Wine, Happiness, Chicken & Sommeliers in Training

When award winning Wine Writer and Sommelier, Natalie Maclean, asked me to nominate wines for the Great Canadian Wine Match, I was honored and thrilled.  I never dreamed my wine would win in any of the categories, but my pick for chicken – Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay won as the best wine for chicken.

Le Clos Jordanne makes two kinds of wine, and only two kinds.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and is probably the reason they do it so well.  Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay is the perfect treat wine, and in my opinion, the perfect wine for so many chicken recipes.   Smooth, supple, full-bodied and rich.   And a Chardonnay not over-powered by oak.  Gorgeous.

It’s a treat wine for most people.  It’s $83 a bottle here in Nova Scotia and similarly priced across the country.  So most of us don’t enjoy $83 bottles of wine every day of the week.   But you know what.  Treat yourself.  It’s worth it.  Don’t wait for a birthday or anniversary.  Make your own special occasion.  Celebrate life and a good meal with a spectacular bottle of wine.  We all need to do that every once in a while.  That’s where the happiness comes in.

When Natalie asked me to participate in a 3-way interview with Le Clos Jordanne winemaker Sebasian Jacquey (pictured above), I was so nervous I almost cancelled.  But I was so glad I didn’t cancel.  Two great people who know so much about wine, I had a fantastic evening sharing a glass of wine with these two fine people.

I also loved the name Natalie put on the feature, so that’s what I’m titling the blog this week.  Here’s the video.

Wine, Happiness, Chicken & Sommelier’s in Training

During Segment 2, Natalie asked me my favorite recipe to go with this wine.  I had a couple.  I am always getting asked for my recipes, so here is one of my favorite chicken recipes.


Darlene’s Maple Dijon Chicken

  • Chicken breasts (or thighs can be used – skinless and boneless are my preference)
  • Maple Syrup  (the real stuff – not pancake syrup)
  • A grainy Dijon mustard.
  • A couple of tablespoons of Low Sodium Soya Sauce
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • Minced garlic
  • A shake or a squeeze of lime juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and pour over the chicken.  Now, if you have time, put the chicken in the fridge and marinate it for as long as you can.  Try marinating in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day.

Ensure you have enough sauce to cover the chicken at least half way.  You can cook in a casserole dish in the oven or even on the BBQ.

I have done this one my BBQ 2 ways.  I love cooking the chicken in the sauce.  Put it in an aluminum foil baking dish and enjoy a glass of wine while this cooks on the BBQ.   (this is my favorite way.)  Or you can take it out of the marinade and cook it right on the grill.   Either way tastes delicious.

Your family will love this chicken recipe.

Enjoy your favorite wine with it.  Till next week, thanks for reading and Cheers.


Discovering New Wines This Summer

As the temperature inches up towards 30-degrees Celsius here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I come to realize that Summer is here!   And one of my goals this summer is to fully enjoy my patio.  And to enjoy a new wine each week.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I have tried some new ones that I wanted to share with you.

I have been enjoying the wines from the McManis Family vineyards for several years.  They make a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, but this past week I have had the opportunity to enjoy the Merlot.  Well, I had it with a grilled stuffed butterfly pork chop (Recipe below).  Spectacular.  Gorgeous deep purple color in the class and cherries and strawberry greet your nose.   On the palate there is a vanilla flavored oak and I’m sure I detected some caramel.  It’s under $20, which means you can enjoy it any night of the week.

Every time I see the words Mendocino County, I think of the song Mendocino County Line by Willie Nelson and Lee Anne Womack.   This is a beautiful Grand Reserve Zinfandel and comes in at about $25 here in Nova Scotia.  A nice spicy fruity Zinfandel with flavors of cherry and plum and a bit of black pepper.  Fantastic with a BBQ!


I can honestly say this is my first time writing about a Rose wine, and definitely my first writing about a Malbec Rose.  Until one week ago, I didn’t know a Malbec Rose existed.

This Malbec, when harvested, is vinified in stainless steel at temperatures below 18-degrees.  Recommended by my friend Rayell, this wine is perfect for summer.  It’s fun and refreshing and a real conversation piece.  Aromas of grapefruit, its crisp with a real nice acidity and has a beautiful finish.   People who love red or white wine should definitely try this, and at just $15.99 a bottle, why wouldn’t you try it.

