Girl on a Budget: Wine Magnums Under $20

The Victoria day long weekend marks the beginning of summer in Canada. And summer in Canada means weekend cottage trips, camping adventures and lots of barbeque parties. All of these events go best with great wine and friends. But if you’re a girl on a budget, the wine can add up! I find that when I’m packing wine for a weekend trip or stocking up for a summer party, wine magnums are the best value. Wine magnums are 1.5L bottles, which is equal to two regular wine bottles. If you can find a magnum for under $20, then you will have plenty budget left to pick up that cute swim suit for the cottage! But are wine magnums under $20 any good? They are not going to be the BEST wine that you’ve ever had, but I’ve listed below my top picks.

  1. Aveleda Vinho Verde  $19.60 – This wine is listed at #1 because it is definitely my #1 pick for wine magnums under $20! A light Portuguese white with zesty spritziness, it’s perfect for sipping by the pool. Plus, with a lower alcohol level, 9.5%, you can sip all day without the worry of a hangover!
  2. Barefoot Pinot Grigio $19.95 – The Barefoot Pinot Grigio is another light a crisp white, but with more an off-dry style (dry but with a slight sweetness). On a hot day on the dock, I enjoy this wine over a large tumbler of ice.
  3. Bodacious Smooth Red $18.75 – A mix of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Bodacious red is full bodied and smooth. It is definitely a crowd pleasing wine, so a great choice when hosting a backyard barbeque. It’s on sale until May 27th for $16.75, so now would be a good time to stock up!
  4. Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier $18.95 – The Cono Sur Viognier is bursting with aromatic flavours of tropical fruits and rounded out with great acidity. I just discovered this wine last month and was very happy to see it came in a magnum. Enjoy this wine with an extended al fresco Sunday lunch.
  5. Mateus Rosé $17.40 – This rosé is on the sweeter side, so I find that it works best mixed with sparkling water and ice to make a rosé spritzer. There’s nothing better than a rosé spritzer at the beach on a hot summer day!
  6. Folonari Soave $16.95 – The Folonari Soave has been one of my go-to magnums for years! It’s light, crisp and dry style makes it perfect for pairing with picnic pot locks in the park. Be careful though, this wine goes down like water!
  7. Jackson Triggs Shiraz $18.95 – When you’re having guests over for a charcoal grilled steak dinner, the Jackson Triggs Shiraz is a great choice. It’s a full bodied and easy drinking red wine that pairs well with friends and warm summer grill nights.
  8. Peller Estates Rosé $16.95 – This rosé is also on the sweeter side, but that makes it perfect to make frosé, sangria, rosé pops and spritzers. When you’re heading out of the city for a girls cottage weekend, pack a couple of these bottles to rosé all day!
  9. Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc $18.75 –  I always have a magnum bottle of the Two Ocean’s Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge during the summer. It’s light and crisp with nice grapefruit, herb and citrus flavours. I find it works great as an après-work drink on the balcony.

If you’re a girl on a budget, wine magnums under $20 are your best choice to wine all summer! Weekend cottage trips, backyard parties and long beach days require wine at good value. While wine magnums aren’t always the BEST wine, my top 9 picks are all good choices that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

Cheers! ~ GDW

Sparkling Margarita

I love Mexican food, but don’t really like the tequila based drinks that come along with it! So, I’ve put a wine twist on the popular margarita drink. With no tequila involved, I’ll be drinking this sparkling margarita all summer long! Read below for instructions on how to make the super simple sparkling margarita.

Sparkling Margarita

Ingredients

Sparkling wine (I used semi-sweet bubbles from Yellow Tail)

Lime juice

Agava

Sugar

Salt

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Instructions

Combine sugar and salt on a plate and rim your glass. Fill the glass with sparkling wine, add the juice from 1/4 of a lime and 1/2 teaspoon of agave. Enjoy!

