Posts Tagged ‘Natalie MacLean’

Dear Debbie…Answering your questions about wine

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Corks were continuously popping last week with non-stop celebrations on all around Ottawa.  Restaurant birthdays (congrats Atelier on 4 years!), Savvy Company marked 10 years in business, Unquenchable, the book by Ottawa writer Natalie MacLean was honoured at the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards and the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival had record breaking attendance and back-to-back delicious events!

Throughout the week, I was asked many interesting questions that I am sharing with you in a ‘Dear Abby’ style.  Send me your wine related questions to and I will publish them in this column.

Don’t be shy!


Dear Debbie….
What wines did you discover at the Ottawa Food and Wine Festival?

From Wanna a Wine Tip


Dear Wanna a Wine Tip,

I went on Sunday (tip – no crowds or line up then) and was on the hunt for wines I have heard of, but never actually tried.  Some highlights:

Yellow Tail Pink Bubbles (Australia) – crisp, dry, pretty in the glass. I can see why this sparkling rosé won a medal.

Stanner Vineyard Chardonnay (Prince Edward County) – O.M.G… Delicious!  Truth be told, I went back to their booth several times for a top up of this beautifully crafted oaky wine that reminded me of Cracker Jack – caramel crunch popcorn.  Decadent. I even posed for the Style Magazine cameras with a bottle of it in my hand (and Savvy Cheese Sommelier Vanessa was at the photo shoot with a round of Québec cheese!)

Lailey Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot (Niagara) – Only available at restaurants – all the more reason for a night out.  Promise me that you’ll look for it (or request it!) – it’s the only way you will get another chance to enjoy this big, bold & smooth red wine from Niagara.

PS – my favorite food discovery…chocolate cheese made by renowned Chef Clark Day fromKingston.  Now I have yet another reason for quick trip to K-town!


Dear Debbie…
Lots of winemakers were talking about 2012 being the best harvest ever.  When will the wines be ready to buy?

From Ready to Shop

Dear Ready to Shop,
I too have heard the same thing about this year’s stellar harvest. Now with all of the grapes picked (except for icewine as it has not been cold enough), the juice is fermenting in stainless steel tanks in the winery cellars.  White wines are usually ready to be bottled and sold the following spring – watch for white wines in April and May 2013.  Red wines typically need more time.  Usually, reds are released in the summer/fall or the following year. My tip, when you see a Canadian wine with 2012 on the label, stock up quick.  It’ll be a sure bet – I’ll put my money on it!


Dear Debbie…
I’m confused.  I saw many labels with the word Meritage – what is it?

From Label Looker

Dear Label Looker,

Ever had a Bordeauxwine from France?  Meritage is the same thing (but not from France) – a blend of any proportion of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes to make a medium to full bodied red wine.  The word Meritage (pronounced to rhyme with Heritage) is the term the wine industry outside ofFrance established to refer to the same blend of grapes as used to make Bordeaux wines.  Like Champagne, wineries from the renowned Bordeaux region of France will put Bordeaux on their label.  The rest of the wine world uses ‘Meritage’.  Hope this isn’t too confusing!

Dear Debbie…
When a wine goes on sale, is the wine still OK?

From Dollars and Cents

Dear Dollars and Cents,

You may have noticed that wines don’t often go ‘on sale’. When they do, it is usually because the winery has remaining inventory and they want to move it to make room for the next vintage that is ready to be enjoyed.  Certainly the discounted wine is fine to drink. In fact, it is usually at its prime, so it is a good idea to stock up and drink up!  In the wine world, wine on sale is called ‘Bin Ends’.  If you are looking for a good deal on wine, Savvy Bin Ends has a different Ontario wine ‘on sale’ every 2 weeks. Check it out OR email me on to be the first to get the inside scoop on deals and discounts.





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!



Savvy Friends & Links

Posted by Debbie

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Not only do our Savvy Sommeliers give you tips on good wines….count on us for tips on good web sites, blogs, authors and widgets that we find helpful in all things involving wine and food.


Award winning Wine & Food Writers…

Natalie MacLean – author of Red, White & Drunk all Over
Be sure to download her Food & Wine pairing matcher widget for your Blackberry or iPhone. Very useful…and fun too!

Tony Aspler – the Wine Guy
Reading all of the content on his web site, one wonders if Tony ever sleeps?  His ever popular ‘Wine Lovers Diary’ gives you insight to life as an acclaimed wine critic & wine writer. Tony makes it all look too easy!

Vic Harradine – author of Wine Current
Vic always has a pen & pad in one hand with a glass of wine in the other.  He reviews every wines at LCBO & Vintages

Ron Eade – Omnivore Ottawa Blog
Ron has a pulse on Ottawa’s food scene.  His blog is one of the top sites read on the Ottawa Citizen online – make it your resource to what is going on in Ottawa.

Rod Philips – author of The 500 Best value wines at the LCBO 2009
Rod’s monthly newsletter – Worlds of Wine give you insight on wine industry issues, news on wineries and winemakers dotted with wine tips.


There’s wine in your mailbox…

VINES Magazine
Editor Christopher Waters & team of wine writers constantly taste and review wines.  In addition to their articles about all things wines, the Buyers Guides help you to create a (long) shopping list of wines to try.


Wine Access Magazine
Each month, this magazine takes you on wine soaked journeys across Canada and to every corner of the wine world to meet winemakers, chefs & wine industry personalities.


Chefs & their talents…

Mary G’s Artisan Breads
It is easy for Jim to make you fall in love with homemade bread all over again! His trick: it is all in the equipment – his traditional woodfired brick ovens.  His seminars will convert you!

Chop Chop Catering
Call on Ken to be your personal chef or to offer fun cooking classes in your home.


Savvy places to shop…

CA Paradis
Drop by the store and ask for Diane Paradis to provide you insight on buying Riedel wine glasses and stylish decanters…or to simply ooh and ahhh over her wine cellars & fridges.  
TIP: bring your knives and they will sharpen them while you shop for wine accessories 

Wine Cellar Solutions
To buy a wine fridge? Or to build a wine cellar?  This big decision is easy when you call on Louis Titley to take you through your options or bring his team of professionals in to build a custom walk in wine cellar for your home.


Wine shows to add into your calendar…

Ottawa Wine & Food Show
THE wine show in Ottawa – don’t miss it!  Our team of Savvy Sommeliers organize the details of the wine competition – Cellars of the World – associated with the show.  We will see you there!

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival
The wine world comes to this event each year…and so does Savvy Company! There are seminars, tastings, lunches, dinners and a tasting room of 200+ wineries from every corner of the world.  Call on our Savvy Sommeliers to help you determine what to do at this festival. 


Wine clubs that the Savvy Team are members!

iYellow Wine Club of Toronto
The iYellow Wine Club is a free social wine club based in Toronto with exciting wine events, wine tours and monthly newsletters.

National Capital Sommelier Guild
Established for over 20 years, this member-run organisation located in Ottawa has numerous wine events for those serious about wines.  After each of the Savvy Sommeliers graduated, we joined this club to help keep a pulse on the latest releases of wines and to network with other Sommeliers and those in the hospitality industry.


We will continue to compile this list of Savvy Friends & useful links.  Bookmark this page…and share your tips too!


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