Nacho Average Pub Fare.. Review: Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up Red

I set out on upon a quest this week. A quest to find a nacho wine.

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There have been nobler quests, I know. Whatever. This was my quest. And really, it’s a pretty good quest when you think about it.

I have tried hard to like beer but I am just not that girl. Never will a country song be written about lil’ ol’ me. I am just not that into beer. But, if you go to almost every nacho and chicken wing pub in Kamloops and you don’t want beer with your dinner, you are going to enter a very unfamiliar place. I call it… Alberta.

You see, we are so spoiled. We live in the heart of Canadian wine country and we don’t even know how good we have it. We have so much good wine at our fingertips. Our liquor stores and cold beer and wine stores are packed with hundreds of choices. We take wine camping and to **cough ** Music in the Park **cough** and have a wine list a mile long at most restaurants. Most people I know can order a decent wine with dinner and every restaurant trains their staff on their wine selections.

Then you go to a pub.

It can be enough to give you PTSD. You get red or white if it’s really bad. You get red, white and a list of bottles they are out of if they have thrown in some effort. See, it’s like we enter Alberta. I went to a cold beer and wine store outside of Edmonton a few years ago and they had, I kid you not, twelve wines to choose from. I asked where they keep the Chilean wine and the clerk spit her straw out at me. Shocker!

That’s a long way to tell you I really wanted a go-to, easily ordered wine to have with pub food. And I found it.

Monte Creek 2016 Hands Up Red is a great wine for nachos, wings or other salty fair you find at a pub or restaurant. And, because our local eateries are great about supporting our local wineries, it’s pretty accessible, too!

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Made up of mostly merlot grapes, it’s got good structure, body and weight. It feels heavy and solid in your mouth. It’s no light sipper. It’s flavourful and bursting with bold fruit. Cherry, smoke, plum… it’s all here. It’s also nice and dry. It’s dark and sexy in colour. It’s smells heady and oaky. You could easily sip this wine on it’s own around a campfire, of course, but it can stand up to salty and spicy food as well.

All in all, this is a fantastic value at $16.99 a bottle. I suspect, if you buy six of these, and open one a year for the next few years, you’d be pleased with how it ages and deepens, too. We don’t have a lot of wine worth cellaring here but this one would be worth trying.

And, if you are looking for a good red table wine for your wedding this Summer, this would fit the bill. It will go well with your buffet, be nice just before dinner and isn’t drier or heavier than most inexperienced wine drinkers would enjoy.

So, I have fulfilled my quest. From this day forward, let it be known that the 2016 Monte Creek Hands Up Red is your go-to pub wine, Kamloops. You are welcome.

Woman-knight

 

Wine: Monte Creek 2016 Ranch Hand Red

Price: $17

Where to purchase: Save On Foods, Winery, most Liquor Stores in Kamloops

Score: 5/6

Takeaways: Good weight, dry, bold flavour, very light oak

 

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Review: Evolve 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

There is nothing better than BC wine that has been crafted with care.

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You know I love BC Wineries that are working WITH our climate and our soil to make beautiful wines that, with as little manipulation as possible, are a delight to the senses. Some wineries within the Okanagan stand out in this regard. These wineries and winemakers allow the natural flavours of the fruit to shine through, not trying to make the grapes something they aren’t.

Evolve Cellars is an example of this style of winemaking. Without a doubt, this winery needs to be on your must-visit list this year.

With the most stunning view you’ll see all season, a beautiful tasting room and restaurant and a great selection of well priced wines, you won’t want to miss this gem.

Evolve makes clean, crisp, fresh and clear wines. There is no pretention here. No smoke and mirrors. This is just lovely wine. It takes some bravery to use a light touch and allow nature to guide you in your craft.

Their 2016 SAUVIGNON BLANC is a perfect example of this type of craftsmanship. It’s bright and lively, fruity and clean. It’s warm hue hints at the depth of the fruit. With tropical notes on the nose and a nectarine or peachy flavour, it’s a fantastic patio wine.

