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Uncork New York… at home!

This month WineCollective featured a wine from New York, a very under-represented wine region. There is only a handful of producers to be found here in Alberta. First, here is a crash-course in all things New York wine.

  • 5 AVA’s: Long Island, Finger Lakes, Hudson River, Niagara Escarpment and Lake Erie.
  • Over 400 wineries between all regions
  • 17 dominant varietals, from Cabernet Franc and Merlot, to ones we have never heard before, Catawba and Seyval Blanc
New York Map
newyorkwines.org

Long Island has been a registered AVA for 40 years. Sandy soils and moderate climate produce mostly red wines in Bordeaux style, or Meritage. 66 wineries with over 2,000 acres of vines.

Finger Lakes region specializes in sparkling wines and ice wine from Pinot Noir and Riesling. Almost double Long Island, there is 119 wineries and over 9,000 acres of vineyards.

The Hudson River is the grand-dad of New York wine production. Varietals here are the vinifera and American species. Commonly found are, Seyval, Chardonnay, red blends and fruit-based wines, with just 200 acres of vines.

Niagara Escarpment, only receiving AVA status in 2005, also boasts some of the warmest climate. Varying soils create unique micro-climates among the 883 acres of vineyards, from dolomitic limestone, to gravel along the lakeshore.

Lake Erie is the second largest grape producer in the US, with California being first. The majority, about 95% is Concord grapes for juice production.

WineCollective attended a seminar on the cooler climates of the Finger Lakes region. Here, the wines are predominately white and are similar to the varietals that you will find from Canadian wineries. From Riesling to Cabernet Franc, tonnes of character and diversity can be found in the Finger Lakes.

Here is a quick way to find out what Finger Lakes wine is right for you!

Is Thai take-out is on your menu at least once a week?

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  • We fell in love with the variety of Riesling we tasted, from dry to off-dry, the flavours ranged from lemon, wet stone, white cranberry, to ripe melon, lime zest, and all with mounds of acidity. There are tonnes of exemplary Rieslings to choose from, try the Boundary Breaks Clone 239 from Seneca Lake vineyards.

Find yourself in the Chilean aisle of the liquor store?

Brotherhood-Pinot-Noir

  • Brotherhood Pinot Noir is produced from the oldest winery in America, with tonnes of Chilean talent. Philip Dunsmore, Vice President, moved to New York from Chile to work at Brotherhood. Expect Burgundian style, new American oak and a brambly-smokiness.

Always looking for something new?

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  • Lemberger is a German name for an Austrian grape, Blaufränkisch. Found mostly in Washington, there is about 15 producers in New York country with plantings. The Fox Run Lemberger is bountiful with black pepper, which can indicate a cooler vintage.

These wines have never before been featured in WineCollective packages. Find them at member pricing today in the WineCollective online store!


Cheating on wine, with beer

Continuing to compare the similarities between beer and wine, we use some of the same framework when evaluating the style and quality. Appearance, aroma, body and finish all translate from wine to beer.

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With tasting beer, there is greater emphasis on the body and taste, less on colour and aroma. So, when you enjoy a brew, do you think about it the same way you might with a glass of wine?

If you always find yourself cracking open a Pilsner, what wine would suit your tastes? Or if you can’t get enough of Zinfandel, which beer style would you be equally enchanted with? WineCollective has taken key descriptors of beer styles and matched them to a corresponding wine.

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Lager = Pinot Grigio

Lager is a wide net that catches many different sub-categories. From an American light Lager (Coors and Kokanee) to Dark Lagers and Kolsch. Generally, medium to light bodied, with little malt aromas, neutral flavours and low bitterness (IBU). Think of the addition of stronger malt flavours as a more complex, barrel-fermented Pinot Gris.

Sours = Sparkling

Sours generally are light bodied, have low bitterness, moderate alcohol, and higher carbonation. Flavours range through dough, from the malt, and lemon to tart apple. Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and Cremant all offer the similar balance between acidity and sugars. Pair your Sours with the same sparkling pairings, like salty foods, shellfish and fried foods.

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Porter = Tempranillo

Porters are medium to full bodied with strong dark malts, sometimes with a slight burnt quality. Chocolate, coffee and grain, with a off-dry finish. Tempranillo from Toro or Rioja, where Reservas are aged in oak will give high alchohol and chewy weight.

