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

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

Does Your Easter Bunny Bring Wine?

This is how my Easter weekend is going

I thought this cute little GIF perfectly describes how I am spending my relaxing Easter weekend. And yes, my Easter Bunny does bring wine, and I hope he does for you too.

I want to share something that happened to me this past week, it happens on a semi-regular basis. So this happened a few days back.

The wine was compromised

This picture may not show it well, but I opened a bottle of red wine, and the cork was all wet and red. I knew instantly the wine was compromised. One sip confirmed this with a strong vinegar taste. So I put the cork back in the bottle and returned the remaining wine back to the NSLC. They are excellent, and will return your wine if you bring it back. (not empty of course) Most people don’t know this but anywhere from 2% to 8% of wines are corked, with the lower number being synthetic closures. Which is why synthetic closures and screw caps are becoming more and more popular.

Cork, from trees mostly grown in Portugal, started becoming the favorite stopper, replacing glass stoppers, back in the 1600’s. Too many of the glass stoppers would break. But cork is a) becoming much more expensive and b) it reacts to temperature spikes, high temperatures and movement. A compromised wine can smell vinegary, like the one I had did, but mostly they smell like a wet dog. It’s that moldy, damp wet dog smell in reds, and in white wines it will smell like cooked fruit or also like pronounced vinegar.

Another way to tell if your wine has been affected is if the cork is protruding from the bottle top. However, just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean the wine inside hasn’t been compromised. Or, as in my case, the entire cork was soaking wet with wine, not just the very bottom of the cork. The best ways to tell is smell and taste.

Did you know most people didn’t realize you could bring back tainted wine? You can, and they will graciously exchange it for you. Too many people have tainted wine and thought “I don’t like this wine”, or they pour a bad wine down the sink. That’s what I used to do. But wine is expensive, and your liquor store knows a certain percentage of wine will be off.

I love a good feed

I’ve had to use up some remaining 2020 vacation days in March, as our year end is March 31st, so I’ve been doing some cooking. No surprise there. Yes, that’s a feed of ribs you see in that picture.

Can’t grill without wine

I did some kabobs. My sister Jackie, absolutely loves chicken kabobs, hands down her favorite BBQ food. So I’ve been trying new recipes, with new marinades. This tasty marinade, in front of the glass of wine, consisted of olive oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and a touch of ginger. I’m very careful when cooking with ginger, I use it in a bottle. I find it can over-power the food, unless you are careful, or unless you love ginger. Again, I marinated my chicken in this combo for a couple of hours, and set aside some of the marinade to use while cooking.

Invest in a meat thermometer
A Nice steady temperature

These two pictures are very important for my cooking and grilling. A meat thermometer and a nice steady temperature. When I’m grilling, I try not to keep the lid open for long. Let the grill do the work. However, I open the grill at times to bring temperatures back down.

And my friend Sharon gave me this wonderful meat thermometer for Christmas, and it was one of my favorite gifts. You need a meat thermometer because the days of guessing if the meat is done is so 1980’s. Our moms did this. ‘Oh, it looks like it’s done, so I’ll leave it in the oven for another 20 minutes just to be sure’. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on overcooked meat. My mother was scared to death of meat that was done any way less than well done. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

But my biggest cooking accomplishment over the past few weeks has been scalloped potatoes. This is a favorite with my sister and all my nephews. My sister, who doesn’t generally cook as a rule, told me to ignore if the recipe says 60 minutes, you need 90 – 100 minutes to properly cook scalloped potatoes.

My trusty mandolin

You can buy a mandolin anywhere for less than $20. I love mine, and find it so handy.

It makes perfect potatoes for scalloped potatoes. Would you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but the easy recipe I used is right here! Just so you know, I cooked them covered for 1 hour 25 minutes, and then uncovered and cooked for another 15 minutes. They were tender, cheesy and delicious. I also added some freshly grated parmesan in all the layers and a mozza/cheddar blend on top.

But enough about food, let’s talk some wine.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio from Italy

To our weekly games night, Joan bought this beautiful Pinot Grigio. Ruffino is a staple in Italy, making quality wine there for 140 years. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, this wine is under $15 and just a gorgeous white wine.

