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Stonechurch’s insane free shipping deal – Top Secret Red

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After a winter of trying one underwhelming (but not underwhelming enough to rant about) wine after another, I’m finally gulping something worth posting about. I consider this a PSA.


I was given 2 bottles of this “Top Secret” red and they’re not gonna last. It claims (but maybe it’s a smokescreen?!?) to be a Cab Franc/Cab Sauv blend, but it’s lighter than most of those I’ve had in the past. The colour while it pours is a weirdly watered-down purply pink. These things don’t sound appealing, I get that, but OH MY GOODNESS THIS WINE. It’s delightful. Berryish without too much acidity. You know how if you feel like a light and bright wine, sometimes it makes you feel like you accidentally drank vinegar for an hour? Not this one. It’s smooth while still being tangy. I don’t know how and I don’t care, I just love it.

Stonechurch currently ships FOR FREE within Ontario and a bottle of this is $5.95, almost criminally cheap. A case is just over $70 all in. You can mix and match wines in your order as long as you stick to multiples of 12; I’m tempted to try the Top Secret Pink, but I’ve been disappointed before when a brand is great at one varietal or style and terrible at another. (Open, I’m looking at you; HOW are you reds so terrible compared to your magnificent Riesling-Gewurtz? But that’s a post for another day, and possibly one I’ve already made.) Checking with my source who loves a rosé even more than me (which is really saying something).


Hurray for Vouvray!

I was looking for a wine to take to a fancy pot luck dinner party. I was assigned the cheese course, and it’s next to impossible to pair a wine with cheeses (plural).  One cheese, sure, but four cheeses from mild to sharp is tricky. So I searched, and the internet told me if you need one wine to rule them all (bottom) go with something like an off-dry Riesling.Clos le Vigneau Vouvray 2012

Before settling on a Riesling at the LCBO, I passed by the French section and saw a white with a recommendation note from the staff on it. It was a Vouvray, which..what? To the Googles!  Ok, so Vouvray is made in the Loire Vally with chenin blanc grapes, and it comes in dry, off-dry and sparkling. This 2012 Clos le Vigneau Vouvray has a sugar content of 13 g/l, which puts it into the off-dry category, and was described as “concentrated and full-bodied, with a long, delicious finish.” Done.

Sweetness Weirdness: The LCBO has “extra dry” on the web page, which doesn’t make sense to me at all. A couple of years ago they did change how they describe sweetness, but I think this one’s a mistake because I don’t see how anyone could get extra dry out of this. I had this happen with a rose in the summer. It was listed as “dry” but drinking it was like sucking on a  jolly rancher. I returned it. Anyway…


Delicious! I love this wine. It was the best wine of the evening. I love that it’s a richer white that isn’t chardonnay, with lots of flavour, and the touch of off-dry really did work well with the cheeses (well, three out of four…I don’t think anything was really going to go with “Old Grizzly”, an aged Gouda that bites back). It’s at the upper end of my weekend wine scale, but there are also a couple of other Vouvrays in stock for a bit less, so I’ll definitely try another one soon.


It has been… some time (oops): Italy, crappy imported Lambrusco, and Spritz

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Whooops somehow I let a whole winter go by without posting anything new! But that might be because I didn’t try much that was new and worth writing about. Looking at my last post, from Feb. 2013, I was still buying that Angel’s Gate stuff most of this past winter as well! And I spent my summer drinking beer.

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Italy on which, as the sole wine drinker, I wasn’t really able to afford to experiment much. In fact, I drank a fair bit of beer then as well – travelling with a beer drinker and trying to determine if any Italian beer is worth trying. (Peroni, available most places, is passably inoffensive; Moretti, available in the rest of them, is kind of not, but you can get Moretti La Rosso in bottles and it’s a tasty enough double malt for a little variety.) Since I didn’t have it in me (or my wallet) to finish a bottle myself at meals, I drank a lot of “house red” and a couple of “house whites” (the reds were usually perfectly-fine-with-food rustic Chianti-type blends, but the whites were the same harsh Chardonnay blends you often get for a house wine here). And from tabacchieri I often ended up with a mini bottle, with only a few brands to choose from. My favourite was Santa Cristina, a very smooth and gulpy Valpolicella-based blend, and we have it here at the LCBO for about $12. I returned to it a couple times as my Old Reliable. Oddly, the Santa Cristina rosé was TERRRRRRIBLE; I bought a bottle of it for our hotel room Florence, because we had a tiny fridge, but it was pretty vile. Which only made me more wary of buying full-size bottles to try!

