Dill + Chardonnay = Taste Bud Delight

BACKGROUND

If you just want to read about wine, I’d suggest you skip ahead.

With the forecast calling for high temperatures plus insane humidity, and the calendar showing a whole weekend with no plans, the husband and I decided to pack up and take to the water. I had a secret errand to run in the morning: the husband’s birthday was the following week and I had ordered a book he wanted to the UPS store in Ogdensburg. This is what we do when we want something that is only available in the States and the cross-border shipping fees are more than the item itself. Sometimes it’s worth a trip to Ogdensburg.

I had done the grocery shopping for the weekend the night before, so I set off to the thriving metropolis of Ogdensburg and the husband was tasked with getting everything together for our weekend sailing trip. My mission went off without a hitch and I was back in good time so we could get to the boat. It always takes us a while to get ourselves and the boat ready for departure, plus we had to eat lunch at the club because I had been too lazy and otherwise occupied to make anything.

[You must be saying to yourself, Hey, I thought this blog was about wine! Ok, I’m getting there, I promise.] We had hoped to get away in good time, but after lunch, as we were making sure we had everything, I realized that we only had packed trout for dinner. Perhaps not the most balanced meal. After pointing fingers and trying to place the blame with the other person, we decided to both take partial responsibility and do a quick trip to Farm Boy. There we picked up a quinoa salad and a greek dill salad to go with the trout. Crisis averted.

To go with the trout, I brought along a Toasted Head Chardonnay that I had picked up on sale a few weeks before.

Toasted Head

MY PAIRING THEORY

Basically, if something is going to go on the barbecue, I am generally looking for something oaky to go with the smokey flavours from the grill. So if we’re having steak, I’ll go with a red that is heavy on the oak. Lately that means, any red from California, where they seem to barrel-age everything. Since we were having fish, I decided to apply this same logic to a white, therefore: an oaky, more heavy-bodied white from California.

RESULTS

The trout off the grill (in foil with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, for those who are curious) was simple yet delicious, and the chardonnay went pretty well with it, though in hindsight the wine was maybe too much for the subtle flavours of the trout. The light S&P seasoning allowed the flavour of the fish to shine, and next time I may go with a lighter-bodied wine for a more delicate balance.

BUT when paired with the greek dill salad, WOW. Fresh dill is quite a powerhouse of flavour in the herb world, and boy is the Toasted Head a great match for it. It took me a while to figure out why this was. Obviously, powerful flavours in food need powerful wines to stand up to them. But it was more than that. It was not just a question of the wine’s body, but also of its flavours, specifically the oak component. When a wine is barrel-aged, the oak certainly lends a specific flavour profile to a wine. This can include vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, toast, smoke and butter. Some even argue that dill is an oak flavour component, and after tasting the dill–oaky chardonnay combo, I would have to agree! It was a match made in heaven.

OAKED WHITES: LOVE ‘EM OR HATE ‘EM

Now, oak in a white wine is an acquired taste. Generally, you either love it or hate it. When I first started my wine classes, I was definitely not a fan. But the more I tasted it, the more I grew to love it. What are your feelings on chardonnay? Are you a lover or a hater? I challenge you to try a chardonnay in the next little while. If you’re not a fan of the oaked version, try an unoaked chardonnay. I recommend Kim Crawford’s Unoaked Chardonnay as a gentle transition.

Kim unoaked

If you’re looking for a nice chard under $15, I also recently tried the staff pick at my local LCBO and was quite pleased with my purchase. Lots of citrus and stone fruit (peaches and apricots). Un chardonnay typique, quoi! 

P.s. I apologize for the lack of my own pictures in this post. We were so hungry we forgot to take pictures of the delicious trout! Rookie blogger mistake that will be remedied next time!

West Coast Finds

When we were planning our trip to the West Coast,  I was really excited to discover new wine regions and visit some wineries. In British Columbia, the Okanagan is just a four-hour drive inland from Vancouver, and Washington wine country is directly south of that (four hours east of Seattle).

Northwest wine regions. The Okanagan is the orange region in the top left and the Washington Columbia Valley is the large yellow area directly below it. (copyright Cole Danehower)

Northwest wine regions. The Okanagan is the orange region in the top right and the Washington Columbia Valley is the large yellow area directly below it.
(copyright Cole Danehower)

Unfortunately, sailors that we are, once we got to the Coast, we didn’t want to get too far from the water. We just couldn’t get enough of that ocean view, so we wanted to maximize our seaside time. This meant that we decided not to go inland for wine tours. As a result, I made it my mission to try as many local wines as possible during my trip. Here were my favourites:

1. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

Yummy Washington cab sauv, with a view of the Pacific Ocean in Point Roberts, WA.

