Tuesday, 24 October 2017

How to pick a wine in 4 easy steps!

Hey Fellow Wino's

Did you know that every two weeks on a Saturday, Vintages releases a selection of new wines in limited amounts and when they're gone, they're gone! I enjoy this rotation because it allows me to purchase and taste wines that are not standard staples in the LCBO like Two Oceans, Jackson Triggs etc.

Ok, so there is new wine every two weeks but how do I know which one to buy? Excellent question reader.

Step Number 1. Sign up and become a Vintages insider and receive the Vintages magazine delivered right to your door free of charge from the LCBO. Become a Vintages Insider

Step Number 2. Read through this great magazine that has various education topics from regions, to grapes to styles and soak up some wine lingo. Near the back of the magazine are brief reviews and prices of all the new wines coming out. Circle some that might match your preference.

Step Number 3. Read my blog as I'll try and pick out my favourites from the new release which combine either something unique and/or wine with an excellent quality at an affordable price.

Step Number 4. Head to the LCBO and purchase them before they are gone.

My Picks for the new release this upcoming Saturday, October 28th!

2015 Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula at $21.95
This is a rare opportunity to drink a Canadian Chardonnay that has been fermented and aged in Canadian Oak for 12 months. American Oak often offers a bolder oakiness to the wine while French Oak tends to be more subtle, I suppose Canadian oak would add a bunch of "sorry" to the wine? This full-bodied and rich chardonnay would be perfect with a big Sunday supper perhaps pork chops with some late harvest vegetables like squash and pumpkin.

2015 Salentein Reserve Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina at $17
Argentina offers some exceptional value in its wine and this bottle is no exception. This Malbec is very aromatic, fruit driven and balanced with a silky smooth finish. This wine spent 12 months in neutral oak meaning the barrels have already been used for probably three vintages previous imparting only very subtle oak. In Argentina meat is king so perhaps a nice roast smothered in a Chimichurri rub, you'll feel like a Gaucho roaming Mendoza. #Meat&Wine

2014 Vina Cobos Felino Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Argentina at $19.95
I had the pleasure of tasting this wine last week as part of my CAPS program. Vina Cobos came in and presented to me and other hopefull future Somms their different wines. Vina Cobos is a very serious winery and this bottle backs up that statement. This wine is balanced, fruit forward yet balanced quite well. This refined wine I feel deserves a little more special attention so place a nice clean steak (salt n pepper) on the BBQ and let the smokey meat flavors mix with this stylish Argentinian wine. I'll certainly buy more than one.

2013 Mancura Gran Reserva Syrah/Cabernet Franc/ Merlot, Casablanca Valley, Chile at $17.95
76% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot will certainly cure any man of sorrows (Man-Cura). The syrah provides a spicy black pepper note, Cabernet Franc a green note like green peppers and the Merlot some cherry notes. This wine has already had some time to mellow but I would decant an hour to let it open up. Perhaps pair it with a peppercorn steak with a cranberry reduction and grilled asparagus to match the spicy, green and red fruit notes. You'll think you won an entire bar in Casablanca in a card game because this is a steal.

2015 Chateau Saint-Roch Chimères, Cotes du Roussillon-Villages, France at $19.95
This Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan blend are giving south of France charm on an Alabama budget. Serving up real deal realness. Displaying raspberries, licorice, smoked herbs, and chocolate shows this would pair well with a fabulous fall stew, perhaps Beouf Bourguignon?  It's a tad young so let it settle down in your decanter as your stew simmers. Surly to impress!

2015 Rustenberg Chardonnay, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa at $19.95
Have you heard about the wine "Two Oceans" before? Good, throw out that memory and rethink South African wine completely. This bottle will certainly help you rediscover what South Africa is all about. This Chardonnay is done in a Burgundian style which means they are doing it in the style of Chardonnay from Burgundy France. This means the wine will be well rounded, complex and filled with minerality giving the essence of the Terroir of Stellenbosch into the wine. This wine promises to be so pleasurable I say drink it alone or perhaps with some rich sea bass baked in the oven with scalloped potatoes. Is this from Burgundy or Stellenbosch, taste it and find out. #BurgundyOnABudget

          Lucky Number 7 for those special occasions or that special someone! 

