Nostalgia de España


Awesome graphic from

I seem to be on a bit of a Spanish kick lately. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it is my nostalgic associations with the country. Back in the day, I did an oh-so-cliché third year abroad in Salamanca, a small Spanish town halfway between Madrid and the Spanish border with Portugal. I lived in an apartment inhabited by 6 other international students, who after 5 months of cohabitation became my friends for life. Miguel de Cervantes, the author of the infamous Don Quixote, is rumoured to have studied at the Universidad de Salamanca (it was so long ago, no one knows for sure), where I took Spanish literature courses in classrooms three times older than Canada itself. In a country where businesses close for a siesta for anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in the afternoon, where tapas are a way of life, and where most families don’t even start thinking about dinner before 9 p.m., I spent way too much time stressing out about classes and coursework. If only someone had told me that the marks on year-abroad courses were pass/fail! Continue reading

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 2

Hello fellow wine lovers!

As you will recall, a few weeks ago I blogged about an LCBO article listing its 2015 Customer Favourites. I ran out and bought 3 of the 4 most-bought wines to see what all the fuss was about. In the blog post I reviewed the Beronia Tempranillo, and last weekend I brought the 2 remaining customer favourites to dinner at my sister-in-law’s place. All in all, I think Ontario and I have different tastes, but I can see the appeal of both the wines I tried.

Let’s break it down!

Open Smooth White VQA (Ontario)

Open Smooth White

Pale-medium yellow, with a very strong aroma including citrus, floral aspects, a bit of tropical fruit and lot of plastic/vinyl, that telltale characteristic of a riesling (in this case blended with vidal). Nice round, lush body. More peachy notes on the palate, as well as lemon, and still that riesling vinyl taste. I found this wine opened up a lot more as it warmed up a bit (our bottle had been left in the car overnight and so was extremely chilled when we first opened it). An easy-drinking wine on its own or with appetizers like paté and crackers.

I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but it’s $11.95 and an extra dollar off until the end of the month, so if you’re thinking of trying it, go get a bottle soon!


Ok, so after trying the Open and the Beronia, I’m starting to think that I may actually be a wine snob since that’s two strikes for me against the good wine-buying people of Ontario. I had heard good things about the next one so my fingers were crossed that I would like it!

The Wanted Zin 2014 (Puglia, Italy)

Wanted Zin

Intense ruby red, lots of dark cherry, dark fruit, raisin and plum on the nose. Smells delicious. On the palate, more of the same: black cherry, clove, sweet spice, vanilla and lots of dried fruit. Medium body, fairly low on tannins. Old World meets New World in this American-style Italian primitivo. Primitivo and zinfandel are genetically the same grape. And with zinfandel gaining popularity, this Italian wine probably wanted to benefit from that, so has been made in a similar style to the California zinfandels, likely specifically for sale on this side of the pond.

This one was ok! Actually, it was perfect for the pulled pork we were eating, and would work with anything smoked or grilled. Out of the 3 customer favourites I tried, this one I might buy again. It’s a pretty good price ($13.95, $1 off until the end of January) and is cheaper than my go-to zinfandel (Ravenswood). So I will keep this one in my back pocket for the next bbq I go to. And although that will likely not be for a while, the days are getting longer, folks, so that in itself is something to raise a glass to!


Beronia Rioja Reserva 2010 (Spain)

Beronia Reserva

As I mentioned, last week I tried the Beronia Tempranillo, which was one of the 2015 LCBO Customer Favourites, but not necessarily one of mine. However, I also picked up the above rioja by the same producer. This one is a blend of tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo grapes. The “reserva” indicates that it has been aged in a barrel for at least a year (if you’re a wine nerd like me, you’ll want to check out the diagram below for more info on rioja classifications). According to the bottle, this wine spent 18+ months on oak, then was aged for 20 months in the bottle.



Awesome rioja classification diagram by

I much preferred this one to last week’s experimental tempranillo. It was dark ruby red, bordering on opaque. On the nose, aromatic black cherry and other dark fruit, as well as tobacco, cedar and sweet spice. At first sip, holy tannins! Let this one breathe for at least an hour. It is very grippy with equally high acidity, for a simultaneous drying yet mouthwatering sensation (how is that even possible?). This full-bodied red boasts red cherry and berries, clove, herbs, cedar and some minerality on the palate. I quite enjoyed drinking this rioja with (yet another) beef stew, but think it would go very nicely with any grilled red meat. It could also stand to be aged for a few more years, which would help take that tannin-y edge off and bring out more of the fruit.

Unlike the customer favourites, this wine is in the $15+ category, coming in at $19.95, with no special discount (alas). However, I am adding it to my list of wines to drink with steak! Also, you will notice that in the diagram, it says reserva riojas are generally $25+, so this one is a steal!

I am still on the lookout for the fourth LCBO customer favourite, the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz, but it looks like the last bottles left are in Deep River and Timmins. And I love wine, but you have to draw the line somewhere.


Have you tried any of the LCBO Customer Favourites? What did you think? Are your wine tastes in line with the rest of Ontario’s?

Happy wining, friends!

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 1

Happy New Year fellow wine lovers!

I hope 2016 is treating you well thus far. Have you tasted any good wines lately? I’m always looking for new wines to try, so please share in the comments!

Speaking of new wines, as I was doing some Facebook stalking perusing the other day, I came across an ad for the LCBO’s Customer Favourites of 2015.

Faves captureIntrigued, I clicked on it, hoping that Ontario’s tastes would be in line with my own. According to the LCBO, here are the supposed fan favourites:

I was shocked to see that I had never had any of the chosen wines. Not a single one! Was I missing out? Did the rest of Ontario know something I didn’t?? Obviously, I had to find out. Luckily, my local LCBO had 3 out of 4. I am still on the look-out for the shiraz, which is dwindling rapidly here in Ottawa.

