Latest articles from Aaron Winsor

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Hello Prince Albert! Are you on the hunt for some new white wines to taste in the hot summer heat? I have a couple of deliciously crisp wines to share with you this week to help compliment some of the foods you may be cooking on the barbeque, including a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and a blended white wine from the famous French region, Cotes du Rhone.

What makes these two wines interesting is that they are both quite different from one another. First is the Sauv Blanc, which comes from the Aconcagua area of Chile. This region is known for its balance of hot valleys, mountainous zones and proximity to the ocean. Even entry-level wines from Chile can be delicious as they usually offer an excellent balance of ripened fruits with moderate to high acidity. The Errazuriz Sauv Blanc displays this balance with its medium-plus acidity and also highlights the coolness of the area with its cool, green-like flavors (green pepper, grass, gooseberry).

The flavors of this wine are not complex but the zip of acidity and cooler fruit flavors make it an enjoyable sipper to pair with pork, salads or seafood. While this white doesn’t have the intensity or tropical fruit ripeness of a Sauv Blanc from New Zealand, the price point is very affordable and makes it an easy choice for meals with company or visiting on the deck on a hot day. My personal favorite pairing with Errazuriz is either scallops or asparagus spears wrapped with bacon and grilled on the barbeque.

The French wine (Brunel de la Gardine) may be a familiar brand to those who regularly peruse the French wine section, as two of the bottles sold by the same producer are highly recognizable with their weird bent shape; this would be the Chateau de la Gardine red blend from the Cotes du Rhone AOC and its fancier (and dustier) counterpart La Fiole du Pape from the more specific Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. By using the Cotes du Rhone AOC designation on the bottle, white wines must be made using designated varietals from the region such as Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Viognier, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc and Picpoul. This specific blend contains Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Viognier amond others.  

The heat of the Rhone valley can produce some big, heavy wines but the best wines are made when producers understand the delicacy and freshness that can be achieved by properly growing the vines and fermenting the resulting fruit with care and attention. Grapes like Viognier and Rousanne can become heavy and syrupy at times but the Brunel de la Gardine is restrained in its display of fruit. Since the wine contains 14.5% alcohol and its quite full-bodied with an oily roundness, it can be deduced that the grapes contained a lot of sugar prior to fermentation (sugar is consumed by yeast and turned into alcohol which means the more sugar, the higher the alcohol). The producer could have left some sugar in the wine and stopped fermentation around 13 or 14% but the skill of the winemakers is indicated by the resulting wine (crisp, dry and restrained with a full body).

Side by side, I believe many people would choose the Sauv Blanc over the Cotes du Rhone due to its higher intensity and more immediate flavor output. Those that appreciate subtlety and intricacy in their wine will find more enjoyment from the French wine but food pairings will have to be carefully thought out as to not overwhelm the medium intensity of the flavor. The other factor to consider is the price comparison between the two products. The Errazuriz is a great deal for $16 but the French wine is still worth its $25 price tag (it really should be closer to $20). For its accessibility and price, the Errazuriz wins despite the fact that I technically rated it lower. It goes to show you that sometimes simple can be good!  

The Errazuriz is readily available around Prince Albert but you may have to hunt for the French wine a bit. Lake Country WSB should be getting another shipment sometime soon so put it on your list! Here are my wine picks of the week!       

Brunel de la Gardine Blanc 2019: (AOC Cotes du Rhone, France). Dry white, medium lemon color. The medium-intense nose is fresh and crisp with plenty of citrus notes (lemon peel, lemon curd), fresh pastry, yellow pear, honeydew melon and nutty tones. On the palate, the wine is gentle with medium-minus acidity and full-bodied with an oily, buttery texture. While the wine is round and full, it still tastes crisp with quick notes of pear, citrus and melon. After the brief mid palate, comes a long finish of delicate bitterness and spice. There is a slightly vegetal tone underneath the initial fruit flavors with lingering melon rinds and white pepper. Interestingly, this blended French white does have some tannins which indicates some barrel age or pressing techniques which squeeze tannins from the skins into the wine. Overall, this wine is subtle and crisp with subdued fruity notes and some medium tannins. The bitterness is never overwhelming and the oily texture from the body is pleasant and satisfying. Very old world and typically French. Pair with fresh fish like walleye or rainbow trout, cervelat salami or almond-stuffed olives. Very good! $25, 14.5% ABV

Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2021: (DO Aconcagua, Chile). Dry white, pale lemon color. Herbaceous aromas of gooseberries, grassy citrus, green pepper, fresh garden greens and mild, earthy minerals waft from the glass with medium-plus intensity. This light-bodied Chilean wine has a bright burst of flavor with a grassy, herbaceous mid-palate and tangy medium-plus acidity. Each sip brings out fresh, green notes like green pepper (capsicum), fresh grass and gooseberry which quickly moves into a slight mineral bitterness on the quick finish. The bitter flavors bring balance to the wine which mingles well with the citrus/grass notes and light buzz of acidity. This white is an excellent choice for food pairings/appetizers like spinach dip, grilled vegetables, scallops or fish tacos. The wine is simple but delicious and affordable (the perfect BBQ wine). Good! $16, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! One of the challenges of being a wine enthusiast is the fact that we can’t always drink the good stuff. For instance, a “good” bottle of wine for some people is $20 while for others, only $60 to $100 bottles will suffice. For those that enjoy a daily glass of wine, those price ranges can be unsustainable. As an everyday drink, many consumers turn to budget wines and will justify the dip in quality by the lower price they pay. Finding the compromise between price and quality comes with experience and understanding your personal preferences. Are budget wines any good? Is there value to be found in the sub-$20 category? Let’s take a look at two affordable Merlot wines from Canada!

Personally, the budget or entry-level wines are usually skipped because I’m focusing on other options to discuss but every now and then, I like to taste a few wallet-friendly drinks to see how they compare and if the value is worthwhile. With wine prices steadily increasing (among everything else), it’s always exciting to find a product we love for a great price. My search for inexpensive wines led me to two Merlots from the Canadian section of the liquor store. It is important to note that these bottles state “Product of Canada” on the back label and also, neither bottle has a vintage or specific region indicated. Why is this important?

Most liquor stores will separate the wines of Canada into two categories: Canada VQA and Canada. Wines that state VQA (Vintner’s Quality Assurance) on the label have undergone a rigorous analysis for quality and region of origin. This ensures the highest-quality for consumers and also protects the reputation of our country’s wines around the world. If you pick up a bottle of VQA wine, it should be consistently good if not great; however, there are hits and misses. Overall, this system works well and gives customers a starting point to make a purchasing decision.

In the other Canadian wine category, we have wines which are called “Product of Canada”. These wines are a blend of domestic and imported wines from around the world and the final blend is bottled or cellared in Canada. Wines that are designated or labeled as “Product of Canada” can still be quite tasty but they lose a sense of place or unique quality found in higher-end options due to the large amount of mass-produced wine used in the blend. For this reason, most of these (if not all) will not have a vintage on the bottle since it is such a large mixture of wines. Bolstering the confusion for customers is the fact that the majority of the wine inside a “Product of Canada” bottle can include up to 60 percent wine from another country. This means that the well-intended purchase of a Canadian wine is in fact not fully supporting Canadian wineries or growers but the companies that package them. It is not all negative though, as the more a Canadian company can make from their cheaper wines, the more they can invest in creating truly amazing wines worthy of the higher prices.

What are the major differences between these budget bottles and mid to high-priced wines? There are several factors to consider here including the overall texture of the wine (smooth, soft, delicate, harsh, rough, etc.), intensity of flavors, aging potential (budget wines are not for aging), complexity and balance. Entry-level wines put an emphasis on simple, fruity flavors and for that reason, they can often be drank alone and don’t require food pairings to enjoy. They can also be out of balance with heavy flavors and a lack of acidity. Producers want to create easy-drinking wines with some body and flavor but will stay away from heavier tannins and acidity; This makes these wines one-dimensional but often more approachable for the everyday person.

Onto the wines of the week! I actually enjoyed both Merlots I tasted and the JT (Jackson Triggs) came out on top due to its balance and simple flavors. Both wines gained and lost points for different reasons which is why they ended up with a rating of Good. The JT is drier with lighter intensity (normal for Merlot) and it aligns with the classic style of Merlot, flavorful yet subdued at the same time. The Screw it! on the other hand, goes for the flavor with higher intensity and more body. Even though Screw it! contains slightly more acidity, the wine is still marginally out of balance but it also brings the intense fruity flavor and a boost of juicy sweetness. I would recommend both wines, especially for the price. I preferred the JT but I know many people that would enjoy the Screw it! as well. No matter how much you decide to spend on your bottle of wine, try your best to judge it based on its flavor alone, not the price you paid for it. Here are my wine picks of the week!           

Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot: (Product of Canada). Off-dry to medium-dry red, deep ruby color. Medium-intense aromas of ripe berries, plums, fruit leather and raspberries provide a fruity, yet simple nose. The JT Merlot has a full body with a smooth and fruity character. Medium acidity makes the wine soft with just the right amount of zip which compliments the medium-plus intense flavors of dark cherries, hints of vanilla, plums and fresh raspberries. The mid-palate is quick and fruity with medium tannins providing a bit of grippy texture on the tongue. This moves into a medium-length finish of slight pepper heat with hints of bread. The balance is great with this wine and even though it lacks complexity, it is easy to sip and drink. Pair with simple meaty snacks or roast beef. Good! $12.50, 12.5% ABV

Screw it! Merlot: (Product of Canada). Medium-dry red, deep ruby color with a purple tint. The nose is intense with a burst of powerful dark fruits leaping from the glass. There are lots of concentrated cherry scents to take in including preserved/cooked cherries and cherry candy, fruity plums, currants and juicy berries. On the palate, the wine tastes flat at first with a full body and a rush of dark fruit flavors (cherries, plums, raspberries). Interestingly, the medium-plus acidity comes in after the initial flavors settle and tingles along with simple spice on the medium-length finish. Fruity and bright with smooth, medium tannins and a touch of bread/yeast flavor near the end. This one tasted a bit strange at first (flat) due to the delayed acidity but after a few sips, this simple red is quite easy to enjoy. Pair with burgers, red pasta sauces or cheese. Good! $12.50, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! With spring finally arriving in Prince Albert (ignore the recent white stuff), many people are already taking to their decks and balconies, ready to absorb a bit of sun and heat after making it through the winter months. With outside visiting comes firepits, barbeques, good food and of course, wine! I tasted two excellent wines this week and both are highly suited for visiting and food pairing but we’re going to focus on a less-common white grape: Semillon!

The birthplace of Semillon is considered to be Bordeaux, France, where it was originally documented around 1736, specifically in Saint-Emilion and Sauternes. This white grape has traditionally been used for high-quality blends using Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscadelle but single-varietal options have become a trend as well and many wine producers are making exciting versions of this wine in a variety of countries. The key or primary locations for Semillon around the world are France, with over 11,000 hectares, Australia, with over 6,500 hectares and South Africa with over 1,000 hectares which also produces red-Semillon (a genetic mutation).

Speaking of Sauvignon Blanc, these two grapes share a genetic link and Semillon can taste quite similar to Sauv Blanc when picked young. When picked at a riper stage and given some age, Semillon really transforms and the flavors become honeyed and nutty. You can find Semillon in all sweetness levels, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, it all depends on the growing conditions and the work done in the winery.

The story of Semillon cannot be told without mentioning Botrytis, a fungus/mold which rots the fruit of the grape. Usually, Botrytis is kept out of the vineyard due to its damaging effects on the grapes but in certain circumstances it can develop into Botrytis Cinerea aka “noble rot”. In order for noble to rot to develop, the vineyard must have a fairly consistent temperature of at least 20-25 degrees Celsius and a humidity level of 80-95%. Once infection of the grape occurs through the skin, tiny tendrils reach into the grape and remove the water which concentrates the sugars and acids in the grape. An incredibly intense and flavorful juice is extracted and turned into wine once the grapes are carefully pressed.

As stated earlier, Semillon can be tart and intense when picked young but many styles of the wine exist from dry to sweet. Flavors included in this range are lemon/citrus, cashews/almonds, lanolin/wool, honey, caramel, toffee, petrol, apricots and pineapples among others. The wine can develop tertiary notes from bottle aging like mushroom, toffee and honey which is why aged bottles of Sauternes (a Botrytis-affected wine from Bordeaux) are so sought after and unfortunately, expensive.

You will find that most of the inexpensive, entry-level Semillon is unoaked and contains pyrazines which are flavor compounds containing notes like metal, green pepper or grass. These notes are also likely to show up in Sauv Blanc as well. Oaked versions are often more expensive but deliver extra weight/body and an oily texture with oxidative flavors (caramel, toffee) and spice. In Europe, the oaked versions are more common than unoaked while in new-world countries like Australia and Canada, unoaked seems to dominate the shelves.

While the Semillon varietal is difficult to find right now in Prince Albert, the easiest way to taste this fantastic grape is by purchasing a bottle of white Bordeaux (France) which usually blends Semillon with Sauv Blanc. 

Even though I could go on and on about the Semillon grape and the Black Market Semillon I had this week, I also wanted to briefly mention the quality level of the Italian wine I tasted, Nipozzano. I hadn’t tasted this Italian red in many years and I was blown away by the quality of the wine. Rich, intense and full of concentrated fruit with a whisp of smoke, all I could think of while sipping it was how good it would be with a grilled steak topped with butter and garlic-cooked mushrooms. If you love the taste of blackberry, leather and a bit of smoke then you should definitely give it a try! For around $25, it’s a fantastic value! Here are my wine picks of the week!      

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2018: (DOCG Chianti Rufina, Italy). Dry red, deep, silky ruby color with violet tones. Given a few minutes to breathe, the wine displays an intense bouquet of forest fruits, blackberries, red/dark cherries, pomegranate, vanilla, dark berry compote, hard raspberry candies and a background of mossy earth or forest floor. The first sip delivers vibrant cooked fruit notes (red cherry, raspberry drops, dark berries) followed by smooth flavors of earth, cedar/oak and more dark berries. A long finish transitions beautifully from the mid-palate, creating the subtle tingle of spice heat (cloves/pepper) as well as tight, chewy tannins which stick to the teeth and mouth. Notes of leather and smoke also linger. Medium-plus body, medium-plus acidity. This excellent Italian is beautifully balanced and bold enough to pair with a grilled steak and sauteed mushrooms, cured meats, or a quick snack of roasted/salted almonds. Very good! $25, 13.5% ABV

Black Market Semillon 2017: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Dry white, medium-lemon color. The nose opens with intense citrus fruit/zest (Meyer lemon), wet rocks, sea-side minerals, hints of petrol, almonds, some slightly vegetal notes and a biscuity, toasty scent. This BC white has great medium-plus intensity with plenty of citrus and lemon notes upfront. The mid-palate has good concentration with lemon peel, a touch of petrol, light honey, saline mineral/wet rocks and a subtle hint of floral character hiding in the background. Light body, medium-plus acidity with gentle, warming spice and bright notes of tennis ball/rubber ball coming in on the medium-length finish. This wine is on the simple side but it is packed with intense flavor and would be an ideal wine option to pair with fresh halibut, pan-fried shrimp (garlic, butter, lemon), pork souvlaki or herbed roast chicken. Very good! $25, 11.6% ABV    Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Blasted Church proves taking risks pays off in the wine industry

Hello Prince Albert! Every great wine brand has a story to tell; whether that’s the history of the vineyard, the struggles and triumphs of the winemakers or the awards and accolades a winery racks up. This week we’re taking a look at a winery with a bit of everything: a background full of interesting characters, the ups and downs of starting a unique wine business and great-tasting wines. It’s time to dive into one of BC’s and Canada’s highest-rated wine companies, Blasted Church!

