Posts Tagged ‘Napa Valley’

If I only had $100…I would buy…

Posted by Julie

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
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Australia is renowned for it’s big juicy fruit driven Shiraz so it was refreshing to see a release that features Aussie whites.  But don’t be shy to venture further when shopping at LCBO’s Vintages this month.  There is an extremely handsome collection of some old tried and trues wines and of course also features wines from the Mediterranean.

Any chance your plans have you traveling to Europe anytime soon?  There are some wines in this release that are bound to put you in the mood for packing for a trip!

I’d say…this shopping list definitely puts me in the mood to pick up one of everything.

Cheers to all good things and the arrival of Spring,

-Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy at Vintages…

 

Madison Ranch Chardonnay 2014

Napa Valley, California
$22.95 (Vintages #441113) 14.5% alcohol

Plush aromas of baked cake and tropical fruit. A full bodied elegant white wine loaded with ripe yellow apple and banana flavours, rich, creamy and buttery, a classic California Chardonnay.

With a soft seam of acidity, there is some vanilla and lemony sweet spice on the end, a full-bodied Chardonnay not for those who like a wine with style.  Absolutely delicious.

 

 

 

Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda 2014

Victoria, Australia
$17.95 (Vintages #401398) 13% alcohol

Aromas you could catch across a room! Expansive fruit with floral overtones, soft white blossoms, honeysuckle, almost perfumed tropical fruit in this blend of Viognier and Marsanne white wine. Juicy peaches and pears on the palate, soft, easy and smooth, it’s the type of wine that everyone would like, inoffensive yet delicate, loaded with nutty fruit flavours.

Enjoy on it’s own or with lighter fare, it would also be perfect with summer salads.

 

 

 

Cotnari Fetească Albă 2014

DOC Cotnari, Roumania
$12.95  (Vintages #012088) 12% alcohol

Cotnari is the most famous Romanian wine producing region located in eastern Romania very near the Moldovan border. Fetească Albă is the most widely grown and best known grape varietal. I love discovering a new wine at such an incredible price point. This golden coloured nectar is slightly off-dry with tropical fruit aromas. It’s fruity; there’s pineapple, ripe pear and honeysuckle on the creamy palate but also got some mandarin and petrol on the smooth finish. It’s an easy wine wine sipper or would be a great match for spicy foods.

 

 

 

Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2014

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$18.95 (Vintages #247882) 13.5% alcohol

The Speck family has yet another reason to be proud. On the nose are aromas of the unmistakeable Baco Noir grape, a little smokiness, then layers of cherries and nutty flavours from the time spent in French and American oak for 17 months. Aside from Baco Noir is the classic blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Loads of personality as these varietals complement each other. Bone dry and juicy, well structured tannins; bring out a roast of beef or grilled ribs, it’s a beauty.

 

Papale Linea Oro Primitivo Di Manduria 2013

DOP, Puglia, Italy
$18.95 (Vintages #261784) 14% alcohol

Way back in July 2013, I discovered this gem and wrote on it in my If I had $100 blog.  Papale is made from the Primitivo grape vinified in the Puglia region. In 2008, 115 bottles of the vintage  was purchased by the Vatican following the election of Pope Francis in 2013.

I call this my Osso Bucco wine. Any chef knows that if you go through the labour of love to prepare Osso Bucco, you want a great wine to accompany.  Deep crimson bold with personality of firm ripe cherries, plums and peppery spice highlight the palate. Full-bodied, a little chewy and deep berry flavours intermingle with noticeable tannins that linger forever on the smooth finish. I would serve this dinner to the Pope!

 

 

GRAND TOTAL – $91.75

 

BTW…Since I came in well under budget, I thought I’d recommend a great medium bodied Portuguese wine called Animus 2014 from Douro at $12.95 a bottle.  Great for burgers, pizza or those mindless nights that call for something cheap and cheerful – it’s a steal and I’m picking up a few.  (Vintages #385302).  If you find an extra $4.70 your grand total is $104.70.

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California Dreaming…

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 30th, 2017
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How could you start a visit to the Sonoma/Napa area without a stop in San Francisco?

It was a brilliantly sunny day when we arrived, ever-present wisps of fog drifting over the hills as we gazed out across the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco offers endless delights, from Boudin’s unique sourdough bread to Tarantino’s fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. We did all the requisite things, riding the cable car up and down the hills downtown – several cars survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906, as we learned at the Cable Car Museum and operations centre. Fisherman’s Wharf swarmed with Labour Day weekend visitors, the sea lions oblivious, as they floated alongside docking fishing boats, hoping for scraps. We visited the Mission of San Francisco de Asis (guess where the city’s name originated), which opened in 1776, days before the American Declaration of Independence was signed, and also survived intact the great 1906 earthquake and fire. Muir Woods induced awe and reverence, the never-logged forest home to giant redwoods as much as 1000 years old. And everywhere we stopped for lunch or dinner, an endless range of California wines was available for sampling.

We made our way north to Sonoma County, and from our excellent B&B there, Mediterranea, visited a number of wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma. We also spent a day travelling out to the Pacific coast, and had an absolutely amazing lunch at the River’s End Restaurant in the small town of Jenner. Don’t miss it if you are visiting the north California Coast!

 

 

Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery

Born into the Torres wine family, Marimar Torres has been immersed in the industry all her life. With degrees in business, education in oenology and a facility for languages, she was the ideal ambassador for Torres wines in her early career. After establishing her home in California, she focused her energies on increasing awareness of Spanish wines in North America. Ten years later, the sale of Torres wines in the U.S. had grown ten-fold, and Marimar was ready for the new challenge of establishing Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery.

The Don Miguel vineyard surrounds Marimar’s winery and tasting room, designed in the style of a Catalan farmhouse. Located in the cool climate Russian River Valley and named for her father, it was first planted in 1986 and now includes 81 acres of which 45 are planted principally to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with growing plantings of Albariño, Syrah and Tempranillo. Marimar has also recently planted Godello, a white grape variety that grows in Galicia, like Albariño, and produces attractive dry white wines. The Doña Margarita vineyard, named for her mother, is located in the cool Sonoma Coast AVA, the 20 acres planted solely with Pinot Noir. Marimar describes the differences between the Pinot Noir from the two vineyards as follows: the Russian River Valley Pinot is more opulent, with intense flavours of black cherry and wild berry, while the Sonoma Coast Pinot has an earthier character, similar to Burgundian wines.