Another fun wine this summer is this gorgeous California Pinot Grigio from the makers of Menage a Trois.   I have written about their Red wine before, and I love it.  Well last weekend, I enjoyed the Pinot Grigio.  Tropical fruits, big and beautiful fruit flavors and a refreshing crisp acidity.   It’s under $20 here in Nova Scotia, and so food friendly.  Or you can enjoy it all by itself on a patio, as I did last weekend.

Enjoy the summer, and I would love to hear what new wine you have tried this summer!  Many people ask me my recipes, so here is my simple recipe for Stuffed Pork Chops.  You can also use it for pork tenderloin as well.  You can also mix and match any of your favorite ingredients

Stuffed Pork Chop.

1 butterfly pork chop  (not to thick, because it will be harder to grill)

1 piece of bread cut up into small pieces

Bacon bit – the real ones.  Or fry a couple of pieces of bacon and cut those up into small pieces

Feta cheese  (I use crumbled or feta with sundried tomatoes

I have added olives, jalapenos, sundried tomatoes and peppers for a different taste

A dash of basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients with a bit of olive oil or butter, and lay on 1/2 of the pork chop.  Fold over and secure with tooth picks.

Grill all 4 sides of the pork chop, marinating with mustard and a bit of BBQ sauce.



Great Canadian Wine Match

There’s a new way to spell success, GCWM, which stands for the Great Canadian Wine Match.  The first every Great Canadian Wine Match recently wrapped up and Canadian wine drinkers from coast to coast had fun nominating and voting for their favorite Canadian wines.   I was honored to be asked to participate in the nominating process, and thrilled when I found out my choice wine for chicken won!

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay

My choice for chicken was Clos Jordanne Chardonnay.   This is a true treat wine.  At $83 a bottle here in Nova Scotia,  I’m not cracking open one of these every time I put a piece of chicken on the grill, but to me, it is the ultimate chicken wine.  I have a bottle in my wine rack, and I’m trying to save it for a special occasion (for obvious reasons) but I swear there are days it calls my name.  Rich with flavors of butter and melon, this wine will go with chicken no matter how you prepare and serve it.   Check out the two fine wines that won 2nd and 3rd place, Gray Monk Ehrenfelser in 2nd and  Casa Dea Pinot Gris from Prince Edward Island was 3rd.  You can read about the winners for best chicken wine here.

I was ecstatic to learn a Nova Scotia wine won 1st place in beef.

Luckett Vineyards Phone Box Red

I moved to Nova Scotia in October of 2012, and I was here exactly one week when my sister and I jumped in my Jeep and visited Luckett Vineyards in the Annapolis Valley.  (Here in Nova Scotia, it’s referred to as ‘the valley’)  Pete Luckett is a local businessman and media personality known for Pete’s Frootique and Luckett Vineyards.   This wine was nominated by Deborah Hemming out of Montreal, and she says ” I first tried this wine while enjoying the amazing view of the Annapolis Valley from the Luckett Vineyard’s patio on a gorgeous summer day. Every time I drink it, I’m transported back to that place and time.”   2nd Place in the beef category also came out of the Maritimes, Black Prince Winery Cabernet Franc and 3rd place went to Smoke & Gamble Cabernet Merlot out of Port Dover Ontario.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir

Best wine in Pizza was nominated by Joe Hache from Picton Ontario, now living in Prince Edward Island.   This is why Joe nominated this particular wine “The nose showcases sour red cherry with hints of raspberry, cherry, rhubarb and cranberry. The palate is full of ripe red berry fruit with a hint of spice and a perfect balance of acidity and tannins. Norm makes incredible pizza in a wood-fired oven on site, using vegetables grown alongside his grape vines!”   

Joe has a wonderful website called ‘For The Love of Wines – The Wines of Prince Edward County’.  He’s lucky enough to have about 35 wineries within a 30 minute drive from his home.  You can check out his website here.

