Andrea Writing About Wine

 In This Section:

A Cellar Full Of Great Grill Buddies

What Am I Looking For In My Wine Today

Giving Wine As A Great Gift

Screw Cap Wines Are Great For Summer Months

A Cellar Full Of Great Grill Buddies
   originally published May 9th, The Northern View

It is bbq weather and the smell of the propane or charcoal grill is infectious – it fills the neighbourhood and gets a bunch of other grillers around to follow suit.  Whether its burgers and corn, steaks or soft shell crab – the grill seems to make everything taste better on a sunny afternoon.  In preparation of what will be many a summer menu made on the grill you might want to think about starting a little collection of reds and whites to have ready to go for an impromptu grill session.

The white wines I often look to first when I fire up the bbq are Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.  If I’m thinking white wine when I’m grilling it’s because I’m probably firing up some fish or shrimp and some veggies like corn or asparagus.  Of course I’m using lots of butter too – that’s why I love Chardonnay; it has this great ability to cut through fat and stand up to the saltiness of butter.  Chardonnays that have spent time in oak are particularly nice because of their oaky characteristics and subtle smoke and vanilla notes that can develop.  Sauvignon Blancs also do well alongside a bbq prepared meal; the grassy, field hay qualities that dominate big Sauvignon Blancs show lots of fresh summer air resemblances and seem so appropriate as a bbq partner.

When it comes to red wines and the grill you almost can’t go wrong.  A few of my particular favorites are Australian Shiraz, Californa Cabernets and Argentinian Malbecs [and if you can’t tell, I have an affinity for new world wines].  I enjoy the black pepper that makes its way to the front of the show when Australian Shiraz is paired with grilled meats.  California Cabernets are perfect grill partners; this warm climate red has big earthy flavours and medium tannins that match well with juicy beef cuts.  Besides being extremely well priced, Argentinian Malbecs are wonderful beside gamey meats, seared pork and sauced back ribs.

Here are a couple of wines to keep an eye out for;

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – 13.0% alc/vol [Australia]
A flinty fresh scent of pineapple and grass.  A nice amount of acidity on the tounge that almost feels like your sipping a sparkling.  The flavours are gentle and not too overwhelming, a bit of apple and sweet orange.  Great for grilled vegetables and lightly dressed salads.  84/100 

Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – 13.5% alc/vol [Central Coast, California]
A rich red fruit smell with ripe plum, blackberry and smokey rhubarb.  A hint of foxiness in the aroma makes this wine rather interesting.  Flavours are positively delicious, with pronounced berries upfront and rich oak with a bit of dryness at the end.  This would be a good pairing for chocolate and a dessert course.  The fruit will also pair nicely with burgers or bison.  84/100

What Am I Looking For In My Wine Today
   originally published May 23rd, The Northern View

I can say that I really don’t like the self proclaiming label, the one that toots its own horn and throws out all kinds of flashy words, jargon and trendy terms that are there by design to make you buy.  I care about this bottle, the one in my hand, the one I am about to drink that I want to be wonderful.

It doesn’t matter if there is a legacy of great wine before me, it doesn’t matter if the wine – the winery – and the maker are all new to the block; it does matter how the wine was created, treated, shipped and marked up.  I want to see value and quality, I want to find something pleasant, depthful and complex.  I want to find something that makes a little smile creep up in the corner of my mouth.  I want something that matches with food, that drinks well on its own and a wine that still leaves me feeling great in the morning.

All that really matters when it comes to wine is that you find something that you enjoy.  I have times where I like to experiment, I don’t want wines that I have tried before, I want to see something completely new.  This is fun for me at times checking out the new stuff, but I also have days where I really want something I know and like – I don’t want surprises and I really don’t want to open something that I don’t enjoy or isn’t appropriate for the meal I’m eating.

Not too surprising, this week I am highlighting two beautiful wines; the first wine was a great find during a recent experimental phase, and the second wine is one that I have been enjoying for a while, one with no surprises and very consistent quality.

