Champagne: A Guide Through This Iconic Bubbly

I love sparkling wine and I’m very excited to write about this subject. With the holidays around the corner and with so many different types of sparkling wine, I’ve decided to focus this blog on Champagne, the king of bubbly.

Here is some information about Champagne and its various styles.

PROFILE: Medium to full-bodied sparkling wine.

AREA: Champagne, Reims, France. Located 145 km North-East of Paris.

TERROIR: Cool climate. This helps create the fresh acidity found in the wine of Champagne.
Latitude/Altitude: 49° 18’/ 91 m. Sloping Vineyards. Annual Precipitation: average of 628 mm.
Predominantly limestone subsoil which helps keep the vines watered throughout the year.

Four Main Grape Growing Areas: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, Côte des Bars.

GRAPE VARIETIES USED: Champagne is made from either one or a combination of the following grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.

The white grape varieties Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc and Pinot Gris may also be present in small amounts.

Some may be surprised to find that Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are often present in Champagne despite it usually being a light-coloured wine.  The grapes in Champagne are pressed very lightly (with the exception of Rosé) so that there is not much contact with the grape’s skin which leads to this pale colour.

METHOD:  Champagne is made using the Traditional Method (Méthode Traditionelle) also called Méthode Champenoise. This method produces lots of fine bubbles and is my personal favourite. A mixture of yeast and sugar is added to still wine directly in the bottle which leads to a second fermentation. This causes the release of carbon dioxide bubbles. Other sparkling wines use this method including Franciacorta, Cava, and Crémant. 


Champagne varies in sweetness. The sweetness in Champagne is due to a process called ‘dosage’ where a small amount of a mixture of sugar and wine called ‘liqueur d’expédition‘ is added back into the wine before corking. The amount of sugar will vary depending on the bottle.

  • Brut Nature Less than 3 grams of sugar per litre. No sugar added (no dosage).
  • Extra brut 0-6 grams of sugar per litre. Very dry.
  • Brut Less than 12 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Extra-dry Between 12-17 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Sec Between 17-32 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Demi-Sec Between 32-50 grams of sugar per litre. Moderately sweet.
  • Doux  50 grams or more of sugar per litre. Sweet.


Blanc de Blancs:  Translates to White of Whites. Made from Chardonnay. Lesser amounts of other permitted white grape varieties can also be present.

Blanc de Noirs: Translates to White of Blacks. Made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a combination of both.

Rosé:  Made by adding red wine to white wine, or by fermenting the juice while in contact with the skin of the red grape varieties.

Grand Cru / Premier Cru: Champagne made from the region’s highest-rated vineyards.

Non Millésimé: Champagne that contains wine from multiple years.

Vintage: Made from wine from the same year.

Cuvée: Made from a blend of Champagne grapes.

A couple of interesting facts….

  • As opposed to mechanical harvesting, grapes in Champagne are handpicked so that the skin of the grape does not break prior to pressing.
  • Champagne that is Non Millésimé must spend a minimum of 15 months aging on its lees, which are the dead yeast cells and remaining grape particles left after the second fermentation. For the other types of Champagne, it is a minimum of three years on its lees. This contributes to the fresh buttery croissant and warm bread aromas associated with Champagne.


  • Moët et Chandon, Dom Pérignon
  • Pol Roger, Sir Winston Churchill
  • Bollinger, La Grande Année
  • Louis Roederer, Cristal
  • Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siècle
  • Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart
  • Krug, Grande Cuvée
  • G.H. Mumm, Cordon Rouge
  • Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne

Wine-Food Pairing for the holidays: A nice brut Champagne will pair well with turkey dinner. If you are having a fancy get-together to ring in the new year, caviar and fois gras will pair well. Champagne will also pair nicely with rich seafood such as lobster, scallops, and crab.

If you are having a get-together where you plan to have finger food, try pairing Champagne with fried appetizers, salty chips, or even buttery popcorn. If you make a cheese platter, make sure it includes creamy cheeses such as Brie and Camembert. Champagne is very versatile and food-friendly.


