Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Favourite New World Cabernets

I love Cabernet Sauvignon. So in honour of #CabernetDay on Twitter, I decided to put a list together of my favourite Cabs, both single varietal bottles and blends. Prices range from inexpensive to premium. Here they are sorted by region: 


1. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 or 2012. $20 CDN
A pronounced and perfumed bouquet of red fruit, roses and black pepper will seduce you. Fresh flavours of red currant, musk and green pepper will leave you wanting more. Ripe, grippy tannins are well integrated to the concentrated mouthfeel. Pair with grilled red meats or pot roast.

2. Concha y Toro Terrunyo Block Las Terrazas DO Pirque 2008 $33 CDN
The Maipo subregion in Chile is known to show hints of menthol in their Cabernet Sauvignons, and this wine reflects this with a flavour profile of dark cherries, eucalyptus and a hint of mint. The wine is unfiltered, but adds powerful tannins that don't overpower the palate. This has been my go-to bottle for #CabernetDay the past 2 years in a row.

3. Vina Casa Silva Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere 2011 $15 CDN 
The 2011 Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere is a fun, juicy and fruity red with aromas of blackberries, spices and coffee. The ripe tannins are well integrated to the body and structure of the wine. This wine pairs well with more casual foods like pizza and burgers, as well as with meats like venison and prime rib. An easy drinking, mouth-pleasing red wine. 

4. Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $20 CDN
A full-bodied, intense wine with a flavour profile of blackberries, coffee & tobacco leaf. Vegetal notes mid-palate that intertwine well with the ripe tannins. Very food friendly, great with lamb and can handle a heavier cut of beef.


1. Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $40 CDN
Deep ruby in colour, with notes of red cherries, green bell pepper and a lovely medicinal hint. The full body boasts racy acidity and well-integrated tannins. Complex and shows its terroir well.

2. Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2010 $20 CDN
Coonawarra Cabernets tend to carry a menthol note in the wine, and this one does not disappoint in that regard! Each varietal in the blend is well represented in this full-bodied beauty, with plum, blackberry, spice and coffee notes. The soft, silky tannins last well into the long finish. This wine pairs well with roasted lamb and gamey meats, and can also be enjoyed on it's own. 

United States

1. Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 $120+ CDN
This is the big splurge of the list, but it is well worth it! The bouquet is an intoxicating blend of red currant, blackberries and a hint of mocha. Elegant, well-structured tannins and a smooth, full body on the palate leave you wanting more! The smoky finish adds to the appeal of this premium wine. Consumable now, but also has an aging potential of 10 years.

2. Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $15-$20 CDN
This wine is perfect for a BBQ or a casual weeknight dinner, and is excellent value for the money. A fruit-forward, fun wine with notes of currants, blackberries and a hint of asparagus. Ripe tannins and mouth-watering acidity make this wine an excellent accompaniment to steak and burgers. 


1. Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio - Any Vintage $40-$50 CDN
Ok, this one isn't much of a value. But it is my favourite Canadian Cabernet blend, consisting of 61% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. A powerful red wine with notes of red cherries, eucalyptus and black olives on the palate. There is a subtly beautiful hint of oak that doesn't overpower the flavour profile. The tannins are supple but strong, and this wine could still benefit from a few more years in the cellar although it is drinking well now. Decant for 1-2 hours before drinking. 

2. Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2011 $20 CDN
Notes of fresh strawberries, blackcurrant leaves and green beans are intertwined with mouthwatering acidity and grippy tannins. This lively, easy drinking wine would be great to bring to a BBQ and pairs well with burgers and grilled pork.

3. Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2011 $15-$20 CDN
This wine has the approachable charm of a Merlot combined with the body and structure of a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes of plum, blackberry and green bell pepper with a smooth finish. Excellent on it's own or paired with grilled pork and roasted chicken. A fun wine to share with good company!

Hopefully you find a wine here you'd like to try, also like some of these wines, or find this helpful when shopping. If you do have luck here, I'd love to hear about it! 

Cheers, and if you made it this far, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Meal Planning Made Easy for Moms

I'm a woman with many loves. I'm an aviation loving receptionist/admin assistant by day at our local International Airport, and by night I chase my passions for food & wine as a blogger. But the greatest loves in my life are my husband and my 2.5 year old daughter.

While on maternity leave from my day job, I stumbled across a local organization called the Mothers Opposed to Boredom, aka "MOB". It was founded a few years back by a couple of ladies looking to connect with other mothers and support eachother in what I believe is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, jobs in the world. Since then, MOB has grown to a community of over 4,000 members with its own website, Facebook group and book club, among other things.

I was approached by one of the administrators to write an article in the food section of the MOB's online newsletter earlier this year. The subject: meal planning (something else I love to nerd out on!). That same administrator approached me recently to post the article on a family member's blog. Naturally, I said yes. But that reminded me: I never posted it here, on my own blog! So here is the link to the article.

