Andrea's Wine Site

 Articles
Winter 2012

In This Section:

Festive Wine Recipes That Will Spice It Up

Gathering Wines For A Great 2012

Time To Get Serious About Tasting

Wines That Bridge The Gap

When Wine Is About The Atmosphere

What Young Adults Should Know About Drinking

Festive Wine Recipes That Will Spice It Up
   originally published December 21st, 2011 - The Northern View

Over the next few weeks why not try serving up your wine in some traditional holiday inspired cocktails.  With New Years Eve right around the corner most people will be toasting with some sparkling wines; a wonderful alternative and chic twist to this holiday favorite is to dress up your sparkling wine as a punch cocktail.  Another classic cold weather favorite is mulled wine which is a combination of warmed wine and spices; this is a holiday treat that will also fill your house with a wonderful spicy smell that is super seasonal.  Below are a couple of basic recipes that are guidelines for you to create your own festive recipe tweaked to your taste.  So have fun and enjoy some wine cocktails with friends.

Sparkling wine punch – as an alternative to the regular champagne at midnight moment, a sparkling wine punch can be just as perfect and still get served up nicely in those champagne flutes.  A perfect punch can be made by combining one bottle of dry white sparkling wine, white cranberry juice and either soda water or sprite depending on how much sweetness you are looking for.  A lovely garnish for this drink is some cranberries and strawberry slices.... and in the case you are looking for some extra punch in your cocktail you can always spike this with some blueberry vodka or lychee liquor.

Mulled wine – so this is an old world classic that is a serious crowd pleaser.  The quantities listed are just a guideline, as you try this recipe you can adjust to your palate, and you will find that the flavour changes slightly depending on the base wine that you use.  I would recommend finding a low tannin wine that has fruity characteristics like a merlot.  This is also the perfect recipe to use a boxed or homemade wine as well.  Warm up a litre of red wine, but don’t let it boil.  Add about 2/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of Brandy, about 8 cloves, 2 sticks of cinnamon, a hefty grating of fresh ginger and some allspice.  Zest some orange peel into your wine mixture and slice up the entire orange and add it into your brew.  The wine should warm for about 25 minutes, and the sugar should dissolve completely.  For serving, use a ladle and leave the seasonings behind.

Here are two wines that would make perfect starters for these recipes:

Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio -
A nice, fresh, clean nose with a little bit of melon and leafy tree blossoms.  The palate doesn’t show much of a dominant flavour – it is a pleasant blend of upfront citrus sweetness, balanced acidity and lasting effervescence.  86/100 (September 2nd, 2011)

Painted Turtle Merlot – 12.5% alc/vol [British Columbia]
A simple nose with only one layer – dusty fruit the palate is more favourable with a very light body, low tannins and clean flavours of light earth and oak.  85/100 $9.49 [BC Liquor Stores] (March 24, 2011)

Gathering Wines For A Great 2012
   originally published January 7th, 2012 - The Northern View

Well it’s the new year and time to set some goals. .  I have a few wine goals in mind this year.  I would really like to taste 100 new wines that I haven’t tried before and I would like for at least 50 of them to be Canadian.  So I guess I will be looking to open 2 new bottles a week.  I might have to throw a wine tasting party or two and that would help speed things along.

One of the most difficult parts for me will be finding all new wines.  Many of the Canadian wines found in the stores of retailers around the province are non-vintage wines.  This means that the wine doesn’t have a vintage year, and should / will taste the same every time.  I will be looking for new vintages of great wines I have tried in the past and I will also be looking at joining some private wine clubs.  Wine clubs are available at many commercial wineries in BC.  For an annual fee, the winery will ship out a selection of wines that they make.  Many of the wines that are available in wine clubs are not for sale at retailer locations across the province.  Sometimes the wines are produced in small lots or simply aren’t selected by retailers to sell.

Another interesting way that I collect wines to try is from generous and helpful family and friends.  Since most of family and many of my friends live in Ontario, they always offer to pick up some Ontario wines when they are coming to visit.  This is especially nice since most Ontario wines never leave the province, making them quite difficult to get in a place like Prince Rupert.

I also get a chance to try new wines when I am dining out.  Many agents and wineries sell their wines to restaurants and make some of their wines only available in this channel.  There are even some up and coming celebrity chefs throughout the province who are creating their own blends at the winery and making them available in their restaurants.  It’s gets a little expensive trying all your wines in this setting, but totally worth it when you get a chance to try something you couldn’t taste otherwise.

Here are a couple of wines that are great to kick off your 2012 wine drinking journey, enjoy.

