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).

Pig Roast Pairings

Fellow wine lovers!

It has been a busy few weeks! Is it just me, or do busy work weeks lead to increased wine consumption? No? Just me? Oh well, at least it means I have a whole slew of wine insights for you.

Last weekend we headed down to southern Ontario to attend the husband’s cousin’s annual pig roast, in the thriving metropolis of Embro, ON. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and when David told me to pack my jean skirt and cowboy hat, I got nervous. I began to expect the worst.

Besides the pig on a spit, it was a potluck. I used to love potlucks. In my student days, if there was free food, I was all over it. But now that my own cooking skills have improved and I am less desperate for food that I don’t have to cook or pay for, I am less interested in dishes of varying degrees of quality.

Even more importantly, if you don’t know what you’re going to be eating, how the heck do you pick out a wine to go with your meal??

As usual, this will have as much to do with your personal tastes as your budget. The first question is, red, white or maybe rosé? Since I knew the staple of the meal was going to be pork, I decided to eliminate red from the options. So that’s good, that only leaves 46% of LCBO wines to choose from!

If you’ve ever been to the LCBO with me, you’ll know that it’s not something I take lightly. Very rarely do I spend any less than 15 minutes in this fine establishment. I’m like a kid in a candy store, and I like to see what’s new, and what’s on sale, and what will go with my meal, and what will I feel like next Wednesday, and what would go with a sunny Saturday afternoon in the backyard, and are there any occasions coming up I need to buy wine for…etc. Needless to say, I could spend hours in there. Have I also mentioned that my decision-making skills are crap? This means that I tend to walk away from LCBO excursions with no less than 2 bottles each time. Which is great because the two-bottle paper bags they give you are fantastic as compost bin liners. You’re welcome.

So when we got to the LCBO Saturday evening, my husband, who knows me and my exasperating LCBO tendencies well, gave me a 5-minute time limit. My desicion-making abilities put to the test, I had to think quickly: something that pairs well with pork, that will go with most other foods that could potentially end up on the hillbilly potluck table and something that won’t take me half an hour to pick out.

That last bit made me park myself in front of a rosé promo section at the end of an aisle. There I found a bunch of rosés all in one place and I didn’t have to roam up and down all the country-based aisles in search of one I liked. Excellent time management, I thought! Especially since rosés account for less than 5% of the table wines in the LCBO general list. And as we already know, I love drinking rosés in the summer, since they go well with food and are easy to drink on their own as well.

I didn’t want anything too sweet, so that meant I was looking for a dry or even extra dry wine. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the LCBO’s sweetness codes found on the bin tags, here they are:

Source: LCBO

Source: LCBO

This sweetness criteria seemed to eliminate many of the rosés in the display. With time running out (I still had to get through the cash), I quickly selected a Spanish rosé made of one of my favourite grapes: garnacha. This dry wine was nice and light, yet had enough fruity flavour to stand up to most foods. For $12 a bottle, it was the perfect wine for a pig roast where most of the revelers were drinking Coors Light. Plus it was an excellent exercise in quick decision-making and self-restraint. I managed to limit my LCBO visit to less than five minutes AND left with only one bottle in my possession!

Gran Feudo rosé, perfect for any BYOC (bring your own chair and cooler) gathering.

Gran Feudo rosé, perfect for any BYOC (bring your own chair/cup/cooler) gathering.


The pig-roasting contraption. I was very sorry to have missed the spit in action. Note my father-in-law in the background, caught red-handed at the dessert table.


The food table

The dessert table, with beer backdrop.

The dessert table, with beer backdrop.

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!