Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Passion Behind Tsillan Cellars

Passion can be found all over the wine world. Those who are willing to put their blood, sweat and tears in tending to the vines, as well as spending countless hours in their production facilities crafting well-structured wines, will tell you it's a labour of love. But the passion that Devon Griffith, Assistant Winemaker at Tsillan Cellars, has for wine is by far the greatest I have ever encountered!

Photo Courtesy of Tsillan Cellars
Born and raised in the nearby town of Manson, Washington, his family has grown world class tree fruit in the valley for the last 100 years. It has been a dream of Devon's from the very beginning to follow in their footsteps, with a history of hard work and passion. The opportunity to work at Tsillan Cellars fulfilled this desire to the utmost degree. After graduating from Washington State University with a degree in Viticulture and Enology, he came back home to the roots of his passion. One day he hopes to own his own winery in the area. He will no doubt succeed with the passion and knowledge he possesses!

Not technically the entrance, but this is some of the beautiful architecture found throughout the winery!

Walking through the well-architectured entrance and into the gorgeous tasting room of Tsillan Cellars, one would think that this is a more upscale, almost intimidating winery. However, this is not the case. The staff warmly welcomes everyone who walks in, and are happy to show all guests the beauty in Tsillan's wines. Here are some of the standouts I was fortunate enough to taste:

1. Nudo Chardonnay 2016

This unoaked Chardonnay opens with aromas of white peach and a stony mineral edge. The lively body contains a refreshing mouthfeel intertwined with notes of gala apples, lime zest and more of that beautiful white peach flavor! Refreshing acidity and a long, zesty finish make this beauty perfect for summer sips on a patio!

A serene moment of reflection with the Bocciolo di Rosa on the dock of the lake!
2. Bocciolo di Rosa 2016 

Meaning "Rose Bud" in Italian, this rose is composed of 100% Syrah and carries a breathtaking flavor profile of strawberries, mandarins, white peach, and a hint of wild roses. A steely mineral backbone adds complexity and body, leading into a pure, clean finish.


3. Tsillan Cellers 2014 Winemaker's Select Malbec

Malbec grows and produces fabulous wines in Lake Chelan, and dare I say - it was better than any Argentinian Malbec I have ever tasted! Deep ruby in color, notes of ripe blueberries, cocoa, black pepper and a hint of flint. The full-bodied, lush mouthfeel contains racy acidity and smooth tannins, and the long, sultry finish will leave you wanting more!

We then toured around the vineyard and production facility. The soils here are granite-based, which is why Rhone varietals like Syrah and Grenache grow so well in Lake Chelan. The sun's aspect into the North Shore of the lake is key for achieving ideal Brix levels. We sampled a few of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine and Devon estimated harvest to be the 2nd week of September. Here are some photos of the production facility and barrel room:




It is clearly evident from the way Devon spoke about both viticulture and the winemaking process how much he loves what he does, which is really refreshing in this day and age. His dedication to his craft and his love for wine is contagious and inspiring! I can't wait to see how far his vine-laced path will take him in the future- in fact, I'm sure he will bring Tsillan Cellars and the Lake Chelan AVA to new heights!


Click here for more information on Tsillan Cellars Winery, including their tasting room offerings, the exquisite Sorrento's Ristorante and much more!

A huge thanks to both Devon and Ashtyn for coordinating my tour and tasting at Tsillan Cellars, I will cherish the memories of that day for the rest of my life. Cheers!

Update from Devon: Harvest began on September 9th, with Syrah grapes destined for our future sparkling rose! It is currently speeding its way through primary fermentation, and will go into terrage for three years before it is released in the traditional Methode Champenoise style. We then commenced picking our Pinot Grigio, which we finished on September 20th. We just picked our first ever Dolcetto! It came from third leaf vines, which although still young yielded amazing fruit!  I just pitched the yeast to it a few hours ago, and as of now it may be included in a blend with another Piedmont native varietal, Barbera, which is set for release in 2019.  If it comes through as a beautiful stand alone wine, we may end up crafting a single varietal wine from it. Up next we plan on picking all of our Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.