Champagne Drappier Côte d’Or Brut

Since Champagne can be so pricey, this is a relatively affordable bottle. It is a pale straw coloured Champagne with aromas of baked apple, pear, buttery croissant, hazelnut, floral notes, and a touch of spice. It is full-bodied on the palate, dry, and zesty with its yummy citrus flavours. 

Link to this wine at the LCBO

Link to this wine at the SAQ

Educational resources for this blog:

  • Page 72, 73, 74 of L’Atlas Mondial du Vin, 7e édition, written by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.  2014. Published by Broquet.
  • I also want to give a special shout out to my former Vins de France professor at La Cité, Gilles Proulx. The education I gained through him has been so valuable with my every day knowledge of French wine including Champagne and this blog.

Exploring Ontario Wine through Savvy Wine Company

A week and a half ago, I attended Outstanding in Their Fields, the Taste and Buy event hosted by Savvy Wine Company at Ottawa City Hall. It was an opportunity to sample Ontario wine while chatting with winemakers from across the province.

Ottawa City Hall offered a perfect venue for this event. There was live music and an upbeat crowd.  I did not get a chance to stop at every kiosk nor did I sample every bottle but out of the ones I tried, here are a few that stood out.


The wine from Trail Estate offers some of the most distinctive aromas and flavours. I enjoyed the Gewürztraminer and also loved the following: 


This pale orange coloured wine made from Riesling has aromas of dried orange peel, white floral notes, nutmeg, baking spice, and white pepper. On the palate, it is dry with fresh acidity and flavours of orange zest, lemon, nutmeg and cardamom. The flavours linger. It is unique and delicious.

Wine-Food Pairing: Great on its own. This wine would pair well with a charcuterie board that includes prosciutto, or with mango and ginger Wensleydale cheese served with salty pretzel crackers.


I loved chatting with Sue-Ann Staff. She has so many interesting stories. I discovered that her white wine is named after people and her red wine is named after things. She has this amazing icewine, Howard’s Icewine Vidal 2016, that I totally recommend. For this blog, I’m reviewing the following:


Made from Viognier, Chardonnay, and Riesling, this lovely White has citrus aromas with candied almond, slight resin, vanilla bean, and white pepper. On the palate it has wonderful acidity, beautiful harmony, and is absolutely delicious.

Wine-Food Pairing: Pair with almond crusted chicken or caesar salad.


Sue-Ann mentioned that her farm has been in her family for two centuries. Her family told her that one winter when the men were selling apples and pears in England, renegades broke into their farm and stole their goods and left behind a riding crop. Later, the riding crop sprouted roots and grew into a chestnut tree which still stands today.

It turns out that the renegades were Jesse James and his entourage. Jesse James had family in Kitchener and at the time, he was escaping from authorities in the United States. Sue-Ann named her bottle after this amazing family story.

This Cab Franc has concentrated raspberry and black cherry aromas, as well as violet, black pepper, tobacco and spice. The palate follows the nose. It has good body, great acidity with noticeable tannins. This one is a keeper and can be stored for several years. 

Wine-Food Pairing: Pair with a peppered steak, roasted lamb, or spicy sausage penne.


It was such a pleasure talking with Derek Barnett. He’s passionate, has a twinkle in his eye, and his love for making wine shines through. I was very impressed with his Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Here’s my review of the later:


This garnet-hued Pinot Noir is jammy on the nose with aromas of raspberry and black cherry, and notes of cedar, black licorice, and hints of beeswax. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with fresh acidity and noticeable tannins. The palate follows the nose. It also has a kick of black pepper and a long espresso finish. I would keep this Pinot Noir a few years to let it age, it will just get better with time.

Wine-Food Pairing: This would pair well with a beef roast or with venison.


Paul Battilana of Casa-Dea Winery on the right.

