Winter white out wine, beer and food conditions

White wine in the snow

The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.
Photo: Sergio Di Giovanni/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The winter that never ends. White out conditions, snow squalls, wind advisory and chill warnings. Everything just feels heavy. The OPP’s request? Just stay home, Ontario. Prepare for the worst, hunker down and warm the belly with full-bodied wines, strong mocker, beer and hearty winter meals. The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.

Here are six strength fortifying libations to ride the final wave of winter’s brutal conditions.

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, Scotland, United Kingdom (279349, $3.25)

Stout matured over American Oak Heartwood and infused with Irish Whiskey. A Cimmerian entry in hue and hunger peels back to a curious lightness of being. The wood tends to an Arabian mocha aroma, the whiskey to molasses and gingerbread baking spice. The 7.4 per cent alcohol is integrated though an incendiary smoky magic weighs in to toast biscuits and braise a beefy pot au feu. “The Smoky Life is practiced everywhere,” in the I & G. A beer of good charm, smooth, silky, singing in melodic grace and with confidence.  90  Tasted March 2014  @InnisandGun

The grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay Musqué

The history: Niagara winery founded in 1998. Chablis native Jean-Pierre Colas joined 13th Street as winemaker in 2009. Co-owners of the winery, the Whitty family has been farming fruit in Niagara for well over 100 years

The lowdown: Much of the fruit comes from the estate’s Creek Shores appellation vineyards, sedimentary, well-drained lighter soils on a landscape highly dissected by its many streams.

The food match: Fish Tacos

13th Street White Palette 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (207340, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

JP’s who’s who bottle of white grapes, a mad scientist’s blend, the flask filled with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musque. A re-release and much improved with a year’s extra weight, its “got your body right now.” Fortified by a carapace of grape spirits and purposeful in a white meritage sense of community, plus citrus, pith and a far-reaching, right correct absinthian length. You better you bet.  88  Tasted October 2013  @13thStreetWines

Fish Tacos Photo: Michael Godel

Fish Tacos
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Marlborough on the western side of the Waihopai Valley. The name is both the indigenous Maori word for “pathway” and Latin for “altar”

The lowdown: “With rugged mountains on either side and two icy rivers cutting through, it’s a pretty extreme place. The very definition of raw, cool climate conditions.”

The food match: Potato Frittata with Feta and Green Onions

Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (361279, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Immediate impressions are of a user-friendly Pinot Noir in conceit of black cherry, chocolate and blueberry spice. These are surface notes quickly displaced by an adventurous senses of living on the edge. The wine dips into a brine and lithic earth saturated by glacial melt. This is a different sort of Marlborough Pinot that speaks a modern english, if too young to be understood. “I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time.” Will try the Ara again in a year or two and likely say I melt with you.  89  Tasted February 2014  @AraWine_UK

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Planeta first made this wine 20 years ago in 1994. It has become “the image illustrating the changes taking place in Sicilian wines.”

The lowdown: From Ulmo (calcareous with sections of deep vegetable matter) and Maroccoli (medium clay soil rich in limestone) vineyards in the area of Sambuca di Sicilia. Powerful Chardonnay.

The food match: Taco Night

Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Sicily, Italy (109652, $38.95, SAQ 00855114, $39.15, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 release

Wantonly lavish, heavy and tropically delicious. If ever there were a red wine substitute this is the one for the wishful thinker. Tasting this Sicilian is like liquid breathing sweet and salty, drawn butter. It’s a glass of dessert Chardonnay, dichotomous and oxymoronic in congealed warmth like cold-stabilized, oxygen-rich, perfluorocarbon. The tropical warmth is a combination of honey and lemon-glade, like Savennières with an unexpected aged Jura, oxidized, herbal angle. There can be no arguing the complexity of this Sicilian dream. Extreme humidity, with a bitter middle streak and ground nut flavours.  90  Tasted March 2014  @Noble_Estates  @PlanetaWinery 

Taco Night Photo: Michael Godel

Taco Night
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Thomas Bachelder, flying winemaker, architect of the Bachelder Project, of trois terroirs, in Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy

The lowdown: “Burgundy is my favourite place to make wine,” admits Thomas Bachelder. “The large négociant control all (44) 1er cru vineyards so there are not a lot of small growers working with Beaune fruit.” Enter terroirman.

The food match: Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard

Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, Burgundy, France (357228, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Is so floral, mineral, intense and hypnotic it might be dubbed the Serpent Charmer. Iron and wine indeed, the iron of Nuits, the perfume of Beaune. This provocative bottling represents the third year of production, is conspicuous in Anis de Flavigny and an underlying gate. If montagnes is the harming one, this is the charming one. These are all from the same barrels, so what really affects the wines the most? Land and hand.  93  Tasted November 2013  @Bachelder_wines

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard Photo: Michael Godel

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: The family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385. The Antinori estate is responsible for some of Tuscany’s most famous wines; Solaia, Tignanello and Guado al Tasso.

The lowdown: As stalwart a Brunello as any, Pian Delle Vigne is not immune to critical conjecture. Applying kudos to any big house in this polarizing vintage will raise an eyebrow or two. Why not Antinori?