Margarita

Cheers!~GDW

Beginner French: Where to Start With French Wine

French wine can be intimidating and hard to determine where to start. In North America, we classify our wines by the type of grape – like Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Whereas in France, the wines are classified by region – like Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy. France has 11 major wine regions, all with sub-regions, which together produce thousands of different wines. To put this into perspective, Wine Folly tells us that “If you drank a new wine each night, it would take 8 years to drink your way through France.” So, where to start with French wine?

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My partner, Matthew, goes on “wine binges” where he will spend a few weeks exploring one wine varietal from a specific region. And I must say, his approach can be very helpful! This is definitely what I suggest for the beginner in French wine (and trust me, I am only an advanced beginner). I think it’s helpful to start with those French wine regions that have the least nuances and complexities. My suggestion for where to start with French wine is Beaujolais, Burgundy and Provence.

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First up in the beginner French lesson is Beaujolais. Not only is Beaujolais easy to drink, but it’s also easy to understand! In Beaujolais there is only one wine varietal, one grape, one wine – Gamay. A Gamay wine from Beaujolais is typically a light bodied fruity red with high acidity and low tannin. Within the Beaujolais region there are 10 different “Crus”, which means the 10 best sub-regions, consisting of Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. When you’re buying a bottle of Beaujolais, you want the label to indicate one of these 10 sub-region names. Life’s too short to drink bad wine right?!

My recommendation is to start with wine from the Fleurie cru. Fleurie wines have been described as “the Queen of Beaujolais” and “pretty pretty princess.” This is because they tend to have soft fruit flavours and lovely floral notes like rose, iris and violet. My favourite so far has been the 2015 Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie. The Villa Ponciago La Réserve has a bright plum colour with a bursting bouquet on the nose and pretty flavours of cherry, blueberry and violet. This wine has some aging in oak barrels which adds a finessed smokiness. You can find the Villa Ponciago Fleurie in the LCBO vintages for $19.95. It’s a great example of a Fleurie and a perfect place to start your French wine lessons.

Chablis Wine

Moving north of Beaujolais is the wine region of Burgundy. To keep it simple, Burgundy has two main types of wine. Red wine is made from the Pinot Noir grape and white wine is made from the Chardonnay grape. Easy, right?! Within Burgundy there are 5 sub-regions – Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais. Within these regions, wines are classified by 4 different levels of quality – Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village Wines and Regional Wines. The Burgundy classification system can get quite complicated, hard to decipher on the label and expensive! This is why I recommend starting your French wine exploration with the Burgundian region of Chablis; where the classification system is simpler, wine is clearly labelled and has good value.

Wine from Chablis is Chardonnay. Chablis is in the most northern part of Burgundy, so it produces cool climate Chardonnays that are zesty and acidic (think the opposite of a buttery California Chardonnay). Wines from Chablis are characterized as being pure and crisp with chalkiness and minerality. Some even describe Chablis as having a seashell quality (vineyards are located on prehistoric sea and seashells can still be found in the soil). While not described with any seashell notes, the 2015 Gueguen Chablis does provide you with a taste of the quintessential crisp and acidic Chablis. Like most Chablis, the 2015 Gueguen Chablis is clearly labelled and easy to find in the Burgundy section of the LCBO vintages.

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A beginner French lesson would not be complete without a look at Provence. Provence is the oldest wine region in France and while 36 wine varietals are grown, 88% are made into Rosé. I couldn’t agree more with Wine Folly that, “pink wine is chic and Provence is the benchmark for Rosé.” Pretty simple to understand, Provence = Rosé! Provence is divided into 9 sub-regions that are referred to as AOC (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Each AOC has strict rules about the type of grapes that are grown and how they’re grown, harvested, produced and labelled. Lucky for the beginner French student, these strict labelling rules make it easy to decipher Rosé from Provence.

The largest sub-region (or AOC) is Côtes de Provence, who’s production is about 90% Rosé. This is where most Rosé in North America is imported from.  However, I was able to find a Rosé from a different AOC called Coteaux Varois. This sub-region is considered the “heart of Provence” as it sits in the middle of the region and produces mostly Rosé.  The Terres De Saint Louis Rosé Varois en Provence AOC is medium bodied and dry with the prettiest pale pink colour and delicate flavours of citrus and cherry. Found in the France section of the LCBO, the Terres De Saint Louis Rosé is only $13.95!

