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.

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.

Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier

2010 Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier, $9.95. LCBO#64287.

We are making good progress on the “All in a Day” summer wine list, having polished off 4 of the 6 bottles so far. We tested bottle number 4 out at a BBQ hosted by white wine loving friends. The wine was served well chilled while we nibbled on some Fifth Town goat cheese, with crackers and olive tapenade from Tuscany. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!

The wine went wonderfully with the cheese, and was also great on its own.  A medium golden colour with plenty of ripe fruit on the nose, some peach and melon for sure. The taste is full of orchard fruit as well as something a bit tropical, with a nice citrus acidity. It is a 1 in sugar content, but is well balanced and not overly sweet.

It’s a really fresh and fruity wine that is optimally consumed with bare toes touching the grass, and one’s bottom cushioned by a comfy deck chair. It’s backyard gathering wine for sure. I don’t know if I would pick it up in the winter, it probably would not be as fun to drink.

This wine went well with goat cheese, both sharp and mild, and would also be a great pair to some spicy asian takeout, seafood or fried chicken. At the $10 price tag, you can’t go wrong.

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

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.

100th Post: Adventures in Prince Edward County

Fabulous view at By Chadsey's Cairns.

To celebrate 3 years of togetherness, Kevin and I took ourselves to Prince Edward County to indulge in fabulous local scenery, food and drink. I’m always amazed that this jewel of a county is only an hour’s drive away, complete with lake views and a quaint ferry ride. It seems fitting that this weekend of gourmand-ness would coincide with the 100th post on La Gourmandesse!

We began the adventure with a wise choice: we stayed 2 nights at the Merrill Inn in Picton, a lovely B&B that knows how to feed and pamper its guests. Our room, in a third floor gable, was cozy and calm, and just what you would expect from a historic inn. They have a restaurant in-house that serves an amazing breakfast spread and gourmet dinners with local wine. We indulged there on our first night, pairing local wines with gazpacho, sauteed calamari, perch and prime rib. We followed that up with house-made peach pie, and declared the evening a locavore’s delight.

Another hilight of the weekend was our wine tour with PEC Wine Tours. We went on an afternoon tour, which was informative and fun, not to mention deluxe due to our limousine ride! The driver and guide, Gilles, was full of great info about the wines of the region, as well as quite a few back stories on the vineyards and personalities of PEC. The tour company’s owner, Bev, also happened to be on the tour that day with some family members for their own enjoyment, and made a lively addition to the day.

My top 3 vineyards of the day were Karlo Estates, By Chadsey’s Cairns and Sandbanks Winery, each for a different reason.

Karlo Estates' multi-purpose barn.

At Karlo Estates, we got to meet the winemaker and owner, Richard Karlo. Tasting wines with him was the best part of my tour, as he is warm, funny and articulate, explaining each wine as we moved through at least 5 tastes. He clearly loves what he does, and it comes through in the character of his wines. We came away with a bottle of the Frontenac Gris Rose, and are on the waiting list for the upcoming Petit Verdot. Can’t wait! I plan to go back soon to soak up the atmosphere and check out the dry stone bridge on the estate.

By Chadsey's Cairns tasting room.

By Chadsey’s Cairns is incredibly picturesque. The land comes complete with a loyalist graveyard, a few historic barns and an apple storage house converted into a wine tasting room. With views of the lake to the south and vineyards to the north, this is a beautifully peaceful place. I enjoyed tasting their wines and discussing them with one of their cheerful tasting staff, but walked away empty handed. It could be that we visited late in the day when my palate was fairly overwhelmed, but nothing grabbed me as something I had to drink again. But I would definitely return to grab a few quiet moments on their deck overlooking the vineyard.

Sandbanks Winery's new indoor/outdoor tasting building.

My other favourite of the day was Sandbanks Winery, one I have visited before. We are already big fans of their Dunes blend and Baco Noir, and had an enjoyable time on the gorgeous patio with one of their fun, young staff. We tried their new Shoreline blends and several others, and came away with a few bottles of Rose, the Shoreline Red, and the Winter Harvest dessert wine. I enjoy Sandbanks’ approachable wines and reasonable prices. It is a bit more commercial than Karlo Estates or By Chadsey’s Cairns, but brings something different to the table. What it may lack in boutique style, it fully makes up for in drinkability and affordability.

