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Italy Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2017 by darmyers

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9 days in Italy cannot be covered in 1 blog, so here is the second part.  This is a picture of our pool, and with temperatures hitting upwards of 34-degrees, believe me it was used!  I joke with people that I ate and drank my way through Italy, but it’s really not a joke.  The food was amazing.

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And not only was the food amazing, the wine was spectacular.  Spectacular continued as we made our way to Banfi Winery, which by the way is a castle.

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So not only are the grounds stunning, this is a pretty revolutionary winery for a couple of reasons.  One, Banfi was started in 1978 by American born Italian brothers, who as outsiders, went to Tuscany and purchased a lot of land.  The following picture is actually a picture on the wall of the production facility at Banfi, that shows workers working the land beneath the castle.

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Another reason this winery is revolutionary is the way they ferment their high end wines.  Fermentation is the process that turns grape juice into wine.  The fermentation unit is a combination of oak and stainless steel, which was patented by Banfi, and holds 200,000 bottles of wine.  Banfi owns 24 of them.

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Banfi sells its wine in 85 countries around the world and we were lucky enough to have our wine tasting done by Bernadette, who is very knowledgeable and knows a ton of languages.

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And we met the owner’s wife, Pam.  Pam is married to one of the brothers, and introduced us to the winery’s balsamic vinegar.  It was amazing.

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We had so many good wines that day, including the 2015 Poggio Alle Mura and the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 vintage.  In my opinion, the terroir is really represented well in all the wines we tasted.  Terroir is the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced. In other words, you get a flavor of Italy through the wine, both from the soil and the wine-making process.

My all time favorite wine was this one

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The Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, which we enjoyed from the 2012 vintage.  Made 100% from the Sangiovese grape, the grapes are put through a very meticulous hand selection, and then aged in several different size barrels.  Why would they do that?  Because the size of the barrel plays a role in how much ‘wood’ is imparted on the wine.  The bigger the barrel, the softer the tannins and more subtle the oak flavor.  This wine is available here in Nova Scotia at $60 a bottle.  What a treat.  (FYI, it was considerable less over there)

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As I have mentioned, Banfi ages their fine red wines in several size of barrels.  There were barrels everywhere.  To the tune of 7000 barrels.  Italy 2017 215.JPG

But this was, by far, my favorite barrel

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As you can see, it’s barrel #129 and this particular barrel holds 16,000 bottles of wine.  Who else wants one?

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This picture is not the shelf of at a wine store, but was taken at our villa.  It’s a picture of the dish cabinet in the dining room.  Yes, there were only 4 of us, and yes we consumed some wine.

That’s it for me this for this week… thanks for taking this journey with me.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

 

 

Italy – Part 1!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2017 by darmyers

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Where do I begin?  Italy was amazing – the scenery, the food, and of course the wine.  Spectacular.  The trip for me started in Rome.

From Cappuccinos, to pizza – from the Vatican to the Trevi fountain, I got to experience Rome in a day, including the infamous Italian drink Spritz.

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I was ready to leave Rome when we did.  Lots and lots of people, and shoulder to shoulder crowds at the tourist sites.  So I was happy when we went to the airport to pick up the other two ladies, who I would share this amazing journey with.  And a girl couldn’t ask for better travel companions.  Here I am with Cathy and Ruth, as we head to Tuscany, lead by the best tour guide we could ask for, Dominica (on the right).

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Day 1 in Tuscany, we were staying at a villa near Montalcino belonging to the Carpazo Winery.  And Carpazo was the first wine tasting we did that week.  Two of the wines from the winery are available here in Nova Scotia at a boutique wine store, Bishop’s Cellar.

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This is Christine, who conducted the wine tasting.

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This is one of the wines we drank not only at the tasting, but over the course of the entire week, and it’s one of the wine’s that’s available here in Nova Scotia.  The Rosso di Montalcino was the wine I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, right after I booked the trip to Italy.

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The first wine we had the day of the tasting was a delicious white wine called Le Grance, which I come to discover is the name given to the fortified buildings used in the Sienese countryside during the middle ages to store agricultural goods.  Caparzo decided to call the area that the vineyards that yield this wine are located,  Le Grance, and in 1985 produced the first bottle of.   Not only does fermentation take place in oak, part of the aging does as well.  This means a full-bodied white wine with lovely dried fruit flavors on the palate, and a great wine for white meat, fish and pasta.

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La Casa is the section of the Carpazo winery where we stayed at our gorgeous villa.  And thankfully it had a pool.  It was so hot, that pool saved our lives many times.