Wheat = Chardonnay

A German Wheat beer has high carbonation and a dry finish. Expect a round, fluffy mouth-feel and medium/light body. Absence of bittering hops gives the perception of  ‘sweetness’. The minimum 50% malted wheat and yeast used give flavours of clove and banana. This style will be best replicated in a barrel-fermented Chardonnay, with a plush body and vanilla oak notes.

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Stout = Amarone

Made with dried grapes, produces high alchohol, rich bodied wines. Stouts will range between 8-12% abv and are full to very full bodied. The flavours indicative of Imperial Stout can often include roasted malt, tar and dried fruits like prune and raisin. The finish ranges from dry to moderately sweet.

Ale = Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon

Like the Lager, Ale is a wide category with many sub-styles based on the ingredients and origins. An American Brown Ale is a balance of solid malt and hops with chocolate and caramel flavours. We think that a refined and aged blend of Cab and Merlot also offers the richness and toasted/nutty notes of oak.

IPA

IPA = Syrah

IPAs are distinguished by the strong bitterness. The hoppy bitterness of a standard American IPA ranges from 40-70 IBU (your palate can’t identify bitter units past 100). We wouldn’t classify wines by bitterness, but instead we will partner IPA with wines with equally bold characteristics in tannin, spice and body. Syrah, Aglianico or even Pinotage.

What is your go-to beer and favourite wine? Let’s see if we can find some correlation in our palates. Leave your comments below!

Interested in exploring Craft Beer even more? Don’t forget to check out Canada Craft Club!


Sommelier or Cicerone?

With the emerging and rapidly growing popularity of craft beer, you would think wine-os and beer geeks would find some common ground. Why is there such a divide, can’t we all just get along?

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In the US, breweries quickly multiplied through the early 1900’s, before prohibition killed most production. On average, two new breweries are opened per day in the US, setting the pace to pass the previous record of 4,131 in 1873. Hard to believe that just in 1983, there were only 80 breweries in operation. The craft beer trend has catapulted in the last two decades!

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No one is going to argue the growth of the craft beer movement, but what makes beer such a popular choice? Accessibility? Casual culture? Affordability? And why does someone need to identify with one alcohol over another, can you equally be a wino and a beer geek?

Wine and Craft Beer have much more in common than you might think.

  1.  Ancient production was handled mainly by monks.
  2. Beer (in northern regions) and wine (in southern regions) to hydrate troops instead of water.
  3. Both production was advanced with modern advances in biology and chemistry.
  4. The recipes are basically the same! Sugar (barley/grapes) + Yeast = alcohol & CO2

Not to mention, both industries have the same risks and hurdles: at the mercy of nature and production of agricultural crops, transport to markets is costly and timely, imposition of high taxation and finicky regulatory bodies.

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So lets stop the name calling. Wine lovers are not snobs and beer lovers aren’t just hipsters. We can appreciate both beer and wine equally without alienating our passion for either. Education is key to acceptance and understanding. Ask your bartender to challenge your palate with a Stout, or visit your local wine boutique to learn about Beaujolais Nouveau.

Resources for more Wine & Beer-ducation!

Or, visit our new friend, CanadaCraftClub.ca for monthly beer club shipments across Canada. Receive new brews each month with information on style and tasting notes!


Toro in Ten

After Amber’s recent trip to various wine regions in Spain, we wanted to dazzle you with some need to know information. Here are our top ten things to know about Toro!

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1. Toro is located in the larger region of Castilla y Leon, in north-western Spain. Toro is within the province of Zamora and north-west of Madrid. Closest neighbours of Toro are Rueda bordering to the east and Ribera del Duera slightly further east.

2. Toro, the region, is named after the ancient town of Toro. Toro is most known for the Tinta de Toro varietal, a clone of Tempranillo with exceptionally dark skins.

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One of the last remaining bunches of Tinta de Toro left on the bush vines at Piedra, in Toro.

3. Tinta de Toro (toro meaning bull) produces wines that are dark, tannic and rugged. Tinta de Toro has high alcohol, sometimes 15-16% with moderate to low acidity.

