More Great Wine – More Great Recipes


A big thank you to the huge amount of you that shared and read last week’s blog on comfort food.  I had tremendous feedback, especially from some non-wine drinkers who really enjoyed the recipes.   (Lisa, again thanks for the great idea)…Are we on to something here?  Or is winter bringing out the comfort food in people?  It doesn’t matter, here are a few more of my favorite recipes with some of my favorite wines and some new wines I have discovered since the holidays.

   Caprese Chicken

Nothing irritates me more than making a recipe, and it doesn’t come out looking like the recipe.  I guarantee, if you try this recipe, it will come out looking like the picture above.  Also, it is so easy, both my cooking-challenged sisters could make this recipe, and it would still come out looking like the picture.  I had this recipe last night, so I thought I would share it today.  EASY!

Caprese Chicken (5 easy ingredients)

* Chicken Breast * Mozzarella Cheese *Balsamic Vinegar * Tomato * Sun-dried Tomato Salad Dressing *Basil

– Cook the chicken in the Sun-dried Tomato Salad Dressing till almost done

– Slice real Mozzarella cheese and place it on top

– Lay a slice of tomato (or 2) on top

Finish cooking, till the Mozzarella cheese has started to melt down the sides

Remote from heat, and drizzle Balsamic vinegar over the chicken.  Sprinkle with Basil, and I love fresh Basil.

Every time I make this for guests, they are super impressed, and  honestly, it’s my week-day go-to chicken dish, because it is so easy.

Now the fun part….. matching the wine!

This is the wine I had with it, it’s a Pinot Noir from Burgundy.   Oh, to say they were good together would be an understatement.   It was divine.   It was a 2006 Savigny Les Beaune from the Burguny region in France.  So flavorful and smooth, there is not a drop left in that bottle this morning.

The wine next to it  is a new wine I have discovered this past week, and it would be a great wine to go with those delicious chicken flavors.  A blend of Syrah (55%), Grenache, Mourvedre and Petit Sirah make it complex enough to stand up to all those unique flavors in the Caprese Chicken, but won’t over power it.  Winemaker Austin Hope has created a delicious fruity wine with flavors of smoke and violets.  I have to stop recommending wine to people, I went back to buy more at my favorite store and it was sold out.  As was this one….

The DaDa 2 from Argentina, which is 100% Merlot, was sold out as well.  This wine would also go excellent with the chicken, and at just $15.99 a bottle, this is a staple in my wine rack.  I have everyone at the Radio Station I work at (the job that pays for the wine) drinking this wine and loving it…. I have to stop that.. (only kidding).  Plump, juicy and flavorful, this wine goes great with most chicken and pork dishes.

A Chardonnay would also go perfect with this chicken dish, and this is a new one I got this week.  490 Meters Chardonnay is fresh and fruity with flavors of peach, fruit salad and citrus.    And it comes in under $20.  Another choice for Chardonnay, would be the Dreaming Tree Chardonnay from Dave Matthews’ Vineyard in California.
And because Caprese Chicken is Italian, an Italian Pinot Grigio would be awesome together.   A good rule of thumb is that a wine from a region on many occasions will go with food from the region.  In all my wine courses I am told, ‘Match the wine of a region to the food of the region’.    So many wines, one chicken dish.
BBQ Ribs  ( I knew that would get your attention!)
My Dad says that I make the best BBQ Ribs he has ever had.  And every time he comes to visit, or I go home to visit, he asks me to make my ribs.  Like the picture below I separate my Baby Back Ribs bone by bone as well.   This recipe isn’t hard either, but it does take some time.
So you start with my marinade.  As you can tell with many of my recipes, I don’t use measuring spoons, so just toss it in a bowl.
* Brown Sugar * Vinegar * Worcestershire Sauce * Lime Juice * Fresh Ground Pepper * Chili Powder * Garlic * Paprika * Bottle of BBQ Sauce.
I like to marinade them for 6 hours, or even overnight.  Then I put them in my crock pot, and slow cook them for about 3 hours.  Your house will smell delicious.  Then I fire up the grill and finish them off to get those nice grill marks, and a little more BBQ sauce.   Low heat, as they are cooked and you don’t want them to burn.
Here’s the beauty about making BBQ ribs.  You enjoy wine while cooking the ribs on the grill,  and you enjoy wine while eating the ribs.  It’s win-win really.
Having an Old Vine Zinfandel with BBQ ribs is like having the love of your life serenade you with a love song.  It’s just makes your heart skip a beat.  Gnarly head is one of my favorites and under $20, another win-win situation.  An old vine Zinfandel makes a statement, and a delicious one.  Flavors of spice, plum, vanilla and toasted oak, this wine goes with any food you want to put on the grill.
A California Cabernet Sauvignon would also go hand in hand with BBQ ribs and McManis makes a gorgeous award-winning Cab.  Dark berry fruits, a hint of smoke, and toasty oak screams for BBQ ribs.  Also a great wine with BBQ steak.  I am a huge fan of the full line of wines from the McManis family.  Check them out, and let me know what you think.

