Quarantine: 14 Days of Isolation – Day 13

I don’t know about you, but the days are really starting to run together…when I woke up this morning, I had to think about what day it was. Ah yes, it’s Saturday. The day when many are off work and enjoying the next two days off. However, if you’ve been home in isolation these past two weeks, it won’t really feel like a weekend anyway. It’s not even like vacation…because you’re stuck inside!

I would be remiss if I did not include South Africa in my list of quarantine wines. They too are going through this (although we certainly don’t hear much about it here). So to pay homage to my friends and fellow wine peeps in South Africa, I must include wines from the Farm I was privileged to be a part of for a month in February of 2018. I fell in love with South Africa after being there, tasted amazing wines, met some fabulous people (who are amazingly generous) and the food! Oh my the food! I was seriously spoiled in SA with the food. (Yes, and everything else)

Journey’s End is a smaller property owned by the Gabb family of the UK and local South African’s run the various aspects of the winery. I spent most of my time in the winery working with Mike & Leon learning about crushing, fermentation, destemming, barrel ageing, and much of my learning came in the form of measuring how the fermentation was progressing on a daily basis. Really cool stuff…IF you’re a wine geek and want to learn about this stuff!

Tonight I’m opening their top end. The Destination Chardonnay 2016 is produced from 17 barrels and only in the best vintages.  It’s named such because “we hope that once opened, this wine will entice people from far and wide to finish their quest for the ultimate Chardonnay at Journey’s End”. (journeysend.co.za). I actually enjoyed a bottle of the Chardonnay at the beginning of March, along with some friends to go with some spaghetti agli e olio and pork souvlaki. It was awesome then, but it just kept getting better and better as the night went one, and day three was a pretty stunning glass of wine. Notes of lemon cream, spiced vanilla, baked apples, candied lemon, hints of a savoury mushroom and ripe peaches. Just spectacular!

The Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, is named for the south-easter wine that blows in from False Bay, keeping the berries healthy and also cleansing the air from smog and impurities. Again, only produced in exceptional years and in 2012, it was made from only 12 barrels. Always big alcohol in South African wines (due to the heat) but these are so well balanced! The wine is really intense with aromas and flavours of fruit cake, cassis, blackberry, smoke, cinnamon and nutmeg. The tannins are firm but smooth. No doubt this wine could be put away for another 8-10 years easily!

If you have any South African wine stashed away, tonight is the night to open it! To my friends in South Africa – Gesondheid!


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Quarantine: 14 Days of Isolation Wines – Day 12

Well, another Friday is upon us and some of us are on the home stretch of being done Isolation. However, even after two weeks, we wonder if everything is ok to resume. That said, this might be our “new normal” for awhile. To be honest, I can’t say that I like it.

So with these last couple of days to complete two weeks, I want to open some old favourites and some really, really, ridiculously good (looking) wine.

Super Tuscan wine took the world by storm in the early 70’s with wines that were produced outside of DOC and DOCG zones, made with other grapes than what was allowed.  These wines are typically made with a variety of Bordeaux grapes, as well as Syrah and Sangiovese and now have the IGT designation (they previously could only use the lowly Vino di Tavola). Today, they are very much considered cult wines, and have the price tag to go with it. One such wine is Sassacaia, which is typically constructed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Every year, this wine scores top marks from the critics and it’s a wine that many want in their cellars. The 2016 Sassicaia scored 100 points and just the other day, I sold the last three bottles I had on the shelf at the store! I get a bit giddy when wines like that go out the door!

However, this evening’s wine will be from the I Colazzi winery…a family business since 1933, the Marchi family doesn’t just make wine, but olive oil and honey! One of their wines is the absolutely amazing Ferro – made from 100% Petit Verdot. But that’s not what I’m having…I absolutely love the Libertà, essentially, a baby Super Tuscan. Made from  55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 15% Syrah, all of these grapes are making an appearance for a perfectly blended wine! Soft on the palate with those plummy notes from our steady Merlot, forest floor, earthiness and hints of capsicum courtesy of the Cab Franc, and just a hint of meatiness and pepper, thanks to Syrah. This wine is an absolute steal at only $21 CAD on the shelf. Great balance and structure here without it being too tannic. It’s pure and easy to drink. I know I can’t afford Super Tuscans every day, but I can sure afford this! Bring on the babies! Salute!