4. There are many old vines in Toro, some upwards of 100 years in age. The soils of Toro are great for pest management. The vine-killing Phylloxera can not live in the sandy soils, which has preserved many of the oldest vines.

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Gnarly bush vine at Piedra winery in Toro, approximately 70-years-old.

5. Tinta de Toro is usually fermented as a single varietal wine, but it is also commonly blended with Garnacha (Grenache). The Garnacha adds more phenols and acidity to the wine. Old vineyards are often planted randomly, with Garnacha, scattered throughout the Toro vines. You can identify the Garnacha easily by the leaves.

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Tinta de Toro leaf at Piedra Winery in Toro.

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Garnacha leaf at Piedra Winery in Toro.

6. The region has a continental climate, and has a deceivingly high altitude. The plains and gentle hills sit between 600-900 meters above sea level. The altitude plays an important part in viticulture, ensuring that the night time temperatures are low enough to let the vine rest and build necessary acidity.

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Sandy vineyard of Tinta de Toro and Garnacha at Piedra Winery in Toro.

7. Toro has only recently become an internationally recognized and commercial region. In 1987 Toro received the official title of Designation of Origin, D.O. Toro. Although wine has been produced here for centuries. Today, there are only 60 wineries.

8.  In addition to vineyards, the area is planted to several other agricultural crops, including alfalfa and sugar beets.

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Crops of alfalfa in the back left and beets in the far right, neighbouring Tinta de Toro vines of Elias Mora in Toro.

9. If visiting Toro, stay in Valladolid. The city of about 300,000 has a great food culture and a beautiful city centre. The city is easy to navigate and is only a 30-60 minute drive to most of the wineries.

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10. Some of WineCollective’s favourite wines from Toro are: Bodegas Elias Mora, ViñaGuareña and Terra D’Uro. There are still some ViñaGuareña Barrica available on Tannic!

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Spier, a traditional take on Chenin Blanc & Pinotage

Spier Wine Farm is one of WineCollective‘s all-time favourite producers. Not only do they support their local community and arts, they practice sustainable and organic viticulture and make dynamite wine! We jump at the opportunity to spend time with the great people of Spier. On their most recent visit we were treated to a vertical tasting of 21 Gables Chenin Blanc and Pinotage with Cellar Master, Frans K. Smit

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What you don’t already know about Spier

1. They are committed to sustainable viticulture. 95% of the waste produced by the winery is recycled or re-purposed, including 100% of their wastewater.

2. An on-site biodynamic vegetable garden uses organic waste from pasture and vineyards as fertilizer. Produce is harvested and served in the estate’s farm-to-table restaurant, Eight.

3. Working closely with their coopers, Spier has developed innovative barrels that blend different oak, experimenting with barrels built with French staves and American heads.

4. Cellar Master Frans, calls the 21 Gables Pinotage his ‘go-to’ wine. It is the perfect partner for South African dinners cooked commonly on an open fire.

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Our notes on the 2010 – 2013 21 Gables Chenin Blanc.

All vintages were very expressive and evolved over the course of an hour. We recommend enjoying your Chenin Blanc slowly.

2010 showed the most bold aromas right out of the gate. Perfumed blossoms, bright citrus and lees. Marmalade on buttered fresh baked toast!

2011 was the odd-ball of the lineup, a little more closed on the nose with more savoury notes than citrus and tropical fruits. Pine nuts, raisin and mineral. It was a more difficult year for Chenin and produced a greater proportion of raisins.

2012 and 2013 were both fresh, lively and showed surprising acidity for the warmer vintage. The newer vintages will appeal to almost everyone, a great intro into the varietal if you are hesitant or not too familiar with South African wines.

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Stellenbosch, South Africa vineyards. 

Our notes on the 2009 – 2012 21 Gables Pinotage.

The vintage variation and progression of age of these wines make them super fun to try in a vertical! The 2009 was most bold and varried in aromas and flavour profile. A strong vintage, it produced ripe black currant, roasted cocao nibs, a bit of tobacco and 5 spice.

2010 saw an increase of new wood, up to 65%. The cooler vintage produced good acidity and a fresher fruit profile.

