Perfect Wine for the Holidays

Sparkling is a great start to an evening. It ranges from crisp and dry to buttery and rich but is never heavy so it wont overshadow the food choices.

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The holiday season is rife with holiday events, full of food, fun and wine. With all the events and food available, how do you pick the perfect wine? The short answer? You don’t. Holiday events are often full of appetizers, snacks and desserts. These events can prove difficult to pair as the flavors often vary from light (veggies and dip) to flavorful (cheese, dips, etc…) So here are my recommendations for wines for the holiday season.

1.. Go with sparkling. The holidays are festive and what says celebration more than a bottle of sparkling? Nothing that’s what. Sparkling is a great start to an evening. It ranges from crisp and dry to buttery and rich but is never heavy so it wont overshadow the food choices.

2. Drinkable wines. Forgo that perfect pairing. Italian wines are notorious for being paired with food to really bring out the flavors so skip wines of that nature. As well forgo your big purchase Burgundy or Bordeaux and save the Napa Valley special for another occasion. Find a wine that is easy, approachable and can be enjoyed on its own. Sandhill and Gray Monk from Canada have very complex high end wines but also easy drinking wines that are good choices as a re in Beaujolais crus.. https://www.sandhillwines.ca/ Avoid big wines such as Australian Shiraz and buttery chardonnays from the US. Easy drinking wines wont get lost in food nor overshadow them. http://www.graymonk.com/

3. For the big day, see my Thanksgiving post as the same rules apply.

4. Still avoid wines that are just bad. Easy drinking doesn’t mean cheap or a wine that simply says red wine. For me this means avoiding Apothic Red or Copper Moon no matter how prevalent they are. Remember wine is subjective so if you like them, drink away. Just don’t confuse easy drinking with cheap or popular.thumbnail_IMG_5619

For extra ideas check out the article from Food and Wine

https://www.foodandwine.com/wine/big-bottle-party-wines-best-champagne

So this holiday season, get together, enjoy your wine and plan your next trip. Enjoy!!!

 

The Provencal Food and Wine Road

The end result is to try wine, lots of it, remember to eat the fabulous food and just enjoy, after all you are in Provence.

This past summer, We visited Provence. I have mentioned before that my cousin Christopher joined us. He was very excited to do a wine tour. Which by the way, I strongly recommend as Provence has some excellent tours. I however still love my version of a wine tour which involves screaming stop or arret at @benton8tor as he drives through villages and I spot a sign that says degustation. Why I like this rather adhoc method as that you can find some really small bouquet vineyards or some larger ones but it will definitely be interesting.  I mean @benton8tor and I found a winery within walking distance from our Gite so we walked over for a tasting. The son greeted us from his tractor to tell us his parents weren’t home yet. He called his dad to get him to come home for a tasting. I was starting to feel guilty, but we persevered. Minutes later a  car full of men careened into the yard and one jumped out. It was the proprietor and he greeted us warmly. We tasted several wines and the roses and reds were particularly good in this Lirac region. He showed us a video of his horse Pearl sowing the fields and named his wine after her. He set up a tasting on a makeshift table in a shed but pulled out beautiful glassware and wine on this rustic setting. We bought 3 bottles. So well I love wine tours, you are unlikely to have an experience like this on a wine tour. So with this in mind, I decided we’d stick to the shout and stop method when introducing  Christopher to wine.

But wine also needs good food so our first stop was at Cafe de L’ Ormeau in Lourmarin.  Lourmarin is a foodie haven so you are unlikely to find bad food anywhere. Cafe de l”ormeau has a beautiful side patio with typical regional dishes. In particular, their wine is also local and airs exceptionally well. The Strawberry panacotta dessert was out of this world. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g641880-d1446666-Reviews-Cafe_de_l_Ormeau-Lourmarin_Luberon_Vaucluse_Provence_Alpes_Cote_d_Azur.htmlNow that we had eaten, wine tasting could commence and our first stop was just outside Lourmarin at Chateau Fontvert which quickly became one of my favourite wines of the trip. They had an excellent selection of reds with peppery berry fruit flavors and delightful whites. My only regret is that we didn’t buy more.https://www.fontvert.com/?lang=en

 

Next stop was the Domaine Des Peyre just outside of Gordes. Christopher and I were the only 2 that tasted but again well worth it.  We finished off with dinner in Bonnieux at the P’tit Coin where I had an amazing curried fish and the rest of the table seemed taken with the tuna tartare. http://www.unptitcoindecuisine.fr/un_ptit_coin_de_cuisine/Bienvenue.html The views are as spectacular as the food and wine.http://www.domainedespeyre.com/en/home/

The next day we focused on the infamous Chateauneuf du Pape are. Chateau De Gardine was an amazing spot outside of town close tot he bridge that links to Roquemare.http://www.gardine.com/en/ this Chateau featured the old key to the pope’s cellar. The tastings are in a traditional French cellar and set on beautiful grounds. The wines were out of this wold.  Our favourite was the Rasteau with a Grenache Syrah mix. Christopher, who before this had largely consumed wine from BC only was blown away.