Marimar Estate vineyards are all certified organic, while biodynamic principles are applied in all phases of vineyard management and winemaking. According to Marimar, since the conversion to organic principles, the wines from each block have become more expressive of their unique terroir.

To ensure the quality of the fruit, thinning takes place right after fruit set; leaves are regularly removed to ensure access to the sun; vines are trimmed by machete to remove excess top growth; and at veraison, excess grape bunches are removed to further concentrate flavour in those remaining. Hand harvesting, with several passes through the vineyard, ensures that only ripe bunches are picked.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the winery has recently completed investments that allow it to meet all energy requirements through solar power.

Marimar continues to direct activities in the winery, established in 1992, as well as the vineyards. She has not limited herself to viticulture and winemaking, but has also published two authoritative books on Spanish cuisine, The Spanish Table and The Catalan Country Kitchen. The Torres family history in the vineyard and in winemaking dates back many generations in Spain, and while responsibility for the business has traditionally passed from father to son, Marimar is setting new traditions in the U.S., where her daughter Cristina, who grew up in the vineyards and is currently pursuing an MBA at Wharton, is the natural successor at Marimar Estate.

Due to very limited production – ranging from 5,000-10,000 cases depending upon the vintage – some wines are only available to wine club members, with only a limited number finding their way to Ontario. The 2014 ‘Acero’ Chardonnay was recently released in Vintages. We had the opportunity to try the new 2015 vintage at the winery (see the notes below). The fruit for the wine comes from the Don Miguel vineyard and is especially selected for intensity and aromatics, the grapes fermented in stainless to retain the unique character of the fruit.

Several other wines were tasted during our visit to Marimar’s Russian River Green Valley estate. These included her Albariño 2015, which offers lovely floral aromas, stone fruit and citrus flavours and a lively, crisp texture; the ‘La Masía’ Chardonnay 2014, showing alluring aromas and flavours of stone and tree fruit, a refined, creamy texture, and finely honed acidity to balance the rich fruit; the ‘La Masía’ Pinot Noir 2013, where cherry/berry, sweet spice and a whiff of citrus are underpinned by fine tannins and clean acidity; and the ‘Mas Cavalls’ Pinot Noir 2013 from the Doña Margarita vineyard, where this more feminine Burgundian wine offers classic aromas of red cherry, mineral notes and underbrush, framed by subtle tannins and lively acidity.

 

Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard ‘Acero’ Chardonnay 2015
Russian River Valley 13.5% alcohol

A lovely pale gold, this brims with fresh aromas of sweet woodruff, citrus, pear and quince. Dry, mid-weight, silky yet juicy and lively in texture, this unoaked Chardonnay freshens the palate with flavours of crisp apple, pear and lemon curd, delivering a lasting, tangy finish. Enjoy chilled on its own or with fresh seafood.

 

 

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Dedicated, Passionate Craftsmanship

Located just south of the quaint Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, the Rodney Strong Vineyards tasting room is surrounded by some of the founder’s extensive original vineyards. Not only can you take a self-guided tour, or taste flights of wines on the terrace, Chef Tara Watchee has developed a finely balanced wine and food pairing experience where both components shine. As an example, the lively red fruit flavours of the 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir were complemented by a salad of watermelon, grilled corn, basil, Black Pig bacon, verjus and estate olive oil.

The winery was established in 1959 by acclaimed dancer and dance producer, Rod Strong, who had fallen in love with wine while working in Paris. Under his innovative direction, the winery thrived for over 40 years, achieving milestones such as the first single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Alexander’s Crown – which is still produced to this day. He was one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley, and the first to produce a ‘Chalk Hill’ Chardonnay. As Rod Strong was developing his wines and reputation in Sonoma County and beyond, Tom Klein was pursuing his education and subsequent career as a management consultant. With the long Klein family history and experience in farming, Tom must have seemed the ideal partner to Rod Strong when they established a consulting relationship.

Eventually, the Klein family purchased the winery in 1989, then set about acquiring additional vineyards, so that they now manage 14 outstanding estates encompassing in the order of 1400 acres, all in Sonoma County, ranging from the Alexander Valley in the north out to the Sonoma Coast. The range of vineyards and terroir ties into Tom Klein’s strong belief in the importance of place in winemaking – “Place isn’t the only thing, but place is the most important thing”. Rodney Strong wines are produced using only Sonoma County fruit and are made to Tom Klein’s exacting maxim – NO shortcuts.

With the goal of building a range of premium wines, David Ramey was hired as consultant and the ‘Artisan’ cellar was created, using smaller fermentation tanks to allow for fermentation of select rows of fruit, while additional investments were made in French oak barrels. Experimentation continues and has extended to the purchase of concrete Roman eggs for fermentation, and now to the creation of the square tank cellar, an extraordinary investment. Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld has worked with LaGarde Inox, a unique steel tank producer based in Quebec, to invent, design and produce special 6000 gallon square fermentation tanks. We’ve all seen the standard round steel tanks with dimpled cooling jackets. You may ask, why are these square tanks such an improvement? For one, they use space in the winery much more efficiently, and they have a variety of unique and highly beneficial features. As an example, autumn days are often quite warm in Sonoma County, so harvested grapes arriving from the vineyards may heat up and be at risk of spontaneous fermentation. These tanks were specified to provide more cool surface area to grapes, permitting the rapid cooling of grapes as they arrive from the vineyard – voila, reduced risk of spontaneous fermentation. A specially designed pump aperture ensures the pumped over wine covers the entire breadth of the tank, providing for better contact with the cap. Further, the shape delivers more surface area of juice to cap, providing for better extraction of colour and flavours, more softness and suppleness to the wine (as proven in blind tastings by the Rodney Strong winemaking team and owner Tom Klein). The special polishing process for the insides of the tanks, which was jointly developed by Justin and LaGarde’s engineering team, reduces water consumption for cleaning and sterilization by 50-70% (critical in drought-stricken California). Justin speaks with passion and excitement about the opportunities these tanks provide for him to enhance the quality of Rodney Strong wines, as well as the sustainability of the winery operations. It’s not surprising that this Rodney Strong innovation is now being adopted by numerous other highly reputable wineries in the U.S.