Avalon Cab is on sale here in NS

For the red this week, this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi California. Lodi, with its beautiful Mediterranean climate, is more known for Zinfandel, but the soil and climate of California, produces some spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon wines. This easy to drink Cab with its hints of vanilla, spice and chocolate, is a perfect pairing for whatever else the Easter Bunny brings this weekend. Priced under $20 normally, it’s on sale here in Nova Scotia right now at $17. My apologies for snapping this photo, above my cat food dishes. LOL.

Have a safe wonderful Easter weekend. Till next weekend, Cheers

Darlene

What’s Your Wine Name

Deep Moon Merlot

It’s Saturday morning, and let’s have a bit of fun. I saw this chart this past week, and chuckled, and thought “I have to pass it on to you”. Let me know in the comments below what your wine name is. Mine is Deep Moon Merlot.

I have to share with you what else this week bought. Meet Maggie

Maggie is a Bernadoodle that belongs to my sister Jackie. Her son, Riley is going to St. FX University here in Nova Scotia. He picked up the dog, and I met him at the half way mark to get this little doggie on a plane to his new forever home.

Cuteness overload

I got to visit with my nephew Riley this past week. Saw him briefly on Tuesday in Truro, and of course when I saw him Tuesday, I had to bring him a load of food. That’s what an Aunt Dar does! He’s coming up again this coming Friday so I guess I’ll be cooking Thursday night, I’ll share any new recipes.

Fajitas, Rice, Homemade cookies

This week I also completed my latest puzzle, my 18th since the pandemic started. A gorgeous puzzle of St. John’s Newfoundland.

St. John’s Newfoundland

I did some cooking, this probably comes as no surprise to anyone.

Brown rice, a salad with beets, almonds, parmesan and a homemade vinaigrette. The chicken is done by sautéing onions and garlic, orange juice, and some fresh herbs. Here’s my homemade vinaigrette, and the one suggestion I would use is to buy a decent olive oil. It is estimated 80% of olive oil is not ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’ or even olive oil in some cases. There is no regulation when it comes to olive oil, which means you can put olive oil on a label, and it doesn’t have to be in the bottle. Here’s a great way to test it. If you can’t drink it from a spoon, it’s probably fake. I have a couple of different olive oils.

This is my everyday oil

If I’m cooking, I don’t use the super expensive one from a wonderful place here in H.R.M. called Liquid Gold. I use this organic one I buy at Costco. If the olive oil is the star of the show, like it is when you make homemade salad dressing, this is the one I use.

Please don’t spend $4 on olive oil, I would be willing to bet it is not olive oil. The one on the top is a great buy at $15 for two bottles at Costco, and the Liquid Gold is the best, and is about $20 for a bottle.

Here’s my homemade salad dressing, combine ingredients & whisk

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Grainy mustard
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Brown sugar

Easy and delicous.

Let’s talk some wine.

An Italian Classic

If there’s one thing Italian winemakers excel at, is making food-friendly wine. They are the king of the world, the largest wine producer in the world. Even when I visited there in 2017, where ever you ate, they would bring out a carafe of wine. You had no idea of the grapes, or if they made it in a back room. But it was delicious, and whether you drank white or red, you could be guaranteed it was going to compliment the food. It had been a long long time since I’ve had the Campfiorni red Rosso. Made with 3 grapes that are indigenous to Italy, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Whenever you see Rosso on a bottle of Italian wine, although the word means ‘red’ in Italian, they tend to be blends. This wine, I had the 2017, it is medium-bodied, easy to drink and very food friendly. Masi is famed for its Amarone, and they use that method to make this wine, called Appassimento. It’s the process of drying the grapes to enhance flavor. It makes for a beautiful wine that feels like its been aging forever. A spectacular wine for $22.

For my white loving friends, they make the Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio

Again they use an Appassimento method, drying Verduzzo grapes to add to the Pinot Grigio to add a unique complexity to the wine. This one is only $17. My friend Jakke, who works at the NSLC up the street from me, told me she found some great videos on YouTube of Sommeliers talking about wines under $20. They are fantastic, and it’s a great idea to give you some new ideas about wines. Here’s the thing that will kick you in the pants, what Americans and Europeans pay for wine, we pay double and sometimes more. The first video I watched, they were talking about the beautiful Bogle wine, and the first thing that hit me was the host said she had paid $14 for it, but the average price was $12. That wine is $25.99 here. Our friends South of the border have a huge selection of great wines under $20, us, sadly not so much! That’s why I’m here.

Don’t believe it!

Well that’s it for me for this week. As much as I love wine, do not believe it when it tells you you can dance!! LOL Learn from my mistakes.