Second place for pizza went to Smoke and Gamble Cabernet Merlot and Laughing Stock Vineyards out BC won 3rd.   You can check out all the winners in the pizza category here.

Quails' Gate Estate Winery Optima Totally Botrytis Affected

The winner in the cheese category was  Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Optima Totally Botrytis Affected from the Okanagan region of British Columbia.  Nominated by Matt Steeves in Ottawa, he says “A Sauternes wine with blue cheese is a match made in heaven!”   Another Joe Hache nominated PEI wine won 2nd place, Harwood Estates Winery Marquesa and 3rd place went to Thirty Bench Wine Makers Riesling from the Niagra region in Ontario, nominated by Dan Tricka from Toronto.  You can check out what the nominees had to say about their wines here.

Domaine de Grand Pré Vintner's Reserve L'acadie Blanc 2010

It probably won’t come as a surprise that a Maritimer nominated a Maritime wine in the Seafood category and won.  Adam Bower from Halifax nominated and won with Domaine de Grand Pre Vintner’s Reserve L’acadie Blanc 2010 out of the Annapolis Valley.     Here’s what Adam had to say as to why he nominated this wine.  “Nova Scotia’s premiere grape goes perfectly with what we are best known for here: seafood!”  2nd Place went to a wine out of Prince Edward Island, Keint-He Chardonnay and 3rd Place to a BC Wine Recline Ridge-Shuswap Serenade.  Check out this link with the winners of the seafood category.

 And last but certainly not least, the winners of the best wine with dessert.
Black Sage Pipe 2007
First place went to Black Sage Pipe 2007 from the Okanagan in BC.  Nominated by Deborah Podurgiel out of North Vancouver, here’s what she had to say about her winning nomination.  “The Pipe (like Port) is a dessert in itself with ripe cherry and dark berries on the nose, chocolate, plum, figs, vanilla and a nutty finish on the palate. As a chocoholic, I’ve tried it with a Madagascar chocolate bark chunked with Madagascar chocolate nibs. It’s death by chocolate with a deliciously happy ending! ”  2nd Place was won by Huff Estates Winery Zero De Gris from Prince Edward Island and 3rd place was Jost Vineyards Vidal Icewine 2006 from right here in Nova Scotia.  You can check out the winners here.
What fun we had!  The first ever Great Canadian Wine Match, a brain-child of wine writer and Sommelier Natalie MacLean out of Ottawa, was a fantastic idea, and a great way to put the spotlight on Canadian wines.  We have some real beauties here.   I can’t wait to try all the wines!
I hear that maybe she is going to do it again in the Fall, this time highlighting ‘Wines Under $25″!
Till then, Cheers

Fire Up The Grill Part 2

We are in for a scorching hot weekend, so like many of you, I’ll be cooking outside this weekend.  Last weekend we covered some of my favorite wines with steak and chicken.

Now, let’s talk pork……….

I love grilled pork, and pork chops are a family favorite.  I love a good smoky Merlot with my pork chops, and here are 2 of my favorites.


The Washington State makes a magnificent Merlot and this one will not disappoint.  Smoky cherries and plums with hints of cedar and tobacco.  (thus the smoky)  And the Thorn Clarke Merlot is a deep purple color in the glass, medium bodied and jammy with a beautiful lingering finish.

BBQ ribs.  One of my favorite grilled foods.  My dad says I make the absolutely best ribs.  I know he’s biased, but they are pretty good.     Mix brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, fresh ground pepper, lime juice, couple of cloves of garlic, basil, paprika and chili powder.  And then at least a half bottle of BBQ sauce, marinate for 8 hours or over night.  Slow cook in the oven for 2 hours on a low temperature, or for 4 hours in the slow cooker.  And then take them out to the BBQ and grill them to perfection.  That’s my secret recipe for ribs.  Lots of great wines to go with them.

You can’t go wrong with this gorgeous full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from the Wolf Blass family  with big flavors of dark cherries and licorice.

Marqués de Riscal Reserva 2006 The Marquis de Riscal is a Rioja from Spain that is earthy and aromatic and would go hand in hand with ribs.  Lots of great flavor in this wine.