Beautiful deep ruby colour. On the nose, delicious black cherry, cocoa, coffee, licorice, tobacco and smoke. On the palate, this full-bodied wine has a fantastic round and smooth mouthfeel. And it is so tasty, with a similar flavour profile to the nose, including super rich chocolatey notes. Surprisingly low tannins for a cab sauv. The acidity is very high, which leaves your mouth watering for more. This makes for a very dangerous wine. The smokey fruitiness pairs perfectly with burgers off the grill. And good news! It is available at the LCBO for $17.95 a bottle.

UPDATE: Clearly I am ahead of the curve! This wine is featured on page 10 of the upcoming Vintages magazine!

Vintages Columbia Crest

2. Joie Noble Blend

882027_Joie-Noble-Blend

A Noble Blend from Joie Farms in the Okanagan, British Columbia

I came across this wine several times while we were in British Columbia. It is very popular, and as soon as I held it under my nose, I understood why. It smells heavenly, like flowers and lychee fruit. It is based on an Alsatian blend and made of gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot blanc grapes, among others. The result is a versatile off-dry, yet refreshing sipper, perfect for patios, parties, dinner, you name it. The lychee is a key characteristic of the gewürz grape, and comes through subtly on the palate. I also got grapefruit, white flower, and exotic fruit. Then there is a hint of sweetness that is really appealing, making this wine a good match for Asian foods. This Okanagan wine is sadly only available in BC for now, at a price point of $21 at the BC Liquor Store. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this one in the hopes of catching it in an upcoming Vintages release.

If you’re interested in learning more about the wines of the Northwest, check out the cover story in this week’s edition of Vintages magazine.

What are you favourite West Coast wines? Share your picks in the Comments!

Beach Wining

There is nothing like being on a beach on a hot day, especially when you have gorgeous mountain views!

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Finding a nice beach wine is not hard. But there are a few key characteristics I look for in a beach sipper:

1. High acidity

Acidity is the mouth-watering aspect of a wine, and is what makes you salivate even after the wine has left your mouth. High-acidity wines can be described as zippy or refreshing, and are great palate cleansers. Both reds and whites can be acidic, however for a beach day, my preference would be a white or rosé – something refreshing and light.

2. Low alcohol content

In general, the more body a wine has, the higher its alcohol content. That is why the fullest-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz tend to be higher in alcohol. On the other hand, lighter-bodied whites tend to have a lower alcohol content. And that’s the sort of easy drinking I’m looking for in a beach wine. I don’t like to dehydrate too quickly under the sun!

3. Twist-off cap

This may be shocking to some of you, but despite being a wine snob, I don’t carry a corkscrew around with me at all times. There are enough things to remember when packing for the beach: bathing suits, towels, hats, sunscreen, cooler, snacks, glasses, dishes, etc. When choosing your wine, think ahead and save yourself some trouble by getting a wine with a twist-off cap. It will facilitate matters significantly. I’ve witnessed people trying to get a cork out without the proper tools and it is not pretty. Add a beach to the mix and you will invariably end up with bits of cork and lots of sand in your wine. Not really the smooth mouthfeel I’m looking for…

Suggestions

Of course, personal preferences will come into play here, including price point and sweetness. In the lower range for price, an excellent value beach wine and excellent summer go-to is the Portuguese vinho verde. This slightly effervescent wine is incredibly refreshing, with the bubbles magnifying the already high acidity. I found this great vinho in Vancouver and it’s what I drank on our beach day:

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

In Canada, this particular bottle only seems to be available in B.C., so here are some you can get from the LCBO:

  • Aveleda – tried, tested and true for under $10!!
  • Gazela – I haven’t personally tried this one, but I hear that for $9, you really can’t go wrong!

This wine is generally dry, so if you’re looking for something sweeter, try an off-dry riesling or a moscato.

Rosés are also great on a hot summer’s day. A lot of people tell me that they don’t like rosés because they are too sweet, but we’re not talking about those ridiculously sweet pretty-pink zinfandels from Beringer that we drank in first year in our failed attempts to be sophisticated. Today, I can attest that there are a myriad of rosés to suit all tastes, ranging from extra-dry to sweet. I personally love rosés from the south of France, but I may be biased. They smell of fresh strawberries and raspberries and their refreshing acidity makes me feel like I am sitting in the shade of an olive tree with a view of Mont Ste. Victoire. My favourite appellations are Bandol and Tavel, so those may be a good place to start, but I encourage you to just get a bunch of bottles, invite some friends over, and taste a few to find your favourite!

Enjoy! And don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

913af9ca84865352ada37f8bb49dc328

P.S. Just because this post is entitled “Beach Wining”, the consumption of the wines discussed herein is not strictly restricted to beach locales. “Beach” can easily be replaced with “Boat,” “Backyard,” “Patio,” “non-air-conditioned apartment” or anywhere else where a cool, refreshing wine is required.