Wallet-Friendly Wines

Wow.  A month has passed and I don’t have anything to show for it except the bags beneath my eyes.  Not only that, the boys turn one year old on Saturday and it feels like just yesterday I was bringing them home from the hospital.  There have been a lot of sleepless nights, but those seem to be balanced out by the laughs during the day…or at least the laughs make the brutal nights a little more manageable. Having said that, the sleepless nights seem to be rearing their ugly head again since the boys are getting their molars.  As with everything, this too shall pass, but you’d think they were dying a slow and painful death with their blood-curdling screams.  I am really looking forward to a full nights sleep again!

In the meantime, I’ve been on a hunt for a tasty and affordable bottle of wine.  Since I am not working at the moment, my spending priorities have changed and I’m trying to not let this affect my obsession with great tasting wines.  So, armed with self restraint I steer clear of the vintage specialty section of the wine store and search for something around $15.  So far, I’ve had fairly good success.  Here are a few of my finds…

Spain, Beso de Vino Syrah/Garnacha, 2009

Chile, Antares Shiraz 2009

Italy, MezzoMondo Negroamaro Salento, 2008

Argentina, Pampas del Sur Shiraz/Malbec, 2010

Be nice to your pocket book and try a few of these reds.  I’ll eventually find some great and affordable whites to recommend, but as the weather cools off I seem to be reaching for the red.  Any recommendations from you are welcome as well!

Posted in Reds, Whites, Blush & Bubbles, Uncategorized, What to Buy | 2 Comments

What is it about wine?

Wine is always a welcome treat in this house.  Whether it’s a special vintage, or just an everyday table wine, I always look forward to a glass.  There’s just something reverent about it.  So, it got me to thinking.  What is it about wine that I enjoy so much?  Sure, the different tastes and complexities found in wine are fabulous.  And the effect of perfectly paired foods can complement wine and raise it just a level or two higher on the tasting scale.  Aromas of ripe juicy berries and chocolate, or fresh melon and vanilla can assault your senses and give you a taste of the wine before you even bring the glass to your lips.  Even the sounds of a cork popping or the soft ‘glug-glug’ as you pour your first glass is part of the entire experience.  But that’s not it…it’s not what really makes wine a true treat for me.

For me, wine is a treat because of what it symbolizes.  It’s a quiet moment when I don’t have to worry about bath time or diaper changes.  It’s a night out with my husband or my girlfriends.  It’s a good book and a warm blanket.  It’s a bubble bath.  It means the day is done, my boys both have clean bums and full tummy’s, and are sleeping safe and sound in their cribs.  Wine has always been my drink of choice, but it’s more than a drink…it’s a special treat.  Just for me.

Posted in Reds, Whites, Blush & Bubbles, Swirl, Smell, Swish, Spit…and everything in between, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I’m playing hostess today!

Wining Mommies has introduced many a mom to one another, where we can laugh, cry, and vent on each others shoulders, not to mention enjoy a glass of wine (or two…or three…) together.  One such woman is the hilarious mom behind “1000 Reasons I’m a Bad Crap Mom”.  And “1000?!” you say (with shock and appall) “surely she can’t be THAT bad!”  You be the judge, but in her own words… ‘At first I thought it was too ambitious to call this blog 1000 things…what if I didn’t make it to 200? But between my mom’s feedback, the conflicting advice bombarded at me, and my own insecurities, I now wonder if I shouldn’t have called it 2000 things. Or 5000.’ She is whittling her way down to 1000, and is fast and furiously closing in on 100.  Her blog is definitely one you want to check out.

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of making her acquaintance, today is your lucky day!

______________________

Reason #30 – Nobody said it is only for Starbucks

My quest for the perfect stroller was long and expensive, and it ended when I found one with a cubic metre of storage space and two cup holders. We love our big and ugly Buggysaurus! And did I mention it was under ONE TENTH of the price of the gorgeous-but-impractical one I bought in the first place?

(Anyone interested in a barely used Quinny Buzz please email me. My mind was clouded with pregnancy hormones when I bought that fancypants sucker.)

Today I was once more reminded of why I love my ugly buggy so much. I am sure this is what the real moms who design Graco prams had in mind, even if they never mention it in the brochures:

If you had had a day like mine you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. That is all I’m saying.

