I love wine and my boys.

What To Try At Calgary’s WineFest 2012

Calgary’s WineFest goes this weekend at the BMO Centre and I’ll be in the booth with Delf Wines pouring up some samples for the masses.

Before I tell you about the wines in the flight we’ll be sampling, make sure you check out these tips on How To “Do” A Winefest. While some treat it as a wild open bar party, it really can be an educational experience (and party) if you approach it properly.

This year at WineFest, I’ll be pouring 13 wines from Italy, Spain ,and Argentina, here are a few of the highlights:

Finca Los Primos Syrah 2010Finca Los Primos Syrah 2010
Peppery, earthy, tea, black cherry, smoky nose. Soft, round, smooth, slightly sweet entry with good acidity. Spicy, black cherry, cedar, meaty, pepper flavours.

Famiglia Bianci Cabernet Sauvignon 2007Famiglia Bianci Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
90 points | Category Champion | Wine Access 2011 International Value Wine Awards
“The nose has intense aromas of cassis, plum and hints of the menthol and dried herbs that are typical of cabernet sauvignon. The palate is quite complex, offering a lot for this price point.”

Castano Lujuria 2009Castano Lujuria 2009
89 points | Killer Value & Best of Spain | Wine Access Magazine 2011 International Value Wine Awards
“Bright red fruit (strawberry, raspberry), blackberry and perfume notes on the nose are elegantly simple and alluring. It’s a silky, medium-bodied red that delivers raspberry and cherry notes with light acidity and soft tannin.”

Castaño Hecula 2008Castaño Hecula 2008
89 points | The Wine Advocate
“The 2008 Hecula is 100% Monastrell sourced from 35 to 60 year-old vines and aged 50% in tank and 50% in French oak. Ripe, sweetly-fruited, and forward, this crowd-pleaser can be enjoyed now and over the next 4 years.”
Robert Parker

Villa Teresa Organic Rose FrizzanteVilla Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante
Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards 2011 – Best Sparkling
“Put a little pink on the table! Delicate cherry, strawberry and oral aromas with lovely red fruit avours and gentle bubble keep it fresh and fun.”
BCLDB Taste Magazine – Fall 2010

Villa Teresa Organic Merlot 2010Villa Teresa Organic Merlot 2010
Medium-bodied with full flavours of cherries and plums — all the fruit but without the sweetness. Its Italian character comes through in earthy and herbal notes. Excellent with salami, pork and white roasted meats.

If you’re coming to WineFest this weekend, please introduce yourself to me in the Delf booth.

Wine Festival Pet Peeves

Now that you know all the best ways to navigate the aisles of a wine festival, let’s go behind the table and peek at some of the pet peeves of the people working it:

1. This is their Christmas. Most pourers have been pulling 12+hour days pouring wine and entertaining VIPS all week, so be patient with them.

2. Sloppy drunk people may be fun at the bar, but they’re not fun at WineFest. Have a good time, but keep it under control.

3. Raising your glass and clinking it on the bottle isn’t necessary. Say “when”, when you mean “when” and they’ll stop pouring.

4. Perfume and smelly hairspray. One of the most powerful qualities of wine, is its bouquet. Dousing yourself in Curious by Britney Spears and emptying a bottle of Final Net on your head before you leave will not only kill all of your senses, but those of the people around you. You think we’re kidding, we’re not. Not even a quick spritz. Go au naturel to this event. PLEASE!

5. Going right for the decanter. It’s not necessarily the most expensive. Jen and her team have been known to take the cheapest bottle they’re pouring and drop it in a decanter just to fool the smart asses. ASK first, they might even reach under the table and pull out a secret bottle for you to sample 😉

6. The know-it-all is almost as bad as the candy perfume girl. Yes, you’ve been to Napa. Maybe you’ve even golfed with Ernest and Julio, but remember tips 1 and 8 from above. You may be bragging to someone even more special than yourself, and, in the end, everyone is there to learn and have fun

So now that you’re well versed in the behind-the-scenes secrets of WineFest, you’re almost set. One final thing to remember: plan a way to get home. These open bar shenanigans can get out of hand very easily. Unless you’re spitting, you’ll be done in half a dozen booths or less. So get home safe.