 

Our final stop was Chateau Fines Roches. The hotel has a vineyard and winery as well and it provided me with my absolute favourite wine of the trip. The one that @benton8tor and I have saved for our tradition of drinking wine before our next trip. Jas De Bressy.  http://www.chateauneuf.dk/en/cdpen12.htm

But for those who want to try wines without committing to a tour, L’Ampelos in Avignon is a wine bar with an extensive tasting menu. Sure we stopped in to escape from the rain but we stayed long after the sun had reappeared. L’Ampelos is the kind of wine bar where you can easily while a day away. http://www.lampelos.fr/

The end result is to try wine, lots of it, remember to eat the fabulous food and just enjoy, after all you are in Provence.

5 Misunderstood Wines

So I try, taste and travel in search of good no great wines, even those that are misunderstood.

Wine, everyone has an opinion and everyone has a favourite. As you should, however often when people try a wine that they like such as an Argentina Malbec or a Pinot Gris,  that is what they will stick with eschewing other wines in favour of a favourite. I am guilty of this myself, always looking for the French wine on the menu. In fact if you ask anyone of my friends, they will tell you to buy me a French wine. This is a problem as there are several French wines, I don’t actually like (hint Loire valley reds). My reason for drinking French wine is not only do I like the complexity of many of the wines, I also understand the regions and grapes enough to know what I am likely to enjoy. However I can miss out on really good wines if I am not open to trying new ones.  So I try, taste and travel in search of good no great wines, even those that are misunderstood. With that in mod, I present the 5 misunderstood wines.

1. Port and Sherry: Port and Sherry have very complicated reputations.Both are in fact a fortified wine.  Last night, @benton8tor and I were at a dinner party and one of the couples had recently returned from Porto. Mat was explaining the amazing port tastings he had tried and a good 3/4 of the table were not impressed. “I don’t like port” was the general consensus

. Well I for one love port but that mainly due to port tastings where I was able to distinguish between tawny ports, white ports and ruby ports. Ports as @benton8tor points out are meant to be enjoyed with highly flavoured cheese,  chocolates, or fruit or for a sipping after a rich meal. Ports are very different so try them and see if in fact there is a port you like. Sherrys much like Ports have a bit of a maligned reputation thanks to Harvey’s Bristol cream. Sherry can be light or dark and vary in sweetness from dry to quite sweet. Sherry like Port are meant to be sipped and pair especially well with cheese and various tapas. Some of the best producers of Sherry and Port include:

https://kopke1638.com/

http://www.sandeman.com/

https://www.tiopepe.co.uk/

2. Merlot: Thanks to the movie Sideways, Merlot has suffered in reputation. Last winter on a trip to San Diego’s wine country, One of the wine makers told us that people are still reluctant to try it. Granted Merlot grown in a warm climate on clay soils and badly handled can indeed bIMG_4518e sticky or syrupy. But in fact, Merlot depending on the region it is grown will vary in flavour. Merlots from Bordeaux can be some of the most highly acclaimed wines in the world, fully of complexity, balance, with noes of leather and tobacco. @benton8tor rightly describes Merlot from Bordeaux as a workhorse wine, suitable for sipping, enjoying with a meal or for cooking. Give Merlot a second chance and try them from various regions.

3. Roses: Again in California last winter the winemakers producing roses are still upset with Ernst and Julio Gallo for sullying the reputation of roses with their white Zinfandels. Those white zinfendals are cloyingly sweet and quite honestly somewhat unpalatable. They have unfortunately sullied the reputation of roses. Roses are made all around the world and most famously associated with Provence, France. Provencal Roses are usually made vithumbnail_IMG_3429a direct press allowing for a very short contact period with the grape skins resulting is a light pink hue with floral finishes and dry mouth feel which produces an exquisite wine. As well Roses made via saignee are likely to be a little more robust in colour and flavour but most likely dry. On a hot summer day nothing beats a delightful rose.

4. Sweet wines: This includes late harvest or ice wines. Again these wines are meant to be paired with cheese or sipped after a meal. Late harvest wines are wines that have been left on the vine and concentrated in flavour. Many late harvest wines are infected with botrytis which ensures a honey flavour. Ice wines are grapes that have been frozen and very concentrated in flavour. Canada shines in ice wine production and countries like France, Argentina and Germany produce amazing late harvest wines. Bordeaux in particular is famous for its delicious late harvest Sauternes.

5. Lesser known wine regions: When traveling, I often check for wineries even in the most unexpected regions. For instance England  and Slovakia produce some amazing sparkling wines, Missouri some amazing reds, and Lebanon some renowned wines in the French style. Even if you think, the country doesn’t produce wine, look into it, try it and you will be surprised. Bulgaria and Uruguay produce some of my favourite reds.

At the end of the day my advice is always to try and keep trying because you just never know.

Picking the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Yes I am recommending British wines but check reviews first. Chapel Down Winery is one I would recommend.