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Ingenious, isn’t it?  For more reasons, make sure you check her out at www.1000reasonsimabadmom.com

Reason #30 – Nobody said it is only for Starbucks
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Where is Mary Poppins when you need her?

Everyday I wake up with the best intentions of accomplishing certain tasks that need to be taken care of…do laundry, change the crib sheets, mop the floors, etc. etc. etc.  The list of menial (yet necessary) tasks seems to be never ending and overwhelming. I wish I had my own personal Mary Poppins floating into our home via umbrella, but alas, no such luck.

I feel like I live in mayhem.  My house has been completely taken over by two lunatic Boston Terriers and the boys.  Let me paint a picture for you…we have a giant 8′x8′ pen set up in our family room for the boys to have their own area separate from the dogs.  It takes up most of the space in the room, but at least it keeps the boys away from dog licks and sharp claws looking to play.  Just as an FYI…dog licks in this house are a little worse than your run-of-the-mill dog lick as our dogs have been known to dine on their own poop every now and then…I know, right?!  Sick.  Anyways, there are tons of toys in the pen, 2 exersaucers outside the pen, 2 jolly jumpers in a doorway, 2 dog beds, 2 dog crates, and boxes of diapers and wipes within reach of anywhere you might find yourself immersed in a dirty diaper crisis.  Then of course there are things like diaper bags, change pads, kleenex boxes (I have two super snot factories for babies right now), and just miscellaneous items that seem to have found their way into the room to be lost in the great abyss.  Complete and total mayhem.  It drives me nuts.

Just a mere 12 months ago, our house was organized.  I’m not claiming that I was Susie Homemaker ready to be showcased on a Martha Stewart special (far from it), but things were generally kept in some kind of order.  I remember coming home from work and letting the dogs out to do their thing, hanging my keys on the key ring (where they belong, and where I never seem to find them anymore), and pouring myself a nice glass of wine to enjoy while I made dinner.  Now, after a trip out of the house for some excitement like the going to the grocery store or the bank, I run in the door with a baby on each arm (which is pretty impressive considering they each weigh about 25lbs) change two diapers, and quickly get some food into them before they simultaneously let the world know they’re starving to death.  Then I get in the pen with them and miraculously morph into their jungle gym.  As I sit in the pen with two 25lb 10-month old babies pulling my hair and drooling all over me, I look out at what used to be a nice home and now seems to resemble more of a bomb shelter.

One thing keeps me sane through all of this.  I absolutely adore my boys.  There will always be things that need to be tidied, organized or put away.  I know things will get easier as the boys start to play together more and become a little more independent.  One day I will have my house back to ‘normal’.  Until then, I sit amongst the rubble after a long day of changing diapers and wiping noses, and I get to tell my husband about the random hilarious things the boys did that day as we both enjoy a well deserved glass of wine together.

Posted in General Rants | 13 Comments

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Tonight was Canadian Thanksgiving and my husband, my two boys and I went to my parents house for turkey dinner. It was, as always, delicious…my mom makes amazing Newfoundland turkey stuffing that can’t be beat. I know most people say that about their holiday stuffing, but seriously, you can’t get any better than my mom’s.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, here are a few things I am thankful for…
* First and foremost, my little guy who had such a rough go over the past couple of weeks seems to be on the road to recovery and feeling better (fingers crossed)
* My mom’s tasty turkey stuffing and her phenomenal skills in the kitchen
* Not one, but TWO, bottles of Lynch Bages
* My two boys, who were champs tonight even though we kept them out 3 hours past their bedtime… (I know, I know…shame on us. But did I mention TWO bottles of Lynch Bages?!)
* My nephew, who did NOT send me into a panic tonight…by the way, did I mention there were 2 bottles of Lynch Bages? ;)
* The beautiful weather we had today, and being able to enjoy it out and about with my three favourite guys (yes honey, that means you and the boys.)
* Putting my boys down for the night and not having either of them put up the slightest bit of a fight…a true rarity in this house…mind you it was 3 hours later than usual!
* Apple pie AND pumpkin pie.

All in all, it was a great day. Beautiful weather, good company, perfectly prepared turkey dinner with all the fixin’s, and amazing wine.  Now I’m off to bed…I can only hope the boys stay down until tomorrow morning to top off an already pretty stellar day.  Did I just jinx myself…??