I was hoping to fill my gullet with lots of Lambrusco and other northern slightly-fizzy summery wines, like the last time I was there; we were spending time in both Florence and Venice, after all, and those areas border on where I was based before. However, the ONLY time I saw a Lambrusco was at the very first restaurant we visited – in Rome! I’m sure if I’d gone into more fancy wine shops I might have found it again. So, I bought a bottle of one of the couple brands we now have here at the LCBO: Chiarli Castelvetro Amabile. It’s… fine? I feel like I remember the ones I had being only about medium-sweet, whereas this is 40g (the other brand is 45, which is why I tried this one first). It also doesn’t have the extremely fruity, tangy flavours I remember – just dully sweet. Which… isn’t great.

While in Venice, I noticed that all the hootenannying yuppie-looking types bandwaggoning into the bars to watch bits of the World Cup were drinking orange cocktails in giant wine glasses – just called a “spritz” and no description of what’s in it anywhere! I had to look it up to learn that the spritz is sort of the go-to Venetian cocktail – lowish alcochol, so you drink them by the handful over an afternoon at the bar, much like you would beer here. Because I was using my bar/restaurant time to get red wine into my system, I wasn’t really tempted till about the last day, when I had a TERRIBLE one: I’d happened to order it at a place that makes it old-school – basically a Campari and soda, which I haaaaate. So, because I am the classiest, I ended up trying another one at the bar near my gate at the airport (blah blah they’d made me RUN for my gate and then the wait was like 1.5 hours), made with Aperol and Prosecco, and it was DELICIOUS. 

So, I thought I’d grab a bottle of Aperol and some Prosecco and try them at home – especially with a searingly hot Canada Day approaching, and feeling too lazy to pull together the items for really good Pimm’s or sangria. Sadly, my LCBO didn’t have (doesn’t ever have?) Aperol! I bought the Prosecco anyway and experimented (with great failure.. Grand Marnier does NOT work, and I didn’t have the OJ I thought I had to make plan-B mimosas instead). I suspect perfecting my personal version of the spritz will be my mission for the remainder of the summer, especially if it stays hot. 



Lamadrid: Great Value from Argentina

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Just a quick post to point you toward an Argentinian winery that delivers great value. We’ve had a few different wines from Lamadrid and every one has been delicious. However, now that I’ve visited the website for the first time I may have trouble forgiving them for what’s on the front page. Behind each door of our inner self, there is an objective, a goal that blinds and seduces by the glare of their flame… What is happening?? Is the wine behind the door? Is the wine the objective? Is the wine glaring at me? I’m confused!

ANYWAY, the wine is much better than the website content. We’ve had the Bonarda ($14.95), the cabernet sauvignon ($14.95), and the riserva cabernet sauvignon ($17.95), and all are very tasty.

It looks like all three are still in stores. Buy some!

Two reds: light & heavy

My new favourite light red is this Angel’s Gate Gamay Noir. I should have posted about it long ago! I’ve probably drunk about six bottles of this alone since I first tasted it — that’s a lot for me. It’s a truly yummy wine: a VQA Gamay with a mild fruity flavour that stands up to some foods and most importantly for me, is sippable on its own in the evening.

AngelsGateGamayI wouldn’t drink this with spicy foods or really powerfully acidic foods, because it lacks bite, but I’ve had it on pizza night and I’ve had it on comfort-food nights and it’s great that way. I hate the bottle: my good corkscrew kind of slips on the overly-rounded lip. But I’m getting the hang of it, and it’s worth it.

Because I love this Gamay so, so much, I tried their Süssreserve Riesling recently — it was not as much of a hit. With a name like that, I expected to basically be sipping pear nectar; but it was more like a really generic Pinot Grigio than an off-dry Riesling. So, not everything from Angel’s Gate is necessarily a home run. But this Gamay is really hitting the spot when I want the flavours I love from a light red, but not the zingy/tangy feel of, say, a Beaujolais. This is a light red that’s lasting me through the winter. Yum!


