Cave Spring Riesling Dry

Riesling Dry

2012 CAVE SPRING RIESLING DRY, $14.95. LCBO#233635.

This year, my resolution is to drink more wine and blog about it. Tough goal, right? To ensure some inspiration, I joined a “Wine of the Month Club” this December which brings new bottles of VQA Ontario wine to my door each month. The club is run by Winery To Home and the critics are David Lawrason and Tony Aspler. I am doing the $45/month version, which includes one white and one red bottle; there are varying price and quality levels, but I thought I would start with the basic one and see how things go.

My December delivery (just pre-Christmas, what a lovely gift to oneself!) included a bottle of 2012 Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Dry. I have long been curious about Cave Spring, there is something very clean and crisp about their name and their wine labels, but not being a big Niagara drinker, I hadn’t bought a bottle yet. We shared the bottle with friends who enjoy Riesling, particularly dry varieties, and the review was a big thumbs up.

It is definitely as described by the critics: light, fresh, some mineral and citrus. Dry, but not overly so. It went very well with a charcuterie spread, particularly prosciutto and sharp cheese, a nice contrast in flavour. A surefire crowd pleaser- would also do well with seafood.

I think $15 is good value for this bottle, and I’m happy to see the local LCBO has lots on hand. So far so good with the wine club- I’ve been introduced to a new wine and winery, and have a new go-to party wine. I plan to pick up more of this bottle soon.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

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Sandbanks Shoreline Red

2009 Sandbanks Shoreline Red, $14.95. LCBO#159962.

Kevin & I have been big fans of Sandbanks Estate Winery for the past few years. I first visited the vineyard on a PEC tour in 2009, and came home with bottles of Dunes & Baco Noir, which quickly became our go-to Ontario wines. Dunes is perfect with appetizers, especially anything cheesy, and the Baco Noir is great solo or with something meaty.

On our latest trip to Prince Edward County, we stopped by again to see their new building (which is lovely) and had a fun tasting out on the patio with one of their energetic young staff. We came away with yet another winner, the newly released Shoreline Red. I’m having trouble deciding if it has dethroned Baco Noir as my personal favourite. It’s along the same lines, but a bit more restrained. The fruit is still in there, but it’s not such a cherry bomb. The Cabernet Franc in the blend lends some smoothness and a bit of vanilla.

The thing I love most about Sandbanks is that they make such reliably great wine at really reasonable prices. The quality and price in Prince Edward County really varies, and while I love trying new wineries there, I also like knowing I can count on Sandbanks for very drinkable wine.

Ontario wine drinkers may want to note that while prices from the winery and the LCBO are the same, when you buy direct from the winery, they get to keep a greater share of the profit. Sandbanks offers complimentary shipping; consider ordering directly from them on their website. I notice that other PEC wineries are also offering complimentary shipping as well.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Ruffino Chianti

Ruffino Chianti, 2009. $14.95. LCBO#1743.

I love presents. Especially when they are drinkable. And even more when they aren’t actually for me, but I still get to drink them. Kevin just had a birthday, and our lovely friend Jenn gifted him a bottle of her favourite red.

Naturally, a few days later, I suggested that this bottle of hearty Italian Chianti would pair well with beef stew. And, of course, it did; I think it would be even more marvelous with roast beef or steak.

The wine is a bit of a sneak attack in your mouth. It starts out mellow and light-medium bodied, but then explodes on your palate with cherry fruit, and finishes with a zip. I really enjoyed it, there’s a good sweet-tart balance, and it is very drinkable alone or with food.

We had a smidge left over and I’m drinking it now, with some very dark chocolate. It’s still tasty, even a few days on, and is a marvelous match for the chocolate. It adds an almost cherry cola quality to the wine.

This bottle was a wonderful treat, and one I will definitely buy again. Maybe to go with some pot roast or spaghetti and meatballs. Yum.

Overall, I give this bottle 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Fetzer Merlot

2008 Fetzer Merlot, $14.95. LCBO#341131.

Last week, we hosted a lovely little dinner party, and tried this new bottle. I am a big fan of Fetzer Zinfandel, and was hopeful that the merlot would also be delicious. I don’t tend to buy merlot, as I’m always worried it will be a bit boring, but it seemed a safe choice with guests.

I was impressed with this bottle. It is very smooth, medium to full bodied, smoky with oak and ripe with berries. It has a bit of a sweet-tart quality, which I love in a fruity wine. It went well with roasted chicken and tomato-basil pasta, but also was great on its own, and with dessert. A keeper for dinner parties! It really hits all my favourite wine notes, and definitely matches the tastiness of their zinfandel. I’m going to have trouble choosing a bottle when standing in the California aisle at the LCBO. Which is really nothing to complain about.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

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.

Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 CASA LAPOSTOLLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, $15.95. LCBO# 168732.

I was first introduced to Casa Lapostolle a few years ago at a wine tasting event, and was charmed by the fact that this Chilean winery has links to the Marnier family in France– makers of Grand Marnier. I have tried a few of their Cuvee Alexandre bottles from the Vintages section, and have not been let down.  This bottle caught my eye last week in the Chile aisle at the LCBO, and the $16 price point was very attractive.

The wine is a satifyingly deep ruby-purple, somewhat like pouring a fresh glass of grape juice. The nose is light and a bit earthy, and the taste is very ripe. It is medium-bodied, and not overly heavy or full of oak. Flavours of berries and a touch of wood come through, while not overwhelming the palate. The finish is quite smooth and well balanced, making it great to sip on its own.

