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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.

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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).

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. 

 

-E

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.)

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Another big red

Like Rachel, I’ve been wanting to delve into deeper reds than I normally go for — but as a result, I’ve been bitten by the “bleagh!”s a couple times, because let’s face it, the heaviest, oiliest reds are still gonna gross me out. The other day I decided to go with a blend and the newer red from House Wine Co. jumped off the shelf at me. Described as “full-bodied and smooth” it still has a hint of the tangy flavour I love in the lighter reds, while really warming up a dreary fall evening. That was overly poetical; I’m trying to say, it’s yummy, and has a slight bite without being too sour, and big flavours without being overwhelming. Nice for either just gulping or with food, because no specific flavour jumps out too strongly at me. Totally recommended.

Contrasts.

My spouse is allergic to wine — wine, a.k.a. the Universal Random Gift. Last week, I drank her birthday wine. At the time, I didn’t think I liked it, because Merlot.

 

It was Kacaba 2007 Reserve Merlot. At 5 years old, it was a lot more WINE than I usually drink. I liked the smoothness, but I don’t usually love a Merlot (such a weird combo of heavy darkness but fruity flavours… should be the best of all worlds but usually just seems to be arguing with itself) so I kept saying “This is great for a Merlot” and “this is a great MERLOT.”
Today, I knew I’d want wine after a kind of ridiculous day, so at the grocery store I went into one of those places that are popping up in grocery stores and headed to the cheap section. Most of them don’t have a great selection and what they do have is kind of overpriced, IMO, so I figured I’d just get some plonk. I was torn between $12 plonk I was slightly worried I’d had before and hated, and $10 plonk I knew would be bad but figured wouldn’t be THAT bad.

So I got the $10 plonk, namely, the French Cross 1L Cab-Merlot. Cause I drink cheap stuff all the time and am often sure I can’t tell the difference between the okay and the bad wines.

Turns out, yes I can.

I mean, it’s not TORTURE bad. I’m drinking it. It’s ok. It’s really only almost ok, though, and really only with food. It has a strange just-plain-alcohol burn that I haven’t tasted in a while and usually associate with a strong cheap vodka cocktail. Not with wine. After that, it’s a bit sour and has kind of “red wine flavour” going on. That’s all.

Drink it with a really greasy takeout pizza, definitely. Supply it at an open-bar wedding reception nobody’s rich parents are paying for, totally. Otherwise, buy the $12 plonk. And know that you can, in fact, tell the okay wines apart from the bad wines.

“Late Autumn Riesling” – three words designed to appeal to me

I was telling a couple of you last night that I saw this in the store and said to myself, “What a wonderful idea!” and then took it home and put it beside… the bottle of it I already had at home. Doh!  Good thing it’s quite lovely.

I gave it a sniff before drinking and if someone had told me it was pear cider, I’d have believed them. Fortunately, it tastes better than just flat pear cider. It’s a 2 sweetness, so it doesn’t have a lot of bite, but now that it’s cold in the house I’m fine with that. There are a ton of beautiful fruit flavours. Compare to what I think of as the quintessential autumn white, which is a vidal, and there’s a lot more going on here than in any comparably-priced Vidal  I’ve had (not that I’ve had them all or anything). I drank this with fish (please feel free to imagine a classy homemade lake trout with some sort of delicate sauce rather than frozen battered haddock). And leftover chocolate cake. Better with the former than the latter.

$10.95 LCBO.

Fall red, label pandering edition

Cattail Creek Catastrophe Series – Red, $13.95 at the LCBO. I usually try to be immune to cute/trendy labelling, but they got me with these cats. Actually, the bottle I bought has quite a different label — a sleeker, black-on-black silhouette, rather than the cuddly black kitties on white shown here and on the winery website. In my defense, I also chose it because it was on the VQA “Wines to Watch” display with a tempting description. 🙂

This is a nice light dive-back-into-reds wine (and I bet it would be a good spring red, too). The site says “A blend of Gamay Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc creating a crowd-pleasing, medium-bodied red wine with flavours of black cherry, raspberries and vanilla with just a touch of mint on the finish.” I don’t get the mint or vanilla, but it’s very tangy without being too sweet or too light (I drank it with a heavy pasta meal). It’s very clean and refreshing for a red, but it’s definitely RED in flavour, which makes the colour in the glass all the more surprising. For the first glug or so I thought maybe I’d accidentally bought a rose! Observe (yes, that’s pie for dessert):

It’s pale!

A bit of the money from the sale of the Catastrophe wines goes to help rescued cats, which I’m a huge fan of, so there’s that too.