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!!!

 

 

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

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

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Me Purple: Petite Petit

Elephant brothers, Petite Sirah (a red grape) and Petit Verdot (normally a French blending red grape), completely steal the show in this circus themed wine from Michael David Winery.

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As you may remember, we at Half-Past already fell in love with this winery’s Seven Deadly Zins – and their Petite Petit red blend was one for the record books. Get ready to be entertained by this dark purple wine.

This bottle is the definition of jammy. It’s silky smooth with almost creamy tannins and a  slightly gamey finish (no doubt thanks to the 16 months it spends in French Oak barrels). The wine is juicy in the front, smokey in the back, boasting straight up plum flavor with currant ripeness. Petite Petit has a bold and luscious full body with a hint of spice.

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Dear Red lovers, If you have never tried Petite Sirah or Petit Verdot we highly recommend you taste this wine; however, make sure you are not in public! The wine won’t be the only elephant in the room: after one glass of this wine, your friends will wonder how to politely ask you to brush your teeth. The pictures don’t do it justice.

 

Enjoy the circus! Let us know what you thought!

Feature image from lodiwine.com

Rare find! – Ancient Peaks Winery

Picture owning a large cattle ranch in central California…and one day some big wine conglomerate comes by and wants to buy patches of your land to grow grapes. Three years later, the grapes are finally ready to be turned into wine, but the conglomerate wants to leave – What luck! Buy the land back, and now you have perfectly managed wine fields that are yours for production. This is the lucky story of Ancient Peaks Winery at the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Don’t worry: they are still a cattle ranch too,but now produce a line up of over 8 different wines each growing in 5 different kinds of soils. Each bottle specifies which soil the grapes were grown in the back label. Did I mention that one of their soil types in an ancient sea bed? Picture massive fossilized oyster shells popping up among the grape vines!

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Why is this winery a rare find? The inside scoop is that only 6 different wine shops in the whole state of MA have been presented with the Ancient Peaks wines. We don’t have any information about other states, but so far the number of places to possibly purchase this wine is limited.

So stay on the lookout! If the search doesn’t prove fruitful, check out their online store to see if they ship to your state. Kristen was lucky enough to try their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Zinfandel.

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Cabernet Sauvignon  

It’s a rare day where I enjoy all of the wines that I try in one sitting. This cabernet was a perfect balance of everything we love about the grape. It wasn’t overly fruity or tart, it was smooth with softer tannins with medium body weight. Showing flavors of dark berries and even very subtle hints of cocoa on the mid palate. Perfect for dinner or just stand alone drinking.

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Merlot 

Now, Merlot I am very skeptical off because normally it is not my favorite grape. But this bottle was wonderfully produced.  It was velvety, rich, with black cherry and plummy notes and it included that signature mocha smell that you can expect from the grape. This bottle advertises that it was grown in the ancient sea bed, which might have something to do with its subdued quality. It’s a must for red meats or even game meats if you want to take the flavor up a notch.

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Zinfandel 

This has to be one of my favorite zinfandels yet. It was juicy, refreshing, quenching, and yet the fruit flavor was controlled in a way that made it enjoyable sip after sip. With bright berry notes in the front and a slight tart and pepper zing at the finish, this wine is a fun ride for your palate and I hope you get the chance to nab this bottle.

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Just in case giant sea shells wasn’t enough of a draw, the next time you are in CA I would recommend stopping by their site. Not only are there cows, a cafe, tasting room, and tours but they now host a 2.5 hour long zip line experience across their property!

Happy Wine Hunting!

Vineyard Header Photo from ancientpeaks.com

Have You Seen the Black Sheep?

You may have heard of Mouton Noir from this little commercial right here…..

 

 

Mouton Noir, a garage wine company, was created in 2007 by famous sommelier André Hueston Mack. After working for some of the best restaurants in America like The French Laundry and Per Se, Mack left the food scene to create a ‘black sheep’ wine company that sets itself apart by combining the finer arts of the wine world with the hip hop, skateboard, and punk culture of the 1990s. Garage wine is the industry term for wineries that outsource their grapes for other places (do not grow their own grapes).

Okay, so now you know the company but have you TRIED any of their wine before? We know the bottles may seem like a designer t-shirt but Mack’s years in the wine industry show up in every grape combination. Don’t let the fun labels fool you: Mouton Noir produces very elegant wines.

