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Harry's Blog

  • Olé, It’s World Verdejo Day!

    Verdant means green. And now that we are transitioning from late spring to early summer, a popular green vegetable is showing up everywhere in produce sections. We are talking about asparagus. This perennial garden vegetable is actually a member of the lily family, native to the eastern Mediterranean. The word asparagus comes from the Greek, meaning “sprout” or “shoot.” Stemming from as far back as antiquity, the Greeks and Romans praised asparagus for its unique flavour, texture, and alleged medicinal properties. Internationally loved and consumed with relish (not the pickle-based condiment), it has a high tolerance for salt and prefers sandy soils heaped into a crown in long rows. It can grow up to thirty cm in twenty-four hours. Size also matters—the larger the diameter, the better the quality. Low in calories, containing no fat or cholesterol, it is very low in sodium and a good source of potassium, fiber and a host of vitamins. In short, asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence.

    What wine to match? Our choice would be Radio Boka Verdejo (pronounced ver-day-oh), a popular, characterful white from the Castilla Y Leon region of Spain. Similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo is citrussy, fruit forward, nutty, herbaceous with a nice acidity. Radio Boka is Vegan certified too.

    Asparagus can be prepared in a variety of ways and here’s our take. Cut an inch off the bottom of the spears. Poach for two-three minutes (depending on thickness of spears) in boiling water to retain its crunchiness. Plate it and garnish with slices of radish and red onion, topped with soft goat cheese. Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar glaze. Serve with your favorite seafood dish.     

    Radio Boka Verdejo LCBO #22872, $13.00

  • Vee Is For Viognier, And Value.

    Firstly, let’s get the pronunciation of the fashionable Viognier grape right. It’s pronounced “vee-own-yay.” It is the only grape allowed in the Rhône Valley’s most revered appellation white, Condrieu. This includes the pinnacle, and very expensive estate white, Château Grillet. But Viognier is grown extensively in Southern France along the Mediterranean coast. And the region’s pre-eminent producer is Gérard Bertrand. He’s known for producing extensive quantities of single varietals using the Languedoc appellation. This results in wines that allow consumers to discover outstanding wines at affordable prices.

    The LCBO’s “Wine of the Month” white wine selection for the month of June is an outstanding value white, Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier. $14.95, what a deal!  Dry, medium-bodied and well-balanced with an aroma of peaches, apricots and white flowers, it also ticks off all the boxes Chardonnay or Pinot Gris drinkers might consider when looking for an alternative, characterful non-oaked white.   

    The ultimate patio sipper for the summer season, try it with a spicy cold chicken salad served on a bed of pasta tossed with basil-based pesto.    

            

    Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier LCBO # 147975, $14.95
  • Toonie Time: Limited Time Offer

    Everyone likes savings, not just cents, but dollars. Forget the Loonie, let's go for the Toonie instead. Canadians have never had an aversion to two-dollar currency units, whether in paper or metal form. All attempts in the USA to introduce two-dollar bills have been met with resistance. Even one-dollar coins failed to take flight not unlike a bald eagle with an injured wing. Canadians travelling to the USA are always frustrated with bills of the same colour. But then, Americans can’t understand our love affair with multi-coloured hologram bills either. And all those US dollar bills don’t go far anymore. Quite the task having to straighten out crumpled dollar bills and coaxing a finicky vending machine to accept less than pristine pieces of paper whose portraits of George Washington do not look very presidential. Not the case in Canada with its metal dollar denomination coins! Hey, what’s a teeny scratch on that polar bear standing on an ice flow or profiles of His or Her Majesty on the flip side.

    So where can we start saving toonies? Until June 23, Sandpoint California Chardonnay is two dollars off the retail price at your favourite LCBO Outlet. Twin Lange brothers, Brad and Randall, are fourth generation grape growers emphasizing environmental stewardship in all aspects of their farming activities. It’s rich, yet dry showing off seductive tropical fruit flavours topped off with toasted oak and vanilla aromas. Enjoy this ambassador of California sunshine in a bottle with food inspirations that have an affinity to the Pacific coastline such as lobster rolls, fishcakes or seafood tacos.   

    Sandpoint Chardonnay LCBO # 11194, $15.00. The regular price is again $17.00 starting June 24.  

  • Verdant Veggie Pairing With Verdejo

    Verdant means green. And now that we are transitioning from late spring to early summer, a popular green vegetable is showing up everywhere in produce sections. We are talking about asparagus. This perennial garden vegetable is actually a member of the lily family, native to the eastern Mediterranean. The word asparagus comes from the Greek, meaning “sprout” or “shoot.” Stemming from as far back as antiquity, the Greeks and Romans praised asparagus for its unique flavour, texture, and alleged medicinal properties. Internationally loved and consumed with relish (not the pickle-based condiment), it has a high tolerance for salt and prefers sandy soils heaped into a crown in long rows. It can grow up to thirty cm in twenty-four hours. Size also matters—the larger the diameter, the better the quality. Low in calories, containing no fat or cholesterol, it is very low in sodium and a good source of potassium, fiber and a host of vitamins. In short, asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence.