With his family background in farming, Tom Klein is strongly committed to sustainability in the vineyards and the cellar. Environmental protection is an integral part of the organization’s corporate values. Solar panels were installed as early as 2001, and along the way, Rodney Strong Vineyards has developed practices that allow them to be designated Fish-Friendly Farmers. Recently, they became Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery.

We’re fortunate that many Rodney Strong wines find their way through the Vintages program to the LCBO. Many of those wines were tasted during the visit, and I’ve included notes on a few of them below.

 

Rodney Strong ‘Chalk Hill’ Chardonnay 2014
Sonoma County $24.95 (LCBO# 275552) 14.5% alcohol

Notes of tropical fruit and butter, vanilla custard and hints of mineral grace the nose of this wine, produced from fruit grown on the unique volcanic white ash soil of this sub-appellation in the Russian River Valley. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s rich and creamy in texture, yet retains freshness that is a perfect match for the lush flavours of lemon curd, sweet apple and pineapple. The mineral quality is subtly present on the palate, while nuances of warm baking spice linger on the tangy finish. Serve with pasta garnished with shrimp and scallops sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

 

Davis Bynum ‘Jane’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley $ 39.95 (LCBO# 458893) 14.5% alcohol

Davis Bynum is recognized as the first winery to create, in 1973, a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley fruit. Rodney Strong maintains the tradition with this semi-transparent ruby gem. Notes of vanilla and sweet baking spice layer on aromas of ripe cherry/berry, complemented by earthy nuances. Dry, medium bodied, there’s a lovely freshness to the texture, well paired with the wealth of ripe red cherry and plum flavours. Delicate notes of warm spice, vanilla and cedar emerge and linger through the lengthy, tangy finish. Serve with a Provençal salad with duck confit.

Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley $25.95 (LCBO# 954834) 13.9% alcohol

Produced from a blend of fruit from the valley, this approachable wine offers lively aromas of red fruit, hints of earthy roast beetroot, and notions of spice and dried herbs. Dry, light-medium bodied, it’s bright with well-defined acidity and juicy with flavours of red cherry and plum, light hints of smoky oak and spice persisting through the vibrant finish. Serve with cedar-planked salmon.


Rodney Strong ‘Alexander Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Alexander Valley $28.30 (LCBO# 226944) 14.5% alcohol

Showing powerful fruit while retaining a fresh texture, this deep ruby Cabernet offers intense aromas and flavours of black berry, plum and dark chocolate-coated cherry mingling with nuances of dried herbs and earth, while the extended aging in French oak layers on notes of cedar and spice. Dry, full and powerful, the wine is crafted with balance, the supple yet perceptible tannins paired with fine acidity, framing lush ripe dark fruit. Subtle notes of toast and dark chocolate drift across the palate through the lengthy finish. Enjoy now with herbed roast lamb or cellar. (Susan Desjardins)

 

Rodney Strong ‘Symmetry’ Meritage 2012
Alexander Valley $70.95 (LCBO# 641142) 14.5% alcohol

Principally Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Merlot and small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, each varietal is fermented separately with only the best wines used in this blend. Perfumed with floral notes and spice, offering intense fruit aromas, this is a robust well-structured wine designed for cellaring. The firm, defined tannins are a well-crafted foil for the big powerful flavours of cassis and blackberry. Luscious notes of dark chocolate-coated coffee bean and hints of spice and cedar add complexity, persisting through the lengthy dry finish. Cellar or decant the wine, to be served with rare prime rib. (Susan Desjardins)

 

 

 

E.&J. Gallo Winery Estates

We planned visits at two Gallo estates, and then made a quick stop at Louis M. Martini given its long history in the Napa Valley. Although the Gallo family has purchased a number of wineries and vineyards over the years, one of the themes that came through during our visits is their focus on retaining the unique character of the wines produced at each of the estates, while investing in the infrastructure and equipment that will honour and maintain the legacy of the original founders. E.&J. Gallo Winery remains a family business with goals of being a leader in the U.S. wine industry and a leading supplier of California wine internationally.

 

 

 

William Hill Estate Winery

After graduating with a degree in geology in his home state of Oklahoma, Bill Hill headed off to Europe. He fell in love with wine and headed to California on his return, to complete an MBA at Stanford, after which he began working in the Napa Valley. He arrived just after the 1976 Judgement of Paris had vaulted Napa Valley wines to global prominence. Given his interest in wines, he decided to purchase a 200-acre former cattle ranch on the bench lands of the Valley and in 1978, planted his first Chardonnay vines. Bill soon realized that the intense sun and heat on his property scorched the grapes; the initial vines were replaced with red Bordeaux varieties and for several years he sold his grapes to local wineries. In 1990, the winery was built and the first wines branded William Hill Estate Winery were created. Despite his success, Bill decided to sell the winery in 1992, and has since watched its evolution from his nearby home.

In 2007, the estate became a property of the Gallo family, with substantial investments made to upgrade the tasting room as well as the winery itself. Of the 200 acres, 125 are planted to vines, the bulk being Cabernet Sauvignon. William Hill wines are crafted with grapes from the estate on the Silverado Trail, as well as from fruit from vineyards in southern Napa, the Central and North Coasts.

The wines currently available at the LCBO include the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 as well as the 2012 Chardonnay. Since then new 2013 vintage was tasted at the winery, and I expect these wines will be in a Vintages release in 2017, I’ve included my notes below. Tasted at the winery, but not available locally, were the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, with lovely notes of white flowers and fine herbs, tropical fruit and citrus, wrapped in a vibrant texture; the lush ‘Bench Blend’ Chardonnay 2013, the creamy texture balanced with good acidity, infused with lovely flavours of pineapple, tree fruits and lemon vanilla custard; and the opulent ‘Benchland Series’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, a full-bodied powerhouse with robust dark fruit flavours layered on well-integrated oak and velvety tannins.