It was great chatting with Paul Battilana of Casa-Dea Winery. I love his 2016 Chardonnay Reserve and his Dea’s 2017 Sparkling Rosé. His Cabernet Franc is a great example of the wonderful potential for this grape variety in Prince Edward County.


This Cabernet Franc has juicy aromas of raspberry and blackcurrant, along with cedar, violet, and a touch of bell pepper that dissipates quickly. On the palate, it is medium bodied with sour cherry and tart plum flavours, as well as subtle wood notes and espresso at the finish.

Wine-Food Pairing:  Wonderful on its own. This wine would pair well with barbecued pork chops or with baked eggplant parmesan. 


I only had time to try one bottle at the Di Profio kiosk but I look forward to trying more in the future. I quite enjoyed the one I sampled.


This wine was the most full-bodied Red that I personally sampled during the evening. It is bold yet smooth. On the nose, there is a mix of red and dark berries, predominantly ripe blueberry and raspberry jam, followed by aromas of cedar, vanilla, and milk chocolate. On the palate, the flavours are of dark berries and tart plum with some spicy black pepper and a dark cocoa finish. The acidity is fresh and the tannins are velvety. Delicious!

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair wonderfully with barbecued steak in a Montreal steak spice rub or with dark chocolate.


The first wine I sampled at the event was Tawse’s 2016 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling which was a delicious way to start the evening. Tawse offers many wonderful bottles that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting over the years.

It was nice meeting Micheline and Tim Kuepfer from Broken Stone Winery. They have a beautiful sparkling wine that I will be purchasing called Exuberance Sparkling Riesling. Their Pinot Gris and Cab Franc are also tasty and well made. 

I liked that we had some Ottawa area representation with KIN Vineyards. Their Civil Grit Chardonnay is quite nice. I also liked seeing Karlo Estates who makes a tasty Marquette. You can read my review of their Marquette here.

The event did not only feature wine. There was ciders, spirits, cheese, and chutney. The Rhubarb Raisin Chutney I bought from Top Shelf Preserves was so tasty that my jar is already empty.  Overall, it was a great event hosted by Savvy Wine Company.  I do look forward to the next one.


Marquette 101: Discovering this Cold-Hardy Grape

Never heard of Marquette? You are not the only one. This young grape variety may not be well-known but is steadily gaining popularity.  

First off, Marquette is a hybrid grape. Unfortunately, hybrid grapes can be tricky to get recognition within the wine industry. In Ontario, for example, Marquette is not on the list of permitted grape varieties for VQA Ontario eligible wines.

The good news is that this is currently under review. Through the VQA Ontario Stakeholder Consultation dated September 25, 2018, one of the proposals was to add Marquette on the list of permitted hybrid grape varieties. We will need to stay tuned for developments regarding  this proposal.

The vast majority of wine we currently drink belong to the Vitis Vinifera family. To get a hybrid grape, you typically cross Vitis Vinifera grapes with other Vitis species.

Hybrid varieties can be more resistant to the cold and diseases and offer an alternative to Vitis Vinifera grapes in climates where the weather is too cold for these grapes to thrive such as Eastern Canada.

Marquette was created by Peter Hemstad and James Luby at the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center. It originated from a cross made in 1989 between the University of Minnesota’s hybrid grape variety ‘MN 1094’ and the French hybrid grape variety ‘Ravat 262’, sometimes referred as Ravat Noir.

‘MN 1094’ was derived from a complex mix of Vitis Riparia, Vitis Vinifera, and lesser amounts of several other Vitis species. ‘Ravat 262’ was derived from a complex mix of several Vitis species and Pinot Noir is of its parents.

Marquette produces bluish-black fruit that is resistant to the cold. It also has good resistance to common grape diseases including downy mildew, powdery mildew, and black rot. 

Marquette grapes are high in sugar and have good acidity levels. Wines made from Marquette are typically ruby coloured with both aromas and flavours of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice. In comparison to other cold-hardy red hybrid grapes, wine made from Marquette frequently has more pronounced and perceivable tannins.  

