Weekend Wine Picks


Oct 14 2014 251There were so many things to give thanks for this week. Surrounded by family and friends, watching my 84-year old mother arm wrestle any one who dared to challenge her. My wonderful nieces and nephews exploring the city. My lovely daughter dancing the night away in the kitchen with guests from 8-84. And of course, toasting the whole night with some terrific wine picks that I highly recommend.

ripasso 2012Giuseppe Campagnolo Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 Corvina Blend $16.95 Medium bodied and fruity.  This was perfect to serve before, during, and after our turkey dinner.   13.5% In the Vintages section, but going fast.



peoples pinotThe People’s Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand 2011 $16.95  I was looking for a Pinot Noir to serve with turkey and this one caught my eye. Admittedly this time it was the label that stood out – often a detractor in my mind – but I do like Kiwi wines and this light bodied pick with cherry and raspberry notes turned out to be a crowd pleaser.   gran feudo 2007

Julian Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva 2007  Blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is only $16.95  This was my favourite of the bunch. If you are looking for an affordable red – this one is worth sampling.


A little trip around the world in wine  made for great Thanksgiving feasting. Just in time for this week at the LCBO, where Vintages is  celebrating my favourites – great Italians. Time for some sampling in the tasting room this weekend. Salute!

The Day My Music Died

My Trusty iPod Classic

My Trusty iPod Classic

I went to see Gone Girl at AMC Beaches earlier this month, and someone walked away with the soundtrack of my life.

Most material things mean nothing to me. . Yes, there is that bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape to be opened in  4 years, that is being lovingly protected.  Family pictures of course, and the odd piece of jewelry that is special because of who or where it came from, but overall, they are just things.

My iPod was special. It was given to me as a  birthday present by the wonderful people I work with who know me well enough to know there was no better gift.  It has travelled everywhere with me. From Whitehorse to San Francisco, Kelowna to Maine. Each playlist lovingly developed over the decade since my sister  gave me my first incarnation that held 1200 tunes.  My Classic held space for 12,000 tunes including the songs that were playing when I tasted bottles of wine that rocked my world. Sitting on a terrazzo looking out at the Italian countryside sipping a glass or three. Dancing with my hubbie to Harvest Moon. Laughing my face off with friends.

SInce then there have been a few desktops loaded with iTunes, but on my Classic, the songs remained the same.

Until now.

And while in the global scheme of things, it is utterly inconsequential,  tonight these wines  are  my toast to my little iPod that served me well.

Even though some of those treasured playlists died with the hard drive on a former computer, I know I will get them back eventually on a newer speedier model. Apple moved on from the  iPod Classic that only played music. It wasn’t fast enough, multi-functional enough –  but that’s exactly why we got along so well.

My music and me.

So  I needed some good wine to wash away my music melancholy, wines from Washington State.

Charles Smith cabernet Sauvignon

Charles Smith cabernet Sauvignon


Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012  This was one of the featured wines in the Vintages catalogue. At $23.95, it was worth the price. If you haven’t explored Columbia Valley wines, they are definitely worth some attention, especially now that more of them are turning up in Vintages.



Powerful Washington Blend

Powerful Washington Blend




Proprietary Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills 2009 43% Syrah, 35% Barbera, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec, 4% Mourvedre. Plums, cherries, full bodied – absolutely lovely. I also loved H3 which is what led me to pick up this bottle, and  I am definitely going back for more. $21.95 at the LCBO.


I hope the person who walked away with my iPod in its battered brown faux leather case enjoys the Road to Sicily playlist  that chronicles the music of my life with my husband Steve. Or Mormor’s birthday playlist – my 84-year old mother’s favourite songs (including Patricia the Stripper). And have a look at the pix from the most amazing trip to Italy five years ago with my dearest friends before you delete all.

It’s just a thing. But it was a thing that meant a lot.


Wedding Wine


wedding shotOnce upon a time, on a perfect beach in Maine, one hundred people held up their glasses to toast the marriage of soul mates.

What is a wedding if not belief in the future?

Looking at Rhiannon and Scott, surrounded by family and friends who gathered to rejoice in this moment, you can’t help but believe.