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Kristen came across one of their bottles at work and gives it a bright green light to any deep red wine lovers: Horseshoes and Handgrenades.

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Aside from the adorable cork, the reviews online will tell you that the wine is big, cherry-like, leathery, with tar notes. We found this Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot blend to be fruity, chocolate notes on the nose and finish, and easy to drink yet it still had that signature spice or bite from the Syrah. It’s an exciting wine to try for those of you getting into the big bad red wine scene.

We promise its unlike other red blend you have tried in the past. We recommend drinking it alone to start and then have fun with pairings afterwards so you get the full affect. Remember with bold reds that a little time to breath goes a long way so let the bottle air out for a while before drinking. Mack says “Think cherry pits and leather whips!”

For more information about this amazing wine company check out their website! You might even want to buy one of their killer wine nerd t-shirts while you’re there.

 

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide

We know the major holiday season is on its way, with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all falling on the same week this year. Don’t panic: we have created an easy cheese and snack pairing guide to help you this season!

White Wine:

**Quick Tip:

Acidic wines ⇒ fresh cheese

full body wine ⇒ hard, chewy, bloomy cheese

sweet wines ⇒ strong or spicy cheese.

Bubbly:

Prosecco or Champagne ⇒ Asiago, Parmesan, Camembert

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Camembert

Light, Acidic, Floral:

Sauvignon Blanc ⇒ Goat cheese, Chevre, Mozzarella,

Riesling (dry) ⇒ fondue, creamy blue cheese

Pinot Grigio/Gris ⇒Ricotta, feta, burrata

Medium to Full Body:

Chardonnay ⇒ Brie, Humbolt Fog, funky cow’s milk cheeses

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Humbolt Fog

Viognier ⇒ Comte, Farmer’s cheese, Baked Brie

Semillon ⇒ Cheddar or Gruyere

Sweet:

Gewurtstraminer ⇒ cream cheese, goat cheese herb roule

Chenin Blanc⇒ Triple Cream, swiss, gruyere

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Triple Cream

Moscato/ Muscadet⇒ aged cheddar, gorgonzola

Riesling (sweet) ⇒ creamy blue cheese

Red Wine:

Light body:

Gamay ⇒ Munster, swiss, gruyere

Pinot Noir ⇒ Mahon or manchego

Medium Body:

Cabernet sauvignon ⇒  sharp cheddar , Havarti

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Sharp/aged cheddar

Merlot ⇒ gouda

Zinfandal ⇒  pepper jack, smoked cheeses

Heavy body:

Malbec ⇒ spiced cheese, aged manchego

Syrah/Shiraz ⇒ truffle cheese, asiago, parmesan

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Truffle cheese and Mahon

 

What else do I buy?

The ultimate match made in heaven is cheese and fresh grapes. It’s a good idea to have bunches of grapes around for any cheese platter. As for other wingmen, try fruit jams, honey, and lots of different crackers. Heating up cheeses like for baked brie is guaranteed to please. You may even want to make two.

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If you still have no idea or can’t track down some of the cheeses we listed, trust the quick note above! Simply pick a cheese that can handle the intensity of the wine. Mild cheeses will taste like nothing next to a strong wine.

Good luck and get cheesy!

 

 

No One is Smoother than Michael David

Sometimes, nothing says it better than a cliche – and with Michael David Winery’s Ancient Vine Cinsault, there’s no better description than “smooth as silk.” This red wine is lighter bodied than most and is easy drinking – almost too easy drinking. We drank half the bottle just taking tasting notes alone, with absolutely no difficulty (or food needed!)

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The wine boasts plum flavors, but not the plummy jam tastes you get from a Syrah. Michael David’s Cinsault offers flavors of freshly picked plums and finishes on a slightly acidic note, causing a vague tingle on the tongue towards the end of a sip.

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It’s also interesting to note the smell of toast that lingers strongly on the cork and vaguely in the glass after the wine has breathed.

The 2014 vintage was part of a small production that we hear is not normally offered in the Michael David tasting room. The new vintage became available this fall and we highly recommend you track down a bottle for your thanksgiving table. Maybe two if you drink like we do! Use the Michael David ‘Find Our Wines‘ page to help track down their wines using your zip code!

Drink up Wineos!