My New Crush

I have a new crush. It’s crushed grapes, but still. I’m also crushing on these two wonderful people, who I am very blessed to call friends. Friends that are like family.

Angie & Shane

Regular readers have met my friends Shane and Angie in previous blogs. Last night we all got together at my place for dinner. What a great night, friends that are like family, some good food and some great wines.

I was given this gorgeous bottle of Sartori Ripasso by the great group at Univin Wines and my friend Nancy. It was amazing.

My favorite meal

I’ve had this wine previously with my one of my favoite meals. I love baby back ribs, and I really love them when they’re accompanied by crispy hot wings and some chicken fried rice that I made myself. An epic meal like this deserves an epic wine. The Sartori Ripasso is that wine. The 2015 vintage, which we had, is perfectly aged and full of complex notes and flavours. It’s a treat at around $35, but who doesn’t love a good treat.

We consumed a few bottles last night, including this one my friend Shane bought.

2014 La Brutta Cabernet Sangiovese

When I first see a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese blend, I think of a Super Tuscan wine from Italy. However this wine hails from Australia. When I was doing some research on this wine today, I discovered that the 2014 vintage is the highest rated vintage in this wine, and it was fantastic. my friend Shane, when he retired from the banking industry, found he was a little bored so worked part time at the NSLC for 3 years. He says we don’t carry this wine anymore here, and it’s too bad because it was really really good. This red wine goes through a very unique process of being made, I won’t get into all of it here, but you can read about it by clicking here.

I didn’t take any pictures of the food last night. I was busy consuming some great wine. LOL. I served glazed carrots, rice, a salad and my caprese chicken. Easy and elegant. Here’s the recipe.

Chicken cutlets

I started with chicken cutlets. I buy them, and I love how they are pounded out and the same thickness. It makes cooking them so much easier. I browned them in butter and olive oil in a cast iron frying pan till they were brown on both sides. Then I added mozzarella cheese and grape tomatoes that were soaking in balsamic vinegar and some salt. Put the cast iron frying pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Sprinkled with fresh basil leaves and a balsamic glaze once it came out of the oven. Easy and delicious.

And last but not least, I would like to feature a gift that Shane bought me.

Villa Conchi Cava

Anyone who has been at one of my wine tastings has probably tried this wine. This is my favorite example of a delicious sparkling wine at a fantastic price point. It’s from Spain and it’s bright and vibrant with nutty and citrus notes. It’s nice and dry and not at all sweet.

That’s it for me for this week. Till next week, Cheers

Ciao! Hello to Italy

I’m not sure if you know this but when I got my Certified Sommelier Certification in 2017, I celebrated by taking a trip to Italy. It was amazing. I went with amazing people, the food was spectacular and the wine… well, the wine was out of this world. A lot of it was consumed.

Enjoying a glass of wine at the Villa in Tuscany

We stayed in the Villa at the Carpazo winery in Montalcino, in the province of Sienna in Tuscany. The views were spectacular and we enjoyed amazing wine every night.

Well, I would like to introduce you to a special lady, and I’m very blessed to call her a friend. This is Nancy, who is a wine rep with the company Univins.

My friend Nancy

This past week Nancy gave me some Italian wines to try. Oh My God, I’ve only had two of them so far, but they were amazing. I’ve never had them before, and I love trying new wines. I am so grateful for her sharing these wines with me, because so far, they’ve been unbelievably good.

Amazing Italian Reds

When we met up on Tuesday, I had planned to make pasta that evening. I love trying new wines, and regular readers of this blog know how much I love Ripasso. Nancy gave me 2 Ripasso wines and an Amarone, the king of Italian wines. I’ll tell you about that one in a bit.

My mid week treat

The story of Sartori dates back 120 years. They are located in Valpolicella, a region known for wine, olive and cherry trees. This wine, a spectacular value at $25, is made with 4 Italian grape varietals, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Croatina. Ripasso means ‘to pass again’ and is a technique that’s been used for centuries in Valpollicella. The grape juice is ‘passed over’ Amarone must and skins to give it a more complex flavor. Sometimes called ‘Baby Amarone’ or ‘Poor Man’s Amarone’, I absolutely loved this wine. It was complex and interesting, with gorgeous flavours of dried fruits and spice. Which is why I had to enjoy it with my pasta mid week, but everyone deserves a treat mid week, right?

