Top wine gifts for the holidays and beyond

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Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us, and as usual, I am behind on my Christmas shopping. Today, the cashier at the grocery store asked me if I was getting excited for Christmas, and I was surprised that my response was a scowly face. Let me explain: I do like Christmas. I love spending time with family, eating delicious food and splurging a little on fancy wines. I love the uplifting smell of a pine tree in our living room. I love walking through our neighbourhood at night and seeing all the pretty lights shimmer against a fresh dusting of snow. I love hearing Christmas songs everywhere I go, especially now that it’s December (any stores that played Christmas music in November got blacklisted). What I do NOT love is the consumerism associated with Christmas. Continue reading


Serendipitous Saturday Pairings: tilapia and chardonnay

As you know, I am in total denial that winter is here, so lately I have insisted on drinking summer-y wines, generally from the Southern Hemisphere. The sun sets at 4:30 these days, so you have to find ways to trick your body into not falling into a depression. Obviously, wine is the answer. Delicious food helps too. Put the two together and you can occasionally succeed in your anti-depressive measures.

This happened in a completely serendipitous way on Saturday night. Continue reading

Ripasso love

Fellow wine lovers,

Today I am very excited to be sharing one of my favourite wines styles with you. I often forget about it, but today’s bottle has served as a delicious reminder.

Ripasso wines are made in the Veneto region, which is the area in northeastern Italy between Verona and Venice.

The first step in making ripasso wines is making a valpolicella.  This table wine is made from three Italian grapes: corvina, rondinella and molinara.

The second step involves another wine called amarone. Amarone is made with the same grapes, however these grapes have been dried in a process called apassimento, whereby they are dried in the heat of the end of the summer, traditionally on straw mats.



“Drying racks” by Tommasi

This process dries out the water and concentrates the amount of sugar in the grapes, which then yields a higher alcohol content during fermentation. Amarone is the wine created using these dried grapes, and is the crème de la crème of Italian wines. However, these bottles go for $30 and up, so are not always the most affordable choice. Ripassos (meaning re-passed), however, are a happy medium between the everyday valpolicella wines and the exhorbitantly priced amarones.

Ripasso is made by running valpolicella wines through the rich leftover amarone skins. This process adds body, texture and rich flavours to the valpolicella and makes for a consistently beautiful wine.


Breakdown of valpolicella wines c/o Wine Folly

Last Saturday night I made my special lasagna. It is special because I’ve adapted the recipe over time to meet my husband’s non-dairy needs. Instead of ricotta, I make my own tofu ricotta and I replace regular mozzarella with President’s Choice goat mozzarella. It’s pretty darned good, if I do say so myself. Because it was Saturday night and we didn’t have any other plans, I decided to choose a nice wine to accompany the meal. A standard rule of thumb for wine and food pairing is to go by geography, so for the lasagna, I decided to open the only bottle of Italian wine I had in the house: you guessed it, a ripasso.


Farina “La Pezze” Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC 2013

This medium ruby red was full of cherry, blackberry, raisin (from the amarone skins), cedar and menthol.  On the palate, the first thing I noticed was a juicy, mouthwatering acidity that makes you want to drink more!  This wine is medium bodied and surprisingly light in tannins. It’s got really nice fruit flavours like fresh respberry, blueberry, blackberry and cherry,  and is also heavy on the dried fruit (raisin and fig) as well as some nice refreshing mint. It finishes off with a  lovely medium-long cherry finish.

In conclusion, drink ripasso. This particular one, although much lighter than the benchmark ripasso, went extremely well with my lasagna. Sometimes goat cheese does funny things with red wines, particularly tannic ones, but this Farina ripasso’s medium body and fruit-forward character, not to mention high acidity, made it a perfect match. Don’t forget, wines with high acidity are great food wines, so this guy is a great food-friendly candidate that would make a great contribution to dinner parties. Plus now you have lots of fun ripasso facts to share with the other guests! And did I mention the price? In the valpolicella diagram above you will notice that the price range for ripasso starts at $20, so this one is a steal at $15.90!