WineGirl Wines: An Interview with Angela 

Lake Chelan AVA (pronounced "shell-LAN") is a wine region that's starting to gain popularity in Washington State, as well as the United States and southern BC. One of the younger AVAs in the USA, the first production vineyard was planted in 1998, and the first bottles were released in 2002. Currently there are more than 20 wineries within the AVA, releasing wines of promising popularity with varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and aromatic whites including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. In 2004, a talented young winemaker stepped onto the scene and has since become a standout producer in the region. Her name is Angela Jacobs.


Angela found her passion of wine while working part-time for an Italian restaurant. After obtaining her degrees at the University of Washington, she set out to learn winemaking skills from across the globe. When she returned, she purchased 2 tons of wine grapes from the Red Mountain area, licensed her first winery in Seattle and began producing Viognier, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. WineGirl Wines was the 16th winery to open its doors in Lake Chelan. I had a chance to sit down with Angela in the WineGirl Wines tasting room to learn more about the AVA, as well as taste some of the wines she creates.

1. What was the wine that kicked off your passion?
Archery Summit Pinot Noir 1996. I think I still have the bottle!


2. Your bottles are beautifully labelled! Who does the artwork, and what is the story behind them?
A Canadian artist named Francine Delgado, based out of Vancouver. Originally the labels were drawn in a style similar to Disney Princesses, but I preferred the pin-up style of girl so we changed it. I also wanted to showcase the natural beauty of Lake Chelan, so the backgrounds consist of our natural attractions such as Chelan Butte and Wapato Point.


3. How would you describe this year's growing season?
It's been a good growing season so far, the dry heat hasn't affected the vines because of irrigation. Harvest will likely begin around mid-September this year.


4. Which of the wines you create are you most proud of?
I prefer to produce wines that appeal to the local demographics. For example, I started to make a sweet Gewurztraminer when visitors from nearby Leavenworth requested more sweet wines.


5. One of the varietals you grow is Tinta Roriz, in which you use to produce a Port-style wine. What was the inspiration and story behind choosing this varietal?

I wanted to do something different in a more mechanical sense, and a Port fills that with fortifying the wine as well as some aging. Originally I wanted to use Touriga National, but in the end I chose Tinta Roriz, which is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo. Port also fills the sweet wine need in the area.


6. The 2011 vintage was known to be cool and rainy throughout the West Coast. Was this the case in Lake Chelan, and how did your vines and wines fare during this difficult growing season?

Rain continued into June and the grapes didn't really ripen. I had to pull our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from the tasting room when it was released as I feel it's too young to drink now, but the wine would be good for aging.


We then tasted the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby in colour, a bouquet of red currant, stewed green peppers and a hint of charcoal leads into a palate that shows more red fruit like raspberries, with a hint of tobacco leaf on the finish. The tannins are focused and well-integrated, marrying well with the mouthwatering acidity to create a complex, full body. This wine spoke to my palate now, and will also evolve in the cellar for 5-7 years. Try pairing this wine with a slow roasted cut of AAA beef, and you will see how well this wine can shine with food!

Angela's dedication and passion are well reflected in the wines she produces, and combined with the natural terroir of the AVA, the sky is her limit. She will do great things as Lake Chelan gains popularity within the USA, and potentially worldwide as the wine market grows.

Thank you Angela, for sitting down with me and showing me the wines Lake Chelan has to offer. Cheers!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Weekly Wine-Down August 1-7: The Wine in Spain Falls Mainly On My Lips

I used to think that the quality of Spanish wines wasn't comparable to French and Italian wines. I once mentioned this to a fellow winelover at a Vintage Port tasting I attended with him a couple of years ago. He laughed, and said I must try more of them to really appreciate the wine's quality through it's terroir, and "bang for your buck".

I am so glad I listened to him!

Over the past few years, I have found some wonderful Spanish gems, and after focusing on more Spanish wines in the past month, here are some of my personal favourites with a few other producers to try out.

