Posts Tagged ‘buying wine tips’

Made in France

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

French wine fans will enjoy the March 3rd LCBO Vintages segment featuring signature varieties of France, many of which have now proliferated around the globe. Among the whites are classic crisp intensely aromatic varietals from Alsace (Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer), Chardonnay in two unique styles from Burgundy (Chablis and Meursault), and a vibrant penetrating Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire (Sancerre). The selection of French red wines in the feature provides the opportunity to taste well-known single-varietal wines, such as Morgon (Gamay), Volnay (Pinot Noir), Crozes-Hermitage (Syrah) and Cahors (Malbec). For a sampling of the unique blends found in some of France’s best-known appellations, try a Cabernet or Merlot-dominated Bordeaux, a Grenache-based Vacqueyras or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or a Grenache-Carignan blend from the South. The selection emphasizes the wide range of terroir and wine styles to be found in this long-established Old World region.

There’s also a fabulous selection of Chilean Carmenère red wines in this release with a French connection! Did you know that Carmenère grape was part of the Bordeaux red wine blend prior to the vineyard devastation caused by infamous plant louse phylloxera? The grape was brought to Chile in the mid-1800s and misidentified as the Merlot grape until the mid-1990s. It’s a late-ripening varietal that prefers richer clay soils. When fully ripened, it displays an intense purple-red hue, a full velvety texture, aromas of berry fruit, spice and chocolate. The wines in this selection range from the iconic Montes Purple Angel, to Natura’s organic Carmenère. Enjoy these substantial and flavourful wines.

There are several good values at or under $15, including Cattail Creek ‘Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc, Don Cristobal 1492 Bonarda, Umani Ronchi ‘San Lorenzo’ Rosso Conero, Casa Silva Carmenère, Château de Parenchères and Palacios Remondo La Vendimia.

Among the Canadian wines, I would recommend the robust Jackson-Triggs Gold Series Sunrock Vineyard Shiraz  and the round, fruity Featherstone Red Tail Merlot.

Cheers and Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, March 3, 2012


Marimar Estate ‘La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2007

Russian River Valley, California
$19.95 (Vintages #270090) 14.2% alcohol
Produced from organic grapes grown in a vineyard named after Miguel Torres, this Chardonnay has loads of personality. Dry, medium-full bodied white wine, it’s fragrant with ripe apple, pear and pineapple mingling with nutty, spicy aromas. Round, silky yet juicy and fresh, it delivers the zing of citrus, hints of caramel apple and roasted pear and a long mouthwatering finish. Enjoy now with chicken casserole or cellar 3-5 years.

Yalumba ‘The Y Series’ Viognier 2011

South Australia
$15.95 (Vintages #624502) 13.5% alcohol
Featuring perfumed floral and fruit aromas, this dry, mid-full bodied white wine is reliably good. It delivers nicely matched acidity and depth of fruit flavours—stone fruit and  sweet citrus to the fore—finishing with an appealing slightly bitter hint of zest adding tang to the fruit.

Perrin & Fils ‘Les Christins’ Vacqueyras 2009

AOC Vacqueyras, France
$23.95 (Vintages #973453) 14.5% alcohol
This appealing red wine blend of Grenache (dominantly) and Syrah displays great integration and balance while delivering a complex array of aromas—sweet fruit, spiced vanilla, floral notes and sweet dried herbs. Dry, medium-full bodied red wine, the sweetness of licorice mingles with the rich fruit flavours across the palate, subtle nuances of spice and toast persisting on the smooth supple finish. Enjoy it now or cellar medium term.

Misiones de Rengo ‘Gran Reserva Cuvée’ Carmenère 2010

Rapel Valley
$19.95 (Vintages #264937) 14.0% alcohol
Intriguing notes of dried herbs, flowers, red berries, cherries and exotic spice drift from the glass of this dry, medium-full bodied red wine. The framing is subtle, the texture fresh, well-integrated oak exists in fine balance with delicious red fruit and attractive notes of spiced dark chocolate. Quite refined, offering persistent fruit and notes of spice and toast on the lasting finish, this is a very good value that will cellar medium term.

Umani Ronchi ‘San Lorenzo’ Rosso Conero 2008
 DOCRosso Conero, Italy

$14.95 (Vintages #981191) 13.5% alcohol
Deep ruby violet, this is a very nice valued red wine produced from the Montepulciano grape, part of the wine aged in barrique and large cask. Aromas of sweet ripe fruit, black licorice, herbs and earth lift from the glass. Dry, medium bodied, the dark berry fruit is framed by sleek tannins and lively acidity, earthy notes and hints of char adding layers of flavour that persist through the mouthwatering dry finish. Enjoy now or cellar short term.