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Give Me Strength or Give Me Shiraz

I’m sure all of us have days where you find yourself praying for it to end.  I’d like to say this has been one of those days, but unfortunately it’s been one of those weeks (or two)!  Almost two weeks ago, my twins came down with horrific colds and ear infections.  They changed from cute and cuddly little 10 month old babblers, to screaming snot encrusted monsters who cough like 80 year old smokers.  My husband and I spent a couple of sleepless nights trying to ease as many of their symptoms as possible, before (finally) the antibiotics started kicking in.  Thankfully, the ear infections cleared up but the Mighty Mucus River is still flowing freely down their faces and their coughs make them sound like they’re forever drowning in their own “stuff”.

The antibiotics finished on Monday, and things seemed to be looking up.  The boys appeared to be in much better spirits than the week before, and I thought we were on the home stretch to having our beautiful babies back.  I was partially right as one of the boys seems to be returning to his cheerful (yet snotty) self, but the other is nowhere to be found.  All day long, I listen to him whine, cry, and periodically scream for no apparent reason while his brother sits there and laughs at him.  I wish I saw the humor.

I’ve tried everything.  I constantly check to make sure he’s not hurt, hungry, wet, poopy, hot, cold, tired or bored.   I took him back to the doctor today to see if his ear infection had returned, or if he was suffering with something other than a runny nose and a cold.  Something had to explain why he was constantly crying and his brother was not.  The doctor found nothing.  Apparently, he’s just cranky.  So for almost 12 hours a day, I listen to him whine and complain as I hold him and try my best to make him shut up for just five minutes feel better.  He did actually smile and laugh today, which was nice, except for the fact that he had a vice grip on his dirty diaper and was swinging it around like a lassoo.  Poop went everywhere, which he thought was hilarious.  I, of course, did not.  Meanwhile, his twin brother was strapped into his high chair ready for lunch and was less than impressed that he had to wait even a nanosecond to be fed.  Cue the crying.

So, please…on a Friday after two weeks filled with sickness, snot, and crying…either give me strength, or give me shiraz (and a lot of it!)

How’ve you been?

Posted in General Rants | 11 Comments

What do you reach for?

Since my twin boys have been born, my buying priorities have changed and I find myself in ‘Toys R Us’ more than the wine store.  Purchasing a trophy wine doesn’t seem as appealing, or as attainable, as it once did.  There are a few ‘special’ wines we have at home, which are a fine wines my husband and I have accumulated over the years, but these are only for special occasions…and needing a glass (or few) after dealing with two cranky 10 month olds does not qualify as a special occasion.  When I finally do manage to get to the liquor store, I peruse the vintage section rather than purchase from it.  It’s almost a guilty pleasure.  I can look, but I can’t touch.  Thankfully, it is possible to find a nice wines for around $15.

A few of my favourite and more affordable go-to wines are…REDS: Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon ($13), Paiara ($10), WHITES: Dr.Loosen Riesling ($18), Crios Torrontes ($17).

What have you been sipping lately?  I always love a good recommendation!

Posted in Reds, Whites, Blush & Bubbles, What to Buy | 6 Comments

Whining vs. Wining…and how one can lead to the other.

What is it about my nephew that makes me panic?  He’s a great kid.  He’s outgoing, polite, friendly, and down right hilarious.  He’s three.  And right there, that’s the reason.  He’s three.  He’s at the age where he’s testing everything and anything his parents have to say.  And god love my sister and her husband…they have the patience of angels.  Through the “NO!” “I don’t want to!” and “Mommy, YOU go have a time out” they quietly tell them he needs to behave or he’ll suffer XYZ consequence.  I don’t mean lamely or weakly when I say quietly.  They are calm, controlled, and firm.  I on the other hand, am taking gulpfuls of wine hoping to dull the realization that I too will experience this…times two.  My babies are now 10 months old.  They don’t challenge, they don’t talk back.  They poop, they eat, they sleep, and they babble.  When I look at my nephew, I see a fantastic kid who I love dearly, but I also see a future with two little boys who want to see how far they can push the envelope.

