Wine Trends of the Canadian Rockies

Bonjour, Hello!

Kristen recently traveled with her new job to the Canadian Rockies area on the west side of Canada and carefully documented the wine trends and local grapes of the area.


First stop: Vancouver

Vancouver, the famous western city of the Canada, was a surprisingly clean city. Not much trash to be seen on the streets and city hosts a large Asian influence with noodle shops and tea leaf importers on nearly every corner. The skyscrapers sparkle in the glow of the snow covered mountains that surround the city, and the light from the sun that reflects off the bay. Our hotel, the Georgian Court, was a stunning modern hotel that – with its spa-like features – won the award for best public bathrooms. They keep a beautiful Italian restaurant on the grounds that includes a jazz lounge, wine dinner room, and a classic bar.


Their menu offered lots of fun wine cocktails, my favorite being The Rose Garden. 

Its a mixture of elderflower liquor and black raspberry puree, topped with a sparkling rose wine. It was floral with a slight fruit finish that reminded me more of cranberry than black raspberry. It was not very sweet but instead felt like the alcoholic version of fruity green tea.

Second Stop: The overnight Via Rail train through the Rockies

If you have never experienced a Canadian train before, I highly recommend it! I will warn you that it is definitely NOT for anyone who hates small spaces. However, the train supports three lovely dome cars for viewing the scenery, and even serves a bottomless champagne toast as the train disembarks. The attendants poured the Angels Gate Brut VQA Beamsville Bench 2012 vintage which was 100% Archangel Chardonnay. The winery in located in the Niagara region of Canada. Niagara is home to many Canadian wineries, much like the Finger Lakes region in New York State. It was crisp and tasted of golden delicious apples with notes of citrus and peach. I highly recommend trying this vintage. The average price is around $29 per bottle.


The dining car also served some of Canada’s local grapes and local wineries. The first wine I tried was Union White: a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer,  and Sauvignon Blanc from Ontario. It was the perfect match for my scallop and shrimp lunch. It bursted with citrus, white peach, and even a slight pineapple finish. It was bright and medium bodied with a slightly lingering finish.


The second was Konzelmann Estate Winery‘s Baco Noir also from Ontario. The Baco Noir grape is a native hybrid grape grown in parts of the USA and Ontario. I would say this wine was medium bodied and very fruit forward and slightly sweet. It reminded me of a less sweet version of blackberry wine. Rich and yet not very heavy on the taste buds. It will make a great pairing for Italian dishes!

Third stop: Jasper

This adorable mountain town feels like you finally made it to the north pole and Santa is busy working in the toy shop. Between the Christmas lights and wild elk constantly walking around the town, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic. The bitter cold was the perfect pairing for O’Sheas Irish Restaurant’s Mulled Wine special. The chef makes a fresh batch each morning and says it’s his grandmother’s recipe from Belgium.

It. Was. Incredible.

The balance of fruit, spice and sweet was unmatched by any mulled wine I’ve had before. The chef tops off each glass with warm pieces of citrus and it went perfectly with hot poutine and my buffalo burger. His recipe is a guarded secret but my guess is that a slightly sweeter red wine was used as a base with some brandy and fruit juices.

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Later that night, the Downsteam bar had a cocktail list that seemed longer than the Bible. I could not decide between the local wines and great cocktails so I challenged the bartenders to make me a drink that had both. I was not disappointed. They created a red wine whiskey sour made with local wine, maple whiskey, and topped with a few drops of maple syrup. The foam on top tasted almost candy like while the drink itself was fruity with a toffee finish. It has a thicker body than most cocktails, and the whiskey helped make for a clean finish. I have no idea how the drink is made, but I think I have some experimenting to do.


Fourth stop: Banff

Banff feels like the trendy younger sister of Jasper. It is still surrounded by gorgeous mountains yet the town is much more alive with a wild night life and slightly more youthful crowd. It’s a skiers paradise with trendy shops, restaurants, and a mountain gondola that will take you up to the clouds! Here we dined at the Maple Leaf which is a 5 star restaurant. A trend I noticed in Canada is that wine by the glass is not very popular. Most restaurants sell their wines by the bottle and can have extensive selections. In all honesty, we tried many wines that night from dry reds to crisp whites. I highly recommend asking the waiter’s advice because they are trained on the latest wine specials of the restaurant and will help match the meal you order. Hands down the best spot for wine pairing!