The roots of Blasted Church started when Evelyn and Chris Campbell took a trip to Napa, California to see the sights and taste some wines. As many people do, Evelyn and Chris fell in love with the excitement, artistry and romance of the world of wine. With a dream of one day opening a vineyard, the pair returned to Vancouver and began researching possible areas in the Okanagan Valley for a winery.

After many starts and stops and potential vineyard purchases falling through at the last minute, they finally purchased a vineyard near Okanagan Falls (OK Falls). There was a ton of work to accomplish including updating equipment, increasing staff, tending the fields and vines, cultivating new varietals and searching for an identity for the brand.

As luck would have it, the town of OK Falls had a storied past with one very specific incident providing inspiration: the story of the blasted church. Around 1929, OK Falls had a growing population and a congregation without a church. Looking to rectify the situation, the townspeople decided to move a church from an old, abandoned mining town. After several failed attempts at prying the boards and realizing the nails could not be pulled without warping the wood, an engineer named Harley Hatfield came up with a solution. He attached four sticks of dynamite to the rafters of the church which had the desired effect of blowing out the walls and loosening the nails. Unfortunately, the steeple was destroyed in the process; however, Hatfield’s plan worked and despite some blackened and charred boards, the church was successfully moved and a new steeple added to the top. Hatfield’s name is immortalized in the Hatfield’s Fuse blended white wine.

You would think that such a fantastic story would make an amazing tie-in for marketing but not everyone was excited or enthusiastic about the name Blasted Church for the winery. In fact, 90% of the people that the owners talked to disapproved of the imagery on the labels (lowkey and tongue-in-cheek) and also the name. Almost everyone from industry veterans to everyday townsfolk were leery of the name and brand image. The owners decided to take a different approach to their wine: they wanted it be fun and easy. In other words, while they took the quality and planning of the wine very seriously, Evelyn and Chris wanted wine that appealed to everyone and most of all, they wanted to take the snobbery out of wine.

Undeterred by the naysayers, the proprietors moved on with their idiosyncratic vision for their winery and once the wines started to be made and tasted, the awards started pouring in. Astonishingly, Blasted Church succeeded without much advertising initially. Instead of paying for large ad campaigns in magazines or radio, success came in the form of word of mouth and exciting events at and around the winery. Soon, the wines of Blasted Church were being recognized for their quality and quirky background.

Blasted Church celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2022 and with that milestone came many accolades including being the 2nd highest ranked winery in BC and also the 3rd highest ranked winery in Canada. Along with the prestige of being ranked so highly, WineAlign has bestowed several medals of quality to Blasted Church including two platinum medals for their 2019 Big Bang Theory wine and the 2019 Cabernet Franc. Overall, the winery came out with 24 medals for various vintages: 2 platinum, 6 gold, 5 silver and 11 bronze.  

The labels have evolved over the years along with the quality of the wine and this can be seen from the gorgeous label designs known as the Renaissance series which was released in 2018 (featured in this week’s column). This series depicts classical-style artwork and rich, lush colors with a contemporary twist. You’ll have to take a look to see what I mean (like the archangel Michael at the carwash). You know a label is beautiful when you want to look at it over and over again, just like a fine work of art.

Other changes in the winery have occurred as well, including the majority sale of the business to proprietor Sean Morrison in 2020. Their current winemaker Evan Saunders has been with Blasted Church since 2014 and works alongside viticulturist John Bayley who helped envision and create the Unorthodox Chardonnay (aka Chardonnay Musque).

The stand-out wines from Blasted Church are their highly-rated Merlot and Pinot Gris but everything I’ve tasted has been delicious. If you happen to see their Gewurztraminer on the shelf, you should grab it since it’s hard to find these days and I’ve heard the Sauvignon Blanc is also quite lovely.

Blasted Church proves that shaking up the industry, creating a vision and sticking to your guns (or should I say dynamite caps) is one of the best ways to create something unique and trend-breaking. Here are my wine picks of the week!           

Blasted Church Cabernet Merlot 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Dry red, deep ruby color. Aromas of ripe blackberry jump from the glass with blueberry, dark cherry, tobacco, toast, pepper spice, dark chocolate, tomato leaf and herbal notes of oregano. There is plenty of dark fruit on the palate with a quick follow-up of black pepper spice, licorice, blackberries, black cherry, tomato vines, herbs, cured tobacco, cedar, white pepper, cigar box and medium-plus body. Tannins are medium-plus but smooth and earthy. The finish is medium-plus in length with earthy, spicy dark fruits and candied dark raspberries. Pair this earthy red with spiced pork sausage, beef dip with rosemary and garlic jus or sauteed mushrooms. Can age a few more years but it is drinking well now. Very good! $35, 14% ABV

Blasted Church Hatfield’s Fuse 2020: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Off-dry white, medium lemon color. The nose opens with luscious stone-fruits like peaches, apricots, nectarines, pears and apples. Wet rock, riverbed, honeysuckle and jasmine flower flutter in the background with medium-minus intensity. To the taste, this BC white is smooth and fruity with ripe peach, nectarine, green apples and pears with a touch of floral bitterness. Floral spice and stone-fruit combine on the medium-length finish. Overall, the wine is medium-minus in intensity and leaves a mellow impression on the tastebuds mixed with those ripe fruits. It is delightful to sip on and has a soft texture due to the mild acidity. I can definitely see myself sipping on this in the sun on the deck with the scent of BBQ in the background. Pair with grilled/roasted chicken or cured meats like cervelat salami. Easy drinking and fun! Disappears way too quickly! Very Good! $25, 12.9% ABV

Blasted Church Unorthodox Chardonnay 2019: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Skaha Bench, BC). Dry to off-dry white, medium lemon color. The bouquet of this unconventional Chard is crisp and clean with medium-plus intense scents of pineapple, lychee fruit, orange zest, peaches, pears and a hint of mineral. Warm-climate fruit greets the tongue from the first sip with ripe pineapple, yellow pear, sweet apple and orange blossom/floral undertones. Some stony mineral similar to chalky soil appears near the end of the mid-palate blending in with a creamy flavor of soft cheese. Medium body with medium-plus intensity. Acidity sits slightly above medium allowing the fruit and mineral notes to stand out. The lovely flavor of apple and orange blossom adds some layers and mellow floral spice alongside gentle mineral bitterness on the medium-length finish. This wine is crisp and refreshing, perfect for sharing with friends while visiting by the fireplace/firepit. With warm weather coming, consider trying this high-quality Chard! Very good! $27, 12.9% ABV 

Blasted Church Merlot 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Skaha Bench, BC). Dry red, deep ruby color with garnet at edges. The nose opens with medium-intense aromas of plums, currants, sweet black licorice, mocha, mustard seed, earthy soil, tar, saline sea breeze and hints of animal notes (goat cheese, barnyard). The intensity amps up a bit on the palate with grape skins/fruit, plums, dark chocolate, mocha, coffee, meaty beef gravy (savory), red currants and fine-grained high tannins. Acidity is medium with soft pepper spice and black licorice leading into the long finish. Retro-haling the wine (breathing out through the nose) brings further flavors of charred beef-ends, Oreo wafers, mocha, tomato vine and a twist of herbs. Developing flavors of tar and mellow goat cheese blend beautifully with a vinous quality. Medium-plus body with excellent concentration and full, long flavors on the mid-palate before the finish kicks in. Flavorful, complex and constantly evolving as the wine breathes. One of the best Merlots I have tasted and a great pick for food pairings. Consider corned beef (pastrami) served with freshly prepared mustard and pickled onions on the side as a food pairing or try dark chocolate or bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Outstanding! $60, 14% ABV    

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Hello Prince Albert! Most people have a junk drawer in their home containing an assortment of random objects; some are useful and some are not. In one person’s home, you may find buttons, rubber bands, duct tape etc., while another home might contain entirely different items. These collections of objects can indicate a lot about a person and if you looked in my junk drawers (take your pick, I have 3) you would find a variety of cooking tools and also a healthy number of wine accessories.
Do you have a wine accessory/tool that you can’t live without? If I had to narrow my collection down to one wine item, I would choose a double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew every single time.
The double-hinged corkscrew is easy to use, it’s quick and it gives me a sense of ritual when preparing to enjoy a glass of wine. What are some of the other gadgets out there and are they worth picking up? Let’s take a look at a few of the more common options.
The ah-so may not be well-known to every wine drinker but it is essential if you like to enjoy old wines like Port or decades-old vintage wines. The ah-so is shaped like an outward-facing pincer with two points at the end for wiggling out corks that are fragile or broken. As some may have experienced, using a corkscrew on a damaged or fragile cork can break the cork up and leave pieces of it in your wine. It’s not pleasant to pick cork chunks from your wine so consider picking one of these up. You can find many options for under $20.
Next is one of my personal favorites: the Champagne cage. This is a simple device that seals your sparkling wine after you have opened it and either don’t have the time to finish the bottle or want to save it for later. This item hooks under the neck of the bottle while sealing the top and allows the bubbles inside to build up pressure without popping the top; this means that you can open that bottle of Champagne, have a glass and re-seal it for a week. When you open the bottle again a week later, the wine is still bubbly and fresh as the day you opened it! Many brands give these away with the purchase of a bottle but they often cost between $20 and $30 on average.
Finally, I’d like to mention a tool that has become incredibly useful for wine collectors or sommeliers and that is the Coravin wine system. This gadget allows the enthusiast to draw a small sample of wine using a thin needle directly from the bottle through the cork. Any space that is created in the bottle from extracting the wine sample is replaced with inert gas (via a small cylinder) which means you can have a taste of that expensive wine without opening it! This is ideal for those that like to have multiple wine tastings but don’t want to waste their wine when only serving a few samples.
Of course, the less wine there is in the bottle, the faster a wine will eventually oxidize. It’s great fun to use once you get the hang of it but it does have two downsides: the cost can be high for the initial purchase (the entry-level model is almost $200 with higher-level options reaching $600 or more), and the unit requires gas canisters which can be bought as a kit or in small packs. While a canister does last a good amount of time, the cost does add up the more you use it. You can find the Coravin system on Amazon.
These are only a few of the massive number of options out there but they give you an idea of how intricate and expansive the world of wine accessories can get. What was the last wine accessory you purchased? Do you still use it? Here are my wine and whiskey picks of the week!
Freixenet Ice Cuvee Especial: (Spain). Off-dry to medium-dry sparkling wine. Pale lemon color with small strings of intensely frothing bubbles. This Cava is designed to be poured on ice and loses some of its flair and crispness when poured in a regular flute glass. The nose opens with fruity aromas of bruised apples and pears, citrus, sweet chalky mineral, hints of soft cheese (Brie), crusty bread and a hint of ginger. The flavors taste syrupy and thick at first which surprised me as most Cava is quite dry. Once the initial shock wears off and my palate adjusts, the flavors become easier to pick out; fresh apple skins, pear and peach fruit, lemon peel, sweet wet rock minerality and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Medium body with medium acidity leaves this sparkler tasting soft. While the wine tastes decent, the sweetness obscures the quality usually derived from the Traditional Method style. Honey and hints of toast are apparent on the quick finish. Tastes remarkably better when paired with salty snacks like prosciutto, Hawkins Cheezies or salted potato chips. This Cava is out of balance but I still found some enjoyment. Good! $15, 11.5% ABV
Zonin Brut Prosecco: (DOC Veneto, Italy). Dry to off-dry sparkling wine. Pale lemon color. The nose is simple, fruity and light with crisp notes of apple, pear, mandarin, melon and spring flowers. On the palate, this bubbly has a touch of sweetness with lovely orchard fruit notes coming forward immediately. Apples, pears and oranges combine with a hint of honey and fresh flowers. The bubbles disappear quickly but they are lively and smooth. A touch of bitterness comes in on the quick finish with a tasty note of yeasty bread crust and citrus zest. Floral accents add some complexity and bring forward memories of Spring. Medium body, medium-plus acidity. If you find it on sale, grab a bottle! Great for appetizer courses or entertaining guests. Very good! $22, 11% ABV
Paul John Edited Single Malt Whiskey: (India). This non-chill filtered whiskey from Producer Paul John is a delightfully sweet, spicy and slightly smokey single malt. The liquid carries a beautiful caramel hue. On the nose, high-intensity tropical fruits explode (pineapple, mango) while baking spices swirl (vanilla bean, pepper, cinnamon). The spirit is not overly smokey on the nose but this whiskey is indeed peated, if not lightly. The first taste unleashes a rush of sweet orchard fruits and spiced oranges which snaps into cinnamon sticks and candy hearts followed again by another transition into fruity notes of cooked pears and juicy apples. Chocolate orange, prickly black pepper and leather announce the peat with a long, lingering finish. Tannins build up in the mouth as the whiskey is sipped and the balance is beautiful. Sweet, spicy and savory all in one go. Keeps me coming back for another taste. One of my favorites. Very good! $85, 46% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! We are fortunate to have such a large variety of wines to try from a huge selection of regions around the world. Whether you prefer to keep things simple and grab your favorite vino time and time again or live the adventurous life and drink a new wine every time, there are some situations in the world of wine that cannot be avoided.  

Picture this: you’ve selected a lovely bottle of wine to pair with your meal. Time is taken to carefully decant the wine; the correct glasses have been chosen and you’ve even made sure not to eat anything too strong in order not to overwhelm the pure flavor in the wine. You take a sniff and it is intense and amazing! In anticipation, your mouth starts watering and your tastebuds tingle. You take a sip and something is missing. The wine doesn’t taste bad, it just tastes flat, muted or even musty. The wine is corked!  

This problem can occur in any bottle that is sealed with a cork and it is often due to an interaction with the cork and the wine, commonly known as “cork taint”. A wine may seem perfectly fine at first, just like the Chateau Cantenac but further sniffs of the glass reveal a fading of intensity and a lack of aroma.

On the palate, wines affected by cork taint lose sharpness and clarity. Some people may taste old newspaper or cardboard akin to the scents of a musty basement. These scents or flavors are not necessarily harmful but they certainly detract from the enjoyment of your wine experience.

What can be done when a wine is corked? Unfortunately, not much can be done to “fix” the flavors and intensity of the wine but the situation can be slightly ameliorated by vigorous swirling or jostling of the wine in the glass. Pairing a wine like the Chateau Cantenac with a decent cheddar can help draw out hidden flavors as well, but in the end, the wine is not behaving the way it normally would.

Some enthusiasts will try everything they can to get some enjoyment out of a corked wine but my professional opinion is to move on to something else. This is especially true when the wine has an amazing bouquet on the nose but the contrast on the palate is too polarizing. I kept sniffing the wine and getting excited only to be disappointed every time I took a sip, hoping it had somehow breathed enough to finally open up. Sometimes we just have to move on and accept that the wine is not as it should be. Wine can often be returned for an exchange if it tastes bad so that is another option.

