The Wine Rack Store Takes a Shot in the Dark

When several people recommend one wine, originating from a winery they have no connection to, that means I have to try it. At least once. That is, unless the wine is twenty year old Cabernet Sauvignon costing hundreds of dollars. Then I’ll try it if someone else is buying. Continue reading

Fleeing to Warmth

It’s ironic that, while it is actually winter in Australia, I would rather be there right now. Ours has been the coldest, wettest spring since 1955 and is actually fractionally colder and wetter even than that dreadful spring (a bit before my time, but records show…) Continue reading

Taking a Shot in the Dark

When two different people recommend one wine, this means I have to buy it (unless those two people are the wine maker and someone on staff, then I will take a taste first; or if it is thousand dollar cabernet sauvignon, in which case someone wealthy will have to buy and serve me a glass). Thankfully, the recommended wine was a Shiraz priced under $15 Cdn. The only negative – it’s a Shiraz, or did I say that? Well, if you don’t already know, I’m a novice wine connoisseur and not a lover of red – yet.  I want to be.  As a friend recently said,  red wines seem so cultured and civilized. Then again, a good white can offer complexities worth writing about too.

But I digress, and Australia’s Shot in the Dark requires more attention here. I bought with my brother and his girlfriend in mind. I’ve only had a little drop, enough to just aerate the wine ready for their arrival tomorrow. It never occured to me to try and pair wine with dinner, and it will not go. The Coronas will do better (or just plain water, as is our norm). Then again, I’m serving a homemade pie made from plums, blueberries, perhaps peaches, soaked in this wine. I have a feeling Shot in the Dark will accompany dessert nicely.

The reason I say this is due to the full, fruity aroma which greeted my nose when first opened. I caught plum, cherry, smoke and fig. Yes, fig. Wonderful.

I always take a sip right away just to compare the two impressions, and would say that fruit started to come forward after a few hours. I’m eager to try this red tomorrow following a full 24 hour breathing.

The recommendations were good ones overall. Though not a sipping wine, this product could easily find a home on my wine rack again one day.

So Africa Screw Top Shiraz

Continuing my bargain screw top wines from around the globe and onto my wine rack I’ve come to the one with the kitty print on the bottle. Yes ladies and gentleman this 2008 Cabernet Shiraz blend from South Africa’s Herding Cat company features a couple of leopards on the label and a few leopard spots on the cap. And to top it all off it was $7.00 a bottle.

I must admit is smells wonderful, sweet black cherries, a little oak and a little smoke. A back yard cookout in a bottle. After a good swishing I detect pepper, spice and plums. The dark rich purple of the wine is reflected in its bouquet.

It’s an interesting first sip. A little smoky and dry but also a lingering flowery finish which I find odd. I think the slight sweetness of the finish is what’s confusing my palette. If I keep drinking I definitely get the smoky grape leaf mix of a cabernet but I don’t enjoy this blend as much as yesterday’s Cabernet Merlot blend.  The recommendation on the back of the bottle is to drink this with dark chocolate. If I liked dark chocolate I may give it a try but just feel this blend is not for me.

On the other hand I think the 2008 Herding Cat would make a great dinner party gift for a red wine drinker looking for something to pair with dessert or to keep on the wine rack. There’s just enough sweetness to balance out the dry but you still get that Cabernet taste. You just have to dig for it a little.

McLaren’s On the Lake

After browsing wine racks at a local store I felt very reassured about my wine consumption. I can honestly say I do not feel like a wino anymore. One guys was comparing prices per volume. Just literally, how much wine is in this bottle and how much in this one, and what does that work out to in pennies per/ml?
Not: ‘which of these reds has a better flavor? Do you like the Australian or the Californian Cab? I’ve tried this variety before but flavors weren’t complex enough for me.’
Not that I’m a wine snob or anything, it’s just that I never want to be that lady who has to have a bottle of something to drink but doesn’t know or care what it tastes like. There I was, all fussy, searching for a good red to take as a gift when we visit friends near Vancouver. I finally settled on a South Australian Shiraz made by McLarens on the Lake. This is a smooth wine with a rich mouth feel, quite strong at 13.9%. Though the fruit needs a few days to come out, I can’t say the oak was overpowering either. On the nose I detected dark Autumn blackberries. The color bears this out, although I’m supposed to note mulberry. If I had ever tried mulberries this might have been so.