Wine and Cheese

While it’s confusing to determine where to start with French wine, I think that narrowing in on a few regions and types can definitely help. Start your studies with these 3 recommendations and you’ll be speaking French wine in no time. And what’s the best way to study French wine? Drinking French wine! Happy studying 🙂

Cheers!~GDW

 

My Favourite Wines from the Wine Rack

If you live in Ontario, you probably find yourself at a Wine Rack every now and then. The Wine Rack doesn’t have a large selection of wine but they are open late, have a lot of  locations and offer free samples. Also, as a fur mama it’s super convenient that they are dog friendly and offer treats. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my French Bulldog, Cosette, knows the words “wine rack” and how to get there.

For whatever reason you may find yourself in a Wine Rack, I’m sure you typically wonder which wine to choose. While they stock great Ontario wine producers like Jackson Triggs and Inniskillin, the selection beyond these wineries is pretty limited. Not to worry, I’ve got you covered with my top 5 picks. From sparkling wine to cider, you’ll be set whatever your craving the next time your dog drags you inside. Treat for dog, treat for human – the Wine Rack is win-win!

Jackson Triggs Entourage Sparkling Brut

Jackson Triggs Entourage

I have been loving the Jackson Triggs Entourage Brut since I first tried it a couple months ago at The Keg. It has creamy flavours of toasty brioche and a structured tropical acidity. Read about how I paired this bubbly with a brunch menu here. The Sparkling Brut is part of Jackson Trigg’s Grand Reserve wine collection and available exclusively at the Wine Rack or through online purchase from the winery. When you’re in the mood for some bubbly, the Jackson Triggs Entourage Sparkling Brut is my recommendation.

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rosé

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I have blogged and Instagramed about this wine a lot! The Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rosé  is one of my go-to weeknight wines.  It’s a medium-bodied dry rosé with full flavours of cranberry, strawberry and rhubarb followed by a crisp finish. This wine is also exclusive to the Wine Rack or the through online purchase from the winery at $14.95. When you don’t know what you feel like, head to the wine fridge and grab yourself a bottle of the Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rosé – you will not be disappointed!

 

Long Hand Sauvignon Blanc

Long Hand Sauvignon Blanc

A sales representative recently recommended the Long Hand Sauvignon Blanc when I advised I was in the mood for a crisp dry white. It was really good and I still cant believe I’ve NEVER noticed it! It has bright citrus and herbaceous flavours – reminded me a bit of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Made with Ontario VQA grapes, it’s exclusive to the Wine Rack at a great price point of $14.95. This is your bottle for summer sipping.

 

Open Cellar Select Smooth Red

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Sometimes you’re craving an easy drinking smooth red, and that’s exactly what the Open Red is! It’s a full-bodied red wine with deep velvety flavours of dark berries. This red is also exclusive to the Wine Rack and made with 100%  VQA  grapes. When you’re unsure of a hostess gift, or hosting yourself, this is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Your next barbeque event will go very well with the Open Cellar Select Smooth Red.

Growers Pear Cider

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The Growers Pear Cider is not a wine, but a nice alternative. The Wine Rack stocks a very large selection of Growers Cider by the pack or individually. While the Pumpkin Spice is hands down my favourite during the holiday season, the Pear flavour is my spring/summer pick.  At $3.05 each, Growers Cider is great to pick up on your way to an impromptu park picnic!

 

Cheers!~GDW

No Cook Wine & App Night

I love to host friends and family, but I don’t always love to cook. When I’m in a no-cook kind of mood, apps are the easiest option. Pair with some really nice wine and no one will be upset you didn’t make a 3 course dinner! I have a few go-to apps that are easy, simple and use all store bought items. When I’m serving no-cook apps, I like to include one stand out item, and I can’t wait to share my favourite with you!