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Here’s a picture of the best travelling companions in the world outside the front of the villa.  Dominica, Cathy and Ruth provided the most fun, and my favorite parts of the entire trip was to eat supper at the villa, and then we would sit around and drink wine and tell stores and laugh so much.  There was no internet, which was a great thing, because it gave us the opportunity to talk and to get to know each other.

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Our villa was surrounded by vines, and the vines made this wine, the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.  DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita, which is a mouthful.  In English, it basically means Designation of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed, and it’s the highest classification given an Italian wine.  Christine was telling us they have to follow 54 rules in order to get this classification.    This wine is from a single vineyard and contains 100% Sangiovese fruit.  Aged in french oak, this wine has an aging capacity of 35 years or more.  Most wines are meant to be consumed quite young, because they will lose their fruit flavors and freshness if aged too long.  This is one of the exceptions.

And last but not least….

Carpazo Reserva

The Carpazo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, and Riserva means it was aged for a longer time.  We enjoyed the 2011 vintage and what I found really interesting about this wine was that it was aged in both French oak and Slavonian oak.  Slavonia is a region in Croatia, and the oak barrels produced there are often quite large, which imparts a subtle oak flavor on the wine and the tannins are softer.  Tannins are those things in wine that make the sides of your gumline come alive.  This is a full-bodied wine which is meant to go well with grilled meats.  They probably made it to pair well with the wild boar that roam the region and seem to make it on every menu.  We did get to experience wild boar that had been made into a dried meat, and it was quite gamey.  Not my favorite so I didn’t order it when I went to a restaurant.

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Here’s a picture of a stuffed wild boar that we saw in one of the towns.  It’s the closest we got, much to mine and Ruth’s dismay.  You can’t walk around the hills of Tuscany at night because they are so plentiful.  We didn’t want to come face to face with one, but we were hoping to see one at a distance.

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Us sitting around enjoying a glass while Dominica cooked an amazing meal.  Well that’s it for me this week.  Stay tuned, there’s more of Italy to come next week.

Till then, Cheers

Darlene

 

Tips to Having a Wine Tasting Party

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2017 by darmyers

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In the past year, and especially since becoming a Sommelier, I get asked to do wine tasting parties quite frequently, and I just love doing them.  I love getting together with people who want to learn about new wines, and more importantly try new wines.  So I thought I would dedicate this week’s wine blog to all my friends out there who want to host a wine-tasting party.  And although you don’t necessarily need a Sommelier to have one, it does help to have someone knowledgeable about wine.

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  1.  Pick a Theme

Some people like to do  a wine tasting on ‘local’ wines, or wines from a certain region.  I have had tremendous success with mixing it up a bit with 2 white, a rose, and 3 reds for a total of 6 wines.  Another popular array is 1 sparkling, 1 white, 1 rose´, 2 reds and 1 dessert wine.

2.  Pick A Value 

How much would you like to spend on wine? The most common way to do this is set a budget and the person with the knowledge will choose the wines, so that it is a blind taste-testing for all the guests.  Each pour is approximately 2 ounces, so there are 12 pours per bottle.  And most Sommeliers will pick a variety of price ranges, you want all guests to feel they are getting value.

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3.  Keep The Party Intimate.

Now I have done tastings with 22 people but the room was able to accomodate and I had two volunteers who helped to pour.   For home tasting parties I recommend 6 to 8 people, a group of 10 the absolute max.  You want a nice relaxed atmosphere for home tastings that people feel comfortable asking lots of questions.

4.  The Necessary Supplies

  • Glassware – each person will need 3 wine glasses
  • Spit Buckets for the designated drivers – Red solo plastic cups work just fine
  • Water
  • Palate cleansers like a baguette cut up or simple crackers.
  • Corkscrew
  • Napkins
  • Snacks are Welcome
    • Cheese and crackers are always a big hit at wine tastings.
    • Small bites are recommended
    • Recommendations include cheese, fresh fruit, bread and cured meats. Think charcuterie board.

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5.  The Set Up

If the amount of wine glasses is an issue, give people 3.  1 for white, one for rose or dessert wines, and the other for the Reds.  Ask your guests not to wear heavy perfumes, scented lotions or after-shaves, as this can really affect a wine tasting in a big way, since aromas play a huge role in wine.  Avoid decorating with scented candles for the same reason.

Have a little room in your refrigerator for the wines. Especially whites and rose´ wines.  And most importantly… Have fun!!  After all, it’s a wine tasting.

And now for my wine of the week….

