Wine review

Wine and Food Matching tips

Introduction to wines -- a Canadian and Prairie orientation

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Wine Review


Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

1999 California Zinfandel-Shiraz

McWilliams Hanwood Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

Piedmonte 1998 Crianza

Canterbury House Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc 2001

1999 Riesling Reserve Henry of Pelham Family Estates Winery

Santa Rita Chardonnay Reserve Vina Santa Rita


This is one of those special moments wine - you probably can’t afford to drink this every night, but for Valentine’s Day or another special occasion, you may want to splurge on this one. It’s truly worth it!

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

Produced by Tommasi - Viticoltori

Vintage 1997 (DOC) - Product of Italy

14.5% alcohol

Price: $40

Lots of raspberries and other ripe red berry fruit flood flood your nose as well as some spice and lovely vanilla aromas. Beautifully balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and excellent acidity. Long finish.

We drank this with filet mignon and a mushroom ragout delicately flavoured with cream and tarragon, both accompanied by steamed asparagus. It was a perfect complement. This wine is so delicious, it could be a meal in itself!

Last November, a friend and I visited the Wine and Food Show at the Congress Centre. If you’ve never been, it is a MUST visit for those of you interested in wine. It showcases a huge array of wine producers from around the world and a good selection of wineries from the Niagara area. We sampled a lot of wines, including an amazing scotch! (that’s the idea!), and this wine, which is great value for the price. It is 76% Zinfandel and 24% Shiraz grapes. Lots of ripe red berry fruits on the nose combined with blueberry and vanilla and the powerful peppery spice that ones expects from a Zinfandel. A well balanced wine with a lovely finish. We drank it the other night with chicken thighs simmered in an exotic sauce (salsa seasoned with cinnamon and cumin and sautéed onions) served with rice and oven-roasted carrots. It would also pair well with grilled meats. This wine is part of the Kendall-Jackson Collage line which also includes a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot. If you like this one, you might want to try the others too.

Kendall-Jackson Collage

1999 California Zinfandel-Shiraz

13.5% alcohol

Price: $15.85

This month is "Aussie Month" at the LCBO. Considering the popularity of Australian wines in North America and in Canada in particular, sales are sure to be a success. Just about anyone familiar with Australian wines is familiar with such names as Lindemann’s and Rosemount Estates, but there are other wines available that are very delicious and worth trying. And, as always Michael and I enjoy trying new ones. We recently tried this one, McWilliams Hanwood Cabernet Sauvignon, which we found to be quite delicious and wasn’t overpowered by the usual oak that is so characteristic of many Aussie wines. This is a rich red wine filled with lots of ripe red fruit, cassis, pepper and spice as well as vanilla and oak on the nose and the palate. The wine has a nice balance of tartness and acidity with a long finish. It would pair very well with hearty meats such as grilled lamb or steak.

McWilliams Hanwood

Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

South Eastern Australia

12.5% alcohol Sale Price: $11.45 (save $1) until April 27


Spain produces some excellent wines and one attractive feature about wines from this country is that they only release the wine for sale to the consumer when they deem it to be properly aged. Here’s one we think you’ll enjoy that is decently priced and quite enjoyable. It is a Crianza-aged wine (probably aged one year in an oak cask and one year in the bottle) and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo-Merlot grapes. We found it to have a lovely aroma of vanilla, oak, ripe red berries, and hint of spice and leather. On the tongue we tasted all these aromas plus some tartness. Medium to strong tannins and a long finish. It would pair well with typical Spanish-type cuisine such as paella or tomato-based meat dishes with lots of garlic and even BBQ’d steak.

Piedmonte 1998 Crianza


Bodegas Piedmonte, Spain

13% alcohol


Did you know that Sauvignon Blanc is the grape that put New Zealand on the wine map? Some wine connoisseurs believe that New Zealand makes the best SB's and we personally agree that they make superb wine. This month's pick is a lovely, light bodied crisp white wine with intense aromas of sweet peaches, apricots and tart gooseberries melded together with grassy notes. It has a long tart and crisp finish with good acidity. It would be very enjoyable on its own on a hot summer evening or with fish or shellfish. You can find this product in the Vintages section at the LCBO.

Canterbury House

Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc 2001

Waipara, New Zealand

13.5% alcohol $15.90


A good cork screw is a must-have for any wine lover and we've been on the lookout for one for a long time. We finally found what we were looking for this past weekend in Quebec. It is made by "Pulltaps" and we highly recommend it. The handle is curved to fit beautifully in your hand, has a screw that doesn't damage the cork, a serrated knife for removing the foil and a double-jointed lever that can easily remove the cork. Although I've never seen one like it here at the LCBO, you can buy it for $9.95 at the SAQ in Quebec. As Hull is just a hop, skip and a jump from Ottawa, take a look for one next time you're in the neighborhood.