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And, as with all hosting, it’s all about the presentation! Even if you’re using all store bought items, make sure to take them out of the packing and serve them on nice dishes. I have quite the collection of serving ware, as I find this to be one of the most important things about hosting. It doesn’t have to be expensive – I pick up a lot of my pieces from Homesense at really reasonable prices.

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So what are my 3 favourite no-cook apps? A charcuterie/cheese board, crudités platter and mussel stuffed olives. Read below for how I put these apps together, the ingredients and how to display.

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If my charcuterie/cheese board is part of several apps, I like to keep it small with high quality items. I typically include 5 items: a cheese, meat, nut, pickled vegetable and a cracker. For this wine and app night I chose my current favourite cheese, L’etivaz. This is a Swiss cheese made with unpasteurized cow’s milk, similar to a comté. I bought it at the St. Lawrence Market, but you could find it at any specialty cheese shop. The meat I used is a fig and port wine dry sausage by the Irresistibles Artisan brand from Metro – trust me, it’s so good! To keep the nut interesting I picked up the crowd pleasing macadamia, and a jar of pickled mushrooms. To finish off my board, I added pre-made sea salt and rosemary crostini’s from Stonemill Bakery.

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Crudités is just a fancy French way of saying vegie and dip platter, but it sounds so much better right?! For the crudités, stay away from pre-cut basic vegetables and choose some more interesting items. For this platter I used snap peas, endive, mini cucumbers and heirloom carrots. Same goes for the dip – try something different than the typical ranch, like a artichoke asiago sauce. I buy this artichoke asiago dip up from the St. Lawrence Market, but you can find similar at the grocery store.  Just make sure to take it out of the plastic container and put it into a nice serving bowl – will look homemade!

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And last, the pièce de résistance! My favourite, and easiest, no-cook app is mussel stuffed olives. I had these at a market in Madrid several years ago and have not stopped making them since! This app only requires three items – large green olives, mussels and toothpicks. Slice the olive, stuff with mussel and secure with a toothpick. Done! Super simple and easy to make, but they stand out as a unique and different app.

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A wine and app night is not complete with a great bottle of wine. When I’m doing apps, I’m not too picky about the wine pairing as it’s difficult when you have a lot of different foods and flavours. I instead pick a wine that I love and want to share with my guests. For this night I chose the Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, which I  bought on a trip to Napa last year. I was excited to share the bottle, and found memories of the winery, with our fellow wine loving guests. Plus, it’s great that the Frog’s Leap Zinfandel is now available at the LCBO.

With this no-cook wine and app night you will spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your guests company!

Cheers!~GDW

 

March Wine Faves

Wine Favourites

As I went through the wines I drank in March, I noticed just how much rosé I had been drinking. If you are ready for rosé season, than my March Wine Faves is the list for you! As spring nears, wine drinkers also tend to navigate more towards white wine, so I’ve included some great white wines from Ontario that are perfect for spring sipping. With the warmer weather also comes outdoor grilling and there’s nothing better than a big red wine paired with a barbequed burger. I have three reds on the March Wine Faves list that are each at different price points, but all delicious! Hope you enjoy my favourite wines from March.