Where the 2011 Chenin was least impressive, the 2011 Pinotage was my favourite. Another cooler vintage, the earthy components balanced well with the freshly picked black berries.

2012 is still coming into it’s own, I found the fruit slightly closed behind the oak, but I assume with some more time in the glass this would have opened more. A bit more spice and herbacious-ness, white pepper and grilled herbs like bay leaves.

Spring 2016 will be full of Spier excitement at WineCollective. Stay tuned for new features and an opportunity to meet with the Spier team!


Not-so basic Bordeaux

Delving into Bordeaux and trying to understand this classic region and its iconic wines can be a daunting task. There is literally lots of ground to cover, Bordeaux stretches over 296,000 acres, compare to the more familiar Okanagan Valley, with just 8,619 acres of vineyards. We will provide you with some of the most important information you need to know about the not-so basic region of Bordeaux.

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Geography

Where most people start, is the explanation of right bank vs left bank. The Gironde estuary is fed by the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, which split the wine region into two main areas. The left bank is west of the Gironde and Garonne and north of Bordeaux city. The right bank is on the east side of the Dordogne.

The left and right banks are home to some of the more recognizable regions and prolific Chateaux. Within the greater Bordeaux, there are many other sub-regions and thousands of vineyards. In the north-east you will find Cote de Blays and Cote de Bourg. Between the two prongs of the ‘fork’ is Entre-deux-mers. As well, south of Bordeaux city, Sauternes and Barsac produce some of the world’s best sweet wines.

The 296,000 acres make Bordeaux the second largest wine growing region in the world. The large acreage produces a wide selection of styles of wine from sweet wines in Sauterne, sparkling Crémant de Bordeaux, inexpensive, to the most regarded in the world.

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Map sourced from Table Wine at tablewineasheville.com.

 

Regions and sub-regions

There are 38 sub-regions in Bordeaux, which cover 57 appellations. A region’s classification will influence the price and demand for its wines. WineFolly shows a table of the premium regions, partnered with the more affordable options.

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Chart sourced from WineFolly.com

 

The left bank, in Haut Médoc is where you can find some of the finest red wines of Bordeaux: Margaux, St. Estephe, St Julien and Pauillac. The regions in the left bank have higher rock content, which provides well-draining soils. Cabernet Sauvignon performs best on well-drained soils. The rocky soils also retain more heat, helping to ripen the grapes. The right bank is home to the highly-prized reds of Pomerol and St. Emilion. The rigth bank has greater clay content in the soil, making it a more ideal location for Merlot.

Understandings the classifications

Among the thousands of  vineyards and growers, approximately 200 properties are classified. Châteaux that are ranked within the three classification systems provide the benchmark for quality wines from Bordeaux.

The 1855 Médoc classification is the most expansive and recognized. The list of classified properties was created for the Universal Exposition in Paris, in 1855. Producers whose wines consistently commanded the highest prices were ranked from first to fifth growth.  Here is a list of the Chateaux in each of the 5 rankings, provided by Winewisdom.com.

All the classified properties were on the Left Bank, and most were in the Médoc Since 1855 there has only been a single amendment, Château Mouton-Rothschild was raised from a second to a first growth. You can identify wines in this ranking system by “Grand Cru Classée en 1855” on the label.

Since the inception of the 1855 classification, other regions have created their own rankings. Most notable is St. Emilion Classification, and the communes of the northern part of the Graves  region, known collectively as Pessac-Léognan in the 1959 Graves Classification.

 

Bordeaux as a style of wine

The popularity of wines from Bordeaux have created a style of wine that is replicated around the world. From Napa to Adelaide, winemakers produce wines in a ‘Bordeaux style’, using Bordeaux  varietals and techniques to achieve a Bordeaux-esque wine. In tasting notes, reviews and media, a wine may be referred to as a ‘Bordeaux blend”, but unless it is from Bordeaux it is referencing a style of wine and not the origin.

The permitted red varietals found in Bordeaux blends are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The left bank wines are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, producing a more tannic, structured wine with higher alcohol and acid. Merlot based, right-bank blends offer a softer style and tannin, that is more approachable in it’s youth.

