The Pandemic’s Most Popular Wines

2020 was an interesting year, and the only reason I’m looking back, I was curious about the most popular wines. This information was compiled by Mast of Wine Dr. Liz Thach, a wine writer, educator and a consultant. And although it’s an American study, I’m pretty confident the numbers will be quite similar here in Canada as well.

Not surprising, Cabernet Sauvignon was #1. Here’s a great example of why!

Chateau Souverain was my #1 top pick last year for it’s great taste and great value. Under $20 a bottle, In 1943 Lee Stewart was miserable as a Sales Executive in San Francisco and bought a winery and 30-acres in Napa Valley. In 1944 he named the winery Chateau Souverain because his daughter liked the name, as it sounded like Soverign. In 1973 the winery moved to the Sonoma region of the Napa Valley and they have been making great wine for many decades. How can they do it at the price they charge, I don’t know, but I am grateful. A great full-bodied food friendly wine.

Wine Tours sure changed in 2020

So #2 on the list, might surprise many people, but it doesn’t surprise me…. Chardonnay. Chardonnay is still the most planted white wine varietal in the world, so its not surprising that it’s the #1 white wine and the #2 overall wine in sales from 2020. Chardonnay comes in many different styles, from rich and buttery, to crisp and clean. Some are heavily oaked, while others don’t see oak at all.

Bread & Butter Chardonnay

I am going to provide a better picture of one of my favorite Chardonnay wines.

Discovered this Chardonnay at the 2019 Wine Show

This wine is also based in Napa Valley. A gorgeous full-bodied hearty white wine, I loved both this Chardonnay and its sister wine the Bread & Butter Pinot Noir from the 2019 Wine Show, and they actually made the top of my list that year. There’s richness in the vanilla and almond flavors with a slight minerality that make it perfect for your next dinner. Sadly, you can no longer get this wine here in Nova Scotia, but you can in other parts of Canada and around the U.S. I’m really looking forward to having it again once we are allowed to travel. It’s still available in Newfoundland, so now I’m really looking forward to that trip home.

Don’t embarrass yourself at the Wine store

Red Blends have made huge leaps in the hearts and palates of wine lovers, jumping to #3 on the list for 2020. Red blends are gorgeous, getting the best qualities of 2 or more grapes. They are fairly inexpensive and appeal to a large group of people. And not all are sweet. I know some people think red blend wines are sweet, especially after tasting wines like the Apothic wines. But Bordeaux wines are all blends, and they are not sweet at all. Like this one for example.

Menage a Trois Red Wine Blend

This is a great example of a non-expensive great tasting wine blend. Menage a Trois Red wine blend is made up of, you guessed it, 3 grape varietals. Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are the 3 grapes that make up this blend. Hearty, juicy, and tasty with structure from the Cabernet, the founders of this winery wanted to experiment ‘threely’. They created 3-grape blends that have become iconic, but only because of the name of the wine, but because of the great wine in the bottle.

Would love to know

And now for my wine of the week…

It was no surprise to me to see Pinot Grigio make its way to #4. It’s surprising that a couple of years ago, this delicious crisp light wine didn’t even make the Top 10. Pinot Grigio is winning hearts all over North America with its crisp light flavors and fantastic price tags. You can get a fabulous Italian Pinot Grigio for under $15, and you can choose from a wide variety at that price range. This one pictured, was shared with me by my friend Arla, who loves Pinot Grigio, and who has shared her love with this wine with her friends. This is a great wine and I believe she told me she paid around $11 for it.

Before I sign off, I have some news to share.

Because of Covid-19 and the numbers being what they are in Ontario and Quebec, our June trip to the Niagara region, which included a stop-over in old Quebec city, has been moved to October 2nd. Yes, we will still be staying at the Hilton in Niagara Falls, pictured above. And October is going to be such a pretty time of the year to go.

Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours

My friend Richard Arnold, co-owner of Atlantic Tours, and I chatted yesterday afternoon, and we both agreed the trip had to be moved. I’m excited about the October date. We are travelling by Motor Coach through Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. The leaves are going to be gorgeous, and the company is going to be fun. Come join us. Only a $50 deposit will hold your space. That’s not a typo. A $50 fully refundable deposit will hold your spot on this fun trip. Check out the details here.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our upcoming trip. We all need something to look forward to, so why not make it this awesome 8-day trip.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

Great Wines Under $25

Great wines under $25

So many times, especially since the pandemic hit, I’ve been really focusing on great value wines. When I started this wine blog 10 years ago, I wanted to let people know that there were great wines under $25. Also, that is the same year, I started my studies to become a Certified Sommelier. (Always loved the homework.)

Many people have been impacted financially by Covid-19, including myself, so I’ve really been highlighting wines in my wine blogs around the $15 – $17 price range. However there are so many fantastic wines between that $17 and $25 price range, I really wanted to share some of those wines.

Conundrum White

I am going to start with my Mom’s favorite wine, Conundrum white. I really like it as well, and I actually like the white Conundrum better than the red version. Chardonnay is the main grape, with Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion, it checks all the boxes for full-body and balance. Winemaker Jon Bolta says this is a great pairing with fajitas, Thai food, and Vietnamese food. My mother likes it with everything, and I’m pretty sure you will too. It’s a great wine for $24.99.

Me when someone asks ‘Who drank all the wine?”
I love me some Merlot

Regular readers of this blog know how much I love Merlot. Full-bodied, plump and juicy, much like myself! (Got those Covid curves happening!! LOL) This is a fantastic Merlot for $23. Small lot wine-making and careful barrel aging, makes this a fantastic wine, at a fantastic price. Paso Creek, centrally located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is known for producing great wines because of the swing in the temperatures from day and night. Days are warm and nights are cool, making for perfectly balanced wines. More than 60 grape varieties are grown in this region, and Merlot is one they do very well. We’ve been having some pretty warm weather in February, and if you’re kick-starting the grill, this wine will pair well with any protein you put on the grill.

It’s back!

Speaking of grills, if you’re thinking of doing ribs, here’s the wine for you. I get together Tuesday evenings with 3 other ladies in my bubble, and we play a game called Rummikub. It’s like Rummy 500, but with tiles. We have a lot of fun, play for a little money and have a sip of wine. Two of the ladies drink white wine and they alternate bringing the wine each week, and my friend Angie and I drink red. And we alternate weeks as well. This past Tuesday, she bought one of my favorites. I wasn’t even aware that the NSLC had bought it back. The Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel. It’s not always available so I was thrilled to see it was back. Old vines tend to produce a lower quantity of grapes, but a higher quality grape. It’s only $17 a bottle and definitely a great wine for under $25.

All women know this to be true

And last but not least, my wine of the week…

My favorite wine under $25

When this wine was first introduced here in Nova Scotia, Meiomi Pinot Noir was priced at $30. I featured it back then because it was one of the richest full-bodied Pinot Noir wines I had tasted. Today, that price tag is $24.99 and right now it’s $22.99 here in Nova Scotia. If you haven’t tried this wine, this is the time to do it. Pinot Noir is a think skinned grape, very much vulnerable to the elements, which is why it’s called the heartbreak grape. Pinot Noir, when not done properly, can also be thin on the palate. This is not one of those wines. One of my favorite things about the Meomi Pinot Noir is the lasting finish. The wine will also go with anything you serve at dinner. I always tell people ‘when in doubt, serve Pinot Noir’.

This meme made me smile

That’s it for me for this week. Take care

Darlene

Frequently Asked Questions

Every time people find out I am a Certified Sommelier, they always have lots of questions. Today I figured I would answer some of those questions.

  1. How long does wine last?

First, let me pass along some advice, a screw cap will not keep wine fresh. Once you break the seal on the screw cap, it may screw back on easily, but it won’t keep your wine fresh. As a matter of fact, if you are keeping the wine, toss the screw cap. Buy yourself a wine stopper. Actually the plainest one I have keeps wine the freshest. I have several wine stoppers, here are a couple.

This wine stopper was given to me at a trade show event. I opened a bottle of Prosecco before Christmas, and this stopper kept the bubbles alive and fresh in that wine for a week. Which is unheard of for a sparkling wine.

I have this rubber green one which I find good for red wine.