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada so it is a good time to reflect on all I am thankful for. And apart from the very popular pets, friends, family, career, and health, I am very thankful for wine and travel. I am thankful for all the support I got to study and eventually pass my French Wine Scholar Guild exam. I am even more thankful that people read my blog. And with that in mind, I though I would focus this week’s blog on picking the perfect Thanksgiving wine.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s. I wouldn’t say my family was particularly wine focused. In fact the only one who drank it was my grandmother and she preferred Baby Duck (shudder). Side note: to Leopold’s Tavern in Winnipeg, if you are going to put wine on your menu, please ensure its drinkable. I know you like the dive bar concept and I am sure you think Baby Duck is retro. Here’s the fact, Baby Duck may be retro but it is in fact believed to be universally disgusting, so offer wine that is palatable. However back to the story, in our family it was assumed that red wine was for red or darker meats and white was for fish or chicken. I am here to tell you that is not true.

While it isn’t as simple as picking your favourite wine or a label you like, it is not complicated either. If you are having turkey, chicken, or ham, they are lighter meats. Big bold reds or buttery whites would not pair well. The reds would overwhelm and the buttery whites would add rich on top of rich. So if you are having those meats look for wines high in acid and fruit forward. This means looking for cooler climate wine. France’s Northern Rthumbnail_IMG_4982hone, Bourgogne, Jura, Savoie , and Loire regions would all produce reds that would pair well. Bourgogne is infamous for its pinot noir and pinot noirs in a cool climate or high elevation would be a perfect pairing. So explore BC’s Okanagan Valley. Quails Gate, Indigenous Winery, Sandhill, Summerhill, and Cedar Creek all have excellent pinot noirs.https://www.sandhillwines.ca/ Austrian and English reds would also pair well. As would wine from Spain’s Rioja region, Portugal’s Douro Valley, and Tuscan wines from Italy.

If you are set on white I would recommend looking for higher acid wines, again Loire Valley, Alsace, Savoie, and Northern Rhone wines are ideal. Especially the Vioginer from the Norther Rhone. Ehrenfelser, Gewürztraminer, and Rieslings will also pair well. So again focus on B.C.’s Okaganon, Norther California, German, Austrian, British and Northern Italian wines. thumbnail_IMG_2078  Yes I am recommending British wines but check reviews first. Chapel Down Winery is one I would recommend. https://www.chapeldown.com/

If you are going for a heavier meat such as goose, venison or beef, look for the heartier reds with bolder flavours. This is the time for Bordeauxs. Languedocs, Southern Rhone wines from France. Or the Southern Californian pinot noirs. Southern Spain, Southern Portugal, Barolo form Italy,  Croatian Wine and of course the new would carmeneres, and malbecs from Chile or Argentina. And if you are dead set on Australian, now is the time. Likewise the saviginon blancs from New Zealand or Buttery Chardonnays would work though not as well.

If you need a cocktail to start, try any variation of Sparkling Wine cocktails. Add in your favorite liqueurs such as creme de cassis which will give it the berry flavour that ties in nicely with cranberry sauce. Or add any berry, cognac, or citrus flavoring you like. Or keep it as plain old sparkling wine and it will still be delicious.

And when it comes time for dessert, late harvest wines are probably your best bet. Summerhill’s late harvest Erenfelser has the nutty flavours that pair well https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/ as does Rollingdale’s Fort. http://www.rollingdale.ca/ In fact BC’s wineries probably do some of the best late harvest wines available. As well any of Borduax’s Sauterenes and the Rhone’s Beaume de Venise would also do well. Medium bodied or dry sherry’s would also work exceptionally well. Ports though I love them and icewines wines are better paired with cheeses than sweet desserts.

If you still aren’t sure, visit the local wine store and ask their advice. Be sure to tell them what you like and and what you don’t. They will be more than happy to help. In Winnipeg ,I favour Di Nardi, Kenaston Wine Market, The Winehouse, and Banville and Jones. They are all excellent at recommending wines.

http://www.banvilleandjones.com/

http://www.piazzadenardi.com/wine/

https://kenastonwine.com/

http://ticoswinehouse.com/index.php/about.html

Whatever you pick for your Thanksgiving meal, I hope you enjoy it as life is far too short not to have a wine you enjoy.

The Canadian Wine Road Part 2

Their standout by far was a late harvest Merlot that had an accidental (read ancestral method) second fermentation which result in a slight effervescent that was truly amazing to drink.

Make no mistake, Kelowna has lots to offer. Lakes, water acclivities, skiing, snowboarding, hiking and golf. But we were there for the wine. So for day 2 of the Winnipeg Wine Group’s Kelowna field trip, Louise had booked us a wine tour with Apres Wine tours. Apres was amazing, not only did they ask our interests so they could customize our tour, they added a fifth (!) stop for us so we could visit the Indigenous Winery which turned out to be a favourite.https://www.kelownacustomwinetours.com/ So on day 2, we some how managed to all be up early, breakfasted and ready to go. In fact that night when I called @benton8tor he asked how the day was going. “Fine” I tell him ” I was up at 6:40 and went for a walk ” at which point he told me I was turning into my dad. Ha turning.

Anyhow at 10:40 sharp were were ready to board the van. We started our morning at Rollingdale Winery in East Kelowna. Rollingdale is a completely organic winery with an amazing array of wines to choose from and for our tasting we could choose 6.

