Red Wine from Ottawa-Gatineau: Embracing the Uniqueness

By Melanie Lloyd 

Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to sample wine from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through a couple of tastings and a wine expo.

This  blog will focus on red wine and is simply a starting point to the many wines from the area. A special shout out goes to Donna Henhoeffer who hosted the tasting that included the bottles reviewed here. There are more wineries from the area that I look forward to writing about in the future.

Cold climate wine tends to be tarter than cool climate wine and is quite distinct on the nose and on the palate. This uniqueness is due in part to the climate and terroir found in colder regions.

It is also due to the use, in many cases, of hybrid grape varieties that are more resistant to the cold. All of the following wine contains hybrid grapes with the exception of the Pinot Noir.

Although cold climate wine is distinct, there are similarities when it comes to the aromas we typically associate with both warm and cool climate wine. Here are my observations to share:


A bright pale ruby coloured Pinot Noir that is earthy with aromas of sweet tobacco, musk, and tart red berries.

On the palate, it has sour field cherry flavours. It has invigorating acidity levels and silky tannins. The flavours linger on the palate.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with salmon or with a cheese platter that includes Wensleydale Cranberry Cheese served with cranberry hazelnut crackers.


This Red is a blend made from Frontenac Noir, Sainte-Croix, and Sabrevois, all hybrid grape varieties. On the nose, there are aromas of jalapeño and red bell pepper, earthy beets, and hints of mint.

On the palate, there are flavours of sour cherries, red field berries, and a kick of black pepper. It has subtle metallic undertones, silky tannins, and tart acidity. Overall, an enjoyable wine!

Wine-Food Pairing: A barbecued steak would pair well with this wine.


This tart bio wine is made from Frontenac Noir, a hybrid grape that can stand the cooler climate of Western Quebec.

On the nose, there are aromas of bell pepper, strawberry, cherry, wet cedar, and hints of vanilla, sweet spice, and cocoa.

On the palate, there are flavours of sour ground cherries and a touch of bell pepper. It is light bodied with silky tannins, invigorating acidity, and a slight bitter finish. The flavours linger. I love the tartness of this wine!

Wine-Food Pairing: Pair with a charcuterie plate that includes salty dried sausage.


This wine is made with Marquette, a hybrid grape, and with Cabernet Sauvignon. Visually, it is purple with a light blue rim.

On the nose, there are aromas of Christmas cake, dried prunes, blackstrap molasses, and hints of black licorice.

On the palate, it is very tart with flavours of dark berries, butterscotch, vanilla, and subtle notes of black licorice. The tannins are structured but well balanced by the acidity of the wine.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with braised beef.


Made from Sabrevois hybrid grapes, this garnet coloured Red is meaty and fairly complex on the nose with aromas of ripe raspberry, leather, black licorice, sweet spice, truffle, and hints of vanilla and smoke.

On the palate, the tannins are well integrated with the fresh acidity and it has flavours of blackcurrant and sour cherries.

Wine-Food Pairing: A barbecued steak would pair well with this wine.


This fortified Red has dried prune and date aromas as well as sweet tobacco, butterscotch, and licorice.

It is sweet on the palate with flavours of dried dates, black licorice, molasses, black pepper, and a touch of butterscotch and oak. Overall, a nice product!

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair wonderfully with dark chocolate.

I look forward to writing more on the subject in the future. I will include other wineries from the area, as I am impressed by some that are not listed here. 

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Maple Syrup and Drinks? Yessss!

By Melanie Lloyd

The joys of going to the Sugar Bush and visiting the various Sugar Shacks or Cabanes à Sucre as we French Canadians call them. Make a fun day out of it to celebrate the end of winter and beginning of spring.

Maple syrup is rich in our Canadian heritage, brought to us by the Indigenous people who taught us how to harvest the sweet sap and turn it into surgery goodness.

Here are a few suggestions on how to pair maple syrup with wine and beverages.



I paired the pancakes with a flute of pear nectar bubbly, kind of like a Mimosa but with pear nectar instead of orange juice.

Either a Sec or Demi-Sec Champagne would work as they both have a bit of residual sugar, Demi-Sec being slightly sweeter.  A sparkling White with a bit of residual sugar would also work. Sugar is needed to match the sweetness of the maple syrup.



My pork ribs were marinated in both a smoky BBQ sauce and maple syrup. I paired the meal with Leese-Fitch Zinfandel 2014 from California. This wine is fragrant with aromas of blueberry, blackcurrant, ripe strawberry, violet, sweet spice, vanilla, and hints of menthol.