 

William Hill ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $44.95 (LCBO# 212951) 15.2% alcohol

Deep purple, this Cabernet is aged in French and American oak, a touch of Petite Syrah and Merlot giving added depth and complexity. Perfumed with aromas of ripe red fruit and juicy black berries, it hints at vanilla and sweet spice. Dry, full bodied, the wine displays perceptible yet supple tannins, well-integrated oak that offers notes of cinnamon toast and vanilla and a fresh texture. Bright, lively raspberry, black cherry and berry are fresh on the palate, rushing through the dry, toasty finish. Serve with beef short ribs.

 

William Hill ‘Bench Blend’ Chardonnay 2013
Napa Valley 14.9% alcohol

Blended from fruit from several vineyards, aged in French oak, this elegant Chardonnay offers lifted aromas of tree fruit, citrus and pineapple, vanilla custard infused with sweet spice. Dry, on the full side of medium bodied, the palate is lush with flavours of pear, tangy apple and lemon zest, underpinned with a refined backbone of acidity. The creamy texture and spice bring to mind creme brûlée, while delicate notions of white pepper add warmth to the long finish. Deftly balanced.

 

 

 

Louis M. Martini Estate Winery

There’s an incredible story behind this long-lived winery. The Martini family emigrated to the United States and worked as fishermen on the west coast in the early 20th century. From tasting local grapes, and then making wine for consumption by the family, young Louis M. Martini developed an interest in winemaking and eventually returned to Italy to study winemaking at the University of Alba in Piemonte. By the time he returned to the U.S., Prohibition had come into effect, making it difficult for him to pursue his passion. Nevertheless, since the family had grape holdings, they found ways to use their grapes for the production of sacramental wine, for medicinal use and in legal home winemaking kits.

As it became clear that prohibition was coming to an end in the early 1930s, the family moved its operations from the Central Valley to Sonoma, opening their new winery near St. Helena in 1933, one of the 5 original Napa wineries to be founded after Prohibition. Within 2 years, they had more than doubled production and sales, and in 1936, pioneered the use of temperature-controlled fermentation. The St. Helena site continues to be the base of their operations, and is where Louis M. Martini passed on responsibility for winemaking to his son Louis P. Martini in 1953. Louis P showed great creativity, and has been credited with creating the first wind fan used in the vineyards, with bottling the first single varietal wine – a Merlot (previously, wines were simply blends of the grapes in any given vineyard), and with first experimenting with fermentation in steel tanks. His son, Mike Martini took on responsibility for winemaking in 1974, and continued as winemaker until 2015, seeing the family business through the transition in 2002 to ownership by their friends, the Gallo family. The Martini winery offers an incredible legacy, including vineyards of bush vine Zinfandel planted in the 1880s.

 

Louis M. Martini ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $32.95 (LCBO# 232371) 14.5% alcohol

Opaque ruby with violet highlights, this offers captivating aromas of spiced rose, raspberry and blackberry, with a dash of spice and cedar. Dry, robustly full bodied, the wine offers great fruit intensity balanced by a fresh texture and soft tannins. Long and dry on the finish, this is an approachable, well-crafted wine offering great value.

 

 

J Vineyards

J Vineyards is the legacy of Judy Jordan, who grew up in her family’s vineyards in the Alexander Valley. Determined to travel her own road, she studied geophysics at Stanford University and, in 1986, bought an old prune factory and some surrounding acreage with the idea of making sparkling wine. Her first method traditionelle wine was released in 1991. Due to her success with sparkling wines – and despite the naysayers – she decided to beginning making still wines- Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – the first of which was released in 1994.

Unfortunately, the great Russian River flood of 1995 completely destroyed her entire operation and inventory. Determined to re-establish her business, she purchased the current property in Sonoma County in 1996, completing the winery in 1999. The site includes a remarkable ‘tear drop’ shaped vineyard which includes 20 clones of Pinot Noir on a half acre, allowing the winemakers to experiment with blending. The site also includes the Cooper vineyard, planted with Pinot Gris, and the Backdoor vineyard, home to Pinotage. The balance of the 200 acre estate properties are spread throughout the Russian River Valley.

After years of successful production, and having sold grapes for many years to the Gallo family, Judy retired from the business and took advantage of her established relationship to sell J Vineyards to the Gallo family in 2015.

At J Vineyards, we tasted the Brut Rose, composed of 66% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier, a clean, fresh wine showing a delicate and persistent mousse and lovely subtle notes of red fruit. The Cuvée 20 is an almost equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, again with the 1% Pinot Meunier, offering nuances of butter pastry, fresh citrus and tree fruit, the characteristic creamy, lasting mousse, and a lovely touch of pithiness through the finish. The Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is composed from the fruit of 12 different clones from 4 vineyards. It’s a dry, mid-weight wine with classic cherry cola aromas and flavours complemented by attractive notes of warm spice and toast from French oak barrel aging.

 

The only wine tasted and currently available from the LCBO is:

J Vineyards Chardonnay 2013
Russian River Valley $31.75 (LCBO# 418236) 14.3% alcohol

Produced from estate grown fruit, aged in French oak (30% new) , this wine offers lovely tropical and tree fruit aromas, hints of citrus, sweet spice and vanilla. Dry, medium bodied, the creamy texture brings to mind vanilla custard, lemon curd with a dash of zest, and ripe tree fruit. The wine retains its freshness and offers a touch of warm spice through the flavourful finish. Serve with roast lemon rosemary chicken.