2010 Segla, Margaux, Bordeaux, France at $69.95
Let's start with a brief understanding of Margaux, France. Margaux is a designated area in Bordeaux on the left bank of the Gironde river dividing Bordeaux. Left bank Bordeaux tends to be more gravel and limestone-based soils while the right bank tends to be more sand and clay. The soils of the left bank greatly favor Cabernet Sauvignon which is why this wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot to help round it out. Expect blackberry and cherry notes as they swirl with some smokey earthy notes to harmonize into one refined wine. This will be structured with fine tannins and worthy of a lengthy decant in the 1-2 hour range at minimum. Perhaps pair it with Steak Frites done in a skillet so the fat of the meat makes the fries worthy of being in a dish called "Steak Frites".

Don't be afraid to spend some money on your next bottle of wine. A great bottle of wine paired well with a great meal can be more than just something to help you "wash your food down." A good meal will fill your stomach but a good bottle of wine paired with your meal can elevate it to an almost heavenly experience. Good luck hunting this Saturday because come opening hours the deal hounds will be buying some of these by the case.

Happy Sipping,

Ryan Sullivan

Monday, 23 October 2017

Records, Rain & Wine

Hey Fellow Wino's

I'm listening to some old school records, Sarah Vaughn circa 1940's and 1950's. It's a cool October rainy night in Toronto and my boyfriend is working late. Candles are lit, wine is in the decanter and I've got that mellow vibe. I've got a 2014 Chateau De Segure, Fitou, Midi (South of France)  decanting as I write. I like this wine because it's smooth, pleasant and warming like a thin blanket. It's only a Monday and I don't have a tailored meal so breaking out a bigger wine in both complexity and price just isn't my style.

Why do you like wine?

I enjoy sipping wine with friends or family because I feel it lowers our guards and allows us to connect better. I also love some alone time, just a chill record and a glass to place my mind at rest.  Reading Natalie Maclean's wine book helped me think of wine in a more personable way other than simply a bunch of descriptors and points system. Natalie talks about wine as part of her life experiences from the bottle she had on her first few dates with her now husband, the romantic getaways they shared together up north with only the sound of rain on their metal roof and a glass of wine in each other's hands. I feel in the wine world people can get caught up on the technical side of wine as in how much French oak, how long has it been aged, how long can it age, what was the climate like, the soil...you get the picture. What about how it makes you feel?

One thing I challenge you to do, those who are reading this, think not about the descriptors, location, age or even price of your wine but the experience you'll have with your next bottle. Think about how much work went into making your very own bottle. The grape growers, the harvesters, the winemakers, the shippers, the salespeople who managed to make this next bottle uniquely yours. Will you sip it alone while blogging? Perhaps after a rough day at the office and a nice bubble bath? How about a meal you are preparing for your family to share together? Perhaps just you and your special someone and the possible sex you'll have? The fight you'll have? Wine like life is tumultuous at times but always real. I think if people do Yoga to balance their mind and soul why can't a nice bottle of wine do the same thing?

To me, wine is pleasure, a challenge, an adventure and like a photograph something that can help capture a moment. Most of my wine is simply sitting waiting to be opened with the memories not yet created. I have a few bottles reserved for some upcoming special occasions like NYE, when Joseph get's his next acting gig and a few others. Most bottles are simply waiting to capture a moment I don't see coming yet.  I think perhaps people should consider how wine makes you feel as opposed to debating raspberry or blackberry notes. Think about it next time you open your uniquely own bottle of wine.