And I have this pretty one I bought in Italy. A wine stopper will keep your wine fresher longer, and the better the seal on the stopper, the better job it will do. Oxidation is the enemy of the wine. Putting it in the refrigerator will also slow down the oxidation process. Without a wine stopper, your wine will last about 2 days. With a wine stopper, a white wine will last 3 – 5 days, with wines on lighter side, up to 7 days. Fortified wines can last up to 28 days once opened. Going back to the screw cap, a friend of mine opened a bottle of wine, had a glass, put the screw cap back on and 3 days later, the wine tasted like vinegar. Wine Stopper!

Keeps the wine fresh

2. Are all sparkling wines sweet?

No. This never ceases to amaze me. I always bring a sparkling wine to a wine tasting. Great sparkling wines do not have to a) cost a lot of money and b) be sweet. If you would like to try some sparkling wines may I suggest an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava. High quality sparkling wines without the high price tag. If you see the word ‘Brut’ on a label, that is the driest sparkling wine. It is crisp, and there is not one bit of sweetness in a sparkling wine marked ‘Brut’.

Great dry crisp sparkling wine

Here’s a great example. Mionetto Sparkling Prosecco Brut is a beautiful sparkling wine. Dry and crisp, with a price tag under $20.

3. What’s the simple rule to pairing wine

There was a time, many many years ago, restaurants would recommend a wine based on your food choice. Some high end restaurants do hire Sommeliers to do these recommendations. But if you don’t have a Sommelier at home, what are some of the basics.

Here’s the basic rule. Lighter white wines pair well with chicken, fish, vegetables. Red wines, big bold proteins. Sparkling wine, it’s a palate cleanser, great for appetizers, or dishes with lots of garlic. Here’s a chart that may help you. As you can see, there are many wines that go with many different foods.

Wine pairing made easy

And now for my wine of the week… Actually there are 2, each in a different price range.

Fronterra Cabernet Sauvignon

Here’s one smooth operator. And I don’t mean my friend Angie who is holding the bottle. The Fronterra Cabernet Sauvignon out of Chile is a great value wine, trying it this week for the first time. While the rest of Canada pays between $8 – $9 for this wine, it’s still a good value at $10.99 here.

My second wine of the week is a little more of a treat

Lodi California is located between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the San Francisco Bay in California, and it is known for great Zinfandel. Many Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards in Lodi feature un-grafted, un-trellised 100-year old vines, which can give more concentrated wine. And concentrated Zinfandel is a good thing. Full-bodied deliciousness, smooth, with smoky chocolate flavors. This makes it the perfect wine for ribs done on the BBQ.

That’s it for me for this week. Heading to Antigonish to get my nephew set back up at St. FX University.

Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

My Top 10 of 2020!

Bye Bye!

Revised! Welcome to the first Saturday of 2021! This blog almost didn’t get written today, because I forgot what day of the week it was LOL. A common occurrence I’m sure this time of the year. I know that many people are looking forward to seeing 2020 in the rearview mirror. It was not an easy year for sure, and this Christmas I am in Halifax, not with my family, as travel was not recommended. Some good did come out of this year though. Personally, I slowed down a bit, I rediscovered the joys of puzzles and good books, I learned how to make homemade bread, and I found some great new wines. Let’s have a look at some of them.

10. Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon

Canyon Road Cabernet

For the most part my wine blogs are all about finding good wine at reasonable prices. I always say, good wine doesn’t have to be expensive. This is a prime example, of a wine of the week. Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon is a surprising $10.99 and has become a staple in my wine rack, and in the wine rack of several of my friends. This is a smooth easy to drink medium bodied Cabernet. It’s not oaky and the tannins are not over-powering.

9. Rhone To The Bone

It was back in the Summer when I found this delightful Rose wine from the Cotes du Rhone region of France. Rhone to the Bone is made from the Grenache grape, which is the same grape used in making Chateauneuf du Pape and Syrah. As a matter of fact it is 80% Grenache & 20% Syrah. Two full-bodied red grapes, with limited skin contact, because that’s where all the color in red wine comes from. This fresh crisp rose was a favorite of mine this Summer and comes in at under $18.