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If I only had $100…I would buy at LCBO Vintages

Posted by Julie

Monday, November 30th, 2015
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Holiday Finery has hit the LCBO Vintages shelves…and you all know what that means. Finally you can head out for one-stop Christmas shopping at Vintages.  The choices are vast: from single barrel rye whisky to Champagne cognac to Far Niente Estate Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from the Napa Valley at $196.95 a bottle, there is something for everyone. I was afraid to taste the super- Tuscan, Sassicaia 2012 at $199.95 a bottle, in case it would leave me in a state of nirvana when I had other wine to taste. In any case, you get the drift.

There’s also an exceptional display of Ontario Icewine from proud producers such as Cave Springs, Henry of Pelham, Inniskillen and Chateau des Charmes; I wanted to put them all in my basket and who wouldn’t want to receive any of these as a gift? Some of these were bottled in 2014, remember how cold is was last winter?

But if you are looking for some variety for your Christmas dinner feast, for $100.00 the below choices are my promise of bringing interest and a variety to the table. These selections are MY finest!

Cheers,
Julie

 

If I had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…
Saturday November 28, 2015

 

Miravel Rose 2014Miraval Rosé 2014

AP Côtes de Provence
$22.95 (Vintages #342584) 13% alcohol

Don’t ever think that Rosé is just a summer drink. Hollywood icons Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own the winery and estate Château Miraval, even though there is no reference to either of them on the label.

This is a classic French style Rosé, pale salmony pink in colour that is as pretty to look at as it is to drink. Fresh floral aromas waft from the glass, classy and elegant, fresh and well-balanced, loaded with wild strawberry and ripe pear flavours, some tangerine and other citrus at the end. It’s a great match with phyllo appetizers as the acidity in the wine cuts through any buttery richness. I also love to serve rosé with turkey and this beautiful bottle is worthy to sit on the finest of linen. Just watch me!

 

Santa Carolina Gran Reserva ChardonnaySanta Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay

Casablanca Valley, Chile
$15.95 (Vintages #928580) 13.5% alcohol

While not new to Vintages, some wines are like old friends. If you haven’t picked one up for awhile when you taste it, it’s like you never parted. Such is this well-made solid Chardonnay with a lovely seam of acidity that balances perfectly the baked apples and buttered toast flavours from start to finish. Lately, I have been paying close attention to Chilean wines, generally there’s lots of value packed wine in the popular price range (well, mine) and they don’t disappoint. This is a versatile crowd pleaser with any white meats, pasta or just on its own with some toasted nuts. (surprise your company and warm up the nuts, you’ll get lots of oooh’s). This tried and true white wine is in my basket.

Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2012Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2012

DO Camp de Borja, Spain
$33.95 (Vintages #173211) 15.5% alcohol

This is a monster wine ! Inky, with “legs”, (winespeak for the lovely streaks on the side of a glass after you swirl) the aromas deserve a big bowl glass to savour the power. Dark berries, dried blueberries tease the nose and the palate bursts with the rich flavours of 100% Grenache grapes aged in some French and American oak. A red wine silky and layered with some cocoa or mocha on the very long fruit finish. Some licorce, cassis, black currants persist throughout the lingering moments of escape. Just close your eyes.

Aside from its’ enormous structure, it is beautiful table bling with a label that looks like it came straight from the Prado, the largest art gallery in Spain. Worth the splurge for the season.

 

Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest RieslingCave Spring Indian Sunmer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$24.95 (Vintages # 415901) 12.5% alcohol

Luscious, ripe pears and apples with a hint of citrus and minerality on the finish. There’s a little marmalade in the palate and lots of lemon-lime in the aftertaste that makes you salivate for one more sip. Smooth and creamy it’s one yummy wine to complete dinner with style.

 

GRAND TOTAL – $97.80

 

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If I only had $100…I would buy at LCBO Vintages

Posted by Julie

Friday, October 16th, 2015
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I’m not sure about the rest of you but I find my $100 does not go nearly as far as what it used to. Wine inflation, or is it that my opportunity to taste many products is getting the better of me?

LCBO Magazine Oct 17The LCBO Vintages release of October 17 focuses on Barolo (Italy) and Napa (California) full-bodied wines at full-bodied prices. The reasons are varied from the outstanding property value where the grapes are harvested, to the methodology spent by the winemakers in producing such rich full-bodied wines.

Having just returned from Ireland, I was a little squeezed for cash for this month, but I am very pleased in offering three 3 great whites, a port and a red ruby with my last $100.00. and just a little change. Perhaps still on holiday mode, I overspent but not by much.

Slàinte,
Julie

 

If I had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…
Saturday October 17, 2015

Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009

Unfiltered, DOP
$21.95 (Vintages #87551) 20% alcohol

THE SCOOP: I had forgot how delicious this Port can taste, talk about desert! It is like a liquified Christmas cake with a little chocolate on top. How is that for a tasting note? Aromas of caramel, toasted nuts and raisin pie, some ripe blackberry, creamy and luscious on the palate with loads of volume. The long, smooth, slightly peppery finish trickles warmly down the throat sending you back for one more sip, oh my it’s good. I hate to use an old cliché, but with some stinky strong cheese it is a match made in heaven.

 

Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2013Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2013

Napa Valley, California
$23.95 (Vintages #225342) 14.2% alcohol

THE SCOOP: For those of my friends who love a big full-bodied Chard., this one is for you.

The melange of tropical fruit is over the top, reminiscent of my baked pear and peach crisp with some toasted almonds. It’s creamy and buttery with concentrated caramel and vanilla on the lengthy finish. Not for the faint of heart, this Napa-style classic white wine has loads of finesse. It could easily stand up to a bbq’d steak or with some grilled swordfish or salmon.

 

Creekside Reserve Viognier 2013Creekside Reserve Viognier 2013

VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula
$26.95 (Vintages #264168) 13.5% alcohol

THE SCOOP: A sensational Viognier and only 150 cases, so put it on your list. Delivers layers of soft tropical fruits, ripe yellow apple and peaches, wild honey, and a touch of spice. Ever so slightly off- dry but with a perfect seam of citrus acidity to round it out. Beautifully balanced, medium weight, smooth as silk and one taste keeps you coming back for more. Serve it slightly chilled and don’t spoil it with food – there’s just too much goodness in this bottle.