The food match: Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (651141, $59.95, Nova Scotia 1006431, $64.80, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Goes at it older, bolder, tried and truer than had recently been the case, especially in 2007. Leather, cherries, seeping tea and peppery, earthy, funky dates. Purity of fruit, obviousness in Sangiovese Grosso aromatics and it is only when you taste that you are dealt with the full effect of its power and girth. Quite viscous on the palate, tough, gritty chain of tannin and qualified, felicitous bitters on a very long finish.  Best Pian delle Vigne in some time, at least back to 2001.  93  Tasted November 2013  @AntinoriFamily

Good to go!

Pumpkin pairings from beer to wine

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Winter squash season is in full swing and with Halloween exactly two weeks away, it’s time to begin planning your wine and pumpkin pairings. Your neighbourhood friends will thank you for filling their travellers with the right stuff. Beer is much more commonly considered when it comes to Cucurbita and our local brew masters are running wild with it. Pumpkin Ales have proliferated province-wide. Here are four to look for.

Highballer Pumpkin Ale (132753, 500 mL, $3.95)

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale (67710, 650 mL, $4.95)

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale (90738, 4x341mL, $9.95)

Mill Street Nightmare On Mill Street Harvest Sampler (313916, 6x 355 mL, $13.25)

My non-judgmental, personal mien will note that pumpkin beer should avoid most foods but rather match ceremoniously with decorative gourd season, also in full swing. When it comes to the edible ‘large melon’ and its savoury, sweet flesh my go to is wine, of course. Here are four smashing whites and three alt rock reds to pair with pumpkin seven ways.

The food match: Pumpkin Oatmeal, apples, flax seed, hemp hearts, maple syrup

Jean-Marc Brocard Kimmeridgian Chardonnay 2008 (290049, $17.95) has the tropical fruit quotient of ripe banana meets chalky plantain to match up against an earthy morning porridge. There are lemon and apples sliced over Kimmeridgian, oatmeal soil. Could eat this Kimmer for breakfast, “mummy dear, mummy dear.” This supertramp of a Chardonnay explores new territory for villages Burgundy thanks to the efforts of a top-notch Chablis producer.  89

The food match: Pumpkin Pad Thai

Preiss-Zimmer Vieilles Vignes Riesling 2008 (292193, $18.95) handles spice with atomic soda ease, refreshes with a squirt of lime and garnishes with south Asian herbs. The balanced palate is off-dry and the finish is long, tangy and racy. Sails “through the changing ocean tides.” The wine smiles demurely, like a Pumpkin’s rendition of Landslide, palpitating in an unspoken message of humility and thanks.  88

Bryan Birch/Barque Smokehouse

The food match: Pumpkin Soup, coffee foam

Seresin Chardonnay 2009 (19190, $24.95) goes golden capacious and brims with both marigold and malachite toast. Cashew butter, praline nectar and cantaloupe sweeten the pot. Acidity booms and if you like a Napa style, go Marlborough here at a fraction of the cost.  90

The food match: Pumpkin Ratatouille, zucchini, spicy tomato sauce

Domaine Eden Chardonnay 2009 (296145, $27.95) imparts saffron, mandarin orange, honey and Tiger Orchid in constant waves. The golden mineral hue prickles with feeling and the wine’s fat texture helps unlatch flavours. May not have the depth of Napa or Carneros but no other region does Chardonnay in such a casual elegance like the Santa Cruz Mountains.  91

The food match: Pumpkin and Roast Chicken Paella, manchego, jamón serrano

Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 (296475, $13.95) of fragrant, smoked blueberry and vanilla bean martini is polished, rich and pure decadence for $14. A shaken, not stirred, bad boy bisexual Tempranillo, a skyfall of purple modernity that could sooth countryman and Bond villain Javier Bardem. Get your kicks on Senda 66.  87

The food match: Pumpkin and Pancetta Risotto, toasted pumpkin seed, reggiano parmesan, basil oil

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône 2010 (729962, $15.95) shares enough black cherry and southern French garrigue to further cement its status as a perpetual good buy. So well made and boasting a puritanical litany of the terroir. Demands satisfaction in its origins of expectations.  88

The Splurge

The food match: Short-Rib and Pumpkin Braise, pearl onion, carrot

Melville Verna’s Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (291021, $34.95) speaks Santa Rita Hills vernacular, that is to say, its native tongue is that of red, very ripe fruit. The smell of baking spices (namely cinnamon and clove) stud a red plum bobbing in a spiked cola toddy. Exemplary Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.  90

Good to go!

Wine or beer on the long weekend? Both

Photograph by Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Wine and food captures most of my imagination and this space is in tune with that straight and narrow path. Diversions are always present, but rarely of Pinterest. This past weekend I came across something new in beer. Not so much in terms of brand or flavour, but in closure. Molson Coors has launched a wide mouth can with a resealable screw cap closure. I am certainly not a behemoth beer company advocate but I do applaud the innovation.