 Bodega Septima Gran Reserva, 2009And a Malbec out of Argentina will be the perfect date with BBQ ribs.   This is the Bodega Septima Gran Reserve Malbec, a rich and fruity wine out that has lots of Italian influence.

  I’m allergic to most seafood and all shell-fish so I am relying on some friends advice.  But grilled seafood would do great with a Chardonnay.   Here’s a new one I discovered lately (I had it with chicken)

Everything a Chardonnay should be, this California beauty will have you going back for more.  Medium bodied, smooth, easy to drink and food friendly.  I am told by white wine drinkers also like a Pinot Grigio with their seafood.  This is a Pinot I tried recently and was very impressed.

  It’s the Pinot Grigio by Yellow Tail.  Fantastic, light, crisp wine.  Flavors of pear and green apple, it has enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and lively.

That’s it for this week.  Hey, BBQ season is just starting so we will do more wine matching with grilled foods as I experiment with my BBQ.

Have a great week, and Cheers.


Fire Up The Grill

It’s BBQ Season!  I love BBQ Season.  I am the Grilling Queen of the East Coast.  And I love enjoying a glass of wine while I’m barbecuing and while I’m eating the grilled delights.  Let’s have a bit of fun and talk about pairing up our favorite grilled food with some of our favorite wines.


Doesn’t that make your mouth water?  A big juicy steak, in my opinion, requires a big juicy wine.  Most times a steak is served up with a big bold red, and I like a Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Here are two of my favorites.


I don’t have steak all that often, so when I do I tend to treat myself to a special wine.  You will never go wrong serving Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz or Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (a Canadian favorite) with a grilled steak.   Both wines are big and bold in the glass with juicy fruits, oak aging and vanilla and spice.  A potent combination for any steak.  If you just drink white wines, give this one a try.

It’s the J.Lohr Chardonnay out of California, and it is everything a big Chardonnay should be.   Flavors of ripe apple, nectarine and some citrus with that buttery smooth oak aging – this one is a winner with chicken, pork and yes, even beef.

I would say chicken is my #1 grilled food.  I absolutely love chicken done on the BBQ.   Whether it’s wings, thighs or breasts, chicken makes for great grilled food.  And the wine.  I am loving Chardonnay at the moment with grilled chicken, like this one….


The J. Lohr Chardonnay mentioned above will also go divine with chicken.  Schuck’s Chardonnay is another great one out of California.  The unique packaging will hold up in an ice bucket, but it’s whats in the bottle that is most important.   Fun and crisp with buttery smoothness, love this with chicken.   With chicken, there’s a 50% I’ll be drinking red.  And my two favorite chicken pairings are Old Vine Zinfandels and Pinot Noir.


A few of my favorite Old Vine Zinfandels.    7 deadly Zins, is just what the name suggests, 7 different Zinfandel grapes from 7 different vineyards to make for one sinfully delicious food friendly wine.  Pepperwood Grove is being de-listed in Nova Scotia, so stock up.  They infuse pepper into the wine, light oak, big on fruity flavor.     And Twisted is another great priced wine in the old vine Zinfandel family.  Big ripe fruits, oak and pepper, also make it great with BBQ ribs.



Three of my favorite Pinot Noir wines.  The first one is Canadian, and our cool climate here in Canada make for a great Pinot Noir.  It’s raspberries and cherry fruits with a hint of oak make it so food friendly.   It’s under $20 in Newfoundland, can’t get this one in Nova Scotia.  But if you can find it in your local liquor store, pick it up.  The Smoking Loon is another Pinot under $20.  There was a time when you didn’t trust a Pinot Noir under $20, but those days are gone.  Soft subtle fruit with a hint of spice.  When in doubt about which red to serve with a meal, if you go with Pinot Noir you will hit it out of the ballpark 85% of the time.  That’s how food friendly it is.  And the last one is probably my favorite.  If you think Canada is making some good Pinot Noir, then New Zealand carries the crown.  They are known for 2 wines in particular, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  The Whitehaven is smooth and tasty with dark cherries and charred oak.

Next week, we are going to do pork, vegetables and I’ll mention seafood, even though I’m allergic to seafood and can’t eat it, I will pass along some recommendations.

Till next week, Cheers and fire up that grill!