Saturday, 28 January 2012

The LCBO's Vintages - Don't be Afraid!

So for those of you who live in Ontario you know that getting wine is a pretty simple task. You head off to your local LCBO and pick up your favourite wine, beer, or spirits and away you go.

As it is a provincially run government agency has its advantages and disadvantages.

So let's start with the advantages.
  1. Inventory - Most LCBO locations carry a pretty good selection of wine for you to enjoy.
  2. Location, Location, Location! - You can usually find one in every small town in the province. Even if it's in an old construction trailer. If you don't believe me just head to Gooderham Ontario.
  3. Vintages - I'll give you the full scoop on Vintages in a bit.
  4. Training - Many of the employees have a good grasp on when not to serve intoxicated public who come in. They also have a pretty good social responsibility campaign called Deflate the Elephant, which is about the responsibilities of hosting a party. You can find out some great information at
  5. Buying Power - The LCBO is the second largest purchaser or wine and spirits in the world.
Now the disadvantages.
  1. Inventory - The inventory is almost the same EVERYWHERE. And I mean the same. There is very little choice when it comes to good quality wine that is available on the world market. Part of the reason for this is because of the volume inventory that they are required to maintain. They will only buy wines that they can stock in a large portion of their hundreds of locations.
  2. Price - According to the Ontario Auditor General, the prices at the LCBO are higher than they should be. Now I do understand that the LCBO has a responsibility to the public as they are a crown organization - HOWEVER for those of us that are enjoying a good wine or spirit once in a while, or have chosen to make this a hobby or career - GET A GRIP! For more information on the report, here is an article from the Toronto Star.
So I said earlier that I was going to come back to point number 3 on Vintages.  Everytime I am rummaging through the Vintages section at my local LCBO, I always see someone who is standing there with the biggest "Deer in Headlights" look on their face. I can see what they are thinking.
"What the hell does all this label mean?" and "How come these are the pricing is all over the place?"

As a wine enthusiast, I will sometimes strike up a conversation with a person that has that deer in headlight look and ask them a couple of questions. Such as what is the occasion? How much do you want to spend? or What do you like? After a few explanations and maybe a suggestion or two, the sense of relief they express is huge. The conversation usually ends with a quick thanks and we part ways.

Within Vintages, there are all kinds of wine that are from all over the world. (That's the buying advantage I mentioned earlier.) With pricing that is often less expensive than the general listing items that they carry. So you shouldn't be afraid of checking things out. One of the things that I have done at my local LCBO is to find that one person that kind of takes care of Vintages section. Don't be afraid to ask them questions. That's what they are there for.

Personally I really like the gentleman who takes care of the Vintages at my local LCBO. He has his days that he looks like he rolled out from under a bridge, but man does the guy know a ton about wine. He also likes to bend the corporate rules and bring in more different wines that what they like to showcase.

The LCBO likes to have a minimum of 2 faces on the shelf to promote sales.
I think they have it wrong. They should be bringing in more different types of wine. Wine drinkers of the 21st century are becoming more educated than ever. Is having 2 bottles with the same label going to help sell more wine? I doubt it, but doing more to make sure you have a store that is stocked with more different wines that people want. That will do it.
LCBO Shelf with Multiple Faces of Wine Labels

Enjoy a glass.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Corkscrew Anyone?

So you are headed over to a friends for a dinner party in their new house and have your favourite bottle of wine. It's been a while since you have seen them and are looking forward to sharing a meal and a few bottles of wine.

You finally arrive, have the grand tour of their new diggs, and have a few laughs. It's time to open up a bottle. Then tragedy happens.


They can't find one because they still haven't finished unpacking all their boxes yet. They can't find the little rubbery garlic peeler, or the potato masher either. But as we all know, those are far less important.

So like the ingenious and always prepared person that you, are you have a spare one on you.

Tragedy averted!

A few months ago, I was in the market for a new corkscrew myself as my favourite one had broken (yes they do break).

So I hunted and hunted for about 2 months before I found one that I really really liked. Was it perfect? No, but it was close enough for me to work with.

There are many different ways to remove a cork from a wine bottle.

Here are a few.

A basic corkscrew that can contribute to a torn rotator cuff if you aren't careful!

A Waiter's Friend. This is almost the exact one that I use. I like to make sure that it has a smooth blade to cut the foil on a bottle as a serrated blade can sometimes leave bits of foil floating around.

The super easy winged type.
The Rabbit. A bit overpriced in my opinion, but does the job easily and quickly.
The Cork Puller. This one takes a bit of practice, but can be done with great efficiency.

So where does that leave you?

