Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Romance with Rioja

I am in love with Spanish wine, especially Rioja.

This isn't the first time I've shared this sentiment, and I'm sure it won't be the last time, either! Wines from Rioja reflect high quality and craftsmanship, while offering accessibility for all wine lovers at reasonable prices. 

On Thursday, February 21, I was fortunate enough to attend a Wines of Rioja reception in preparation for one of Calgary's largest annual wine festivals, aptly named Winefest. Winemakers and Rioja representatives came together to share their passion and knowledge of this prestigious region with local wine media, writers and bloggers such as myself. Here are my personal standout wines of the tasting:




The Conde de los Andes Blanco 2015 is composed entirely of the Viura varietal. An intriguing vibrant gold colour in the glass, melon and vanilla aromas invite you in to a complex palate that also offers notes of kiwifruit, fresh pear and a hint of white blossom. The tannins are fine-grained and well integrated, with mouthwatering acidity leading into a long, bright finish. This is a stunning sipper that would marry well with a wide variety of savory foods, and has the potential to age in cellar for 5-10 years.


The Valserrano Rioja Reserva 2012 carries a bouquet abundant with red fruit, molasses, and hazelnuts into a body consisting of prominent yet velvety tannins and a smooth, rich body. The uncompromised quality and care the family takes in crafting their wines is clearly evident with each sip. 


The true highlight of the reception was the CVNE Imperial Rioja Reserva 2014. This stunning treasure boasts a lush, full body, silky-smooth tannins and racy acidity, combined with flavours of red currants, plum and black olives. The finish is long and sultry, with a hint of baking spice. Pairs well with a myriad of cheeses and charcuterie, but also fantastic on its own!

The wines I tasted that fabulous, fun February evening reaffirm my love for Spanish wines, and the memories of this wonderful experience will last well into the future. Rioja wines are an excellent choice to bring to a dinner party, curled up in front of the fire on a cold night, or even on a weeknight after a rough day at work! To learn more about the Rioja wine region, its terroir and upcoming events in your area, please visit https://us.riojawine.com/en/

Special thanks to Tiffany Pence, Dhane Chesson and Ana Fabiano for their wonderful hospitality and passion for sharing Rioja wines with the world.

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Top Wines of 2018

Happy New Year's everyone!

2018 was another year of struggling in my "day job" career at our local airport. Internal company restructuring forced me to move positions in the early Autumn. Although I have now settled into my new position, and have integrated myself well into my new department, there will always be a place in my heart for the position I came from.

With all that said, the true highlight was spending my last few weeks of summer in Europe! We travelled through the Pfalz, Alsace, and the Ahr wine regions, soaking in the view of sun-kissed vineyards, tasting everything we could get our hands on, and indulging in the local dishes that pair so spectacularly with those wines. You can read about my European adventures here and here. Other highlights include attending my first media event, a lunch with winemaker Gerard Bertrand of the Veuve Clicquot champagne house, and my first ever collaboration, a blog post on bcwinetrends.com about one of my favourite wineries in Okanagan region, Moon Curser Vineyards.

Every year since 2013, I've dedicated my first post of the new year to sharing my favourite wines from the previous year. The categories haven't changed as I've decided to keep both the "Social Media Wineries of the Year" and "Wine Bloggers to Follow" lists. There are so many excellent resources out there to learn from!

Top Red Wines of 2018

Sadly, the majority of my top red wines this year came from aging in my cellar, so the actual vintages themselves may not be widely available. However, I do encourage you to try any of these reds should you find any on your local store shelves. Price points range from $30 - $50 CDN, and worth every penny!

1. Domaine Barville "Brotte" 2009: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

2. Campo al Mare Bolgheri 2007: Tuscany, Italy

3. Stargroves Petite Sirah 2008: Paso Robles, California

4. Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc 2014: Okanagan, BC, Canada

Top White Wines of 2018

Riesling dominated my white wine consumption for the year, what with travelling to the heart of Riesling country and all! Three of the top 4 wines are of this versatile varietal, with a sleeper hit from Australia mixing it up. Most of these wines are priced between $20 and $35 CDN, with the St. Urbans-Hof priced around $60 CDN, and so worth it!

1. St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Spatlese Riesling 2011 - Mosel, Germany

2. Tawse Sketches Riesling 2015 - Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

3. Three Sisters Bench White 2016 - Okanagan, BC, Canada

4. Tahbilk Marsanne 2016 - Australia

Top Rose Wines of 2018

I spent a lot more time quaffing on rose this past summer than I have in the past. Rose all day, am I right?! The unofficial king of Rose wines, Cotes du Provence, made an impact on my list; however, the top spots went to the New World for their lush and concentrated offerings. Price points range between $18 and $32 CDN, making these gems affordable any time of year! 