On that note, I thought this was good advice to leave you with.  Live Simply, Laugh Often and Wine A Lot!  Thanks for sharing with your friends, it’s greatly appreciated.

Till next week, In Vino Veritas  (In Wine there is Truth)


Comfort Food – Comfort Wine!

Every once in a while, I get writer’s block.  For the past 3 years, I have consistently wrote a wine blog on Saturday mornings, and I never want to skip a Saturday, because I really appreciate the people who tell me that they enjoy sitting with a cup of coffee and reading the blog.  So a big thank you to my friend Lisa Peach Butt, who gave me the idea behind this week’s blog.  I put it out on the Wine – In My Opinion Facebook page (shameless plug here – and she told me one of the things she’d like to know is which wine to serve with which food.

And since most of Canada and much of the United States is in the middle of a polar vortex, and we are having one of the worst winters in a few years…. I thought back on the food I’ve been cooking and eating these past couple of weeks.  I’m not only going to write on  Comfort food, and which wine goes best with your favorite comfort foods, but I’m going to share some of my favorite comfort food recipes.

This is what I had last night, with some honey roasted potatoes.   It’s a Spicy Honey Chicken.  Simple and easy to make.   Combine honey, paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper, vinegar, (I used balsamic), chili powder and some salt and pepper.   I added some Frank’s Hot Sauce, because I like spicy food, but it wasn’t in the recipe.   Mix it all together, and pour it over your favorite chicken.  Last night I used thighs.  Bake it in the oven till the chicken is done, or you can do what I did, and take advantage of +1 degree weather, and BBQ’d it.  I used an aluminum foil pan from the dollar store, and did it on the grill.


And this is the wine I had with it.   A brand new Pinot Noir I tried from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  And it didn’t disappoint.  Winemaker Brent Marris created a beauty with the perfect amount of acidity and a light touch of oak that came in under $20.  Any Pinot Noir will do because the soft vibrant flavors of the wine don’t compete with the taste of the dish, and even a nice Zinfandel.   Pictured is one of my favorites, 7 Deadly Zins, which I always have in my wine rack.   For my white wine loving friends, because of the spiciness of the chicken, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio.  You can go with Chardonnay for a chicken dish, but the spiciness of this particular dish, I think, pairs well with something a little more crisp.    Here are a couple of my favorites, which come in around the $20 mark here in Canada.  The Sauvignon Blanc is from New Zealand, and the Pinot Grigio is from Italy.  Both wines are light and crisp won’t overpower the chicken, but compliment it.


Also this past week, I made Bowtie Chicken Alfredo Pasta.  You know, the weight scale wouldn’t groan as much as it does, if there wasn’t decadent delicious foods like this pasta dish.

I know…. right?  Mercy, it was good.  I got this from a website called ‘The Pioneer Woman’.  Ree Drummond is my hero.  She can cook like no man’s tomorrow.  She has a show on the Food Network and a wonderful website.  What I like most about the website, The Pioneer Woman, is that she breaks down the recipes step by step, and shows pictures along the way.  Here is the link to the recipe for Bowtie Chicken Alfredo.  The only thing I added, because with the heavy cream and real butter I was worried  it may not have had enough calories, (groan!)  I added real bacon bits.  I cooked a couple of strips of maple infused bacon, and made bacon bits.


This dish has ‘have a glass of wine with me‘ written all over it.   A Chardonnay would go hand in hand beautifully.  The rich creaminess of a nice Chardonnay would compliment the rich creaminess of the pasta dish.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  One comes in under $20, the other… ah, not so much.
Red wine also goes beautifully with the Bowtie Chicken Alfredo.  So many red wines.  because of the richness of the dish, a nice smoky Merlot or a nice Cote du Rhone from France, or a GSM, which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.   Here are a couple of my favorites.  The Velvet Devil Merlot is from Washington State and is under $20, and the Cote du Rhone is from France.  (bet you guessed that one) and it comes in under $15 – and a great value.  The GSM is from the U.S.A and is about $21 here.
Another big dish this week I think many people enjoyed, was Shepherd’s Pie.  Nothing says comfort food like Shepherd’s Pie.  Ok, maybe for some homemade Mac and Cheese.  But for me, its pasta and/or Shepherd’s Pie.   Or how about a nice beef stew… yeah!
Any dish with all this meat, gravy, potatoes and veggies, a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon.  There are so many good Cabernet Sauvignon wines that come out of California for under $20. we don’t have the time or the room to talk about them all.  So let’s pick a couple.  You can’t go wrong with Robert Mondavi, he has spent years perfecting Cabernet Sauvignon.  The other one is a Beringer, but really, anything Cabernet Sauvignon would go with Shepherd’s Pie or beef stew.
For all my white wine loving readers, a well-oaked Chardonnay would be perfect.  As well, I have heard of a Viognier.  A Viognier is one of my favorites with turkey.  And I’ve heard for the reason, it can cut through fatty red meat.    And this is my favorite, from Stags Leap.  They make a beautiful Viognier, complex, well-balanced and vibrant.  Me, I still like a red with my beef.
Well that’s it for this week.  I have to go walk off some of this comfort food I’ve been eating.  Enjoy the recipes and enjoy the wine.
Till next week, Cheers



Which Wine Should I Serve?

First, leave it to Grumpy Cat to bring in a lot of readers.  Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing last week’s blog.  I hope you enjoy this one as well.  With the Christmas Season, comes Christmas parties.   I’m sure the majority of people reading this blog, will host at least one get together this season.  And this time of the year, the biggest question I get asked, is ‘What wine should I serve?”
Also, keep in mind the blog is called ‘In My Opinion’, and I welcome all feed back and suggestions on the topics.  You may choose different selections than me, and that’s OK.  I would love to hear from you.
First, keep a selection of both red and white wine on hand.  If you are a read wine drinker, for the whites choose a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc.   A Chardonnay is smooth and silky, the Sauvignon Blanc crisp and fresh.  When offering your white wine drinking guests, ensure you tell them your selection.  They will have a favorite.  If you want to add a 3rd, I would choose a Pinot Grigio.  All 3 wines are very food friendly and also great sipping wines.  Your guests will not be disappointed.
I think it may get a bit trickier if you are a white wine drinker, and you’re wondering which red to serve.  I’m told by my white wine loving friends that picking out a red wine can be intimidating.  Even my own sister uses the phrase “I don’t know what you like”!   It may surprise you, but most of us red wine loving people – you would be hard pressed to find a wine I didn’t like.  There are some, but red wine drinkers are much easier to please than you think.  If you were going to pick two, I would pick Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s the most widely planted red grape variety.  You can’t miss.  And for the second one have a Merlot or a Pinot Noir on hand.
All the wines I have mentioned are food friendly, and will go with a wide variety of foods.  Whether your get together is finger food only, or a full sit down meal, you won’t go wrong with the choices.  You can even add a light sparkling wine to the mix.  Sparkling wines tend to be crisp, refreshing and fun.  And can go with a full range of food choices as well.
What are your favorites choices for serving at a party?  As always, would love to hear from you.
Till next week, Cheers