I wished it was a bit more full bodied, but that’s just my love of big, bold reds.  This is a mellow, easy to drink cabernet sauvignon. I’m a bit torn about the price point, I think I expected to be more excited by this bottle. You could most likely find something quite comparable in the $12 range from Chile or California.

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.

d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

Bottle o' Wine

2007 D'ARENBERG THE STUMP JUMP GRENACHE SHIRAZ MOURVEDRE, $14.05. LCBO# 173294.

I saw this wine earlier in the year in an LCBO Vintages release. I was a bit slow, unfortunately, and missed the 2007 vintage. But this summer, at the SAQ in Quebec City, they had some hiding in a corner, and I scooped up a bottle. I was quite intrigued by the name…and the GSM blend. d’Arenberg’s website describes the “Stump Jump” name as an homage to a plough created in the area in the 1800s, which subsequently spread around the world, that allowed farmers to move quickly over stumps and bumpy land. The Stump Jump line is their fun, friendly, easy drinking variety of wine.

I enjoy blended wines, because I think it must be so fun to be a wine maker and concoct the perfect mix of flavours. Wikipedia tells me that Australia is a large producer of GSM blends, and that the Grenache contributes a mellow fruitiness, the Shiraz some backbone and spice, and the Mourvedre some acidity, elegance and structure.

I think this bottle really hit all those things on the nose. The wine has a lovely bright ruby colour, and was refreshing and light-medium bodied with a gentle finish. I could have gone for a bit more fruit and full body, but not every wine has to be over the top. There were subtle oak and berry flavours, almost no tannins, and a really clean finish.

We paired this wine with pork tenderloin, and it was a great match. It didn’t overpower the pork at all. I think this bottle goes well with foods that sit somewhere in the middle of the road….where you’re not sure whether to pair with a white or a red. The Stump Jump GSM is light and fresh like a white, with some of the depth and fruit of a red. The LCBO has a new batch of 2008 in…better hurry if I want to drink this again!

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Cuvee

2007 Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Cuvee, $15.95. LCBO#684357.

After several weeks of a work overload induced blogging hiatus, I arrived home from work and exclaimed: I need a glass of wine! Luckily a new bottle of red was waiting for me in my wine cellar (cupboard beside the sink).

This big, bold red hails from the Barossa region of Australia and is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It`s a nice balance between the spice of shiraz and the fullness of cab-sav, although I find that the oak comes on a tiny bit strong. The full-bodiedness is overwhelming to the palate at times.

However, I enjoy it because it combines full, ripe fruit like plums and berries with a balanced finish. When I first opened it, I found it a bit sweet-tart and tannic at the end, but over 10-20 minutes, the wine mellowed out.  The word that popped to mind when I tasted this was “interesting.” It’s still brash and full-bodied, almost like a portly CEO who has lots to say, but in the end, I’m listening.

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

Concha y Toro Trio Cabernet

2008 Concha y Toro Cabernet Trio, $14.95. LCBO#433912.

I bought this bottle on a whim. I was browsing the LCBO’s new Vintages release, and this bottle was the last of its kind left on the shelf. It was marked as a 90+ by Jay Miller, and I thought since it was clearly popular, it might be a worthwhile buy.

It has a promising blend of wines- Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc, and has a big, ripe 14% alcohol content. The label had me feeling optimistic.  And my optimism was not misplaced- it really is a fantastic bottle. So fantastic that I’m going to take a moment to gripe that all the bottles in Kingston are sold and I will probably never get to drink this beauty again.

It started with a nice, earthy nose and was big, ripe and full-bodied, with a spicy-peppery finish. At first pour, the alcohol content had a bit of a bite, but once left in the glass to mellow a while, it was much smoother and more balanced.

It has all the best of the 3 grapes- Cab Sav for fruit, Shiraz for spice, and Cab Franc for smoothness.  Well blended, Concha Y Toro. If only I could get 5 more of this bottle. Because for $15, this bottle is well worth stocking up on.

Overall, I give this bottle 9/10 for taste and 4.5 for value.

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel

2007 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, $15. LCBO# 678698.

When is wine at its best? When shared with a dear friend, of course. My long-time best buddy Laurel and I drank some of this fantastic Zin one weekend while at her family’s cottage on Brereton Lake, Manitoba.

We went out for dinner at the only restaurant in the area, found at the Brereton Lake Resort. The wine selection consisted of two reds and a white, so when the waitress listed Gnarly Head as an option, I nearly fell off my chair, and then jumped at the chance to order it.

I saw this bottle in a January LCBO Vintages release, and was too slow to get a bottle. That’s my greatest beef with this province’s giant fascist liquor system- they get a bunch of something great, it gets snapped up, and then you have to wait til next year. No ordering it from somewhere else for you, oh no no. Meanwhile, small town Manitoba has cases of the stuff. The injustice!

I love Zin, especially when it hails from California. There’s something about the way they make it out there, the balance of fruit and oak, softness and zip, that nearly always pleases me.  And this bottle lived up to my expectations, and definitely surpassed anything I thought would be offered on a wine list in the middle of nowhere.

The wine is a wonderful dark purple, promising a deep full flavour and ripeness. The nose is a bit musty-dusty, and the taste is fruity, as one would expect, with plums and berries up front. There’s a touch of oak to add some complexity, and the finish has a bit of a spicy bite. Which makes for a perfect glass, full of ripe fruit, with a sweet-tart contrast as you swallow.

When I got back to Ontario, I made one more attempt at getting a bottle of this gem, but was unsuccessful. I did, however, find a bottle of the same winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon for $16.95. I plan to taste it soon in case it is also lovely and I need to stock up.

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