They unlike most other Okanagan wineries excel more at reds than whites but their standout by far was a late harvest Merlot that had an accidental (read ancestral method) second fermentation which result in a slight effervescent that was truly amazing to drink. I am still upset read so so mad that I didn’t buy a bottle. It was that unique. http://www.rollingdale.ca/

From there we made our way to Quails Gate. One of the best known BC wineries for a reason. Quails Gate occupies some beautiful real estate on the Okanagan and their wines live up to the hype. We were treated to a one hour tour with Peter who took us through the vineyards, through the wine making process to a tasting. The tasting was unique in that he paired wines with cheese, lemon and sausage so that we could fully understand the wine and how the flavour changes. Again, the Pinot Noir was a standout but surprisingly the Chardonnay was a standout for even the red wine drinkers.

https://www.quailsgate.com/

 

From there we headed to Mount Boucherie, which was fascinating for its use of unusual grape varieties. thumbnail_IMG_5063Here again, they matched the tastings to our individual interest and it made for a much more interesting tasting. https://mtboucherie.com/

Finally we made our way to the Indigenous Winery. This winery features Indigenous owners and their son is the wine maker. Again we received a beautiful tasting of five wines , complete with explanations. Once again there was a focus on the Foch grape but its origin was fully explained as it is a North American/ European cross combining earthiness with more fruit forward flavours. Surprisingly however, the whites were my favourite.thumbnail_IMG_5065 Adrianna, our fellow wine clubber who just enrolled in her Social Work Masters program bought a special wine that she is saving for her graduation. https://indigenousworldwinery.com/

We ended the day at Sandhill, which I am sure would have been a great experience if anyone but Alex had been our server. Alex was either hungover or super bitter. Her descriptions included “It the Okanagan in a glass” and “its a Bordeaux blend”. When asked what does that mean, or what gropesare in the blend, she responded by repeating the same phrase. I am sure Sandhill has some amazing wines, and if she like every other winery had taken the time to ask what we liked and customized, I am sure I would be singing their praises. In fact other groups seemed to be having a great time with engaged hosts. If nothing else, she has contributed the phrase “pulling an  Alex” to our wine clubs lexicon. thumbnail_IMG_5069Sorry Sandhill, I know your wines and other staff are good. https://www.sandhillwines.ca/

We finished the day at the highly recommended Bouchon Bistro, a little taste of heaven (ahem France) close to the lake. I can only rave about the Toulouse cassoulet and the extrodinary cheese plate but we were all ecstatic with our meals from French onion soup, to escargot, to steak tartare to fish. Everyone loved it. It was complimented by Beaujolais crus and some delicious banyuls and Beaume de Venise desert wines. http://bouchonsbistro.com/

The next day we reluctantly had to leave our new found wine haven. and return to reality. the way home was a little stressful as a delay in flights caused a little concern if we’d make our connecting flight. It was at this point we learned that Louise will make sure we have all the gate information, Caprice will wait to board until everyone there, and I will sprint to the gate, board the plane first and then text everyone to tell them at least I am on board. Somehow they all still talk to me and we all made it home. Now to plan the next one!!!

The Canadian Wine Road

Canadian wine had indeed shown us, it is a contender on the world stage

Back in 2009, @benton8tor and I went to BC to visit friends, we decided to stop in Kelowna for our first ever wine tour. Though we were both avowed wine  drinkers by then and knew what we liked, we were a long way from understanding why we liked it and what else we should try. So with that in mind we booked a wine tour in Kelowna and My fascination with wine and wine education grew from there. Over the last decade, I have taken several wine tours , mainly in Europe and mostly France but it helps exponentially to understand wine and why I like it or introduce me to things I didn’t know I would love and others that quite frankly just aren’t my glass of wine.

Fast forward to this past spring and it is my friend Louise’s turn to plan wine club. Louise it should be mentioned is an expert traveler, deal finder and organizer, so when she pro

thumbnail_IMG_4175
Penalty for noise

posed a field trip to Kelowna as her wine club? I was in!!! So this past week, seven of our most dedicated wine clubbers met in Kelowna for a weekend of wine, food,  and fun. Sure we had a bit of a challenging start with a delay in Edmonton airport that resulted in us having to leave Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant for being too loud. Suffice it to say, we were a mite excited about our trip and even when we had to leave we possibly laughed all they way ut the door.  We were ready to taste some wine. Arriving in Kelowna at the beautiful Manteo resort on Lake Okanagan, we had our own villa, 2 hot tubs and stunning views. Kelowna we are ready!

