Wines Mom Will Love

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and a big thank you to all the Mom’s out there. I’m very lucky that my Mom is still going strong at 86 years young. She just bought a brand new car. My dad passed away last July at almost 90, and they had a bigger car. So she sold it and bought this sporty little number, and now zips around town like she’s 60!

Mom & her new Red sporty car

This next picture was taken a couple of years ago, while we were at the Canada Games Centre in Corner Brook, walking, while I was home for a Christmas visit. She still walks almost every day. She is living proof keeping busy, keeps you young.

Mom & I out walking

My Mom is a white wine drinker, and this is one of her favorites.

She loves Chardonnay out of Argentina. This is a very fruity wine, with gorgeous aromas and flavors of apple and pineapple. As a matter of fact, when Mom was here visiting one Summer, we were playing cards and both enjoying a glass of this wine. My older sister, who doesn’t drink wine, said ‘Is someone eating an apple”? The wine spends a little bit of time in French oak barrels so I didn’t find this Chardonnay really oaky. At just $15 a bottle, you should probably buy your Mom 2.

1st Pizza Making Night

Back when we were able to get together with friends, I learned to make pizza. Now I make it and freeze it. It’s quick and easy, especially after a stressful week in lockdown, and that’s exactly what I had last night. Buffalo chicken pizza. Normally my dough is thinner, more flatter. I normally take a fork and punch some holes in the dough, so it doesn’t rise up in the oven, but I was in a rush and forgot to do that this time. It was still yummy. Also, on the pizza, I used 75% tomato sauce and 25% BBQ sauce, for a little extra zip. Hard to tell with all the mozzarella I used.

And the wine I had with this easy Friday night meal? The Finca Las Moras Malbec.

Malbec is the flagship grape of Argentina and since 2011 has been the most cultivated grape in Argentina. Malbec started out as being one of the grape varietals allowed to be used in a Bordeaux blend. When frost hit in 1956 and wiped out 75% of the vineyards, Bordeaux didn’t plant as much. However, it made its way across the water and became the star of Argentina.

Look at that color

Look at the beautiful rich deep color on this Malbec. When I was training to be a Sommelier, one of the things that made Malbec easier to identify in blind tastings was the color. Beautiful inky purple, the Malbec grape is a small dark grape with thick skin. This creates a full-bodied wine with lots of flavor but has medium tannins, so it’s very easy to drink. The empty bottle in my recycling bin is all the proof you need.

As I had mentioned in last week’s blog , my friend Nancy and the fine folks at Univins & Spirits had given me some Argentinian wines to try and write about. This is my awesome friend Nancy who represents a ton of great wines from Univins & Spirits. I’ll be honest, I love wines from Argentina, so I have had all of these wines before.

Last but not least, all my friends I work with at the Radio station will know how much I love this next wine. If you’ve ever asked me for a great wine at a great price, chances are you’ve tried this wine. It’s hard to believe that I have to use a stock photo of this wine, considering how many bottles have been consumed in this house!

The Dada 2 is a Merlot, and it is one of the most luscious wines you could drink. It is a delicious wine with a full mouth feel and lots of flavor. I’m heading out today to pick up some ribs to do on the barbecue tonight, and this is a perfect wine for that. Whatever is on the menu for Mother’s Day tomorrow, this wine will match.

Thank you to Univins & Spirits

Again, a big thank you to Univins & Spirits for the opportunity to taste and write about their wines. Of all 6 wines shown here, they are all under $20, and they are all fantastic. It’s hard to believe such an amazing array of wines are available at such a great price point. How fast do you think you’d become Mom’s favorite if this is what you gave her tomorrow.

That’s it for me this weekend. Stay safe, and till next week, Cheers

Don’t Wine For Me Argentina

Couch Wine Tour

Although our first full week of full lockdown did provide some challenges, it also held a very bright spot for me. My friend Nancy Johnston and the fine people at Univins and Spirits, shared some Argentinian wines with me and asked could I share them with you.

