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!

 

 

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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.

 

halloween wine for one

So, what to get this Halloween?

If you are going to a party this weekend and you want to bring wine, you better do a good job picking a theme wine. There are a lot of choices for Halloween.

I saw a great one called The Raven, but it was a 01 on the sweetness scale, so it wouldn’t do.

There are lots of creepy labels and spooky pictures on wine, but that is a little cliche.

So, what do you drink when you want to creep yourself out? What do you serve your guests if you want them to be a little nervous about their safety on all hallows eve?

I say, you scare them with a movie reference…

Nothing scares the shit out of me like Silence of the lambs.

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Look at that guy! Have you watched the movie in the last 10 years? If not, watch it again. You have forgotten how terribly scary it is. So, in honour of Hannibal Lecter, I say you serve your guests a nice Chianti to go with your dinner. If you end up eating someone’s liver later then you are all set.

So, since I have no luck with Chianti, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick at random. I came up with this…

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And, surprisingly, it’s better than liver!

To really enjoy your Chianti there are a few things you can do to enhance it.

  • Plan to eat dinner while you drink it
  • Decant it
  • Share it

This wasn’t a bottle to covet. (seriously, that was awesome) You will probably enjoy a glass then be ready to move on to another wine. I drank it over two days. The second day it was better. I decant wine by leaving it open… health Canada be damned!

This dry wine is nice and flavourful. It is medium-bodied and smooth. It’s actually really smooth considering it was under $14. Perhaps it’s so smooth because the grapes use lots of lotion? (bam! another one)

This is your uncle’s wine. It’s classic old world fare and a great example of Chianti for the new world drinker.

Regardless, this is my top pick for Halloween 2016! Enjoy!

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Review – A french lady right here in BC

Ooh lala… I just love  a great French wine!

If you aren’t all into the nerdy part of wine loving then you may not know about new world and old world wines. Basically, it’s this; if a country was once ruled by a tyrannical King or Queen and used to behead people and have knights and folklore and such, they make old world wine. If a country was discovered and settled, then fought over by said Kings and Queens, then it makes new world wines. Roughly… that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for wine buying though.

So, we make new world wines here in Canada. And I really like new world wines. But there is something about the wine made from the grapes of those old, old vines that we won’t capture here for decades. Unless….

At the tail end of August we stopped at Larch Hill Winery in Salmon Arm. They are far up the hill and way out of your way. Who cares. You have to go. If only to try this one, unique, amazing wine.

You can steal this bottle at $13.79. Yes, that was correct. Thirteen seventy nine. It is worth buying a case of this stuff. Ready to know what it is? It’s Mad Angie.

Named for it’s varietal, Madeleine Angevine, or Mad Angie for short, this is a powerful white wine that will seriously please even the more discerning wine drinkers in your crowd. It’s got SO MUCH FLAVOUR! It is dry and crisp like a reisling, but bursting right out of the glass with curvy, sexy body.

Is it possible to have the body of an oaked chardonnay without any of the oak or chardonnay that makes that wine so, well, gaggy? Larch Hills has done it. Solid, packed to the rim with personality and still dry enough for dinner, this is going to become your new go-to white wine. And did I mention the price? Perfection.

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This wine is rated a 0 (zero) which means it’s full on dry. But, truly, it’s got to have just made the cutoff. It is a little on the sweeter side of dry. It’s like a shoulder wine! It smells peachy and tropical but is crisp in your mouth. Just buy it.

The only problem? I couldn’t find a place in Kamloops that sells it. The solution? Their winery is open daily until December!

Watch for the column in Kamloops This Week on Thursday for tips on visiting wineries. Then make plans to haul ass to Salmon Arm!

 

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