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J. Lohr 2015 Los Osos Merlot

Here we are in south Texas drinking J. Lohr 2015 Los Osos Merlot, which we buy at the local grocery store for $11.68 American dollars.  You can get it at Ontario’s LCBO for $22.95, and it would probably be worth it :-).  It’s a lovely wine, tasting of black cherry and chocolate, with decent tannins.  We found the 2015 is a bit bolder than the 2014, but I guess the grocery store must have run out of the 2014 (I suppose we contributed to that, we’ve been drinking it for the last 5 or so weeks).

He said: The 2015 is much nicer than the 2014.  Great value – it’s affordable.

She said:  Shut up already, you do run on!

We actually went to J. Lohr winery a few years ago in the Paso Robles wine region in southern California.  Their tasting room isn’t a giant chateau or anything, but their wines have been consistently yummy and really great value, and I believe they produce quite a lot of wine.  We got started on their Zinfandel, but this Merlot has become a real favorite.  We’ve tried other reds, but keep coming back to this one.  Personally, I like both the 2014 and the 2015.

If you have the chance, give it a try, and be ready to grab a couple of extras! And if you’re wondering where to go in California, the Paso Robles wine region is a real gem.  Lots of wineries, but still not as touristy as wine regions to the north, so you often have a more leisurely tasting with lots of personal attention.


We’re sitting in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and it’s almost 90 degrees outside.  Normally, after a round of golf in this weather, we’d have a cold beer or two.  But sometimes it’s nice to have a wonderful crisp white wine on a hot day.  And even nicer if you can avoid getting too dizzy too quickly.

Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie is just such a wine.  At 12% alcohol, it doesn’t bite too hard, and at about $8.00 U.S. this is a great buy! The writeup on the bottle says:

Mainly derived from Pinot Grigio grapes this crisp, white wine has a delightful fresh lemony nose and a dry flavor with a hint of smokiness. It may be served as an aperitif and also makes a good accompaniment to salads, seafood, chicken, cream-pasta dishes or Asian dishes.

We bought our wine at Feldman’s in McAllen, Texas. It might be available in other U.S. stores – and it was sitting right beside some other Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie wines in roughly the same price range.

He said: My initial taste is apple-y, but the finish is acidic and more in the citrus vein. It’s crisp, bold and refreshing.

She said: A keeper!  Once we’re in the US for longer periods of time, it will be a regular in the refrigerator!

Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

It’s been a while since we commented on a wine, mostly because I’ve been struggling with various food allergies – which meant I kept my wine drinking to a single glass at a time.  Food sensitivities can manifest themselves when you drink wine, making you get uncomfortably hot, and/or flush a horrible red colour, which can stay with you for hours.  But today, I said to Dave “Let’s be adventurous and finish the whole bottle.”  Which means we start to wax lyrical about the wine, if it’s anywhere near decent. And because the food allergies are under control, aside from a bit of silliness, the wine hasn’t affected me too bad.

This is a very decent wine, for a very respectable $17.95.

She said: For me, it’s got  lots of berry in the mouth, a bit of mushroom or truffle on the nose, and a nice peppery finish with a bit of tannic backbone (translation: I smell something earthy like mushrooms, taste lots of berry flavour, and it’s peppery once I swallow it, but doesn’t strip the finish off my mouth).  It would be nice with everything from cheese to meat, although it seems to be doing just fine with golf on the TV.

He said: Very pleasant, not too bold, would good go nice with a steak, great value.

She said:  Quit gushing!

The details:

  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • Maipo Valley, Chile
  • 14.5% alcohol

The 2013 vintage is also available for $17.95 at LCBO.


Another wonderful Canadian red wine, this one on our doorstep! This wine is a Bordeaux style red, and is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot.  It shows cherry and other berries on the palate, with soft tannins which make it nice and drinkable with a variety of foods.  We sipped our first glass with snacks, and had the rest with roast chicken and oven fries.

