woke my palate up, when I tasted it. A beautiful treat for that special someone, or a gorgeous gift. Renee LaVallee’s Champagnes from Duval Leroy sells for $69.99, and in my opinion, that’s an excellent deal for this great Champagne.

If the person in your life is a white wine lover, you can’t go wrong with Pinot Grigio or a Pinot Gris, it’s the same grape variety.

Kim Crawford Pinot Gris

As a matter of fact, the gris means ‘gray’ in French, because it’s a white grape with a grayish tint to it. True story. And if you see the word ‘Grauburgundur on the label, it’s a Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio from Germany. (Spatburgundur is German Pinot Noir) This wine hails from New Zealand, and although New Zealand is better known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, they do grow a wide variety of grapes. With its gorgeous flavors of peach and honey, if fish is on the menu, this is the wine for you.

Truth!

Before I tell you a great wine for the red wine lover on your list. Let me share what I had last night. A steak. And I do my steak very simply. Melted butter, I did put some fresh herbs in the melted butter last night to try it. I saw it on the Food Network. But you don’t need them, not for a steak. Sea salt and ground pepper. That’s it.

Then I heat up the Sear Zone on my grill, and put a beautiful char on the steak. 1 minute, turn, 1 minute flip, 1 minute turn again.

My Sear Zone
Isn’t that a beautiful sight

So, here’s a great red wine to serve on Valentine’s Day, especially if you are celebrating with a good hearty protein.

Last week I was telling you about the fantastic wines that are coming out of Paso Robles California, and here’s another one. Paso Robles is now on my bucket list as places I would like to travel to. Like the Napa Valley, I think it would be like wine heaven, gorgeous scenery and great wine. At least that’s what I hope Heaven is like. This wine is racking up great wine reviews, I even read one from a guy who said he hadn’t had a great Merlot in a while, until he had this one. It’s under $2 a bottle.

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend to all my readers. Happy long weekend here in Nova Scotia, it’s the Family Day weekend.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Great Wines Under $25

Great wines under $25

So many times, especially since the pandemic hit, I’ve been really focusing on great value wines. When I started this wine blog 10 years ago, I wanted to let people know that there were great wines under $25. Also, that is the same year, I started my studies to become a Certified Sommelier. (Always loved the homework.)

Many people have been impacted financially by Covid-19, including myself, so I’ve really been highlighting wines in my wine blogs around the $15 – $17 price range. However there are so many fantastic wines between that $17 and $25 price range, I really wanted to share some of those wines.

Conundrum White

I am going to start with my Mom’s favorite wine, Conundrum white. I really like it as well, and I actually like the white Conundrum better than the red version. Chardonnay is the main grape, with Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion, it checks all the boxes for full-body and balance. Winemaker Jon Bolta says this is a great pairing with fajitas, Thai food, and Vietnamese food. My mother likes it with everything, and I’m pretty sure you will too. It’s a great wine for $24.99.

Me when someone asks ‘Who drank all the wine?”
I love me some Merlot

Regular readers of this blog know how much I love Merlot. Full-bodied, plump and juicy, much like myself! (Got those Covid curves happening!! LOL) This is a fantastic Merlot for $23. Small lot wine-making and careful barrel aging, makes this a fantastic wine, at a fantastic price. Paso Creek, centrally located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is known for producing great wines because of the swing in the temperatures from day and night. Days are warm and nights are cool, making for perfectly balanced wines. More than 60 grape varieties are grown in this region, and Merlot is one they do very well. We’ve been having some pretty warm weather in February, and if you’re kick-starting the grill, this wine will pair well with any protein you put on the grill.

It’s back!

Speaking of grills, if you’re thinking of doing ribs, here’s the wine for you. I get together Tuesday evenings with 3 other ladies in my bubble, and we play a game called Rummikub. It’s like Rummy 500, but with tiles. We have a lot of fun, play for a little money and have a sip of wine. Two of the ladies drink white wine and they alternate bringing the wine each week, and my friend Angie and I drink red. And we alternate weeks as well. This past Tuesday, she bought one of my favorites. I wasn’t even aware that the NSLC had bought it back. The Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel. It’s not always available so I was thrilled to see it was back. Old vines tend to produce a lower quantity of grapes, but a higher quality grape. It’s only $17 a bottle and definitely a great wine for under $25.

All women know this to be true

And last but not least, my wine of the week…

My favorite wine under $25

When this wine was first introduced here in Nova Scotia, Meiomi Pinot Noir was priced at $30. I featured it back then because it was one of the richest full-bodied Pinot Noir wines I had tasted. Today, that price tag is $24.99 and right now it’s $22.99 here in Nova Scotia. If you haven’t tried this wine, this is the time to do it. Pinot Noir is a think skinned grape, very much vulnerable to the elements, which is why it’s called the heartbreak grape. Pinot Noir, when not done properly, can also be thin on the palate. This is not one of those wines. One of my favorite things about the Meomi Pinot Noir is the lasting finish. The wine will also go with anything you serve at dinner. I always tell people ‘when in doubt, serve Pinot Noir’.

This meme made me smile

That’s it for me for this week. Take care

Darlene