Thankfully, no one was around when I selected the cheese to take to the coast.  Then I might have looked like a dunce.

Banrock Station



When I saw that Banrock Station will participate at the EPIC Sustainable Living Expo in Vanvouver this month, I imagined they must be a BC winery. In fact, Banrock wines come from Australia. Their commitment to best environmental practices explains their involvement, but they also have connetions in BC and the rest of Canada which go past the sales of their wine. Banrock contributes to environmental conservation projects all over the world.
For example, in Canada they have helped groups such as Ducks Unlimited with some of their wetland conservation work. In the United States, their donations have benefitted Katy Prarie Restoration Foundation and plenty more besides. All over the world they exhibit this same generosity and commitment.
Banrock also makes wine. Selections to consider for your wine rack include Semillon Chardonnay and Shiraz Matano. This latter wine exhibits the aromas of liquorice, cinnamon and ripe berries with raspberry and red currant flavors. One of their environmental strategies is to reduce water usage via hi-tech irrigation systems while still providing the amount of water their crops require.
The EPIC event takes place May 28-May 30 at Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Musing Over Tasting Food Choices

390774242_081f7bdcf9_mI decided to host a wine tasting party for a small group of friends in my own home in preparation for a larger fund raising event I hope to have later in the year. Besides stocking up my wine rack with a modest selection of red wine varietals, I have to serve some snacks.

After a little research I decided to go with cheese. It may seem a bit boring but for a newbee it may be a good way to get started. And of course cheese is a tad more budget friendly that say luxury chocolates or catering from the local restaurant. Using wines and cheese from the same regions is a good idea. So if I go with red wines from France or specifically Bordeaux, my cheeses should originate in the same geographical region.

That doesn’t work too well as the recommendation for Cabernet Sauvignon is either cheddar cheese or Danish blue. It seems the higher the amount of tannic, the harder the complimentary cheese. You should put salty cheese with sweet wine according to the wine experts and you should save soft cheese for softer wines like whites.

Cabernet Francs apparently pair well with cheddar, camembert and brie. Merlot goes well with brie, camembert and cheddar. Pinot Noir works with camembert brie and feta. The Shiraz works with cheddar, Gouda and parmesan.

Well that helps a lot. Cheddar is a very British cheese so I think I would have to hop over the Channel for that one. I am a fan of real English cheese and don’t think a French substitute would cut it. A harder cheddar seems appropriate. Camembert and brie are both French cheeses so I would definitely go with those. Which brand I’m not sure so hope to quiz the guy at the deli counter for a little help.

I think for the last two cheeses (I’m doing five and five) I’ll do feta and parmesan. That way if there is a lot left over I can use those for cooking. And of course, they’ll pair well with anything left over on the wine rack. They also work well with dips and crackers which I intend to serve on the side.

Phew! It’s a lot of work organizing a wine and cheese party. Better go print up those tasting cards.

Tisdale Cabernet Sauvignon

Well after reasonable success with the Merlot from the Tisdale winery the other day, I was hoping my luck would hold 3934042284_a7c40a1dc0_mas I took the Cabernet off the wine rack. This bottle costs a whopping $4.25.

Should I be worried?

Well, if the issue with the cork is any sort of indicator yes. I had this problem with the Merlot. The cork is very soft and the cork screw goes straight though unevenly. Well that’s what husbands are for right? He fixed the cork, got it out of the bottom and I poured my 50 cent glass of wine.

It smells fresh. Does no vintage mean it is from this year? Or simply not worth putting a date on? I detect the odor of garden peas, lemon and black cherry but not too much in the way of twig. The swirl released a sweet caramel and cinnamon overtone, more peas and green grass. It smells pretty good so I’m going in.