She said: It’s a bit peppery, and I though I got a sense of truffles.

He said: The berries are most noticeable to me.  It’s a decent wine at a very reasonable price point – we paid $19.95 at the winery.

She said: We should have bought more than 2 bottles! It’s worth a trip to Pelee Island Winery for this wine!

From the wine description on the company’s web site:

The Vinedressers series is a Premium and Exclusive line up of wines only available at Pelee Island Winery in limited quantities. The series obtained its name through the history of grape growing and maintenance on Pelee Island in the 1880’s.At that time, the ongoing sound of pruning shears could be heard in the Vineyard. Pelee Islander’s referred to this task as “trimming grapes” and those who did this work, were referred to as “The Vinedressers”.

The details:

  • Pelee Island Vinedressers 20012 Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot
  • 13% alcohol
  • 70% barrel aged in French and European oak for 12 months
  • Available at Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville, Ontario

Brrrr, it’s cold outside! A drink to warm you.

Although we love wine, we’re not dating exclusively.  So here’s one of my other

On a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better than getting outside to enjoy the bracing weather, then coming in to a warm Irish Coffee.  Years ago, I was fortunate to live in San Francisco for a couple of years, and we would visit the Buena Vista Cafe down on Fisherman’s Wharf. During tourist season, they were always packed, but in the off season, you could actually get in there and order a drink.  We used to go down there occasionally, sometimes even taking the cable car to get there (it’s at one end of the cable car route).  I found out that they were famous for their Irish Coffee, so gave it a try.  Instant yum! Here’s the story of how they came up with their perfect Irish Coffee. And a bit more historyAnd here’s a recipe for the “authentic” Irish Coffee.  I cheat a bit:  I’ll rim the glass mug with cocktail sugar, then use the whipped cream out of the can – if you gently stir it, you can create a cream “float” to drink through (see the authentic recipe for explanation).

The Buena Vista is still going strong, so if you have a chance to go to San Francisco, it’s a great place to stop – just get there early so you can get a spot at the bar!

Giving the gift of wine

Occasionally friends will ask me for wine recommendations, as they want to give someone a bottle of wine.  But  rather than make recommendations, here’s a nice article from the LCBO offering up several choices.  I have no doubt that the Luca Malbec will be wonderful, as Dave and I have quite enjoyed the Catena Malbecs before and are always on the look for more.  Cave Spring’s Riesling has always been a favorite of ours – it’s a crowd pleaser too, and appeals to almost everyone. Don’t believe we’ve had the Fontanafredda Barolo or the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc, but I’m putting them on my list!  And Cuvee Catherine is a great choice for bubbly, my friend Anne has loved it for years!

Five great choices as gifts – reds, whites and even a sparkling wine.  But I’d get them soon, as the highly recommended wines usually move off the shelves fast!

The Wanted Zin

Wanted Zin

When we were at the London Wine and Food Show in early 2016, we tried this wine and spoke to the person who imports it.  He told us that it’s an Italian wine, made in the American style, for a Scandinavian market.  Wow, how international! Check out their web site, which is aimed at Swedish wine lovers.


But at $14.10 at the LCBO,  it’s an amazing value.  If you like California Zinfandels, with their juicy, robust fruit, you will love this wine.

Jackson Triggs Delaine 2012 Syrah

We call this the “other” amazing red by Jackson Triggs, as we originally met their reds through a Delaine SyrahReserve Shiraz that isn’t made every year. It was a number of years ago that I’d organized an executive wine tour for a client, and we stopped at JT for a tour and tasting. I tried the Shiraz and just loved it – think it was around $50/bottle at the time.

But this wine really worth a discussion all its own. Here’s what the winery says about the wine:

“The Delaine Syrah is overflowing with delicious aromas and flavours. Spice and ripe dark fruit with hints of chocolate and coffee dominate the nose with flavours on the palate following suit. This intense Syrah has good balanced weight and smooth tannins making for a luscious sip from start to long, lingering finish.”