Spain's wine regions spread sporadically throughout the entire country. A wide variety of red, white and rose wines are produced. The most notable regions include:



-Rioja: The most well-known region in Spain, oaked red wines made from grape varietals Tempranillo and Garnacha (aka Grenache) are produced here. The Ribeira del Duero and Toro also feature some wonderful expressions of Tempranillo.
-Jerez: Home of Sherry wine made in a variety of styles
-Catalunya: This is where Spain's signature sparkling wine is produced, called Cava. Some notable wine appellations nearby are Priorat and Montsant, which offer red wines with elegance and structure.
-Rias Baixas: The maritime climate coupled with mineral-rich soil is the perfect homeland for a white wine called Albarino, which carries aromas of stone fruits and melons combined with a mineral structure and zesty finish.

White Wine: Albarino


August 1st was considered "Albarino Day" in the winelovers' world, and my sister-in-law and I celebrated with an interesting take on the varietal. Deep gold in colour, the Pirueta contains aromas of honeydew melon and orange blossom tied into a palate of underripe pear and grapefruit. The body shows more weight than most Albarinos, with a blend of mouthwatering acidity and zesty finish. Pairs extremely well with lighter cheeses like havarti.

Another good Albarino to try is Paco & Lola, which is lighter in style and offers flavours of red apple and crisp citrus. The label is created to catch your eye in store, adorned with black and white polka dots!

Rose Wines



The "dog days of summer" allow for Rose wines to really shine as they pair well with the sunny summer heat. Bodegas Breca delivers a dry rose called Garnacha de Fuego that delivers excellent value perfect for sipping on a hot summer day! Bright and refreshing, with notes of papaya, fresh strawberries and minerality mid-palate. Note: All rose wines should be consumed within 24 hours of opening-otherwise, they lose all their flavour.

Bodegas Muga, based out of the Rioja region, also produces a dry rose that is fuller in body, with concentrated citrus and fresh red berry flavours.

Red Wines: Rioja

And speaking of Rioja, this is the trademark red wine that comes out of Spain. Most are composed of the grape varietals Tempranillo and Garnacha, with Graciano and Mazuelo sometimes blended in. An oaked white blend is also made here; however, I'll focus on the reds this time.

There are 4 types of Rioja red wines: Joven wines are bottled the year after the grapes are harvested, Crianza wines must age for 2 years with 6 months of that in oak barrels, Reserva wines are aged for a minimum of 3 years with 12 months in oak, and Gran Reserva wines must be aged for at least 5 years, including 6 months in oak.


The Beronia Rioja Reserva 2014 is an expressive blend of wild strawberries, red roses, coffee and an earthy note that leads into the long finish. Lively acidity and mocha tannins add structure and complexity. The 2014 is still showing its youth, and would be a wonderful addition to the cellar for another 3-5 years! Pairs well with grilled red meats like lamb chops.

Other Rioja wines to try include Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva and Vina Bujanda Rioja Crianza.

The next time you stop by your local wine store, stop by the Spanish aisle and give some of these value-packed gems a try. I can't say I've ever had a bottle from Spain that I didn't like! You just might find this to be your wine truth as well ;)

Stay tuned for next week's wine-down, when I focus on the Reserve line of Mission Hill's wines.

Cheers!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekly Wine-Down July 24-31: All About New World Reds

Now that I've finally created my own Wine Concubine Facebook page, I'm starting a new segment to help drum up some more likes, called the Weekly Wine-Down. Special thanks to Li at the Wining Hour on Twitter for unknowingly helping me with the name!. Each week I will post mini versions of tasting notes based on the wines I tasted, and recommend for your drinking pleasure.

