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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This MA wine tastes how a calming breeze feels

When life gets crazy, we get wine. But we swear there’s a magic quality to this Massachusetts grape. If you need a moment of peace to cut through the noise of the day, Running Brook Vineyard’s Dry Vidal Blanc can help.

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This grape comes in two vintages from this Southeastern MA winery: 2013 and 2015. We are fans of the earlier vintage. It’s smooth and classic with just the right amount of acidity, whereas the 2015 was a bit on the sweeter side with more intense tastes and aromas than it’s well-balanced older brother.

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Offering a balance of sweet floral notes, a full body and gentle acidity, this wine provides the balance and ease you need at the end of a mind-boggling, hectic day. Just a few sips can transport you to the grape’s origin landscape: a quiet expanse of lush, green land in the farm-friendly suburbs of North Dartmouth, MA. A glass of this is the perfect way to refresh and restart.

 

If you’re local to New England, check out the vineyard! All of their grapes are locally grown, and they offer some experimental blends you won’t find elsewhere: https://www.runningbrookwine.com/winelist

Vines image credit: https://dartmouth.villagesoup.com/p/running-brook-vineyards-serves-wine-without-the-snobbery/1351517

Local wine image credit : http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Cheers-to-a-Happy–Healthy–Prosperous-New-Year-.html?soid=1104154838019&aid=b83Ll9GzNqs

Featured image credit: http://fun107.com/seize-the-deal-with-running-brook-vineyard/

 

 

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!

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!!!

 

 

Wine Ideas for a Nor’Easter

Need ideas for surviving our latest Blizzard?

Weather you are snowbound at home or making the trek outside, you deserve some winter warming wine cocktail ideas! 

While you are checking to see if your house vents are covered in snow, try simmering some mulled wine on the stove! This Italian recipe will have you defrosted in no time!

Mulled wine with spices, studio

Lost power? No Problem! Grab that old fondue pot and warm up some store bought Gluhwein from Total Wine and More or ask your local liquor store if they have any left over from the holiday season.

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Don’t like Red but still want something warm? Try this fun “White Glogg” recipe with whatever white wine you have lying around!

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Don’t forget to have fun experimenting with whatever you have in that old cabinet! She Knows offers up this wonderful recipe list to help you get started!

These mulled wine cocktails are what's giving us life this winter

Stay safe and Stay Sassy!

Feature Image from Laughtard.com

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

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.

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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 PBS.org

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 

 

 

Game of Wines?

I’m sure some of our readers out there happen to be fans of the show Game of Thrones, or a least know someone who watches it faithfully each week. So to celebrate the return of America’s most watched TV phenomenon, we’re pouring HBO licensed wine each Sunday after discovering the Westeros themed bottles at Total Wine.

 

 

The show has it’s own wine brand that can be found here for purchase online. As much as I love this show, I wasn’t about the spend $49.99 on their high-end Cabernet. I purchased the GOT Red Blend and the GOT Chardonnay, which I have seen at multiple retailers. If any of our readers happen to go the extra mile and purchase the Cabernet from Napa (aka Dorne) PLEASE let us know your review!

The dragons of khaleesi must have had a hand in the smoked and hickory nose and subtle notes in the wine. It’s a light red but borders on medium body that’s bright with red delicious apple flavor with a cranberry tannin bite. It even have tones of raspberry and plum as the wine breathes.

I highly recommend either an aerator or opening this wine on Saturday night and leaving it corked on the counter for the Sunday showtime. It may need a bit of air to fully develop but easy drinking!

The GOT Chardonnay was a bit more mellow than I was expecting. It wasn’t a toasted buttery bomb that many expect from wines out of CA. It was fresh with a medium body and very light oak. It screams of pear flavor with a green apple finish that keeps it from feeling too heavy. Both wines claim to be from Dorne, but I could swear it hails from a more northern kingdom considering the acidity allowed me to turn it into a bright risotto dish for that Sunday’s episode.  The cork brandished a Lannister lion as if to rebel against the bottle’s Dornish label.

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Each bottle is decorated with the famous family emblems as seen in the opening credits of every show. I highly recommend keeping the bottles as a nerd trophy. The artwork of the show is always great. These wines will please any guest and I recommend pairing with food!

“I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

¡Salud!