Ribfest & The Perfect Wines

Summer 2015 014Summer 2015 013

Halifax just hosted its first ever Ribfest!  OMG, have I ever told you how much I love ribs.   A group of us from work went down to the Halifax waterfront to enjoy some mouth watering ribs from professional ribbers from both Canada and the United States.   But don’t wait once a year for Ribest, you can learn how to make your own perfect ribs on your own BBQ.


Do you know what goes great with ribs… you guessed it, wine!  Here are some of my favorite pairings if you plan on firing up the grill and having a rack of ribs this week.


One of my favorite wines tops the list for best rib wine.  Last week I called the Predator Old Vine Zinfandel the ultimate BBQ wine… it’s the ultimate rib wine.  Zinfandel, if you’ve never had it before, is a juicy full-bodied wine with lots of jammy fruit flavors and a hint of smoky bacon.  You can see how it’s a perfect match for BBQ ribs.  If it’s a little too pricey, check out these other Zinfandel wines.

Cline Old VineGnarly Head label

The Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel is another beauty, and some of the vines are 100 years old.  It packs a punch at 15% alcohol, but the alcohol doesn’t over-power the taste of the wine.  On their webpage the #1 food to pair it with is BBQ pork.  Coincidence.. I think not!  The other Old Vine Zinfandel is Gnarly Head, a tasty flavorful Zinfandel and great with ribs.

Bogle Essential

I’m also a big fan of having Zinfandel in a blend, like this Bogle Essential Red which is a Zinfandel Syrah blend.  The Syrah really ads a hint of spice to the Zinfandel and I love the match.  If you’re like me you probably like to add a bit of spice to your ribs, whether it’s black pepper or a spicy BBQ sauce.  The spice of the ribs goes well with the spicy notes in the wine.

Dada label

Do you know what also goes great with ribs?  Merlot.  Like this Dada Merlot out of Argentina.  And at just $15.99 a bottle you’ll be cooking ribs any night of the week.  This is also an organic Merlot wine and really delicious.  Argentina is putting out some first class wines at fantastic prices.

Dreaming Tree Crush

I also love Merlot in a blend, like this Dreaming Tree Crush from California.  This is a Merlot and Syrah blend, and again the Syrah adds a touch of spice to the plump juicy Merlot.  This vineyard is owned by musician Dave Matthews and they are making incredible tasting wine.  I also really like the fact his labels are made from recycled paper and he makes his bottles lighter to cut down on shipping costs and fuels.  Plus the wine is delicious, so why wouldn’t we support this wonderful venture.

Bachelder Chard label

For my white wine loving friends, I would go with something rich like a Chardonnay.  This Thomas Bachelder would fit the bill perfectly.  Rich fruit, apple flavors and a hint of wood from the oak aging with make this a great wine for smoky ribs.

I’ve been told I make great ribs.  It’s the one thing my parents and my nephews ask me to make, so here’s my recipe.

Dar’s BBQ Ribs

– Start with a rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs.  Pre-heat your oven to a low temperature like 300-degrees, or use a slow-cooker.  Slow cooking the ribs for 1 1/2 – 2 hours before you put them on the grill with ensure fall of the bone ribs.

– In a bowl combine half a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, brown sugar, bourbon, garlic, cayenne pepper, chili powder, hot sauce (I use Frank’s), fresh ground pepper, a dash of salt and a squeeze of lime juice.  Don’t worry about the hot sauce and spices, the heat will cook off and the flavor remains.

– Cook the ribs for two hours on low (3 – 4 if you are using a slow-cooker) and then heat up the grill.  Turn the burner that the ribs will be over completely down and keep turning and basting with BBQ sauce for another 45 minutes.  You’ll have those yummy grill marks and the additional basting makes for great flavor.

– Have fun and practice makes perfect.  And think of how much fun you’ll have practicing and eating the ribs.

You Can't buy happiness

Till next week everyone, enjoy Summer cause it’s passing us by way too quickly.  And fingers crossed Ribfest is back next year.




Great Wines Under $20!

I was travelling home from a sales conference with a colleague and we were talking about the wine we had at dinner the night before.  Mark told me he really liked the wine, Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel, and was quite surprised to discover it was $16.99 in our local Liquor store.  (They charged $53 on the menu)  He made a comment, that became the basis for this week’s wine blog,  “Those are the things I would like to know – good wines under $20.”

So here are a few of my favorites under $20 here in Nova Scotia.  Prices may vary from province to province.  Let’s start with my favorites, the Old Vine Zinfandels.  I love them.  And are my go-to wine for the reds, and most of them are under $20.   Smooth, full of flavor and very food friendly – they will go with just about anything you are serving, especially BBQ food.


From left to right, Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel, gorgeous flavors of berries, chocolate and vanilla oak, $19.99.  Ironestone – a lovely medium bodied wine with pepper spice and rich plum flavors, $16.99 here at the NSLC.  Gnarly Head – a bolder Old Vine Zinfandel, the vines are up to 80 years old, so the berries are smaller and the flavor is a little more intense and rich.  Like all Old Vine Zinfandels you will detect a bit of pepper and a vanilla oak, and its just $19.99.  And last but not least the Pepperwood Grove, the Old Vine Zinfandel that started it all for me and Mark, and another colleague Anthony.  At just $16.99 this is a great wine at a great price.  Smooth, medium bodied with those spicy pepper and vanilla hints.  A favorite of mine with anything BBQ’d.


If you like something a little bolder, there are some great Shiraz wines at our local NSLC for under $20.  Left to right, from Washington State, these guys make one of my favorite Merlot’s, but they also make a great Shiraz.  Terra Barossa is big and bold with intense fruit flavors and a hint of tobacco and spice.  The 19 Crimes Shiraz, with one of 4 different labels is $19.99 here at the NSLC and a gorgeous dark wine in the glass with dark fruits, licorice and vanilla flavors.  Yum!   And the last one is one of my favorites.  Layers Shiraz from Peter Lehman.  Again at $19.99 this is a beautiful blend of ripe fruits, clove and cinnamon spice and just a great wine to drink with supper or later on the deck.   Next week we will do great Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons for under $20.


I can’t write a wine blog without telling you about some great white wines for under $20.   I love Chardonnay in the summer, well actually all year round.  But a nice cold Chardonnay tastes like summer to me.  And I love a good California Chardonnay, and I love paying less than $20.  The first one on the left is my most recent find.  Tried it last weekend for the first time.  Had it with grilled chicken, and enjoyed it for the rest of the evening.  The Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay from Sonoma County is a spectacular wine that’s just $19.99.  Vanilla and brown sugar embrace creamy lemon and pear.    Dreaming Tree Chardonnay, a vineyard owned by musician Dave Matthews and his friend Steve Reeder, makes a beautiful Chardonnay.  Steve Reeder says “ I make wines for people to drink, not to put in a cellar’.  My kind of man.  Smooth citrus notes with lots of spice and that vanilla oak which just feels smooth.   Schucks Chardonnay was actually made to be a perfect compliment to fish, but since I’m allergic to seafood, I can tell you that it goes great with chicken and just about anything else you serve.  The unique packaging will not fall apart in an ice bucket, and its a lovely Chardonnay with a crisp taste to it.  Nice citrus flavors and it too is under $20.  And the Mark West Chardonnay is just $18.99 and perfect for summer with melon, kiwi and honeydew flavors.

Next week we will discover more wines under $20 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and hopefully have a chance to talk about some great Pinot Grigio as well.

Till next week, thanks for reading and Cheers.