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.

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Look for the Follow button

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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

New to Wine? Maybe I Can Help

Wine is always the answer

One of the things I have missed about 2020, were the wine tastings I was doing. I loved doing the wine tastings for a couple of different reasons. I really loved meeting new people, and fellow wine lovers, One of my most favorite parts were getting people to try new wines. Wine is not cheap, so most of us are not too adventurous in the wine store. It’s way too expensive to take the chance on something you may not like. At the wine tastings, I’ve also met several spouses that ‘weren’t into wine’ but sipped along. These were fun, because most times they would end up finding a wine they really liked. Are you fairly new to wine? Let me help take away some of the mystery and hopefully make it a little easier to enjoy my favorite beverage.

This is true

When I do a wine tasting, I tend to bring 6 wines, in different styles. I always bring a sparkling wine. Did you know that most people think sparkling wine is sweet. It seems here in Canada, our first introduction to sparkling wine was Baby Duck.

Baby Duck

I don’t know about your house, but in my house, it wasn’t Christmas Dinner unless Mom & Dad bought out the Baby Duck. How many of us had this as our first taste of wine? Launched in the 1970’s, it once dominated the sparkling wine market. Not any more. Sparkling wine doesn’t have to be an expensive Champagne, it can be a crisp, food-friendly foray into deliciousness. Take this one for example.

A Spanish Cava

When starting out with Sparkling wine, start with an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava, like this Hola wine. You never tend to pay more than $20 for a bottle of this wine, which is made in the same method as traditional Champagne. These delicious wines are a great way to start any get together or dinner party. They are perfect with appetizers, whether you are serving, cheese, oysters or a salad. You would have a hard time finding an appetizer that doesn’t pair well with a good dry sparkling wine.

A great white wine

Most people dip their toe in the wine world by starting with white wine. Great wine doesn’t have to be expensive and this wine is proof of that. This is one of my favorite white wines, La Vielle Ferme is a French white wine that comes in under $15. I know buying French wine can be a little intimidating, because they don’t always put the grape varietal on the label. For whites, Chardonnay is a big heavy wine, tends to be aged in oak. Something like a Pinot Grigio is lighter, crisper and hasn’t seen oak.

Going from White to Red?

So many people I meet, who drink white wine, would also love to expand into red wine. Here’s the biggest complaint I receive about red wine from white wine drinkers. The temperature. People tend to serve their red wines at ‘room temperature’. Well, in the Summer, the room temperature in my house tends to be about 26 degrees, and that is way to warm for any wine. On average, our rooms temperatures tend to be in the 20’s. Still way to warm for any wine. Room temperature was designated as the room temperature of the underground wine cellars, which were about 55-degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 13 – 15 degrees Celsious. Put your red wine in the refrigerator. And if it’s there a little long, take it out 20 or 30 minutes before serving. You’ll be amazed at how many of your friends will ‘love’ red wine once its served at the proper temperature, or even a little chilled. Start light with a Pinot Noir, or a Beaujolais (Gamay grape) or a Valpolicella and then work your way to the heavier reds of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.

My wine of the week was a big bold Shiraz. So, a cute story to start

Loves her I do!

My sister Jackie and her husband came for a visit this past week. We had such a great time. She lives in my hometown of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Her son is going to St. FX University here in Nova Scotia, so I am getting to see her more often. Her husband Craig, did some chores for me.

I had lots of projects for him

My brother in law Craig was kept very busy, so on Wednesday evening, we were going to do a big feed, and Craig wanted a glass of red wine. I was saving this wine to share with someone special, and couldn’t have picked a better person.

Wolf Blass Gold Label 2008 Shiraz
Signed by the man himself!