I get asked all the time where the greatest values in wine are located and Argentina is definitely at the top of the list. These are excellent quality wines at easy to swallow prices. And although Malbec is widely considered the ‘National Wine of Argentina’, they are doing fantastic things with other grape varietals.

I know everyone is missing travelling at this time, and we can’t go in person. Let’s take a little trip to Argentina through our wine glass.

My in-house wine tour

Outside the city of San Juan, lies the Pedernal Valley & Tulum Valley, which are becoming more and more acclaimed for great quality red wines. It is hotter and drier in these Valleys, as opposed to Mendoza, which is the biggest wine making region in Argentina. What does that mean for the wine? Grapes ripen faster, which means a more full-bodied wine with a little higher alcohol content. Don’t mistake that for ‘boozy’, as the wine is not boozy at all, and the alcohol content comes in at around 13.6%, which is very average in a red wine. This Cabernet Syrah blend from Finas Las Moras, is a delicous blend of the two grapes. It’s medium to full-bodied, with a very generous mouthfeel. It’s a perfect pairing for when you are enjoying a grilled piece of meat, and the $16 price tag means you can enjoy more than one bottle.

Smooth and delicious

Do you know what blew me away about the Fincas Las Moras winery? It was founded in 1993. It’s so hard to believe it’s that new. They started small and now export to 45 countries around the world. When you think of wineries in France and Italy making wine for hundreds of years, this vineyard has been doing it since 1993, and doing it really well. This Syrah is an absolute delight. Do not confuse this Syrah with some of the heavy-bodied, oak-laden Shiraz wines out of Australia. Although Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, it is referred to as Syrah in France, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. Some people have written that Shiraz is ‘New World’, and Syrah is Old World, however, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand are New World wine-making regions. Australia called it Shiraz and kind of made that name its own, and in the U.S. it’s generally known as Shiraz. This Syrah is light to medium bodied, fruit forward and very food friendly. A steal at $15.

And last but not least, one of my favorite wines from Argentina.

After a stressful week, La Mascota Cabernet Franc is a great way to eend the week, it’s perfectly balanced and elegant. Cabernet Franc is the mother grape of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was once known as a ‘blending’ grape’ in Bordeaux, but it is so interesting and complex on its own. Hand harvested and aged in both French and American oak for 15 months, this gorgeous full-bodied wine has rich fruit and spicy notes. A fantastic wine for under $18.

A very big welcome to all of our new wine loving friends, from near and far. I see that our new friends and followers are from Canada and the U.S., so welcome to my wine journey.

Stay safe everyone. Till next week, Cheers

Stay The Blazes Home 2.0

Here we go again

Effective 8 AM yesterday morning, the Halifax region of Nova Scotia went into a pretty severe lockdown as it seems our third wave is upon us. I was really disappointed, I had a wine-tasting booked for last night with a small group of people (8). Needless to say that got cancelled. I got tested on Monday, as all residents are being encouraged to get tested, and thankfully I was negative. Even better news, this coming Monday I get the first shot of my vaccine. Obviously, because of this lockdown, our Atlantic bubble will not be happening May 3rd, moved from the original date of April 19th. Fingers crossed this four week lockdown does the trick, because Nova Scotians are very good for the most part, of doing what it takes to get this latest outbreak under control.

Riley & Maggie

In other news, this week I headed to Antigonish to pack up this handsome young man, my nephew Riley finished his first year of university at St. FX. Here he is, with their new puppy Maggie. I’m going to miss him until his return in September, as he is definitely one of my favorite people in the world. He’ll be 19 this year, and this young man loves to eat, it’s a good thing I love to cook.
This is him and I a couple of years ago, at the airport, as we were parting ways after two weeks in Barbados.

He was heading to NL, me to NS

So that’s what my week was like. Let’s talk a little bit of wine. Wine is the one thing that help make lockdowns a little more pleasant. First, a great white wine.

