PAIRING: Llama 2018 Malbec + Barbacoa Burritos

Barbacoa is a traditional method of cooking meat over fire – the early origins of our modern day barbecuing. It originated in the Caribbean and in Mexico, where whole sheep or goats, and sometimes a cow’s head were cooked low and slow in holes dug in the ground and covered in thick layers of leaves. This closed-environment method of cooking created a gentle, moist heat that can be closely replicated by using a slow cooker. Barbacoa eventually spread north into the United States where it evolved into our much beloved Southern BBQ.

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Elouan 2017 Pinot Noir + Braised Beef Shanks

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shared a wine review. My family and I have all been fighting what seems like a never-ending cold. I finally felt a little more like myself this past weekend, so we opened a bottle of Elouan 2017 Oregon Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the temperate climate and fertile soil of the Oregon coast. Pinot Noir grapes thrive in cooler temperatures. With a long growing season and the gentle sunlight that’s plentiful in the higher latitudes, Oregon provides the ideal growing conditions for these delicate grapes. In crafting this wine, the winemaker sought to reinvent Oregon Pinot Noir. By sourcing and blending fruit from three distinct terroirs along the coastline from North to South, each selected for the unique characteristics of the grapes they produce, the winemaker created a wine that has incredible depth of flavour and vibrancy while maintaining the purity and bright acidity for which Oregon Pinots are famous.

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Juggernaut 2018 Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon

This week’s wine review is brought to you by my husband who chose the wine. Standing in our local wine shop last week, I might have skimmed past it as I was scanning the shelves, but he pointed it out to me. “That looks interesting,” he said, eyeing a bottle with a vibrantly illustrated label. The owner of the shop, who is also a trusted connoisseur, assured us that we would love it, so naturally, it came home with us. It was the label that caught my husband’s attention – a lion, with teeth bared, lunging with ferocity at some unseen foe. It’s a very masculine image which appeals on a visceral level, but what really struck me were the fine lines of the illustration and the contrasting colours. Specifically, crimson leaves scattered beneath the beast’s turquoise claws and jowls. Like something from a synesthetic dream, and that appeals to me, viscerally.

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Rascal 2019 Pinot Gris and a Rotisserie-Style Roast Chicken

Wine label art has become a genre of modern art all to itself and is a topic on which whole books could be written. It’s become a fun pastime of mine to peruse the shelves of my local wine store admiring the labels on each bottle and wondering about the meaning behind each image. I like to look at labels through an analytical lens in the same way someone might decipher the meaning of a poem. While many wines have elaborately illustrated labels without mention as to what the pictures represent, there’s also much beauty in simplicity. The first is like an epic poem, so full of fluff that it struggles to keep the line and measure in its extravagance while the latter is a crisp and perfectly executed Haiku. Of course, it goes without saying that no matter how compelling the artwork on the label, the wine inside must be equally, if not more, delicious, complex, interesting. All of these properties converged perfectly in this Rascal 2019 Pinot Gris. The simplicity of the label is what first caught my eye – on the top, a dog with a halo. You know there must be a good story behind the picture. I turned the bottle over and read that Rascal Wine gives back a portion of the proceeds to animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country. It’s no secret how much I love our rescue dogs. That sealed the deal.

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Marchesi Torrigiani 2016 Chianti

Living in Italy during my early twenties was like experiencing an epiphany or, one might say, a “Big Awakening.” I found everything to be, in a way, more authentic, raw and real. The people are more genuine and passionate, the food is purer, fresher, more life-giving. It goes with out saying that the coffee is far better and the wine is an institution of the kind I had never experienced before. Growing up in the US, albeit with European grandparents, wine didn’t play a big roll in our everyday lives. I remember, at holidays, my grandfather would pull out a Magnum-size bottle of Sutter Home White Zinfandel from the refrigerator with much ado, and I might get a little taste, poured into a liqueur glass. Until I was 18 and boarding a plane to Europe, that Zinfandel was the sad extent of my wine knowledge.

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Gruet Barrel Select 2017 Chardonnay

Gruet Winery is best known for producing some of the US’s favourite Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, but did you know that they make an exceptional collection of stills, as well? With Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown exclusively in New Mexico, the quality of which I have written numerous times, Gruet was established in 1984 by acclaimed French champagne maker Gilbert Gruet, and run under the expertise of his son, the winemaker, Laurent Gruet. But the state’s winemaking history goes back over 400 years, far longer than the history of the United States as a country. New Mexico’s desert landscape, high elevation, fertile soil and dramatic temperature swings provide ideal growing conditions, something Spanish monks of the 1600s recognized when they smuggled vines out of their homeland to plant in the new Americas. Today, Gruet has partnered with the local indigenous population of the Pueblo of Santa Ana and others to grow grapes to the unique specifications of the winemaker.

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Borrowed Time Chardonnay

When it comes to wine, I can’t think of one that’s more derisive than Chardonnay.  Some people love it while others can’t stand it.  Both sides are adamant about their opinions on the matter and absolutely no one is on the fence.  Thanks to mass production and the Chardonnay “boom” of the 1980s and 1990s, many of us associate the wine with the glasses of golden elixir, ever-present in our tipsy aunts’ hands at family gatherings.  It’s a shame, really, because Chardonnay has so much to offer than to be typecast in such a disparaging roll.  It’s the primary grape in Champagne, after all. Continue reading “Borrowed Time Chardonnay”

Borrowed Time Cabernet Sauvignon

I know all about the gimmicks some vintners use to sell a subpar bottle.  You know – hide a bad wine behind a pretty label and market it to those of us who are drawn to wine on an inherently emotional level; however, that’s not the case for this California Cabernet Sauvignon.  I admit, the label is what drew me to the wine initially.  It’s a gorgeous montage of surrealist imagery.  A time traveller plunges into the depths of the ocean where she’s encased in a world of symbolism and metaphor.  You can draw your own interpretations. But the first sip told me that there’s more to this wine than just meets the eye.

The wine is first and foremost fruit forward.  On the nose, I instantly thought of crème de cassis as blackcurrant is both the predominate scent and flavour.  Taking a backseat are the aromas of wild plum, like the ones that grew in my back yard when I was a kid, along with the subtleties of pencil shavings – both of wood and of graphite – and warm green peppercorns. There’s also a faint sweetness that surprised me a little and provided a bridge between the nose and the palate. Continue reading “Borrowed Time Cabernet Sauvignon”

The Land of Enchantment

I go to New Mexico to be inspired.  The culture, the landscape, the food, the history, the textures, the colours – they’re all threads in a complex and fascinating tapestry.  At first sight New Mexico may be deceiving – a harsh, desolate wilderness where even the plethora of adobe houses somehow fade seamlessly into the landscape beyond leaving you to wonder whether they ever even existed in the first place.  Were they just mirages on the desert floor?   This is the place where dreams of the American Wild West were born and quickly went to die.  But there’s a reason New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment.” There’s a magic here, deep and ancient, rooted in traditions that never die. Continue reading “The Land of Enchantment”