Day 1 started with tours to Summerhill Winery and Cedar Creek on the East Side of Kelowna.https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/ Summerhill is a beautiful winery. The owner has built a pyramid on the ground that he ages some of the wine in it. Summerhill is fascinating for me in that I actually enjoy their white wines, the Erinfeltzer in particular. Erinfeltzer is a grape of German origin that grows well and produces refreshing wine in the Okanagan. Summerhill in particular does an exemplary one. As we started our tasting, Our wine expert recommended we start with the sparkling. Well I was a bit reluctant, the only sparkling wine , I had ever tasted from the Okanagan  was Baby Duck, something I am sure most wine makers from the Okanagan would rather everyone forget. This sparkling wine? Not the same category. While we all seemed reluctant to try, She told us “it won the gold medal at the Canadian wine competition for the last 27 years. ” Ok we were officially in. And this sparkling was out of this world. Made in the traditional method, it was crisp but light and had undertones of citrus and stone fruits. Truly delicious. Summerhill offers 6 complimentary tastings and so I tried 2 whites, 2 reds (Pinot Noir and Foch are staples in the Okanagan. But it was their late harvest Erinfeltzer that I could not resist. So I didn’t. Summerhill makes fascinating late harvests and ice wines. That said though I did not try it (unfortunately) My 2 wine clubbers Stephanie and Lisa tried what we nicknamed the Justin Trudeau wine as he picked this wine to serve at official dinners. the wine was a red wine called Ketner.

Summerhill was our first winery so they were reluctant to buy so early one. However they both lamented on the way home that they had not bought it as it was that good. Leaving Summerhill which is a stunning vineyard all on its own, we made our way to Cedar Creek. https://www.cedarcreek.bc.ca/

Cedar Creek is owned by the Fitzgerald’s and produce some delicious wines. Again the standouts lean towards whites and late harvest/ice wines, Cedar Creek’s Pinot Noir is amazing. Many new world Pinot Noirs tend to be thick,dense or syrupy or they tend to be too often and acidic. Cedar Creek’s was perfectly balanced with hints of fruit, acid and a long finish. Yes I bought a bottle. I should have bought more.

2 wineries is all we had time for on day 1, but we did cap off the day with a tour of the Cherry Hill Coffee Producers. They gave us a tasting of 5 coffees and tour of the plant. Their Dirty Chai which is Chai tea with espresso was the perfect pick me up after a day of tasting.

Day 1 in Kelowna, the picturesque city on Lake Okanagan was a hit, Canadian wine had indeed shown us, it is a contender on the world stage. Just what would we find on day 2….

When In Rome…

Not too long ago, @benton8tor and I were having drinks with friends and chatting about their recent European vacation. They had been to Malta, Italy, and Portugal. “Did you have the Francesinha?’ Benton8tor asks. “No, it looked to filling and not healthy.” Granted all of what they said was true, the Francesinha is a traditional Portuguese sandwich filled with ham, sausage, steak, cheese and then covered with a sauce. So I understand were they are coming from but I thought they’d at least want to try it. Apparently not. They then started singing the praises of Malta, mainly for its array of international restaurants. Again I can appreciate that. Sometimes after being away for a while, I start to crave different foods. This was evident at the end of a trip once in Reims, where I was so craving spice, I decided to forgo the traditional French cuisine and opt for a burrito or in London where Thai food has given me a break from the fried pub food and roast meats. They continued their story capping it off with this doozy, “When we were in Rome, we didn’t eat pasta at all” @benton8tor and I sat in shocked silence. Finally @benton8tor asks “Why not?” They answered, “pasta is too heavy” and so this is where my post begins. When in Rome indeed.

Part of the allure of travel for me is to try to integrate into local culture as much as possible. This can be hard when you want to see the tourist attractions but it is good to go off the beaten path, ask locals for recommendations and try food, drinks, and activities that are part of what it means to live there. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for my friends experience in Rome. Roman food was some of the very best I have ever tasted. We were lucky enough to go on a food tour in the non touristy Prati district. IMG_4455http://foodtourrome.com/ We got to try sumptuous buffalo mozzarella, to the point now, I am not even sure what we but in stores is even cheese. We also tried aged balsamic, fresh bread, cured meats, authentic gelato (they will tell you how to spot imposters) canoli, and the very best, Anthony Bourdain recommended Bonci pizza with a crust so ridiculously good you’d fly back for that alone.https://bonciusa.com/ Not to mention the local wines both white and red, which paired properly completely change the taste. And the amazing pasta both creamy ravioli or pasta with the richest freshest tomato sauce. Even better was the pasta at Caffe Washington near the Termini https://www.caffewashington.com/home-en. To this day I am still in awe of the pasta pomodoro and the carbonara. And it isn’t just Rome, I am forever grateful to try Cassoulet in Carcasonne, Chacroute in Strasboug, Bresse chicken in Bresse, Boeuf Bourginon in Beaune, currywurst in Berlin, Schnitzel in Munich, and even the dread Scotch egg in England. The English cheese more than made up for it though. To me it is important to try the regional specialties. I have had the francesinha, it was heavy but glad I tried it, though I much prefer ed the bifana.Likewise I am glad I tried pollo mole in Mexico and fondue in Switzerland. What I eat while traveling isn’t always what I would eat at home  and yes I have had a vegetable induced meltdown sometimes ( I really love them) but almost always I fall in love with a certain dish from a region and I am never sorry I tried it. Even my mother who would eat a turkey sandwich everyday when we travel if I let her, gamely tried the sardine dip on our recent Avignon food tour. She loved it. I loved everything about that tour, especially the semi dried tomatoes that I try to recreate on a weekly basis at home. http://www.avignongourmetours.com/

 

Its not just the food but also the drink. It is super easy for me in France to drink French wine and I am oh so happy for the opportunity but I have tried cognac in cognac and armagnac as well as my beloved French wine.  In Spain, I try Spanish wine or Sherry, Portugal is Portuguese wine or Port and on the Azores, I stuck to the Azorean wine eschewing wine from the mainland. In England I tired to my delight a beautiful sparkling wine and I have been known to drink an ale or 2. In Ireland of course I drank Guinness, In Cuba rum, and in Cameroon a delightful grapefruit pop. Australia I had passionfruit juice as well as the wine. It always introduces me to a new taste where I was especially grateful for  in Missouri, San Diego and Switzerland with their delicious wines that I would have otherwise not tried.