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But, it gets better than that. It’s medium body means you can have it with your dinner as well. It has some weight to it and a good finish, so it won’t be lost on barbecued meals and creamy salads. This is a perfect wine to purchase if you are a red drinker but need a white for your guests. Whatever foods you would throw your red wine at, a white drinker could use this wine with.

You’ll appreciate the very ‘Best of BC’ style of this beautiful vineyard. You can purchase this wine locally, but if you can manage to visit their wine shop in Summerland to stock up you won’t regret it.

Find out more at: Evolve Cellars

Wine: Evolve 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $17

Where to purchase: Save On Foods, Winery

Score: 4.5/6

Takeaways: Good weight, clean fruity finish, great value

When you are broke but still want to drink wine…

So, your tastes and your bank account don’t seem to really jive? You have more wants than George Washingtons (sorry, but I couldn’t come up with a loonie link). You still like finer wine but your debit card says you need to stick to ramen and ice cubes.

Sigh, me too.

I really do wish I could be sipping $25 bottles of wine on Wednesdays. Or, pop out for drinks on Friday and pay more for a glass than I do for a bottle. Alas, that is not how I roll.

So, you have little extra cha-ching but you don;t want to drink junk. Good on you! Me either. So, I do have four labels that I think you can rely on, that are good, good value!

These four wineries deliver consistently across their varietals and are drinkable for even the most discerning wine lovers that watch the bottom line as much as the grape vine. Ready? Write these down…

Cono Sur… This is just good wine. I’ve never had a bad one yet. It is ridiculously affordable and very drinkable.

Cono-Sur-Bicicleta-Viognier-640x640.pngWayne Gretzky.. This is a little pricier but it always delivers. And I have never found another ‘celebrity endorsed’ wine that I liked. Period. This one wins all the games!

wgFinca Los Primos.. Again, great wine that is well priced and consistently delivers. Made for the new-world wine drinker, you can’t go wron

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Jacob’s Creek… These wines run sweet but are well priced and if you are new to wine, or like barefoot or naked grape wines, you will like these too!

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So, there you have it. Bookmark this post and open it the next time you are at the liquor store! If you lack the funds to go on a high-falutin’ hoe down but still want to be swanky this weekend, give one of these a spin!

Happy sipping!

 

 

Comfort Wine.. In a white, no less!

If you have been reading along even sporadically you probably know I am struggling with a go-to white wine.

I’m not a big ‘special occasion’ wine drinker. Well, probably I am, but I don’t worry too much about which wine I will choose for a special occasion because I like lots of wines I can’t really afford. Buying any one of them makes for a special occasion. Maybe I am cheap… I should sit and think about that over a glass of wine.

Anyways, I have really struggled to find a regular old white wine I can comfortably afford to drink on a Tuesday and actually really like.

Ta Da!! I have found the holy grail of white table wines! Meet…

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Cono Sur Bicicleta 2014 Viognier. This is some good, good squished up grapes.

First, I just love these wines. Cono Sur has been making stand-up wine for a long time. You can’t go wrong with these wines, really. They are all a good value and well suited to a new-world wine drinker. Second, viognier is a solid-ass grape that is under-recognized. You should try lots of these wines this year. Make it your go-to sample wine when you explore wineries and tastings! Then, compare it to some pinot blanc. That’s another unsung hero in BC wine.

Back to Tuesday night. This is a great table wine. I wish table wine was $7 a bottle in BC but alas, we have far too many levels of government for that. However, this is cheap. Like, around $10-$12 a bottle. So, stock up and keep it chilled for when you barely made it through the work day!

Hooray for you, super hero! Here’s to Tuesday!

 

finding perfect bubbly for the holidays – review and a bonus gift

I am so excited to bring you Sips in the City’s first custom cocktail!

And, since that is such a special occasion, we have crafted it out of a beautiful sparkling wine with a sommelier, no less.

And, and…. if you are the ‘try it before you buy it’ type, you’ll be excited to know that it’s available for purchase this holiday season at one of our local restaurants!

See? So excited! Let’s get to it.

