20 Bees Shiraz

20 BEES SHIRAZ, $11.95. LCBO#146837.

20 BEES SHIRAZ, $11.95.

Round #2 of my Wine of the Month Club: The January delivery included a bottle of 2012 20 Bees Shiraz. I have to say I was not excited to see it- I have had 20 Bees Baco Noir and one glass was more than enough for me. I also find their labels and winery name to be overly cute. And Shiraz in Canada? I don’t know- I really like Australian Shiraz (in fact we had a killer bottle last week- 2011 Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa, $20, amazing value, none left at the LCBO, sob, drink some for me if you can find it).

So, I opened the bottle with low expectations on a freezing cold Wednesday night. But my snobbery turned to a smile as we paired it with beef tacos- great match. The wine is what the critics say: dry, light-medium bodied, not overly complex, and a little fruity with a peppery finish. This would be good BBQ wine in the summer.

That said, I don’t know that I would buy it again. The price is reasonable, the wine is fine, it’s just not what I’m looking for in a Shiraz. It was an interesting bottle, not something I would typically pick up on my own, so I will give the Wine Club a pass on this one. But there are a lot of $12 red wines I would buy before this one.

Overall, I give this wine 7.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Summer Wine Picks Wrap Up

On the eve of my official return to work, post-summer break, it seems fitting to weigh in on the last of the CBC “All in a Day” summer wine picks. We managed to try all 6 bottles since we found the list in July, and included a few friends along the way in our taste testing. I got around to formally reviewing 4 of them, which are all linked below. The final 2 were a bit lack lustre, so I’ve just included a few notes on them below.

To Recap: “All in a Day” Wine Panel’s Summer Picks

Rod’s Picks:

Stacey’s Picks:

  • White: Grooner Gruner Veltliner (Austria) $13.30– 8/10 for taste and 3.5/5 for value.
  • Rosé: The Beach House Rosé (South Africa) $9.95- Overly sweet and a bit yeasty. Felt like a cheap bottle of flavoured wine, it was just missing the fake strawberry taste. Would not buy again, although would never have bought it, had it not been on the list.
  • Red: Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere (Chile) $11.95- A dry red, spicy and peppery. Had a high alcohol content that took a long time to dissipate. Not the greatest because the alcohol really overwhelmed the flavour.

Trying these new bottles was a fun experiment, although it was not extremely useful in finding wines I would buy again. I think my wine taste is closer to Rod’s, I would buy both his red and white recommendation again, probably next summer. Stacey’s picks weren’t my favourite, all of them were a bit blah or cheap feeling, which is disappointing, because there are lots of $10 wines out there worth buying.

I think the verdict is, there are lots of wines on my $10 list that I would recommend ahead of these 6.

Thanks to Joe Shlabotnik for the photo.

Antonin Rodet Cotes-du-Rhone

Antonin Rodet Cotes-du-Rhone, $12.95. LCBO#8979.

This wine is the third we’ve tried from “All in a Day’s” 6 summer wines, and the first that I would buy again. It was exciting to turn to Kevin and say “I really like this one!” It started out well from the pour, a beautiful deep ruby colour, the kind that promises flavours just as rich.

There was some oak and cherry on the nose, with cherry on the palate. It is dry, yet balanced, and medium to full bodied. It is great for steak or burgers, but isn’t overwhelmingly big and fruity.

I definitely agree with this as a summer pick, as I sometimes find full bodied reds just too much in the heat. This bottle hits the right balance of body and fruit, without going overboard.

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Grooner Gruner Veltliner

2010 Grooner Gruner Veltliner, $13.30. LCBO#168625.

This bottle was my second test of “All in a Day’s” 6 summer wines. I brought it along to a girl’s night of wine, cheese and chatter (thinly disguised as watching So You Think You Can Dance). This white was a good match for the Camembert and pate we gobbled down, and also was sippable on its own.

I was intrigued by the Austrian heritage, as I rarely drink European bottles from beyond the Mediterranean region. Gruner Veltliner is described as a dry white, and a match for Sauvignon Blanc, but I would disagree. I would put it somewhere more in the neighbourhood of Pinot Grigio, bordering on off-dry, while not actually being sweet. It just didn’t have the acidity I enjoy in a white during the summer; however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nice wine. Plus, the label is extremely fun and cheeky.

There are flavours of apple and pear, but I didn’t pick up on the promised citrus. This would be a good bottle for folks who like something refreshing but not overly crisp or tart. I however, will be saving $2 and sticking with my favourite cheap and cheerful summer white. The Grooner was perfectly passable, but just not a fit for my personal tastes.

Here’s hoping that I find something from the picks that becomes a regular on my wine list.

2 down, 4 to go.

Overall, I give this wine 8/10 for taste and 3.5/5 for value.

Summer Wine Picks

I had the good fortune this afternoon of tuning in to “All in a Day” on CBC Radio One. I’m a big fan of the program, and the host, Alan Neal. Today, he had a wine panel on to discuss summer wines. Unfortunately, I came in half way through the program, so I can’t tell you much about the sommeliers that were on to share their opinions. However, after visiting the All in a Day website, I see that this is an ongoing feature, and that the recommended wines tend to be $13 or under, which definitely piqued my interest.