Have a great week

Darlene

Losing An Hour of Wine This Weekend

This would be me during an upcoming election

This is the weekend the clocks go ahead. Personally I never understood why they do this on the Saturday night / Sunday morning, and we lose an hour of our weekend. I’m all for changing it to 4 p.m. on the Friday. Who’s with me? Yesterday it was 15°C here in Halifax, this morning it is 0° with a windchill of -7°C, that’s Atlantic Canada for you!

It’s a great time for red, white or sparkling

Like you, I am looking forward to longer and warmer evenings. As most of you know, I grill all year round, but let’s face it, grilling is best when the weather is warmer. Speaking of the grill, I have a new recipe for chicken skewers. Do not ask me why I seem to be obsessed with food on a stick lately. Now don’t get me wrong, for people with kids, it’s a great way to get them to eat vegetables. I must still have some kid in me, because I love them. I love how fast they grill up and how great they look on a plate. I’m having a big of an issue finding the length of skewer I want.

There is a mid-size range

These are the two size skewers I have in my pantry. The shorter one is a little more ideal than the really long one. (That thing is a weapon, you probably don’t want to give that one to kids) There is a size in the middle though, I’ve had them before. I just can’t seem to find them in Halifax. I have an awesome new recipe for Grilled Honey Chili Lime Chicken Skewers. However, you don’t need the skewer. You can make this recipe for any cut of chicken you wish, and it can be done on the grill or in the oven. I have a new grill and I love using it, but many times I’m using it like an oven.

2 chicken breasts = 10 small skewers

So I cut up the chicken in bite size pieces, and marinated it in this recipe. I cut up 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I also love boneless skinless thighs. Like I said, you can use any cut of chicken you like. You can even do this recipe on a full roasted chicken. Here’s the marinade:

  • fresh lime juice
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • honey
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of brown sugar (I’ll tell you why shortly)
  • red chili flakes
  • a splash of orange juice or chicken broth

Boneless skinless chicken, like boneless pork, is a blank canvas and they will absorb all the flavors you want to throw at them. Which is why marinating is so important with these two meats. Why the brown sugar? Not only does brown sugar contain molasses, which is a whole new flavor level, it also carmelizes on the grill and adds a gorgeous flavor.

My basting sauce is simple

On my skewers, along with the chicken, I cut up red onion, cherry tomatoes, and some peppers. It gives the skewer big pops of color. Then while grilling, I kept brushing with this simple sauce.

Don’t they look awesome!

What I was brushing them with was a little olive oil, a little orange juice, and fresh cilantro chopped up. That’s it, the oil ensured it would get golden brown, the juice adds some acidity, and the cilantro just added a good swift kick in the chicken bits! I eat them over rice, over salad, and sometimes if I’m hungry enough I eat them like a popsicle! LOL

I’ve got 2 wines for us this week, a white and a red. Let’s start with the white.

Blu Giovello

Every Tuesday evening myself and 3 friends get together for a games night, we play a game called Rummikub. Every week Angie and I alternate bringing a red wine, and Joan and Elaine alternate bringing the white wine. This is the wine Joan bought this past Tuesday, and it was one of the most unique Pinot Grigio wines I have ever tasted. It was very dry, with very little acidity, but it had beautiful flavors of lemon-lime and stone fruit. I can’t eat fish, but if I could, this would be the perfect wine for an oilier fish. This wine is $19 here in Nova Scotia and $12.90 in Ontario. How’s that for a price swing in Canada. Each week I am noticing new readers from the U.S., and Alison from Oklahoma told me she comes on to my blog to check the price of the wines I’m featuring, because it makes her feel good when she goes to buy them.

I tried a brand new red this past week, and it was spectacular

My friend Maggie and I were having coffee last weekend and she was telling me she was discovering some fantastic wines out of Chile. Chile is still one of the great values in the wine store, and I’ve been wanting to try this one. The Valle Del Maipo, which means Maipo Valley is home to the most prestigious wines that come out of Chile. It is known as the “Bordeaux of South America”, but let me tell you, the wines are a fraction of the price. I paid $20 for this Merlot and it was stunning. This was so well balanced, and still very young, as you can see I enjoyed the 2018 vintage. Full-bodied, rich and supple, this was a beautiful treat.

Enjoy the weekend, I personally think that any weekend where they take an hour away, should be an automatic holiday on the Monday. But that’s just me.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene