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.

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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!!

CHEERS!!!

 

 

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Today’s Rosé: HOGWASH

What better mascot for a medium-bodied pink wine than a medium-bodied pink pig? Hogwash’s 2017, grenache-based rosé packs delicious and lively flavor to pair with a hot summer day or light evening meal.

 

It’s hard to describe how deliciously interesting this rosé is without simply saying “you just have to try it!” Of course we recommend giving the bottle a taste, but to give you an idea of what to expect, we suggest this wine for melon-flavored rosé lovers. Hogwash is like a bowl of fruit infused into a charismatic rosé, but the most prevalent flavors boast melon and berry notes. The first sip suggests cantaloupe while finishing with berries.

Bright and dynamic, each sip leaves you looking for more. It’s balanced and zesty at the same time and begs another sip. Or perhaps that’s just the wine lover in us talking.

 

If you get the chance to try it, let us know what you think!

RI Renovated – Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards

You may remember my post from a few years ago about the RAVE review I gave for Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards. You might also remember, Carolyn Rafaelian, as the Creative Director for the Alex and Ani Company but did you know that she personally owns the vineyard?  I (Kristen) visited again this past weekend to check out their new wines and to my surprise, the vineyard has been renovated and is more than ready for the summer drinking season.

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I had flashbacks to my time in Napa while sitting in their fabulous outdoor restaurant called the BAR AND BOARD VINEYARD BISTRO. Their new summer menu is beautifully gourmet and yet still approachable to our picky eaters. It is traditional with it’s cheese board options and wines by the glass yet trendy with items like Steamed Edamame Dumplings and award winning “Chowdah” with crab, jalapenos, and sweet potatoes!

Insider tip: the portions can be large so order an item and be sure to share. The entrees can feed two and you can always order more later. 

 

Compared to my last visit, the vineyard now sports two new tasting bars. One, located outdoors on the expansive lawn, is meant to support the sunbathing crowds with ice cold glasses of their favorite wines and perfectly paired snacks. The other is inside the brand new ‘Mercantile” building which is their adorable barn style store that offers selections from Alex and Ani, Stonewall Kitchen, and Sakonnet pride shirts, sweaters, and even children’s clothes.

 

The best part?

Their wine selection suits all kinds of winos. From the sweet moscato lover to the bone dry rose lover, these bottles range in body, flavor, and color. So grab your friends and bring a beach towel or enjoy the vintage lawn chairs and wooden rockers. Not a sunshine person? Sakonnet has two indoor bars in the main tasting room with a refrigerator filled with cold wine bottles ready for purchase! The bottles can be opened outside and fresh glasses borrowed for sipping on the lawn. Don’t worry they have plenty of tables with large sun shield umbrellas too.

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Customize your visit:

Bring your dog (on a leash) or a football and play all day!

Buy a bottle (or three) of wine and sip outside while sunbathing.

Bring your friends for a wino getaway, Inside tip – the winery cannot support groups larger than 6 at the bars so make sure to call ahead if you have a large group to make space!

Grab some lunch and do a wine tasting  – $14 for 7 samples and a keepsake glass!

Take a tour of the winery! Tours are offered from 12 -3 pm every hour!

Buy an Alex and Ani bracelet with your favorite wine design on it!

Don’t forget to let us know what you think of your visit!!!

Cheers!

We Tried Wine Made With Mold

On the surface, mold and wine don’t seem like a good combination. So when we heard about Tibouren Clos Cibonne rosé, we had to find out how a moldy wine tasted.

 

 

But before we get to taste, let’s talk about process. The winery that produces the rosé uses mold during the fermentation process. It rests in a layer on top of rosé’s barrel and is then filtered out at year later when the wine is ready. The mold, we’re assured, is “the good kind” – completely healthy, natural, and a contributor to the wine’s bold, full-bodied flavor.

Sourced from vines over thirty years old, the wine is 90% tibouren (a grape from southern France typically used to produce full-bodied rosés) and 10% grenache. The wine offers unique earthy flavors along with aromas of orange and spice. But don’t be fooled: this full-bodied rosé is just as fruity as most great pinks, bursting with color on the palate.

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We’d recommend it with all of our heart – if everyone else hadn’t beat us to it. The rosé consistently rates high among critics with each vintage produced. The one set back is the price tag. While it’s definitely worth the splurge, we know not everyone can justify over $30 on one bottle of wine.

But if you can, give it a shot. And don’t let the mold myths scare you away. Nature works in our favor with this one!

 

Local grapes by the Amana Colonies

Kristen took a trip to Iowa last month and discovered a large community of people called the Amana Colonies who are helping locally grown grapes make a major come back!