Everyone loves wine. Nobody likes a dead drunk.

How To “Do” Wine Festivals

There are a variety of Wine Festivals in Calgary each year, one seems to happen every few months.

Liquor Depot sponsors the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival in October, Co-Op sponsors The Grape Escape a couple of times a year, Calgary WineFest is in February, while Willow Park Wine and Spirits has events at their store year round.

Here are my tips and tricks as you head down to get your grape on.

1. Respect the person pouring. They’re not $10/hr hostesses, but actually knowledgeable sales reps, maybe the President of the company, or perhaps even the Winemaker

2. Respect your palate. Start with the light wines and finish heavy (ie save the Ports til last) If you’re going on 2 separate nights, do white one night, red the other.

3. Leave your big purse at home. It’s tough to balance all that and a glass, a wristlet with your id and keys should be enough. That said …

4. Bring a journal or notebook to take notes on what you’re trying. Trust me, 5 glasses in you’ll forget what you had first.

5. Try something different than what you always buy – here’s your chance to go on an adventure with minimal risk.

6. Don’t wear white. Even if you don’t spill, someone else might. Jen saw someone in a beautiful white suit one year, with a lovely streak of shiraz right down her back.

7. There are no dumb questions, you’re there to learn, and the pourers are there to help.

8. Have something to eat before you go. You’re going to be drinking a lot, and you don’t want to do it on an empty stomach. Which leads us to …

9. Spit spit spit spit! You’re going to be drinking a lot, so even if you’re looking to get your drunk on, spit.

10. Don’t rinse your glass with the water at the table, people think they’re spittoons (see #9). Instead, ask the pourer for a splash of the wine you’re about to sample to rinse out your glass.

11. The good stuff will be gone first. All the expensive bubbles etc are in limited quantities, so look for them Thursday and early in the night on Friday

Luke, I Am Your Sommelier

Wine Tasting with Andy Milonakis has had me giggling all night.

Here’s a little more on Andy (I’d never heard of him before seeing this):

Milonakis was born with a congenital growth-hormone condition that gives him the outward appearance and voice of an adolescent even though he is an adult in his mid-30s. In his high school years at John Jay High School, in Cross River, New York, he would use comedy as a means to cope with incessant bullying.

“Humor is a great defense mechanism,” says Milonakis. “If you’re a serious, fat, young-looking kid, you’re not going to be the most popular guy in high school.” [wiki]

Cork or Screw?

 The Cork Quality Council has released a survey reporting that almost all wine drinkers prefer wine that’s corked.

According to the survey, 94 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to purchase wine with natural cork.  A nearly equal number, 93 percent, said that natural cork conveys high or very high quality. [Tragon]

Sorry, they prefer wine with a cork. Problem is, 1 bottle in each case with the cork will be corked.

According to another poll, the romance of cork and the whole ritual of opening wine is losing it’s appeal. The survey performed by Wine Intelligence for its 2011 Closures Report,  showed 85% of the regular wine-drinking population now accepts screwcaps – more than double the rate of acceptance in 2003.

While 51% of consumers say they actively like buying wines under cork, 42% like buying screwcapped wines – a figure that has increased sevenfold compared to eight years ago, when 6% of consumers said they actively liked screwcap.

Female wine drinkers in their 30s and 40s are the biggest drivers of screwcap acceptance, along with younger drinkers who have recently entered the wine category. [Decanter]

At recent wine trade shows I’ve worked, the tasters are asking for cork or screw info along with the tasting notes. Hotels, banquets and bars prefer the screwcap because it’s easier to open and store.

I’m a female wine drinker (about to turn 40) and I prefer the screwcap.  It’s easier to have a glass and a half at dinner and slap a screw top back on than it is to jam a cork back in the bottle.  It’s convenient and even the winemakers I’ve spoken with recently prefer the screwcap closures.

Sure, there are some that will never have screwcaps (champagne and port), but it is trending.

In the end, does it really matter? It’s just grape juice.

Naughty Betty Wine Wraps and Cocktail Napkins

When it comes to clever sayings about how wine fits into your life, none are better at coining them than Naughty Betty.  The company is all about turns of phrase in bold fonts and patterns.