    What wine to match? Our choice would be Radio Boka Verdejo (pronounced ver-day-oh), a popular, characterful white from the Castilla Y Leon region of Spain. Similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo is citrussy, fruit forward, nutty, herbaceous with a nice acidity. Radio Boka is Vegan certified too.

    Asparagus can be prepared in a variety of ways and here’s our take. Cut an inch off the bottom of the spears. Poach for two-three minutes (depending on thickness of spears) in boiling water to retain its crunchiness. Plate it and garnish with slices of radish and red onion, topped with soft goat cheese. Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar glaze. Serve with your favorite seafood dish.     

    Radio Boka Verdejo LCBO #22872, $13.00

  • RELAX, Big Time

    The Victoria Day holiday is coming up this weekend. It’s a statutory holiday in the English-speaking provinces in Canada. Interesting, while many of the former colonies of Great Britain celebrate this holiday, it is not the case in the mother country. This is also the unofficial start of Canadian summer. Opening the cottage, garden work, deck building, garage sales, house cleaning, camping, whatever the activity, Canadians don’t just drink beer which the term “May Two-Four” euphemistically seems to imply.  

    We have the liberty to enjoy one’s favourite beverage of choice, with or without alcohol. The bestselling Riesling in Canada is our RELAX Riesling. And it’s now available in the economical 1.5-liter magnum size.

    Hailing from the steep-sloped vineyards located along Germany’s serpentine Mosel River valley, this is the hotbed of high-quality Riesling. The fruit driven bouquet and intense flavours of apples and peaches and a hint of citrus are balanced by a pleasant crispness leaving your mouth watering. And the alcohol is a moderate 9% alc./vol. Enjoy after finishing your chosen activities this long weekend on its own, or with lighter dishes.         

    So now let’s raise a glass and show a bit of class—God Save the Queen, Victoria, and let us not forget our new King, Charles II.

    RELAX Riesling Magnum LCBO #30561, $27.00. Or RELAX Riesling 750 ml LCBO #621888, $14.50.

  • Moms Deserve Mimosa

    No brunch would be complete without a Mimosa, or two, alongside your eggs benedict and smoked salmon. It’s a great tipple to enjoy, especially this Mother’s Day weekend.

    The history behind this favourite pre-midday cocktail is much disputed. The most plausible link points to bartender Frank Meier who created it at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.

    The Herres winery has come to the rescue and it is now available on a continuous basis at your favourite LCBO location. Mimosa lovers may enjoy this yummy imported sparkling cocktail pre-mixed. It’s no longer necessary to go through the time-consuming exercise of blending orange juice and sparkling wine hoping to hit the right combination of flavour and sparkle. The effervescence brings a liveliness as well as balance to the citrus elements. Enjoy, when the occasion calls, not just for brunch but also on the patio or deck during the upcoming sultry days of summer.

    Romeo Mimosa LCBO #14388, $12.95

  • Join Us And Grab A Glass of Joe

    While we tend to associate Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris with Oregon, there are sizeable plantings of Chardonnay found here, as well. Joe Dobbes is one of Oregon’s most experienced winemakers and largest vineyard owners in the premium Willamette Valley appellation. Before striking out on his own, he apprenticed with some of Burgundy’s top estates. And Chardonnay is, of course, the standard bearer for white wine in Burgundy. A secret we are sworn to, is that in addition to his own wines, Joe is a large custom crusher (producer) for many other well-known Oregon producers with virtual brands. He is also a pioneer in custom mobile bottling. It makes economic sense for smaller producers to engage his services, especially when bottling is a short-term activity only during selected times of the year. Joe’s popular entry level brand, Wine by Joe, has always punched, quality wise, way above its weight.

    The 2022 Chardonnay, with no oak treatment, begins with citrus aromas. Even though it’s dry, there is a lush, rich texture tempered by a steely acidity. With flavours of white peach, apple and tangerine, it can match many dishes. Since Oregon has a 585 km long coastline on the Pacific Ocean, there is an unlimited selection of seafood at its doorstep. Shrimp cocktail is tasty, but the ultimate match, in our opinion, is Dungeness crab. The bright acidity of the Chardonnay lifts the rich, slightly sweet texture of the crab meat.      

    It received a Best Buy designation in the Sept.1, 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine.     

    2022 Wine by Joe Willamette Valley Chardonnay LCBO #462978, $19.95

  • Pick up Pink Paloma Pronto

    The Romeo family of sparkling wine-based cocktails welcomes a new member, Pink Paloma. As a seasonal LCBO summer listing, it arrives hot on the heels of the very successful permanent listings of Romeo Peach Bellini and Romeo Mimosa.

    Paloma means dove and fans of Greek mythology associate doves with the goddess of love, Aphrodite. According to ancient Greeks, these delicate birds soared beautifully through the sky symbolizing grace and serenity.