Related story: ‘Beerology’: Mirella Amato’s exploration of beer

Three beers are being bottled, well canned, in this fashion. Coors Light, Molson Canadian and Coors Light Iced T. Coors Light in a can, well, that’s res ipsa loquitur. The MC absolutely resembles its Don Cherry self. The Iced T is quite refreshing, on the acrostic poetry, feminine side of beer and quite frankly, I don’t mind it at all.

Courtesy of Chris Schryer, TorontoBeerBlog.com

Courtesy of Chris Schryer, TorontoBeerBlog.com

The can and closure are the rub. Nothing new here, this beer in a can thing, but they get iced cold faster and hold that cold better than bottles. No light transfer means no skunk, so there is a reduction in spoilage. And while the larger opening certainly means you can drink more and faster, the resealable option means nothing can crawl inside between sips. The light weight can also floats so they are perfect for camping and the cottage dock.

If you want to read more about the new line, check this out and this.

OK. Enough about suds. On to the main event.

The grape: Priero Picudo

The history: Rosé from the Tierra de Léon in the south of Spain

The lowdown: Don’t be frightened by the Dayglo colour. This pinky is perfect for hot weather

The food match: Fluke or Medium-rare Tuna Tacos with Pico de Gallo Salsa

Pardevalles Prieto Picudo Rosado 2011 (274449, $12.95) of huge hue is a veritable candy shoppe of licorice, gum drop, strawberry Lola and Kool-Aid. Funky cheese, currant jam and bracing acidity combine for an odd yet invigorating IVR*, Rosé experience.  87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire varietal has become the signature white of South Africa

The lowdown: MAN Vintners out of Paarl employs the original name “Tormentoso,” meaning storm, for the Cape of Good Hope

The food match: Paad Thai with Chicken and Shrimp

Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2011 (278366, $14.95) is outright Victorian where revivalist Gothic meets modern steel. A dark and stormy cocktail of flint, mineral, Paarl granite and Chakalaka. Tomato leaf, fried-green tomato and dusty chalk round out this perfect tempest of purple prose.  Fomenting and fascinating Chenin.  88

The grape: Moscato D’asti

The history: Italian Muscat from Asti, a northwestern province in Piedmont

The lowdown: Very low in alcohol with a slight effervescence. Ideal served well-chilled on a hot summer’s day

The food match: Grilled Chicken Breast with goat cheese and grilled peaches

Dezzani Morelli Moscato D’asti 2010 (187997, $14.95) with its sacchariferous, honey spritz glides quickly past grapefruit and into everything orange. Fresh squeezed juice, rubbed blossom, pith and rind. Light, refreshing and altogether satisfying quencher.  88

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: Younger sibling to Brunello, meant for early consumption

The lowdown: Esteemed producer and the lowest possible price for a Rosso. Much better choice than the $18 Vino Nobile by Casetllani in neighbouring Montepulciano, the sample of which happened to be corked anyway

The food match: Fresh Tagliatelle with Wild Boar Ragu

La Velona Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 (285429, $17.95) of medium girth is sturdy, taut, spot on. Tar, rose petal and cherry stand out. “My little pretty one” has got the knack just like good Brunello for bringing me back to Montalcino’s intoxicating reds, again and again. My Velona.  89

The grapes: Muscat, Perle of Csaba

The history: As in Moscato D’asti from Piedmont mixed with a smaller amount of the Hungarian Vinifera derived grape

The lowdown: Nova Scotian sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style and at a remarkably low 6.5 % alcohol by volume

The food match: Salmon Tartare, salmon roe, crème fraîche and homemade crackerbread

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2011 (256289, $25.95) the sweet-smelling starlet is seductive and wholly unique to the world of bubbles. The aleatory contract between unknown sparkling wine and imbiber turns to stone after just one sip. Causes me to react with a start and a coup d’oeuil.  I have been here before; in Champagne, in Moscato D’asti. “Here’s a little agit for the never-believer.” In Nova Scotia they can put a man on the moon. They can make great, if unusual sparkling wine.  89

The tease

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: Royal red grape of Piedmont

The lowdown: The cheapest Barolo at VINTAGES since the 1990’s seems too good to be true. That’s because it is

The food match: Low and Slow Veal Roast with Nebbiolo, black currant sauce

Patrizi Barolo 2008 (653527, $23.95) is not the weekend wine you might hope it to be. Already bricking like a rural Woodbridge faux-mansion, the Patrizi would have best been consumed in its first year of business. An LCBO buy up for teasing purposes, this Nebbiolo carries a Jarrian curse. “Clichés are the armature of the absolute.” Typically and varietally correct but with fruit already fading. You get what you pay for.  86

The splurge

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot

The history: Bordeaux blend in true Napa Valley Meritage form

The lowdown: Though more than just a Cab, it’s essentially a “second” wine to Beaulieu’s Georges Latour Reserve. A loyal servant to the 1980’s heyday of California red wine

The food match: Grilled New York Strip finished with olive oil and a baked potato

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve 2008 (50393, $34.95) is an elegant and masterful blend unmasked and unblinded by oak. There is rusticity, antiquity and servitude to history. A woven carpet of cherries, forest scents and morning coffee. Makes me “feel the earth move under my feet.” You’ve got a friend in Beaulieu.  90

IVR* – Vintage Direct intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!