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Amana, not Amish: 

At first glance, the Amana community seems to highly resemble the famous Amish settlers. However, the people of the Amana colonies are of German descent and highly value innovation and advancement in technology. After breaking away from the Luthern church in 1714, the Amana group has thrived and how stands as 7 large colonies. To our joyous surprise, Amana is famous for their Oktoberfest celebration and supports 4 wineries and 1 incredibly German-style brewery.

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Show me the wine

While visiting, Kristen managed to visit 2 of the wineries and got to learn a great deal about delicious local blends.

Stop 1: Fireside Winery –

**Currently being sold in the Heritage Haus in Amana.

Though these wines are sold to Amana like a winery in Napa would sell them to you local liquor store, the winery grows grape varieties that we have never heard of before!

Wines to try:

Hearthstone: It was a beautiful, light, and semi-dry red wine made with the local Marquette grape. It’s aroma screams fresh cherry and the palate finishes with smokey oak flavors. It’s wine that is elegant enough for short ribs but yet approachable enough for pizza.

Blu: This white blend of Geisenheim and local Iowa Seyval grapes, is a lightly sweet wine with crisp apple notes and and orange fruit aromas. It’s the perfect pair for your spicy taco night or BYOB to your favorite Indian restaurant. Seyval is also a MA local grape and the Iowa expression is elegant in comparison.

Glow: This dessert sweet wine is made with Iowa grown Brianna grapes. Expect this wine to take you away to a tropical destination with its pineapple, peach, and roasted apricot flavors. It’s the perfect sweet wine for the white sangria lovers in your life or even better on ice as a summer porch sipper.

 

Brave enough to try?

Fireside wines can be purchased on their website and shipped to your house! Explore their large portfolio and let us know what you think!

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Stop 2: Ackerman Winery

Established in 1956, it’s one of the oldest wineries in Iowa and has won awards for it’s fruit wine such as rhubarb and dandelion wine. Their unique selection of wines alone was stunning before we even to got taste them!

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wines to try:

Catawba: This native American grape varietal is the parent grape of the famous Concord variety. It produces a gorgeous pink wine that we swear will be your new summer fav! It’s hints of fresh strawberry and red apple will go down so easy it can be dangerous.

Edelweiss: This juicy Iowa grown white grape reminded us of a Gewurztraminer. It’s soft and floral body is easy drinking with pear and lemon notes. Serve ice cold while waiting for toe nails to dry in the hot summer sun.

Try the fruit wines – we dare you! Choosing a top fruit wine is too hard. All of their fruits are grown across america and boast about their health benefits as listed below. The Rhubarb and Dandelion have won awards but the Blackberry and Pomegranate were some of our favs. We recommend joining the wine club so you can taste them all!

Ackerman wines can also be purchased on their website!

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Happy Drinking Wineos!!!

 

 

A light rosé for heavy humidity

April showers turned into May humidity, but thankfully we have the perfect wine for a sweltering spring day. Subtle and light with just a bite of acidity in the finish, Luc Pirlet’s grenache rosé is the perfect pair to hot evening.

 

 

The French rosé offers delicate berry notes. Chilled, it is refreshingly cool and – in this weather – likely to create condensation on the glass. While we suggest pairing it with lighter foods, it’s subtle notes make it more refreshing than tasty when paired with food. Even on its own, the wine’s flavor is more of an undertone than a prominent element of the glass.

 

 

 

But what it does offer is the refreshing taste of berries, finishing with a chilled acidity that is sure to soothe the humidity. While not a recommendation for drinkers of sweet, darker rosés, it’s perfect for pink drinkers who see summer drinking as a time to cool off and enjoy the complexities of a French rosé.

We answer your questions about the “bRosé”

If you’re a lover of local ciders, you may have run into the bRosé at your local wine and liquor shop. A member of the cider selections by Citizen Cider – a New England-based cider company – the bottle is named after wine, looks like wine, but is found in the cider section. We’re sure you have plenty of questions before buying the bottle and giving it a go, so we’ve given the bRosé a test run and have the answers you need!

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Is it wine or cider? Or some combination of both?

Despite it’s pink hue and its wine-y name, the bRosé is distinctly a cider. But even beyond its color, the cider does share unique characteristics of the wine, such as subtle fruit undertones and a smooth, somewhat bubbly texture on the palate. It’s a perfect drink for those chilly months leading up to summer, when you’re not ready to pop open your favorite bottle of pink wine but still want something light and gently sweet to drink.

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Is the drink just for ‘bros’?

We can’t say for sure what the intention was behind the name – but according to Citizen Cider’s website, the pink cider was named for the three “bros” who teamed up to create it. That said, perhaps they used the name to attract drinkers who may not traditionally see themselves as rosé lovers – the cidery reminds drinkers that “dudes can drink pink” too!

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Should I drink it when I’m craving cider or rosé?