Saturday night was a mini family reunion with my Aunt, Uncle & cousins who live 3 hours north of me. My uncle is also a winelover, who lives by the adage "Life is too short to drink bad wine". After a quick trip to the local farmer's market, we sat down and tasted some impressive red wines from the Okanagan, as well as a Zinfandel from Lodi. Here are the standouts:


1. Burrowing Owl Meritage 2012, Oliver, BC: A pronounced nose of ripe raspberries and dusty earth lead into a body of mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained, well integrated tannins along with notes of juicy blackberries, stewed green bell peppers & forest floor. The finish is long and sultry, with a marked flavour of dried currant. Decant for 1.5-2 hours to allow the complex flavour profile to open up!

2. Blasted Church 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend, Okanagan, BC: Known for their eye-catching labels, all of Blasted Church's wines are great choices for quality, and this one is no exception! A beautiful deep purple colour in the glass with aromas of black fruit and black pepper. The body is well rounded with fresh acidity, ripe tannins and a long, juicy finish. For those of you who prefer red wine over whites, I recommend this for sipping on the patio with a sirloin steak, or grilled Italian sausage!

3. Earthquake Zinfandel 2014, Lodi AVA, California: Aromas of raspberry preserves and a hint of flint will invite you in to taste an intriguing flavour profile of red fruit, black licorice and cocoa powder. The licorice essence lasts well into the long, smooth finish. Fresh acidity and focused tannins round out the body. Due to it's 15% abv alcohol content, this wine is best with grilled red meat, hard cheeses like cheddar, and even dark chocolate! We decanted for 30-45 minutes as well.

Special thanks to my Aunt & Uncle for their amazing hospitality, enjoyment of this blog and for all the love and support they've given me throughout my wine journey. 

This Tuesday is an upcoming wine day featuring a varietal called Albarino. Click here to learn a little more about it (at the 2:00 mark), and stay tuned for tasting notes on Spanish wine next week!

Cheers!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Wines of Freemark Abbey

I'm not much of a fan of California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Maybe this is because I'm used to drinking lower priced Cabs, but it's probably because I can't afford the high prices the majority of Napa County demands. Earlier this Spring, I sampled a few Cabernet Sauvignons from neighbouring Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, but was left largely disappointed.

Then I tried Freemark Abbey's 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, and I was proven wrong.

Established in 1886, a widow named Josephine Tychson became the first recorded female winemaker in Napa Valley when she built the original cellar building and cleared the surrounding land to plant vines. In 1939, three businessmen changed the name of the estate from Lombarda Cellars by melding their names Freeman, Marquand Foster and Albert Ahern. This is when the name Freemark Abbey was born. Fun fact: Freemark Abbey was one of the 12 wineries that entered, and defeated French wines in the "Judgement of Paris" blind tasting in 1976!

The 2011 growing season was harsh on winemakers throughout Napa Valley. Consistent rain into harvest made rot an issue in many of the vineyards, generating extremely low yields. These conditions made the vinification process a real challenge, but rumour has it that some expressive, age-worthy wines were on the market. Freemark Abbey proved this to be true with their 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.


A bouquet of dried red currant and ripe red cherries leads into a complex flavour profile that includes stewed green bell peppers and a hint of fennel on the finish. Silky tannins and bright acidity add finesse and body. This wine would be an excellent pairing with steak and roast beef, but I recommend using a higher end grade and cut to really blow your mind!

What amazes me most about this wine is the price point. Although Freemark Abbey still fetches a higher price for the 2011 Cab Sauv, their's is low compared to other Napa Valley wineries. The retail price in Canadian dollars is $54. I was so impressed that I decided to taste 2 more wines in their portfolio!


Freemark Abbey's 2011 Merlot shows a smoky side with notes of flint accompanying a palate of fresh cherries and herbs. The red fruit flavours last right into the long, rich finish, reflecting a more fresh style than the Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, I really enjoyed this wine on it's own!


Finally, the 2013 Chardonnay offers intoxicating aromas of ripe bananas with a hint of vanilla to reflect aging in oak. Lush in style, with a body that includes stewed pineapple and an intriguing tinge of guava. A creamy mouthfeel and soft, focused tannins round out the palate. This wine is incredibly food friendly and would marry well with poached salmon, or chicken in a mustard cream sauce. 