Eco Sustainable

First, let me say, it is a complete coincidence this white wine has the word corona in it. My friend Joan bought this wine to a little get together a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. As you can see from the sticker, Mezzacorona, in the Italian Alps, is a designated Eco sustainable Vineyard. This means from grape growing, to wine making, Mezzacorona aims to protect the environment with different sustainable practices. This is a very flavourful Pinot Grigio wine, notes of pear and cantaloupe, with a little spice on the finish. A great value, priced under $16 here in Nova Scotia.

My red wine this week also hails from Italy, it is the Boira oak-aged Sangiovese. I didn’t even realize it was organic when I bought it, and as you can see it is also labelled vegan friendly. Aren’t all wines vegan friendly, they’re made with grapes? No! Most wines go through a fining process, which removes small particles and makes the wine super clear, something that can’t be done with just filtration alone. Some wine-makers use egg whites, egg shells, or casein, a protein found in milk, which would mean the wine is not officially vegan-friendly. Although I didn’t get to do my wine tasting last night, one of the most popular questions I get at wine tastings, is a light smooth red wine that white wine drinkers will like. This is the wine. Very smooth, easy to drink, very light on the tannins. A nice wine for $17.

I need this glass

I definitely need this wine glass, stay safe everyone! Till next week, Cheers

Helpful Hints

Cheers

So, I’m a little late getting out my wine blog this week, because I had a DIY home project. My friend Maggie was kind enough to come down and help me with this particular project. When I asked her to help, never in a million years did I dream it would take us 6 1/2 hours or feel like it put our bodies through a boxing match. So here’s a wall in my living room I painted a dark brown almost 9 years ago. (That’s Leo, watching a cat movie)

Leo loved watching cat movies

My sister gave me the wallpaper for Christmas to do it in a different style. When I asked my friend Maggie to help, who knew putting up wallpaper was going to take such a toll on our poor bodies. This is hard work folks. LOL

But it’s now done in a wallpaper that looks like distressed barn board and I absolutely love how it turned out. And although the blog is called ‘Helpful Hints,’ that has more to do with wine than home improvement.

So, this is the type of helpful hint I’m good at. You’ve all seen the meme ‘Being an adult is wondering what to make for supper for the rest of your life”? The below hint helps with that problem.

This is one of my helpful tips

I’m kidding. I’m going to give you a few helpful hints around a wine bottle, to make your life a little easier.

  1. When to Decant a wine and why?

Decanting wine is all about exposing the wine to oxygen, or you may have heard it as ‘letting the wine breathe’. Aerating the wine, especially many reds, can release more of the wine’s aromas, and soften the tannins. Most red wines are stuck in a bottle for a few years, not moving. Decanting shakes it up. When I was studying to become a Sommelier, they would first have us smell and taste a wine without decanting or swirling. Then they would get us to swirl. It’s amazing how the wine comes alive, especially the aromas.

A great program to be in

2. How can I keep my opened wine a little longer?

During our Tuesday night girls night, one of the ladies bought a bottle of wine that she opened on Saturday night. When she took a sip, she said ‘it didn’t age very well’. It was a white wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Many people feel because the wine has a screw cap, and it closes easily, it’s keeping the wine. Helpful hint. If you choose to put the cork half way in, or screw the cap back on, your wine is going to be exposed to the elements, and it’s not going to last very long. Invest in a good wine stopper that seals. Plus a red wine will last longer than a white, and always refrigerate it.

Can you think of another song where you can use a wine?

3. I drink white, but I would like to start drinking red. What should I start with?

I get this a lot at wine tastings. The biggest shock people face when going from white to red is the temperature of the wine. So, it’s OK to chill your red wine. Start with some lighter reds and work your way up. Try a Pinot Noir, chill it, and see what you think. Another wine to try is Beaujolais, it’s light and fruity and should be served chilled as well. I don’t know if I would go from a light white to a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz.

On that note, let’s take a look at a couple of new wines. First, a gorgeous white wine.

