End-of-vacation w(h)ining


Let us take a moment of silence to mark the end of a glorious two weeks of vacation. It was a brief staycation, cut short by my employer’s requirement that I actually return to work. Total buzzkill. This time off will be sorely missed. But it’s time to get back to saving the world, one translation at a time [translator’s note: this may be a gross exaggeration].

Continue reading


Spotlight on Benjamin Bridge, Nova Scotia

Though you maybe can’t tell from the title, this is Part 2 of a two-part series on Wining in Nova Scotia. Be sure to read Part 1!

Our first wine-tasting stop in the Annapolis Valley was at a winery that accepts visitors by appointment only and is not even visible from the road. Detailed instructions are necessary since it is totally unmarked. Armed with Google Maps and the directions I received from the winery by email, we still managed to get a bit lost. Continue reading

Wining etc. in Nova Scotia

A few weeks ago, we went on a loooooooooong road trip to the Maritimes (like 1600 km long…one way). We were going to a friend’s wedding in Nova Scotia, and I decided to take the whole week off since I had never really spent much time on the East Coast, save a choir trip in Grade 7 (yes, yes, I am a choir nerd) and a couple of trips to Halifax to visit friends in my university days. I was due for some quality mari-time on the East Coast (see what I did there?).  When organizing the trip, besides planning to eat a lot of lobster (success!), I obviously planned for a day of wine tasting.

Continue reading

Quebec City Wining

We were in beautiful Quebec City over the Family Day long weekend. And it was cooooooold. Not just the regular need-to-wear-a-toque-today cold, but the pull-out-the-long-underwear-and-balaclava kind of cold. It was the second year in a row with these same frigid temperatures over the long weekend. I remember, not only because my Facebook feed was filled with Memories from a year ago side-by-side with similar cold-related posts, but also because we had been on our same annual ski weekend, so the cold was particularly memorable. Now, I should mention that I am not in any way a skier. I tried it a couple of times when I was younger, but since I hate the cold, it turns out it wasn’t really my thing. So for the past three years, we have gone on an annual ski trip over the long weekend, which generally involves me hanging out by the fire with the cottage to myself while everyone else freezes their nuts off on the ski hill all day. I love it!

For this year’s ski trip, my husband and I, along with another couple had rented a really cute AirBnb in a quaint hillside town halfway between Quebec City and Mont Ste-Anne. We left Friday night right after work in, of course, a blizzard. Typical start to the long weekend. Needless to say, it took us much longer than expected to get there, and only arrived after midnight. We had a quick drink (a glass or two of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, in case you were wondering) then went to bed.

My husband was sick with a cold, so he passed on skiing on Saturday. Our friends took off first thing in the morning to take advantage of the fresh powder, while my husband and I had a much-needed sleep in. Our big adventure for the day was getting bundled up for the -30 °C temperatures with the wind chill and walking the 500 metres to the grocery store and back. I put together a beef stew in the crockpot and opened up a bottle of The Show. Yes, that’s right, the failed rib pairing (see link for wine description). You will be happy to hear that this rich Californian red was fabulous both in and with the beef stew. The rest of the evening was spent opening more bottles (including a bottle of my go-to cava, Segura Viudas) and playing various games, including Code Name and our family favourite, Cards Against Humanity.

The next morning involved another sleep-in.  Once we eventually got moving, we headed to the Chutes Montmorency, a beautiful half-frozen waterfall a ten-minute drive from where we were staying. It was just as cold that day, so you’ll have to excuse me if I didn’t risk getting frostbitten fingers to take pictures, if only to keep my typing skills (and by extension, this blog) intact. Here’s a stock photo instead:


Source: quebecvacances.com

Luckily, my husband has heartier fingers than I do (or what is known as “man hands” in our household) and was able to doff his gloves momentarily to snap this lovely selfie.



As some of you may recall, the Sunday of the long weekend was Valentine’s Day. And since we had just celebrated our “real” 8-year anniversary (real because it commemorates when we became a couple, not our wedding, and is therefore really where it all began), a nice dinner out was in order. Quebec City has an excellent selection of nice restaurants, so after getting a few recommendations from a friend, we finally settled on Chez Boulay.


Cocktail hour with friends

We started off with some cocktails. They had some very interesting concoctions, and I of course chose something with a local sparkling wine in it, seeing as the restaurant’s mandate is to offer traditional nordic fare using regional ingredients.

We ordered some appetizers to start: some bison tartare as well as the salmon tartare. We all chose our mains and my sommelier skills were going to be put to the test when choosing a bottle of wine to go with all four meals. We were ordering the following:

  • Confit goose and duck parmentier with scalloped parsnips, sautéed green cabbage, herb pesto with Labrador tea, cooking jus
  • North Atlantic scallops with cranberry powder, navy bean and leek ragout, cooking ju
  • Cod fillet, gaspesian broth infused with Kombu and smoked cod, potato purée with seaweed from Gaspésie, green onion emulsion
  • Pan seared milk-fed veal medallion from Quebec, liver meatloaf, fried jerusalem artichokes, brussel sprouts, gnocchi with black walnuts and mustard cream sauce

Are you drooling yet?

So what did I have to work with? Two dishes that traditionally paired with white (fish/shellfish) and two that generally went with red (red meat). Also, my fellow diners were in the mood for a white, so that was tipping the scales as well. Plus I wasn’t super familiar with many of the wines on their list, so I happily enlisted the help of our server, who suggested a versatile Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley from Henry Pellé.

I even discovered a new appellation I’d never heard of before: Menetou-Salon. It’s the one right next to Sancerre, home of perhaps the most famous French sauvignon blancs.


Menetou-Salon, located right-dab in the middle of France

This bottle was so lovely that I didn’t care that I was drinking a white wine with my red meat (goose and duck – YUM). It was light-medium bodied with a lot of apple flavours. I also got a bit of pear and definitely a lot of citrus. You could also see the terroir coming through in the wine’s subtle minerality. It also had plenty of acidity, so it was great with all of our dishes. Everyone was happy (though I was maybe the only one who really cared about what we were drinking ;-)). I was even happier when I discovered that this wine is available across the river at the SAQ! But it looks like stocks are limited, and at the $24+ price point, I’m not sure that I will be trekking across the bridge solely for that bottle. However, with the 15% bulk discount offered at SAQ Depots, my arm could be twisted.

What bottle did you open for Valentine’s Day? Or simply to beat the cold? Whatever the bottle, and whatever the occasion, I hope it was a lovely one.


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