Leon de Tarapaca – 13% alc/vol [Chile]
A bright sunny nose that hits hard with breezy grass notes and sweet pineapples.  The flavours are clean with dull citrus and field hay.  A touch of acid upfront gives this wine a nice tartness and palate cleansing qualities.  88/100 (November 7th, 2011)

See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2007 – [British Columbia]
A warm, summer, jammy nose with sweet cherries and raspberries. Fruit forward flavours of blackberries and star anise that finishes with smooth, tiny tannins.  A nice herbaceous aftertaste.  Lovely when paired with rare roasts, dark chocolate or sharp cheeses.  90/100 (September 21st, 2011)

Time To Get Serious About Tasting
   originally published February 8th, 2012 - The Northern View

I spend a significant amount of time on my wine passions.  Keeping a wine diary, evaluating the wines I drink, writing about wine and growing a show piece cellar that is stocked full of fabulous bottles to share with all the people I love.  One of the most interesting things that I have noticed recently is that I am spending more and more of my time applying the same skills to all my culinary adventures.

My nose works overtime these days; hypersensitive to seemingly everything around.  Honestly – it’s making me much better at tasting wine, detecting and identifying smells in all that I encounter, and just enjoying life.  Not to get too deep, but if you aren’t smelling and soaking in all the beautiful smells that surround us in life – you are truly missing out.  I certainly haven’t paid much attention to this for a great deal of my life and it was to my own detriment.

I have had a few moments in my past that have opened my eyes and my nose to the experience.  I find it quite interesting how a particular smell can actually trigger a memory and bring you back to a place that you might not have thought about in years.  Smells can also be a very powerful appetite builder.  Many people know the expression that you eat with your eyes first; but have you ever woken up to the smell of fresh baking bread or walked into the door while dinner is cooking on the stove?  Smells can engage us well before we ever actually see the food or meal we are about to eat.

As a fun exercise, for the whole week, close your eyes and take in two deep breaths of the food you plan to eat this week before you take you first bite.  While you are breathing in your weeks’ meals think about what you are smelling and try to identify the different components that you have just cooked with or added to your meal.  This week I have chosen two wines that I find quite engaging in the nose.  Cheers.

Le Vieux Pin ‘Feenies Blend’ 2009 – 13.9% alc/vol [British Columbia]
A floral nose with lots of complexity.  A sweet clean smell that shows off a little gooseberry and white peach.  There is a distinct yeasty quality to the taste of this wine that really plays out in a long finish.  Initially the wine hits some sweetness with pineapple and macintosh apple cider.  Very enjoyable all on its own due to its sheer depth of character.  94/100

Estancia Chardonnay 2003
Buttered bread, lime and a nice touch of oak that is quite pronounced on this wine.  Easy to enjoy, this wine has nice round flavours that compliment both salty and savoury foods well.  Medium bodied with a medium finish that leaves the taste of toasted corn.  82/100

Wines That Bridge The Gap
   originally published February 22nd, 2012 - The Northern View

Sometimes you are looking for wines that are versatile – able to handle the entire meal and stand up from salad to dessert.  Maybe you are looking for a crowd pleaser or no worry wine that will be palatable for anyone?  Maybe you don’t want to have three half started bottles open on the counter come tomorrow morning?  No matter the reason, a wine that can bridge the gap is always a useful trick to have in your bag.

When it comes to choosing a gap bridger, the grape variety is probably the most important part.  Chardonnays or a multi grape white wine blend with sweetness and smoke components will work.  For reds – lighter body or light style wines such as a Canadian Gamay Noir or French Beaujolais Nouveau can deliver ease and grace at the start of a meal, yet still have enough going on to keep it interesting though to the finish.  Other red varietals that might work are Pinot Noir and simple White Zinfandel.  When executed in a gentle style these varietals are great transition wines that won’t over power subtle flavours and can stand up to bold flavours and spices in kitchen cooking.

These wines are also all great picks for anyone looking to do a non-traditional wine pairing.  Traditional wine pairings would suggest that you pair white wine with fish and read wine with beef or red sauces.  So a non-traditional pairing would be to do the opposite.  Versatile red and white wines are also perfect contenders for these out of the norm pairings.  Chardonnays made with oak can have lots of depth and deliver neat compliment flavours that can show off red meats and sauces, flavours like vanilla, butter, bread and sweet smoke.  Lighter red wines have the potential to show nice fruity berry characteristics without a major compliment of dryness or tannin – by playing with the sweeter flavours, red wines like these won’t overpower mild flavours in cooking with creams, fish or chicken.