I have often written about Maine (likely because it often includes the imbibing of a fair amount of wine).  What made this wedding so special – they chose to begin their future in a place that honours the bride’s past.

Rhiannon, her siblings and my girls – along with a host of others, have spent precious days together on that beach for 25 years.

mia and maine 155And this day couldn’t have been more perfect.

goddessThe bride and her attendants looked like Goddesses as they made  their way down the beach.




The catch in Rhiannon and Scott’s voices as they spoke their vows.

The relief that some of us felt (OK it wasn’t ONLY me)  that we were thankfully wearing sunglasses so those tear-filled  eyes wouldn’t show.



What does this have to do with wine?  


Wedding wine, of course – the challenge of making choices that will have everyone coming back for more.

Last summer, while making our way through scores of bottles, during our week at the very same beach , one evening was devoted to the tasting of potential wedding wines.

Among the 10 of us, we had plenty of familiarity drinking wine and a fair amount of experience  attending weddings. Testing wines is a tough job, but that’s what friends are for.


Where do you start?

  • Set your budget. Parents Sandra and Randy wanted to spend somewhere between $10-20 a bottle. Extremely attainable.
  • Pick your varietals. After much discussion which included the merits of Merlot and the shunning of Chardonnay (wrongly so) – the plan was a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
  • Find an expert: Erin from Old Port Wine Merchants and Cigar Shop in Portland couldn’t have been more helpful. She had great suggestions and if there was something Sandra was looking for that she didn’t carry or didn’t fit the budget – Erin found something with a matching flavour profile.

Here’s what they settled on:

Cameron Hughes Chardonnay 2012 Cameron Hughes Monterey County  Chardonnay $16.00




2013 Scaia –  Veneto 2013  Garganega/Chardonnay $9.95

cab sauv


2012 Avalon –  Cabernet Sauvignon California  $10.99



2013 Angeline Pinot Noir  California 2013 $10.99

fume blanc


2013 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County $14.00


Excellent choices to celebrate with dear old friends, raise a glass with new ones and toast to Rhiannon and Scott’s future.  A Once Upon a Time kind of day that will undoubtedly  end with Happily Ever After.



Value added suggestion:

One of the many times husband Steve and I visited the tasting bar at the Summerhill LCBO, a couple planning their wedding  told us  about Luccarelli Primitivo Puglia IGT – $10.95. Turns out it  is the most popular wedding wine.  Though now Steve thinks all young couples we meet at the tasting bar are picking wedding wine – which can prove to be occasionally awkward but awfully fun.

Red Carpet Stars

Well another year of TIFF has wrapped up and Toronto has seen many stars walk the red carpet for their film premieres.

But besides the usual suspects there was another celebrity in town. Famous in his own right, 2-star Michelin Chef, Oliver Glowig was also here. He rolled out the red carpet for a special chef’s table dinner at the Ritz Carlton’s TOCA restaurant and Lis and I were lucky enough to be two of the eight people invited.

The food was a delight to the senses, with bright, vibrant colours that were a feast for the eyes. The sizzle as the swordfish hit the grill signaled another delicious dish was coming and watching the chef hand make the ravioli let you know only the freshest ingredients were being used. As six courses were presented over the evening the flavour explosions brought a taste of Italy to our mouths thanks to the skill of Chef Glowig and his amazing team.

For every course there was a terrific wine pairing and one of the delights of visiting TOCA means you get to try something you won’t always find at your local liquor store.  We started off the evening with a deliciously light sparkling Falanghina Brut DUBL from the Campania region of Southern Italy served by sommelier Taylor Thompson.  Each dish was accompanied by a wine chosen to bring out the flavours of the food and they didn’t disappoint.

Getting rave reviews was the “Ravioli Capresi” stuffed with caciotta and marjoram, served with a cherry tomato and fresh basil sauce. Maybe it was  because Chef shared the secret of how the delicate ravioli were made but I’m pretty sure it was because they tasted truly amazing.  Some of the eight at the table were even willing to give up dessert for another crack at this dish and I was in total agreement.

While chef Oliver Glowig has now flown back to Italy to handle the affairs of his own restaurant in Rome, you can enjoy the menu he created for TOCA any time at Toronto’s Ritz Carlton.

