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.
MAC AND CHEESE
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.
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.
ETTER CUVÉE ANALIE 2016
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.
ETTER FRONTENAC BLANC 2016
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.
ETTER CUVÉE CAROLINE 2014
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.
ETTER MARQUETTE 2014
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.
ETTER CUVÉE ÉLIANE
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.
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.