Finding out what really works for you and your tastebuds will only happen with a bit of experimentation, so have fun.  Here are a couple of suggestions for a place to start;

Copper Moon Rose – 12% alc/vol
Mild strawberries and wild cherries come out on the nose in a delicate way.  Flavours of sweet strawberries and red grapes.  A good amount of residual sugar and sweetness in this wine.  76/100 

Estancia Chardonnay 2003
Buttered bread, lime and a nice touch of oak that is quite pronounced on this wine.  Easy to enjoy, this wine has nice round flavours that compliment both salty and savoury foods well.  Medium bodied with a medium finish that leaves the taste of toasted corn.  82/100  [$21 Crest Hotel]

When Wine Is About The Atmosphere
   originally published March 28th, 2012 - The Northern View

I completely believe that wines can be influenced by the setting that you have them in.  There are lots of occasions where I go out, and the wine I am having is by no means particularly exceptional, but amidst some live music, laughs and great company – this seemingly everyday wine can become something really great.  This phenomenon is not exclusive to wine – it could be a fun cocktail or a regular beer.  I’m sure you’ve felt this before, it’s all about energy.  When the mood around you is positive it becomes quite contagious and is totally catching.  Food smells better, wine tastes sweeter and hours turn into minutes. 

Unfortunately the opposite is also true.  If the atmosphere that surrounds you is tense or negative it can suck the life out of you, and this is reflected in the way we perceive foods and experiences.  Depressive environments really aren’t the place to enjoy much of anything and your food experiences will reflect this. The taste buds dull and aren’t as effective when you’re in a bad mood.  Did you know that when you are in a bad mood you are also more likely to consume unnecessary calories?  Yikes!  I don’t want a spare tire.  More worrisome is that alcohol also amplifies the negative symptoms of depression like stress and anxiety.  So it’s best to avoid that extra drink when you’re feeling blue, it likely won’t help.  A good alternative would be a peppermint or lavender tea; both of these are natural mood elevators.

Focusing again on the positive – happy environments actually make your senses sing.  So when you have that nice elated feeling rush through your body, take a few minutes and enjoy it.  If you’re in the mood treat yourself to a little red wine and cheese or chocolates – in small doses this is heart healthy and a fun way to indulge.

The wines I chose this week are meant to amply a great mood and fun environment – they are lively and palate pleasing, enjoy!

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  (September 19th, 2011)

Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2008 – 14.5% alc/vol [VQA Okanagan Valley]
A big, vibrant nose bursts out of this wine.  Rich raspberries and warm hits of aged oak.  There is a good amount of tannin here that leaves your mouth dry with a slight pucker.  Chary flavours of smoke and wood.  A nice palate cleanser for red sauce pastas and juicy red meats.  Excellent overall richness for a Canadian cool climate merlot.  89/100  (November 2nd, 2011)

What Young Adults Should Know About Drinking
   originally published April 9th, 2012 - The Northern View

Recently I was reading about a study conducted in Canada’s East coast.  The study, conducted on university aged couples reveals that partners often influence each others’ consumption patterns when it comes to binge drinking.  Over a 28 day period the researchers were able to predict one partners binge drinking based on the other partners binge drinking.  It’s rather unfortunate but binge drinking amongst the university aged population is quite problematic and many people will carry bad habits forward with them well into adulthood.

The study did reveal some interesting and positive information; couples who tried to reduce their consumption of alcohol together were more successful than individuals in the couple who tried to reduce their consumption alone.  “In some respect this is a cautionary piece of research. Pick your friends and lovers carefully because they influence you more than you think.” –Dr. Simon Sherry, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S.

Binge drinking is characterized by an episode of excessive drinking or the rapid consumption of alcohol in a short period of time.  Binge drinking has been proven to be more damaging to the brain than even chronic alcoholism.  Binge drinking is most prominent amongst adolescents and young adults where consequently the developing parts of the brain suffer more immediate and severe brain damage.  Binge drinkers most often consume hard liquor.  Another interesting factoid is that binge drinking is a much more serious problem in North America than in Europe.

In North America we could learn a lot from the Europeans when it comes to our attitudes about alcohol.  It may seem a little backwards, but it isn’t uncommon for adolescents and even children to offered wine with their meals at some European tables – this early exposure to alcohol seems to mitigate a lot of the novelty of drinking that occurs with North American adolescents.  Most often alcohol of any kind is consumed right alongside of food in Europe.  Wine is the most common alcoholic drink in the diets of Europeans and doesn’t lend itself well to binge drinking. 

On that note, for your next big weekend out with your sweetie, try passing on the shots and slowing it down with a nice glass of vino.  Here is a nice wine to give a go;

 Ruffino Chianti 2010 – 12.5% alc/vol [Italy]
The smell is rustic, simple and an appetizing mixture of earth and raisins.  Flavours are mostly oak driven with very little to enjoy fruit wise.  Nicely pairs with red wine reductions and sharp cheeses.  78/100 (March 22nd, 2012)

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