This experience teaches us that even the best quality wines can suffer from blemishes and faults but in reality, only an average of 1% of wines will be affected by cork taint. There’s no easy way to know what you’re going to taste until you open the bottle and have a sip but it’s important to understand when to let a bad wine go. Let your tastebuds (and nose) guide you and be honest with your experience. It’s taken me a long time to get there! Here are my wine and whiskey picks of the week!  

Chateau Cantenac Grand Cru 2009: (AOC Saint-Emilion, France). Dry red, deep ruby color with signs of fading. At first, the nose is vibrant and full of juicy brambleberry fruit, blackberries, cassis, smoked meat, mustard seed, graphite mineral, pencil shavings and cloves. This Bordeaux has medium intensity on the palate and unfortunately, the incredible notes from the nose are not present on the palate. Muted, flat flavors of dark fruit can be sensed but lack definition and intensity. Medium body, medium acidity. Graphite or pencil shaving/earth comes through slightly but the finish is muddled and obscured with a general musty flavor. Some warming pepper and baking spice can be tasted but this is the perfect example of a “corked” wine. It is still drinkable but it is a shadow of what great Bordeaux wine should be. Some enjoyment can be found but the wine gets knocked down by several points. Average. $40, 14% ABV

Chateau Claire Abbaye Bordeaux Superieur 2017: (Bordeaux, France). Dry red, deep ruby color with tones of violet. Opening with a simple nose of balsamic cherry, black pepper, blackberries and a hint of earth, this French wine finds balance between fruit and oak spice. To the taste, blackberries, dark cherries, pencil shavings, light vanilla and black pepper combine with medium-plus tannins and a medium-length finish of lingering oak, hints of pepper and soft tannin bitterness. Medium body with medium acidity. There aren’t any developing flavors with this one so open it up and drink it now with a grilled steak, sauteed mushrooms or an aged cheddar. Smooth, mellow and affordable, this Bordeaux doesn’t pack a huge punch but it is still an excellent sipping wine by the fireplace/campfire. Good! $24, 14% ABV     

Redbreast Lustau Edition Irish Whiskey: (Republic of Ireland). Irish whiskey aged 9 to 12 years and finished in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks. Deep golden color. The nose is packed full of toffee, apple crisp, caramel, deep woody oak, fall apples and honeycomb. This Irish whiskey is luxurious on the palate with a full-bodied display of green/red apples covered in caramel, toffee, oak spice and butterscotch. The sherry cask influence is more apparent on the nose but the weight of this spirit is lovely. Each sip warms the body and soul and conjures images of Irish orchards glowing in the late fall light. The finish is satisfying and long with a drying effect in the mouth. Feeling chilled? Cozy up with a warm blanket and a dram of this beautifully crafted whiskey. Very good! $90, 46% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Are you feeling burned out from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio? Even white wine enthusiasts can get palate fatigue from drinking the same style over and over, which is why it’s important to branch out and seek a variety of wines to try.

A couple of white wine options to check out for those last days of nice weather and deck grilling are related in some ways to the style of Sauvignon Blanc but they both veer into the earthier side of the flavor spectrum.

Gruner Veltliner is considered a “noble” varietal in Austria and it is not often spotted in Prince Albert so if you’re looking to show off an interesting and new varietal to your wine friends, this is a great bottle to pick up. It comes from a DAC designation called Kamptal, Austria which is recognized internationally for its high-quality wine production.

The Gruner style has an earthy, tangy flavor which is sometimes compared to the flavor of earthy pickles. It might sound strange and if you can’t picture it, you’ll have to try it for yourself to find out. It pairs incredibly well with grilled vegetables or fresh fish on a hot day.

The other grape varietal, Verdejo, is also not often spotted in Prince Albert liquor stores but it makes a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Bright acidity and stone-fruit with a balance of mineral/citrus bitterness gives your palate the “zing” it is craving while backing it up with juicy fruits and the tiniest bit of sweetness (some may find it dry while I found it to be off-dry).

Verdejo hails from an area of Spain called Rueda which also produces a hard to find red called Bobal. Tourist traffic is not high in this region so many people miss out on this delicious white varietal. Typical pairings in Spain include paella, fresh squid and seafood dishes. You don’t have to travel to Spain to get it, grab a bottle right here in PA!

With the last bits of warm weather departing for the year, you might as well get your white wine drinking and deck-lounging in while you can. Soon, most of us will be moving on to heartier reds to warm the body and soul. Here are my wine picks of the week!     

Cuatro Rayas Verdejo 2018: (DO Rueda, Spain). Dry to off-dry white, medium lemon color. Scents of fennel, freshly cut grass, citrus, green apple and pear gently waft from the glass. On the palate, this white is light-bodied with intense flavors of stone-fruit (pear, peach, nectarine), cut grass, citrus fruit, vegetable/plant stems and bitter mineral. Medium-plus acidity gives the wine lift and then the wine transitions into a quick finish of bitter citrus peels and mineral rock. A touch of nutty character comes through which is reminiscent of mustard greens. Slightly flat by itself but performs more admirably with a spot of simple foods like grilled zucchini, fresh salads with arugula and rocket or grilled chicken marinated with Greek dressing. The wine could use a bit more acidity for better balance but the price is great! Good. $15, 13% ABV 

Rabl Gruner Veltliner 2019: (DAC Kamptal, Austria). Dry white wine, pale lemon color with tones of green. The nose is earthy and vegetal with bright spots of lemon citrus, white pepper, wet rocks and riverbed. To the taste, steely mineral and lemon zest leap out first with a tangy zip of medium-plus acidity. The wine is lively and crisp with a light body, limestone rock powder, zesty lime and sweet gravel. As the wine warms slightly, hints of white peach, nectarine and star fruit appear with a long satisfying finish of citrus zest and saline mineral. Excellent balance and crisp, cool flavors. For an elevated pairing, try butter poached langoustine and asparagus on angel-hair pasta with a wisp of lemon foam and capers. Other pairings include scallops, walleye or shellfish. Very good! $32, 12.5% ABV 

Russell Reserve 10 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon: (Kentucky, USA). Deep gold color. The aroma in the glass is classic bourbon with cinnamon, butterscotch, candy corn, antique furniture wood and polish, toasted pecans, spicy licorice and anise seed. The whisky has a medium weight on the palate with spicy black pepper and licorice notes from the rye content. There are also notes of buttered pecan/cashews, oak wood, vanilla, toasty cinnamon and a nutty component. The alcohol has a bit of burn but only for the first sip or two; once the palate adjusts, this bourbon is smooth and enjoyable. Great balance of spice, alcohol heat and flavors from the corn mash. $70, 45% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Of all the grape varietals available, Pinot Noir is possibly one of the trickiest grapes to produce great wine from. As Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape, it can easily be damaged by the sun (heat blisters) and it freezes easily as well. This creates a conundrum for wine makers: should they focus on more accessible grapes to grow, create a well-produced Pinot Noir which is costly and time consuming or make a Pinot that costs less but doesn’t deliver the “wow factor”?

Only a wine producer can answer those questions but as consumers it seems that people are often more comfortable with wines they know they will like versus a risky purchase which could potentially be a waste of money.  

The feedback that I’ve received from hundreds of customers is that unless they love the varietal, they tend to skip Pinot Noir for other varietals like Malbec, Cab Sauv, Merlot, etc. Part of the reasoning behind this is that they can often find a less expensive option which satisfies that wine itch or, they are looking for a wine that delivers a lot of flavor and intensity.

The good news is that even in Saskatchewan, we can find some great Pinot Noir that doesn’t have to break the bank while at the same time delivering a delicious experience. As seasoned Pinot Noir drinkers know, when you cheap out on this varietal, the results are usually lackluster.

My recommendation when looking for a decent Pinot is to adjust your expectations and understand that with this varietal, you get what you pay for. If you’re not enjoying Pinot at the $20 and under range, look at trying a couple of wines in the $25 to $40 price range.

If your budget only allows for $20 Pinot Noir, expect a simple, fruit-driven wine meant for consumption within a year or two. These wines will often have a sweet-fruit undertone as well which means they may be tasty but they won’t deliver complexity or the ability to age well.

The wines that were chosen to be tasted this week are similar in many ways but the French option has the finesse which puts it on top. Both wines offer sour cherry and red fruit with a hearty, savory finish of spiced meat and mouth-coating chewy tannins. The wine from Alsace, France however brings extra quality with its food-friendly acidity, lighter body, softer tannins and overall, more refined approach.

The Cigar Box wine is a no-brainer for cigar lovers. This wine delivers on its promise with warming notes of spice and pepper along with grippy tannins and that smoky finish. At $25, I was pleasantly surprised by this Pinot and would consider buying it again for the satisfying flavor on the finish.

The Cigar Box wine makes me want a cigar while the Hugel Family Pinot inspires me to pair it with foods like pork schnitzel, smoked ham, beef stew or rouladen (thin beef and bacon wrapped around pickles, mustard and onions cooked in gravy). The acidity is so beautiful and bright I wanted to keep sipping until the last drop.

While liquor prices in Saskatchewan are quite high, both of these wines taste like they were priced right and make for a delightful tasting. If you haven’t tried Pinot Noir in a while, consider these two options. Here are my wine picks of the week!                

Cigar Box Old Vine Pinot Noir 2020: (Leyda Valley, Chile). Dry red, medium ruby color. The nose is fruit-forward and bright with simple scents of raspberry, violets, bubblegum, red cherry, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar. The palate is surprisingly dry with sour cherry, field berries, hints of tobacco and strawberry at the forefront followed by leather and hints of oak spice (vanilla). The long finish is meaty and smoky with high, chewy tannins, medium acidity and medium body. Vanilla, black pepper and red fruit mingle with a touch of soft cheese and animal notes. While the mid-palate is not overly complex, the finish is worth savoring. Pair with cigars like the Joya de Nicaragua Black Robusto ($20) or salty snacks like beef jerky. Would get a higher score if the price was lower. Good! $25, 13.5% ABV

Hugel Family Pinot Noir 2017: (AOC Alsace, France). Dry red, medium garnet color with a core of faded ruby. The nose opens with juicy berries, cherry candy, raspberry drops, pepper/clove spice and traces of salty rock. From the first sip, high acidity explodes on the palate followed by a mouthwatering rush of sour cherry, stewed raspberry and an almost effervescent mineral rock flavor/sensation. Medium-minus body and medium-plus tannins make this a Pinot that is elegantly light with a decent weight of structure. The long finish rolls in quickly after the mineral-rock buzz fades and flavors of savory cooked mushrooms (in soya) and smoked/cured ham with cloves fills the palate. This natural wine is designed to be drank with all types of food; From gastro-pub inspired foods like Scotch eggs to Pastrami sandwiches with pickles and hot mustard. Can age another couple of years, taste again in 2024. Very good! $44, 12.5% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! With so many diverse wine regions to explore and interesting wines to taste, wine enthusiasts often look to iconic old-world appellations to provide a baseline for quality and general affordability.

The term old-world refers to wine-producing areas which have existed for centuries or even millennia. Some of the most common old-world countries are obvious; France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal, while others are less-known and more difficult to find in PA like Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Armenia, Cyprus and Georgia.

These older regions have also developed complex wine laws which define strict guidelines in the growing, producing, storing and selling of wines. These guidelines or regulations are often beneficial since they focus on quality, yield (which affects quality), regional style (native grape varieties), blending, aging and marketing.

A great example of these wine laws can be demonstrated in the two wines I tasted this week from Rioja, Spain. An important fact to remember about wine labels from Rioja is that they indicate the approximate age of the wine with words like Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

The word Joven is often not printed on the label but indicates that the wine is young with hardly any barrel age. Crianza is used for reds with 2 years of age (at least 1 year in oak), Reserva is 3 years of age (at least 1.5 years in oak) and the Gran Reserva is aged a minimum of 5 years (at least 2 years in oak). These are the basic requirements and producers will often go beyond these limitations to create beautiful, age-worthy wines.

Why does the age in the oak barrels or the age in the bottle matter for wines from Rioja? Wines develop certain flavors depending on how they are aged. For instance, wines aged in oak will take on spice, vanilla, caramel, coconut, tannins and wood flavor while bottle aging while create secondary flavors of mushroom, leather, earth etc.

Depending on their personal tastes, some wine drinkers prefer more fruit-forward wines while others may like wines with earthy or spicey elements found in oak-aged options. By using the age-description system found on wine labels from Rioja, we can choose a fruitier option like a Crianza (less oak and bottle aging) or a middle ground wine like a Reserva (some spice and tannin from oak and smooth secondary flavors from bottle age).

Finally, we are left with the big wine of Rioja: the Gran Reserva. These wines have a minimum of 5 years of age which means they have a decent punch of spice but have started to mellow out due to their age in the bottle. These bottles usually require several years of cellar-aging to develop properly but with patience and proper storage, these can become some truly exceptional bottles.

Some Spanish producers also release their wines with old-world golden or silver netting on the bottle. This type of merchandising/marketing can be found on several brands like Anciano, Marques de Riscals (which also comes in a tube) and Beronia (another gem from Rioja available in PA). These wines make great gifts which can be enjoyed immediately or held for a year or two to develop further.

A tip on what to expect at the store: Crianza-level wines $20-25, Reserva-level wines $25-50, Gran Reserva wine $40-100+. Try out a red Rioja from the Spanish aisle and taste it with some charcuterie or high-quality barbeque! Maybe we will see some white Rioja in the future?

Here are my wine picks of the week!

Marques de Riscal Reserva 2016: (Rioja, Spain). Dry red, deep ruby color with violet hues. The nose is a rush of balsamic cherry, figs, blackberries, wild strawberries and a hint of pepper. Medium-body on the palate with intense blackberries and currants. Soft cedar spice, red cherry and field strawberry are lifted by medium-plus acidity. Lingering on the finish are cinnamon, pepper, cigar box and sweet tobacco. Spices are warming while medium-plus tannins grip on. Flavorful and elegant. Pair with dried salamis, steak w/mushrooms or a Montecristo No. 4 cigar. Drinking well now but it can age and should be tasted in another 3 years. Very good!
$36, 14% ABV

CUNE Reserva 2015: (Rioja, Spain). Dry red, deep ruby color. This Spanish red has an earthy and fruity bouquet filled with forest strawberry, blackberry, toast, pepper, white mushroom, red cherry and sweet tilled earth. The first sip reveals an excellent concentration of dark fruit (plum, blkberry and cherry) and a quick burst of medium-plus acidity. This blends into silky notes of smooth pepper spice, roasted almond/hazelnut, leather and toast. Everything is accented by medium-plus tannins, creating a slightly waxy mouthfeel. Toasted oak, savory peanut shell, cigar leaf and hints of dark chocolate all linger on a long finish. Pairs well with cigars, stuffed mushrooms, dark chocolate or garlic mushrooms on prime rib. Very good! $25, 14% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Hello Prince Albert! Last week I briefly mentioned a term called an AVA aka an American Viticultural Area. Much like the rest of the wine world, the USA has a legally defined system of wine appellations and these are called AVAs.

Examples of well-known AVAs would be Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mount St. Helen, Columbia Valley, Five Finger Lakes, Paso Robles and even large general areas such as California or Washington State. Some AVAs are located inside larger regions like Carneros inside the Napa region or Russian River Valley which is found inside the Sonoma County AVA.