Grand Total: $94.75


Customer favorite wines featured this week in LCBO Vintages

Posted by Susan

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

The February 18th LCBO Vintages release showcases the depth and breadth of the LCBO’s global reach and the wide-ranging tastes of you, its customers. Your favorites are featured (Customer Faves), wines from around the world, of various styles at differing price points. This edition of If I had $100 focuses on customer choices, including a Crèmant de Bourgogne (you’re probably out of bubbly after Valentine’s Day!), a clean dry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, three great reds from France, Italy and Spain, and a powerful Australian Shiraz as an optional wine if you have extra $$ to splurge. There are, of course, many other wines to choose from in this feature, from great-value wines to tried and true crowd pleasers, through cellarable iconic wines—don’t hesitate to do a little shopping on your own!

This release also offers a unique opportunity to sample three Chardonnays crafted by Thomas Bachelder, former celebrated winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne turned ‘wine gypsy’. His goal is to let the cool-climate terroir of Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy speak through these beautifully balanced wines.

And for those fans of 13th Street Winery Riesling, there is a duo in the Terroir feature that offers a great opportunity to contrast and compare.

In the main release is an excellent Mike Weir Wines Riesling (unbelievably only $14.95) which you may also enjoy. There’s a good selection of Kosher wines in this release, of which I would recommend the Castell d’Olerdola Brut Cava, the Recanati Shiraz, and the Côtes du Rhône blend from Vignobles David.

For good value under $15, try the Perrin & Fils Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc and the Hacienda Araucano ‘Reserva’ Syrah. Looking for a fabulous wine from an iconic producer. Choose the customer favorite, Duckhorn Merlot.

Cheers & Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, February 18, 2012

Louis Bouillot ‘Perle d’Ivoire’ Brut Blanc de Blancs n/v

AOC Crémant de Bourgogne, France
$18.95 (Vintages #48801) 12.0% alcohol
Dry, light in body, offering a fine creamy mousse, this lovely Crémant balances refreshing vibrant acidity, clean minerality and subtle notes of citrus, green apple and brioche. Long and bright on the finish, it is an excellent value and can be enjoyed on its own or with light appetizers.

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Marlboroug, New Zealand
$15.95 (Vintages #981670) 13.0% alcohol
Almost transparent, this wine offers a harmonious profile and the attractive pungency of lime, grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh herbs—oregano comes to mind. Dry, medium bodied, it’s juicy and crisp, with a tangy, refreshing slightly pithy finish. Try it with a crustless goat cheese and vegetable quiche.

Château Saint-Roch Chimères 2009

AOC Côtes du Rousillon-Villages
$18.95 (Vintages #119354) 14.5% alcohol
This blend of Grenache and Syrah with a dash of Carignan delivers on all counts. The aromas are enticing and complex—sweet fruit underlies herbal/lavender notes, a mineral character, hints of spiced chocolate. Dry, medium-full bodied, there’s depth and breadth to the fruit—blackberry, plum and tangy raspberry—a refreshing texture, ripe tannins and a nuance of spiced vanilla. The finish is warm, lasting and loaded with ripe fruit. A great value, enjoy it now with herbed lamb chops or cellar medium term.

Masi Brolo di Campofiorin 2007

IGT Rosso del Veronese Appaxximento, Italy
$24.95 (Vintages #976092) 14.0% alcohol
Dense, robust, inky and concentrated, this is another beautifully crafted winner, commanding attention with intense aromas of dark fruit, smoke, earth and dried fruits. Offering great substance, structure and weight, it’s dry, velvety and intensely flavourful, with a punch of spice and pepper lifting the concentrated dark fruit. Enjoy the slightly warm, spicy, well-balanced finish. Serve with a strongly flavoured meat dish, or cellar medium term.

Bodegas Lan Crianza 2007

DOCa Rioja, Spain
$15.95 (Vintages #166538) 13.5% alcohol
This classic ruby-toned Tempranillo entices with layered aromas of red fruit, spice, vanilla and hints of flowers and leather. Dry, medium-full bodied, well-framed red fruit is matched with lively acidity, spicy notes tingling on the palate, a peppery note adding a tang to the full fruity finish. Enjoy with a cheesy tourtière.

Grand Total: $94.75


Worth the splurge  
A big bold Australian Shiraz that’s always a winner!

 Pirramimma Shiraz 2009

McLaren Vale, Australia
$26.95 (987784) 15.5% alcohol
Inky and intense from start to finish, this is a big, robust, flavourful wine with great depth of flavour and well-defined structure. Intense aromas of sweet dark fruit, dried fruit, licorice allsorts, spice and vanilla captivate. The fruit jumps to the fore on the palate and carries right through the extended finish, subtle acidity and ripe tannins bringing balance, spice and pepper tantalizing. This calls for a big juicy steak with a balsamic herb dressing. Cellar medium term.


Wine & food pairing made even easier

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Pairing wine to a meal is not a science, rather, I think it is an art.  Like draping a colourful scarf or adding funky necklace, a woman’s outfit turns from “nice” to “WOW!”  Same thing with a man’s suit – goes from “sharp” to “looking like a million bucks” when adding a fashionable tie or crisp shirt.  Taking the time to thoughtfully pair wines to the ingredients of a meal can have impact and makes a memorable impression.


So how to do it?


I offer two ways.  Keep in mind my wine and food pairing fundamentals or use a lifeline that gives you the answer in a few clicks.


Perfecting the fundamentals takes patience and practice – both taking you on a delicious discovery.  Chefs and Sommeliers experiment with a sip of wine here with a nibble of food there all day long (truth be told not ALL DAY – we need time to work out at the gym to keep our waist lines in check).


The fundamentals that I keep in mind:
Toss out the rule that white wine should be served with chicken and fish while red wine goes with red meat. Fish, chicken and meat are a canvas for the chef.  It is the sauce, spices or marinade that you want to enhance by selecting a wine that will complement their flavours to make the meal sing.


Focus on the origin of the food.  Wine has been crafted for centuries to accompany regional food. For example, Italian wine goes well with Italian cuisine. Pairing the country of origin for both the food and wine is simply put: a natural fit.


Make it fun! There is no right or wrong wine to serve. Why not pour a splash of two (or more) wines in different glasses to experiment with your meal.  Need some suggestions of where to start? Email me your menu.


A recipe, a wine list or shopping for wine may not be that straight forward.  Here is where the pros come in with a helpful gadget or as some would say – a lifeline.


The wine world is all a buzz at the moment with wine writer Natalie MacLean’s Wine and Food Matcher.  Every wine enthusiast should have this at their fingertips. Whether you carry a BlackBerry or Iphone, this ‘app’ is like having both a Sommelier and a Chef at your side.


For those non-cell phone wine shoppers, you can download Natalie’s ‘widget’ to access the same information from your desktop.


Simply two clicks away from a verdict.


Whether you start with the food on your plate or your preferred style of wine, click-click-click and the Wine and Food Matcher narrows down your options.  As said earlier, pairing is an art.  Natalie and a team of techies at Ottawa based company bitHeads figured out the science behind this app.


To download:

The app for your Blackberry Curve, Blackberry Bold, iPhone or iPod Touch go to

The widget for your computer go to


Within minutes and you have a virtual Sommelier at your fingertips.


Even as a Sommelier, our Savvy Team are often called upon to host wine and food events or develop a wine list for restaurants, Natalie’s Wine and Food Matcher has been a big help validating our choices.


Other wine enthusiasts agree.  “It is incredibly handy”, reports Jay on Natalie’s web site


“It is simple and quick.  Now you have Natalie’s vast wine pairing resource at your fingertips”, reviews Craig.


“…when I am at a restaurant and wondering what to order, I discreetly pull out my phone and in two clicks my decision has been made…by Natalie!”, shares another app enthusiast.



Visit Natalie’s web site and follow the simple download instructions.  While you are at it, sign up for her weekly newsletter too.






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PS – you can follow Natalie on Twitter too!



Buying The Right Wine: 5 Easy Steps

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Some questions I think you should answer BEFORE you walk into the store (in this order of importance):

1. WHO is the wine for and what is their flavour and texture preference?
The character of the person you are buying the wine for is very important. Not everyone is impressed by high end expensive vintages that might have a complex flavour/texture profile that intimidates them because they can’t relax with the wine and just enjoy whatever it has to offer. Often, simplicity, purity and elegance prevail. Ask yourself if the recipient likes sweetness (fruit) flavours. Do they enjoy liquor over beer as an alternative drink? Do they smoke? Do they like light or heavy textured foods? Are they a person who likes to savour their food and their drink after they have eaten or drunk them?

By answering these and other questions about what they like to drink and eat, you can discover if you should be looking for light, sweet white wine with high thirst quenching acidity or a fuller-bodied red wine with a balance of fruit, acid, tannins and good alcohol that requires reflection and a strong finish. Or perhaps, a heavy, white Chardonnay or lighter, red Pinot Noir to have a combination of all these characteristics. They will appreciate your choice without knowing it was their choice.

2. WHAT event are you shopping for?
The central consideration here is: How private or public is the event and will it include food? If you are choosing wine with the intent of consuming it cocktail-style, then  I recommend that you choose a New World wine. That is what Australian Shiraz, California Zinfandel, Argentinian Malbec, South African Meritage, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc… are very good at being wines that are meant to be enjoyed as wine drinks, like a cocktail. That does not mean they do not match with food well, it just means that New World wines tend to favour drinking rather than food matching and show best when they are part of ‘Happy Hour’.

If food is intended to be an integral part of the event, then I suggest to choose an Old World Wine. This is not to say that Old World wines do not drink well alone, but Old World Winemaking has a penchant for the concept of ‘terroir’ which brings with it all the regional richness of soil, weather, harvesting and winemaking that express the culture of not only local wine, but local food as well. Most Old World wines were meant at some point to be married with food, both by nature and by the people who make and consume them. Not often do you drink wine in Europe without some sort of food accompaniment. The amount and variety and intensity of the wine you choose should take into consideration the ambience it will be served in, with or without food as a partner.

3. WHERE will we be enjoying this wine?
When you have answered this question you will have accommodated the ideas of: the temperature of the wine, how it will be opened, displayed and stored, its portability, how it will be served and by whom, what quantity will show a discretionary purchase (a wine gift of a case of wine that can never be drunk as opposed to a one bottle purchase of quality wine suggests something about expectation and the anxiety to ‘cover all the bases’), how it will be opened (cork, screw cap…) as this might contribute to tradition or ambience, how long the event will transpire… and what may follow?

You might even want to think how you might want to personalize the wine beyond matching it with the event, like ribbons, wrapping, sticker messages, personalized gifts… jewelry wrapped around the bottleneck.


4. What SENSE can I make of the LAYOUT and RESOURCES of the store where I am going to buy the wine to help me find the right wine? I am looking for a CHARACTER here so what STYLE will have this character?

Get familiar with how the store displays its wines. Is it by country? Price? Wine region? Varietal? Are there sale bins? Is there a Staff picks section? A Vintage section? Reds here? Whites over there? Dessert wines? Is there anyone to assist me in finding the character profile of the wine I am looking for that I have firmly entrenched in my mind by having confident answers to questions 1,2,3 above. I know what I need because I am buying wine for a person who has a particular taste preference and it is going to be served at this event. I AM DOING THE MATCHING OF CHARACTERS AND THE SELECTION OF WINE!

It isn’t necessary to find the perfect wine because there is more than one “perfect” wine so a “perfect” choice is a given.  My approach is to:
#1-Navigate the landscape of the store.
#2-Narrow the choices.
#3-Select a manageable number of finalists (I recommend tops 3 wines).
#4- READ the front and back labels of the bottles even if it is in another language and you need to ask a store clerk what it means (because even if you don’t know what it means this time, you will next time after you have tasted the wine!).
#5- Fit the drinking preferences of the person this wine is for with the style of wine described on each of the labels of your finalists off the shelf.
#6- Buy the one you think they will like. You’ll probably like it too! Especially when they do.



5.What is MY price point?
Make this your last, not your first consideration. And keep it flexible in a range you are willing to pay. NOT ALL GOOD WINE COSTS A LOT OF MONEY! Nor is all sale wine good! These are two very good reasons to give price a lesser priority than numbers 1 through 4 above. That is not to say price should not be a consideration at all. Just remember this:

 “A wine of character will help you find a good price, but a good price won’t help you find a wine with character.”

December 9, 2008


How do you choose wine? Write me. Share your methods. I love to discover new ways to find good wine!

Wayne Walker


White or red?

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

White or red? I suggest that when you are trying to decide which wine to serve, forget the old rule of thumb that you match to your meat.


Think of the fish, chicken and meat as the canvas to determine the weight of your wine. For example:

·         shrimp, fish filet, steamed mussels = light bodied wine

·         grilled vegetables, veal, tuna steak & chicken = medium bodied wines

·         steak, lamb, stew or roast = medium to full bodied wines


What matters most is the flavour. Make your wine selection based on the spices, marinade or sauce—choose the wine that will complement the flavours to make your meal sing.


Cheers & Enjoy!