Check out the 2014 Tapiz Alta Collection, Malbec, Argentina. I like this wine not because of it's price of $19.95, nor its delightful fruit but for how smooth this wine is. Try it with a fillet mignon and fingerling potatoes.

Check out the 2004 Faustino Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain. This is an excellent opportunity to sip a well aged and well matured superb wine from Rioja because even at $34.95 it offers great value. This wine deserves the best steak money can buy on the BBQ served medium rare. This Tempranillo-based blend will deliver a punch from a velvet glove so let it breathe a little.

Check out the 2013 Coyam, Colchagua Valley, Chile. This Syrah-based blend will offer something to enjoy on a cooler evening for $29.95. I would consider a nice roast with this one and perhaps toss a glass in to help make the best meat drippings based gravy you've ever had.

Last but not least, 2012 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. They say that Pinot Noir is very capable of adapting its flavor profile to how and where it's grown. The Terroir of the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley is rainy, cool and soil so infertile that only grapes can grow. This smooth sipper can be decanted and sipped by itself. Poorly made Pinot Noir taste like Pinot Noir, well made Pinot Noir taste like the Terroir of its birthplace. If you are patient you'll taste the terroir of the Willamette, those cool rainy slopes for a cool evening in Toronto at $35.95.

If you like my blog feel free to subscribe and share with your friends.

Happy Sipping,


Sunday, 15 October 2017

I'll show you my cellar if you show me yours :P

Hey Fellow Wino's

I am often asked what is a good bottle or what do you recommend. I thought I would simply share my cellar with you. Check out a great website and app, Cellar Tracker. You can read everyday consumers reviews, points, different people's cellars and what is in mine.

Check out the link below


As I write this I currently have around 85 bottles in my condo waiting to be opened, swirled, smelled and tasted. I'm pretty passionate about wine and due to the sommelier program, I'm currently in, its key to always be studying. I store my wine in a kitchen cabinet below my center island, hardly a proper temperature controlled place but for short term, it's better than above your fridge or beside your oven. I've got Pinot Noir's from California, Oregon, Ontario, France to Cabernets from Bordeaux, Australia, and Ontario. Spanish Gran Riservas, modern Italian Tuscan blends with French grapes, South African red blends, Chilean Carmenere....the list is a long one. I am a serious spender but not a silly one. I'll read washer and dryer reviews for several weeks before buying, yes I'm that serious. I just like to know I'm getting excellent quality for my hard earned money. The same comes to my wine selections, all selected by myself for sharing with friends and family....ok and a few are just for me.

I just purchased this new book on Champagne by Peter Liem, a champagne expert who moved from NYC to Champagne to absorb all things bubbly. Everything you need to know about Champagne from the Terroir to the different Champagne houses. I'm only 1/4 way through but this is an excellent book as Peter wants you to think about Champagne as a terroir-focused wine, not simply popped to celebrate and consumed without seriousness. 

I had a fun Northern Italian wine tasting last week that finished with a 2007 Barolo...molto benne. P.S. for $40 that bottle is long gone from the LCBO unless you live in maybe Ottawa or Kenora. 

I picked up these bottles today as well as a few more because they just came out yesterday from the LCBO. The chance to drink a 2004 Grand Riserva from Rioja, Spain for $34 is an excellent opportunity. Check out the wine to the right of it, a Chateau Peymelon, Bordeaux from 2006 for only $19.95. Will it be mind blowing, probably not, but a fun chance to drink some older Bordeaux. 

People often say they are nervous to pick out a wine when they come over because in their eyes I'm an expert. Well, I am into terroir focused wine but hardly an expert. I like wine that tastes like it comes from a specific place. A well made Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is easily distinguishable just as a Chianti Classico from Tuscany, they have a sense of place. A Chardonnay from Chablis France taste like the chalky soils where it's grown, not simply the chardonnay grape. The point I'm getting at is I suggest you ditch the big names like "J Lohr" or "Jackson Triggs" and try a Cabernet/Merlot blend from Stellenbosche South Africa for $15.75. You will be surprised at the value in leaving the big well-known brand names and regions. My standard reccomend go-to for a $20 bottle is Chile, Argentina or South Africa. You simply can't go wrong! 