My wine journey this week brought me to a region known as the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California. The Russian River Valley is actually a part of several larger regions including Sonoma Country AVA, North Coast AVA and California AVA. The entire area is centered on the Russian River which runs from North Western California is a Southern direction.

The Russian River Valley was granted AVA status in 1983 and makes up over one sixth of all planted grapes in Sonoma. The planted area went from just over 400 acres in the 1990’s to well over 12,000 acres by 2003. Despite huge expansion, vineyards have come and gone and while there were up to 200 wineries around the 1900’s, that number has shrunk down to about 70 high-quality producers in current times. The region is well-known for producing excellent examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and producers like Kendall Jackson have spent a significant amount of energy and funds to build the area up while establishing their own brands and market presence (Kendall Jackson produces the delicious La Crema brand and other wines under their main label).

While discussing this AVA, it must also be mentioned that the terroir has an immense influence on the flavors and balance of the wine. Since this AVA is located in California, there is a huge amount of heat from the sun which would usually have the effect of ripening grapes quickly; however, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the grapes are cooled heavily from winds blown into the vineyards.

The effects of hot days, cool nights and cooling influences from the ocean create wines that are fruity and full but also balanced by appropriate levels of acidity. This is perfectly demonstrated in both Pinot Noirs this week as they are fruit-forward with hints of sweetness and balanced by medium-plus acidity. I enjoyed both wines but the Rodney Strong is the winner since it has a higher concentration of flavor thus more intensity and the spice/herbal notes stuck out much more on the palate and finish.

If you’re looking to explore Californian wines then the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County or the North Coast AVAs are all excellent places to begin the search. Even though I preferred the Rodney Strong, the MacMurray Ranch should still be checked out since it has not only great flavor but the price point delivers a huge amount of value. Here are my wine picks of the week!

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2018: (Russian River Valley, California). Dry to off-dry red, deep ruby color. The nose full of medium-intense fruit like dark cherry, dark berry, raspberry, vanilla, herbal balsamic and hints of feta cheese. On the palate, cherry, boysenberry and dark fruit impact first followed by mellow spice (nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper). Medium-plus acidity gives the wine some zip while the wine feels satisfying at medium-plus body. Oaky, medium tannins come in on the finish but the grip is creamy and smooth providing just a hint of pepper spice at the edge of the tongue. Fruit dissipates quickly on the finish but the oak/toast flavors linger. Medium concentration drops the intensity slightly but the wine is a great value for its price point! Pair this Pinot with appetizers. Very good! $25, 14.3% ABV

Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2016: (Russian River Valley, California). Dry to off-dry red, medium ruby color with slight fading at edge. Medium-intense notes of nutmeg, cooked cherry, sweet underbrush, BBQ char and animal (goat cheese) open up on the nose. Ripe cherry juice, red fruit and gentle spice (nutmeg, pepper) intermingle with herbal sage and a silky medium-plus body. The fruity mid-palate smoothly transitions into a finish of sweet cinnamon and nutmeg with black pepper and savory biscuit/toast. The concentration of the wine is high which leads to bold, satisfying flavors. This Pinot is balanced well with medium-plus acidity and a chewy mouthfeel is provided by medium-plus sweet tannins. Fruity, spicy and delicious! Can be chilled slightly and paired with many kinds of foods. Drink now. Very good! $32, 14.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

You had me at Merlot


Hello Prince Albert! The Merlot varietal is one of the most common types of grapes that we find in the wine section but despite being used in many types of blends, the grape as a single varietal wine is not as popular with wine drinkers as the Cabernet, Malbec or Shiraz wines.

Is there a reason that Merlot tends to get shunned while the others sell regularly? The simplest explanation comes down to the nature of Merlot. The three other varietals I mentioned get picked more often than Merlot mainly due to the intensity of their flavors. All three have a decent amount of concentration and flavor and deliver a bold rush of flavors while Merlot sits on the mellower side of things.

The trend for wine drinkers in and around our city leans heavily towards wines with high intensity and Merlot is a medium to low-intensity red. The varietal is often used to fill in blends since it has a smooth character and deep ruby color but on its own, some drinkers can find it lacking.

I’m happy to say that the two featured wines this week buck the trend of low-intensity Merlot and both provide a rewarding and satisfying wine-drinking experience. While both Merlots are more easy-going than most Cabernet Sauvignon, they still manage to deliver plenty of flavor.

Merlot is also incredibly common because it is one of the easiest grapes to grow. The grape is known as an international varietal since it can grow successfully in almost any spot where it is planted. The terroir has a large influence on the style of the wine as lower-temperature grown Merlot will display red fruit and higher acidity while hot-temperature grown Merlot showcases dark fruit, lower acidity and a full body.

Take a quick look through the Canada VQA wines on the shelf and you’ll notice that many of the reds are Cabernet Merlot blends. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and often Cabernet Franc. The Merlot grape is employed heavily in these blends since it is easier to grow and less expensive than Cabernet Sauvignon. For this reason, it makes sense to use a more affordable grape like Merlot to fill in blends and create wines that are still affordable for the everyday consumer.

Merlot is also prominently featured in wines from Bordeaux where it helps soften the wines from the left bank (often a blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot). Arguably the highest quality Merlot from Bordeaux comes from the right bank from an AOC called Pomerol. Prince Albert has one or two bottles of Pomerol waiting to be tasted but be warned, these wines don’t come cheap!

Another fantastic region to try some excellent Merlot in is California. While Napa tends to steal the spotlight from the rest of California, Sonoma, Carneros, Central Coast and Paso Robles are other high-quality AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) to look out for. The prices will go up in wines from these regions but the experience they deliver is worthwhile, especially when you can find a great deal like the Olelo Merlot which is regularly $35 but can be found on sale right now for $23 after taxes.

Give Merlot a taste by buying a few different brands and price points from several different countries. As I said, you can find Merlot in every country and aisle in the liquor store and even though the intensity of this varietal is lower than others, it still provides for a wine that is easy to sip again and again! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Olelo Merlot 2017: (Paso Robles, California). Off-dry to medium-dry red, deep ruby color. The medium-intensity nose presents ripe blackberry, raspberry, plum and vanilla. This Cali red is medium-plus bodied on the palate with jammy, lush tannins and a rush of dark fruits. Blueberry, blackberry, plum, boysenberry and vanilla highlight the juicy mid-palate which moves into notes of pepper, plum and chocolate/vanilla on the long finish. Acidity is mellow but balanced and the fruity character of the wine stands out. Excellent intensity and concentration. Pair with grilled burgers, roasted meats or beef brisket. Drink Now. Very good! $23, 13.9% ABV

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Dry to off-dry red, deep ruby color. While subtle at first on the nose, the wine opens with rich blackberry, plum, red currant and sweet tobacco. To the taste, the wine is full-bodied and round with medium-plus tannins and rich dark fruit notes like blackberry, plum and forest currants. A flash of pepper comes after the mid-palate which quickly smooths out into chocolate and earth. Black licorice trails along with plum, black currants and spice on the long finish. The chocolate flavor reminds me of Oreo wafers with gentle baking spice. Pair with poutine, pizza, roast beef, boneless ribs or cheddars. Very good! $24, 14.5% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! In the wine world, there are certain grape varietals that are grown in multiple wine regions which sometimes have different names. Even though these grapes are the same varietal, they can often have incredibly different flavor profiles. Examples of these grapes are often called synonyms.

For example, Chianti is often known as a synonym for the Sangiovese grape while Mouvedre and Mataro are synonyms for Monastrell from Spain. There are literally hundreds of examples of this but two of the most commonly found grape synonyms are Shiraz and Syrah.

Despite the difference in name, the flavors found in these wines can be quite contrasting. Syrah is often associated with old world flavors which focus on earthy tones, spice and barrel character. Old world wines tend to be more age-worthy and there is usually less emphasis on fruit.

Shiraz on the other hand, swings in the new world direction with the fruit flavors being the main focus of the wine and the barrel or earthy flavors used as a background component. Both the new world and old-world wines share similar flavor attributes like dark fruit and pepper but it is the specific way in which these flavors are expressed that decides which style they fall into.

Both styles of wine have their charms and unique characteristics and the drinker’s personal preference of either new or old-world wines can help them decide which they will likely choose.

A wine drinker’s choice of food can also help guide them to the wine style they will enjoy most. Those who enjoy earthy or bitter flavors like dark-roasted coffee, olives or earthy cheese will likely enjoy Syrah. If bitterness is not your style, then you might enjoy juicy cherries, blackberry jam or fruit smoothies. In this case, Shiraz is a better option for you.

With all of this being said, the two styles can sometimes be interchangeable with Syrah employing the use of fruity flavors or Shiraz delving into heavier barrel flavors and earthy tones.

The two wines this week follow the traditional rules of Shiraz vs. Syrah with the Perbruno being earthy and savory and the En Soleil Shiraz dipping into those dark fruit and jammy flavors. Both wines are at an incredible discount right now and I found the Perbruno for $25 (regular $60) and the En Soleil for $26 (regular $50).

Out of both wines, I enjoyed the Perbruno most. It is rich and powerful with tight tannins and a smoky, savory character suited to my tastes. The Perbruno has a decent amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle so decanting is recommended before consumption.

The En Soleil is still worth a look as it presents plenty of smooth, juicy fruit and enough tannins and acidity to keep the wine structured and balanced. This wine is for those who enjoy juicier, fruitier flavors and don’t enjoy the bitterness as much.

There are so many great Shiraz or Syrah wines to explore out there so grab one of each and put them head-to-head! You may discover a preference you never knew you had. Here are my wine picks of the week!

I Giusti & Zanza Perbruno 2016: (IGT Tuscany, Italy). Dry red, deep purple/violet color. The nose of this super Tuscan is intense and savory with smoky beef jerky notes, black currants, plums, black grapes, earth and smoky leather. Full-bodied on the palate with a rush of intense dark fruit flavors quickly followed up by assertive black pepper and smoky spice (Montreal steak spice). Plums, blackberries, earthy chocolate and saline rock mineral hit the tastebuds with excellent concentration. A gamey and vinous note on at the end of the mid-palate transitions into lingering pepper and umami flavors (smoked meats) combined with wild black fruits. High, grippy tannins and medium-plus acidity. Long finish. Beautiful wine to be paired with roast lamb, prime rib (with liberal amounts of salt and pepper) or bison burgers. Outstanding! $25, 14% ABV

Cape Jaffa En Soleil 2016: (Wrattonbully, Australia). Off-dry red, deep purple color. The wine opens with high-intensity fruit-forward scents of red/dark grapes, cranberry, grape bubblegum, sweet black licorice and dark cherries with a hint of caramel. On the palate, dark fruits burst forward with a full body. Black cherry, juicy plums, blackberry jam and a follow-up of smooth pepper all impact with high intensity. The tannins are high but jammy which rounds them out a bit. Medium-plus acidity adds balance to this fruity wine. Some delicious flavors of toasted oak, black fruit and pepper with a touch of sweet liciorice are the highlights on the finish. Fruity and satisfying. Pair with steak, salt & pepper ribs or sauced ribs. Very good! $26, 14.5% ABV   Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! What makes Champagne so expensive? This question boils down to the production method known as “Traditional Method” or “Methode Champagneois”; a technique discovered by the famous Dom Perignon from the Champagne house of Moet et Chandon.

Champagne is very labor-intensive and it takes a painstaking attention to detail to get it right. For this reason, even entry-level products can be fairly expensive (usually starting around $50). Let’s look at how Champagne is made and what makes it special!

It’s important to make a distinction between regular Champagne (known as NV for Non-Vintage) and the higher-quality vintage Champagne. All vintage Champagnes are made from 100% first-pressed juice. This is the highest-quality juice from pressing and carries many pure-fruit characteristics. Vintage Champagne is always produced with the best house reserve wines which are carefully stored and aged to be blended later. Vintage Champagne is always aged a minimum of 2 years in the bottle to allow a build up of rich, decadent flavors. 

Non-vintage Champagne is still made from high-quality wines and grapes but the first-pressed juice is often reserved for the better wines. NV Champagne will receive a minimum of 1 year of age in the bottle before being released. These are some of the basic quality differences between NV and Vintage Champagne.

Selected grapes are brought into the winery and often pressed in whole bunches. Once the wine is fermented, it is bottled and sealed with a nutritional liquid containing yeast, reserve wine, sugar, water and other nutrients. Secondary fermentation begins as the yeast converts the residual sugars into alcohol. One of the byproducts of this conversion is CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) which builds up pressure inside the bottle as the wine ferments (up to 6 atmospheres of pressure).  

Once the yeast has converted all the sugars into alcohol, it dies and the wine is left to age on the yeast (known as “on the lees”). The process called autolysis now begins where the structure of the yeast slowly melts into the wine creating the biscuity, buttery and toasty flavors Champagne is known for.

All the flavor is now in the bottle but what about the yeast? The yeast must be removed and this where riddling and degorgement come into the picture. The bottles of Champagne are slowly tilted, little by little and day by day until they are upside down and at a diagonal angle. The yeast and nutrients float to the neck of the bottle and then they are frozen. The bottle is popped open for a quick moment and the frozen plug of nutrients is expelled in a process called “degorgement” (disgorgement). A quick shot of reserve wine is added to top the bottle back up; this is called the “dosage” and allows the winemaker to add a final touch to the wine with their choice of reserve wine. The wine is then left to age in the bottle until commercial release.

Always look for the disgorgement date on the bottle as this will indicate how long the bottle has been aging after the nutrient plug was released. Note: not every bottle will have a disgorgement date.

This brings me to the bottle of Devaux featured in this article. This bottle I tasted is not a vintage Champagne but shares many similar quality indicators. Only first-pressed juice is used, the wine is aged 5 years in bottle before release and high-quality reserve wines of chardonnay and pinot noir were used to produce it (most Champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). The Jaume Serra is made in Traditional Method out of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes but doesn’t reach the quality heights of Champagne. Here are my wine picks of the week!       

Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava: (Cava, Spain). Dry to off-dry sparkling wine with medium-sized bubbles. The nose is simple and light with apples, citrus and hints of toast. On the palate, the wine is active and frothy with flavors of bruised apples, citrus peel bitterness (grapefruit, lemon) with a follow-through of mineral (chalk), soft cheese and toast. The quick finish leaves a bit of bitterness and fruit flavors become slightly muddled. Medium body, medium acidity and medium-plus intensity. Excellent appetizer wine and quite affordable. Good! $17, 11.5% ABV

Devaux Cuvee D Champagne: (Champagne, France). Dry sparkling wine, pale gold color. A bouquet of interesting scents rises from the flute glass. Brie, wet rocks, lemon peel, pineapple fruit, caramel and biscuit all create an enticing aroma. To the taste, the wine leads with a bright note of mineral (wet rock, riverbed) with a burst of medium-plus acidity. Very lively and fresh on the palate with hints of graphite, citrus fruit, dark chocolate, apples, starfruit and soft cheese. Small, fine bubbles. A slight undertone of bergamot seed and soap stone add a floral complexity while the finish carries a steely, lemon/lime bitterness. Further notes of sourdough and crusty loaf (baguette) continue on the long finish. Complex, sharp, interesting and will age for several more years. Outstanding! $85, 12% ABV 

Cheers and thanks for reading!