    What’s not to love about Romeo Pink Paloma? It’s the perfect patio sipper. Low in alcohol with only 5.9% alc./vol., light pink in colour with hints of grapefruit pulp, it bursts forth with pleasant aromas of citrus fruits. Tangy, natural pink grapefruit flavours are beautifully balanced with a refreshing, crisp light sparkle. Easy to enjoy well chilled or savoured over ice, put up your feet and kick back. But remember, it’s only available for a limited time, so you may wish to stock up to avoid running out as the daily temperatures keep getting warmer.     

    Romeo Pink Paloma LCBO #36838, $11.25

  • New Times For Old Vines

    Vieilles Vignes (French), Alte Reben (German), Vinas Viejas (Spanish) – they all translate into English as old vines. More and more, this designation is showing up on labels from the major wine producing regions around the world. Although most countries’ wine labelling laws do not specifically state how old a vine must be before it can be called “old vines,” a minimum of twenty years of age seems to be the unofficial agreed-upon benchmark. As the vine gets older, its trunk and root system matures. This translates into a “little more” of everything – bouquet, flavour, body, finesse.

    The Speck brothers of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Baco Noir pioneers in Ontario, first shovel-planted vines as far back as 1984. To quote them, “the vines are old because they are good, not good because they are old.” Their Baco Noir Old Vines has been a staple on the shelves of LCBO retail stores for many years. A full-bodied red wine with a rich bouquet and flavours of black currant and spice dominate the finish with lingering notes of tasty oak.

    Grilled lamb burgers or smoked sausages would make delicious pairings.

    2022 Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Old Vines LCBO # 459966, $19.95

  • It’s About High Time

    High Elevation refers to the location of Shannon Ridge vineyards in northern eastern California’s Lake County. Certified sustainable, organic and mountain-grown at elevations between 500 to 1000 meters, it means the growing season is longer allowing for an un-hurried, natural ripening of the grapes. This translates into intense and complex varietal character.

    With Chardonnay being the world’s most popular white varietal, Shannon Ridge offers consumers a classic, immediately approachable interpretation. Ripe pear notes combine with tropical fruits that lead into a lengthy mineral finish. California is the quintessential metaphor for an unfettered, relaxed lifestyle. This glass of California sunshine beckons one to just savour it on its own with a group of friends.

    A food pairing? California Roll, naturally! This variation of the traditional Japanese sushi roll, without raw fish, featuring avocado, imitation crab, cucumber and sushi rice has made it a staple in sushi establishments everywhere. Enjoy.        

     2022 Shannon Ridge High Elevation Collection Organic Chardonnay LCBO #36754, $24.95.

  • Red Re-Alignment On The Douro

    Firstly, tinto is the Portuguese word for red. As the production of fortified Port wines has slowed down somewhat, producers with vineyards along the Douro River are in a fortunate position. The indigenous red grape varieties, especially Touriga National, used for Port production, are ideal for making full bodied, dry red wines.

    Real Companhia Velha is Portugal’s oldest wine company founded in 1756. Its Evel brand Tinto comes from their best Quintas (vineyards) located around the town of Pinhao, considered to be the premium center of grape growing in the upper Douro region.

    Starting with a pronounced ruby red colour with violet tints, aromas of red berries, green tobacco, and vanilla from oak aging, it moves us on to a medium body with soft tannins and a long finish.

    Red wine and a red wine sauce are a local favourite pairing with Portugal’s national fish, baked Bacalhau, or cod as we would know it.  

    2019 Evel Tinto Douro LCBO #190964, $14.95

  • Haming It Up For The Holiday

    Serving ham to the family as they gather round the table to celebrate Easter is an engrained tradition in many households in Ontario. We have an extremely easy-to-prepare recipe. Put a ham into a crockpot, slather with brown sugar and maple syrup, cover with pineapple slices and pour pineapple juice over it. Simmer at very low heat for 2-3 hours. Given the sweet, slightly piquant, tropical flavours that have had a chance to infuse the meat, what wine should we pair it with? A flavourful Riesling with a beautiful balance between subtle sweetness and lively crispness, of course. And its ancestral homeland, with the largest concentration of Riesling plantings in the world, is Germany.

    The middle Mosel based Max. Ferd. Richter Estate was founded in the village of Mülheim in1680, but vine growing there has been documented as far back as 591. Across the Mosel River is the village of Brauneberg. Its top vineyard, Juffer, takes its name from a religious convent located there many centuries ago. A completely steep sloping vineyard, the site is planted only with Riesling on a base of mainly slate with clay, loam and pebbles mixed in. The Kabinett classification means it’s a slightly later harvested “reserve style wine.” Racy, characterful and elegant, it delivers an enticing interplay of aromas and flavours with a long, long finish. Drinking beautifully now, it will only improve with another 5 to 10 years of aging. Rober Parker rated it with 93 points.

    Bring on the ham, pair it with this Riesling Kabinett and enjoy family time with food and wine this Easter. Oh, forgot to mention, scalloped potatoes are a must for the carb component.                     

    2022 Max Ferd. Richter Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett LCBO #36929, $31.95.