One other thing that I ended up liking about the "More Time Moms" calendar is that my daughter can help by placing stickers on dates where I need them, or play with the stickers I don't need. Something we can do together is always rewarding!

The Mother of All Things Blogstyle is a relatively new blog, but it's a great resource for parents on subjects such as food, health, working parents, humour, basically everything parents want to say! Make sure to check it out.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Playing with Pairings: A Light, White "Tour de France"

The Tour de France wrapped up at the end of July and as a homage, I dreamt up a tour of my own! We cooked up 4 dishes and paired them with 4 light-bodied white wines from various regions in France, focusing on the 2008 vintage. In course order, we visited Alsace, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We chose the date of August 2nd as that was considered Food Day Canada, so we could use the best Canadian ingredients we could find for pairing with these French beauties.

Our first stop was Alsace. August 2008 was a cooler month with regular rain, which was said to bring higher than normal acidity to the fruit. I chose Trimbach's 2008 Pinot Blanc for our first course and paired it with PEI mussels in a wine & herb sauce, along with a Caprese Salad made with fresh BC tomatoes and basil grown in our Alberta garden. Trimbach's 2008 Pinot Blanc carries a concentrated blend of melon, grapefruit and fresh pear aromas, with hints of ripe nectarines and white apple lingering on the finish. There was crisp acidity on the palate, but nowhere near as high as I was expecting. Because I used some of the Pinot Blanc as part of the sauce for the mussels, the wine matched the seafood perfectly and the medium body on the wine did not overpower the delicate mussels. The crisp acidity cut through the mozzarella cheese in the Caprese Salad, and because the cheese isn't strong in flavour, it did not overpower the wine. 

Other foods that would pair well with Trimbach's 2008 Pinot Blanc include shellfish, fresh mixed greens salads and light egg dishes. It is also excellent on it's own and as an aperitif.

Our next stop was Bordeaux. Usually, the region's white grapes are made into the lusciously sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Since not all grapes are affected by the botrytis that renders them sweet, some wineries will make a dry white wine with the unaffected fruit. Such is the case at Chateau Guiraud (see my blog post from April 2013 for more information). I paired Le G de Guiraud 2008 with Atlantic pan-fried salmon and homemade pesto. Le G de Guiraud 2008 is a well-balanced white with notes of underripe pineapple, passion fruit, fresh snap peas and green grass. There is also a refreshing acidity and a mouth-filling richness on the body. This richness, courtesy of the Semillon grape in the blend, cut through the fattiness of the salmon while complementing the rich flavours and textures in the pesto. This was my favourite pairing of the night!

Other foods that would pair well with Chateau Guiraud's Le G de Guiraud 2008 include grilled chicken breasts, portobello mushrooms, cooked asparagus and other vegetable dishes topped with goat's cheese.  

The next stop was the Loire Valley. This wine region is known best for the grape varietal Chenin Blanc, which can be made into wines of different styles including sweet, sparkling, dry and off-dry wines.The 2008 vintage started poorly, with lots of cloud cover. Conditions changed into late summer, and sunshine extended the harvest season well into Autumn. Although off dry and sweeter wines were the focus in 2008, I chose a dry white, Chateau de Targe Les Frenettes 2008 and paired it with Spinach and Parmesan in Puff Pastry. Les Frenettes 2008 is delicate and light-bodied, with flavours of green apple, lemon, and white blossom married with zesty acidity and a subtle complexity with vanilla and herbal notes on the finish. Although the delicate body of the wine did not stand up well against the dense puff pastry, the wine flourished once we got to the spinach and Parmesan center. 

Other foods that would pair well with Chateau Targe's Les Frenettes 2008 include both light and fatty fish and lighter cheeses like feta. I personally prefer this wine on it's own.

Our last stop was Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is most well-known for its robust red wines. However, some perfumed, beautiful white wines are also made in this region using grape varieties that include Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, among other varieties. I paired Domaine des Senechaux's 2008 Blanc blend with Smoked Oregano Chicken, Haricots Verts and Roasted Bell Peppers. The wine contains notes of lime, cantaloupe, and wet stone on the palate, with an intriguing hint of ginger on the finish. Full of racy acidity that doesn't overpower the flavour profile and minerality that really speaks to the terroir of the region, this wine is great with food as the wine has a 14% abv content. The wine complemented the chicken, beans and peppers really well and the quince notes really brought to life some of the other spices used in the chicken.

Other foods that would pair well with Domaine des Senechaux's white blend include everything listed above! 

After these 4 courses, we were too full for dessert! However, the regions of Bordeaux, Loire Valley, and Alsace all create excellent sweet white wines that will pair well with many dessert dishes, as long as the wine is sweeter than the food. This is so that the wine's sweetness and flavour profile will stand out against the sweetness of the dessert.

Whichever foods you decide to pair your French white wines with, remember to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. The majority of these wines are both food friendly, and all are excellent on their own. If you choose to try any of the wines and/or the food pairings we tried, I hope you like them as much as I did. Enjoy!