We have recently amassed almost $100 in gift cards to the LCBO (what can I say, our friends know exactly what to buy us), and have decided to put some of that to good use and try out these wines. Hopefully there will still be all 6 of these available at the LCBO after the region heard about these picks today!

Here is what the panel recommended:

The “All in a Day” Wine Panel’s Summer Picks

Rod’s Picks:

  • White: Cono Sur Viognier (Chile) $9.95
  • Rosé: MASI Modello Rosato (Italy) $10.95
  • Red: Antonin Rodet Cotes du Rhone (France) $12.95

Stacey’s Picks:

  • White: Grooner Gruner Veltliner (Austria) $13.30
  • Rosé: The Beach House Rosé (South Africa) $9.95
  • Red: Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere (Chile) $11.95

The plan is to buy all 6 and report back over the course of the summer. I’m headed to the LCBO tomorrow in an attempt to beat other CBC Radio fans to the punch. Stay tuned for some summer wine reviews!

Cheers to 2011

The new year not only brings the promise of a fresh start, but also the first anniversary of La Gourmandesse. Looking back to January 2010, I found myself a bit bored and in need of some inspiration. Writing a blog devoted to the pleasures of food and wine was just the ticket to spicing things up.

Over the past year, I have found some wonderful new wines. My favourite $10 or less discoveries have to be Sogrape Gazela, Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc, Argento Malbec, and Farnese Sangiovese. I also tried at least 10-20 bottles that I’d rather forget. But, much like dating, trying cheap wine comes with risk and rewards.

As well as embarking on a $10 wine challenge, I tried bottles in the $15-$25 range. The best finds were Concha Y Toro Cabernet Trio, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, and J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon. Luckily, I have at least one bottle of each of these waiting in the cupboard for a happy occasion.

La Gourmandesse has given me a place to showcase the tasty treats I would have been cooking and baking anyway, and also spurred me to find other delicious food and wine blogs to draw inspiration from. My regular reads are Smitten Kitchen, Reems Eats, 1 Wine Dude and Pretty.Good.Food. I love to read about other people’s food and wine lives; the inclusion of great photography also never hurts.

Some favourite recipes I discovered this year were quinoa salad, fudgy layer cake, and new takes on blueberry muffins and banana bread. You can see my love of baked goods shining through there. I suppose that explains my need to hit the gym a little more frequently in 2011.

Thinking back on how delicious 2010 was, how much fun I had discussing affordable wine with people, and how much I loved hearing “I was reading your blog and…”, I’m really looking forward to what 2011 will bring. The $10 wine quest is definitely not yet complete,  there is always a new bottle or two to try.

2011 is bound to bring more chances to share great food and drink with the people that matter most to me, and also give me opportunities to showcase them here. So cheers to the new year, may it bring much inspiration and pleasure.

Frescobaldi Remole Toscana

2009 Frescobaldi Remole Toscana, $12.30. LCBO#105429.

One of the several wine people I follow on Twitter mentioned a great, affordable red wine that would go with any holiday meal, and I had to check it out. The $12 price tag was too good to be true.

At this point, I can’t actually remember the specifics of the review I read, other than it gushed about this wine’s greatness. The LCBO reports it as fruity yet dry, with medium body.  I have to agree with the LCBO on the dry factor. I found this wine to be so dry that it is unbalanced. I couldn’t detect much of the reported cherry-berry flavours because of this, which was a huge disappointment. I opened it before dinner to go with some bread and cheese and olives, and it really didn’t work. The finish is tart and tannic, and just left my mouth feeling dry and puckery.

I forgot about my glass of wine until dinner, which was a roasted lemon and garlic chicken with roasted potatoes, squash and mushrooms. I took a few sips with this hearty fare, and it was a whole new wine. Deep, smooth and balanced, a real complement to the meal.  But later, I finished up my glass with a few pieces of chocolate and I was right back to finding it far too dry.

I’m not sure if I expect too much out of a wine, but I really want it to be great to drink before the meal, during and after. And this bottle let me down. Perhaps you could break it out just to go with the Christmas turkey at a big family meal, but for a regular day with only 2 people drinking, it’s not a fit.

Overall, I give this wine 7/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.

Ruffino Orvieto Classico

2008 Ruffino Orvieto Classico, $11.75. LCBO#31062

I am on a white wine kick lately…..must be all the sunshine and blooming bulbs putting me in the mood for summer sippers.  This week’s Wine Wednesday offering comes from Italy, one of my favourite affordable wine locations.  This bottle clocks in at a bit over $10, but is still very affordable at $11.75, and was given to me by my very generous friends, Juliana & Kamary. I am told that this is their go-to bottle of wine.

The wine is a medium straw colour, and has the aroma and taste of apples and pears. Very slightly off-dry, as well as light bodied, clean and crisp.  Definitely easy drinking!  Could be fun on the patio, served extra chilled. Would go well with some spicy Asian food or seafood. We paired it with a spaghetti concoction featuring scallops, roasted tomatoes, olive oil & garlic.  Very tasty, and a good balance for the delicious oiliness of the pasta dish.

Overall, I give this bottle 8/10 for taste and 3.5/5 for value.