A Celebration of Food & Wine!



By now you may have guessed I’m a big lover of wine.  I’m also a big lover of food.  Oh yes, as anyone at work can attest to… I love to cook and I love to eat.   Sometimes I love to do both at once, eat while I’m cooking –  while enjoying a glass of wine, of course.  And except for a waistline a little bigger than I would like, life is good – Life is very good.  So let’s have dinner together.

We’ll start with the salad.  This is one I’ve made recently, and actually make it quite a bit.  The secret is in the homemade dressing, and trust me, it’s simple.  (And don’t worry, this is still a wine blog – I will be pairing with my favorite wine for the dish)

Summer Salad


Salad Greens

Dried cranberries

Real bacon bits

Red & green peppers cut up

Toasted pecans (you can use almonds),

Blue cheese, but I use fresh parmesan a fair bit… it’s your choice of cheese.

I’ve mixed up this variation by adding sliced beets, sunflower seeds, apples or pears, carrots and a variety of other things I find in the fridge.  It’s a free for all really

Darlene’s Secret Dressing:  (Ok, time for the big unveil)

Olive Oil (please please please – use good stuff)  It makes such a difference in the taste

Balsamic Vinegar (I get mine from the same place I get my Olive Oil and use flavored balsamic like Maple or Cinnamon and Pear.

Real Garlic (I used minced)

Brown sugar

A grainy Mustard .. I use Maille  (here’s a picture of the one I use).. Available in every grocery store

Now shake these in a jar… shake well, till you get the consistency you like. Drizzle over the salad…

Normally, salad is wine killer.  There aren’t many wines that go with salad, especially if you use an Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar base.  But crisp white wines with good acidity will make all the difference in the world.  A crisp acidic wine like Sauvignon Blanc.  A Riesling also works, but if you don’t like the sweetness of a Riesling try one of the many fantastic Sauvignon Blanc wines out there.  Here’s a few of mine.


These three are all from the Marlborough region in New Zealand, famous for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  But our local Liquor store carries 120 different Sauvignon Blanc wines and there are great ones from France, Australia, California and Canada.

Main Course – Caprese Chicken

Want to impress people with a dish that is so easy you’ll be a bit embarrassed?  Caprese chicken.  Buy those super thin chicken breast, chicken breast cutlets, and cook.  As the picture is above, I do mine a lot on the grill.  However, to keep your grill clean, go to the dollar store and buy those aluminum foil baking pans.  Mozzarella cheese is melted on this, and could cause quite a mess on the grill.

– Thin Chicken Breasts

– Mozzarella Cheese

– A slice of tomato per breast

– Balsamic Vinegar

Cook the chicken , and in the final stages, put mozzarella cheese on top, and a slice of tomato.  Let cook.  (you can grill the tomato as well, and then lay it on top)  When you remove it from the grill, drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top.

I know… you’re looking for the rest of the recipe.  That’s it… simple… serve with rice or potato side and your favorite vegetable, and your guests will love it and you’ll look super handy in the kitchen.

Matching wines!  Name your favorite wine, and chances are it will go with this dish.  I’ve served this with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Merlot just to name a few.  And here are some of my favorites.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay is my all time favorite.  And yes, it’s a treat wine.  For more information about this wine, click here.

Here are some more of my favorites that are all under $20.