Its also the customs that can be important. I have heard multiple stories from friends about the standoffish nature of the countries they visits but more likely they are seeing everything thorough their own lens and cultural norms. Not all greetings are as casual or overtly friendly as North Americas. It is important to research local customs such as greetings, and even tipping. As well When I traveled to Cameroon, I had to invest in some long skirts as was local custom. Knowing to cover your head and shoulders when viewing religious sites is also important. It is less about changing who you are and your values and more about respecting local culture. After all, just ask Ozzy Osborne, apparently relieving yourself against the Alamo is a big no no. I have found that most people want to share their culture with you and if you are visiting their land, why not do the research beforehand so it can be a wonderful experience.

This isn’t meant to shame those who like travel and have the comforts of home but more to urge stepping out of your comfort zone just a bit to try something you might not have otherwise enjoyed. I guarantee you wont be disappointed and if you are, well at least you will have a story.

5 Must Try Reds That Are Perfect For Summer

What is complex enough to hold my interest but light enough to feel refreshing? So in the midst of the heatwave and for the love of red wine, here are my top 5 recommendations for red wines this summer.

Its August long weekend and the height of summer. Most of the Northern Hemisphere is locked in a heatwave. Its also time for lakes, pools, barbeques and other summer activities. Beer is prevalent at these places as is sangria, white and rose wines, and cocktails. Well what about the red wine? If you are like @benton8tor, hot days do not automatically mean red wine. In fact when I told him I was writing this blog, he looked at me thoughtfully while he sipped his rather revolting beer and asked “why?”

Why? Because there are millions (no I am not exaggerating) of people who love red wine in the heat and the cold, in the sun and the rain, day and night, I could go on. But I understand where he is coming from, big bold reds on a summer day somehow seem wrong. Even light reds meant to be drunk with cheese or ‘ en primeur’ (ready to drink) are not always right for summer. What is complex enough to hold my interest but light enough to feel refreshing? So in the midst of the heatwave and for the love of red wine, here are my top 5 recommendations for red wines this summer.

  1. Bertolani Rosso Secco Lambrusco Reggiano. In what I long believed to be an urban myth, or some sort of wine experiment gone terribly wrong, I had been searching for a sparking red. Mostly for curiosity’s sake. Well sparkling red does exist. This past Friday night, we decided to hit up Pizzeria Gusto http://www.pizzeriagusto.com/ in Winnipeg for some patio time. It was a hot night and I asked the server for a wine recommendation. She recommended the sparking red from Italy. “its delicious” she said. Privately I had my doubts, but the servers at Gusto are seldom wrong for me, so I decided to give it a shot.  Well I am glad I did, It was efferevesant  but not cloying, refreshing but still had red wine flavours that somehow just worked. It can be hard to find but well worth it.

    Or you could just take a trip to northern Italy. As one does or as one wishes to do.@benton8tor is insistent that I add that he had a exceptional Italian rose, something he believed was a wine myth. We were both proved wrong.  http://bertolanialfredo.it/i-nostri-vini/i-rossi/reggiano-secco/

  2. Sapevari: This wine is from Georgia’s sapevari grape/wine literally translating into dye or paint which makes sense as it is a dark red colour. This wine is dry, easy to drink but extremely unique. Upon first sip, it won’t reveal its character but by 3rd or 4th you will be drawn in. Georgia boasts being the world’s first wine producing region and some winemakers still use some ancient techniques such as fermenting the wine in clay pots in the ground.IMG_4641 Croatia also boasts being the first wine producing region but recent anthropological evidence points to Georgia. Georgian Sapervari can be hard to find but request it. It is readily available at Sapervari in Winnipeg https://www.saperavi.ca/ or Gordon’s Wine bar in London which boasts my dream wine list. https://gordonswinebar.com/
  3. Amigoni Winery in Kansas City. Although Kansas City is not what you think of when you think of wine, maybe it should be. Missouri was the first wine producing region in the US, predating Napa and its wines at Amigoni are amazing. Amigoni grows mainly French grapes east of Kansas City including petit verdot, grenache and cinsaut which produce spicy interesting reds that pair exceptionally well with Kansas City’s famous export, barbeque.