Last Stop: Calgary airport

Our last destination was the Calgary International Airport. We arrived early for our 12 pm flight and with limited options ended up at a Chili’s. To my surprise, they had a whole mimosa menu to choose from. My personal favorite was the Chambord Mimosa. This cocktail is a scoop of Frozen Top Shelf Margarita, a splash of Chambord, orange juice, grenadine, topped off with Martini and Rossi Asti Prosecco. It tasted like a tropical ice cream soda aka what you wish your aunt’s sherbet party punch tasted like. It was bubbly, creamy, fruity, and ice cold. My favorite way to wake up!



My fellow winos if you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies please try the local delicacies and tell us what you think!!




CA Fire Relief- How you can help!


Hey Wineos,

Our renowned wine capitals Napa and Sonoma have been hit with terrible wild fires that have displaced families and damaged many of the wineries we all love. For detailed information about which wineries were affected and which counties have been burned please read here.

In latest news, the majority of the fires have been contained for the time being. Many organizations in the area are looking for donations to help rebuild wine country and support the families.

Image result for love in the air is thicker than the smoke

So how can you help?

The Winemakers and Sommeliers For California Wildfire Relief group is hosting fundraising events, taking donations, and taking donated quality vintage wine bottles to use as auction items for funds.

The American Red Cross is taking applications for volunteers to help bring aid to the area as well as donations on their website. Donations can be directed to all general disaster relief which covers the CA fires, Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Maria. You can choose which disaster you want to donate to.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank is also taking monetary donations and food donations if you live locally. The money goes to help feeding the displaced families.

Gloria Ferrer winery in Sonoma is doing a special where $1 from every purchase goes towards the fire relief. Check out their website for fundraising events or shop online to make a difference. Every bottle counts!

Scribe Winery in Sonoma County has opened a pre-sale for their special edition Pinot Noir where the proceeds from the sales will go to local aid forces. The wine will ship on November 1st and this limited edition bottle costs $32 dollars. We here at half-past just purchased a bottle and will be reviewing it soon for you!

2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir Presale // Ships Nov 1st

For even more ways to help like donating to the local firefighters in the area or clothing donations check out

Please do your part to help support the vineyards and the people that work hard to provide you with USA made wine every day. #CAwinestrong

Stay Wine Strong and Cheers

Feature Image Credit – Santa Cruise Mountains Winegrowers Association

Love in the Air Image Credit – Two-Way Breaking News NPR

Pinor Noir Wine Bottle Image Credit – Scribe Winery 



Cava’s Little Sister, Summer White!

Just when you think Spain can’t get anymore ingenious after inventing sangria, they share yet another one of their long standing traditions: vi d’agulla from Avinyó


In Catalan, the name means ‘prickly wine.’ But despite it’s Spanish origins, this label reads ‘Petillant,’ which is a French wine designation meaning ‘slightly sparking.’

Avinyó’s Petillant white wine is produced in Catalonia Spain, with 80% Petit Grain Muscat and 20% Macabeu grapes. After being fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is given its light bubbles from the Charmat Method (tank method)  in a secondary tank.


Why is it Catalonia’s summer drink of choice? Probably because it’s everything you need from a summer white. Crisp, lightly acidic, blooming with lychee and green apple flavors, floral, with tiny almost metallic bubbles that are a match made in heaven for summer seafood pairings – as if the tiny silver fishes on the label didn’t give it away.

If you happen to come across any petillant or vi d’agulla wines in your travels this summer PLEASE take the opportunity to taste them ice cold with all your summer food choices.


Forget Red vs White – BLUE!

The Half Past team discovered a hidden gem at the liquor store a few weeks ago that we just HAD to try for you.

We are pretty frequent wine shoppers, so we always make a point to check out the latest in sparkling or bubbly wines. Imagine our surprise when we saw this waiting for us in the aisle!


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a BLUE sparkling wine from the sunny state of CA. This bottle promotes itself as being the ‘first blue grape wine’ made from white grapes and a hint of blueberry juice – hence the creative name ‘Blanc de Blue.’

So it’s blue and bubbly, but what does it taste like?

To be honest, we were a bit shocked by the result. We were expecting a sweet blueberry bubbly. Instead, we encountered a French dry style sparkling wine with a slight afternote of blueberry. Looks are deceiving with this bottle, which explains the slightly higher price point of around $15 a bottle.