The first one is Dreaming Tree Chardonnay, and Dave Matthews the musician is one of the owners.  Great wine.  Then there is Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir from California, which will go with any chicken dish you can serve.  And finally The Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington State.  The name says it all.

Desserts – ensure what’s in the glass is sweeter than what’s on the plate.  Here are a few excellent dessert wines.


The first two are from right here in Nova Scotia, the first one is Blomidon Ice Wine, rich textured and refreshing.  The second one is Benjamin Bridge, and if you haven’t tried it yet, their Nova 7 is fantastic.  This ice wine is another fantastic wine from winemakers Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Peter J. Gamble, it’s Borealis.  And the third is another Canadian great – Inniskillen Ice Wine.

Until next week – Cheers







Grateful for Good Friends, Good Food & Good Wine

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and it’s a time to enjoy family and friends and give thanks.   I have been very blessed in this lifetime with a great family and fantastic friends, and I love to enjoy the times with good food and wine.


Many of us will be serving turkey this weekend, and the age-old question for turkey dinners is ‘Which wines go best with turkey’?   I have a couple of favorites that I would like to share.

How about trying a wine you’ve probably never heard of before?  One of my favorites is the crisp refreshing Viognier.  Vee-what?  Pronounced Vee-Oh-Nay, this crisp white wine is a perfect complement to turkey.  The one pictured is probably my favorite, Stags Leap Viognier, one of the more pricier ones, but you can get Viognier starting at about $15.99.  Elegant, crisp with perfect acidity.  Other great options for a white wine to go with turkey are Riesling, Pinot Grigio and my other favorite Sauvignon Blanc.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are both crisp, well-balanced and again, has that perfect combination of acidity that will go well with the turkey, stuffing and potatoes.  Riesling is a little sweeter, but pairs with some of the saltier foods that may be served this weekend.    Some perfect examples are pictured below.


But Darlene, I only drink red wine.   No worries… we have a red for that.   Like Pinot Grigio, its red cousin, Pinot Noir, can also go with turkey.  Generally, Pinot Noir is light to medium bodied, so it doesn’t over-power the turkey.  And it’s peppery flavors can really compliment the gravy.  Pinot Noir also has bright acidity to compliment the turkey and soft tannins which pairs well with green vegetables.  A couple of my favorites.


Chateau St. Jean is a beautiful Pinot for under $20 and the Pierre Andrew Volnay is a French Burgundy wine, which is Pinot Noir.  It’s a little more pricey, at about $45, but a beautiful soft wine with lots of flavor.   These wines go well whether you are serving turkey or ham.   If you can’t find either of these, head to the New Zealand section of your Liquor Store or Wine store.  New Zealand makes beautiful Pinot Noir, as well as some of the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted.

Other reds to consider for Thanksgiving dinner is a Beaujolais, young and fruity, you need to drink it quite cool to preserve the flavors.  The one below is one I have recently tried from Louis Jadot.  Believe it or not, sparkling reds or whites will also pair well with turkey.

But Darlene, I’m not serving turkey, I’m serving ham.  Another delicious Thanksgiving meal.  Maybe you’re like me and serving both.  Pinot Noir’s go great with pork, as does a beautiful California Zinfandel.   Check out this one from St. Francis, but be careful, it has 15.7% alcohol.  And although the alcohol doesn’t over-power the taste the wine, you will feel it once you get near the end of the bottle.  And if you think that may be a little much, the next one is Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, a beauty of a wine for under $20.


On this Thanksgiving Weekend, I would be re-miss if I didn’t thank each and every one of you for joining me on my journey to becoming a Sommelier.  I appreciate and are humbled every time you take time out of your busy day and week to read my blog.   All comments and feedback are greatly appreciated, and are always welcome.  Wine – In My Opinion also has a Facebook page with daily anecdotes, wine reviews and fun comments about wine in general.   You can find it here

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family.  Cheers