Wine Meets Art at Mission Hill


This gallery contains 35 photos.

A visit to Mission Hill Family Estate  in Kelowna makes you feel as relaxed as a floating yoga class. Stepping through the gates,  you feel  a sense of  peace paired with refreshingly crisp rose. Just writing about it brings me back, … Continue reading

Weekend Wine Picks from Canada, California and an Italian Best Buy

august 19-2014 200


One of the many things I love about a long weekend…there is one more day to drink wine. I have a rule (with the odd exceptions) not to drink Monday-Thursday except on a holiday weekend. Sitting in the backyard sampling wines and listening to good music is one of life’s great pleasures



California ruled my Friday night visit.

aug31wine 014Diamond Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Napa Valley is the LCBO’s wine of the month. For good reason. Winemakers described 2012 as ideal and excellent conditions and this full-bodied cab – perfect for the barbecue –  delivers. $23.95

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My next Californian – Jekel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Arroyo Secco, Monterey County.  My husband and I loved this wine –  we love big wines and this was full-bodied, fruit forward without oak trying to steal the show.  Good value at $19.95


aug31wine 017

Raise a Glass to BC and Niagara.

The second visit left me  tipping my hat to VQA wines from BC and ON. The Sperling Pinot Noir 2012  from the Okanagan Valley was a show stopper.  It was delicious this afternoon  and will only improve with age. $27.95



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Creekside Estate Winery Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – fresh and inviting on this warm weekend. At $17.95, great value.





aug31wine 021Best Value Wine: My wine find for the weekend was a modest unassuming wine tucked away on the bottom shelf of the tasting room. Tormaresca Neprica 2012  from Puglia over delivered.  A blend of Negroamaro, Primativo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – clearly not for the faint of palate. What can I say? At $14.95 in Vintages, I bought five. Ok –  true confession – the next day I bought a case.

 Enjoy your weekend. It may not be a long one, but hopefully this will save you time at the LCBO giving you more time to savour.




That’s What Wine Friends are For

Attachment-1Meet a few of my wine buddies. We cook together, laugh until we cry together and we drink a lot of wine together. 92 bottles  to be exact when we spent a week at the beach this summer unnamed(don’t be judgey – there were 10 of us – that means just a little over a bottle  a day..each).

maine,sicily,etc-aug2014 084My vacation plan was to photograph each bottle and put together a holiday wine slideshow. By Day 2, I just couldn’t keep up.

Most of the  wines ranged from $7.00 – $28.00 – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and even a few Chardonnays. And  one night each couple paid homage to The Goddess of Wine and brought one special bottle for a beachfront wine tasting.

 The Goddess of Wine

The Goddess of Wine

The contenders::

Ruffino  Romitorio de Santedame 2001 Tuscany IGT $60.00wow cali Mistral

Le Mistral 2010, Monterey County Red Blend  $28.00lucente

Salco 2004, Tuscany IGT 

La Vite Lucente 2011  $29.00

Byron Pinot Noir  Santa Barbara County 2012  $19.99

The bottles were all covered with brown paper bags. The advantage to short term memory loss is I could put them in the bags, leave them for an hour and I had no idea which was which.ian and sandra

Each team of two had a homemade tasting mat with circles from 1-5. You can also download one online http://winefolly.com/tutorial/wine-placemats/. We were all told the names, varietal and price of each of the five bottles.  These are not cork dorks by any means. They do like their wine though.

the winnersThe winning team got to do  their little victory dance (congrats Maria and Phil), and we all got the chance to taste some really great wines without spending a fortune.

As a Brazilian buddy once told me, “You don’t make friends drinking milk”.

Wine Challenge Favourites:

  • Salco 2004 Tuscany – you can’t go wrong with this one.
  • La Vite Lucente 2011 Tuscany – Another top performer you can always count on
  • Le Mistral  2010- a fantastic California blend,  exceptionally balanced and a fan favourite.
  • Byron Pinot Noir  Santa Barbara County 2012   – respectable but not as appreciated in when compared to the others.
  • Ruffino  Romitorio de Santedame 2001 Tuscany IGT – sadly this one was off.