The deadline for industry stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed changes that includes the addition of Marquette will be on December 15, 2018. This does not mean that if the feedback received is positive and that the VQA Board of Directors support the addition of Marquette, it will automatically be added.

I was informed by the VQA that if the Board of Directors recommends the proposed changes to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for approval, then the Ministry may wish to conduct their own industry consultations. Regardless of whether it gets approved or not, this proposal is a step in the right direction for this grape has all the potential to produce high quality wine.


13.5% alcohol./vol

Visually, this wine is a dark ruby colour with a lighter violet rim.  First thing I smell is rose petals, followed by juicy aromas of black cherry and plum, and lots of dark chocolate, with mushroom, black olive, cinnamon, and hints of white pepper.  This wine is light to medium bodied and has this mouth-watering tartness with its crunchy young  plum and sour cherry flavours. It also has notes of sweet spice and dark cocoa. The tannins are smooth and the flavours linger.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine goes well with pasta in a fresh tomato sauce, mushroom risotto, and a charcuterie board that includes olives and nuts.

Another example of Marquette is the following from Etter that I had reviewed for my blog:  Interview with Jan-Daniel Etter of Clos du Vully. It is a different style and blended with a few other varieties. This one has more body and although tart, it does not have the mouth-watering acidity found in the Marquette from Karlo Estates.

13.5% alcohol./vol

Made from 75% estate grown Marquette, and a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Shiraz, this ruby coloured Red has aromas of  black plum, violet, and sour cherry, as well as hints of wet cedar, red licorice, smoke, and roasted cocoa beans.

On the palate, it has tart black plum and sour cherry flavours with a smoky finish. It is medium bodied with wonderful acidity and is truly a lovely wine.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with barbecued steak, grilled pork, or roasted duck. Continue reading “Marquette 101: Discovering this Cold-Hardy Grape”

What Wine to Drink With Comfort Food!

As the weather drops, nothing sooths the soul like comfort food and a yummy glass of wine.  Here are my recommendations on wine to pair with some of my favourite comfort meals.


Give me ooey gooey macaroni and cheese on a crisp day.  Mine includes old Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Swiss. I always add an extra layer of cheese on top prior to baking to have a nice cheesy crust and to add texture.  Something about mac and cheese brings happy childhood memories and is one of my ultimate favourites on a cold and damp day.

Suggested Wine Pairing:


This White has enough body to match the richness of the meal while the acidity of the wine cuts through the fat nicely.  If your mac and cheese includes lots of smoky cheese, then an oaked Chardonnay could work too.   I paired my macaroni and cheese with:

The Grange of Prince Edward County Unoaked Chardonnay 2013:

This wine has dried apricot, pineapple, and bruised apple on the nose, as well as almond and mushroom. On the palate, there is pineapple flavours with lemon and bitter walnut. It is creamy, has good acidity, and the flavours linger.


This popular Indian meal is one of the dishes I crave most during colder weather. It is so savoury and satisfying.

Suggested Wine Pairing: 


The wine is flavourful enough to hold up to the decadent flavours of the meal. The touch of sweetness balances the kick of spice and the acidity works well with cutting through the richness of the dish. I paired my butter chicken with: 

Château des Charmes Old Vine Riesling 2015:

On the nose, this wine has loads of mineral notes and limestone as well as gentle aromas of pineapple, peach, green apple, lime, and a touch of sweet spice. The minerality comes through on the palate, along with pineapple and lemon flavours. It is very tart with just a tiny hint of sweetness.


My vegetarian chili is tomato based and includes chili powder and just enough cayenne pepper to give a touch of spice.  It is savoury without being too heavy or spicy.