Jacobs Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvee – 11.5% alc/vol [Australia]
A rich straw yellow colour in the glass for this true champagne method sparkling white from Australia.  A popping nose filled with lush bread and butter notes along with a pleasant green apple backbone.  There are lovely flavours of yeast, lemon juice and corn husk.  A simple straw like finish closes out this wine.  Accented nicely with summer strawberries, sharp cheese or oysters Rockafeller.  94/100

Piat D’or Merlot – 13.5% alc/vol [France]
A fruity nose of raspberries and a bit of heat that is minty.  Flavours are very tame with mild fruits and oak, a small amount of dryness – nothing stand out or exceptional here, but it is a good run of the mill value brand.  78/100

Giving Wine As A Great Gift
   originally published June 20th, The Northern View

There are lots of occasions where giving wine as a gift seems very appropriate.  But rather than being someone who just hands over any old bottle to your host at a dinner party or your friend for a milestone birthday, it is easy to turn a common everyday wine into a really special gift.

One way to make a simple bottle of wine into a really nice gift is to read the back label of the wine.  Most wines will give you a nice little description on the back that tell you a little about how the wine tastes and quite often will mention some types of food that would pair well with it.  Take one of the meal suggestions from the label and find a lovely recipe to give along with the wine.  You can do lots of neat things to enhance this gift by taking the time to hand write the recipe in a nice card that someone would want to save.  If the recipe you choose has an interesting or a specialty ingredient, you can always give this as part of the gift to accompany the wine.  Now what you have given isn’t simply a bottle of wine, but potentially a whole evenings’ experience that involves both wine and a great meal.

Another way to enhance a wine gift is to give a bottle of wine but also give some information about the winery or the winemaker who made it.  There is an abundance of information available on the internet and most commercial wineries have their own website.  When you buy a wine, take a few minutes to go online and print off some reading materials – whether it be a biography of the winemaker or some history about the vineyard itself.  You can always put this information into a card, or even a couple of printed pages folded and placed in an envelope along with the wine.  Once again, you have ensured that this won’t just be another bottle opened up and guzzled back willy nilly.  Anyone would appreciate the extra effort and would take the time to read the material you provided – adding an extra bit of entertainment and education to the drinking of the wine.

Here is a bottle that I highly recommend giving as a gift.  Even better, since this wine pairs incredibly well with unique cheeses, you have a great gift addition that is easy to find and add for your next present.

Calona Artist Series Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 – 14.5% alc/vol [VQA Okanagan Valley]
A clean nose that has lemon juice and grapefruit peels.  Lovely sweet flavours that finish rather dry, hints of sweet lime and some tangy apple notes.  Lovely with a wide selection of robust and unique cheeses.  84/100

Screw Cap Wines Are Great For Summer Months
   originally published August 17th, The Northern View

It is somewhat interesting to think about our learning curve with wines and traditions today.  The screw-cap wine has become so common place in the last few years that many of us who at times might have argued against the tradition of corks and ceremony of service are now intrigued and convenience by the simple service style and almost perfect storage of a once taboo product.

The screw cap phenomenon has really caught on and is on nearly 50% of the wines we find on our store shelves today.  Screw top closures are especially wonderful during the summer months now – when we are enjoying wines on a boat deck or camping; the ease of resealing the bottle makes them convenient and keep accidental spills from spoiling the whole bottle.  The seal also works a little better to keep oxygen out and will preserve the quality of unfinished wine longer in the fridge.

The screw top wines don’t have any potential for allowing your wine to age, so when you see a wine with this type of closure it means that it is ready to go.  Most wines won’t benefit much by being aged, they just don’t have the complexity and structure to mellow out over time, we call these ‘drink now’ wines.  A screw top closure is perfect in this case because it gives the wine the maximum protection against oxidation, and isn’t preventing any necessary aging. 

Here are a couple of lovely wines that have screw top closures and are ready to go – just snap, twist and enjoy!

Full Press Vineyards Chardonnay – 12.5% alc/vol
The nose has several layers, with warm fresh smells of lemon meringue, orange zest and field hay.  A nice palate of flavours that show a good balance between sweetness and acidity.  Showcasing nice pineapple and citrus.  Easy to drink alone or to match with coastal seafood dishes – especially scallops.

 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – 13.0% alc/vol [Australia]
A flinty fresh scent of pineapple and grass.  A nice amount of acidity on the tounge that almost feels like your sipping a sparkling.  The flavours are gentle and not too overwhelming, a bit of apple and sweet orange.  Great for grilled vegetables and lightly dressed salads.