    These wines are vastly underrated so please request them or order online. They are also much less sweet than many of their other American counterparts. http://www.amigoni.com/our-wines/

  4. Lirac. I bet you were wondering when we’d get to France. Well wait no longer. Lirac is on the other side of the river from its more famous cousin, Chatequneuf du Pape. Lirac wines are equally as good (which means they are excellent), also mainly using the GSM blend which has a stronghold in southern Rhone wines and a fraction of the price of the Chateauneuf du papes. Though the popes didn’t drink them, you should. They are enjoyable in any weather with undertones of black fruit and hints of spice. They are affordable so you and your bank account will be happy. Or you could just go to Lirac, you and your soul would be happy, no word on your bank account.
  5. Beaujolais AOC’s. Beaujolais is known for its Noveau/ en primeurs or its village wines. But I prefer the AOC wines produced in the north. They use Gamay grapes which were outlawed by Philip the Bold in in Bourgogne as that grape was meant ‘for peasants.’ A charmer that Philip the Bold but jokes on him as the Beaujolais producers just to the south of Bourgogne took up the gamay grape and the AOC’s are producing wines that fully express the gamay and its terrior. I am particularly fond of the Chenas that has been described as ‘drinking flowers in a velvet basket.’ The Beaujolais AOC’s are very affordable, have depth and are perfect in summer or winter. thumbnail_IMG_4640They manage to be light and interesting . Louise my fellow wine clubber, has taken to adding the Beaujolais to her wine ap which is quite a feat as she is avowed drinker of Spanish and Portuguese wines.

 

So pull up to a patio,  order a red wine and enjoy the summer.

Switzerland, More Than Cheese and Chocolate?

I point out this is a winery so I would have eventually followed him, like when the winery closed

Last spring I was lucky enough to get to travel to Geneva. I had kind of always wanted to visit Switzerland but I had heard it was expensive, Like crazy expensive so I never really took it seriously. Besides after skiing, eating fondue and tasting chocolate, what is there to do? Well I had only  was able to briefly visit Switzerland, in particular Geneva and turns out it is a wine and hiking destination. Who knew? Well apparently a lot of people who aren’t me.  Anyhow, I was super excited to discover a new wine region.

@benton8tor was still in England and I had gone ahead to Geneva for a few days work. Which meant I had a few hours to discover new wine. Google had suggested tying Rouge et Blanc  http://www.lerougeblanc.ch/en/ right on the river front and about 10 minutes from my hotel so off I went navigating Geneva’s thankfully few pigeons. Rouge et Blanc is perfect for an introduction to Swiss wine, indeed any wine as the restaurant has quite a selection. My server was extremely helpful and recommended starting with a chasselas which is an indigenous Swiss grape and a crisp white, perfect for cutting through Switzerland’s famous cheese dishes. I followed it with a local gamay which like its Beaujolais counter parts was light and fruity but thankfully not at all like bubble gum. Even better they provided me with an amuse bouche. I had no idea what it was but my money was on a tapenade. It tasted faintly olive like. I texted @benton8tor to let him know of this new discovery and my mystery food. He didn’t really think not knowing what you are eating is a selling point but was willing to try it when he arrived. When @benton8tor finally arrived we revisited le Rouge et blanc, but he was more impressed Boulevard de Vin. Boulevard de Vin is frequented by locals, just off the river with an  excellent wine and beer selection.

Best of all according to @benton8tor was the raclette. A wheel of cheese melted on a rack than scraped onto some baby potatoes. It is an alpine specialty. The wine list at Boulevard is out of this world and my favourite was a mondeuse. http://www.boulevard-du-vin.ch/

But if you are in Switzerland, it makes sense to indulge in its famous exports cheese and chocolate. A few weeks later we were back in Switzerland for a day trip with my parents. We decided to head for Gruyere and try the famous cheese. the factory visit is not high on my list but a stop at the cafeteria  for food? A definite must. Upon seeing the cafeteria, https://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/visits-discoveries/the-cheese-factory/ @benton8tor who had it mind set on a quaint little restaurant was disappointed. ‘This can’t possibly be good” he complained. Luckily we were hungry so I won out. I ordered cheese fondue with red wine and @benton8tor ordered chasselas. the fondue? out of this world, @benton8tor liked it so much, he nearly licked the bowl.

The best part, he admitted I was right. From there, we decamped to Maison Cailler for chocolate tasting (best hot chocolate of his life I’m told). The chocolate factory is touristy and crowed but the chocolate is good and my mom really liked decorating her own bar.Rather she liked instructing staff to decorate her own bar and since the staff are remarkably good humoured,  it all worked out. https://cailler.ch/en/maison-cailler/la-chocolaterie-suisse/