Sometimes the splurge on wine is worth it, and sometimes it can let you down. In this case, I wasn't disappointed once. I know the quality will be there if I bring a Freemark Abbey bottle to a dinner or gift it to a fellow winelover. So if you haven't tasted this gem in Napa Valley, make sure you do-you won't be disappointed either.

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

To Cellar, or Not To Cellar in Uncertain Times

Our senses have been bombarded lately with all the news hype surrounding Brexit, President Trump, and the plethora of natural disasters plaguing the globe. And don't forget the media trend of apocalyptic TV series like The Walking Dead to add to the atmosphere of doom and gloom. If you are like me, you've chosen to "turn off" in a digital sense and focus your energy on reading, studying, or hobbies. A lot of my wine studies this year have drawn me to issues related to wine cellaring.

I currently own a 100 bottle cellar with wines ranging in value from $35 through to over $1,000. Granted, my cellar is only composed of 3 wooden racks that hold 75 bottles each enclosed in a concrete room; nothing fancy like what you see in Wine Spectator every month. However, the cellar means more to me than just bottles in a concrete room. Many of the bottles enclosed have memories attached to them. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas wines were purchased on our trip to France in 2011. My Krug Clos du Mesnil Champagne tells the story of my oldest daughter's birth and my triumph over those crazy, foggy first weeks of motherhood. The problem lies in when to consume these wines-and in today's tumultuous times, should I even bother with a cellar?

My wine cellar. It's not pretty, but it's functional-and doesn't allow for aliens or zombies to get in easily!
Many factors come into play when maintaining a wine cellar. Questions to ask yourself include:

"How many bottles can I manage?"
"Am I cellaring bottles for financial gain, or for personal pleasure?"
"What methods and resources do I use to track their development?"
"Am I comfortable with the risk associated with my bottles' values?"

What about a contingency plan? Zombie-apocalypses and President Trump's initiatives aside, other risk factors include household fires, floods, and other acts of God. Are you prepared to forego tasting your viticultural treasures if any of the above happen, even if you insure your bottles?

In the event of a slower catastrophe like Zombies or a plague, my contingency plan is to lock myself in the cellar, drink as many of the wines as I can from most treasured to least, and let nature take it's toll. I'm still working on a plan for the quicker-moving events.

Many wine blogs and publications discuss drinking those treasured bottles now, foregoing special events to ensure you get to enjoy them now. It's an interesting concept; on one hand, you will definitely enjoy them and the risk of the wine going past it's prime is reduced. On the other hand, how much will you enjoy that phenomenal bottle on a weeknight, or another time where you might be more rushed? In my opinion it's worth exploring, especially when sampling a wine where more of the same bottles exist in the cellar; however, I still prefer a special occasion to crack open those one-off bottles so I can really indulge in the experience.

Even though none of us know what's going to happen next, I do know that I want to enjoy these bottles while I can and relive the joy and memories these wines have brought me. No matter what your wine cellar goals are, may yours bring you joy now, and in the time to come.

Cheers!




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Concha y Toro's Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

Starting each new year, I begin a major wine research project of focus. In the past I've started projects on new world Pinot Noir, Champagne, Alsace whites, and this year I kick off 2017 as my year of New World Cabernet Sauvignon. This year I will focus my red wine tastings on Cab Sauvs from Chile, California, Washington State, Australia and Canada (can't forget the home wine region, of course!) The first project kicked off during the holiday season, where my husband, father-in-law and I tasted 4 of the Cabernet Sauvignons crafted by Chilean wine powerhouse Concha y Toro.

Founded in 1883, Concha y Toro is regarded as one of the oldest and most well-known wineries in Chile. With a wide variety of experienced winemakers at the helm, Concha y Toro is making waves in the wine world, most notably with Cabernet Sauvignon. Click here to learn more about the winery in detail.

So what makes Chile such a great hotbed for growing remarkable Cabernet Sauvignon?
The DO Puente Alto is located very close to the foothills of the Andes mountains, containing a variety of soil types including alluvial, stony, and a gravel sub-soil. Just like in Bordeaux, the vines have to struggle for their nutrients, which in turn creates wines with solid structure and surprising complexity.