BONUS: Again, I am ahead of the curve. This ripasso is now on sale at the LCBO until February 3 for $11.90!! That is a $4 savings! I tried to pick up a few bottles at my local store tonight but they said a guy had come in and bought their last 100 bottles earlier (!!). I guess that means I need to scour the city tomorrow for a case! The race is on folks. Get ’em while they’re hot! (I hope all the exclamation marks properly express the urgency of the situation).


Happy weekend and happy wining!


A match made in heaven - or so I thought.

A match made in heaven – or so I thought.

Sunday night, we came home from a day out on the boat, and upon exiting the vehicle were greeted with a heavenly aroma effusing throughout the neighbourhood. It smelled sweet, like fresh-baked maple donuts or cotton candy. We saw smoke emanating from our neighbours’ place and saw that they had their charcoal grill going. We went over to explore and they showed us what smelled so amazing: RIBS. They had been smoking them for five hours, and were just about ready.

They were nice enough to offer to bring some over since they had more than they needed. I was very excited because a) I never make ribs and b)I had a bottle of The Show Cabernet Sauvignon open and I figured this would make an excellent pairing.


When the ribs arrived, we sat down and tasted them. Oh my gosh, they were AMAZING. Our minds were blown. The husband mentioned that if he weren’t already married to me, he’d propose to our neighbour John, that’s how good they were. The meat was super tender and flavourful, and slightly sweet with a punch of spiciness at the end.


The Show Cabernet Sauvignon* is a great bbq wine from Napa. Though cab sauvs are generally full-bodied wines, I’d say this one is more medium-full bodied. It’s very fruity and spicy on the nose, with evidence of oak (vanilla aromas). On the palate, this dry wine has notes of raspberry and plum, as well as some of the vanilla from the nose. Tannins are medium to high, and the alcohol took a while to dissipate. It’s a wine that should breathe before you drink it.

This is a great wine for barbecued steak, so with my simplified reasoning, I figured that ribs was close enough to steak for this to be a great match.


I had taken a sip of the wine before dinner, and though we had opened the bottle the night before, it still tasted great. The ribs were so meaty that it took me a few minutes to get through just one. After finishing the first rib, I stopped to take a breather and savour the flavour explosion in my mouth. You know when the food is so good you forget about your wine? I cleaned off my hands and took a sip. It was not good. The wine seemed almost sour. Despite being a medium-to-full bodied wine, it did NOT even come close to standing up to the ribs. Plus the tannins really exacerbated the spiciness of the rib sauce, setting off the taste bud fire alarm. It was almost painful.


Theoretically, smooth sweet whites are a typical pairing with spicy food. But I just wasn’t feeling it. I now wonder what would have happened had we simply chilled The Show. Would the slight tweak have helped cool our taste buds? I think a smoother red with less tannin, like a zinfandel, would also have worked.

However, we had none of these wines in the house and the LCBO was closed (why must all LCBOs close at 5 on Sundays? Why??)

The only thing left to do was dip into the beer we had in the fridge. And you know what? It was AWESOME. First, the fact that it was cold helped soothe the burning taste buds. Secondly, it had enough flavour to stand up to the ribs. Innis and Gunn to the rescue! If you’ve never tried this beer, I highly recommend it, and I’m not much of a beer drinker! It’s a Scottish craft beer that is aged in oak barrels, so of course I’m going to like it. It has many of the same oaky flavour components I love in oaked wines: vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and toffee. This perceived sweetness in the beer actually brought out the sweeter elements of the ribs. It was really a mutually beneficial pairing, with the wine complementing the food, and the food complementing the wine. A serendipitous evening, all in all!

Innis and Gunn saves the day!

Innis and Gunn saves the day!

*The Show, which can be found in the general listing section, is on sale at the LCBO until September 13. At $2 off a bottle, it’s a great time to try this wine! Perfect with steak off the bbq (not so great with ribs).