 

Zolo Torrontés 2014Zolo Torrentés 2014

Mendoza, Argentina
$14.95 (Vintages #183913) 13.8 % alcohol

THE SCOOP: Bright pale yellow bursting with a field of white flower aromas mingled with lychee and lemon-lime zest. Clean and fresh on the palate, lots of citrusy fruit flavours, a lovely zip of acidity with a tantalizing zippy finish. It would be fabulous with chicken Alfredo, lemon linguine, fish and chips or a lovely sipper on its own. One great price-point for a value packed wine.

 

3 Rings Shiraz 20133 Rings Shiraz 2013

Barossa Valley, Australia
$18.95 (Vintages #15495) 15.2% alcohol

THE SCOOP: Huge dark fruit fruit; blackberries and blueberries, a little cassis and some green pepper at the end. One solid Shiraz with fine tannins underlying all the berry flavours ending in a peppery dried fruit finish. This beauty has length and depth. With some lamb burgers or chops it would be lip-smacking.There’s a lot of wine here for that price point.

 

 

GRAND TOTAL – $ 106.75 (oops)

 

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Need wine for Thanksgiving turkey or ham? Here’s a wine shopping list

Posted by Julie

Thursday, October 10th, 2013
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Around about two years ago, my husband Doug  &  I celebrated – we are both Savvy Sommeliers – our anniversary in Napa Valley in California.  You can imagine how excited I was when I saw that the LCBO Vintages release for October 13 features wines from Napa – it couldn’t have been timed better!  What caught my attention when reading the various reviews of the featured Napa wines, were the recurring wine critics comments about the region’s slope of the vineyards and climate.

The hilly ups & downs of growing grapes in Napa Valley

The Napa valley is a relatively small wine region but has huge temperature variables. This is on account of the San Pablo Bay and valleys that run east-west forming wind tunnels for wind and fog drawn in off the Pacific. The mountains also block cold winds and shield the grapes so that they can ripen. Winegrowers prefer north-facing slopes so the ripening process is slowed and lengthened and the grapes do not get sunburned. Not surprisingly, wines will be strikingly different from grapes grown at 2500 feet from those grown at 500 feet. Winegrowers have to cope with 3 different climates in the valley – might this challenge alone affects the steep prices of Napa wines?

Micro-climates of Burgundy & Piedmont

Moving away from California, this release features wines from Burgundy (France) and Piedmont (Italy), wine regions considered to have micro-climates. Similar to California, viticulturists (winespeak: grape growers) plant vines on southern facing hilly slopes to increase the vigour in growth for leaves & shoots. Leaves are critical for creating sugar in the grapes and also provide a canopy from the intense sun. Two of Italy’s most renowned wines – Barolo & Barbaresco – come from Piedmont and one wine in this release for the big splurge is the Pertinace Nervo Barbaresco 2009 at $39.95 (Vintages# 344705). This wine comes from the village of Treiso which has the highest vineyard sites in Barbaresco and the altitude has given the region the reputation of creating finessed Barbaresco.

Gobble Gobble!

With Thanksgiving feasts this weekend, I have purposely selected wines that I think would be fabulous to serve with turkey or glazed ham. These wines will be in my shopping basket & will be enjoyed at our Thanksgiving table.

Cheers & Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family!

Julie

 

William Hill Chardonnay 2012

Napa, California, U.S.A.
$27.95  (Vintages # 988840)  13.7% alcohol

These grapes are grown in a vineyard set on benchland off the valley floor located along the unspoiled Silverado Trail. The hills have southwestern exposure to allow the grapes to bask in abundant sunlight.  I am back in love with Chardonnay, time for a change from all the Rosés and Sauvignon Blancs that I have been sipping all summer. This white wine is pale golden in colour with aromas of baked pears and nuts. For those who like to match  buttery spuds and gravy on turkey breast with a full bodied white wine, this Chardonnay is meant for you. Rich, delicious and creamy with tropical fruit flavours and faint vanilla sweet spice on the finish. A fresh, elegant Chardonnay for any occasion.

 

Cygnus Brut Nature Reserva Cava

DO, Spain, Méthode Champenoise
$19.95 (Vintages # 352856)  11.5% alcohol

A big broad citrusy nose that bursts of bubbles, and teases the palate. This sparkling wine is so fresh and will make a wonderful appertif before the big bird!  Tastes of green apples and lemons, white grapefruit with a hint of minerality and stone. Very refreshing, and could easily take you from appertif through to pumpkin pie.

 

Angel’s Gate Riesling VQA 2010

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$13.95 (Vintages #160523) 12% alcohol

A glimmery pale coloured white wine to serve with appetizers or to complement a Thanksgiving table. I think all Angel’s Gate wines are heavenly! Aromas and flavours are slightly floral, minerally, soft and slightly spritzy. Slightly off-dry, but more of the latter, with nice stone fruit tastes. A classic Niagara Riesling white wine that makes a perfect appertif, or afternoon sipper.

 

 

Heitlinger Mellow Silk Pinot Noir 2011

Qualitatswein, Germany
$16.95 (Vintages#344697)   13.5 % alcohol

Of all the wines in this release, I am most especially excited about this red wine. I would never think of Germany as Pinot Noir country, nor does this tend to be my go to grape, however I wanted a red wine for our Thanksgiving dinner and this Pinot Noir will be perfect.  A lovely light cherry red in colour with aromas of dark toast and raspberry.  Plenty of red berry fruit and they don’t put “SILK” in the name of this wine for show. It is silky smooth and mellow with slightly grippy tannins but easy sipping. I think I will throw a few dried mushrooms in my turkey stuffing to enhance this match.  This is a very pretty Pinot at this amazing price.

 

Chateau De Saint-Lager Brouilly 2011

AC, France
$19.95 (Vintages 330027)   13% alcohol

The Beaujolais region is located in east central France and although qiute distinct is considered a part of Burgundy. This Beaujolais is red raspberry in colour, medium weight flavours of red berries, pinch floral, light cassis, a little tart with just enough acidity to cut through rich foods. This light to medium bodied red wine has some spicey depth with personality and an excellent choice for the folks out there who prefer red wine with their Thanksgiving feast. There is a certain delicacy but this red wine is smooth, refined and refreshingly long.