The tasting experience is different for everyone, but we’d say the beverage leans toward its natural origin: apples and blueberries. It’s definitely a lighter, fruitier taste than some ciders, but if you’re specifically craving wine, you’re better off keeping it simple.

That said, now is the perfect time to give the drink a go – it’s perfect in the fall or spring, as the seasons start to change!

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Drink images

 

Ice Wine for Icy Weather

Like sweet wine? If yes, you have to try Ice Wine!

Ice Wine (Eiswein) is created through a process of leaving ripe grapes on the vine until the first frost before harvesting and pressing. These grapes are pressed for juice while still frozen.

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Why use frozen grapes?

When the grapes sit on the vines long after traditional harvest season, the fruit is exposed to the sun all the way up until the first snow. This sunlight exposure allows the juice inside the grape to slowly sweeten over time.

Fun facts:

  1. Crushing these grapes while frozen could pose a threat to machinery, which contributes to higher costs.
  2. The juice produced tends to create wines with an average of 10% alc level.
  3. Ice wine has the same sweetness as a Moscato. 

Location is Everything

Ice wine is unique and one of the claim to fame aspects of colder counties. ex: New England that is famous for it’s Iced Cider or Apple wines. Traditionally, Ice Wine must be made with grapes that are naturally frozen on the vine. Most Ice Wine producing countries like the US, Austria, Canada, and Germany, all have laws that prevent wine labels from claiming they produce “Ice Wine” if the grapes are commercially frozen instead.

Wagner Riesling Ice Wine, 2014Inniskillin Riesling Icewine, 2014

 

Let’s Talk Money

As we explained, the process of producing proper Ice Wine is painstaking and crushing the grapes isn’t even the hardest part. These difficulties explain why Ice Wine is normally sold in half bottles and tends to be at a higher price point ($30 – $60). Anything cheaper is usually somehow doctored from the natural process.

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Real Talk: Is it worth the money? 

We recommend to try it at least once. Taste the wine straight up and chilled first. Then have fun figuring out different ways to use it. Mix it into a wine that isn’t sweet enough for you. Turn it into a winter cocktail to impress friends. Pour that liquid gold over ice cream or turn it into a boozy cupcake. I personally feel (Kristen) that it’s the most elegant way to enjoy dessert and if you have the money in your wine budget it’s worth the splurge. HOWEVER, keep it away from your friends who don’t really understand good wine. Your barefoot/yellowtail lovers will drink down your $40 in a heartbeat.

 

Redstone image credit @ redstonewines.caredstonewines.caredstonewines.ca

Wagner Riesling image @ totalwine.com

Inniskillin solo bottle image @totalwine.com

Inniskillin group bottle image@ James Joel

Iced Grapes Photo @ Dominic RlvardDominic RlvardDominic Rlvard

Feature Image: Ice Bar Abstract from KimManleyOrt

Scribe Winery – Sonoma Superhero

Just in case you didn’t read our post on how to help with the CA Fire Relief, click here for why we added Scribe Winery in Sonoma to the list of local heroes. Their special release of Nouveau Pinot Noir was designed to benefit local charities that are helping with the fire aid.

We at Half-Past ordered a bottle in support of the charity. It was our first time trying wine from this vineyard, and you can find our take of the drink below.

 

Wine Review Summary: Worth every penny!

Nouveau Pinot Noir cost us $32 a bottle plus shipping to MA which ended up at around $50. Normally, we never buy blind but since this winery was producing for relief purposes, we couldn’t resist.

2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir

First, let us just say that the sheer color of this wine is STUNNING. It’s a vibrant and practically neon-magenta shade of pink. We stared at the bottle for a good 10 minutes before opening. It drinks like a deep rose but looks like a sangria.

Styled after the famous french Nouveau Beaujolais, the nose of the wine was bright with fresh summer berry perfume. The body was light yet coated the palate with grapefruit citrus and strawberry leaves. Though the fruit is subtle at first, it ripens throughout and leaves a clean almost lime finish. It was dangerously smooth which allows for easy drinking and infinite food pairing opportunities.

 

Now we will warn you that this bottle is unfilteredIf you want every last drop, you will have to strain it for debris and sediment. We used two coffee filters….. Why? Drinking the sediment will result in a glass that is filled with tannins, grape skins, and dead yeast from fermentation.  That combination is great for wine color, but not so great for tasting in concentrated doses. It will be strong and bitter with a mineral and sandy mouthfeel.

 

This Pinot Noir was so beautifully light yet complex that we are excited to see what comes next for this Sonoma winery. Have you tried Scribe? We want to know!

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Stay thirsty wineos!

Feature image Credit – Scribe Winery Facebook 

Vineyard ending photo credit – Scribe Winery Facebook