*This was the wine I was guzzling in an effort to avoid reality!  It was quite tasty, mind you, I wasn’t paying close attention to the flavour, intensity, or finish…in fact, I don’t think it really even touched my palate.  Seriously…I was panicking. :)

Posted in Unfamiliar Toddler Territory | 5 Comments

What do you mean I have to PICK THE WINE?!

A bead of sweat starts to form above your temple…your heart starts to beat a little faster…your sweaty palms can barely keep a grip on the massive wine list you’ve suddenly become responsible for…  What do you mean I have to PICK THE WINE?!

Relax.  Choosing and tasting a wine is not as intimidating as it sounds.  Go with what you’ve tried before, or if in doubt, ask for a recommendation.  When the wine arrives at your table, follow these simple steps to taste like a pro.

Swirl the wine in your glass.  This will help to ‘open’ the wine…aka will expose the wine to oxygen which will help to enhance the various flavours.  It will also show the ‘legs’ of the wine, which simply relates to alcohol content.  The greater the alcohol content, the longer the legs.

Smell the wine.  Now, this doesn’t mean you have to plug one nostril and suck-air like you’re a wine-aholic.  Simply put your nose over the glass and inhale.  Smelling the wine will also enhance the flavours when you taste as two of your senses are engaged.

Swish the wine in your mouth.  But please don’t mistake your wine for mouthwash.  When you sip your wine, take in a little air and quietly slurp your wine.  Move the wine around in your mouth so all of your tastebuds are exposed to the flavours.

If you like, spit the wine.  Some people believe that spitting the wine reveals a stronger aftertaste or ‘finish’ to the wine.  I think there is some truth to this statement, but having said that, I rarely spit.  I love wine…I don’t want to spit it out!  And generally, when you’re at a restaurant, spitting the wine is a rarity.

Swirl, Smell, Swish, Spit (or swallow).  Together, these steps will help to open up the wine and reveal the different elements and tastes.  Tasting will also tell you if the wine is off.  Your first clue is if the wine smells slightly sour.  Typical smells to tell you the wine is off are vinegar, sour milk, wet dog, or wet cardboard.  When you taste it, if it resembles wet cardboard, mildew, or just plain tastes bad, send it back.  However, this does not mean you can send a wine back just because you don’t like your choice…the wine must actually be bad to be sent back!  But nice try.

CHEERS!

Posted in Swirl, Smell, Swish, Spit…and everything in between | 9 Comments

Value over Vintage

This is a fantastic article from the Vancouver Sun printed in June 2010.  Grab a glass!

The $20 sommelier: It’s all about the value
Trophy wines can be inexpensive if you know how to choose them.  Here’s some good advice
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By Mia Stainsby, Vancouver Sun, June 26, 2010

Be a wine snob if you must, but you should know the rules have changed.

These days, it’s not necessarily how much you spend or whether it’s from Bordeaux or Burgundy. A trophy wine can be a good-value discovery under $20. And according to the local gurus, there are plenty to try.

At these moderate prices, you can afford to be adventurous and take risks. But even if you mess up, you’re not going to mess up too badly; it’s not as if importers, distributors and retailers don’t do any homework and stock shelves with any old plonk. “In the last 18 months or so, it’s been considered hip to find a good deal,” says Barb Philip, of Barbarian Wine Consulting. “After the economic downturn, it hasn’t been trendy to spend a lot of money openly even if they have it.”

She feels you can get “good” wines for $12 to $20 and “twice-as-good” if you close in on $15 to $20 choices. The under $12 finds are more difficult to find but “I wouldn’t say there’s nothing.”

“My view is, that’s where the real values are,” says Cru restaurant owner and sommelier Mark Taylor. “I’ve always felt it’s easy to fill a wine list with 90 points-plus wines from Wine Spectator. But under $20, that’s where the real fun is, where you’ll find the real gems.”

Michaela Morris, co-owner of wine consulting company House Wine, agrees. “Anyone who truly loves wine will look to the taste, not the label or cost. If not, they’re missing out. It’s about the pleasure of drinking, sharing good food. There’s so much pretension around wine. It’s a beverage. You gotta get over it.”

Here are suggestions from some local wine experts about wines to try under $20.