In 2012, just before I was transferred to Halifax, I had the opportunity to meet Wolf Blass, as he was visiting St. John’s, Newfoundland. I bought a couple of bottles of 2008 Gold Label Shiraz, two I gave away as gifts, and two I kept for a special occasion. I had opened one not long after this. It was very good. And I saved the other one. This was worth the wait! I was waiting for an opportunity to open it and share, and this seemed like the perfect day. So, this wine had a screw cap, had been bought 8 years ago, and was actually bottled 12 years ago. Living proof a screw cap can age a wine, some say as good as a cork does. The wine was aged in both new and seasoned French oak, and because of the high tannin content in Shiraz, that is a wine that ages very very well. This was spectacular, and if critics gave this wine 93-points after a couple of years, aging it turned it into a 95 or 96 point wine. Spectacular. If you see a Gold Label in the wine store, buy one or two, and keep one for a few years. You’ll love it.

Happens all the time

Have a great week. Cheers

Darlene

Cruise With Me to Bordeaux France

A Taste of Bordeaux River Cruise

Join your hosts, Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours & Travel and Sommelier Darlene Myers for your Taste of Bordeaux cruise adventure. 
*Book before December 30, 2020 and receive Complementary Onboard Gratuities, an Early Booking Savings, in addition to “Travel Waiver Plus Protection” valued at $175 per person , there are free gratuities right now and an early booking bonus. Total combined Savings of almost $800 per person*

I’m taking a trip to Bordeaux, France in 2022, would you like to come with me? In a previous blog, I had mentioned I have partnered with Atlantic Tours and AMA Waterways for a River Cruise through the spectacular region of Bordeaux in April of 2022. I had met one of the owners of Atlantic Tours at a wine tasting in 2019 and we became friends. He came up with the wonderful idea of working together on some wine trips. YAY! Who doesn’t love a good wine trip. And after 2020, we all need something to look forward to.

Richard Arnold of Atlantic Tours

We are still hoping to do a wine trip to the Niagara region of Ontario in June of 2021, but we will have to see how things are with the global pandemic. I am still hoping this wine tour goes ahead, because it would be spectacular. Check out the details here.

And here’s a snap shot of where we are staying at Niagara Falls. I mean, you know you want to come with us!! We are doing a stop in Old Quebec City, we are doing a tasting at Caves Du Chateau Montmagny Winery, and the 1000 Islands Dinner Cruise, all part of this trip. Wineries we will be visiting include Wayne Gretzky’s & Trius, just to name two. Fingers crossed it’s a go.

HILTON NIAGARA FALLS/FALLSVIEW HOTEL & SUITES $64 ($̶1̶2̶8̶) - Updated 2020  Prices & Reviews - Ontario - Tripadvisor
The Hilton Niagara Falls

But back to Bordeaux, we are having a sip and sail Webinar. It’s free to register and you can register here. You’ll find out about River Cruising, which I have never done before. You’ll also find out about this particular River Cruise to Bordeaux. And we will probably enjoy a sip of wine in the process. What have you got to lose? It’s a free webinar, it will be informative and fun, and we’ll drink some wine, all at the same time.

Let’s talk some wine!!

A great Italian value

I tried this wine a few weeks back, but never got a chance to include it in a previous blog. I really want to, because it’s not often you can find enjoyable wines under $11. The La Baldoria Sangiovese from Puglia, known as the bread basket of Italy, also known for its Olive Oil, is 100% Sangiovese grapes and a great match for anything tomato sauce. Whether its pizza or pasta, if you are serving up some Italian food that features a tomato sauce, this wine is definitely worth trying.

Speaking of bread…

I’m making homemade bread

I grew up in Newfoundland, and my Mom made the best homemade bread in the world. We always had homemade bread, and being kids, thought store bought bread was a treat. Years after moving away, one of my biggest regrets was not learning how to make homemade bread from my Mom. So, there’s nothing like a pandemic to change all that. I started making bread, and consulting with my Mom over the phone. The first couple of loaves were a little crumbly, but bit by bit, I’m happy with the results. There really is nothing like the taste of homemade bread

My bread with beef barley soup

If I get home for Christmas though, I will take a lesson from the master! She will be 86 years old in January and doesn’t make bread anymore. But she does buy it from a wonderful local bakery. Yes, that’s my bread with a batch of beef barley soup I made in the slow cooker for the first time. That recipe is here. Cost efficient delicious soup, perfect for the cooler weather.