Just like your taste in wine is your's, so is your taste in corkscrew.

If all else fails you can do one of two things.

Buy wine with a screw top or...

Opening a wine bottle with a shoe.

Enjoy a glass.

Friday, 20 January 2012

To Concord or Not to Concord?

So I'm sure that many of you love a little grape jelly on your PB sandwich, but for me, it is the perfect combination.

Usually grape jelly is made out of concord grapes which is really yummy. I can remember as a kid, my mom making grape jelly by putting the cooked grapes in an old pillowcase (at least that's what I called it) and squeezing out all the juice into a pot to then transfer it into jars and sealing them with wax.

I'll probably get in trouble if my mother reads this, but it was one of the things, looking back, that my mother made well.

A couple of weekends ago, our family was on a weekend trip to a small ski town in Western New York state for my wife's job, and I made sure to stop into the only winery in town.

We went in and did a variety of tastings and many were okay wines. None of them I would particularly search out again. We did walk away with a bottle of their Syrah which wasn't bad, however a bit over priced.

But one of the things that really got to me was that they had a number of wines that were either 100% concord or a blend of concord and other grape varieties. 

I've gotta say that every time I tasted them, it reminded me of when I was a kid and sneaked in the kitchen at my Presbyterian church and drank the communion wine. Yes I did that. Here was the thing. It wasn't wine at all but 100% pure Welch's Concord Grape juice.

I guess this is my point. The wines that I tasted were "100% New York Grapes" and that was very evident. Not that all New York wines are all bad, just the ones that I've had.  

So in my humble opinion. To Concord or Not to Concord?


Enjoy a glass.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Another Day, Another Bottle

Well here we are back again after another bottle for review.
Not that I want to change your opinion on this one, but my, was I impressed.

Here are the basic details on the wine.

Luis Felipe Edwards - Reserva
2009 - Melbec
Colchagua Valley - Chile
LCBO#: 236497
Price: $14.95

Here are some of the details that you may be interested in.

The colour is a purple to a blueberry. The nose is spicy, black cherry and blackberry. It also has some allspice and some wet gravel. The pallet has full and round tannins, with toasted baking spices, blackberry, sour cherry, and red licorice.
Overall this is a very well balanced alcohol to acidity for a dry red wine.

Now that I have the technical stuff out of the way, what the heck does it mean?

The nose has wet gravel and is full of round tannins?

Don't worry. If you didn't get this, neither did I at one point. Eventually you will. Here's what's key. This is a wine that is going to make you want to eat when you drink it.

Wine should should make you WANT to eat food. A wine shouldn't be better WITH food like most people think. If you have a wine that tastes better with food, the it isn't a great wine. It may be OK, just not one that's great.

Wine will make your food experiences explode if matched properly.

So the last big thing. What do I eat with this wine?

Here are my choices.
A meaty grilled fish, like a tuna steak, a grilled pork chop with prunes, or grilled veal. Basically anything grilled. Oh, I really enjoyed this one on its own too!

Enjoy a glass.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

How I Drink Wine in the Winter

How many of you have been out in the typical Canadian weather in January and gone skating and thought to yourself. Man am I freezing!

The cold is a part of Canada. As much as we say we don't like it, it makes us who we are as Canadians.

So how do we cope? Well many of us will grab a coffee from Starbucks or Tim's and try and keep warm when we are having fun out in the winter.

But how can you have your favourite wine at the same time?

If you are lucky enough to have a backyard rink or a friend with one, it's easy to just jump inside and warm up with your favourite glass. I have 2 kids and by the time you get all their skating gear on (and take one off and put it back on again because they forgot to pee) you're freezing yourself. After all that, you take a deep breath and want a sip of your favourite Bordeaux while watching the kids skate.

A wine glass outside in the snow is really not a great idea for a number of reasons.

To begin with - SPILLAGE!!!! You have made the effort to enjoy a glass, the last thing you want to do is spill it!

Breakage - Cleaning up a broken wine glass in the snow is never easy or fun. Trust me on this one.

Wine Temperature - This isn't too much of a problem for whites, but a good Amarone looses a lot flavour when it gets too cold. After all you want to enjoy the wine you're drinking don't you?

So I've figured out great way, and maybe you have as well, to enjoy your wine while outside in the cold.
The only downside of this process is you will loose some of the nose as you enjoy your wine.

The coffee traveler. Or in my case the wine traveller.

This is a great way to keep your wine at about the right temperature in both winter and summer. It keeps it at about room temperature in the winter for reds and cold for whites.

This is similar to the one that I use.