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Haywire’s The Bub and Evolve’s Pink Effervesence

I really wanted to come up with a way that you can purchase sparkling wine for your holiday parties and celebrations and get the most out of your purchase. If you are like me, you want to use up the whole bottle and you want your guests to have a great time helping you drink it.

Sparkling wine is such a treat. I love toasting and marking special occasions.  I also love being creative and surprising people. So, we asked for a little help to come up with a way to get two drinks for the price of one when you buy your bubbles this year.

Meet Brain Henderson. He’s the bartender at Storms on the River in Kamloops. Hi, Brian!

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Brian is a member of Liquid Chef, the U.S. Sommelier Association and Confriere du Sabre d’Or. Yes, he’s holding a sword. More on that later. We asked Brian to help us taste two sparkling wines, at two different price points, this week and then help us come up with a cocktail that you can make with your remaining wine after you toast. Boy, did we pick the right guy for the job.

On to the bubbles!

The first wine we tried was from  Evolve Cellars. We sampled their lovely Pink Effervesence. This sparkler is made of predominantly Pinot Blanc with a splash of Merlot. This wine had nice body. It had great weight in your mouth and followed through with lots of fruity finish. It’s very peachy and isn’t too dry. It’s a gorgeous wine. Beautiful colour and flavour and very worth the price. This is the perfect sparkling wine for your Christmas party with friends. It would also be great at an office afternoon potluck on your last day before Christmas. Or, is your book club, school PAC or Mom’s group having a Christmas get-together to celebrate how awesome you are? This twinkly treat would be perfect for those occasions, too. And at under $20 a bottle, you can afford to amaze your friends with your good taste this season! Of the two we tried, this was my favourite and Brian’s too.

Note the bubbles in the next picture and you tell me if the glass you choose is important to your wine experience? You need to buy yourself some champagne flutes, buddy. Class it up.

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The next wine we tried was from Haywire Wines. Their 2014 The Bub is a step up, coming in at $29.90 a bottle. Now we are dealing with a champagne style wine, crafted in the traditional method. This type of wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle which creates more pressure and tinier bubbles. The process is more intense and the price reflects the craftsmanship. This is a considerably different wine than the first.

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This is a wine-drinker’s champagne. It is drier, more complex and had beautiful balance. It was earthy and clean. It has a minerality that is very distinct and would pair wonderfully with the types of warm appetizers that you see commonly at holiday par-tays. Crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Okanagan, it’s a true reflection of the quality of clean, crisp, world-class wine that we can produce in BC. This was Kevin’s favourite of the two. He leans towards the drier, heavier wines normally so I am not surprised. This is the perfect Christmas Eve wine. It’s perfect for in front of the fire, with the Christmas tree twinkling beside you. Having your relatives over? Making a big announcement (boys, buy her a ring already)? Do you know you have a wine snob on your guest list? This is your wine.

Now, let’s have some fun! You can do a lot with a bottle of sparkling wine, my friends! In an hour, Brian came up with five, FIVE, amazing cocktails with these two wines. Here we go….

First, some wine porn…

We had a lot of fun! I asked Brian to meet a couple of requirements when I asked him to start thinking of what we could create;

  • The drink needed to be more martini and less sangria
  • It needed to stay true to the flavour and the feel of the wine. Don’t weigh down the bubbles!
  • It could not be too sweet
  • It should feel like holiday treat!

And with that info, we got to work! Brian had made a raspberry puree with a hint of simple syrup. He had some oranges and lemons on hand, and he had made some infused ice cubes as well. Plus, he had another little surprise cooked up.

Our first martini consisted of a small amount of sweetened raspberry puree with our pink bubbly. He then rimmed the glass with orange juice and garnished the drink with an orange thumbnail. The result? A light, only mildly sweet, sparkling drink that started off tart from the orange and finished with the beautiful wine flavour we were hoping for. Easy, classic and perfect!

Our second drink was a bit fancier. We pulled out the big guns… the whip cream dispenser!