She said: Personally, it’s more robust that I’m used to seeing out of the Niagara region, and while it reminds me of Syrah/Shiraz from warmer areas like Australia or California, it’s a bit more refined. I agree with the description – it’s luscious! Dave, can we get more please?

He said: Ditto. The bottle says “Displays white pepper and red fruit on the nose with flavours of red berries, pepper and mocha with velvety tannins on the finish.”

She said: Love the pepper!

He said: Next time we’re in the Toronto area we’ll try to hunt some down, I promise. Not really a steak wine but it would go good with cheeses & breads – definitely wouldn’t do well in a duel with spicy food.

She said: It’s going just fine with the peanuts and pretzels!


  • Delaine by Jackson Triggs
  • 2012 Syrah VQA Niagara Peninsula
  • $32.95/bottle from the winery in Niagara


You can get a 2010 vintage at LCBO for $33.95 (Vintages #86553). But very few stores carry it, so you might be better off making a road trip J to Niagara!


Bordeaux Futures

Have you ever seen the LCBO advertising Bordeaux futures and wondered what it meant?  Essentially, it means buying a wine while it’s still in the barrel, taking the risk that once it’s bottled it will be as good as you think. Also known as “en primeur” in France, the wine is purchased 12 to 18 months prior to the official release of a vintage – so you’re essentially betting that you’ll get a good wine, likely for a bit less than once it’s bottled.

But there’s not as much risk as you might think.  Vineyards know whether they’ve had a good year, which is usually an indicator of the quality they expect from their wines.  So LCBO representatives will participate in futures tastings, and purchase the wines “on spec.”  They pass the risk on to the public by selling the wines as “futures.”

Today, we drank bottle #2 of a 3-bottle lot we bought of a Bordeaux future from ChateauDSC01150 Dalem.  It’s a 2009 Fronsac which we received in 2014 – but we put the order in for the wine in 2013 before it was bottled. It’s 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, from a winery founded in 1610, near St. Emilion and Pomerol, both wonderful wine producing regions. Suggested drinking window is 2015 to 2025 – this type of lifespan is another reason why many will invest in Bordeaux wines.

Was it worth it?  We paid $32 for a wine that’s likely worth more than that today.  For one thing, it’s not available at LCBO, so it’s a rare find.  But more importantly, we’ve babied this wine in the cellar, waiting until it was deemed drinkable, keeping our fingers crossed that it would prove to be a good investment.  It was a wonderful wine, and went really well with the filet mignon for dinner. Definitely worth it!

Bordeaux futures usually come out in the fall at the LCBO.  By purchasing as 3-bottle lots, we keep our investment reasonable, while still having the chance to experience some exceptional wines.

If you love California wines…

If you like or love California wines, then today’s WineAlign article is one you should definitely take the time to read – preferably while sipping a glass of Cali wine.chateau montelena

In this article, David Lawrason commemorates the 40th anniversary of the “arrival” (read “acceptance”) of New World Wine.  It happened in 1976 at an event that’s become known as the Judgement of Paris, where eight California wines faced off against top Bordeaux and Burgundy  wines:  wines from Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap beat their French counterparts, and the balance intermingled with the French wines for top marks.

Up to that point, it was widely agreed that the New World (i.e. not Europe) couldn’t make really decent wine.  But the people creating the wines certainly knew differently – and set out to prove it.

To really appreciate this event, you could watch the movie Bottle Shock (2008), which tells the tale of the Judgement of Paris in a fun and quirky way – it was the 70’s after all.  Then watch the video of Bo Barrett in the WineAlign article – you’ll see that they really captured him well in the movie.  Or you could head off to the LCBO to find a bottle of wine from Chateau Montelena or Stag’s Leap (they’re not in the $10 range, but they do have some reasonably affordable offerings).  Or better yet, you could go visit Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap in the Napa Valley, both of which are still in operation today and producing top wines.