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As a Congratulations on becoming a Sommelier, my friend Judy bought me this wonderful Tuscan wine from Italy.  I guess it’s no coincidence, since I’m heading to the Tuscany region in Italy May 18th.  This was so good.  She paid a surprise visit to me on Monday or Tuesday of this past week and we popped it open.  A blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Merlot, this wine truly is a Super Tuscan.  Super Tuscan wines are wines that feature an Italian grape (Sangiovese) with traditional grapes, like the Merlot and Syrah.  Ruffino introduced Il Ducale in 2005 to  express a style of Tuscan wine that marries the refinement of traditional Tuscan wine-making with a modern, fruit-driven style.  Great with pizza, charcuterie boards and would be welcome at any wine-tasting event.

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Well the framing is done, and this is now hanging in my home.  Thanks for reading and sharing the wine journey with me.  There is be no wine blog on two Saturday’s in May, the 20th and 27th, as I will be away.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

April….Flurries?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2017 by darmyers

Although the weather is a little chilly for this time of the year, here in  Halifax, on the bright side, we don’t live in Newfoundland Canada!  A big apology to all my friends and family over n Newfoundland, but 110 cms of snow in the first couple of days for central Newfoundland and snow everywhere else… I’m really sorry, but I’m glad we were left unscathed.  On another bright note, you got to stay inside and drink wine!  I’ve had a few more new wines this past week, and the price tags on these great wines will bring a smile to your face.  Frostbite and all…008

The first wine of the week is for my white wine drinking friends.  I absolutely loved this Chardonnay and almost made it my wine of the week.  It is a Chardonnay from the southwestern part of France and the French know how to make a wonderful white wine that sees oak, but unless you knew, you’d never know.  It is so subtle and so well done, with lovely nut and pineapple flavors, and it’s under $20 a bottle.  A great French white wine at a great price.

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My next two wines are from the latest feature at my NSLC, Old World 90+ point wines.  The first is the Vitiano Rosso from Italy, made by the winemaking brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella.  They are from the famed winery Falesco and first introduced Vitiano in 1995.  Made from equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, this is a great blend and a great price.  Another fabulous wine under $20 that goes great with pizza or any meat dish you may be serving.

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For my next wine, we head to the Tuscany region of Italy.  And yes, I may be guilty of buying more Tuscan wines than normal, since I really want to get a feel for the wines of the region before I head there next month.  This wine is primarily Sangiovese and features gorgeous cherry flavors, good tannins and notes of toasted oak.   I personally thought the finish was really well done on this wine and I can’t remember the exact price, but I’m pretty confident it was around the $21 mark.

And now my wine of the week…

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So on the week I found out I had passed all my CAPS Sommelier courses and I would be graduating and getting my Sommelier pin and diploma on April 9th (tomorrow), I wanted to have a special bottle to celebrate.  My friend Judy came over and we opened this wonderful French wine I bought specifically for the occassion. It is a Right Bank Bordeaux from the Fronsac region and we enjoyed the 2010 vintage.   Right Bank Bordeaux means its Merlot dominant with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  The wood was quite evident when we first opened the bottle, so we let it sit for about 45 minutes.  We slowly enjoyed the first glass, but the second glass was so much better after it had a chance to breathe.  It was a lovely enjoyable treat, and this wines sells for $30 here in Nova Scotia.

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I laughed when I first read this.  Anyway, tomorrow is the big day, I graduate as a Sommelier with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.  I also have a Master Class tomorrow on wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, and I will tell you all about it next week.  And I’ll share pictures of my graduation.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Spanish Wines

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2017 by darmyers

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

Darlene

What Will I Be Drinking While Watching the Oscars

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2017 by darmyers

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The Oscar’s are my Super Bowl!  I am a huge movie fan and I love all the awards show.  I am one of those people that are in Oscar pools, and watch every award being given out, including film editing and costume design.  And although I picked who I thought the Academy will choose, it doesn’t mean I agree with them.  I definitely would have personally picked different choices.

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My top 2 contenders for Best Picture would have been Hidden Figures or Lion.  Two spectacular movies that both deserve the top prize.  I’m sorry to the La La Land lovers, but I’ve seen the movie,  and La La Land cannot compare to the mastery of these two movies.  But Darlene, this is a wine blog… right.

So, here’s what I will be drinking while watching the Oscars!  I picked up a bottle yesterday  and I’m super excited because my friend Judy is coming over to watch the Oscars with me and she’s never had this wine.