Michelle Bouffard, co-owner of House Wine
“Everybody buys the well-known regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux but some countries, for many reasons, offer better prices.” She points to wines from Southern Italy. “For a long time Sicily, for example, made bulk wines but now people are investing in that area.” Chile’s cheaper land and labour costs and its economy of scale offers great value, especially with the Cabernet Sauvignons.

Her picks:

Sparkling:

  • N/V Deinhard, ‘Lila’ Riesling Sekt, (Sparkling), Germany, $14.49

Whites:

  • 2009 Cono Sur, Viognier (White), Chile $10.99
  • 2006 Peter Lehmann, Semillon (White), Australia $15.99

Reds:

  • 2007 Paiara, Puglia Rosso IG (Red), Italy $9.99
  • 2007 Xanadu ‘Next of Kin’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia $14.95
  • 2006 Ricossa, Barbera d’Asti DOC (Red), Italy $15.98

Michaela Morris, co-owner of House Wine
“In that price range, look for wines that aren’t fashionable. I look to Italy and Spain and indigenous grape varietals that most people haven’t heard of. We all know about Cabernet and Chardonnay but Spain has been growing grapes for hundreds of years and have a lot of them.”

Her picks:

Whites:

  • 2009 Susana Balbo, ‘Crios’ Torrontes, Argentina $17.99
  • 2009 Storks’ Tower, Vino de la Tierra Castilla y Leon, Spain $14.99

Reds:

  • 2007 Trivento, Syrah Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina $12.98
  • 2006 Castano, Monastrell, Yecla DO, Spain $11.99

Mark Taylor, Cru owner and sommelier
In this price range, Taylor likes old-school wines from southern Italy and France. In Italy, he looks to Puglia and Sicily. “The fruit that people like is often missing in these European wines where it’s more about the earth and terroir.”

Languedoc, Cotes du Luberon and southern Rhone in southern France are also good regions for good-deal wines, he says. “And we have the best value white wines in the market in B.C.”

His picks:

Sparkling:

  • SYL Brut, See Ya Later Ranch, Okanagan, B.C., $19.99

Whites:

  • 2009 Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France, $20
  • 2008 Quail’s Gate Chardonnay, Okanagan, B.C., $19
  • 2009 Home Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc, Road 13, Okanagan, B.C. $19

Reds:

  • 2008 Qunta do Castro Douro Tinto, Douro, Portugal, $20
  • 2008 Crios de Susanna Balbo Syrah-Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina, $19
  • 2008 Batasiolo Barbera d’Asti, Piemonte, Italy, $14.99

Barbara Philip, Barbarian Wine Consulting
The best way to find a good-value bottle of wine is to ask an expert, the master sommelier says.

“Don’t be intimidated. Whether it’s in a B.C. liquor store, independent or restaurant, these people work with wines all day. They’ll at least have three or four they’re really, really big on. The average consumer doesn’t really know how to.”

Her picks:

Rose:

  • 2009 Olivares Jumilla Rose, Spain, $13.99

Whites:

  • 2009 Grooner Gruner Veltliner, Austria, $17.99
  • 2008 St. Hubertus Pinot Blanc, Okanagan Valley, $14

Reds:

  • 2008 Little Yering Pinot Noir, Australia, $14.98
  • 2008 Chateau de Paraza Minervois, France, $17.99
  • 2007 Cusumano Sicilia Nero d’Avola, Italy, $17.99

Mark Shipway, wine instructor at Art Institute of Vancouver
“Being in the business of education, I’d recommend if you really want to learn about wines under $20, the best way is to take a certification program. It gives you the skills to pick out value. That would be the ultimate.” But even an introductory wine course teaches skills to evaluate wine and understand value, he says. “You start to understand that depth, complexity, balance, length are critical. That’s more important than knowing the regions but the two are linked. You learn about regions, geography and places to find the value wines are as opposed to just cheap wines.”

His picks:

Whites:

  • 2007 Selbach S Riesling, Germany, $15.99
  • 2008 Touraine Sauvignon Domaine du Clos de Bourg, France, $15.99
  • 2009 Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Blanc, B.C., $17.90 (select private stores)

Reds:

  • 2007 Azul Portugal Palmela, Portugal, $16 to $20 (select private stores)
  • 2007 Mezzacorona Pinot Noir, Italy, $15.99

mstainsby@vancouversun.com
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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