 

Grand Total: $ 98.75

 

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We’re heading west to San Fran & Napa

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
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In Denver, as well as San Francisco, we had several opportunities to meet Canadians who had decided to work south of the 49th parallel. An interesting conversation was particularly had when we met Marcy Grossman – Canadian Consul General in Denver (centre left in black & white) who during her career, has been posted in various Canadian consulates throughout the US. During our meeting, we learned about how these consulates are an instrumental resource referring and assisting Canadian businesses to create business relationships with American companies. “We can help vet and find appropriate American businesses in the various regions to work with,” Marcy explains. “$1.9 billion of trade crosses the Canada-US border.  And over 8 millions jobs in the US rely on trade with Canada”. Marcy highlighted that in Colorado there are 100+ Canadian and internationally owned business including Suncor, EnCana, Great West Life, Molsons Coors, Agrium & Enerplus.

Each consulate has a list of priority industry sectors.  In Denver, Marcy explained that they are:

  • North America Energy Security (pipeline, tar sands, etc)
  • Border Security
  • Agriculture and Trade Policies
  • Trade issues affecting competition

You can see the Rolex flipping in Marcy’s head as we explained the nature of our businesses. Without a beat, Marcy offered to make introductions, send useful documents and provide connections to firms that she and her team has existing relationships. What an incredible resource.  Marcy was ready to help in every way.

We then peeled back the Canadian flag (figuratively) and turned the tables to ask Marcy about personal experiences about being a Canadian businesswoman working in the US. Afterall, for the past 2 weeks we have been exposed to all of the resources and initiatives that the American government has geared towards growing women entrepreneurs in their country. Finally we had the opportunity to talk with another Canadian businesswoman & were curious of her perspective from a Canadian point of view. Let’s just say, we could have spent hours more with Marcy. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

Always a place at the dinner table…

Each city we visited, the 6 of us had the opportunity to meet an even further extension of people and to experience non-business setting. We all remarked about the unexpected kindness and generosity of the people in each city who opened their own homes for us and welcomed us for dinner and great conversations. All done completely voluntarily through their affiliation with the US Institute of International Education program office their respective city.

Not only did we enjoy this personal connection, I was inspired and in return, I will look into doing the same for international visitors to Ottawa. Thank you to whose who set a spot for me at your table – Anar & Todd in San Jose (Anar is seated 2nd from left & Todd is in back row), Roy & Laurie (in Denver), Marty (in Kansas City) and Katrina (in Austin)….and their friends who joined us at the table too. While the food on the table was good, it was the people in the chairs that were most memorable.

Go west young ladies, go west!

While Denver was fascinating and held many more opportunities and ventures to experience, San Francisco awaits! After nearly a week in Denver, we re-packed our luggage one last time and headed west to enter into another time zone and to see the western most coast.

I have visited to San Francisco several times for both fun as well as for wine related work. It is such a dynamic city, I was looking forward to see what San Francisco Institute of International Education had arranged for us. Their itinerary covered a lot of freeways and certainly did not leave much free time to explore this fantastic city. We’ll be back!

During our entire trip we have been trying to land dinner in Chinatown. We promised ourselves (and Amina as it was her birthday) that when we arrive in San Fran, it was the first thing we’d do. True to that plan, I asked the concierge at Park 55 Hotel not for his recommendations, rather for the Chinese restaurant he goes to. “The Capital on Clay Street has the best food and has the best chicken wings – hands down!” I was surprised by this comment, yet claims of San Francisco’s best wings was proudly plastered on the front door and the cover of the menu. And so…when in Rome, do as the Romans do…we ordered a plate of these mysterious wines along with an array of interesting Chinese dishes. Every mouthful was loaded with fresh ingredients, fish and spices. Delish!

Lending a hand to grow a business

The meetings in San Fran & the Bay area were different from the other cities. We were invited into businesses focused on kick starting small businesses, primarily for immigrants.

We met with Opportunity Fund (located in Silicon Valley) to learn how they help small ‘Ma and Pa’ businesses in the Bay area from dry cleaners to taxi cab drivers with microlending. With their regional, they are providing loans mainly to Hispanics – 55% are women, and 42% are under 35 years old. “We are the first stop BEFORE they go to the bank for a loan”, explained Devin McAlpine.

From there, we met with Joanne Gan at Kiva to learn about the impact of ‘crowd funding’ – individuals like you and me offering a minimum of $25 to an emerging business in a different corner of the world. They are currently lending $400 million by means of 800,000 lenders (aka you & me) around the world supporting budding entrepreneurs with uber low interest rates. “We are a website that provides connections to people with money to people who are looking for ways to make money” explained Joanne. And wandering around their open space office, Kiva demonstrated a novel workspace format that those of us from the east would coin as ‘very west coast’. Lots of photos were taken to remind us that a cube farm does not nurture a successful business.

Leaving the cheque book behind, we then moved away from lending funds to lending space in a commercial kitchen with our visit to La Cocina. This is an incubator kitchen primarily for immigrants to create unique foods from their homeland in a certified FDA kitchen with the goal to grow into a new business venture. Complete with all of the industrial kitchen equipment you can imagine, professional development courses and business coaching as well as a dedicated team focused on creating opportunities (farmers markets, catering, festivals) their culinary creations to sell. We were all impressed us with the commitment to create both the push and pull to help build a community of new businesses, or as renown business author & blogger Seth Godin would call it – a tribe.

We were interested midst of other communities at work when we visited the beautiful campus of Standford University. ‘It is so invigorating to be amongst young people learning’, Fiona mentioned as she looked around the campus & outdoor patio. Known as one of the most expensive universities in the US, I could not help myself from imagining what some of these young 20 somethings aspire to do once they graduated.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Throughout my high tech career, rarely did a day go by when Silicon Valley goes unmentioned at the watercooler. In previous trips, I had driven past San Jose, but never stopped. This time, we arrived at our meeting earlier than planned, so we walked around the streets of San Jose and soaked up some California rays.