Just a brief glimpse at the company website reveals that their target audience is weddings and classic white table cloth events.  However, the Half-Past team thought that this would be better suited for a baby gender reveal party. What better way to choose Team Blue or Team Pink than with bubbly blue and pink wine?

To get more specific information about the wine making process and where to buy this wine check out the website.


Happy Sipping!



Know your Bubbly

Like bubbly wine? SO DO WE!

However, do you get to the liquor store and freak out because you are seeing words you don’t understand like ‘Cava’, ‘demi-sec’, and ‘Frizzante’?

Don’t freak out! That’s why you have us!

Here’s the Half Past Wine O’Clock Bubbly Wine Guide!

Four Main Bubbles

Prosecco (Image credit to Erlc L)

















BUBBLY chart 2

Words to Live by:


Sweetness Levels: (Least to greatest) 

Brut Nature – 1/8 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Extra Brut – 1/4 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Brut – 1/2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Extra Dry – 3/4 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Dry – 1 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Demi-Sec – 2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Doux – over 2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Secco – Italian version of ‘Dry’

Semi-secco- Italian version of ‘off- dry’

Dolce/Amabile – Italian version of ‘Demi-sec’ and above

Frizzante – Italian word for ‘Bubbly’ and usually only has 1-2 atmospheres per bottle

*Fun Fact* The higher the atmospheres in the bottle, the smaller the bubbles!

Any other words on the bubbly bottles that you don’t understand? Let us know! We will do the research for you!

**** Information resources for this article are: – Liquid Caviar- Sparking Red Wine article, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine book, and Rachel Ray Magazine Jan/Feb 2016 edition pg 99.

Feature Image credit – Bubbly 1- to scyrene

Cute Summer Sips: “I Love You” All Year Round

We know we generally advise against picking a wine on bottle design, but the limited-edition design of The French Wine Merchant’s Prosecco was irresistible. It helped that we’re obsessed with bubbles and knew we’d love it from not just looking at the bottle, but reading it as well.

Whole Foods calls it “I Love You” All Year Round, though it is also (wordily) referred to as Villa Jolanda Vino Spumante Extra Sec (you’re more likely to find it online using the latter). The bottle, originally designed as a Valentine’s Day special edition, features a couple in hot air balloons together and hanging by the string of balloons as they fly solo.

11791746_10207349508001845_1880817746_nThe wine was a bit lighter than champagne, but still had the sweet, bubbly taste we craved. It was a dry white, light and perfect for our humid summer weather. We didn’t pair it with anything but end-of-the-day relaxation, but we’d recommend lighter meals like fish, or with snacks/appetizers.

The wine’s main set-backs have to be its cork and its rarity. Although its cork had a cute design on it, it was nearly impossible to remove – even for our wine expert, Kristen! And while rarity is usually a good sign, it’s sad to think we may never find this sweet, adorable wine again.

A bottle of I Love You All Year Round can range from $11.99-$16.99 and is around 13% alcohol.

Kristen: 4

Briana: 4

Paula: 5

Average: 4.3

Finding Our Muse: since when does Angry Orchard make wine?

As a group that combines wine with stories, Angry Orchard’s “The Muse” sounds and tastes like the perfect addition to our site. As weird as it is that Angry Orchard now makes wines, we can attest that they are definitely worth giving a try!

Untitled-1While Paula and I have only tried “The Muse,” Kristen has taste-tested all three of AO’s new Ciderhouse Collection: Muse, Strawman, and Iceman. It started as a joke on a professor of hers who not only looks like AO’s Iceman bearded mascot, but worked with ice (modern-day Kristoff style). It turned into a hunt for the bottles, resulting in her sharing a bottle of The Muse with Paula and I.

Angry Orchard claims this trio is packed with rare and innovative apple ciders.

1) Iceman – Inspired by the Ice Ciders of Quebec, Kristen says this crisp, full, smooth, icy apple wine is worth the money.

2) Strawman – Inspiried by English and French countryside farmers, Kristen says this thicker, citrus tangy, almost beer like flavor would be surprisingly great for Game Day snacks and BBQs.

3) Muse – Inspired by the sweeter demi-sec Champagnes of France, this sweeter, bubbly, rich apple wine is the cousin to Iceman.

If you ever wondered what boozy, bubbly apple cider tastes like, you have to try “The Muse.” It’s sweet yet crisp, with thick white bubbles and a smooth finish. Sweeter than cider, this wine is the unexpected yet beautiful marriage of apples and wine. It’s not quite wine and it’s not beer or liquor, so it’s hard to pick the setting for the drink. But while it may not satisfy a pre-existing craving, it will definitely create a craving for more once you’ve had a sip.

