Stay The Blazes Home 2.0

Here we go again

Effective 8 AM yesterday morning, the Halifax region of Nova Scotia went into a pretty severe lockdown as it seems our third wave is upon us. I was really disappointed, I had a wine-tasting booked for last night with a small group of people (8). Needless to say that got cancelled. I got tested on Monday, as all residents are being encouraged to get tested, and thankfully I was negative. Even better news, this coming Monday I get the first shot of my vaccine. Obviously, because of this lockdown, our Atlantic bubble will not be happening May 3rd, moved from the original date of April 19th. Fingers crossed this four week lockdown does the trick, because Nova Scotians are very good for the most part, of doing what it takes to get this latest outbreak under control.

Riley & Maggie

In other news, this week I headed to Antigonish to pack up this handsome young man, my nephew Riley finished his first year of university at St. FX. Here he is, with their new puppy Maggie. I’m going to miss him until his return in September, as he is definitely one of my favorite people in the world. He’ll be 19 this year, and this young man loves to eat, it’s a good thing I love to cook.
This is him and I a couple of years ago, at the airport, as we were parting ways after two weeks in Barbados.

He was heading to NL, me to NS

So that’s what my week was like. Let’s talk a little bit of wine. Wine is the one thing that help make lockdowns a little more pleasant. First, a great white wine.

Eco Sustainable

First, let me say, it is a complete coincidence this white wine has the word corona in it. My friend Joan bought this wine to a little get together a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. As you can see from the sticker, Mezzacorona, in the Italian Alps, is a designated Eco sustainable Vineyard. This means from grape growing, to wine making, Mezzacorona aims to protect the environment with different sustainable practices. This is a very flavourful Pinot Grigio wine, notes of pear and cantaloupe, with a little spice on the finish. A great value, priced under $16 here in Nova Scotia.

My red wine this week also hails from Italy, it is the Boira oak-aged Sangiovese. I didn’t even realize it was organic when I bought it, and as you can see it is also labelled vegan friendly. Aren’t all wines vegan friendly, they’re made with grapes? No! Most wines go through a fining process, which removes small particles and makes the wine super clear, something that can’t be done with just filtration alone. Some wine-makers use egg whites, egg shells, or casein, a protein found in milk, which would mean the wine is not officially vegan-friendly. Although I didn’t get to do my wine tasting last night, one of the most popular questions I get at wine tastings, is a light smooth red wine that white wine drinkers will like. This is the wine. Very smooth, easy to drink, very light on the tannins. A nice wine for $17.

I need this glass

I definitely need this wine glass, stay safe everyone! Till next week, Cheers

A Wine Holiday For you

Isn’t Everyday National Wine Day?

Let me tell you Saturday is my favorite day of the week. Hands down. The day I can sleep in, and relax and do what I want. And Saturday night feels like a little holiday. You see I can sleep in on Sunday, but I always say ‘I’ll be going to bed early tonight, because I have to work tomorrow, so I better get up’. There’s none of that crap on Saturday. But as I was laying in bed this morning, I realized I had a little writers block. Which happens to me every once in a while. And as I lay there wondering what to write about, I thought, ‘there must a some kind of wine holiday today’. LOL. As it turns out there is a whole list of wine holidays I didn’t know about. I didn’t include the ones that were in January & February, I’ll include them early next year. I thought I would have a little fun with them.

Just so you know today is……

March 27: International Whisky Day (However, I am not a whiskey drinker at all, but Happy Day to all my Whiskey loving friends)

April 17: World Malbec Day

May 1: International Sauvignon Blanc Day

Carmen Reserve Premier Sauvignon Blanc

This line of wines from Carmen are excellent values, because they are so delicious and come at a great price. This Carmen Reserve Premier Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and dry with herbal notes & great acidity. A perfect pairing for shellfish, sushi and really any appetizers. Less than $15.

May 9: World Moscato Day

May 13: World Cocktail Day (My cocktail of choice, happens to be wine)

It’s how I feel about Wine Wednesday

May 15: World Whisky Day (Wait, what? Isn’t today International Whisky Day?)

May 2: International Chardonnay Day

Trinity Oaks Chardonnay

I had the chance to try a new Chardonnay this past week with my friend Angie and I said to her “this is my new favorite Chardonnay”. I can’t tell you how much I loved this wine. Why? Because it wasn’t overly oaked, it wasn’t ‘buttery’, the Chardonnay grape was allowed to shine with gorgeous pear and citrus flavors. Plus, as an added bonus, they have partnered with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit that’s planted over 180 million trees, Trinity Oaks plants one tree per bottle purchased.  Win-Win! You get a great wine and a tree gets planted. $22.99 here in Nova Scotia.

May 25: National Wine Day – (Please, any day can be National Wine Day! In My opinion, anyway.)

June 4: International Cognac Day

June 11: World Lambrusco Day (Remember Riunite wine from the 80’s? It was a Lambrusco wine)

June 25: International Rosé Day

July 22: Shiraz Day (Also happens to be my birthday!)

It’s always Wine O’clock somewhere

August 1-5: International Albariño Days (It’s a white grape varietal out of Portugal. Totally unfair that this wine gets 5 days.)

August 4: White Wine Day

August 18: International Pinot Noir Day

Meomi Pinot Noir

Meomi Pinot Noir is one of the best value Pinot Noir wines in the wine store for two reasons. 1. It’s under $25, which is unusual for a spectacular Pinot Noir. 2. It truly is a spectacular Pint Noir. Priding themselves on fantastic coastal California wines, when I visited the Napa region in 2001, many winemakers will tell you the coastal California breezes add a special terroir to the grapes like no other region.

September 2: International Cabernet Day

September 17: International Grenache Day

October 9: International Pinotage Day (Buy a good one from South Africa, not the ‘coffee flavored’ pinotages.

October 15: Champagne Day (Don’t feel compelled to wait this long.)

Cheers!

October 28: Carignan Day (Known for being used in blends, if you are not familiar with this grape, it really adds a beautiful touch to red blends)

November 7: International Merlot Day (I don’t know about Paul Giamatti, but I’ll be drinking me some Merlot on this day, I’ve recently founds a few new ones, which I will share with you next week)

November 11: International Tempranillo Day

November 17: National Zinfandel Day (It’s an American celebration, but don’t tell anyone.)

November 18: Beaujolais Nouveau Day (a.k.a. The worst Gamay Noir you will taste this year)

November 24: Carmenère Day

December 4: Cabernet Franc Day  (If you haven’t tried Cabernet Franc on it’s own, outside of a Bordeaux blend, you don’t know what you’ve been missing)

December 20: Sangria Day (In other words, take all that leftover red or white wine from those previous days and mix it with a bunch of chopped fruit.)

And now for my wine of the week…..

Trinity Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

A little earlier in the blog I wrote about the Trinity Oaks Chardonnay, and it truly is one of my favorite Chardonnay wines because of the complexity, which sometimes gets lost in a Chardonnay. The complexity can also be found in the Trinity Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, and it too, will plant a tree for every bottle purchased. The grapes come from both Coastal California and Lodi (known more for its Zinfandel, but features beautiful grape-growing weather). Try this beautiful Cabernet with your next meal featuring beef, you’ll love it. It too is $22.99.

Wine pairing is easy!

That’s it for me for this week. Thank you for reading

Darlene

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