On a wine note, we "initiated" our new corkscrew by opening a bottle of this dry Canadian Riesling made by Henry of Pelham Estate Winery. This refreshing wine has a lovely pale straw colour with aromas of mild petrol, green apples and cantaloupes. We found it to be well balanced with good acidity and a tart crisp clean finish. Enjoy it this summer with fish or shellfish, poultry, appetizers or even on its own. It would pair very well with the Gravad Lax featured above.

1999 Riesling Reserve

Henry of Pelham Family Estates Winery

Product of Canada

12% alcohol $12.95

Chili in recent years has been producing some superb wines at very good value. Here's one that is reasonably priced that Michael and I think you will enjoy. It's a medium bodied wine with notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits melded with vanilla and oaky tones. Delicious with grilled chicken and seafood. We also enjoyed it on its own.

Santa Rita Chardonnay Reserve

Vina Santa Rita

Product of Chile

13% alcohol $11.65

I remember before Michael and I took our first wine course at Algonquin College several years ago, both of us really liked those big oaky whites from Australia. We thought they were just terrific, and actually so do a lot of people. In fact did you know that one producer from Australia makes the largest selling brand of chardonnay in the world. However, since taking the course neither of us can stomach these big oaky wines anymore - we find the oaky taste overpowers the delicate fruit aromas and flavours. And so, this month, we're featuring a chard from Australia that has a more balanced taste because it's only been aged a short time in oak barrels. This one has a minerally rather than an oaky character combined with aromas of honeydew and stone fruit. It has a creamy texture and a clean finish. Enjoy it with a variety of dishes from mild to spicy foods. It's also great on its own.

Wyndham Estates

Bin 222 Chardonnay


Product of South Eastern Australia


This is a medium bodied rather elegant red wine made from Grenache grapes blended with Syrah and Mourvedre. We found this wine to be quite fruity with lots of red berry flavours and a nice taste of black pepper. As this wine sits (if it lasts that long in your glass!) it becomes very pleasantly jammy in flavour. It would pair well with pasta dishes as well as lamb, veal and chicken in richly flavoured sauces.


Côtes-du-Rhône Villages

M. Chaputier S.A.

Product of France

12.9% alv $14.95

Here is a lovely wine that pairs well with a range of foods. Unfortunately, Rieslings frequently take a back seat to the extremely popular Chardonnays, but if in doubt as to what type of wine to serve with a meal, a Riesling is most often a safe choice. Chards, depending on their method of production, can be very oaky and buttery and overpower or even clash with the meal. Rieslings on the other hand, carry enough acidity to cleanse the palate and allow you to enjoy the flavours of the food.

Michael and I really enjoy this one from Cilento Wines in Woodbridge, Ontario. If you're ever in the Toronto area, take a drive up Hwy 400 and visit their facilities. They are producing some stunning wines, frequently winning medals at National and International wine competitions. You'll find this one (as well as their Riesling Reserve 2000) to be an excellent buy (both are the same price). This wine is dry tending toward off-dry and carries an intense aroma of petrol (a characteristic trait) as well as tart pink grapefruit and hints of tropical fruits. Very good acidity with a crisp, clean long finish. Yum!

1998 Riesling

Cilento Wines
VQA Niagara Penninsula
11.5% alv, $10.95

Michael and I think the quintessential after-dinner drink is a great glass of port. The one we've chosen this month is a 10 year-old tawny port from Portugal. It's an elegant medium bodied wine with flavours of dried fruits, nuts and caramel and has a lovely warm finish. Serve with a delicious crème brulée or an almond tart, or as the Portugese do, just on its own.

Warre's Otima 10-Year Port

20% alv, 500 ml
Product of Portugal

(photo: Warre's)

Michael and I are always on the search for good value wines. And it's not easy. But, one winery, Penfold's Wine in South Australia has been producing some very interesting and delicious tasting blends, including this one that we think is big, rich and plummy. It has a lovely earthy aroma with lots of deep red fruits mingled with oak, black pepper and vanilla. A full bodied wine with a long finish. We drank it with barbequed rare rib-eye steak and found it to be delicious. It would also match well with full-flavoured stews, chili, pasta with a tomato-meat sauce, roast duck or goose with a cherry sauce, or herb- and mustard-crusted lamb.