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I was ready for 2020

8. Caliterra Tributo Chrdonnay

2020 started out like any other year. Winter months, comfort food and great new discoveries that go with our favorite comfort food. The Caliterra Tributo Chardonnay was one of those great finds. A delicious Chardonnay from Chile, that was priced suprisingly under $18 and a great compliment with roast chicken.

7.

This puzzle of classic games revived my love of puzzles

7. Unconditional Pinot Noir

You’re probably not surprised there’s a Pinot Noir on the list

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised there is a Pinot Noir on the list, and Oregon is one of my favorite places for Pinot Noir. And you can’t have a Top 10 without having a couple of treat wines on the list. This is a Pinot Noir from one of my favorite regions for Pinot – Oregon. Given 93 Points, it’s actually quite surprising this wine is just $33 a bottle. It’s incredibly smooth and the 2016, which I had, produced low yields that year, which meant more intense fruit. I loved it.

6. Stemmari Grillo

Stemmari Grillo

I don’t believe you can get this wine in Nova Scotia, but you can get it in other parts of Canada like Ontario. My friend Arla bought this back from the U.S. when she returned in March, and it’s a Sicilian white made with the Grillo grape. Although Grillo might not be well known in Canada, it is actually the most important white grape in Sicily. It also received a Gold Medal at the Berliner Wine Tasting. I think she said she paid $9 for this in the States, however, here in Canada it’s about $14, which is still a great price for a great wine.

I learned how to make homemade pizza

5. Ava Grace Merlot

I love Merlot. It’s a plump juicy full-bodied Grape and this one from Ava Grace, which I discovered in Newfoundland, was a favorite. Mocha, vanilla and spice flavors, and to all my Newfoundland friends and wine-lovers, this wine is on for $15.28 at the moment. Go out and buy a couple.

4. Zonin Prosecco

Zonin Prosecco

Two years ago, my #1 wine of 2018 was a Zonin Ripoasso that was given 96 Points, and it cost under $20. I think that’s the first time I saw that high of a rating at that price point. This year I bought its sister wine, the Zonin Prosecco a few times. It’s a great sparkling wine with New Year’s Eve just around the corner. It’s even fun in a holiday cocktail.

Prosecco, Cranberry & Lime Flavored Sparkling Water

3. La Vielle Ferme Blanc

This wine is also made in red, but the white has become one of my favorite white wines. La Vielle Ferme was bought to a small dinner party of people in my bubble, back when we were allowed to have 10 people. My friend Arla introduced us to this one, and we were all trying it for the first time. I was absolutely blown away by the wonderful tropical flavors in this wine. At $14.49 a bottle, you can see why it’s one of my favorites.

2.

Beef Bourguignon

When the pandemic put us in lockdown in March, many of us tried new recipes for the first time. And why not, restaurants were closed and we had a lot of time on our hands. I tried some new recipes including this Beef Bourguignon recipe.

2. Argyle Pinot Noir

Before the pandemic hit, I had the opportunity to do a couple of wine tastings in the beginning of 2020. In previous years I probably did 30 a year. I loved meeting new people and introducing them to some new wines. When I do a tasting, I always bring a treat wine, and this was my favorite treat wine of 2020. Argyle Pinot Noir from Oregon This is a perfectly balanced Pinot Noir with wonderful aromatics and a nice lingering finish. It’s $52, but worth the treat.

  1. Chateau Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon

This was my wine of the year because it’s a $20 Cabernet Sauvignon that tastes like a $75 bottle of wine. This wine was a pioneer in the success of Napa Valley wines back in the 60’s. This big bold Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Souverain delivers with mocha and vanilla flavors balancing tannins with easy drinkability. It was my favorite new find of 2020.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have joined me on wine journey of discovering great wines at affordable prices. I wish you and your family a happy healthy 2021. Thank you and Happy New Year.

Darlene

I’m Dreaming of.. Travel!

Looking forward to travelling again

I know what you were thinking…. you thought I was going to say, I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. We got that on Thursday, when you live in Canada, we don’t have to dream about White Christmas, they happen most years! I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one looking forward to taking a trip again. I didn’t take one in 2019, so I haven’t gone anywhere, other than Newfoundland, since 2018. Hopefully in 2021, definitely in 2022. I’ve been very blessed, as I have seen many beautiful parts of the world. Here are a couple of my favorite destinations and the wines I enjoyed while there.