The 2021 Beaujolais Breakdown

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Many of you have probably heard of Beaujolais Nouveau by this point and if not, it is a young, simple wine made by French winemakers out of 100% Gamay grapes at the end of harvest time to celebrate their endeavors. This wine is traditionally released on the third Thursday of November every year and that time is upon us once again!

This year in Prince Albert, we have the chance to try the Beaujolais Rose Nouveau from Georges Duboeuf. This is only the fourth vintage of the rose style and the first time it has been featured on the shelves in our fine city.

What makes Beaujolais special? This red (and rose) wine is very young and receives almost no aging time. The 100% Gamay grape wine is very fresh and is pressed, macerated and then filtered/fined before being stored in large stainless steel containers for a few weeks. After resting for a brief time, the wine is bottled and then promptly shipped around the world.

Young students around France will often have “Beaujolais parties” where they gather and buy several bottles to taste and share. The prices of this wine are incredibly affordable in France and bottles can often be found for a few Euros, making this a go-to for a fun, affordable get-together.

The other thing that makes Beaujolais special and gives it its unique fruity taste and style is the fermentation method used to make it known as carbonic maceration. Things will get a bit technical here: the grapes are placed in a large stainless steel tank in whole bunches, meaning the grapes are still on the stem and have not been separated from the skins. The air is completely removed from the tank and the grapes are allowed to sit at a cooler temperature.

After some time, fermentation begins to take place at the very center of the grape moving outwards towards the skin. As the skins of the grapes split, the juice interacts with the yeast left on the skin and fermentation accelerates until all the sugars of the grape have been converted to alcohol or the yeast dies off. The resulting fermented grape juice (now wine) is then packed full of fruity esters with an intensely smooth flavor.

Once the juice has been converted to wine, the wine is drained from the tank to be fined and filtered and then it is stored at a cool temperature in stainless steel tanks to rest before bottling and shipping.

Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drank young and fresh and will not benefit at all from aging. Grab a bottle and check it out! We currently have three reds and one rose to explore in PA so get some friends together and have fun! Here are my wine picks of the week!   

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau Primeur 2021: (AOC Beaujolais Nouveau, France). Dry red, deep violet color. High intensity on the nose with freshly crushed cherries and strawberries, field berry yogurt and fruity candy. The palate is drier than the scent would lead you to believe. The mid-palate is fresh and fruity with medium body and medium acidity. Tannins are mild which add a touch of grip near the finish. Medium-plus intensity with just enough zip (acidity). Simple, smooth, silky and fruity. Pair with cold cuts or lightly salted foods. Good! $23 12.5% ABV

Le Guinguette de Domi Beaujolais Nouveau 2021: (AOC Beaujolais Nouveau, France). Dry red, deep violet/purple color. This young wine is extremely fruity on the nose and features a blast of tutti-fruiti bubblegum, fresh red cherries and candy floss. Immediately sour to the taste. Sour cherry, chokecherry, high acidity (very high), bitterness and completely muted fruit flavor. The sour and bitterness take over the flavor and don’t leave room for much else. Unpleasant to taste. Wine is off; probably due to volatile acidity. This is not indicative of the Beaujolais Nouveau style and the bottle has gone bad. Poor. $22, 12.5% ABV.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Rose Nouveau 2021: (AOP Beaujolais Rose Nouveau, France). Dry rose, medium pink color. Medium-plus intense scents of candy and fruit rise from the glass. Cotton candy, cherry stick-candy, candy apple, strawberry and flower blossom all swirl together. The palate surprises with its dryness and lack of intensity. Low intensity flavors of crab apple, pink lady apples and floral notes linger lightly. This rose is delicate and gentle with a medium-length finish of rose petal and soft apple. The contrast between the nose and flavor is slightly jarring but this is delightfully easy-going. Should be priced a bit lower. Good! $21, 12 % ABVCheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time: 2021 Wine Premier Showcase

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! The Rotary Club Wine Premier was back in person last Saturday (November 6th) at the Plaza 88 event center! Due to restrictions last year, the event was held online with attendees picking up their own wines (specially selected to compliment the food) and heating up meals which were delivered to them. The Rotary Club and everyone involved should be commended for their hard work in making the event work during such a difficult time.

The tune is different this year however as live attendance was back! Approximately 183 guests arrived at Plaza 88 on Saturday to join together for fundraising, chatting and of course, plenty of delicious wines and food to pair. Here is my breakdown of the evening.

The VIP section always gets the night going with a couple of exclusive wines on offer for sampling. This particular evening, the Sandhill Rose ($22) and the Black Hills Addendum ($70) red wine were sipped on as VIP guests chatted behind the stage curtains. The Sandhill rose from the Okanagan is a crisp, light rose made from Gamay noir and merlot grapes with flavors of grapefruit and citrus and hints of mineral. The Addendum is dominated by Merlot in the blend and features savory herb and earthy fruit notes.

The main event begins with some brief introductions and a clever projected video of the winemakers discussing their wines. First up is the Wayne Gretzky Estate Pinot Grigio ($18) paired with lobster thermidor. Creamy, rich seafood sits atop a bed of asparagus risotto. These flavors are contrasted wonderfully by sharp, crisp citrus notes of the Pinot Grigio and a pop of acidity. The acidity cleans the palate and citrus compliments the buttery lobster and green veggie component. Great pairing!

Second course begins with another speaker and projected video for the Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer ($22) (you can call it Traminer) paired up with the wildly creative deconstructed Caesar salad. The highlights of the salad were the bacon and parmesan crisp served inside a carved-out baguette round with lettuce. The creamy roasted garlic sauce underneath was sprinkled with capers and lemon zest bits. Savory, earthy, citrusy, all of these flavors played perfectly off of the Gewurztraminer which interjected with sweet tropical fruit, citrus notes and floral accents. Harmonious pairing!

The third course opens with another briefing and video followed by a serving of creamy polenta, topped with roasted green/red pepper, mushrooms and onions. Ratatouille style! Fresh pomodoro sauce covers the polenta and a liberally salted pesto garnish rings the plate. This creation is paired with the Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc ($52). This earthy wine is magnificent on its own, as is the polenta; but together, the pairing was slightly off. The brightness of fresh veggies and tomato sauce creates an intensity that the wine cannot match. To pair perfectly, the wine needed a touch more acidity and more fruit concentration. Beautiful separately but a disharmonious note arises from this (still delicious) pairing.

The main entrée is the second-last course and features a beef tenderloin, served with a rich gravy and baby potatoes along with yellow squash medallions. Simple, yet delicious and satisfying, the main meat course is always heavily anticipated and so is the wine. The wine served with this course was the Sandhill Cabernet Merlot blend ($24). This red features some classic Canadian-red flavors of cherry, plum, vanilla and leather which will compliment almost any meat dish. The pairing worked quite well but after a higher-quality red like the Cab Franc it almost seemed like a slight step down. Satisfying but the wine was outshined.

Last is the dessert course which I sadly could not partake in (pecans!). This course looked like a caramel-apple brulee type dessert topped with whipped cream and toffee-pecans. Taking a different approach to the dessert course, the pairing wine was not a wine at all but was in fact the Wayne Gretzky Salted Caramel liqueur ($32). This was a genius choice to pair with the dessert as all the flavors line up. Salt, caramel, toffee, vanilla and a rich creamy texture.

This event was much needed. Not only will the funding be used for many community projects (like the Alfred Jenkins play park to be built in Little Red next year), the chance to sit together and laugh, talk and eat was necessary to feel like ourselves again. It brought some color to our cheeks and allowed us to soak up some culture. Check out the Wine Premier next year, it is packed full of incredible people, wine and food! Here are my wine picks of the week!      

Grey Monk Gewurztraminer 2020: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Medium-sweet white, medium golden color. The nose is zesty and bright with lemon/lime citrus, tropical fruit, honey and jasmine flower. The palate opens with a zip of intense tropical fruit (pineapple, lychee)and honeycomb sweetness quickly followed by floral tones of ginger, citrus peel, jasmine and honeysuckle flower. Medium acidity and medium body. This wine is meant to be drank young and fresh while the zesty flavors are still active. Pair with Asian foods or spicy curries. Simple and deliciously fruity! Good! $22, 12.9% ABV

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Dry red, medium ruby color. This red varietal from the Okanagan opens with a bouquet of earthy tones like cedar, tobacco, earthy cherry, white/black pepper and hints of green pepper. Medium body with medium-plus tannins on the palate. The tobacco, earth and cherry notes are apparent to the taste followed by a long finish of cigar box and spice, dusty cocoa and lingering oak. Vanilla and hints of chocolate linger in the background. Medium acidity keeps the wine smooth and not too zippy. A dry, earthy wine like this works best with savory meats flavored with earthy spices such as a roast meat served with root vegetables. Very good! $52, 14.5% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! I’ve been on a Syrah kick lately and have been tasting 100% Syrah as well as bended wines containing this beautiful grape. You may be thinking that Syrah sounds a lot like Shiraz and in fact they are genetically the exact same grape! The difference in flavors and style comes down to vineyard management/treatment, oaking style and winery production methods.

Shiraz is known for being extremely fruit forward with flavors of plum, dark cherry, cassis and pepper with firm but sweet tannins. Pepper and rich fruit are the main highlights making Shiraz an amazing choice for smooth sipping or pairing with steaks. Syrah on the other hand is a completely different beast.

The flavor profile of Syrah is often lighter and on the elegant side with drier flavors, floral notes (often violet), smoked meats and delicate spice (nutmeg, cinnamon & soft pepper) as opposed to a blast of black pepper like Shiraz.

New world countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa and USA produce some of the world’s best Shiraz but are now becoming known for also producing excellent examples of fine, age-worthy Syrah wines. Great examples of this are demonstrated by the two wines I sampled this week: one from Stellenbosch, South Africa and the other from Mendoza, Argentina. While both of these wines should be drank within a few years, they still offer some complexity and richness of flavor.

Both wines are nicely balanced with an excellent combination of dryness, rich fruit and subtleties like fine spice or animal notes. The same cannot always be said for Shiraz which can sometimes lean into flabby territory (full bodied and fruity without proper tannins or acidity to create balance). That being said, there are amazing examples of Shiraz demonstrating incredible finesse and depth of flavor like the higher-end offerings from Australia’s Yalumba or Henschke.

If you’re interested in the Old World style of Syrah then these wines can easily be found in blends and single varietal options from areas like the Cotes du Rousillon or the Cotes du Rhone in France, the Tejo or Alentejo areas of Portugal (among many others) or some of the blended wines from Spain. Wines from these areas tend to take on a spicier, grippy style with an emphasis on hearty tannins and balance between the richness of fruit and subtle spices.

Syrah makes an excellent pairing partner for other grapes and I tend to prefer it blended with Grenache (Garnacha), Mouvedre (Monastrell) or Tempranillo. The addition of Syrah with other grapes creates wines with tannic structure, intense flavors and ability to age. I recommend trying a Syrah or two to see what it’s all about! Both of the wines mentioned in this article are available for sampling so come on down and taste them for yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!

1884 Syrah (2018): (Mendoza, Argentina). Dry red, deep purple/violet color. The nose is medium-plus intense with scents of rich blackberries and currants, earthy cocoa, baker’s chocolate, dark fruit, tar, hints of goat cheese and floral undertones. The flavor on the palate is packed with intense plum, blackberry and blueberry (dried fruits) while raisin skins and currants appear throughout the mid-palate and finish. Some alcohol heat can be felt and tasted as well as licorice, fresh coffee bean, cocoa and dusty chocolate mingling with fruit skins on the finish. Reminds me of Christmas cake. Medium-plus acidity, full body. Beautiful and satisfying with meats and cheeses of all kinds. Drink now or within 3 years. Very good! $25, 13.5% ABV

Glenelly Glass Collection Syrah 2017: (Stellenbosch, South Africa). Dry red, deep purple/violet color. The bouquet of this red is full of intense fruit like plums, dark cherries, blackberries, vanilla and hints of wet rock or smoke. Elegant spice and dark fruit are the first to appear on the palate which display intense plums, dark cherries, soft nutmeg, pepper (black and white), cocoa and hints of saline mineral which tingle and carry into the finish. Black tea tannins and rich fruit skins swirl together with a wisp of meaty smoke and a flash of warming pepper. Medium acidity and medium body with a drying effect in the mouth. An interesting animal note also appears which is akin to smoked meat or goat cheese. A beautifully dry sipping red with a touch of complexity and food pairing potential. Very good! $30, 14.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Everybody likes a good deal and this week I discovered two wines on offer for an incredible discount of 50% off! The full name of the brand is The Audacity of Thomas G. Bright but to keep things simple, I’ll refer to the brand as Audacity.

The Audacity wines can be found in a Merlot-Cabernet and a Chardonnay and as with most discount wines, I was slightly suspicious of the price point. My first two thoughts were, “What’s wrong with this wine?” and, “Why is it so inexpensive?”

The good news is that both the wines are quite tasty and the Chardonnay is especially worthwhile. Each wine has a slight quirk that makes them different from most other wines; the red is finished in whiskey barrels and the white is a Sussreserve. What do these terms mean? Let me explain.

What is a whiskey barrel finish? Simply put, after the red wine is fermented and matured, it spends a second maturation time in oak barrels which previously held whisky. Depending on the period of time spent maturing in these second barrels, the whiskey barrels impart flavors of vanilla, caramel and sometimes chocolate or pepper into the wine while also adding a luxurious mouthfeel.

Some whisky barrel wines are better than others as it depends on the original quality of the wine and also the quality of the whiskey barrel. The length of finishing time is also a contributing factor to the quality of the finished product. In the case of Audacity, it adds scents and flavors of vanilla and caramel with a finish of earthy chocolate.

Let’s look at the term Sussreserve. This is a simple method where the winery will add a small dose of fresh and young fruity wine to top up the bottle before final bottling. The winery will often do this to liven up the wine or add a youthful touch.

The sussreserve process can allow producers to cover up flaws in a wine or simply use it as a fruity addition but in the world of wine production it can sometimes be frowned upon as a practice since many winemakers believe that additions to the wine after fermentation take away from the natural character of the grapes and vineyard.

Despite my suspicions, both wines are worth a taste. I didn’t enjoy the red quite as much but the chocolate, earth and cherry flavors were intriguing. The sussreserve chardonnay however, surprised me with its soft and light flavors and buttery edge. I don’t feel like the red would be worth the original $32 asking price but the chardonnay would definitely be worth the high $20 price range in my eyes. You’ll have to be the judge for yourself! Take a chance on a $16 red or white and see what you think! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Audacity Merlot Cabernet 2019: (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada). Dry to off-dry red, medium ruby color. The nose opens with plums, raspberries, yeast, vanilla, caramel and chocolate cherry sauce. On the palate, this red is full of fruity flavors like cherries and plums, blackberries and currants while the finish carries the rich flavor of chocolatey earth, caramel and toast. Medium body and medium acidity. Hints of bread and yeast linger along with red grape skins. Pair this red with bistro-style foods: beef dip, sirloin tips, BBQ or cheddar. Good! $16, 14% ABV

Audacity Chardonnay 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Dry to off-dry white, medium lemon color. This medium-intense white features a light nose of citrus fruit, butter, hints of baked bread and field flowers. This medium-plus bodied chard has a lovely soft and round character with delicate flavors of lemon citrus, pears, apples, vanilla and a soft trail of lingering spices on the finish. Medium acidity gives a lift while hints of melon, baked buttery bread and caramel apple mingle. A delicious chard that is great on it its own or with a spot of brie cheese. Very good! $16, 13% ABV  

Cheers and thanks for reading!

The Celebrity Rose Rundown

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert!

Have you had a chance to try any of the celebrity wines out there? Celebrity wines come from almost every country but most of the time we don’t even realize it.

Many of the celebrities who have wines on the shelves don’t actually use their own names and instead use a marketing approach to capture as many customers as possible. This can be seen in several products like Tool’s lead singer’s wines Caduceus Cellars, Jon Bon Jovi’s Diving Into Hampton Waters, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s Miraval and brands like Dreaming Tree (in partnership with Dave Matthews).

Other wines are more obvious and leap from the shelf like the Tragically Hip wines, Francis Ford Coppola, Kim Crawford, Rolling Stones and last but not least Snoop Dogg.

Speaking of Snoop Dogg, I had previously tried the Cali Red and rated it as Poor since I got an instant headache and severe congestion after two sips. Despite this previous experience with the brand, I decided to give the new rose a try and to make it interesting I decided to taste it against another rapper’s wine: Post Malone’s Maison No. 9.

Going by appearance, Maison No. 9 definitely wins in the design department with a tall elegant bottle and glass stopper. The color of the wine is also highly appealing and it is comforting to know that the wine was sourced from a decent (albeit large) area of France.

In comparison to the Maison No. 9 bottle, the Snoop Dogg rose goes for the laid-back approach. The bottle has a screwcap and the label for the rose is identical to the Cali Red with a few additions of a color palette swap and a clear, frosted bottle. While Maison No. 9 has a natural rose color, the Cali Rose seems to glow with a slight neon hue.

It all comes down to taste and this is where people will really decide which rose they prefer. The Cali Rose is juicy and fruity with plenty of sweetness and a decent buzz of acidity. While it is easy to drink and I didn’t get a headache at all, the Cali Rose is simple and out of balance. This will make a killer sangria and a fun wine to bring to a tasting where it will quickly get guzzled. The main flavors from this wine are cotton candy, candy apple and strawberry juice.

Side by side, these two roses are quite different. The Maison No. 9 opts for the refined approach to flavors with light red fruits and a hint of flowers and melon. The Post Malone wine is also fairly soft on the palate and features subtle flavors of citrus rind. Aiming to be a classic French rose, the Maison No. 9 aims high but doesn’t quite reach.

To sum it all up, the Maison No. 9 wins points for being classy but it misses the mark slightly due to its higher price point and lack of complexity. While I gave the Cali Rose a lower rating, I think it brings more fun to the table with its unapologetic flavors. Grab yourself a charcuterie board and try these interesting roses to make up your own mind! Here are my wine picks of the week!       

Maison No. 9 Rose 2020: (IGP Mediterranees, France). Dry to off-dry rose, medium salmon color. The nose of this rose is slightly off-putting at first with a bit of a gassy note but this is quickly followed by floral rose, raspberry, strawberry and a hint of melon. On the palate, the wine is soft and then a lovely rush of citrus fruit comes through (lemon, lime, mandarin). Orange peel bitterness balances out the medium acidity and a small touch of tannins can be detected, adding a bit of structure. The finish is medium-length with those soft fruits and a touch of acidity lingering. Quite pleasant and simple but the gassy note near the beginning and lack of complexity/depth hurt the score. Good! $30, 12.5% ABV

Snoop Dogg Cali Rose 2020: (California, USA). Medium-sweet rose, Jolly Rancher pink color. The aroma from this wine is juicy and fruity with a wallop of apples (pink lady, crab apple), strawberries, ripe field berries, cotton candy and candy apples. The intense fruit carries onto the palate with candy apple, strawberry and apple juice, melons and red fruits. Acidity is medium-plus and body is medium. Some metallic mineral creates an off-taste but overall the wine is fruity and delicious. Drink very cold or use to make a fruity sangria. The lingering sour metallic note knocks down the score but this wine will pair well with olives, feta, cheddar and prosciutto. Average. $25, 10.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Hello Prince Albert!

While I like to explore the path less traveled in my wine journey by trying exotic varietals and wines that are often not heard of, every now and then I like to get in touch with what everyone else is enjoying.

I must admit that California Cabernet Sauvignon gets the cold shoulder from me and this year I’ve been attempting to remedy that by tasting more of their wines. The same can be said for Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It is much too easy to fall into the mindset of “Been There, Done That!”, but the reality is that these two styles of wine are two of the top sellers for a reason.

Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc are both known as high-intensity varietals, which means that they are highly aromatic and full of intensely bold flavors. Lovers of new world wines adore these wines because they deliver a huge amount of satisfying flavor at a reasonable price point. Old world wine lovers are not left out either since these wines can be found in almost every wine producing country on the planet.

Wines from old world countries (France, Italy, Spain, Greece) tend to be on the more subtle or delicate side and the prices are often higher due to the more prolific use of oak and production methods in the vineyard and winery. However, the hottest areas of these old world countries still deliver wines full of fruit and power, albeit at a premium price.

Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc are known as “international varietals” due to the fact that they can be planted almost anywhere (where winemaking grapes can grow) and will thrive. The differences you taste in Cab Sauv come from climate and terroir of the country of origin. For instance, Cab Sauv from California benefits from the long and hot growing season which results in wines that are full bodied and packed with rich, fruity character and Cab Sauv from France is less fruity with more of an emphasis on earth, oak and mineral (pencil shaving).

Sauvignon Blanc from new world countries is usually fruity and intense with notes of grapefruit, citrus and passion fruit while old world countries like France often produce the style with a creamier, softer feel and hints of minerality. Pick up a few of these wines and compare them yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon 2019: (California, USA)

Off-dry red, deep purple color. The high-intensity nose delivers blackberry, grape juice, cassis, raisins and Hubba Bubba grape bubble gum. Rich, fruity flavors stand out on the palate with cassis, blackberry, cooked plums, black currants, vanilla and California raisins. Medium tannins add some grip but are still mellow and sweet along with a soft, round mouthfeel. A touch of pepper comes through on the medium finish. Medium-plus body and medium acidity. This is red is balanced and flavorful and will pair perfectly with garlic sautéed mushrooms, grilled steaks, smoked meats and roast beef with root vegetables. Very good! $24, 13.5% ABV

Caythorpe Sauvignon Blanc 2017: (Marlborough, New Zealand)

Dry white, pale lemon color. Highly aromatic and herbaceous scents of tomato vine, chopped grass, asparagus, dill and fennel burst from the glass on the nose. The intensity carries over onto the palate with a rush of vegetal/green flavors and a squeeze of citrus. Freshly mowed grass, green peppers, tomato leaf and hints of dill with some grapefruit rind are complimented by medium-plus acidity and medium body. This NZ white is crisp and flavorful with some acidity zing on the mid palate followed with soft citrus on the finish. Pair with herbed goat cheeses, scallops or any kind of fresh Saskatchewan fish. Very good! $30, 12.5% ABV

Back Forty Peanut Butter Porter: (Yorkton, Saskatchewan)

Dark brown color with light cream colored lacing. This Sask beer smells like peanut butter cups, chocolate syrup and sweet cocoa. To the taste, this porter features a smooth, creamy body with mild carbonation and slightly sweet flavors of chocolate syrup, peanut butter cup ridges and a finish of earthy coffee. This delightful brew is excellent with light snacks, smoky barbequed foods or as a dessert beer. Worth a taste! $10/Growler, $5/Can, 5.6% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Our expectations for how something should taste have a massive effect on the flavors our brain interprets when we have a glass of wine (or anything else). For instance, if I’m expecting a wine to taste sweet and then the wine is dry, my mind does a little flip and can exaggerate the impression I get from the flavor.

Instead of logically analyzing the actual sweetness of the wine, our brains will interpret those slightly sweet flavors as very sweet when held up against our preconceived expectations of dryness for that wine.

This scenario occurred twice in my tastings this week; First, with the Napa Valley cabernet I tasted and then again with a varietal that is new to me, a marechal foch wine from the Okanagan. Let me explain.

After tasting the Caymus cabernet sauvignon last week, I was beginning to think that most Napa Valley wines were simply not my style with plenty of sweet fruit flavor and minimal amounts of complexity. My expectation was reversed this week when I sipped on the St. Clement Oroppas from Napa Valley. It was rich and fruity like Caymus but the palate delivered assertive tannins and bright acidity, bringing the wine into excellent balance. This was a positive reversal of my expectations and makes me want to try more Napa options.

When it came time to taste the marechal foch, I only had the information from the label to guide my expectations: plummy and jammy. An interesting battle occurred between my taste buds, my analysis of the actual wine and the preconceived notion of what this wine should taste like.

At first, I thought the foch didn’t smell so good. There was overripe dark fruit on the nose and a medium-dry sweetness followed by buzzing mineral on the palate. Since my expectation of the wine wasn’t met (I was expecting rich, dark fruit and tannins), I didn’t enjoy the wine right away. With a bit of breathing and time to react to the actual flavors, I started to enjoy it quite a bit. By the end of sampling, I was coming back for just one more sip again and again.

While it can be easy to dismiss a wine based on what we expect it to taste like, it is important to experience wine with our senses first. I was taught that we need to let our bodies act like the instruments they are and to allow our minds to simply record the data. Take out our ego and preconceived notions and simply taste the wine. Is it good, bad or are we judging the wine based on what it “should” be? Most of all, let yourself be surprised by new flavors and varietals. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know. This week I discovered I like marechal foch! Here are my wine picks of the week!   

St. Clement Oroppas 2013: (Napa Valley, California). Dry to off-dry red, deep purple color with thick legs. The nose is fruit-forward with a background of toast and spice. There are many rich  scents to discover including raspberry mousse, cooked dark cherries, boysenberry, blackberry, black tea, cherry Jello, white almond and oak spice (clove and pepper). The palate is intense and fruity with an immediate rush of blackberries, black cherry, plum skins, black tea and spice. The finish is long and lingering with tea leaves, dark fruit and earth. Medium-plus body and medium-plus acidity creates a wine that is flavorful but balanced with excellent structure and chewy tannins. Pair with aged cheddar, grilled steak or dried meats. Will cellar well for an additional 3 to 5 years. Outstanding! $65, 14.8% ABV

Oak Bay Marechal Foch 2016: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Medium-dry red, deep purple color with ruby tinges. Fruity and jammy on the nose with overripe dark fruits (plums, cherries), smoky jam, vanilla and caramel banana. Fruity sweetness is apparent on the first sip which quickly transitions to a light mineral buzz on the tongue and intense flavors of brambleberry,  cooked plums and a wisp of smoke. Jammy flavors stick to the tongue on the finish where light tannins provide a small touch of grip on the sides of the mouth. Pepper and nutmeg spice mingle with sweet tobacco leaf on the medium-length finish. Medium-plus body and medium-plus acidity. Reminiscent of shiraz and slightly out of balance, this makes for a very interesting sipper. Pair with sweet and tangy ribs, juicy burgers or charcuterie. Very good! $38, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!       

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! You may have asked or been asked this deceivingly simple yet complex question in your wine journey: what is the best wine? While some wines will obviously be technically crowned “the best of the best”, the answer to this question is completely dependent on who you are asking.

For instance, Caymus cabernet sauvignon is considered one of the best wines available in the city and while I agree that it is a fantastic wine, it didn’t hit all the spots for me. I tend to enjoy wine on the drier side with a touch more balance and structure (tannins). For other people however, this is a must-try wine well worth the higher price tag.

Asking which wine is the best is like asking someone which is the best movie or book. The answer truly depends on the mood, settings and food being served and this applies to wines too which are suited for specific foods or situations.

 Caymus is well-loved because of its silky smooth texture and rush of intense ripe fruits and while this is certainly a delicious combination, it can be too heavy handed at times. This is where the J Bouchon excels for my personal tastes. More restrained than the Caymus and focused more on the earthy and dry side of flavors, the J Bouchon Mingre provides the balance I look for in a wine.

You will notice that both wines scored a Very Good score and not my top score of Outstanding. This is because I don’t see the Mingre progressing any further in complexity and doesn’t have a lot of aging potential while the Caymus lacks complexity and is overly sweet (again, for my tastes). 

One of the “best” wines I’ve had wasn’t technically a great wine but it was the fact that I shared it with my late step-father. This memory stems from a $30 bottle of Nebbiolo that we decanted and sipped to the last drop.

I remember laughing and chatting and marveling at how much sediment was left at the bottom of the decanter. The wine was intensely rich and earthy and left a black residue in our mouths. We were all the more happy because of our wine-stained grins. The memory brings a tear to my eye. Now that’s a great wine! Here are my wine and beer picks of the week!    

J Bouchon Mingre Assemblage 2016: (Central Velley/Maule Valley, Chile). Dry red, deep ruby color. A tantalizing combination of dark cherry, sweet earthy cocoa, blackberry, leather and licorice springs from the glass on the nose. This red balances fruity and earthy flavors well with accents of rich cherries, plums, blackberries, earth, black licorice, smoked meat and a long satisfying finish. The tannins are chewy with plenty of grip and medium-plus acidity provides a mouthwatering effect. Medium-plus intensity with medium body. This makes an excellent wine choice for steaks, charcuterie boards, burgers and ribs. Drink now or within 3 years. Very good! $60, 13.5% ABV

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: (Napa Valley, USA). Medium-dry red, deep purple color. The nose begins with immediate high-intensity notes of fruity blackberry, Welch’s grape juice, cherry juice, grape bubble gum, cherry cola, California raisins and ripe cherries. This red provides a blast of high-intensity flavor right from the first sip. The flavors are full of ripe cherries, cassis, creamy cocoa, cherry cola, a buzz of mineral and an extremely smooth, creamy texture. An abundance of fruit-forward flavors are present with full body, and a silky mouthfeel. The wine is delicious but slightly out of balance (a bit on the flabby side), despite its medium-plus acidity. Sip on this wine by itself, with steaks, light desserts or with a decent cigar. Very good! $125, 14.4% ABV

Nokomis Weisensee Berliner Weisse 2021: (Nokomis, Saskatchewan). Tart, sour beer with a cloudy appearance and light orange color. The lacing is minimal and bright white on the glass.  The scents from this beer are sharp and musty with accents of lemon/lime, funky fruits, barnyard and horse blanket. There is an explosion of flavor on the palate with an intensely tart and prickly sensation greeting the tongue. Flavors of lemon/lime, Brett yeast (a specific strain of yeast), malty biscuits and animal notes (barnyard, wet wool, horse blanket). The acidity is high and clears the palate making this a great food-pairing beer with all types of cheeses and meats and/or snacks of all description. Beautiful Saskatchewan beer! Must try for sour fans! $10, 3.2% ABV

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

by Aaron Winsor

Wine Time

Hello Prince Albert!

There are literally thousands of varieties of grapes that exist in the world and while some are well known and commonly found in almost every region of the world, some grape varietals are rarely produced outside of their respective countries of origin. One such example is a light, fruity grape known simply as macabeo.