For me this is one of the ways that I can enjoy my wine and the winter activities at the same time. I've gotta say that I really enjoy drinking my wine outside during winter activities.

Just a word of caution. This is the safety professional side of me coming out. Please make sure that if you are drinking while having some winter fun, know what your limit is. You do want to have another glass tomorrow don't you?

What are some of the ways that you enjoy your wine while doing winter activities? I would love to hear your ideas!

Enjoy a glass.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Amazing Night of Food and Fun

Tonight was a night that I will remember for a long time. My wife Sandra and I went to a couple cooking class at Calphalon Culinary Centre. It was Mediterranean Night Cooking for Couples. We had a great time. Marinated Flank Steak, Chorizo stuffed eggplant (yes I had some) and a great lemon cream dessert.

Here's what disappointed me. There were a total of 6 wines to choose from. 3 red and 3 white and a few beer. For most people it would be fine, but call me picky I was a little disappointed. Sandra had a very nice Mondavi Saugvion Blanc. I stuck with the Jacob's Creek shiraz as I figured it was going to match up as best as possible to the seared flank steak we were preparing.

Here was my biggest surprise of the night. One of the other couples we were speaking with (Julia and Colin) I asked what their favourite wine was at I have to admit I was taken aback.

Julia's favourite was the Cave Spring Estate Riesling. It isn't many people that like a riesling as their go to wine.

In the overall discussion of wine and the meal that we had prepared and was enjoying, the biggest issue that was common for everyone at the table was how they were intimidated with the vocabulary of those who love wine.

Here is the example I used. Volatile Acidity on the nose. To those in the industry you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those of you that don't, have you ever smelled a wine and said to yourself, "band-aid???".

Wine should be about things that you can relate to. Not fancy terms that you don't know what they mean.

I guess my point is, base your love and experience of wine to what YOU know. Not what the books and other people tell you is in it.

Enjoy a glass.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Enjoy a Glass of Penny Black

So I'm just going to cut to the chase.

Tonight I am drinking a favourite of mine. The Post House, Penny Black 2008. This is a steal at the LCBO for $19.95. This one is from Stellenbosch, South Africa. It is a real mish-mash of grapes. 5 in total, 4 red and a white????

Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvginon, Petit Verdot, and Chenin Blanc. I know your thinking what? But hear me out. This is a big and I mean big red, but is well balanced. It looks like pen ink in your glass, but my it is worth it. At 15% the alcohol matches the acidity that is provided by the Petite Verdot and the Chenin Blanc.

This is a great wine to sip in front of a roaring fire or with a good grilled steak.

All I can say? Enjoy.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Honesty is Truth

How many of you have been standing in your local LCBO or liquor store before going to a dinner party going. What the heck do I bring? I have no idea what dinner is or what will go with dinner. This is an important dinner at your boss' place and you need to make a good impression. You don't want to bring what everyone else is bringing and you want to stand out. You tried to look on-line to find what would be good, but only came up with Yellow Tail and something from somewhere in Italy that you have never heard of. You also came across wine clubs from all over the place and all the pictures are of old ladies and guys with beards that are in desperate need of a barber. Frustrated? Of course you are.

Ok, so you are no further ahead. What to bring?
Here is my only word of advice and one that I firmly believe that you should follow. Bring one that YOU like. I don't care how much it costs or if it comes in a box or bottle. The most important thing about wine is that you enjoy it. Showing how much you enjoy it and what you know about it or at the least how it makes you feel is what is important. Who am I to say that the 2006 Torrentes from Spain is the best ever? I could be completely full of it and really you would believe me because everything on the internet is true.

Here is what I am about. Find out what you like and only use that experience to grow your tastes from there.
As someone who is looking at the wine industry as a second carrier, I have had my share of wine tastings. Some I love. Others are apparently very good, but to me taste like licking an envelope.

Oh, one other thing. Don't be afraid of the Vintages section at the LCBO. Just because it is in Vintages doesn't mean that it's good! Some of them can be bad. And I mean taste like drinking a rubber tire.

So here are a few that I like. Please remember that these are my choices and noone, and I mean noone has told me otherwise.
Post House Penny Black - South Africa
This is a real mish-mash of grapes but for some reason really works.
LCBO# - 148619 - $19.95

Santa Dinga - Cabernet Sauvginon - Chile
This is a great example of new world Cab. Sauv.!
LCBO# - 177451 - $14.95

Well this is my first kick at the can, so if you have any questions, please fell free to ask me and I'll do my best to answer them.
Above all, like what you like and don't care if anyone says otherwise. Drinking wine is all about your personal experience.

If you have questions, please feel free to send them on and I'll do my best to answer them. Enjoy!