Have I mentioned "leave your comfort zone" enough yet? 

Happy Sipping, 

Ryan Sullivan 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Thanksgiving...Gobble Gobble

Hey Fellow Winos 

I can't believe I'm writing this but it's almost Thanksgiving! This is a time of year for family to gather, have a nice meal and a glass of wine or two usually to celebrate but for some people, it may be so they can tolerate :P 

I'll share a few options with you so please for the love of god ditch that boxed wine and treat yourself to a new experience. Whites, roses and even reds! The best part is that most of these wines can be ordered from the LCBO online and shipped right to your door! 

1. Pierre Sparr, Gewurztraminer from Alsace France at $17.45. "Medium gold in colour; very aromatic, perfumed nose with lychee, rose petal and mango; dryish, medium bodied; sweet fruit centre with spice flavours, balanced with a long, warm finish." Vintages Panel. 

2. Kuhlmann-Platz Pinot Gris 2015 at $18.95 from Alsace France. "Sourced from chalky vineyards and vines averaging more than 20 years of age, this fresh Pinot Gris toys with being off-dry and has spicy notes with floral and fruit tones. Excellent mouthfeel and texture with good replays of the apple, peach and citrus suggested by the nose." Vintages Panel. 

3. Domaine de La Baume Elisabeth, Viognier 2016, $16.95 from the south of France. "Made in a modern style, this ripe, robust Viognier is overflowing with peach, apricot and citrus fruit, while pretty floral notes and stony mineral add complexity. Excellent value." Vintages Panel. 

4. Domaine Nugues Beaujolais Villages Red, 2015 at $19.10 from Beaujolais, France. This wine is made with the red grape "Gamay" and produces youthful, easy drinking light and fruity wine, I didn't say sweet. Treat this wine like a white and sip it chilled (ok a little bit more warmth) as it should highlight the cranberry and lingonberry sauces you have nicely. If you can't find this one, try any Beaujolais.

5. Hidden Bench Estate, Pinot Noir from 2012 at $31.95 from Niagara, Ontario. "Vibrant raspberry, ripe black cherries and plums express the warm and sunny 2012 vintage. The palate is loaded with rich, concentrated red and dark fruit notes, with an underlying earthiness and a savoury, juicy finish. Tannins are round and silky." Hidden Bench Winery.

6. Featherstone Rose, 2016 at $15.95 from Niagara, Ontario. "Featherstone's Rose has won impressive awards in the past, including a double gold medal at the 2014 Ontario Wine Awards. This wine shows strawberry, candied watermelon, and baked cherry on the nose. Creamy and refreshing, with cherry and cran-apple persisting on the finish." Vintages Panel.  Perfect for more fruit-based dishes like cherry or apple pie for dessert. 

The white wines above pair well with the light yet richness of the turkey, white gravies and stuffing. The rose can be great with the meal or perhaps even with dessert. The Beaujolais can highlight your red berry dressings much like the Rose could while the Pinot Noir can really match the earthy mushroom dishes or darker gravies. Play around with it this Thanksgiving and don't be afraid to try something new. 

I'm constantly asking wine professionals, watching youtube clips, reading and most importantly tasting wine to learn as much as I can. Learning about wine is a long journey because there is so much to soak in but it's tons of fun. Don't stick to your standard go-to, be adventurous, be bold...but not Australian Shiraz with Turkey bold, that's just crazy! 

Gobble Gobble, 

Ryan Sullivan 

Vintages, Saturday May 25th, 2019

Hey Fellow Wino's I've got some new picks for you to try out from today's vintages release. 1.  Blue Mountain Gold Label Bru...