The only issue is that it’s a challenge to find. Kristen spotted it with the rest of AO’s products at Wegman’s, hiding by the beers instead of the wines. The bottle costs around $13-15 and is 7.7% alcohol.

Check out the Official Ciderhouse Collection Website for more details!

Paula: 5

Briana: 5

Kristen: 5

Average rate of: 5

A Journey to a Wine Castle: Kristen’s Italian Wine Tour

Our team’s designated wine expert, Kristen, spent several weeks of her spring touring Italian vineyards and sampling
various authentic Italian wines in their very own home villages. Her favorite was Castello Banfi, home to the vineyards that supply this New York-owned wine company.

Giant barrels lined the inside of the winery, filled with wine, gracefully aging before it would be transported to a smaller barrel moved out. Inside the winery, Kristen observed several art installations that complemented the old-age, artistic vibe that the winery exudes. The halls presented mosaics made of broken shards of wine bottles, and promiscuous marble statues that drew a giggle from the students’ inner child.

Kristen and her wine Soldiers in the Banfi Basement
Kristen and her wine Soldiers in the Banfi Basement

Afterward, the students were led to the Banfi Castle for a six course meal. Yes, I said six course. And each course was served with wine – a full glass of wine. Kristen and her chefs joked about sneaking their food home (wondering how to transport a bowl of soup via purse, for instance) and were – for perhaps the first time – unable to finish all of their wine.


But at the end of the day, Kristen found Aurora, and that’s what matters. After touring and dining in the castle, Kristen found a wine reminding her of a favorite Disney princess called Rosa Regale (Royal Rose).

Her Highness
Her Highness

So, of course she had to buy it. And thank goodness she did; we’ve since bought several bottles of it in American liquor stores because it’s so good. Made from 100% Brachetto grapes, it’s sweet and fizzy but not heavy on the palate and (at least for me) difficult to savor through small sips because it’s so delicious. The wine has such a unique flavor that it is fabulous on its own but can be paired with food that can hold up to sweeter wines. For example, it makes tomato sauces taste sweeter and compliments spices. Typically, a bottle of Banfi Rosa Regale goes around $18.00-$22.00 in the US. It is sold in four sizes, from small to large we have 187ml, 375ml, the standard 750ml, and the larger 1.5L. If you click the Rosa Regale link above, the website offers wedding deals, cocktail recipes, many pictures, and even a link to the official Banfi blog. 

Yellow Tail Sangria: A Near-Death Experience

Yesterday, Kristen was violently attacked by a seemingly user-friendly bottle of bubbly sangria.

User-friendly…or not?

The terms “bubbly” and “sangria” are rarely paired, but that’s what drew us to it. This summer, we’ve been obsessed with bubbles. An avid red wine fan myself, I’ve been veering toward sangria recently to get that deep taste without the warm flush I often get from heavier reds like Merlot. So I’ve adapted to the dramatic shift in New England weather and was thrilled when Kristen revealed her bubbly sangria, which embraced everything I love about wine and our summer.

Unfortunately, a late summer lunch comes with cute clothes, and cute clothes don’t mash well with a bubbly explosions. Kristen did the honors of popping our bubbly, which proceeded to explode all over her new elephant pants and white knit sweater. Thankfully, I drink enough coffee (and am clumsy enough) that I’m an expert stain-remover.

But we can’t blame it all on the bubbles from our fave Australian vineyard. On our way to Demi’s, Kristen and I were nearly hit on three separate left turns by aggressive speeders flying over hills. The poor bubbly, unprotected in the trunk thanks to Massachusetts law, got tossed around and had plenty of reason for a red-stained revenge when Kristen went to pop it open.

Beautiful red bubbles
Homemade pan pizzas

That said, it was a delicious glass. Though we may be a bit traumatized from the opening, within a few sips we’d (mostly) forgotten all about the messy incident. We paired our drinks with homemade pan pizzas, balancing the spicy pepperoni, onions, and peppers with the thick sweetness of the sangria.

The bottle was purchased at Wegman’s, costing $9.99 and serving four. Demi, our picky drinker, gives her stamp of approval, showing this is a selection for both avid wine drinkers and those who aren’t.

Anyway, here’s a video of retro cats getting turnt on bubbles in a vintage children’s movie: