Thanksgiving Wining

Happy belated Thanksgiving friends!

Yes, I know that was a week ago, and the drastic change in weather has been quite a jolt to the system and makes it feel like it was a lifetime ago. A week ago, it was sunny and warm, with no jackets required. Today it was so cold I needed to pull out a toque (for those outside of Canada, that is a winter hat, as seen here) and boots. Not. A. Fan.

Let’s go back to last week then, shall we?

Not only was the weather beautiful, but it was the national holiday where taking the day off work is mandatory to stuff yourself full of turkey, stuffing, yams and, of course, wine.

This year, we hosted my in-laws for Thanksgiving for the first time. I have to admit, I didn’t relish the idea. I don’t have much experience cooking for large groups of people. Growing up, it was just me and my mom (and I don’t think I did much cooking at the time) and now it’s just me and the husband. Usually I’m just cooking for two, and sometimes I will double a recipe just to have enough leftovers for lunch (there’s only so many times you can eat a sandwich in a week before it gets tiresome). But for Thanksgiving, I would be cooking for EIGHT. I was intimidated, to be sure.

If there was one thing I was confident about, it was the wine. I stocked up the day before with a bunch of wines I thought would go well with the meal.

  1. Konzelmann Pinot Blanc

Konzelmann

This is one of my go-to white wines. Plus it’s made right here in Ontario. At $12 a bottle, you really can’t go wrong. Plus it’s one of those varietals that is a bit more obscure (especially in Ontario), and therefore more intriguing. This pinot blanc is medium bodied and nicely acidic, with lots of fruit on the nose and the palate like pear, peach and lemon. It’s easy to drink on its own, and went quite nicely with Thanksgiving dinner. Side note for you Air Miles collectors: you can get 5 bonus Air Miles until November 7 when you buy this wine at the LCBO.

2. Bottega Prosecco

Bottega

This is one of my favourite bubblies, maybe because I am cheap and hello – it’s only $13.95! Also, it’s super easy to drink. I love drinking this before a meal, maybe with some canapés. One of our favourite food pairings with this is melon and prosciutto – a typically Italian appetizer. We opened this bottle right before we sat down to dinner, to get the digestive juices going.  I ended up just drinking it right through the meal (bubbly doesn’t keep, might as well finish the bottle!) and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it went well with almost everything. I had a quasi-orgasmic food pairing moment when drinking this after a bite of red onion from my greek salad (I know, an unorthodox Thanksgiving item, but I was sticking with dishes I knew I couldn’t mess up). Keep this in mind people: red onion + prosecco = love. Who knew!?

3. Goatfather

Goatfather

I hadn’t tried this red blend from South Africa before, but I found it in the Vintages section and had heard good things, so I added it to my cart. We opened it with dinner the night before and quite enjoyed it, and finished it with Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone loved it! And I love the description from the LCBO website: “A longstanding Vintages customer favourite, this dramatically unconventional wine blends Sangiovese from Darling, Barbera and Nebbiolo from Paarl, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch. As a casual quaffer with summer foods, it can’t be bleat – ahem, beat.”

In the end, the Thanksgiving meal went off without a hitch, and no one got sick, so in my mind, it was a success. I even had extra bottles of wine leftover, which sadly didn’t make it to the Thanksgiving table:

  • Megalomaniac Homegrown Riesling (riesling is the typical Thanksgiving white varietal recommendation)
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (pinot is just one of those reds that goes with anything)
  • Palacios Remondo La Vendimia (a Spanish rioja made of garnacha and tempranillo grapes – it is one of my aunt’s favourites and used to only be available at the SAQ, so I just had to grab a bottle when I saw it in the Vintages section at the LCBO).

I should take a moment to give a special shout-out to my mother-in-law, who made my life much easier by making a delicious brined turkey at her place and bringing it for dinner, so all I had to do was re-heat it. Thanksgiving is a breeze when you don’t have to worry about making a turkey!! Though I was sort of looking forward to trying out this recipe:

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What wines did you serve with your Thanksgiving meal? Did you have the traditional turkey or did you do something different?

Hope it was a great meal with great wine! Happy wining!

Wining in DC – Part 3

This is the final part of a 3-part series on Wining in DC. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can read them here: Part 1  |  Part 2

The great thing about taking a long weekend, is that when you wake up on Saturday morning, you’ve already had two good nights out, yet you still have the whole weekend ahead of you! It’s a wonderful feeling, so Mere and I decided to take advantage of all this time we had…by doing absolutely nothing all morning.

We didn’t really have big plans for the day, but since it was one of those glorious fall days that still feel like summer, we decided to head to the zoo. The zoo is another free Smithsonian Museum, so on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, it was packed.  It seemed like every family in DC was there. With all the crowds of small children,  Mere and I didn’t last very long. I did manage to see my favourites (the lions and tigers), then we grabbed popsicles at Pleasant Pops in Adam’s Morgan before deciding to head back to Mere’s and figure out a plan for dinner.