Wondering how wrap a bottle of wine?  If the Wine Monkey doesn’t suit you, then maybe Naughty Betty‘s collection of Wine Wraps will inspire you.

wine gets better with age we get better with wine besides wine family and friends are the best gifts tis the season to believe in wine Good Tidings And Cheer Are Much Easier With Wine

The removable sticker covers the wine label with a clever saying and comes with a To/From sticker for the neck.  We all know it’s wine, might as well make it fun.

Cocktail napkins are a staple of the Naughty Betty site and she has a few fun wine-themed ones.

anything is possible with wine and a good concealer wine is a must have like black pants and celebrity gossip

You can find some of the Naughty Betty products in Canada at Pier 1 Imports, but the selection is best online.

3 Canadian Wine Apps To Help You Find The Perfect Pairing

Tis the season to go to Christmas parties. Whether its a celebration with sales and accounting, or just an open house with your best friends, here’s a list of 3 Canadian wine apps to help you find the available fuel for those parties.

Natalie MacLean’s Food and Wine Pairing [free]

This is an update to the NatDecants app which used to be in the App Store for $2.99.  Now the app is free with the option to subscribe to MacLean’s newsletter for $2 a month.

This app is a serious upgrade over the original.  You can scan barcodes of wines and instantly pull up reviews.  You can sort your own tasting notes, keep track of wine’s you own or have tasted in virtual cellars.  When you find a wine you like, not only is a list of 4 or 5 pairing menu items presented, but you can click through to complete recipes!  The free portion of the app will give you access to MacLean’s decade plus backlog of reviews.  The paid portion will open up more recent content.

Wine Access Magazine [free]

Canada’s authority when it comes to tasting notes has a gorgeous and easy to use app.  You’re presented with a few options at the start.  You can select a wine name, varietal or winery, you can choose a wine colour, type or country or you can search through the magazine’s top rated wines.

Again there’s a portion of the app to help you store your own personal tasting notes, and keep a shopping list of wines to get when you’re next out shopping.

Sommelier Wine [free]

This is an app that is starting to power wine lists in restaurants in Calgary.  Already Catch is one restaurant where you will be presented with an iPad 2 to help select your wine with dinner.  The app has a great back end for restaurants to manage inventory and sales so you’ll never get a “Sorry sir, we’re out of that selection.”

The app itself helps you drill down through the specific menu items to find perfect pairings as selected by the local sommelier.  You can also do your own sorting by varietal, region or price.

How To Wrap A Bottle Of Wine

Its wine.  Everyone knows it’s wine.  Whether you struggle to wrap it, put it in a glitter gift bag or hand it to them plain, it’s wine.

Wine is a great gift to bring to any holiday party and is always handy for the hostess to have on hand.

But how do you bring wine to a party without looking like everyone else who brought wine to the party?  With The Wine Monkey [$12 at Chapters/Indigo]

Everyone loves a sock monkey.  This is a sock monkey that loves wine.  And once you’ve drained everyone’s bottles, you’ll have a lot more fun making up silly voices for the wine monkey than a brown paper bag.

Kelly Ripa Loves Her Wine Rack

I don’t know if I’d really use this bra with ballasts to drink wine, but if you’ve really got to get your drink on at a festival or hockey game – fill your boots .. er .. bra.

Is it any shock The Wine Rack comes from the same company responsible for The Beer Belly? At $30, these might just be the gag item to bring to the company gift exchange.

Natalie MacLean Is Unquenchable

Natalie MacLean - Unquenchable

Noted wine writer Natalie Maclean is out with a book in time for the holiday season and if you’re looking for a perfect pairing, check out her app.

Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, is a hit, already hitting the top 5 on the bestsellers’ list.

Her app is also a great release. Natalie Maclean Wine Picks and Pairings can scan more than 150,000 wines for tasting notes and information.

“For some reason, Random House wasn’t willing to update my book every month, even though the wines in stores change every month,” MacLean told TechVibes, tongue-in-cheek. “So the app is a natural companion to the book, not only to get a shopping list of current wines, but also to supplement the book’s content with photos, video clips, interviews and other material that would be too expensive include in the print version.”

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