On the way back to France, my mom with a suitcase full of chocolate decides she wants a picture of Lake Geneva despite being in the middle of a rainstorm. @benton8tor finds a parking lot and pulls in, he and my mother immediately take off for the lake leaving my dad and I in a parking lot. So now I am annoyed  but when I look behind me the sign says Lavaux Vinorama.http://www.lavaux-vinorama.ch/ Could @benton8tor have accidentally pulled into a winery? Yes Yes Yes! So my dad and I decamp into the building and the incredible server recommends flights for both of us. My dad’s all reds, mine is 2 whites and 2 reds. We sit back and enjoy ourselves with the rest of the patrons who are well dressed and enjoying a cozy afternoon of wine tasting. My mother finally shivers her way in. “I  didn’t know where you went” she complains, “well, neither did we” I think but don’t say. Regardless, she settles in and tells us @benton8tor has gone to get her a small stone from the lakeshore. In walks @benton8tor soaked to his hips, carrying his socks and shoes. Turns out he slipped getting the rock and now is cold, in pain and mad (mostly at himself it turns out). He assumed someone would have followed him in case he slipped. I point out this is a winery so I would have eventually followed him, like when the winery closed. Plus I hate rain . I suggest that he should have some wine. So he slaps his gross wet socks on-the table and tries to order a Swiss white. The server showing what I believe to be extreme patience steers him towards some good wine choices including white and rose. “Well she was rude” He exclaims. My dad and I look at each other puzzled. He gets his wine, in the end everyone wins. We continue back to France along the beautiful lake drive and Swiss villages. Right before we cross the border @benton8tor exclaims “OH No!  she wasn’t rude, I put my socks on the table, ” He is visibly embarrassed and I am like this will make a sweet story. .My takeaway? I think we we all learned is that Switzerland has many delicious wines and scenery and that wine makes everything better.

Top 5 Underrated Destinations in France

Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.

I wasn’t initially planning on writing about France today but since yesterday was Bastille Day and today France’s Les Bleus won the World Cup, It seems appropriate maybe even fated to write about France today. But what to say, after all I write about France a lot, I have visited many different areas, tried many different foods and wines so how could I pick a favourite today? France is so varied and so interesting, where to start? Every time I get ready to visit France again, I usually get the following feedback: “Haven’t you been there before?” and ” Have fun in Paris.” Well France is a large country with many different regions with their own unique cultural nuances and I haven’t been to Paris on my last 4 trips to France  so instead I thought why not focus on France’s underrated gems. France is one of the most visited countries in the world so anything being underrated seems like a stretch but these are my picks for the top 5 underrated places to visit.

  1. Arbois, Jura, France. Jura itself is a relatively unknown region in France. East of Bourgogne, , Jura is often considered a mirror image of the Cote D’Or. Arbois is one of the larger towns and a great spot for day trips to L’Etoile and Chateau-Chalon to taste the region’s famous vin jaune. IMG_2468 Try the Fruitiere Vinicole for a great opportunity to try Jura’s most famous wines. http://www.chateau-bethanie.fr/fr/chateau-bethanie-vins-jura-arbois.php Nearby are many restaurant selections with great food. As well you are close to Bourg de Sirod to hike the famous Richebourg ruins.
  2. Beaune is the heart of Bourgogne’s wine region. It isn’t exactly underrated but Beaune is often overlooked if just visiting France. Check out the Marche aux vin to try a selection of Bourgogne’s famous wines. Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ However Beaune is also an epicentre of Bourgogne’s famous food culture. Try La Grilladine for Bouef Bourguignon, escargot, charlois beef or the chicken in mustard.http://lagrilladine.fr/ Le Carnot has fabulous wines and excellent gazpacho and beef tartare as well as the beauty you would come to expect of a typical French brasserie. I could have stayed just for the atmosphere, wine and people watching alone..http://brasserielecarnot.com/ Beaune is also a beautiful town with a lively market. Hotel Henri II is close to the city center and retains its old word charm with beautiful modern touches. the last time we stayed in Beaune we were able to score a last minute room at the Hotel Henri II. After our other option which was similar to the Bates Motel, The Hotel Henri was a welcome reprieve. So much so that I cried with relief when we saw our room. The bar was a fabulous place to watch the world cup too! http://www.henry2.fr/UK/
  3. Salon De Provence: Though not exactly underrated either, Salon often suffers next to its more famous Provencal counterparts. But Salon De Provence is a wonder, from the castle that housed Catherine de Medici (complete with her herb garden) and Nostradamus to the medieval festival, Salon de Provence does not disappoint. As well, its surrounding wineries are delicious and more inexpensive then there more famous Provencal and Rhone counterparts. The restaurant at the Ibis hotel is surprisingly good with local ingredients and Provencal specialties. https://restaurants.accorhotels.com/gb/restaurant-0797_R001-ibis-kitchen-salon-de-provence.shtml
  4. La Rochelle: located on the Atlantic cost, La Rochelle is a beautiful city. Known for its seafood, it is indeed worth it to try. Walking along the harbor alone makes it makes La Rochelle a must do but take the day boat trip to Ile D’Aix. No cars are allowed so rent a bike check out the beautiful view, go for a swim or simply enjoy the village. AS well Cognac is also a day trip away so be sure to check out the beautiful town and the tour at Remy Martin in which even my teetotaller mother learned to appreciate cognac. So much so that she bought cognac. for my cousin alas not us. https://www.remymartin.com/ca-en/
  5. Mende: Located in the center of France in Lozere we stumbled upon Mende by accident while trying to avoid tolls en route to Beaune. Descending into Mende is like parachuting in Mende is a beautiful village and definitely off the beaten path. The wine is cheaper than water. It can be challenging to get to but worth it.54589271

It really doesn’t matter where you travel in France. Prepare to be enthralled and charmed and you will have yourself a great if not fabulous time. Congratulations Les Bleus