Mere wanted to go to a nice restaurant called Red Hen. They were all booked but they said that we could try walking in as soon as they opened. So we were there at 6 and promptly seated. Success! The food was delicious. We started out with the charred octopus as an appetizer, which was perfectly seasoned. After realizing we’d never actually ended up eating pasta the night before, we both ordered pasta as our mains. Mere had squid ink pasta and I had sausage rigatoni. We were so enthralled with our meals we didn’t even take a picture. To go with our meal, we had a bottle of Nebbiolo: another food-friendly light red from Northern Italy with light berry notes and a hint of earthiness.

The problem with eating at a geriatric meal time is that when you’re done, it feels super late but it’s only 7:30 and you don’t know what to do with yourself.  We hit up a bar for a cocktail to try and overcome the food coma, but it wasn’t happening. We ended up going home and polishing off a bottle of Côtes du Rhône while watching Netflix. The perfect nightcap!

Breakfast Wining

The Washingtonians know how to keep the party going Sunday morning, with bottomless mimosas being served at almost every brunch place. This is a practice I whole-heartedly support. With the vitamins from the juice and the bubbles from the sparkling wine, it truly is the perfect way to start the last day of your vacation.

When we arrived at Shaw’s Tavern, we noticed that probably about 80% of the tables were working on bottomless mimosas. I figured, when in Rome…

Bottomless mimosas at brunch. Brilliant.

Bottomless mimosas at brunch. Brilliant.

With the trip coming to an end, we decided to grab one last glass of wine at Vinoteca. I opted for the Tempranillo from Finca Fabian. Tempranillo is the grape that makes up Spanish Rioja wines.

imageI had no idea it was organic! I haven’t tasted many organic wines, but those I have tried were sort of bland and uninteresting. With organic farming, producers don’t use many of the growing and winemaking techniques that are normally used to make wine taste great, because they are not considered organic practices. Just like any organic crop, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used in the vineyards. The main culprit or source of confusion here is sulfites (or sulphur dioxide), which act as a preservative when added to wine. Although they can be naturally occurring, sulfites cannot be added to wines that wish to be designated organic. Without them, wines tend to be flat and unstable, potentially oxidizing more quickly. Some people even think that sulfites lead to headaches, but there is no proven link between the two. All this to say that this particular medium-bodied organic Tempranillo was lovely to drink on its own, and would likely have gone well with most foods, but I’m thinking it would be great with pizza or cured serrano ham (a typical Spanish pairing).

So there you have it! Washington DC is a happening place with so much going on it needed a three-part post. Have you been to DC? What was your favourite part? Did you go to a happy hour or partake in bottomless mimosas? And who do we talk to about getting some more of that here in Ottawa?
Next time on Wining with Mel: Thanksgiving Wining

Wining in DC – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on Wining in DC. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Happy Hour is a bit of a ritual in DC. It doesn’t really matter what day of the week it is, but if it is between 5 and 7 p.m., you can be sure that you will be able to find a bar or a restaurant with Happy Hour specials within a one-block radius. Happy Hour is a great way for a business to attract customers, and an excellent way for customers to try out an establishment’s menu and ambiance, and potentially stay for dinner.

We started out at a wine bar called Vinoteca. It made me realize that there are very few wine bars in Ottawa, and this made me sad, but it also made me want to really take advantage of the fact that it was Friday afternoon, it was warm out, and I had a list of decent wines in front of me, all of which were only $5 a glass!

Happy hour wine list at Vinoteca - all wines $5 a glass!

Happy hour wine list at Vinoteca – all wines $5 a glass!

Wine #1

I wanted something refreshing ,so I started out with the bubbly: the Paul Louis Blanc de Blancs.

Here’s a bit of background: Champagne is a blend of three different types of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The first is a white grape, while the latter two are red. To ensure that no red colour infiltrates champagne, the grapes are pressed and the skins (which provide the colour in a wine) are immediately removed. In a Blanc de blancs, only the white grape of the blend is used. So traditionally, a Blanc des blancs is a sparkling chardonnay made in the champagne style.

The Blanc des blancs I drank in DC was a bit different in two ways.

  1. It is not made out of chardonnay at all, but out of Chenin Blanc grapes.
  2. Though made using the traditional Méthode Champenoise, it is not from Champagne, but from the Loire Valley. Fun fact: the Loire Valley, not Champagne, is the region in France with the highest production of sparkling wine.

Theory aside, it was delicious! Perfectly refreshing and light, it was exactly what I was craving after a long day of walking.