I always save really special wines to enjoy with special friends, and the Amarone Univins provided me was no exception.

My friend Angie

Regular readers of this wine blog know my friend Angie. We both share a love of red wine, so I wanted to share the special Amarone with her. It was her first time ever having Amarone, so what a treat that evening turned out to be. We enjoyed the 2016 vintage, and this wine still had lots of room for aging, if you wanted to keep it for a while.

Look at that gorgeous color. Amarone has been called the King of Italian wines for good reason. It gets its richness from the drying process, which lasts 3-4 months. This process is called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian. This really accentuates flavor. Once the Amarone is pressed, the remaining pomace is used in the production of Ripasso Valpolicellas.

Sartori Amarone 2016

Amarone is a treat wine, but well worth the treat. It’s also a great wine for food. My co-worker Rick asked me this past week what would be a great wine to go with game meat, and this is perfect. It would have also been perfect with my meal from last Sunday.

Stuffed pork tenerloin

As a person who lives alone, I love it when grocery stores sell smaller pork tenderloins. Last Sunday I stuffed one and grilled to sear. Then finished it by using the BBQ as an oven. It turned out perfect, for me, I like my pork medium, so it’s perfect when I see pink. I sauteed onions, celery, carrots and apples in butter for a few minutes on the stove and then added it to bread crumbs with a bit of parmesan cheese. Yum!

Truth

With the price of gas all over Canada, it’s true, wine is cheaper than fuel. Even the treat wines. Also, restrictions here in Nova Scotia are lifting on Monday, and I’m hoping to get back to doing some wine tastings. Reach out if you are looking at a wine tasting this upcoming year and live in the Halifax area.

That’s it for me for this week. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Daylight Savings Time

Seriously, though?

I do not like time changes. It messes with my sleep, with Gabriel’s feedings, and I just don’t get it. But if we are going to have time changes, why do they happen 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning? Who decided this? 4 p.m. on a Friday, now that’s something I can get behind.

So we lose an hour of our weekend, but on a very bright note, the evenings are getting longer. People tend to think of sitting on their patios, enjoying a glass of wine. Not this weekend, however. We are in for this

Rain & Wind for the weekend

You know the weekend is here when they are calling for another storm. For us here it’s rain and strong winds. For my friends in parts of Newfoundland they are calling for blizzard like conditions with high winds and snow. Either way it’s a great day to stay inside and drink some wine.

I would love to hear what’s on your wine menu and food menu this weekend. You know how some people don’t like seeing food pictures on social media. I’m the exact opposite. I love seeing food pictures on Facebook and Twitter. And I’m always curious on how they made it and how it turned out. Keep the food and wine pictures coming!

First, I want to share a food picture. I don’t eat much steak because the prices of groceries has gotten atrocious and red meat has become a treat.

But I did get a steak on sale this past week and because the weather was bad, decided to do it in the cast iron frying pan. I love that method. I also decided to try a red wine reduction for my steak for the first time. Decided to go simple for my first time and used this recipe here.

I didn’t have shallots so I used onions. Shallots are a milder form of onion and really delicious. But I simmered the red wine and beef broth till it reduced and then added butter and herbs.

It turned out delicious and I will be doing that again. I didn’t have fresh rosemary, so I used the spice. Fresh herbs are not the easiest to get in winter months here in Eastern Canada. It still worked for me. And I made these baby potatoes with maple butter seasoning, added some bacon and fresh parsley and some balsamic glazed mushrooms. Yum

This kind of meal calls for a big bold red. And this fit the bill.

Chilean Merlot

I know most people would go for a Cabernet Sauvignon, but I do love me a good full-bodied Merlot. This is a great deal when it’s not on sale, and last week it was on sale here $2 off, making it a spectacular deal. Casillero del Diablo translates to ‘The Devil’s Cellar’. And Concha Y Tor’s Don Melchor spread the rumor that the devil lived in the cellar to protect his top quality wine. To my readers and friends in Newfoundland, you can get it there as well.