1. Belle Glos Pinot Noir/Blanc Rose 2016 - Sonoma, California

2. Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose 2016 - Okanagan, BC, Canada

3. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rose 2016 - AOP Cotes du Rhone, France

4. S de la Sablette Rose 2016 - AOP Cotes du Provence, France

Top Sparkling Wines of 2018

It was a French sweep this year thanks to my #cremanttourdefrance journey in the late spring/early summer. Although the JL Schwartz cremant is not widely available, the rest are priced between $25 and $65 CDN.

1. Champagne Taittinger - Reims, France

2. Domaine JL Schwartz Cremant d'Alsace Chardonnay - Alsace, France

3. Champagne Pommery Extra Brut - Reims, France

4. Chateau Langlois Cremant de Loire Brut - Loire Valley, France

Top Value Wines of 2018

I fell in love with my top value wine as soon as I tasted it; in fact, it's become one of my go-to white wines when I need a weeknight bottle or a patio sipper in summer! All 4 of these picks are worth tasting if you haven't already done so, and will only cost you $25 CDN or less!

1. Willm Pinot Blanc 2016 - AOP Alsace, France

2. Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon - Barossa Valley, Australia

3. Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling 2016 - Columbia Valley, Washington

4. Bodegas Corihuela 1884 Malbec 2016 - Mendoza, Argentina

Top Food and Wine Pairings of 2018

The Pinot Noir varietal shows up in 3 of the 4 top wines in this category as it is such a food-friendly wine! This year's top pairings isn't very vegetarian-friendly, but the JJ Adenauer and Burrowing Owl wines would work just as well with vegetarian alternatives like a "beyond meat" burger or veggie flatbread. The JJ Adenauer isn't widely available in Canada (just yet, anyways...I've heard rumours...), but the others are worth the splurge at prices between $30 and $60. Your taste buds will not be disappointed!

1. JJ Adenauer Spatburgunder 2017, paired with Pancetta & Onion "Flammkuchen" (flatbread)
Ahr Valley, Germany

2. Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old, paired with Pork Hock over Apricot Press
AOP Champagne, France

3. Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2015, paired with Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Burgers
VQA Okanagan, BC, Canada

4. Famille Perrin "Les Christins" 2015, paired with Sirloin Beef Roast
AOP Vacqueyras, France

Wineries of the Year

This category is dedicated to wineries that not only produce quality wines, but also regularly interact with their social media followers. Make sure to like and follow these wineries, and if you happen to see their wines in your local store, why not pick up a bottle for your next quaff?

1. Dr von Bassermann-Jordan: Pfalz, Germany

2. Champagne Taittinger: Reims, France (link above in Top Sparkling Wines List)

3. Hess Winery: Napa Valley, California

Wine Bloggers to Follow
This is my list of must-read (or watch) bloggers that I've started to follow in the past year. Each blogger on this year's list represents a specific wine region, with a youtube vlogger that focuses on value wines rounding out the list.

1. Grapevine Adventures - Katarina, a native from Sweden, moved to Italy and travels the country, exploring all the food and wine that makes Italy the gastronomic powerhouse that it is today. She also gravitates towards some of the wines and regions "off the beaten path", and I have learned so much more about Italy from her than what I have learned in books and other blogs so far!

2. VinoSocial - Nancy Croisier, a native Washingtonian, shares her passion for Washington wine in all of her blog posts. She also creates recipes that she pairs with the wines she reviews, and they are must-tries in your kitchen! Pair this with a friendly & knowledgeable writer, and you have a recipe for success!

3. Jordan Estate Winery - This is by far the most all-encompassing blog I have ever seen created and run by a winery! Jordan Estate covers it all with categories including "Out and About", "Behind the Scenes", "Photo Essays", and more! Posts are uploaded regularly, with notifications sent out on their social media pages to keep you well-informed.

4. Wine on the Dime - Do you prefer to watch vlogs over reading blogs? Wine on the Dime is by far my favourite vlogger to follow. Stuart shares his passion for finding excellent value wines ($15 USD or less), with a quirky twist here and there. Most of the videos are 5 minutes or less for those who prefer shorter wine tasting videos (like me), and there are many great recommendations with a ton of videos found on his channel!

Let me know what you think if you try out any of these wines, and feel free to share any you loved most in 2018 in the comments. I'm always open to new suggestions!

Cheers!

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