After our first glass, we ordered a cheese plate so I asked the bartender for a recommendation. Cheese and wine pairings can be tricky. It is sometimes difficult to find a good match for both the texture and consistency of the cheese, in addition to the flavour, especially when you’re going to be partaking in several different cheeses. Plus you never want the wine to overpower the cheese, or vice versa, which is easy to do. There are some pretty strong cheeses out there. Someone once told me that beer is actually a better pairing than wine for cheeses, and the bartender at Vinoteca originally recommended a cider to go with the cheese. But let’s be honest, I didn’t come to a wine bar to drink cider.

Wine #2

I decided to go with the lightest red they had: the Kaltern K Rosso, a red blend from the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Italian wines, particularly those from the North, tend to be food friendly. Which makes sense, when you think that the Italians have been making wine for so many centuries (if not millenia). Of course they are masters in wine and food pairing! This particular wine was no exception. It went well with the cheeses, and was nice on its own as well once the cheese was gone (which happened very quickly, by the way).

K Rosso, with what was originally a delicious cheese taster plate at Vinoteca.

Wine #3

Happy Hour was over and I had a hankering for Italian food (perhaps the influence of Wine #2). We went to a restaurant nearby called Dino’s. Mere and I sat at the bar, both ordered a glass of Montepulciano and shared the charcuterie plate, as we chatted with other patrons and the bartenders.

Wine #4

This is where things start to get a bit hazy. The bartenders were friendly. We switched wines at this point, to an Italian wine I’d never even heard of before: the Piano del Cerro Aglianico del Vulture. It comes from the Italian Basilicata region, which can be thought of geographically as the “instep” of the Italian boot. The wines of southern Italy tend to be richer and fuller-bodied. The Aglianico grape has a thick skin and therefore has a lot of tannin. Throw in some fruity and woody aromas and you’ve got yourself a pretty tasty wine. I can attest that it was veeeeeeeeeery drinkable. I had the foresight to take a picture, but not enough to take any tasting notes.

Piano del Cerro - Aglianico del Vulture. It must have been bottomless wine Fridays. All I know is that my glass always seemed full. Great service!

Piano del Cerro – Aglianico del Vulture
It must have been bottomless wine Fridays. All I know is that my glass always seemed full. Great service!

Luckily, the wine is available at the SAQ, so I may grab a bottle next time I’m across the bridge and take notes this time!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Wining in DC, where we have a delicious dinner at a geriatric hour and bottomless mimosas for breakfast.

Wining in DC – Part 1

Washington, DC is such a great place. I think it gets a bad rep as a lifeless and drab political capital, but it really is a town with lots going on. At least in comparison to our own nation’s capital here in Canada. I visited DC last in 2006, and I was surprised by how much it has changed since then. I can now attest that DC has a happening food and wine scene, with something to please everyone.

I was originally going to just do one post about this great town, but I realized I had too much to say, so this has now evolved into 3 different posts. Welcome to Wining with Mel’s first multi-post series!!

I arrived late Thursday night and took a SuperShuttle into town from Dulles airport. It was probably around 11 by the time I got to my friend Mere’s place near Columbia Heights, but luckily she had already opened a bottle of wine in anticipation of my arrival (she knows me so well).  To celebrate our reunion, we drank an Oregon Pinot Noir and stayed up until 1:30 in the morning catching up. It was great!

Duck Pond Pinot Noir

Duck Pond Pinot Noir – an excellent medium-bodied red that goes well with almost any food or just to sip on while catching up with a girlfriend. We may or may not have gone through the entire bottle. For the sake of research, obviously.

Friday morning we lazed around, basking in the not-having-to-work-on-a-weekday glow. We drank coffee and chatted until we came up with a decent plan for the day. By the time we got out the door it was lunchtime! So we headed to this great sandwich place called SUNdeVICH. Just looking at their menu makes me drool a little. They offer delicious sandwiches inspired by cuisines from all over the world, all on freshly baked baguette. Mere and I shared the Paris (fried egg, ham and swiss with tomato and greens) and the Seoul (bulgogi beef and kimchi). YUM.

Concerned about food comas, we decided we’d better grab a coffee and keep moving. We wandered around town, eventually ending up at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. The great thing about Washington DC is all the FREE Smithsonian museums. There are about a dozen around the city, each with special and permanent exhibits. Which means that even if you’ve been before, there’ll probably be something new next time you go.  Plus, since there is no admission fee, you can just stop in for a bit and not feel guilty if you leave after only a half hour. The Portrait Gallery is in a gorgeous building, and I feel like I almost spent more time admiring the architecture than the portraits themselves. The American Art Museum is in the same building, and there are some pretty gorgeous and/or thought-provoking pieces in there.

One of the spaces in the Smithsonian American Art Museum

One of the spaces in the Smithsonian American Art Museum

A beautiful corridor of the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery

A beautiful corridor of the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery

By this point, I was getting thirsty, and it just so happened that it was happy hour! Stay tuned for Part 2 of Wining in DC, when the fun really begins.