Last night, I opened the Beronia Rioja, and here are my notes:


Colour: Deep ruby red

Aromas: Yummy: Black cherry, tobacco, chocolate, strawberry

Palate: Fairly fruit forward: tart cherry, strawberry at the outset, evolving into vanilla, liquorice (Google disapproves of my Canadian spelling, btw) and cedar.

Structure: Medium-bodied, medium tannins and high mouthwatering acidity – the perfect structure for food!

We paired this rioja with a hearty beef stew, and it was a hit! When a red wine has light–medium tannins and high acidity, it often pairs well with most foods, and this wine was no exception.

Conclusion: I think Ontario bought this in such large numbers precisely because it is such a food-friendly wine. On its own, the wine is so-so, but it goes really nicely with a wintery beef roast or stew. Also, is it just me or is there an aura of mystery surrounding Spanish wines? I feel like they tend to be lesser known wines that are often surprising in terms of their price-quality ratio. That said, I’m not sure I would buy this one again. But don’t take my word for it; that is simply a reflection of my personal preferences. Remember: wine tasting is an incredibly subjective venture, so I would encourage you to try this wine for yourself to see if you like it. Plus, it is $2 off until January 31, so at $13.95, now is the time!

Post-conclusion thoughts: I was asking myself why the category for this wine was “Most Surprising Twist”. The description in the article explains “This unusually barrel-fermented Tempranillo from Spain began as an experiment and turned into a commercial hit”. Is that it then? Was the surprising twist that it ended up selling so well? I think they need to hire better category creators.

Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing more so-called customer faves soon!


P.S. I also bought a bottle of the Beronia Rioja Reserva, which I think is this winemaker’s standard rioja (not the experimental version). I’ll let you know how it is!

Under the Weather Wining

Going to the dentist. Taking a flight. Going on a first date. Having no kleenex/soup in the house.

All things that SUCK when you are sick.

That’s right. Yours truly has come down with a cold. And considering the subject of this blog, I must add to the above list: drinking wine.

Just like going out for a nice meal when you are sick, drinking a nice bottle of wine when you have a cold is such a waste. It just takes all the enjoyment out of it. And yet, some research shows that moderate consumption (8-14 glasses per week) of wine, particularly red wine, may help prevent the common cold.

Now when I first read these articles’ claims, I pshawed*. First of all, that seems pretty high for a “moderate” weekly consumption. And second of all, I drank wine all week and look what good it did me! However, after a bit of thought, I realized that 8-14 glasses is likely exactly where my weekly consumption is at so I clearly need to stop being so judgmental. And secondly, I had a glass (or two) of red wine every night this week until last night, which is when the sinus explosion hit me. Maybe this research is onto something and I should be increasing my red wine intake.

So my friends, learn from my errant ways and go ahead and drink that second glass of immune-boosting red wine tonight. Otherwise soon you may be the one sitting at home in sweatpants with a blanket and a box of kleenex at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night.

* Although Google Chrome disagrees, “pshaw” is actually a word, thank you very much. The fact that the Oxford Dictionary considers it dated makes me think I maybe read too much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie as a child.


Luckily, I drank a couple of nice bottles before getting sick (over the course of the last week, not one right after the other in the name of prevention), so I at least have something to report this week. They may or may not have played a pivotal role in me making it through the work week before this cold hit.

  1. Gérard Bertrand La Clape 2011


This wine was the perfect way to start a weekend. This Coteaux de Languedoc from the south of France boasts a lovely blend of syrah (aka shiraz), carignan and mourvèdre (one of my favourite varietals, FYI, and a key component of Côtes du Rhône wines). Medium ruby red in colour, there is definitely a hint of garnet, which is sometimes a sign of age (how was 2011 already 4 years ago??). On the nose, it’s quite fragrant, showing dark fruit, floral notes and spices.

The structure of this wine is really nice and quite balanced: medium bodied, medium tannins, medium acidity. On the palate, same dark fruit, with cedar, black pepper and those spices again (Kim Marcus describes them as “savory herb flavors”).

We paired this with some leftover Moroccan beef stew and the pairing was surprisingly fantastic. I wasn’t sure how the Moroccan spices would work with the wine, but they actually brought out its fruit flavours, which was delicious.

There aren’t too many bottles of this left in Ontario (we’re pretty much out in Ottawa – I bought this bottle a couple of months ago). So check stocks at the LCBO nearest you, and maybe grab me a bottle (Mom?). This wine is also available at the SAQ for those of you in Quebec.

  1. Viña Bujanda Rioja Reserva 2010


A delicious pairing at Das Lokal

Earlier this week, the ladies in my yoga class and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice glass of a wine. A restaurant in the area called Das Lokal offers half-priced bottles of wine on Tuesday, so we decided to check it out! We were not disappointed with this decision. We ordered the abovementioned Spanish rioja and could not have been more pleased.

It was pretty dark in the restaurant, but the wine’s colour seemed dark ruby  to me, and smelled of dark fruit (by this I mean plum, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, etc.), cedar, tobacco and sweet spice. This is the type of wine aroma that makes me swoon a little. This particular rioja spent 20 months in oak so that really brings out the last three aromas.

On the palate, this rioja was very dry, but with juicy tannins. There was dark fruit here too, specifically blackberry and red currant, and it had a loooooong finish.

Though we had it with the typical German sausage dish pictured above, I found it went really nicely with the balsamic/oil the restaurant served with their sourdough bread.

Keep well, friends. Keep taking your vitamins and a healthy dose of red!