 
The first wine we tasted in the series was Casillero de Diablo. The grapes are grown in the Central Valley region of Chile. Concentrated and straightforward, the Casillero de Diablo Cab Sauv 2015 offers red currant and blueberry flavours in a plush body of lively acidity and ripe tannins. There's a slight musky hint on the finish, adding a touch of complexity. This is an ideal wine for newbies to start on Cab Sauv, and a great wine to bring to a Halloween party, if you're punny like me!


Next we tasted the revered Marques de Casa Concha, 2012 vintage. This Cabernet Sauvignon is some of the best value you can find for under $20 CDN, and one of my go-to favourites. The grapes are grown in the DO Puente Alto, and with both a climate and soil similar to Bordeaux, this wine delivers on all fronts! Complex flavours of ripe blueberries, red and black currants surround a body brimming with silky soft tannins, lively acidity and a hint of charcoal and leather on the finish. This beauty is drinking well now, but shows aging potential of another 3-5 years.


Concha y Toro also produces a more rustic, unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon with it's 2008 Terrunyo Las Terrazas. With fruit from one of their oldest vineyards, they crafted a bold wine containing flavours of dried cherries and black currants, alongside a hint of dried tobacco leaf mid-palate. Earthy tannins and mouthwatering acidity create a full body that follows through the long, persistent finish. Newer vintages will hold well in cellar for approximately 5 years, but the 2008 is dangerously close to past prime. Strong meats and hard cheeses will pair best with this gallant gem!


Finally, we come to the pinnacle Cabernet, the esteemed, highly rated 2010 Don Melchor. Wine Spectator ranked it as the #9 wine of the year in 2014, and Concha y Toro earned their spot with a finessed body full of black currant, tomato leaf and a sultry hint of smoke. The silky tannins are well integrated and linger through the smooth finish. Decant for 1-2 hours before enjoying, and pair this with a Ribeye or Filet Mignon!

It is easy to see why Concha y Toro is a benchmark winery for Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile. By using the best quality grapes from their esteemed vineyards, each sub-brand of their wines are consistent in body and flavour, allowing them to produce a house style of quality that will be hard to replicate by others. Enjoy the fruits of Concha y Toro's labour, whether you are new to red wines, a wine geek, or a wine conoisseur-they have a wine for you. Cheers!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Top Wines Tasted in 2016

Most people will be happy to see 2016 go-after all, if we could have one drink for each celebrity who passed away or other bad news story aired on the news, we'd all be blasted drunk. But for me, 2016 was one of my best years as an adult. On the family front, I spent the year at home with my 2 young daughters. I watched my baby girl grow into a curious, active toddler, and saw my oldest daughter start kindergarten at school. I will be sad to see 2016 go as I return to my non-wine day job in 2017. Back to reality...

I also had a good year in the world of wine. I considered 2016 as "my year of Champagne", and I tasted my way through a variety of non-vintage bruts from some of the well known houses of Reims and Epernay. Red and white wines from France also dominated my palate, along with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux blends from the Okanagan. You will see plenty of wines from all of these regions on my top wine list for 2016, along with a few surprises! And with that said, let's get down to business.

Top Red Wines

I tasted so many great red wines this year, it was hard to narrow down this list to just a top 5. Prices range from $20-$35 CDN for all wines except for the top wine, which is $70 +.

1. Les Hauts de Smith by Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2005 - Pessac-Leognan AOC, France

2. Tedeschi Corasco Appassimento 2010 - Venezie IGT, Italy

3. Domaine Lafage Tessellae Old Vines GSM 2013 - Cotes du Roussillon AOC, France

4. Black Sage Vineyards Zinfandel 2012 - Okanagan, British Columbia

5. Blasted Church Syrah 2014 - Okanagan, British Columbia

Top White Wines

As per usual, France takes the #1 spot for my white wine of the year - and unlike previous years, almost swept the category! A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc takes the final spot. Prices range from $22-$35 CDN.

1. Joseph Drouhin Vaudon Chablis 2012 - Chablis AOC, France

2. Chateau Miraval Blanc Coteaux Varois 2014 - Cotes du Provence AOC, France

3. Domaine Francois Lichtle Pfersigberg Grand Cru 2008 - Alsace AOC, France

4. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2015 - Marlborough, New Zealand

Top Champagne & Sparkling Wines

This year's focus was on Brut Champagne, so the list is dedicated accordingly. You are looking to spend $45-$70 CDN on these bottles, but definitely worth the splurge for a special occasion!

1. Pol Roger Brut Reserve N/V - Epernay, France

2. Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut N/V - Epernay, France

3. Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut N/V - Epernay, France

4. Taittinger Brut N/V - Reims, France

Top Sweet Wines

Since my husband is a Port aficionado, Port is the go-to for fortified wines in our house. However, Canada dominates this year's list, with the remaining 3 spots. As most of the wines on this part of the list were gifts, I can't officially comment on price, with the exception of Cave Springs' Late Harvest Riesling; the price in CDN is $30.

1. Quinta do Vesuvio Port 1994 - Portugal

2. Kalala Chardonnay Icewine 2013 - Okanagan, British Columbia

3. Cave Springs "Indian Summer" Late Harvest Riesling 2010 - Niagara, Ontario

4. Black Sage Vineyards "Pipe" 2007 - Okanagan, British Columbia

Top Value Wines

This is where white wine really shone this year. I wasn't expecting that I would like these (with the exception of Wynn's CSM-I drink at least one bottle of it every year) but they did not disappoint! As per usual, these wines retail for under $20 CDN.

1. Batasiolo Moscato d'Asti Bosc d'La Rei 2015 - Moscato d'Asti DOCG, Italy

2. Wynn's Coonawarra Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot 2010 - South Australia

3. Colinas de Uruguay Albarino 2015 - Garzon, Uruguay

4. Mission Hills 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2013 - Okanagan, British Columbia

5. Pelee Island Gewurztraminer 2014 - Pelee Island, Ontario

Best Pairing

Italy takes the top 2 spots as Italian wines are made to be extremely food friendly. Blasted Church's Syrah grabs another spot on my list, as a divine pairing for Filet Mignon. The Porca de Murca Portuguese red is priced under $20 CDN, making it the best value in this category. All other wines listed here are priced between $24-$65 CDN, worth the splurge!  

1. Brigaldara Soave 2015 with Brioche Lobster Roll

2. Folonari Campo al Mare Bolgheri 2007 with Zuppa di Fungi

3. Blasted Church Syrah 2014 with Filet Mignon

4. Porca de Murca Tinto Douro 2013 with Cauliflower-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

5. Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne N/V with Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict

Winery of the Year

This is the first year I have awarded this category on the blog. There are 2 criteria I use in order to select the winery:

-Their wines must be listed in at least one category above
-They must be interactive with their followers on social media.

When deciding whether or not to use this category in years past, winners would have included producers such as Donnafugata, Tommasi, and Concha y Toro.

Therefore, the winery of the year is...Blasted Church Winery, located in Okanagan, BC!
Honourable mention goes to Champagne House Taittinger in Reims, France!

Thank you both so much for sharing your passion for your wines & champagnes with all your winelover fans!

So what's coming up for me in 2017? It's looking to be a busy one!

-Return to wine school in April to become a Canadian Wine Scholar
-Potential travel to the Okanagan and Washington State for wine touring & tasting,
-My Year of...New World Cabernet Sauvignon. Including regions of Chile, California, Washington State, Okanagan, BC, and possibly Australia and South Africa.
-Other projects include white wines from smaller Old World countries like Greece & Austria, and producer-focused blog posts

Hopefully you find this post useful when looking for recommendations, and maybe try a wine you haven't had before on this list or see a pairing idea you like. Cheers to a successful 2016, and I look forward to sharing more of my passion and thirst knowledge quest in 2017!

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