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Brachetto: The Sweetie of Piemonte – #ItalianFWT

I love Brachetto. Full stop. I love selling Brachetto. I love people’s reactions when they say they want something different than Moscato, and then their minds are blown with something Moscato-like, but it’s a RED wine!

Brachetto is one of the few aromatic red grapes of Italy. Yes, there’s aromatic white grapes – lots of them, but aromatic red grapes are something of an anomaly. In Piemonte alone, there are seven aromatic reds: Brachetto, Ruche, Malvasia di Casorzo, Malvasia di Schierano, Malvasia Nera Lunga, Moscato Nero d’Acqui and Brachettone del Roero. I have tasted five of these and Brachetto is high on the list in both quality and flavour. Brachetto is an aromatic grape due to its high levels of geraniol and nerol (those flower notes that we always smell in the wine!)

In the beginning, Brachetto was always made as a still, dry wine. The popularity of the grape was boosted by a decision to make this a sparkling frizzante version back in the late nineteenth century by Arturo Bersano. Clearly, it was a good decision as the sweeter profile, and an alcohol level of 5.5%, similar to that of moscato wines, makes it highly competitive in the market. So much so that it the style we see most of in today’s market.  The best are labelled Brachetto d’Acqui but are often made around the town of Asti, (Brachetto d’Asti) and these can be good too.

I recently wrote about Brachetto in January’s #ItalianFWT, to introduce folks to Italian wine. I’ll feature the same brachetto wine in this post, because I feel that it truly exemplifies the Brachetto grape and the typicity of it.

La Gironda is proud of their area of Monferatto/Nizza, where some of the best wines of the world are made! They are a completely sustainable vineyard with no herbicides/pesticides, hand harvesting, and reduced consumption of environmental resources! I would be pleased to drink any of their wines and their Brachetto d’Acqui is definitely a real treat! A small family run winery fueled with passion, commitment and dedication run by Susanna and Alberto and their family. Although I have been to Monferrato, (and welcomed warmly, I might add), I will one day visit their winery to learn more about this fascinating grape, and taste through their portfolio of wines! Susanna, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re staying safe during this time! I salute you!

I decided to keep it simple: Chocolate covered strawberries and Brachetto! I skipped right to dessert because after all..Life is short! The wine is a beautiful light ruby colour with delicate bubbles. The aroma is intoxicating with ripe raspberries, tons of floral rose notes, with hints of cinnamon, strawberry, red currant and rhubarb. Great acidity on the palate that perfectly balances the sweetness in this wine. There’s also a savoury hint on the back end which would make this super fun to pair with some savoury food…I’ll have to talk to friend Bev about this and have her come up with something! Then with the chocolate covered strawberries? Totally brings out all the aforementioned flavours of the wine! 

Who needs a meal when you can skip right to dessert? Enjoy the posts on Brachetto written by my fellow #ItalianFWT collegues! Salute!

Susannah at Avvinare explores “Brachetto d’Acqui – A Treat from Piedmont”

Nicole at Somms Table is pairing “Marenco Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui and Simple Strawberry Treat”

Lynn at Savor the Harvest is ready to “Brighten Up Lockdown with Brachetto d’Acqui Sparkling Wine #ItalianFWT”

Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy is enjoying “Brachetto: The Sweet Red Bubbly of Piemdont”

Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Stracotto di Manzo al Vino Rosso + Brachetto d’Acqui”

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator is pairing “Brachetto d’Acqui and Grandma’s Biscotti with Cherries Poached in Red Wine and Marscapone #ItalianFWT”

Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm is “Whiling Away the Time with Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui Pineto”

Jeff Burrows at Food Wine Click finds “Piemonte Brachetto: Sweet, Fizzy and Red!”

Terri at Terri Steffes is spending “An Afternoon of Wine Learning: Brachetto d’Acqui” 

Linda at My Full Wine Glass is “Bingeing on Brachetto, Biscotti, Berries and a Chocolate Bunny”

Cindy at Grape Experiences, gives us “Bring Joy to the Table with Brachetto d’Acqui and Budino al Cioccolato (Chocolate Pudding Italian Style)”


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Quarantine: 14 Days of Isolation Wines – Day 11

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live during a different time period? Or if you were born in a different time period? This whole business of COVID-19 and what it’s doing to jobs, the economy, people’s social lives, etc, has been sometimes compared to that of war times (Specifically the last great World war) and the hardships therein. OK, let’s be honest. What we’re experiencing now is nowhere NEAR what folks went through in WWII. First of all, there was no computer technology back then. Telephones and telegraphs yes, but no www, Prime Video, Crave, or Netflix. Being cooped up in our houses with all the most advanced technology is completely different than being in a bomb shelter with only a candle for a light and a few books for company. We also didn’t have to deal with food stamps or rations. We still have the freedom and ability to go to the grocery store (at least once per week), and yes…still drink good wine.