  1. JP Azeitão Rosé – There were a lot of new rosés at the LCBO in March, and this was one of my favourites. Plus, can’t go wrong at the $8.90 price point!
  2. Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White –  I had to try this wine when I found out it’s made by one of Canada’s leading winemakers, Sue-Ann Staff. This aromatic and flavourful wine is perfect for a fancy country picnic.
  3. Henkell Sparkling Rosé – Spring brings an increase in parties and Henkell’s 3-pack of mini sparkling wines are fun and convenient for byob. Stick in a cute straw and you’re set to party!
  4. Mouton Cadet Bordeaux – If you’re looking for a well priced, consistent Bourdeaux than this is your wine. For $15.95 you’re getting a nice French red wine.
  5. Crossbarn Cabernet – If you’re looking for a bottle to splurge on, than this is your wine. The Crossbarn Cabernet is a classic example of a big, bold and smooth California Cab that will not disappoint.
  6. Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Shiraz Rosé – This was another new rosé in at the LCBO last month and I LOVED it. Vibrant raspberry flavours are followed by soft florals and ending with a clean finish. I also love the beautiful bottle!
  7. Pelee Island Tailwind Gewurztraminer Riesling – I tend to think that Gewurztraminer is too sweet for my taste, but this wine really surprised me! It was bursting with exotic fruit flavours, and the slight soft sweetness was balanced out with good acidity.
  8. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé – This Chilean wine is a big seller at the LCBO, and now I know why! Read my full review here, and learn why it’s one of my 5 spring must-haves for the wine lover.
  9. Cave Spring Rosé – I had been wanting to try this VQA wine for awhile and was not disappointed! Read about why I loved this rosé and what to pair it with in my post here.
  10. Southbrook Connect Organic White – If you’re looking to drink more organic wines you don’t have to look any further than Ontario! The Souhbrook Winery was the first wine estate in Canada to be both organic and biodynamic certified. Learn more about Southbrook and their Connect White here.
  11. De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Rose Brut – Spring is the season of celebrations, from wedding showers to graduations to birthdays. This French sparkling wine is great to celebrate with, or to bring as a gift.
  12. Beso De Vino Seleccion – This has been my go-to budget friendly wine for years. Read about even more budget friendly wines from the LCBO in my post, Girl on a Budget: Wines Under $10.

 

Cheers!~GDW

5 Spring Must-Haves for the Wine Lover

There’s something so exciting about the start of spring, especially for the wine lover. As nature begins to bloom, so does the wine life. From rosé picnics to patio sipping to winery visits, there are endless ways to enjoy wine in the spring. To ensure I’m really able to enjoy the spring wine season, there are some must-have items that I make sure to have ready for the first 10+ degree forecast. I love getting my spring must-haves gathered now, so I’m prepared to rosé all season!

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1. Bottle of Rosé

While rosé season is all year long for me, it’s particularly nice to sip on the pink drink in the spring. There’s always an increase in availability at wine shops and lots of new bottles to choose from. I’m especially loving the Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé for spring. This Chilean wine is bursting with bright flavours of strawberries, raspberries and cherries – plus how cute is the label?! I can just picture myself riding my bicicleta to the park to rosé all day.

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2. Picnic Basket

The best time to picnic is during the warm season of spring. I love spending a carefree weekend afternoon drinking wine and eating at the park with friends. And this is best done in style with a beautiful wicker picnic basket. I got my picnic basket several years ago at Homesense, but they always come out with new ones during the spring season. If you can’t find a picnic basket at Homesense, you can get similar ones to mine here, here and here.

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3. Wine Glass

A new season calls for a new glassware! There is nothing better to drink your rosé out of than a rose gold wine glass. I found these glasses at Urban Barn in several different colours, but loved the rose to match with all my other must-have items for spring. How impressed will your guests be when you serve wine on the patio with these!? It will be happy sipping this spring with Urban Barn’s rose gold stemware!

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4. Sundress

Spring is the best time to visit local wineries. The weather is beautiful and the large tour groups have not taken over yet. I find that winery hopping is done best in a great sundress – easy 1-piece outfit, versatile and looks cute! With a must-have sundress already in the closet, you’ll be instantly ready for a trip to wine country. I love this linen rose sundress from Winners, but you can find similar dresses here, here and here.

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5. Watch

How does a girl tell when it’s time to wine this spring? A new watch is a must-have for the wine lover! I’m already wearing my Jord Watch – with it’s natural walnut wood band and vintage rose face, it really embodies the feeling of a spring walk through a beautiful rose garden…to find a spot for a wine picnic of course! It will work perfectly with your new bottle of rosé, picnic basket, wine glass and sundress. Enter my Jord Watch Giveaway HERE to win one of your own! Yes way to all things rosé this spring.

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With these 5 spring must-have items, the wine lover is sure to have a fun-filled season. I have these items all ready to go! Can’t wait until my Jord Watch strikes wine o’clock and I’m off to the park in my sundress and rosé filled picnic basket. Happy spring!

Cheers!~GDW