The macabeo grape is often blended with other grapes to create wines of balance with a hint of fruity character. The most recognizable style made from macabeo is the sparkling wine Cava.

 These wines are produced in the traditional method aka Champagne method and the legal aging requirements of Cava mean that the consumer will get an affordable and delicious sparkling wine with a legally defined and protected level of standards.

Speaking of affordable, a decent bottle of Cava will cost you around $20, making it one of my go-to wines for quality and value.

Macabeo can also be found blended with sauvignon blanc, verdejo, albarino and even chardonnay.

The tropical, fruity flavors and crisp burst of acidity on the finish makes this style the perfect summer sipper and companion to light fare fresh from the barbeque grill.

In Spain, macabeo often comes from coastal regions which lends a touch of saline mineral in the flavor profile.

This mineral touch and crisp flavor is the perfect companion to fresh seafoods like ceviche, squid and light whitefish.

This style of white wine can be found at quite a good price (often under $20) and is a welcome change of pace from the usual whites found on the shelves.

 Out of the two macabeo wines that I tried this week, I enjoyed the Gerberas brand the most as it had a crisp clean flavor and the cleansing acidity kept me coming back for another sip.

While not complex, the light tropical fruit and hit of citrus is the perfect drink on a hot day.

 The Sierra Salinas brand was also enjoyable but had a bit of an off-flavor funk which can be common with inexpensive white wines.

I feel that the price of both wines should be closer to $12 but alas, we live in Saskatchewan and liquor taxes are heavier here meaning we can’t escape higher pricing on liquor.

Despite that small complaint, I would buy the Gerberas macabeo again in a heartbeat! Here are my wine picks of the week!      

Sierra Salinas Macabeo 2019: (DOP Utiel-Requena, Spain). Off-dry white, pale lemon color. The nose is fruity and medium-intense with honey, tropical fruit (papaya and pineapple), passionfruit and citrus.

 On the palate this white is light and fruity with medium body and medium-plus acidity. Tropical flavors and citrus come through at first followed by a zippy/zingy character, hints of mineral and a decently long finish.

A touch of off-flavor is hiding in the background on the nose and flavor which hurts the score slightly. The wine is vegan-friendly but will still pair perfectly with fresh seafood dishes or chicken.

 Good! $17, 12% ABV

Gerberas Macabeo 2018: (Spain). Off-dry white, pale lemon color. A fruity nose of pineapple, banana, mandarin fruit, citrus and vanilla frosting gently rises from the glass with medium intensity.

 Delicious fruity flavors of tropical fruit and lemon greet the tongue accented by starfruit and chalky mineral. The finish is medium-length with a burst of bright medium-plus acidity. This wine has a pure, clean flavor and the acidity refreshes the palate extremely well.

The mid palate is fruity and crisp while the finish has mineral notes of wet rocks and a lingering pineapple buzz. A great example of balance between fruit and acidity.

Very good! $17, 12.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.   

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert!

Wine pairings can be one of the most challenging but rewarding aspects to wine appreciation but with a bit of practice and know-how, matching complimentary flavors to enhance your wine experience can be relatively simple. With a bit of practice and knowledge, you can learn to create harmonious combinations of wine, beer or spirits with food, cigars and even music!

The first step in pairing is to understand the flavors and textures present in the food, beverage or cigar you are attempting to pair with.

Take for instance a delicate meat like pickerel; bold, heavy wines like malbec, cabernet sauvignon or shiraz will probably overwhelm the food with too much flavor, too many tannins or too much body. Instead, consider the flavors that compliment fish when cooking, like lemon/citrus, herbs and butter. Wines that will pair successfully will need to reflect or enhance these tasting features. In this case, a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay is more ideal.

Another way to approach a pairing is by analyzing the flavors of the wine before selecting the complimentary pairing item.

After tasting a rich, flavorful Malbec earlier this week, I could almost taste the rich meaty flavors of a grilled steak. Alternately, the perfect cigar pairing would be a rich, well-fermented cigar like the Ashton VSG which features intense barnyard, chocolate and spicy tobacco notes.

Choosing music to partner with an intensely bold wine is also relatively straightforward as well.

Picture the bombastic style of Beethoven with the heavy notes of Malbec or one of my favorite rock bands: Iron Maiden, with its galloping triplet style and harmonized guitars.

Maybe you’re more of a jazz fan. Here, a pinot noir might be more suitable with its intricate subtleties and lingering notes of complexity. The notes repeat at first and then transform, revealing new structures or flavors underneath what at first sounded like a simple melody.

One of the simplest rules to follow when pairing any beverage with food is the clichéd but fitting line, “Red with red and white with white”. In other words, pair red wines with red meats and sauces and pair white wines with white meats and sauces.

There are of course several exceptions to this rule and some of the most exquisite pairings occur when seemingly opposite flavors collide and re-combine to create an unexpectedly harmonious combination.

Other specifics to consider when choosing a wine for pairing purposes are the amount of tannins, the body of the wine, acidity levels, flavor profile, sugar content and overall style of the wine.

Try putting on some music and pouring a glass of wine, then let your mind drift between the notes of the music and the flavors of the wine. It’s quite a rewarding experience, especially with a cigar in hand. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Trapiche Pure Black 2018: (Argentina). Off-dry red, deep purple color. The nose is high in intensity with juicy blackberries, cassis, grape-flavored bubble gum, ripe cherry fruit and vanilla.

This red is fruity and smooth right from the first sip and features dark fruits with a touch of vanilla on the mid palate. The medium-length finish adds hints of black pepper, blackberry, black grape skins and bread. This wine showcases an excellent balance of full-bodied fruit and medium-plus acidity with soft, medium tannins.

Pair with steaks, short ribs or cheeseburgers. Very good! $20, 14% ABV

Wolf Blass Maker’s Project Shiraz 2019: (Mclaren Vale/Grampians, Australia). Medium-dry red, medium to deep purple color. Intense, jammy scents of stewed cherries, jam-filled sugar cookies, raspberries, smoked ham and BBQ meat waft from the glass. Fruity sweetness and medium-plus body is felt first on the palate with fresh cherry juice, sweet grape skins, blueberries, sweet earth and barrel char.

The fruity flavor ends quickly, transitioning into bitter flavors of pressed stems and medium oak tannins. The finish is medium-length with mild pepper and cherry. Medium-plus acidity attempts to add balance but the wine tastes sweet, flabby and out of balance.

The countering flavors of sweetness and bitterness are not well-integrated meaning I wish I’d spent less on the bottle. Average! $25, 14% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert!

When people think of New Zealand, a few specific images come to mind; Lord of the Rings, sheep roaming the green countryside and of course, the grape varietal Sauvignon Blanc.

There is nothing quite like the crisp and intense flavor of a Sauv Blanc from the Marlborough region of NZ but if you are willing to look a bit deeper, there are numerous premium areas in NZ that produce much more than Sauv Blanc.

Take for instance the previously mentioned Marlborough region which is famous for one of the best-selling wines in PA: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This area also produces fantastic examples of chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot grigio, merlot and pinot noir. While there are dozens of premium regions in NZ, my focus this week was pinot noir from Marlborough and another premium area known as Central Otago.

What can you expect out of a pinot noir from Marlborough?

Like any wine from around the world, the style and flavors found in these wines can vary greatly depending on the producer and also the price point that you are comfortable with.

I had the pleasure of tasting the Mission Estate VS Pinot noir and found it to be deliciously light and fruit-forward with a soft mouthfeel and minimal tannins. In other words, this wine was extremely enjoyable to sip on and made for an easy drinking experience.

Another area for Pinot Noir lovers to explore is the Central Otago located on the tip of the Southern island.

Since this region is located further away from the equator and is in fact quite mountainous and elevated in several locations, the majority of wines from this region are cold-climate wines.

With the proper amount of sun exposure (by facing vines towards the rising sun), wines from this region strike the perfect balance between acidity, body and fruity flavors.

The wine I tasted from Bannockburn, Central Otago is a more challenging wine compared to the Marlborough pinot because it carries more oak spice, fuller body and notes of complex mushroom and a much-favored highlight of quality pinot noir: animal funk.

Yes, that does sound bizarre but notes of barnyard, musky earth or animal are desirable in a good pinot and add a level of complexity which is a signal for serious collectors to keep and store a bottle for a few years.

When put side by side, both wines were incredibly enjoyable.

If you feel the need to sit and think and feel challenged by a wine, grab the Ceres from Central Otago. Alternately, if you want to simply enjoy your wine and shut your brain off for a while then you will enjoy the softer, fruitier style of the Mission Estate from Marlborough. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Ceres Pinot Noir 2016: (Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand). Dry red, medium to dark ruby color. The nose opens with a fruity, earthy bouquet of freshly picked strawberries, cranberries, cocoa, earth, cherry, sweet mushroom, sweet manure, barnyard funk and BBQ char. Medium-plus intense on the palate with an opening of sour cherry fruit and warm black pepper spice.

Cooked plum, dark cherries, black licorice bitterness and dark cocoa follow with high, grippy tannins and medium-plus acidity. The finish lingers with earthy spice and pressed grape skins as well as black tea. Pair with goat cheese and roasted nuts, crispy pork belly or a wine-poached duck breast. Very good! $65, 14% ABV

Mission Estate VS Pinot Noir 2017: (Marlborough, New Zealand). Dry to off-dry red, medium ruby color with minimal fading at edge.

This red is bright and fruity on the nose with red cherry, strawberry, raspberries, sweet red licorice, hints of kola nut, sweet cocoa and mineral rock.

The first sip reveals a medium bodied wine with a soft mouthfeel and medium-minus acidity. There are glimpses of sweet mushroom and freshly-tilled soil here but the emphasis remains on light, fruity flavors and softer character. A touch of black pepper and earth followed by bready notes linger on the medium finish. Very good! $32, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word “blend”? For some people, blends are considered to be a masterful combination of flavors and grape profiles culminating in a final product that is mightier and more flavorful than the individual ingredients could have ever been on their own.

Others however, see blends in a completely different light with cheaper or less desirable grapes making their way into mediocre wines. To be fair, both perspectives have a valid point and like all types of products, some blended wines can be complete masterpieces while others are relegated to the entry level budget wine category. The key to finding high quality blends begins as it often does in the wine aisle, by reading and understanding the wine label on the bottle.

Take for instance the Monasterio Gran Reserva from Spain; the label gives us plenty of information from the grape breakdown (garnacha, cab sauv, tempranillo and carinena) to the designation (DOP Carinena) and even to the time the wine has spent in oak and bottle (24 months of oak age and vintage date). As always, these specific clues will indicate the experience you can expect.
The enjoyment you will get or not get from a bottle depends on your personal style and while entry level budget wines may not satisfy rabid wine enthusiasts, there is a time and place for affordable wines like Bodacious Red or Copper Moon Smooth Blend. Once again, the wording on the label is very important since wines with terms like “Smooth”, “Soft” or “Silk” on the label will often indicate a wine with more sweetness and less emphasis on tannins and earthy flavors. If that is the type of wine you enjoy then these blends are very affordable and will satisfy your need for fruit forward flavors.

Wine drinkers with a developed palate will usually find the entry level blends to be quite sweet and lacking in complexity with no sense of the land they were grown in since the cheapest blends often have no designation or guarantee of origin. Besides that, most budget blends will not give the breakdown of grapes and the flavor of these wines can taste slightly generic.

In the end, the choice is yours to make but I recommend purchasing a few budget blends and then spend a few more dollars and try a few high-quality blends from areas like Cotes du Rhone, Chianti, Rioja, Bordeaux or Cotes du Rousillon. You will be the ultimate decider on which wines you will enjoy. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Monasterio Gran Reserva 2013: (DOP Carinena, Spain). Dry red, medium to deep ruby color. The nose opens with fruity scents of blackberries, ripe red cherries, strawberries, red currants, gentle black pepper, vanilla frosting and earthy tones of sweet black soil and young mushroom with fresh dirt clinging. The palate presents with soft woody notes (cedar, oak), cherry skins, red grapes, cherry fruit, blackberry, spicy pepper, clay and red currants. The initial wave of fruit is followed by a long finish of building spice, oak notes and dusty cocoa. Medium body mouthfeel with medium acidity and high but sweet tannins. Pair with paella, chorizo, mushroom dishes, steak or earthy cheeses. Very good! $30, 13.5% ABV

Fonte Delle Donne 2015: (IGT Tuscany, Italy). Dry white, medium lemon color. This crisp white has a lovely scent of citrus zest, fresh tennis ball/rubber bouncy ball, lemongrass, quince fruit, cut grass, hints of goat cheese and wet pebble/rocks. Medium-plus intense on the palate with medium body and medium-plus acidity. Lively and bright with sea salt salinity, lemon juice, wet rock, lemon peel, citrus pith, grapefruit, pomelo and oyster shell with a tangy metallic edge. The sharp, crisp style reflects grassy, vegetal flavors as well as citrus and mineral. Hints of earth and mushroom peak their way through on the long finish, intermingling with bright citrus. Pairs perfectly with creamy sauces, fresh seafood in citrus butter, lemon pepper chicken wings or risotto. Drink now or within a couple of years. Very good! $23, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy – Sauvignon blanc

by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert!

When it’s time to start the grill and open a crisp bottle of white wine, nothing quite compares to a good glass of Sauvignon Blanc! This grape varietal is known for its highly aromatic scent and intense flavor.

This white grape is also known as a sommelier’s best friend since it is so compatible with a large variety of foods.

The flavor profile of Sauvignon Blanc can vary greatly depending on the approach that the winemaker uses and the area that it comes from. Some styles are sweeter in small degrees like the 2019 Woodbridge from California while other wines like the famous Sauternes style from Bordeaux, France are much richer and sweeter which result in an opulent dessert wine with a high level of residual sugar.

The most sought after and popular style found in Prince Albert has to be from New Zealand; specifically from the Marlborough region.

The NZ approach to Sauv Blanc creates a wine with high intensity and deliciously sharp acidity with a touch of salinity.

The perfect combination of hot days with crisp, cool nights near the ocean results in wines featuring mouth-tingling acidity balanced out with tropical notes.

Sauvignon Blanc changes once again when barrel-fermented or treated with oak as seen in the Loire Valley of France (Pouilly-Fume) or Fume Blanc which can found in Bordeaux, France.

Robert Mondavi found success with his integration of Sauv Blanc with oak barrels in California and many other premium growing areas of the world will use oak to add a layer of complexity and an edge of smokiness into the wine.

Not every wine is created equal and it should be noted that if you’d like to begin exploring this particular style, the amount you’re willing to pay will reflect on the quality you will experience.

For instance, the Woodbridge Sauv Blanc was a great price (under $15) and came with a free bag of chips but it was out of balance and slightly unrefined.

Not that comparisons are fair when putting two wines side by side but the White Cliff Sauv Blanc blows away the Woodbridge for its high-quality flavors and decent price point.

If you want to taste the oaked versions then you should expect to pay at least $30 a bottle for the experience.

Try some Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, France, Canada, USA and New Zealand and check out the differences for yourself!

Scallops, shrimp, freshly grilled veggies, halibut, trout, steamed clams or fresh goat’s cheese pair perfectly with Sauvignon Blanc so get on the deck and crack that bottle! Here are my wine picks of the week!

