Okay, so I don’t really have a wine cellar. Well I do, but I never use it because the wine never seems to make it downstairs. I know a little about wine but I am, by no means, an expert. I have the philosophy of “drink what you enjoy” and leave the rest to the wine snobs. I hadn’t really had any wine since October of 2009 because of being pregnant and then with breast feeding. Now I’ve gone back to having a glass or two every couple of weeks. I love to learn about wine and the complexities of it even though I am a bit of a novice.

I thought I’d like to share a few of my latest discoveries…

I prefer wines with good tannins and I love the heavy reds. That said, I do enjoy a nice, full-bodied white wine from time-to-time. One of my favorite “new world” wines is the 2008 Toasted Head Chardonnay from California. It is one of the more flavorful Chardonnays I’ve had from North America and it lived up to its description.

Tasting note: “The nose offers ripe pineapple and peach aromas with toasted graham cracker. The bright straw color prepares the palate for the rich tropical fruit and luscious stone fruit with a viscous mouth feel accented by toasted coconut, vanilla and butterscotch. The creamy finish lingers with hints of buttered toast and lemon zest. This wine will pair well with creamy Italian pasta dishes, roasted chicken or fish, and fresh summer corn.” – from Toasted Head

My notes: I was a little surprised at the color and flavor of this wine. It is one of the tastiest new world Chardonnays I’ve tried. The color was a little richer than some of the other Chardonnays I’ve had in the past and the flavor was bold and delicious. There was a great toasty element that made the wine live up to the name of its winery. I served it with chicken that had been cooked on the rotisserie, golden baby potatoes mashed with cream and a fresh salad.

We were invited to the Olmsted’s for Thanksgiving dinner back in October so I went searching for a red wine to enjoy while sitting outside enjoying a gorgeous fall day. I was in the midst of trying to wrap up the manuscript for Another Fork in the Trail and had decided to take the full weekend off. When I went to the LCBO and wandered through the Vintages section I saw the perfect wine. It was a 2008 Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called The Procrastinator and was from the Wits End (Chalk Hill) winery in Australia. I have to say that I bought it just for the name of the winery and the wine… it just seemed fitting.

Tasting note: “Good colour; bright blue fruit with a pleasant seasoning of spice and floral aromatics; the palate is fleshy and concentrated, with good texture and focused acidity cleaning up the finish.” – James Halliday, http://www.winecompanion.com.au, Feb. 2009

My notes: This was a wine I quite enjoyed beyond the way the name made me smile. It was velvety, full and very dark. The color was simply gorgeous. I could really taste cherry and other rich berry flavors in this one. The wine had a beautiful finish that lingered perfectly on my palate. I wish I had purchased several bottles because when I returned to the store this past weekend the wine was no longer available, much to my dismay. Delicious! I’m going to have to see if I can find another bottle or three of this one.

Speaking of not being able to find The Procrastinator brings me to my next wine find. On Saturday we were going to our friend’s home for a birthday party. I popped into the LCBO hoping to get a bottle of Wits End’s Procrastinator. No luck. The lovely lady in the Vintages section showed me another wine from Wits End named Free Settler & The Convict. You have to love the creativity in naming these wines. Anyway, it was a Shiraz/Grenache blend from 2008. Anyone who knows me also knows I adore a good Shiraz so I thought I’d give this a try.

Tasting notes: “Opaque purple in colour, this crowd-pleasing red features a black fruit nose, and smoky aromas of chocolate, black licorice and blackberry. Add to that further flavours of raspberry, strawberry, mocha and herbs and you’ve got palate pleasure! Enjoy this ripe and round red tonight along with some burgers smothered in sharp cheddar.” – VINTAGES panel, Jan. 2010

My notes: I had a little of this wine before dinner. I liked it well enough, however, not as much as The Procrastinator. It had a lovely finish and I liked the chocolate and berry flavors which are common in Shiraz. The Grenache added a little more fruitiness which balanced nicely with the Shiraz. We had lasagna for dinner and this wasn’t the perfect wine for the meal. In hindsight a vintage Ruffino Chianti would have been a better choice but I still enjoyed the wine. I think it might have paired beautifully with a nice slice of chocolate torte!

Last but not least is a Canadian find. We were having Steak au Poivre for dinner. I was in a hurry so I just went to the little wine shop in Sobey’s Grocery Store. I enjoy the Inniskillin Meritage on occasion but thought I’d try one of their East West Series wines — a 2008 Cabernet/Shiraz blend. This blend is made from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from their Okanagan vineyards and Cabernet Franc from the Niagara-On-The-Lake vineyards.

Tasting notes: “This wine shows the full bodied complexity of the West with the approachable aromatics and texture of the East. Layers of dark chocolate, black cherry, and spice aromas and flavours deliver a wine with excellent mouth feel with an extended finish and soft tannins.This wine is an ideal match with prime rib, leg of lamb, grilled steak, roast venison, and cheddar or other aged cheeses.” – from Inniskillin.com

My notes: It was a good pairing for the steak and it held up well to the richness of the dish. It had a good finish. The spice of the Shiraz worked well with the pepper. I was pleasantly surprised and would purchase this one again.

In closing, I’d like to mention cooking with wine. I like to do this as it can add a complexity to a dish. I just wanted to say to avoid “cooking wines”. Always cook with a wine that you’d enjoy drinking because if it doesn’t taste great in the glass it is not going to taste good in your dish.

Remember… if you are going to indulge during this holiday season — don’t drink and drive.