Suggested Wine Pairing:


With this type of meal, a medium bodied Chianti Classico pairs wonderfully. The body of the wine matches the meal. Both the wine and chili are light enough so that they do not overpower the other. Also, tomatoes love Chianti as they pair so nicely together. The acidity in the wine brings the right amount of spice out of the chili. If the meal had been very spicy, however, a wine with some residual sugar would have paired better. For this dish, the wine I chose is:

Coli Chianti Classico 2016:

This Chianti is very affordable and is quite tasty. It has aromas of plum and blueberry, as well as cinnamon, chocolate, and smoke. On the palate, it is medium bodied with velvety tannins and invigorating acidity. The flavours are of tart plum, sweet spice and a touch of smoke.


Interview with Jan-Daniel Etter of Clos du Vully

By Melanie Lloyd

Jan-Daniel Etter at Clos du Vully

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jan-Daniel Etter of Vignoble Clos du Vully located in Navan.

Jan-Daniel is passionate about winemaking, full of life, and articulate. As I was interviewing him, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful guest he would make on any television or radio show. Listening to him talk about his wine to the other patrons was like listening to an artist speak about their artwork.

Here is my Q&A with Jan Daniel, followed by my impressions of some of the bottles sampled.

Question: How did you discover you wanted to be a Winemaker?

Jan-Daniel: My background is in farming. I grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario. After my studies, I worked a couple of years on my family’s farm and discovered I wasn’t passionate enough about dairy farming to make a career out of it. I knew, however, that I wanted to stay in the farming business one way or the other.

It happens that we have grape growers on my mother’s side of the family in Switzerland. I was invited by my cousin to harvest for the first time in 2005. I gladly accepted his offer and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There was great family spirit and everyone was helping out.

In 2007, my cousin invited me to be an assistant winemaker. He’s a oenologist who studied at Changins, a reputable oenology school in Switzerland. Under his tutorage, I started learning the winemaking side of things. I continued returning to Switzerland every fall until 2011.

Back at home, in the spring of 2008, I planted my first 240 plants of Frontenac Rouge. We decided that if the plants survived the winter, we would go full-scale into plantation of vine plants. Every single vine survived that first winter.

In 2009, we planted 1200 plants of Frontenac Rouge, Marquette, and Frontenac Gris. Then, in 2012, four years after planting my first grapes, I had my first harvest big enough to start the vinification process.

Question: What are some key differences between growing grapes and making wine in Navan when compared to Vully?

Jan-Daniel: In Vully, they grow exclusively Vitis Vineferra grapes, the traditional European grape variety. In our case, we decided that we are better suited to use hybrid grapes which are a cross between Vitis Vineferra grapes from Europe and native, indigenous grape species from North America.

These grapes are much more resistant to the cold and will survive anywhere from -30 to -40 degrees Celsius. They are more resistant to diseases, mainly Powdery Mildew, Botrytis, and Downy Mildew. Hybrid grapes are a lot less work which means less investment in equipment and manpower, and a better chance of having a regular crop every year.

At the same time, being in Ontario, we have access to premium quality grapes from Niagara which are considered local as long as it’s within the province of Ontario.

In our opinion, we have the best of both worlds. First, we have the unique flavours coming from the hybrid grapes and the reliability of harvest year after year. Then, we have the power and quality of product coming from the Niagara grapes.

Question: What are some of the unique challenges you face with the cold climate? How do you overcome these challenges?

Jan-Daniel: Our biggest challenge here is the frost, mainly the late spring frost, and the fall frost to a lesser extent. To prevent this, we chose to plant our grapes in elevated sites. Usually, the cold will drop to the low lands and to lower linear areas. Being higher up protects us.

We also use high cordon pruning. Typically, the majority of winemakers grow grapes in vertical shoot positioning where they have grapes growing three feet over the ground and then shoots growing upwards.

In our case, we have the main trunk at about 5 to 5 1/2 feet tall, and then the branches go downwards so that fruit is at the top and the vegetation goes down. The reason we do this is to be higher up in elevation. The higher we are, the farther we are from the frost.

Another reason we use this method is because the sap takes longer to reach the end of the trunk so budding will be delayed by a couple of days. Sometimes those few days make the difference between loosing your buds and being able to survive a cold episode.

Question: What wine makes you most proud?