On the palate, there are flavours of juicy blueberry, blackcurrant, ripe strawberry, cloves, smoke, and black pepper.

It is smooth with medium tannins and gentle acidity that is well integrated with the flavours and body of the wine. It has a slightly bitter finish.

The flavours of the wine brings forward the sweetness and the smoke found in the barbecue sauce. It works quite well!

Another good match with these ribs is Noble Vines Collection 446 Chardonnay 2015 from San Bernabe, Monterey, California. It has aromas of candied pineapple, apple, oak, caramel, vanilla, and hints of almond.

On the palate, it is rich and full bodied with flavours of red apple, tropical fruit, clementine, vanilla, oak, and a bitter nutty finish.

This wine brings forward the sweetness of the ribs. The apple and woody flavours in the wine enhances the maple and BBQ flavours of the meat.


My maple glazed salmon was marinated in maple syrup, brown sugar, and a small amount of soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic. I paired this meal with Huff Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 from Prince Edward County, Ontario.

This wine is perfect as it does not overpower the meal, nor does the salmon take away from the flavours of the wine.

This Pinot Noir has floral and earthy notes on the nose. There are also aromas of blackcurrant jelly, ripe blueberry, and vanilla.

On the palate, it is medium bodied and has flavours of tart plums, blackberries, blackcurrant, floral undertones, and coffee at the finish. It has invigorating acidity, silky tannins, and a long finish.

I served the salmon with a kale salad that included tart dried cherries. The similarity in the tartness found in both the cherries and the wine complement each other.



I chose butter pecan ice cream which went amazingly well with the maple syrup. Vanilla ice cream would work too. I paired the ice cream with a cup of espresso spiked with Sortilège Canadian Whisky and Maple Syrup.

For those who have yet to try Sortilège, it is dangerously delicious at 30% alcohol. It has maple syrup, butterscotch, and nutty aromas.

On the palate, it is marvellously sweet with flavours of maple syrup, butterscotch, wood notes, and vanilla.

The spiked espresso pairs perfectly with the ice cream dessert. Sortilège, on its own, would also pair well with the ice cream.

February Vintages Release! What’s Hot!!!

By Melanie Lloyd

Last month, I sampled a selection of wines from both of the LCBO’s February Vintages releases. Here are my top five!

Number 1:
Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

LCBO price: $69.95

This wine is simply wow!!! A keeper for your wine cellar. It is beautifully complex and absolutely marvelous.

On the nose, it has loads of ripe blueberries and dark berry aromas, as well as jalapeño, violet, underwood, potpourri, and hints of vanilla and chocolate.

On the palate, it is full bodied and has structured tannins which are balanced by the acidity and body of this wine. In terms of flavours, there are juicy blueberries, blackcurrant, hints of wood, as well as subtle notes of black olives and cocoa at the finish.

Although yummy now, this wine will taste even better over time so keep it in your cellar to enjoy over the next couple of decades.

Number 2:
Lornano Chianti Classico 2013

LCBO price: $17.95

This is a fabulous wine at such a great price. Buy more than one bottle if you can get your hands on it. It seems to be flying off the shelves!

Aromas of blueberry preserves, cedar, cinnamon and floral notes with hints of vanilla bean.

On the palate, there are blackberry and blackcurrant flavours, as well as black pepper, subtle coffee notes, and a slightly bitter finish.

It is medium bodied and has a wonderful harmony between the fairly structured tannins, the fresh but not overly tart acidity, and the juicy flavours. This wine is smooth and easy to drink.

Number 3:
Leese-Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

LCBO price: $20.95

Lovely and complex with earthy beet aromas, as well as blueberry, mint, violet, potpourri, cedar, autumn leaves, bell pepper, and hints of vanilla.

The earthy quality follows through on the palate. In terms of flavours, there are tart yet ripe blackberries and cocoa at the finish.

The tannins are medium and well integrated with the fresh acidity. It is a great product that won’t break the bank.

Number 4:
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2015

LCBO price: $18.95

An excellent example of a lovely Canadian Riesling. On the nose, there are lots of mineral notes, as well as dried apricots, orange marmalade, honey, and hints of almond.

On the palate, there are tart flavours of lemon, clementine, as well as stone fruit. It is marvellously fresh and crisp.