Penfold's Koonunga Hill 2001

Shiraz (52%)-Cabernet Sauvignon (48%)
13.9% alv
$17.99 (Sask); $14.95 (Ont)
Product of South Eastern Australia

Michael and I purchased and test drove this straightforward California Cabernet Sauvignon from the Woodbridge line. A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Zinfandel, 3% Syrah, 2% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc it's filled with aromas of red berry fruit, plum and cassis mingled with hints of vanilla and spice. We found it to be a full bodied wine with a lovely long finish. A glass or two would taste delicious alongside a rare grilled steak, chicken dishes prepared with a red wine sauce, or pepper crusted lamb.

Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Robert Mondavi
Product of U.S.A.
13.5% alv
750 ml $14.95 (Sask) 1500 ml $27.00 (Ont)

(Photo: Robert Mondavi Winery)

It's often an experiment to try to match wine with food. Sometimes you think you intuitively know exactly which wine will match a certain food, and then surprise, you're wrong. Our first guess for a match with the Linguine recipe above was a Farnese Sangiovese Daunia 2000 . It seemed a logical choice given the Italian twist on the dish, but when we actually tasted it with the pasta, the sauce only accentuated the peppery rough character of the wine and made it overpowering, even bitter tasting. This wine is better suited to tomato-based sauces where it really shines.

Then we tried it with a Mission Hill Family Estate Cabernet-Merlot 2000 and found that it complimented the food beautifully. The tannins in this wine stood up very well to the sauce without overpowering it. Made with 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot grapes, this is a well balanced wine with flavours of rich dried cherries, cassis with vanilla and black pepper notes. It has a long finish. This wine also paired exceptionally well with citrus and black pepper-crusted salmon fillets with a balsamic-maple syrup reduction.

Mission Hill Family Estates
Cabernet-Merlot 2000
VQA Okanagan
13.0% alv

$14.75 (Sask); $13.45 (Ont)

(Photo Courtesy: Mission Hill Winery)

Crocs, kangaroos and... Shiraz. Like crocodiles and kangaroos, the word Shiraz is synonymous with Australia and with good reason, Aussies make some of the best in the world. The other evening, Michael and I enjoyed this one that was excellent value. Wyndham Estate 2001 Bin 555 Shiraz came with a good mouthful of fruit, a good measure of vanilla, and hints of black pepper and spice. A well balanced medium to full-bodied wine with a smooth rich finish. Lots of good tannins without being overpowering. All and all, very enjoyable. Try it with BBQ'd beef or lamb.

Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz

14.0% alv
$16.95 (Sask); $14.60 (Ont)

A Great Canadian Chard  According to a recent wine column by Rod Phillips, wine columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, there are some wine lovers who won't go near a bottle of Canadian wine. We have a couple of friends who think just like that. Our friend Xav, swears that B.C. wine is the worst - boy does he have another thing coming! Another friend, Erina who a real wine lover, also dislikes Canadian wine, so we always get a charge when we serve it and she says, "Hey, this is great. What is it?"

We've been on the lookout for a decent chardonnay lately. Personally, we don't really want to pay more than $12 to $14 for a bottle of wine, unless of course, it's a special occasion. But finding one (we're talking Saskatchewan prices - Ontarians, figure our estimate to be about $2 less), has proven to be really difficult. Some are overly oaked but our biggest complaint is that the finish is really bitter - to us a demonstration of poor quality, mass produced wine.

Finally, we've found one that is within our set price range and really proves to be great value for the money. Cave Springs in the Ontario Niagara region produces one of our favorite wines, Riesling Reserve - a very dry and wonderful wine. This chardonnay is one of their's - a pretty wine that is very nicely made. Well balanced with a buttery finish but no excessive oak. Personally, we think this is a keeper. It was steel fermented with 20% aged in French and American oak. It has lovely aromas of tart green apple, honey dew, and mild mineral notes. The finish is crisp and buttery with good acidity. Hey... and for once Saskatchewan's price is less than Ontario's!

Cave Spring 2000 Chardonnay

VQA Niagara
12.5% alv
$11.96 (Sask); $12.95 (Ont.)

When we eat spaghetti with meat sauce or food in a flavourful tomato base, we love a rougher more robust wine. Italy has plenty in that department, including this blend of 60% merlot and 40% sangiovese. This is a very earthy wine with aromas of ripe berries and anise. The merlot softens the sangiovese grape producing a wine with medium tannins and one that is nicely balanced. Medium to full-bodied.

Lamberti S.P.A.
Merlot-Sangiovese 2000

Product of Italy
12.0% alv

$12.90 (Sask)