For my white wine loving friends, it comes in two white varietals.

They make a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio, and they are just great wines at fantastic prices.

And now for my new wine of the week…

Longshot Cabernet Sauvignon

Last night for dinner I did a stuffed pork tenderloin. With it, I had a great new Cabernet Sauvignon. Longshot Cabernet Sauvignon originates from Modesto California and is a bold red wine with notes of plum, nutmeg and chocolate.

This wine is on sale right now here, priced under $16, and is a great wine to try, especially with the weather starting to warm and more people are grilling. To my friends in Newfoundland, you can get this wine there, and you can also get the Longshot Red Blend. It’s a blend of Shiraz, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Doesn’t that sound interesting? I can guarantee that red blend is a must on my list, the next time I go home to Newfoundland for a visit. (psst, it’s on sale for $14 there now)

Well, that’s it for me for this week. Have a great weekend. Stay safe, and enjoy the wine

Darlene

For The Love of God, Stop Snowing!

We had a wacky week of weather here in Halifax this past week. I saw a chart the other day that said we had over 400 mm of rain and over 100 cm of snow. Not exact numbers, but it seems we have had at least one storm per week since January came in. Whether it was a rain, wind or snowstorm, we’ve had a challenging winter to say the least. This week we had 10 on Wednesday, and they called for 10 cms on Thursday, but we got 15.

Lots of snow this week

The sun did come out yesterday but the temperature plummeted to -16 with a windchill of -24. So let’s stay inside and get cozy with some wine and comfort food.

Remember the blue cheese I told you about last week? It’s Bleu D’Auvergne, and I not only used it in a cheese sauce for pasta, I also made blue cheese burgers this week. Twice!

I bought the President brand

The cheese is that good. It’s named for its place of origin in Auvergne, in Southeastern France. It has less salt than most blue cheese, and is creamier, which makes it excellent for cooking.

I put the blue cheese right in

Here are the burgers I made, with blue cheese right in meat, along with salt, pepper, garlic powder and worcestershire sauce. I realize it looks like a lot of blue cheese, but it melts, and it’s very mild, so it didn’t overpower the burger. Then I carmelized some onions with butter, brown sugar and a bit of balsamic glaze. And then added bacon (duh!) and smoked gouda.

Yum

It not only looks tasty, it was delicious . Top with your favorite toppings.

A great wine to go with that? I’m glad you asked!

Sterling Vintner Collection Merlot

This is the wine I enjoyed with my burger last night. Sterling Vintners Collection Merlot from 2018. This full bodied supple Merlot with fresh fruit jam notes is on sale here in Nova Scotia right now for $15.99, which is a fabulous price. it’s normally around the $18 mark, which is what this wine costs for my friends in Newfoundland. Some wine critics have given this wine 90 points. it’s a great wine at a very affordable price.

And my wine of the week this week, is a white wine.

Amaral Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white wines and it’s so distinct in its flavors. It was the very first wine I had on the final exam for my first wine course. It was a blind tasting and the fact it was Sauvignon Blanc was unmistakable. Some are grassy with notes of green pepper, but my favorite Sauvignon Blanc wines are those with tropical fruit flavors, and this one fits the bill. A friend bought it to my place last Saturday night and I loved it’s crisp and tropical fruit flavors. And it’s priced under $19.

Truth

That’s it for me for this week. I had a Twitter friend from Newfoundland send me a note last night saying he was looking forward to my wine blog. Thank you, that was very kind, and it made my day.

Till next week, cheers

Darlene

We All Deserve A Treat

We are almost 2 full years into a pandemic that has crippled society. There have been lockdowns, restrictions, and loneliness for so many people. If anyone deserves a treat, it’s us. Am I right?