Now for my wine of the week…

Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon

I was watching the election results from the U.S. with some friends Tuesday evening, and we opened this wine. I have had the Smoking Loon Zinfandel, and I love it, but tried the Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time. We really enjoyed it. Usually it’s $17 a bottle, but right now it’s $15 a bottle, and as my friend Maggie said “This is really good wine”. And that’s what most people like in a wine. A really good wine at a really affordable price. That’s what makes me happy.

Smoking Loon Pinot Grigio

Here in Nova Scotia, we just carry the two reds, but for my white wine loving readers, they do make several white wines as well. Including a Pinot Grigio, a Sauvignon Blanc and an unoaked Chardonnay. The company slogan is ‘Why fly when you can soar’! These wines are based out of California, and if I had access to more of them, I would try them all.

Well that’s it for this week. Till next week, Cheers

Darlene

The Judgement of Paris

The Judgement of Paris

Interesting story (if you’re a wine lover like me). Last night I had a wine from Chateau Souverain. A great Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley in California, that is priced under $20 at my local NSLC. It was a great Cabernet Sauvignon, that went deliciously with the Beef I had.

Chateau Soverain Cabernet Sauvignon

The interesting part is that this vineyard in Napa Valley hired winemaker Mike Grgich, a Croatian born winemaker, in his very first wine-making job. Mike Grgich would later go on and become quite famous. He would produce one of the Chardonnay wines that won the famous Judgement of Paris Wine Tasting. This Paris Wine tasting, which took place on May 24th, 1976, put the wine world on its ass. It upset the wine world, not only because 11 judges picked a California Chardonnay over a French Chardonnay, but because California beat France in a blind tasting of red wines as well. A California Cabernet beat out the most famous Red wines in France, including Chateau Lafitte Rothschild. So while that wine starts at $1000 and goes up from there, check out this one at our local NSLC that has a $3063 price tag. Yep, it’s over $3000.

Chateau Lafitte Rothschild $3063

And I know wine experts will probably blast me for comparing the two, but I love finding the story behind the wine, and I thought this one was pretty cool. Imagine, a California wine rated best in each category, which caused much surprise as France was generally regarded as being the foremost producer of the world’s best wines. As I enjoyed the Château Souverain, I really felt like I was drinking a winner.

Bottle Shock (2008)
Bottle Shock, the movie

There was a movie made about The Judgement of Paris in 2008. The movie was called ‘Bottle Shock’ and starred Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman, who starred as Steven Spurrier, the real life guy who organized the event, never dreaming in a million years that French wines would lose. It was a great movie, there are some love scenes, so you may want to watch it after the kids go to bed. Sit back, enjoy the movie, with your favorite California white or red wine.

And now for my wine of the week… The Judgement of Darlene if you will!

LaMura Rosso

I was thinking, how do I touch a wine, from a winery, where the first winemaker was one of the winners of the Judgement of Paris? And the wine is priced under $20, that is literally the epitome of a wine of the week! Let me tell you, last week was a great week for wine LOL! Because I found this beauty on Thanksgiving Monday and it is now my new favourite wine priced under $15. Thanksgiving Monday you ask? We are very lucky here in Halifax to have a few independent wine stores and they are open most holidays. And at one of those stores I found this amazing Italian wine. Grapes for this wine, Nero D’Avola, are grown on the slopes of the Marsala and Salemi regions of Sicily. This wine is fully organic, however that does not take away from the taste in any way. It’s a bold red, that in my opinion just sits beautifully on the palate and has a great lingering flavour. Did I tell you it’s $14.49 a bottle?

Chuckle of the Day

That’s it for me for this week. Have a great week, and I hope you discover an amazing wine.

Darlene