Drinking good wine back then would also have been a luxury. Today, we can still go to the wine shop and buy a few nice bottles, or better yet, go online and have it delivered! Another fabulous modern convenience!

We talk to our friends in Europe, or go searching out articles to see what’s happening over there, but I know that Italy and Spain, for sure, are having a tough go of it. France certainly cannot be far behind, and we don’t hear much from Germany. It’s not easy and I have no doubts that they will come climbing back up to be better than ever. I salute them!

Tonight I will say Santé to my French friends and share with you a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, from the Maçonnais, the region to the south of Burgundy making fabulous Chardonnay. For all you points driven people out there, this one scored a whopping 97 with Decanter. The 2017 Chateau-Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Tête De Cuvée checks all the boxes when it comes to making chardonnay (in my humble opinion). Well-integrated oak, highly concentrated and rich with bruised apples, honeyed pears, pralines and hints of spice all wrapped up in a beautiful full mouth feel with crisp acidity. Just stunning. You’ll love the price tag too: about $37 CAD for this beauty that will match your creamy chicken dishes (think chicken Alfredo) to a ‘T’

Bravo a mes amis français de preset de loin! Santé!

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Quarantine: 14 Days of Isolation Wines- Day 10

OK, I’ve been at this for 10 days now…I have tons of toilet paper, because I stocked up during the craze, but maybe some of the food is running a bit low and good heavens, I’ve ran out of wine! I also have lots of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer but I certainly can’t consume those…although my house is pretty freaking clean! (As of this moment, there is not a Lysol wipe to be found ANYWHERE, and folks are making their own hand sanitizer at this point – the Everclear is flying off the shelves…) Is this YOUR lament?

With the clock ticking down to freedom, you may find yourself opening better and better bottles of wine. And why not? Life is short after all, and if this is a bottle you’ve been sitting on for awhile, you may not find a better time to open it. Who needs OTBN when you have COVID-19?? (Sorry, bad joke…OTBN stands for Open That Bottle Night – it is meant to open a great bottle of wine that you might have been saving for something special, only to have it go bad before you had good reason to open it. The premise is to NOT have a good reason, rather to just OPEN it and experience it.)

I’ve talked about Verdicchio a lot…one of Italy’s few ageable white grapes – a short list of grapes when it comes to ageability. I might just go out on a limb here and say that it’s probably my favourite Italian white grape! Be it from Jesi or Matelica, sparkling, passito or still, I like them all, and when they are aged, I like them even more!

I was introduced to Pievalta on one of my trips to Le Marche, and on  the last trip, we had a session  specifically of aged Verdicchio to compare, and my, oh my…talk about a mind-blowing experience. I’ve tasted back to (I think 1998) and the experience never gets “old”. I was able to taste one of their single vineyard- the San Paolo 2004 Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi during this session, and convinced the importer (who was already bringing their wines to Canada) to bring in this extra special Verdicchio. I think it’s done extremely well for her and I’ve been able to introduce many people to Verdicchio, its beauty and ageability. I opened a bottle of the San Paolo around Christmas time when we had friends over for dinner (and blew them away, too) and decided it was time to buy another bottle. So I did, and on Day 10, it’s being opened! (For all you Vegans out there…this is certified biodynamic and vegan friendly)

Verdicchio is always fermented on the lees (the dead yeast cells) to give it texture, complexity and mouthfeel. Add age to this and it’s multiplied exponentially. Butterscotch, toasted nuts, sponge toffee, baked apples and pears is everything you will expect to find in this bottle of 2004, which in my mind, is nothing short of perfect…slight tannic structure, but all kinds of acidity to keep it fresh, and not flabby. In short, this wine is simply outstanding. Expect to pay about $55 CAD for this bottle, but well worth the price tag! If you can afford it, buy two, because for sure this bottle has a few more years of life left on it!

Just sit and drink this wine solo. Contemplate going back to work after quarantine and just enjoy it. Ruminate on life. Salute!

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