Number 5:
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère 2014

LCBO price: $19.95

You can taste the Chilean warmth in this wine. Aromas of sun-soaked blueberries, sweet tobacco, cedar, dried eucalyptus leaves, dried petals, and hints of cinnamon.

On the palate, it has velvety tannins, dark berry flavours, subtle floral notes, sweet spice, and a touch of cedar. Overall, a lovely wine!

Wines To Warm Up Your Winterlude Party

By Melanie Lloyd

Ottawa is a wonderful city for experiencing winter in all of its splendor. With Winterlude here, the time has come to gather friends for a skate on the Canal and a viewing of the ice sculptures. Whether you live in Ottawa or any other city that offers outside winter activities, this blog will offer easy wine and food suggestions for your winter after-party.

So go on, breath in the crisp fresh air and get a hefty amount of exercise. Then, gather your friends in your cozy home and light up the fireplace! Time to warm up the soul with some nice toasty wines and nibbles.

Food wise, keep it simple; Charcuterie boards, cheese boards, and plates to share are quick and perfect for snacking.

Here are a few cost-friendly recommendations that are sure to thaw out the chilliest of guests while not breaking the bank. For folks who are in Ontario, these wines are available through the LCBO.

Dry or Off-Dry Riesling:  Sunshine in a Glass to Bring Back Warmth

I Iove dry and off-dry Rieslings. Ontario has some wonderful options in terms of these wines and one of my favourites comes from Norman Hardie.

The Norman Hardie Riesling 2016 is a zesty off-dry White with plenty of minerality on the nose. It also has orchard fruit such as peach and apple, hints of tropical fruit, and some citrus notes.

On the palate, it is beautifully vibrant and the small amount of residual sugar is nicely balanced with the tart flavours of the wine. The fruit aromas follow through on the palate and it has a nice lemon finish. It is a beautiful product.

I paired this wine with a platter of various dry sausages, Gouda, Camembert, and roasted garlic crostini. My favourite pairing was with a mildly spicy dry sausage.

Oaky Chardonnay: A Toasty Wine for Sipping by the Fireplace

An oaky, full-bodied Chardonnay will bring some heat on any cold day. It is rich, has a good amount of alcohol, and lots of toasty aromas and flavours.

The wine I sampled for this blog is the Ghost Pines Chardonnay Winemakers Blend 2014 from California. This toasty wine has aromas of baked apple, oak, pineapple, caramel, herbs, a touch of truffle, sweet spice, and hints of white pepper.

On the palate, it is rich, creamy, buttery, and has apple, pear, and nutty flavours which linger at the finish.

I paired this Chardonnay with a fruit and cheese platter that included smoked Gouda, Brie, dried apricots, and hazelnuts, perfect for a night in front of the fireplace. I also served a platter of bacon wrapped scallops which went well with this wine.

The most phenomenal pairing was with the smoked gouda. This wine and cheese combo brought out the best from each other, mostly because of the smoky flavours and creamy texture found in both.

Californian Cabernet Sauvignon:  California Dreaming On Such a Winterlude Day

For this blog, I sampled the SIMI Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County 2014. On the nose, this full-bodied Red has aromas of blackcurrant jam, ripe blackberry, raspberry, as well as hints of vanilla, cedar and sweet spice.

On the palate, we get tart blackberries and bitter espresso notes at the finish. The tannins are smooth and nicely balanced by the acidity which brings an enjoyable harmony to the wine.

I paired this with a platter of blue cheese, cranberry and hazelnut crackers, walnuts, and a cassis spread. The food flavours were a  perfect match for this wine.

A Tawny Port: A Strong Wine that Feels Like a Cozy Blanket

Feel free to splurge on a 20 year old Port or older, they tend to be best, but for those on a tighter budget, a 10 year old Port can still provide similar aromas and flavours.

For this blog, I chose the 10 year old Tawny Port from Taylor Fladgate. It has aromas of dates, fruit cake, honey, vanilla, and walnut.

In terms of flavours, there’s dried fruit, mostly dates and sun dried raisins, as well as nut, oak, and vanilla. The tannins are velvety and the flavours linger on the palate.

This was paired with a platter of dried fruit including dates, dried apricot, dried cherries, hazelnut, and dark Venezuelan chocolate. The pairing was beautiful, especially with the dark chocolate. This is a fun and easy desert to end the night.

LCBO links to the wines sampled:
Ghost Pines Chardonnay Winemaker’s Blend

Norman Hardie Riesling 2016

SIMI Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port