White Cliff Sauvignon Blanc 2020: (Marlborough, New Zealand). Dry to off-dry white, pale lemon color with green reflections. An intense nose of green herbs, citrus peel, mowed grass, sea spray, asparagus and tropical fruit (guava and passionfruit) leaps from the glass.

Intense and flavorful on the palate with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. This white is tangy and bright with saline hints, floral notes, herbaceous flavors and a rush of citrus zest. The acidity makes this wine palate cleansing which allows those tropical and citrus flavors to pop!

Excellent balance and intensity with sharp, crisp acidity. Perfect pairing is bacon-wrapped scallops (or shrimp) or soft goat cheese with freshly chopped herbs. Very good! $23, 13% ABV

Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc 2019: (California, USA). Off-dry white, pale lemon color. Green peppers burst from the glass followed by asparagus, green veggies, capsicum, passionfruit, guava and hints of banana.

The palate is not as intense as the nose but still full of flavors like green pepper, saline sea mist, mowed grass clippings and then tropical fruit and saline notes. The acidity feels slightly flat and the body too full creating a flabby wine. The finish is quick and features a watery quality with a touch of gassiness. I was disappointed in the quality level even at the lower price.

I rate it as Average. It will do better with foods like herb-crusted chicken or pork chops with herbs de provence. $14, 12.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews

A tale of two vintages

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Does the vintage (year) of a wine really make that much of a difference on the quality and taste? The answer is both yes and no. Mass-produced wines like Peller, Bodacious, Barefoot and Yellow Tail (among many others) aim for consistency so any juice/wine that they produce is blended in a large vat to retain the same flavor bottle to bottle. If you want to get the same flavor over and over again (consistency), then a product like this is ideal for you. Premium producers want their story to be told in the individual flavors from year to year meaning they risk losing consistency to authenticity and terroir and for that reason, some consumers may find the differences from vintage to vintage frustrating.

Wines that focus on terroir will quickly demonstrate why the conditions of the growing and harvesting season are so important to the final product. For instance, if the growing season has been cold and rainy then the resulting grapes will be watery and high in acidity; if that wine is produced naturally and without additives then the wine will lack concentration and will be highly acidic leading to an unpleasant drinking experience.

Since so many variables need to be taken into account when growing and harvesting grapes and nature doesn’t always like to cooperate, wineries will often save “reserve” wines for blending to add back into the current vintage. This helps smooth out the wine and help correct high or low acidity, lack of body/concentration etc. This process also helps with consistency as it gives the winery some form of control when growing conditions have not been ideal. At this point, the wine will lose some of its individuality from the specific year of production but will gain consistency. It’s an incredibly tenuous balancing act to get it just right.

The two wines I chose to compare this week are similar in more ways than they differ. They are both from Inniskillin Estate in Niagara Peninsula, they both share the same terroir (location or micro climate) and they are both made with the same grape, Pinot Noir. The only real differences when looking at the label are the vintage (2018 and 2019) and also the word “Select” on the 2018 bottle. The descriptions on the back label are also identical.

After sampling and taking notes, I found I enjoyed the 2018 vintage more than the 2019. The flavors seemed slightly more intense and interesting and the 2018 carried that BBQ twang along with intensely fruity notes. The 2019 had a mineral-driven character on the finish and the mid palate is shorter than the 2018. Which would you prefer? You will have to find out for yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Select 2018: (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario). Dry red, medium ruby color. The nose is full of intense fruity scents like juicy red cherry, cooked raspberry, strawberry, cocoa, charred BBQ meat, toast edges and charcoal briquettes. This red is medium-bodied with a quick entry of juicy fruit and then the mid palate kicks in with a weighty, oaky spice and flavors of pressed skins/stems, warming baking spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, tea leaves and chewy tannins. While the tannins are high, this wine is still very smooth with gentle, medium acidity. The finish is long and full of spice while the fruity character lingers gently in the background. An excellent wine for burgers, ribs or pork chops. Very good! $16, 13% ABV

Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2019: (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario). Dry red, medium ruby color. The medium-intense nose of this Pinot starts with cooked/stewed dark and red cherries, strawberry, raspberry balsamic, herbs (rosemary & oregano), some mineral-like cola zip and hints of vanilla. On the palate, this red displays mainly red fruits with a touch of dark cherry and earth. The mid palate ends very quickly and transitions into a saline mineral finish full of soft black pepper, mineral (gravel, pebbles), touches of oak char, bread and cocoa/earth. The fruit component of this wine can still be tasted as it mixes with flavors of bread, earth and mineral. Tannins are medium with medium body and medium acidity. A simple wine that will pair well with cheeses and BBQ foods. Good! $23, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!   

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert!

Most people are familiar with the name Chianti and often the first image that comes to mind is the wicker basket with the candle sitting on the table at the Italian restaurant.

This image is both quaint and misleading as a bottle of Chianti is so much more than a simple decoration in a restaurant and in fact, the style has a rich history as an area in Italy and also as a wine.

Let’s begin by looking at the symbol of Chianti Classico: the black rooster.

Legend says that the Florentines and people of Siena were disputing the territory of Chianti in the 13th century and the knights of these respective regions decided that on a specified morning they would both race towards the border of one another and where they met would mark the borders of their territory.

The Florentines chose a black rooster which they kept in a partially starved state and the knight of Siena chose a thick white rooster which was well-fed. The following morning, the black rooster crowed very early in the morning and the knight of Florence took off.

The white rooster rose much later and in consequence, the knight of Siena left much later then intended. By the time the knight of Siena had gotten started on his journey, the knight from Florence was within 20 miles of Siena.

The symbol of the black rooster can be found on all bottles of Chianti Classico whether on the front or the back of the label.

It is the official symbol of Chianti and is also a sign of high-quality wine with a rich heritage of winemaking tradition.

The term Chianti Classico refers to the original area where Chianti was founded. The term Chianti Classico received its DOCG designation in 1996 and is the highest-quality wine from the region.

The term Riserva found on the two wines I tasted this week indicates that the wine has received 2 years of oak age in addition to the requirements from its DOCG designation.

Wines with the term “Chianti” must be made with 80% Sangiovese grapes as well as 20% of other grapes including local and international varietals.

This creates a wine with a tangy cherry character backed by flavors from oak aging.

Chianti of any kind is very food friendly and not overly expensive, making it an excellent choice for social gatherings.

Charcuterie, cheese boards, smoked meats, pickles, olives, pizza, pasta and bruschetta are all natural pairing options since the acidity level of Chianti is often quite high and thus works perfectly with tomato-based foods.

Try some Chianti tonight and get a taste of the old world!

Here are my wine picks of the week!

Melini Chianti Classico Riserva 2013: (DOCG Chianti, Italy). Dry red, medium ruby color with slight fading at the edge. The bouquet of this red opens with notes of smoked ham, leather, sweet potting soil, earthy cherry, mushroom, strawberry, smoke and pepper spice. Earthy, spicy flavors of cherry, black pepper, oak, mushroom and cloves hit the palate on the first taste with a long finish of toast, tar, cherry and pepper.

Tannins are high but smooth which provide structure while medium-plus acidity livens the taste buds. Complexity is on show here with smoky leather notes and excellent intensity. The earthy cherry and spice combo is delicious and the medium-plus body creates a wine with serious flavor and potential for further aging. Drink within 3 to 5 years and pair with crostini and olive tapenade, lasagna Florentine, sautéed mushrooms or smoked brisket.

Very good! $27, 13.5% ABV

Castillo de Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014: (DOCG Chianti, Italy). Dry red, deep ruby color with minimal fading. The nose displays black licorice, oak, sweet soil, mushroom, earthy red and dark cherry and dark chocolate and cocoa. The flavors on the taste begin with a sour cherry note balanced by medium-plus tannins, medium-plus acidity and medium-plus body. Some oak bitterness comes through followed by mellow vanilla and smooth pepper spice.

Dark fruits appear (black cherry, black currant) and blend into sweet black licorice followed by a long finish dominated by spice and oaky fruit. Tons of woody flavors from oak aging as well as elegant, earthy spice and developed fruit notes. Pair with charcuterie boards, olives, earthy cheeses, pasta pizza or bruschetta.

Very good! $26, 13.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert!

Budget wines are often overlooked as simple and basic and generally not worth the time or money but this category of wine is one of the biggest sellers in the liquor store which drives up profit margins and provides drinkers with an affordable alternative to more expensive options.

Are these cheaper options any good and are they worth your hard earned money?

The answer to this question comes down to stylistic preference and the amount the consumer is willing to pay versus quality and value.

There are several positive aspects to budget wine which means they do indeed have their time and place in almost every wine drinker’s rotation of beverages.

For instance, when purchasing one of these wines, there are several things you can realistically expect: lower price points, simple flavors and accessibility for those not used to drinking complex wines.

Accessibility and simple flavors are actually important for many people because when they sit down to drink that bottle or share with friends, they may not want to over-analyze or allow time for the bottle to breathe and expose complex flavors or layers.
Buying an affordable, no frills wine for its simplicity can be compared to buying a simple can of lager beer. Sometimes you just want to crack a can and drink it down!

The simplicity of budget wine can also be a negative as sometimes the flavor is too mellow or lacking intensity.

For those searching out rich, complex wines, they would be better served to spend another $5 to $20 since the value is not apparent in the $10 to $15 price range. Another negative to be aware of is the addition of sulfites (sulfur dioxide) to cheaper wines.
Simple, fruity wines need help in preserving their fruity character and the fruitier the wines, the more sulfites are used to maintain these flavors.

If you are drinking inexpensive moscato or chardonnay, you are probably consuming a decent amount of sulfites which lead to headaches or that dull feeling the next day after drinking cheap wine. Wines with complex, developed or oxidized flavors are not using nearly as many sulfites and consequently have less chance of giving you a reaction.

This brings us to the two wines I tasted this week, both from a new brand called Pirueta from Argentina. Priced at $12 (after taxes), this brand offers a malbec and a chardonnay with simple fruity flavors and quick finishes.

The malbec was disappointing as I was expecting a rush of flavors while the wine had no pep or zip. This red left me feeling like the flavors of the wine: dull and bored.

The white on the other hand was fresh, crisp and very easy to sip on. I really enjoyed the mineral character and light fruity style of the chardonnay but after two glasses I could definitely feel those sulfites creeping in! I highly recommend the Pirueta Chardonnay but I would pass on the Malbec. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Pirueta Malbec 2020: (Mendoza, Argentina). Dry to off-dry red, deep purple color with ruby tones.

This red presents a medium-intense nose of juicy plums, grapes, blackberry jam and meaty notes. Medium intense on the palate with full body and medium acidity.

Flavors are slightly flat and feature blue fruits (plums, grapes), cherries and blackberry with a hint of vanilla. The flavors taste one-dimensional and muddy with everything blending together and not allowing individual flavors to shine.

The finish is quick and leaves a fleeting aftertaste of bread and a touch of fruit.

Slightly disappointed even at the lower price point. Average! $12, 13.5% ABV

Pirueta Chardonnay 2020: (Mendoza, Argentina). Off-dry white, pale lemon color. Features a light and fruity mineral-driven aroma of freshly cut apples and pears, saline mineral and citrus fruit (lemon). Fresh and crisp to the taste with medium body and medium-plus acidity.

There is an initial rush of acidity followed by flavors of sea salt/sea breeze and a fruity mid palate of apple and pear. The finish is medium-plus in length with tingling acidity and lingering notes of sweet and salty mineral (wet rocks).

This white is fresh and lively but can still be classified as simple.

Pair with soft cheeses, pork medallions or fresh salads. Good! $12, 12.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.

Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy


by Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! There are two important things I learned on my travels to France which have guided me on my lifelong wine journey and kept me humble and forever curious; one: drink what you like. Two: to create great wine, the vine must suffer.

All too often we feel pressured to enjoy what others enjoy or you may visit with a group of friends and feel embarrassed to bring a cheaper bottle of wine because it (or you) might be judged. If you like a $10 bottle of wine and it makes you happy then that is all that really matters. When it comes to the tastes of others and you are aiming to please then the selection of wines may need to deepen or expand but when it comes to yourself, go with the flow, grab your favorite bottle and let the judgments fall away.

As for point number two: vines that struggle to grow produce some of the greatest and most balanced wines. Balance in wine is achieved when all the components and attributes like acidity, body, flavor, finish and complexity compliment and support one another. When one attribute takes over the wine then it becomes “out of balance”. The perfect example is cabernet sauvignon from California which can be top-heavy with fruit and body but low in acidity and subtlety.

How do winemakers create balance and how does the vine “suffer”? A balanced wine begins in the vineyard with the soil itself. With too many nutrients, grape vines expand growth into the leaf, shoot and root system which dilutes the quality of the fruit and drops the concentration of flavors found in the juice. The same can be said if the vine receives an over-abundant amount of water and sun since the grapes can become too juicy or ripe which consequently dilutes the flavors in the juice.

Vine management is incredibly important as any mistake in the growing process will have to be “fixed” in the winery with acidification, additions of thickening agents or in some cases, additions of flavor. This practice is more common in California where grapes have a tendency to over-ripen or build up too many natural sugars with a lack of natural acidity (this is where acidification is employed).

When the vine struggles to grow, the grapes it produces are smaller and more concentrated and with proper canopy management, the amount of sunshine is limited which stops grapes from over-growing or producing too many ripe or sugary flavors. All of this is done before a grape is ever pressed. More on this another time, here are my wine and beer picks of the week!    

Tenuta Rapitala Vigna Casalj 2014: (DOC Alcamo, Italy). Dry white, medium lemon color. The nose opens with notes of saline mineral, lemon zest, sea breeze, beeswax, green vegetables and hints of mushrooms. On the palate this crisp white has medium-minus body and medium-plus acidity with a slightly tangy character and crisp, sharp flavors of flinty mineral, rich lemon, green beans/peas, root vegetables and a touch of salinity. The finish is long and citrus dominated with a lively mineral zing. Great balance of acidity, lighter body and tangy mineral. Pair with fresh veggies or fresh seafood like clams and angel hair pasta. Very good! $20, 12.5% ABV

Leoh Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: (California, USA). Off-dry to medium-dry red, deep purple color. High intensity scents of dried cranberry, California raisins, soft vanilla, cassis and mouthwatering grape bubblegum burst from the glass. The palate begins with a rush of ripe and dried dark fruits like plums, prunes, cherries and dried raisins. These intense fruit flavors fade into a slightly oaky finish with sweet tannins and walnut/hazelnut skins. The flavors of this red could be described as “sun-drenched” with a round, full-bodied texture and medium-plus acid to bring some balance. While delicious, this wine is out of balance with top-heavy fruit flavors, full body and sweetness. Pair with cured meats/salamis or venison. Good! $25, 13.5% ABV

Super Galactic Space Dragon Double IPA: (Vancouver, BC). This double hopped beer pours a hazy, orange/blonde color with delicately thin white lacing. Aromas of tropical and citrus fruit with a backing of bitter, slightly resinous hops waft from the glass. The mid palate provides crisp flavors of citrus and tropical fruits with full body and medium carbonation. This beer is big and powerful and meant for slow sipping or pairing with salty snacks and there is a lovely hit of dank hops which creates a medium-length finish balancing full fruity flavors and bitterness. Very good! $6 – 473 ml can, 8.9% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!