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But, that’s no simple whip cream you are seeing. That is whipped egg whites infused with simple syrup and elder flower liqueur. Oh Em Gee. So we started with the same base and added this beautiful top. I would lightly rim the glass with orange sugar as well. Since it’s not sweet underneath, you won’t lose the flavours in the drink. It is a beautiful cocktail.

Number three was also made with our pink potion. This once was simple and classy but had some serious flare. Like, fire flare!

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This one was really just our pretty sparkling wine with an orange thumbnail added. But he lit the orange on fire first! The result was that our drink smelled like warm, cinnamon oranges but tasted like our peachy wine. This was a delight!

And the fourth was just as fun! Using a white bubbly this time, Brian added some infused ice cubes that he had prepared in advance. We tried a basil and lemon sparkling martini and a cucumber and pineapple one, too!

These are lovely Christmas day drinks. Light and crisp and perfect for sipping after your breakfast and before your big dinner. They would also be great for your holiday parties. You can make them with a sweeter wine as well for a different experience all together.

So, which one came out on top to become the Sips in the City Cocktail at Storms this holiday?

Number two! The Elder Flower Infusion!! You will be able to purchase this drink at the restaurant and try it out before making it on your own! And you really need to go chat with Brian. He knows so much!! And he has great ideas. He’s been a sommelier for over 25 years. You can’t go wrong if you tell him what you really want. Plus, he’s super nice.

If you are really sweet maybe he will use a sword to open your wine…. I wish I could get the video to upload on here… it was awesome!

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Review – Larch Hills Marechal Foch

Oh, this wine…

When I review a wine I like to try it at least twice before I make a decision.

So, this bottle got cracked with dinner last night, then, so I could really be sure I was right about it, I poured half a glass to have with lunch. Working from home is so rough.

This particular red, the 2015 Reserve Marechal Foch from Larch Hills Winery, scored big last night.

It was beautiful from the second we poured it. The deep, dark, inky colour of this wine is captivating. Rich and vibrant, it’s a harvest season wine for sure. It is a warm purple with hints of burgundy. How delicious does that sound?

It smells divine. You can tell this wine is chock full of fruit just by smelling it. Black, smokey, full bodied and ripe fruits are just a sip away.

For our roast beef dinner with lots of thick, dark gravy this wine was a great match. We found it full and dense. The flavour is almost concentrated. It’s chewy and up front. It’s full of rich, dark fruits and just a hint of smokey oak. They don’t let on much about their process but these are old-vine grapes and that shows in the tasting.

I make notes on the bottles of all the wines I buy, because I have a terrible memory and need help if I don’t drink the wine within a week. On this bottle I wrote Kevin (who likes heavier, oakier wines than me) beef, dinner and smooth. I also wrote $15.49. That’s a crazy cheap price for a reserve bottle.

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Now, on to today. This wine showed a few weaknesses when left to stand on it’s own. First, it’s a little on the sweet side. We thought that last night as well but it had enough flavour to get along well with our roast beef so we overlooked it. But it is a little sweet to pair with just anything. It’s also a quick wine. By that I mean it’s fruity up front, in the middle and at the end and there is nothing else in between. For a new wine it is quite smooth. But it lacks the complexity that would make you slowly sip it and savour your experience. It has a hint of a dry finish. That’s probably not the right wording… but you do get a little oak at the end. If I had to sum up this wine in one word I would say ‘concentrated’ would do it nicely.

So, who is this wine for? Do you like Bodacious? Buy this. It’s way better. Do you like red wines that are fruity but don’t leave your tongue fuzzy? Buy this wine. Do you want to buy a good value wine and hang on to it a bit to see if it gets better? Buy this wine. I bet this bottle would have been very different if I had waited a year to open it. Do you like Gamay Noir? Buy this wine.

It’s still a great deal at $15.49 and would be great to hang on to. And it’s not just for fall and winter. I think it would be great with a cheese plate. Just be prepared for a sweeter wine and buy yourself some strong cheese.

Summary – 4.5/6 Strong, fruity and bold. Good value and may improve a lot with age.

Warning – if it’s the fruitiness you are after, don’t age it to long. That’s the first thing to go when you sit on a wine.

 

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