  1. Hawaii
My sister Jackie & I at Pearl Harbour

A few years back, I took a trip to Hawaii with my sister Jackie and her family in Hawaii. I loved it. 11 days was not nearly long enough. I loved the beaches, I loved the sights, I loved how relaxed people were, and of course, the great prices on American wines.

Jackie & Her Husband Craig

We had rented condos in Waikiki, and we would go out to dinner most nights, but on a few nights we stayed in. We used to buy wine from the Convenience store on the corner, and I was amazed at the great prices. People think you pay high prices for wine in Hawaii, but like the other states, you really don’t. We pay high prices here in Canada, unfortunately. We drank a lot of Robert Mondavi Cabernet in Hawaii.

Not exactly as shown

At this Convenience store, very close to Waikiki Beach, and about 20 steps from our condo, we used to buy bottles of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon for $10 American, and the wine sold in Newfoundland for $25 at the time. The wine, not the label as shown, I couldn’t find a picture of the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon we used to buy. Keep in mind this was 2008. Labels change all the time.

2. Italy

Enjoying the Wine of Tuscany

In 2017, when I became a Certified Sommelier, I had the pleasure of going to Italy with three other amazing women. We had a wonderful time, we ate some spectacular food, and we drank some amazing wines! One of my favorite wine tours was at the Banfi winery.

In the wine cellars of Banfi

Banfi is located in the Brunello region of Tuscany and is a family owned winery, wines that we can buy here in Nova Scotia and Canada. This was probably my favorite.

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino

And although we paid about €12 for this wine in Italy, and it sells for $29.99 here in Nova Scotia, it’s still worth every penny. Known as a Baby Brunello, because it Sangiovese grapes made from younger vines in the same vineyards that make the Brunello di Montalcino. By the way, Brunello di Montalcino is Italy’s highest DOCG Classification, so this is great wine, grown and made extremely well. Delicious, full-bodied and a perfect pairing with steak, or pasta. Yes, steak. It’s that good.

3. Aruba

Aruba

The first time I visited Aruba, I was on a cruise ship. The second time, I was with my sister Jackie, my favorite travelling companion. She would put Aruba as #1 on her list, I put Hawaii. I did love Aruba though and would love to return one day.

Beautiful beaches in Aruba
Jackie enjoying a Cosmopolitan
Can’t go wrong with Merlot

One of my favourite wines that I enjoyed at the resort that year was this Merlot from Chile, Vina Maipo. Unfortunately, I can’t find this wine in Nova Scotia, but it was a delicious full body Merlot with notes of cherry and plum. And you can’t go wrong with Merlot.

Speaking of Cosmopolitans, I picked up a beautiful Prosecco and did a take on a Christmas Cosmopolitan.

I took Prosecco, unsweetened Cranberry juice, I added a little sugar, which I wouldn’t have done if the cranberry juice wasn’t unsweetened, a splash of sparkling water and a few cranberries. Put a lime wedge on the glass, a squeeze of lime juice in the cocktail and voila. Had a couple of friends in for dinner last weekend, from my bubble, and we enjoyed this holiday delight before dinner. Everyone really enjoyed it, and it was super easy to make.

And now for my wine of the week….

Cuvee Saint Pierre

Although I am from Newfoundland and Saint Pierre Miquelon is off the coast, this wine hails from France. And yes, if it looks a little big, it’s because it’s a Magnum, which is two bottles in one. So, if you’re having a group in, this is a perfect wine in the perfect size. Fresh, light and fruity, this wine is under $22 for the Magnum, so it’s a great way to serve a group.

Many people ask me how to sign up for my wine blog to get it in their Inbox.

Look for the Follow button

On the right hand side of the blog, there is a Follow button, and a place to put your email address. Then, once I hit publish, you will get it in your email.

Well Christmas is less than a week away. And I know it’s going to look very different this year. I can’t home to Newfoundland this year, and I know most people can’t travel to see loved ones. I hope you stay safe, and I hope you find some joy in this year.

Next week, is my Top 10 finds of 2020. Merry Christmas.

Darlene