Jan-Daniel: I am most proud of our Fortified White called Cuvée Éliane, named after my mother. It’s the only wine we make that is produced from 100% homegrown estate grapes. Produced from 70% Frontenac Blanc and 30% Frontenac Gris, it is made in a style of a White Port and is candy in a bottle. It’s aged 6 month in oak barrels, followed by 6 months in stainless steel tanks. On the nose, we have honey and beeswax, and on the palate, we have honey, pineapple, and a long pear finish. This wine  pairs very well with strong blue cheese.

Question: What is your bestseller?

Jan-Daniel: Cuvée Caroline is our best seller because it’s so versatile and fruit forward. Made from two-thirds Petite Pearl and one-third Cabernet Franc, it has a beautiful smoky nose. The nose comes in part from the recoopered barrels, and in part from the grapes.


Here are my personal notes on a few of the Clos du Vully bottles sampled. Pictured above is the full range of wines available at Clos du Vully, minus the Viognier, which is currently sold out.


Named after Jan-Daniel’s niece, this bright, pale yellow wine is made from 32% Chardonnay, 30% Vidal, 30% Frontenac Blanc, and 8% Riesling. On the nose, there are aromas of red apple and oak, as well as herbal notes, honey, petrol, and hints of almond.

On the palate, we find tart lemon, apple, and pineapple flavours, and a slightly nutty finish. It is medium bodied with beautiful acidity.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with baked white fish in a cream sauce.


Made from 90% estate grown Frontenac Blanc and Frontenac Gris, as well as 10% Riesling, this wine is visually stunning with its bright pale yellow colour.  

On the nose, we have pear, honey, lemon zest, and clementine, with a hint of almond. On the palate, we have lemon, pineapple, and honey flavours with just a touch of clementine. There is beautiful harmony between the concentrated flavours and the wonderfully tart acidity.

Wine-Food Pairing: I paired this wine with bacon-wrapped scallops. This wine works well with buttery seafood but is also great on its own.


This best-seller looks beautiful with its ruby reflections.

On the nose, we have a mix of dark and red berries, predominantly blackcurrant, blueberry, and raspberry, followed by violet, and hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and smoke.

On the palate, it is medium bodied with dark berry flavours and a slightly bitter espresso finish.

Wine-Food Pairing: I paired this wine with barbecued pork chops in a raspberry sauce that included fresh raspberries, aged balsamic vinegar, a touch of Cuvée Caroline, and a few dashes of cinnamon.

The food was a  perfect match. The sauce highlighted the beautiful aromas and flavours of this wine.  Both the wine and the food were delicate enough to bring out the best from each other without one overtaking the other.


Made from 75% estate grown Marquette, and a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Shiraz, this Red has aromas of  black plum, violet, and sour cherry, as well as hints of wet cedar, red licorice, smoke, and roasted cocoa beans.

On the palate, there is tart black plum and sour cherry flavours with a smoky finish. It is medium bodied with wonderful acidity and is truly a lovely wine. This is one of my personal favourites from Etter.

Wine-Food Pairing: I paired this wine with barbecued steak. The smoky profile of both the wine and the steak complemented each other.


I’m on the same page as Jan-Daniel regarding this wine’s tasting notes. I couldn’t help but sampling it myself after hearing such positive feedback. Visually, it is bright and syrupy, with a rich golden yellow colour.

On the nose, there are baked apple and pear aromas, followed by pineapple, honey, and hints of petrol.

On the palate, the apple, pear, pineapple, and honey flavours follow the nose. There is also lemon, clementine, and hazelnut at the finish. The tartness balances the sweetness of this wine perfectly. This is a nice wine to enjoy after dinner.

Wine-Food Pairing: I tried this wine with Jan-Daniel’s recommendation of blue cheese and it was absolutely delicious! The bold flavours of the wine hold up nicely to the powerful flavours of the cheese.







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. 

Continue reading “Red Wine from Ottawa-Gatineau: Embracing the Uniqueness”

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.

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