Last Friday, February 18, was National Drink Wine Day. And although it was a long weekend I didn’t get a wine blog out, because it was a fun filled weekend with family and friends. Like every Friday since January came in, we had a storm. A wind storm. Last evening we had a snowstorm. I’m not kidding when I say there’s been a storm every Friday. My nephew Riley’s flight got cancelled so we had a great evening Friday evening together.

And then on Sunday, I got together with an old friend, Shane, and a new friend, his husband Ken.

Shane & Ken

And boy oh boy, did they bring some great wine to the party. Normally this blog is about great wine at great value. Today we are going to cover a couple of treat wines. Like I said, we all deserve a treat.

The first wine we had that evening was a wine I’ve been dying to try for a few years. Total treat wine!

2018 Caymus Zinfandel

The Wagner family has been making great wine in Napa Valley for decades. The winery was started in 1906 when Carl Wagner bought land in Napa Valley and today is run by Chuck, Charlie and Jenny Wagner. Generations of great wine-makers. This wine retails for anywhere from $60 to $70 in Canada and it was spectacular. The Wagner family who has the Caymus label, also has Mer Soleil, Connundrum and Emmolo, just to name a few. Josh Wagner, from this Wagner family, has Belle Glos Vineyards and makes great Pinot Noir. This wine is the ultimate food wine. Shane had put out an amazing cheeseboard, and the combination was awesome.

Austin Hope Cabernet

So my friends have an amazing wine collection. And my apologies for the blurry picture, this was the 3rd bottle we opened, after a martini! My mistake was suggesting we open the Italian Ripasso that I bought before this one. This was another spectacular treat. I couldn’t find it anywhere in Nova Scotia, but elsewhere in Canada it sells for about $80 a bottle. Paso Robles in California is putting out extraordinary wine, and this one definitely tops the list. I love how they age this wine in oak. Lots of grapes are aged separately for a minimum of 11 months in a combo of 10% new oak, 25% once used oak and 65% in 2 – 3 times used French oak. Then as a whole, the blended wine is aged an additional 3 months in 75% new and 25% once used French oak. Wow. I’ve never heard that before. This creates a gorgeous complex wine on the palate, and the proof is in the glass.

Spinach Chicken & Bacon Penne

Before I go, I wanted to share an awesome recipe for Penne pasta. I had made a similar pasta a few weeks back that just didn’t have a lot of flavor. So I decided to make a roux for the sauce and add in more cheese and seasonings. Normally in the Summer, I have lots of fresh herbs, but they are all gone. And because this was a spur of the moment decision, I didn’t run up to the grocery store to buy some herbs. So I will definitely make it again, but adding some fresh basil is necessary, and chives or parsley, I feel, would really add a bit of zest as well. Here’s the recipe I started with, but tweaked along the way. Cook the pasta al dente, and set aside, including the pasta water. That is flavor that can thin your sauce, because it can get thick. Cook the bacon. Then use the bacon drippings to cook chicken and onions. I also marinated my cherry tomatoes in balsamic, salt and basil. They can handle a lot of flavor thrown at them. This recipe doesn’t call for a roux, but after I took out the chicken, I added butter and flour, made a roux, added both cream and chicken broth, and a couple of different types of cheeses, including parmesan, mozzarella and smoked gouda. It was very good, and I’ll definitely make it again. You can add your favorite cheese to make it a little different each time.

On the cheese board last weekend my friend Shane served the best blue cheese I’ve ever had. Blue cheese can be a love or hate thing with many people. And I’ve had some that is over-powering. This was mild and beautiful, and I can’t remember the brand name, but I’ll find out and share it with you. That would even go well in this pasta.

Loved this wine last night

Last night it was back to reality for me and wine. I did enjoy this beauty, a Primitivo made by Tommassi, called Surani Hercules Primitivo. Full-bodied, delicious, and $20 a bottle.

Before I go, I have to share some cuteness.

You all know Maggie

I was Facetiming with my sister Jackie, and Maggie, who you all know, seems to think she’s 10 lbs. She is a real lap dog, who doesn’t believe in personal space. Can’t wait to see her in March.

That’s it for me for this week. I hope you have a wonderful week, and let’s take a moment and pray for the people in Ukraine.

Darlene