We managed to fit in a few other indulgences: lunch at the Tall Poppy Cafe in Wellington and some sweet treats at Miss Lily’s. A trip to Sandbanks provincial park capped off the weekend, and we headed home with 6 local bottles of wine, plenty of good memories, and plans to head back again soon.

 

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.

Masi Modello Rosato Delle Venezie

2010 Masi Modello Rosato Delle Venezie, $10.95. LCBO#587725.

We started our trial of “All in a Day’s” 6 summer wines with a rosé when my friend Eve popped by last week for an impromptu dinner with us. Since she loves wine like I do, and isn’t afraid to give pink wine a chance, it seemed like the right audience for this bottle.

All 3 of us had trouble identifying much on the nose or in the taste, no specific fruit jumped out in this wine. The description says berries and plums, but I couldn’t come up with that. The wine is fairly dry with a slightly tart finish; it’s quite fresh and was enjoyable in the heat. It stood up on its own and with a meal of roast chicken and veggies, and would also be good with fish or a salad.

There’s not much to say about this one…it’s perfectly acceptable, but didn’t excite me. I wish I had something more glowing to say about the first of the summer wines. The price is right and it is well suited to a hot summer night, but will I buy it again? Most likely not.

Overall, I give this wine 7.5/10 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!

Roasted Dijon Chicken

Dijon Chicken 1

This meal is so delicious, I make it far too often. It is really flavourful and rich, I still have trouble believing it came out of my kitchen and not from a french restaurant. It feels incredibly fancy, and while it is a little labour intensive, it’s not actually difficult to prepare. And the best part is that you get to drink the white wine that is needed for the sauce while you make dinner.

I found this recipe a few months ago on Smitten Kitchen, but over the last 5+ times I’ve made it, I’ve refined this down to a science and have made quite a few changes. The biggest difference is that I make the sauce while the chicken is in the oven, so that everything is ready and piping hot at once.

Dijon Chicken 4

Roasted Dijon Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, dried and sprinkled with salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine, I use this bottle because it is also delicious to drink
  • 1 cup chicken stock or 1 Knorr Homestyle Chicken Stock pod
  • 2 tbsp. grainy dijon
  • 1/3 cup light cream

Dijon Chicken 4

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a frying pan or dutch oven.
  3. Place chicken skin side down in pan and sear in oil. Flip once chicken releases from the bottom of the pan (3-5 min per side).
  4. Once all chicken is browned on all sides, transfer to a baking dish and place in 450F oven for 25 minutes.
  5. While the chicken roasts in the oven, use the same frying pan to make the sauce.
  6. Saute your onions in the pan drippings until caramelized and soft.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
  8. Allow wine to come to a slow simmer, then add chicken stock and dijon mustard.
  9. Simmer over low heat until reduced to desired thickness.
  10. Remove from heat, stir in cream until incorporated. Return to low heat and heat through.
  11. Once chicken is cooked, remove from oven and return to pan for a few minutes.
  12. Serve— and be generous with the sauce.

We always eat this gourmand meal with roasted potatoes, and use the potatoes to mop up the sauce. The crunch of the potatoes and the zip of the creamy, salty dijon sauce is perfect. A simple vinaigrette salad is also a good partner for the chicken. And don’t forget the rest of the bottle of wine!

Dijon Chicken 7

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc, $9.00. LCBO#275909.

I think I have the recipe to recovery after a very disheartening day at the office: Have your significant other make you dinner, drink some cheap wine, eat a Cadbury cream egg and watch Law & Order. The wine will relax you, the dinner & chocolate will cheer you up, and Law & Order will reassure you that your life is really not that bad. You could be on trial for murder, after all. Even the worst of work days must be better than a day in the courts.

I grabbed this wine yesterday in the LCBO, it was right beside my favourite affordable Sauvignon Blanc, Cocha y Toro, which recently moved from $10 to $11. I was curious if this $9 Chilean bottle could live up to my reliable cooking and drinking white wine.

The wine is a pale straw colour, with lots of tropical fruit and herbs on the nose. Those same notes show up in the taste, with some papaya and pineapple coming through. I find it slightly lacking in zip, with a need for more citus punch. It’s a teensy bit light, flat or watery…hard to pinpoint which.

With all that said, it is still highly drinkable, just not as special as my go-to white wine. I am sad to report that I’ll need to keep paying a few bucks more to get the exact balance and flavour I’m looking for.

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