Meanwhile, I did also want some variety recently (it was SO COLD OUT! who’d want to drink “light” anything?), and decided to try again with the bigger reds. I’ve loved several of Cono Sur’s wines, and the price is right, so thought I’d try their Syrah (Reserva edition). You can’t go wrong with bicycle wine, right? Right, at least this time. I really enjoyed the Syrah, though fair warning: it will turn your teeth as blue as the Farnese Montepulciano. In the glass, it’s extremely grape-juicey, with an opacity that is shocking to someone like me who’s more accustomed to lighter varieties. Still, it was very appealing, and robust without any of the tendencies that are “downsides” for me (leathery, moldy, smoky, earthy flavours in really noticeable amounts turn me right off). I would buy it again for drinking AT HOME ALONE ONLY. Especially with a meaty or spicy meal, since it has a lot of flavour but is still smooth and not too tannin-y. (Sometimes I feel like tannic flavours make spicy food in particular just unpleasant — everything is too harsh! But this would be a great complement, IMO.)


Perfectly Decent $8.25 Italian Red

I’ve tried Farnese’s Sangiovese and Montepulciano d’Abrruzzo and wasn’t crazy about them. But last week I read something saying this 2010 Negroamaro was a great buy.

Negroawhat? To the Googles! Wikipedia says:

Negroamaro, also Negro amaro, is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can produce wines very deep in color. Wines made from Negroamaro tend to be very rustic in character, combining perfume with an earthy bitterness.

The only description the LCBO site offers for the Farnese version is “Medium-bodied & Fruity” (and the photo doesn’t match the current bottle). Wine Align has “clear garnet colour; floral, blueberry and sweet cherry aromas; dry, medium body; cherry and plum flavours with a touch of spice to finish”

“Amaro” is Italian for “bitter”, but that’s not really what I got from the Farnese version. Comparing it with one of my favourite cheap Italian reds (Montalto N’ero d’avola/Cabernet Sauvignon) it was darker purple and just a tad sweeter, but not jammy sweet. But I have a taste for dry, rustic, food-friendly Italian reds, so you might not taste any sweetness at all. The product sheet from the distributor includes a review comparing it to a California Zinfandel.

Overall, I’d say it’s a perfectly decent red wine to have with pizza or meaty pasta, or some other casual thing that needs red wine. Plus, it gives you another fun Italian word to wrap your tongue around.

(If you have another $0.75 to spare, wine access says the Mezzomondo Negroamaro 2010 is a killer buy at $9.00. I haven’t tried it, but I will!)


Whining about Beaujolais Nouveau

I haven’t been drinking much wine lately – it’s fall, I’m drinking cider, or hot things because I’m already Too Damned Cold. (Stupid winter.)

BUT! Recently the Beaujolais Nouveaus came out, and I was thinking about picking up a bottle or three.

I am not a big red drinker – I’m a suck, I prefer white, and I really prefer sparkling – but I can’t resist the descriptions!!

From <a href=”–beaujolais-nouveau-gord-stimmell-reviews-new-releases>Quoting descriptions from the Toronto Star wine guy</a>:


• Reif Estate The Fool Gamay Nouveau VQA, (#220483, $9.95, rating of 87) Pale ruby. Candied maraschino cherry and strawberry. Mellow.

• Chateau des Charmes Generation Seven Nouveau VQA, (#318600, $11.95, 88) Darker ruby. Blueberry, black cherry and a hint of vanilla. Tasty.


• Negrar Novello Del Veneto, (#899955, $9.95, 89+) Delicious spice, sandalwood, black cherry and banana notes. Highest rated of the 10 reds.

• Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti, (#271759, $8.95, 87+) Cherry and vanilla with simple bright cherry on the finish.


• Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau, (#897934, $13.95 86+) Lightly hued, banana, cherry, raspberry in a delicate style.

• Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot, (#220533, $9.95, 87) Candied cherry and strawberry, tasting a bit like bubblegum.

• Jeanjean Syrah Primeur, (#899948, $9.95, 86+) Candied plum and cherry in a very light, slightly sweet style.

• Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau, (#891846, $8.95, 89) Black cherry, plum, rose petals, very tasty and gutsy. Best value of the 10 wines.

• Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Joseph Drouhin), (Vintages, #113266, $14.95, 89) Candied cherry, lilacs, banana and blueberry, good structure.

• Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (G. Duboeuf), (Vintages, #932780, $14.95, 88+) Black cherry, some fruity oomph, with a nicely rich plum finish.

I’m a little afraid of all that black cherry – often that just smells/tastes like cough syrup to me.

Has anyone tried any of these (or other Beaujolais Nouveaus) and have any recommendations?