From Banfi Vineyards in the heart of Tuscany Italy, comes this fantastic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. You get the body of the Chardonnay and the light acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc. I really loved this wine. The Tuscans really know how to make great wine and with Italians the wine is all about the food. That’s why I think some of the most food-friendly wine in the world comes from Italy. This one is up there on the list. At $16.99 it’s a great deal.

And for my red, I’m going to stay in Italy.

I believe this was my first time trying this wine, and I loved it. We got together and had lasagna and Caesar salad, and the Italian wines hit it out of the ballpark. Ernest Hemingway called Valpolicella “a light dry wine as friendly as the home of your favorite brother”. I think this is more of a medium bodied wine, but so tasty and so smooth. Under $20 a bottle, try it. Even if you are trying red for the first time.

It’s been one of those weeks. Till next week, Cheers

How Merlot Can You Go

Cheers

I’ve been on a real Merlot kick lately. I love Merlot.

Merlot is the #1 grape varietal in France and the #2 varietal in the world, behind Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is a full-bodied grape but less aggressive than Cabernet Sauvignon, as it’s not as tannic. (A tannic wine will get your two jawlines singing) It’s smooth and lush, and great for pairing with food. Before I get into some of the new Merlot wines I have tried recently, I wanted to share this with you.

4 years ago yesterday

Yesterday marked 4 years since I became a Certified Sommelier.

I worked really hard for 5 years to get this Certification, so I was really proud. Hundreds of hours in a classroom and even more time spent studying. I always joke and say I loved the homework, but believe me, this was a lot of work and I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Considering I do not work full time in the wine industry, one of the reasons I keep writing this blog is so that I don’t get rusty on wine. (Other than the drinking part) Doing this blog not only encourages me to continue trying new wines, it also has me reading up on what’s happening in the wine world & the latest trends.

I have it framed and proudly displayed

So let me share with you some of the new Merlot wines I have tried lately.

Ghost Pines Merlot

I’m not sure if this is being discontinued in Nova Scotia, but I believe it was originally around $27.99 and it was on sale for $21.99, and I think I may have bought the last one at my neighbourhood NSLC. I enjoyed this, it had a real smoky flavor to it, which paired wonderfully with the meat I had on the grill. You would be hard pressed to find a rating from a wine critic less than 90 Points on this wine, it’s that good. If you see it, and it’s on sale, I recommend you scoop it up.

Sterling California Merlot

This wine was so good! And for a week, it was on sale here. Still a great value at $17.99, I picked up a couple of bottles when it was $15.99. A note to my Newfoundland friends, this wine is available at the NLC as well. The Vintner Collection from Sterling represents a distinct quality, and Wine Spectator says it was plush and well spiced. And that’s what Merlot is all about!

Think Outside the Box

I like to think outside the box when it comes to my wines, so its always fun to try a Merlot (or your favorite wine) from a different country. Chile is producing some fantastic Merlot wines. Chile is producing some great wines period. Although Merlot was bought to South America in the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the Chile & Argentina wine boom of the 1990’s that people started appreciating the Merlot made there. This is a great Merlot for $18

And last, but certainly not least, the biggest treat in my two weeks of Merlot madness! It was amazing. Here’s what the winemaker had to say.

“Our 2017 Sandstone Merlot has inviting notes of ripe fig and pomegranate, with a hint of sandalwood. This delicious Merlot bursts with berry flavors from cranberry, grilled cherry and acai, finishing with a nice lingering acidity.”

Wente was named American Winery of the Year in 2011 and it started in 1883 with Carl Wente. 4th generation siblings, Eric, Phillip & Carolyn took it over in the late 70’s. This family has been making wine for a long time, and they know how to make it right. It’s a great price at under $24. Sandstone refers to the soil the Merlot grapes were grown in. Some of the great wine regions, like Bordeaux, have Sandstone. You’ll really notice it makes a difference in the wine.

Have a great weekend everyone. Till next week, Cheers