Living life, one glass at a time

Tag: Travel

Once upon a time…

Ottawa river with sailboat

Once upon a time there was a valiant lady who won a great challenge. Her reward was to select the theme for the subsequent challenge, one that would allow the competitors an opportunity to momentarily set down the burden of their duties, have a cup of nectar and pick up a quill to pen their tales. Continue reading

Resurfacing…with big news



I know, I know. It has been a while. My excuses are valid, I assure you, but I don’t want to bore you with them. Let’s just say that I have been struck with a case of shifting priorities, and unfortunately this blog was one of the things that got shuffled to the bottom of the list, along with many other things that are dear to me. But it was all for a good cause! Read on, and you will see: this is a post of big news…

Continue reading

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.

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


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!

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