This Silicon Valley mecca that creates vibrant minds, innovative technologies and millionaires overnight was surprisingly dull and run down. Certainly there were corporate towers and campuses with familiar logos, but the main street lacked energy while the retail & restaurants were stagnate. Strange. The downtown core seemed to be somewhat ghost town, while surrounded by highrise corporate empires with logos of household names.

An afternoon in Napa with meetings of a different pace

Other flipside, in my wine career, Napa is the iconic mecca and I was thrilled that our last afternoon was dedicated to visiting the boutique wineries of Ceja Vineyards and St Supery Winery. Both businesses have a woman at helm. These two wineries are making an impression both locally as well as internationally with their wines. While for the past weeks, our meetings have been in boardrooms with death-by-Powerpoint slidedecks (ok, not that bad – it is just an expression!), I was excited to show the other ladies what a meeting in my wine world involved: sampling wines with the winery owner, talking about vintages, rambling through vineyards and visiting cellars.

Our tour was organized by Napa’s newest business (owned by 3 women no less!) – Verve Napa Valley Tours. First stop: Family run Ceja Vineyards where owner Amelia Ceja was holding down the fort at the tasting bar while juggling other buying clients. In contrast, our meeting at St Supery was in a private room overlooking 2200 oak barrels aging something amazing. Each meeting provided an educational & personalized tasting peppered with stories about the history of the business,  commercial growth along with mentions of the significant buildings on the estate …and whatever else came to mind over a glass of wine!

In keeping with our mantra to ‘go local’ at each city, I succumbed (yes, me of all people!) and the others too purchased some of our favorite Napa wines. These wines had connection to our tour and will be savoured & shared with those back home to remind us of our brief visit to experience first hand how California wine industry grows.

What? It’s done!?!?

Just like the day we started, we boarded our bus & conversations about our experience kept us entertained all the way back to San Fran. The only difference from before, was that was the end of our scheduled itinerary. Our last appointment. Our last day. Weird…our IVLP trip was done.

3 weeks and 5 cities with 6 phenomenal women had come to a close. It felt odd. The day that followed felt even more empty, as we departed at different times to back to our home city. Fiona left a day early as she was already booked for a vacation with her son in Mexico. Amina switched to an airport hotel to catch her 5am flight (which she did not make in the end). I set my alarm for 4:30am to surprise & see Nancy, Jennifer & Stephanie off, then went back to bed before getting ready for my flight at 10am.

Waiting for me in the lobby was Johnsy (middle row with black hat) – our US State Department representative – who was with us every step of the way – literally.  Johnsy made sure that we were always on schedule and stayed together. Thank you Johnsy for making sure that the trip went as smoothly as it did. I knew that you did so much more behind the scenes than you let on. Coincidentally, that once she was no longer watching over us, flights were delayed or missed & bags were lost. We all mentioned in email threads afterwards ‘where was Johnsy when we needed her?’

The best part of going away…is coming home

This saying is true of any holiday or time away from family for business travel. This trip was different though. While we arrived as strangers with a simple common thread of being Canadian, the experience that the US Embassy in Canada and the US State Department offered us by hand selecting the six of us to be part of their IVLP delegation focused on Women Entrepreneurs & Trade provided me personal growth, education that I probably haven’t realized its fullest impact yet, along with countless connections (not to mention a brick of business cards), and a greater appreciation for the importance of women being involved in growing the economy by starting their own businesses or breaking the glass ceiling – in any industry.

No post-trip report was required to be filed back to the US Embassy, rather I wrote this blog & tweeted as a way to give you a glimpse of my daily experiences as a proud women entrepreneur from Canada on the IVLP. Within days of my return, an email found its way into my inbox announcing that I was now an IVLP alumni and that there were still more connections and resources available in the months and years to come. The whirlwind trip may be done, yet the rest is only beginning.

In fact, last week, I had a quick voicemail from Amina saying that she was coming to Ottawa for a meeting the following day. I was excited to see her again! Picking her up at the station, we feverishly caught up all within 15 minutes while I drove her to her meeting. Little small talk was made and it was great to see her in her element….and later in the day, I found her ‘Afrique Expansion’ brochure left in the back seat of my car. She is definitely a businesswoman who never stops!

I imagine that this will be the way it is between the 6 of us now on. A friendly phone call to say hello, a tweet about an interesting tidbit or a group email to share the latest family or work news. I know that while we are spread across the country we will be inseparable.  We will always be there for each other. What a cool feeling to have of a group of women I had a hard time keeping track of their names less than a month ago.

Efforts to make plans to get together or arrange a quick rendez-vous when our travels brings us to our home cities of Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg or Prince George. Whatever may be the reason that our paths cross again, one thing is for certain, I have wonderful friends and business advisors who I can reach out to at anytime.

A million thanks!

Thank you to those at the US Embassy and US State Department who nominated and selected me to be part of the International Visitor Leadership Program featuring Women Entrepreneurs and Trade. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that you have created for me and look forward to those that are still to come.

With a glass of California wine in hand, I raise a glass to all of the people involved in making our trip memorable.  Cheers to you!
-Debbie

OK….so what is our combined shoe & luggage count now?

Total number of checked luggage: 12 pieces – increased now to include a case of wine from Napa – guess who that belongs to? 
Total number of shoes & boots between the 6 of us: 42 pairs total
Weight of each piece of luggage: well, we all ‘hovered’ at the airlines’ maximum 50lb mark per suitcase

Quotable quote & bloopers

Let’s just say that there are many inside jokes, stories and expressions that “will stay on the road”.

Continue to follow us on Twitter:

While we are not tweeting about our trip, we invite you continue to follow us on Twitter as we will be talking about #IVLP and the trip for a long time to come!
• @savvydebbie (me)
• @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
• @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
• @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
• @amigerba (Amina Gerba)
…while Stephanie had all of the latest tech gadgets in her purse, she never really got ‘onto’ Twitter…we’re still working on her!

 

What our fortunes say…

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