French kiss: a glimpse into the food and wine of Languedoc

Languedoc. Land of three kisses. Everyone knows that the French greet each other with kisses on the cheek. However, the French kissing custom can garner intense confusion for visiting foreigners. Like a secret code that only locals are privy to, the number of kisses exchanged varies based on geography, ranging anywhere from 1 to 5 (!!) kisses. Continue reading

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Resurfacing…with big news

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Friends!

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

White wine recommendations – from California to New Zealand

Hello fellow wine-lovers!

It’s been a while! The three of you who read this blog must be wondering what to drink this week. This week’s post will be focusing on white wines, so if white is your wine of choice, read on! If red is your preferred quaff, read on anyway and try something new this week! I have two excellent wines to recommend, for any budget!

  1. Big House WhiteBig House

A medium-bodied blend that is fairly complex considering it is an under-$10 bottle of wine. It’s rich and bright, all at the same time. At first, apricot and pineapple, which evolves into a refreshing and zippy citrus on the finish (due to a stainless steel fermentation). I always thought it was mainly a chardonnay-based blend, however it’s made of malvoisie, muscat and viognier, all lesser-known grape varieties. I had to look up the first one, since I was unsure what it was. According to wine expert Jancis Robinson:

A wide range of often unrelated varieties are called Malvoisie although most are light-berried and make full-bodied, aromatic white wines. Perhaps it is most commonly encountered, in the Loire, Savoie and Switzerland, as a synonym for Pinot Gris. The Languedoc’s Bourboulenc and Maccabéo, Roussillon’s Tourbat and Corsica’s Vermentino have all been called Malvoisie in their time, however.

Well that’s a bit confusing, though the “full-bodied, aromatic” bit explains why I always thought it was chardonnay.

The best part of this wine is the price. Recently discontinued at the LCBO, it is now available, while quantities last, for only $7.95. I know you’re probably already halfway out the door, but if you are in the National Capital Region, I must warn you that you’re probably out of luck. I already went on a wild goose chase trying to scoop up the last bottles, and only managed to snag three. Those of you in the GTA will have better luck. That said, Ottawans, don’t despair. You’ll be happy to hear that the Big House is available at the SAQ, though the price is double the discontinued LCBO price. Plus, if the 750 mL format is not enough for you, there is a 3L box available. Perhaps something to keep in mind for your next Christmas dinner…

2. Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20.95)


When my husband doesn’t know what to get me for my birthday, he buys me wine. He knows that the way into a wine snob’s heart is through her palate. This bottle was part of my lovely birthday present this year. New Zealand sauvignon blancs are very popular in our household. I’ve already mentioned our love of Kim Crawford (both the unoaked chardonnay and pinot noir), and the sauvignon blanc was probably the wine that started my snobbery in the first place. Both the Kim Crawford and the Auntsfield are from the Marlborough region in New Zealand.

Let’s take a minute to talk about “terroir”. These are the geographical, environmental and climatic elements that allow the same grape grown in two different places to make two completely distinct wines. We’re talking about soil types, hours of sun in a day, amount of precipitation, type of terrain, etc. Marlborough sauvignon blancs tend to be very distinct in relation to their counterparts from other countries. And this Auntsfield serves as an excellent benchmark.

Auntsfield Tasting Note

Nose: Very grassy and fresh, with tropical fruit aromas like passion fruit. Essence of pear, and some minerality. Also, the smell is irresistible. I just wanted to keep smelling it.

Flavour: Similar to the nose, so again, very grassy, with tropical fruit, this time, more pineapple than passion fruit. Lemon. Asparagus flavours or canned peas, pear with a hint of white flower.

Body: Light-bodied. So acidic it almost feels effervescent at first sip.

Finish: Fairly long citrus finish considering the acidity, which would normally eliminate the flavours on the palate fairly quickly.

Food pairing: White fish, seafood, buttery/creamy pasta.

This is all very typical of a Marlbourough sauv blanc. These wines are often identifiable just by their aroma, which is very addictive for me. If the asparagus or grassy flavours sound unappealing, rest assured that the tropical fruit and citrus flavours balance them out nicely. Just trust me on this one and try it. You’ll be hooked at first smell.

[On a side note, the above is an example of my tasting note, in case you are interested. Tasting notes vary from person to person, but these are the main elements to take note of when tasting a wine. The food pairing is a bonus.]
Lastly, as a parting gift for those of you who, like us, have a ton of leftover Halloween candy today, here is a helpful chart from Vivino:

Happy wining!

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

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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!