Monday, December 14, 2015

Six Wines for Holiday Parties


Joiy sparkling wine from New Zealand
The holiday season is in full swing and we're all juggling events and activities. That can mean lots of trips to the liquor store to pick up this or that. To help make those trips easier, here are our thoughts on six wines you might want to pick up on your way to a party (or as a last-minute holiday gift). There are so many fabulous wine choices available, of course, but here are a few we’ve sampled recently and thought you might enjoy too.

Joiy (4 X 250ml) – I fell hard for this New Zealand sparkling wine at a recent event. It’s a Riesling-based sparkling that comes in four small bottle and calls itself “bottled happiness.” That’s not an overstated claim. On its own, with a silly straw or with a wedge of lemon (yes, added to the wine – crazy, but delicious), this sparkling is as charming and fun as its winemaker, Chris Archer, who I hope to profile on the blog soon. With fabulously pretty packaging, a pop of citrus flavour and a low alcohol content, these are great as a hostess gift, stocking stuffer or to serve at your holiday party. Hurry, though, they are currently only limited edition at the LCBO. Since these are pretty perfect for summer patio sipping, I hope that will change.

Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde wine
Quinta da Aveleda 2014 Vinho Verde – This Portuguese white has been ranked in the top three best buys in Wine Enthusiast magazine for the last three years, which had me intrigued to try it. With peach, grapefruit and floral notes on the nose, this blend of Lureiro and Alvarinho is refreshing, light and crisp with great acidity and a long finish. I love the fruit-forward styles of Vinho Verde and this is no exception. Pair this with turkey at your holiday meal or have it with appetizers or seafood.

Kaiken Malbec 2013 Reserva Wine
Kaiken 2013 Reserva Malbec – I had a glass (or two) of this bold red from Argentina during a recent meet-up with my blogger group. It paired perfectly with great conversation and I was glad I chose it. This is a young red, but still quite soft and drinkable. There was vanilla, cherry, chocolate and raspberry both on the nose and the palate. This is a nice, affordable option to pick up for a holiday get together with friends or for a quiet evening in over dinner.

Killibinbin Scream Shiraz Wine
Killibinbin 2012 Scream Shiraz – This Australian Shiraz had smoked meat, plum and spice on the nose and a bold pepper finish on the palate. A good choice for a hearty roast dinner or any big, red meat-centred dish. Shawn and I enjoyed this on its own, but both agreed that food would make it even better. Drink now or cellar for 3-6 years.





Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Wine
Perez Cruz 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Cherry, plum, black pepper and blackberry are all on the nose of this full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. With red fruit on the palate and a medium-long finish, this is an affordable choice for a red meat-heavy dinner or as the big, bold red option at your holiday party. You know there's always someone at the shindig who prefers a heavy red during the winter season.

Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne – This is the highest-priced selection on this list, but sometimes you just need a special gift for someone on your list. Or you may be looking for a well-priced French champagne to kick off the New Year. I recently had the chance to sip Taittinger at one of their Toronto events and I was so impressed. With lovely baked bread notes on the nose, perfect bubbles and lots of peach, plum and citrus notes on the palate, it hit all the right buttons for this sparkling lover. Sometimes nothing says ‘I think you’re awesome’ like a bottle of champagne.

*All wines reviewed in this post were provided as samples or tasted at events where I was a guest. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dr. Konstantin Frank Biography – A Book Review

Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ
As part of our 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference welcome package, Shawn and I received copies of Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ. This was the perfect gift for me, as I’m always interested in reading about the history of winemaking in the regions we visit. I eagerly dug into this book in the early fall and I wasn’t disappointed.

As you might expect from the title, this book concentrates solely on Dr. Konstantin Frank and his family, who were pioneers in bringing vinifera to the Finger Lakes. Dr. Frank’s legacy in the area is a big one and author Russ lays out all the reasons his acclaim is so deserved. If you’re looking for an overall history of the region’s winemaking, Evan Dawson’s brilliant Summer in a Glass may be a better bet, but this book provides a deep dive into one family’s extensive and lasting contribution to American wine.

Dr. Frank was a German man raised in the Ukraine and forced from his home during the war. A renowned agricultural scientist, he managed to grow vinifera successfully in the Ukraine’s cold climate and had re-built a comfortable life after his original displacement by running a viticultural program. When he learned that he and his family were not safe from the Soviet round-ups of German nationals, he decided he had to once again give up the life he knew. Having already lost several family members, he arranged for a friend in the Soviet army to smuggle his small family out of the Ukraine, before making their way to New York.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2014 Gruner Veltliner Finger Lakes
I enjoyed this wine in The Finger Lakes
There, he struggled to find work (despite speaking numerous languages, English was a challenge for him), but was determined to use his experience in agricultural science in his new country. He eventually talked the Experimental Station in Geneva into hiring him, where he quickly made waves with his assertion that vinifera could be grown successfully in the Finger Lakes. At the time, French hybrids were the only wine grapes accepted as viable in the area, but based on his experience growing vinifera in the Ukarine, Dr. Frank was adamant that it could be grown in the Finger Lakes.

Over the years, he was able to use his knowledge and experience to prove that he was indeed correct and that vinifera could grow and flourish in the region. His experiments with different grapes and growing conditions helped to inspire and educate other local winemakers and many credit his influence with the fact that vinifera is widely grown in the Finger Lakes today. But the path to this acceptance was a long and bumpy one and it certainly makes for a good read. 

Dr. Frank’s dogged determination to see his dream of high-quality vinifera as the only wine grapes grown in the Finger Lakes was, however, not to be. While he railed against hybrids, they still make up a large and successful part of Finger Lakes wine production. But there was much more to Dr. Frank and to his company’s continued success in creating some of the best vinifera wines in New York State.

There’s lots of interesting tidbits about the region’s history in this book and it’s clear that Russ has done extensive research about the family. An enjoyable and informative read that will appeal to any wine history buff.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.