An unexpected creaminess and, like its brother Merlot, a lack of structure. There’s a lack of body and it doesn’t really have the weight or oakiness of a Cabernet but it doesn’t really taste bad. It’s red wine just but it’s not an acquired taste nor a heady rush of black cherries falling from the branches of oak trees sitting in fresh wet grass. In other words, it tastes nothing like Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s an okay cheap but perfectly reasonable for the price red wine.

I’m pairing it with roast chicken and homemade pasta as that’s what the husband is making for dinner. But it works. The meal makes me want a Shiraz or even a Sauvignon Blanc but this will do. It’s not the worst thing I’ve tasted.

Hmmm…I’m not sure if that is a compliment but oh well…

Well, we finished the bottle so it was very easy to drink but it was more like drinking watered down grape juice than wine. What can you expect though for four dollars? I guess I should be grateful it tasted as well as it did.

I’m not sure if I’ll stock up my wine rack with this red wine. It was simply something to drink. I think my exploration of cheap wines has taught me than around eight dollars a bottle is okay, ten dollar bottles work for my humble palette and more than that is well, simply out of the budget these days for many of us.

Can’t say I didn’t try.

Ice Cream Sundaes

ice cream

I don’t suppose most people keep Shiraz on their wine racks specifically to make ice cream sundaes. Not that I’m suggesting you should. I’ve just got ice cream sundaes on the brain because my little girl is turning 7 tomorrow. Instead of a cake she wants, well, you can guess.
In addition to chocolate and butterscotch sauce, Eve is going to have strawberries, bananas, little candies: her idea sounds like so much more fun than just eating cake. I found something else too, though it may not be appropriate for a child’s birthday party. The adults would. The recipe is for ‘George’s Black Forest Sundaes’  which includes bing cherries, sugar, apple juice, red wine, lemon juice, salt. The recipe also shows one how to make fudge sauce. I presume that, although this recipe only calls for a small amount of red wine, one could add a bit more? Perhaps in place of the apple juice should the alcohol content not be strong enough, or in my case, if Eve gets any noisy gifts from her friends. Obviously, this sauce is meant to be poured onto your favorite ice cream.

Alternatively, one could simply sit in a catatonic state, lights out, muttering ‘have they gone yet? Why are my ears still ringing?’ Mommy, is that you?’, while eating from the pot and fighting off anyone who wants to share. In extreme cases, give the pot to someone else to eat from and just drink remaining wine from the bottle.

Painted Turtle Shiraz

painted turtle

When a winery describes its wine as ‘fruit forward’, I guess I’m naive enough to think I’ll really taste a lot of fruit and the oak, tannins etc. will magically fall away (or at least be well hidden). The Painted Turtle Shiraz is described as ‘rich and juicy’. I must work from a different dictionary. Either that, or the Shiraz is for the wine rack, not to drink right away (or would have if I hadn’t already opened it) because I really tasted oak here. In fact, the oak and dryness almost overwhelmed the fruit.
I say almost; there was definite potential in the aroma for spice and plum to come forward in this richly colored offering. I left the bottle to air for a little while, read a book so as not to rush things. Then I poured and sipped. There it was: oak, tannins, some fruit. I tasted ripe, dark plum and cherry. The wine did not go down smoothly. Very full-bodied: for this I am grateful. Painted Turtle has bottled a warming wine for a wet, grey day. Also, I think this bottle has potential if left on the rack for another 6 months to a year.
Then again, I know a lot of wine drinkers who prefer their tipple to be dry. I don’t think this is a quality issue: just a taste issue.
There is at least one up-side to purchasing a wine I can’t drink: Painted Turtle supports the ‘Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’, a Canadian charity right in line with my own passions and those of my family. There is a photo of a beautiful painted turtle on the bottle: we get lots of those around here, they’re so intriguing when they sun themselves on a log at the lake. That makes an underwhelming wine experience worthwhile.