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From the vineyards of Francis Ford Coppola, comes the Director’s Cut Zinfandel, a masterpiece on its own.  This man makes wine as good as the movies he directs.  Not only is he an Oscar winning Director (5 Oscars to his name), this wine has also won awards.  It is rich and voluptuous from the Zinfandel grapes, and then a little Petite Sirah is added which adds interesting layers and some spice.  I did pick up a bottle,  but I will tell you at $42 it’s a bit of a treat.   But I personally like treating myself to a special wine for special nights.

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In my opinion, this is the greatest race this awards season, the Best Actor category.  Casey Affleck gave a mesmerizing performance in Manchester of the Sea, and I would love to see him win the award.  However, Denzel Washington could make history if he wins Sunday night, winning his 3rd Best Actor award.  It’s a tough one, both performances were stellar, but honestly, I chose Denzel in my Oscar pick because I believe the Academy will go with the veteran performer.  Speaking of stellar, here’s another great wine to enjoy Sunday night, aptly named Cinema.

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Also from the Director’s Cut line from Francis Ford Coppola, comes this delicious blend called Cinema.  Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Merlot from  Sonoma County brings out the best of these 4 grapes.  Regular readers know how much I love Zinfandel, it’s what I picked to drink tomorrow night.   When you add the full-body of a Cabernet Sauvignon and the juiciness of a Merlot, with the zesty spice from the Petite Sirah, you’ve got a winner.  Done in the style of Super Tuscans, this wine is exotic and delicious and a great steak wine.   It’s also a great pizza wine which is what I will be dining on Oscar night!

And now for my wine of the week…..

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This wonderful wine from Spain is called Monasterio de las Vinas and it’s a blend of Garnacha, (which you may know Grenache), Tempranillo and Carinena.  Carinena originates from the Carignan grape which is grown in Italy, California and a few more New World regions.  This wine tastes like a $50 bottle of wine and is priced around $22 here.  If you live in British Columbia, it is $14 in your liquor stores and in Ontario it is $18, so grab it up, it’s a tremendous value.  Gran Reservas are spanish wines that have to be aged a minimum of 5 years, and normally they are priced at $35 and up.  This is a steal of a deal at $22.95.  Aged 24 months in oak, and aged 12 years overall, this wine is super smooth.  I am guessing this won’t be available here for long, so grab it while you can.

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Well, if  you’re like me you’ll be watching the Oscars with my Oscar pool form and a nice glass of wine.  I picked up a bottle of the Director’s Cut Zinfandel, because it’s a special night.  Enjoy the show!

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Storm Wine

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2017 by darmyers

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On Tuesday, January 31st of this year my friend Beth and I went running on a trail.  You can see by the picture how much snow was on the ground… very little.

And then this happened….

 

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Both of these pictures were taken Monday when Halifax got slammed with 60 cms of snow, on top of the 13 we received 2 days later and the 15 cms we received 3 days before Monday’s blizzard.  We went from being able to walk and run on trails, to barely being able to walk outside.  All in one week.

Many people stocked up on these…

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Personally my emergency stash looks more like this…

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Storm Wine.

We had 3 storm days in a week, so allow me to apologize to my liver for a moment.   Being stuck inside doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

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This is what my place looked like on a couple of occasions this past week.  Cozy fireplace, snacks, a good book and a glass of wine.

So what was in my class on the storm days ?

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One of the new wines I have tried recently was this Uncensored Shiraz.  From Langhorne Creek in Australia, this wonderful Shiraz boasts flavors of black plums, spice and a hint of chocolate.  It was do good and would make a great BBQ wine.   Also a great red wine to try with chicken .

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I was thrilled to discover our liquor store has brought back The Exhibitionist  Merlot.    Another Australian beauty this one hails from Langhorne Creek.   It’s a great price point under $18 and a great wine for that price point.  Robust plum flavors and hints  of black pepper, I let this one breathe a bit when I first opened it.  If the first taste is a little hot on your throat,  letting it breathe for 30 minutes will fix that.  As a matter of fact if you get a wine that’s  a little boozy or hot on the back of the throat, that’s alcohol!  And many times letting it breathe for 30 minutes will cure that.

I think you might be surprised by my wine of the week …

This is Moira, holding a bottle of non-vintage sparkling wine from Benjamin Bridge.  This wine is done in what we call the Traditional Method.   That is the traditional method of making Champagne, however did you know unless the wine is made in Champagne France it is not allowed to be called champagne.   When Dom Perignon first tasted Champagne he said “Come quickly I’m tasting the stars”!   You will believe you are tasting the stars when you taste this wonderful wines from this Nova Scotia vineyard.   Winemaker John Benoit Deslauriers  is becoming world renowned for first class sparkling wines and once you taste this wine you’ll understand why.

That’s it for me this week

Till next week Cheers

Darlene