Vintages matter

Bordeaux is unique in that it is an ideal, but also volatile area to grow grapes. The climate is moderate and maritime, vintage variation is high and weather patterns vary year to year. Typically, Bordeaux is temperate with mild winters, damp springs and rainy autumns.The unpredictable nature of the seasons leads to high risk, and potentially high reward. It is important to research vintage notes, especially when investing in an expensive bottle. Most critics and journals will publish vintage scores, like the one shown on Bordeaux.com.

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Vintage ratings from Bordeaux.com

 

With a deep history, thousands of acres under vine, and many styles of wine produced, Bordeaux is a complicated, but worth while region to study. Many try to simplify the complex structure and terminology of Bordeaux wine, but it is difficult to do this without leaving out important information.

Tell us about your experiences with Bordeaux, your favourite places to visit, the most memorable bottle of wine, or what questions have gone un-answered!


Grapes and greens: a guide to pairing salad with wine

Salad is one of the more difficult foods to pair with wine. From bitter greens to acidic dressing, there are many factors to consider when trying to pick the perfect bottle. Instead of memorizing classic wine and salad pairings, remember these key tips when building your salad, or, selecting the wine to match!

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  • Protein in your salad should be the focal point. If you are adding tuna, grilled chicken or shrimp to a salad, treat the protein like you would if it was your main course.
  • Fruit in salads, such as peaches, grapes or mandarin oranges, will be best matched with Viognier or Chardonnay.
  • Cherries, cranberries and blueberries work with Pinot Noir and Gamay.
  • When adding candied nuts, a honey vinagerette or dried fruits, make sure to choose a sweeter wine to match.
  • Difficult vegetables like artichoke, asparagus, endive and kale are not a lost cause – don’t leave these greens out! Look for Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
  • Vinager in salad dressing can make the acidity in your wine fall flat. Make sure the acidity in the wine meets or exceeds the dressing.
  • Reduce the presence of vinager by adding stock or cream to the dressing, or opt for alternative vinagers like apple cider or rice wine vinager.
  • Look to the country of origin of the main ingredients and seasonings. Feta? Try Assyrtiko from Greece. Olives? When in Spain, sip on Fino Sherry. Thyme? Find a Provence rose.

There are a few classics that have stood the test of time, like goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc. Experiment with the basics and have fun with your seasonal  veg. We have chosen some of our favourite salads from across Canada and paired them with our top picks for summer salad wines.

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Beet Salad at Chef Bar in Calgary: Beets, arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds, orange, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

The goat cheese is king, as the bold flavours make it the focal point of the pairing. For a Savignon Blanc, try Joseph Mellot Le Troncsec Pouilly-Fume. Or without the goat cheese, a cool and fresh Pinot, such as the Little Yering Pinot Noir.

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Ceasar Salad dressing from Garlic’s Purity Plus in Edmonton: Find this dressing at farmer’s markets, stores or order direct.

As a first course, or a main with grilled chicken, choose a wine with some oak presence, either Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Try Stag’s Leap Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, or, Little Yering Chardonnay.

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Mo:le’s cold smoked tuna salad in Victoria: Seared albacore tuna, red pepper, apple, peas shoots, daikon, cilantro, greens and poppy seed dressing.

Similar in style to a Niçoise salad, the tuna, greens and herbs will be best balanced with rosé. Either sparkling or dry, Bernard-Massard Cuvée de l’Écusson Brut Rosé or Saint Sidoine Rosé. Switch out the tuna for prawn or shrimp, and lean towards a Picpoul de Pinet or Portuguese white blend.

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Bicycle Thief in Halifax serves Panzanella (aka bread) salad: Charred Asparagus, poached green beans, tomato, garlic croutons, roasted pinenutes, pesto Genovese vinaigrette and mozarella.

The pesto and asparagus will match the herbacious nature of a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Matetic Corralillo. Or Soave, Tommasi Le Volpare Soave.

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Velvet Glove in the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg classic Cobb salad: greens, avocado, egg, bacon, blue cheese

The blue cheese dressing is what commands the most attention. A kabinett Riesling is the go-to choice, Ulrich Langguth Renaissance.

All wines are available at Highfield by WineCollective in Calgary and online in the members-only WineCollective store. Join now to shop WineCollective!

We want to hear from you! Find us on your favourite social media outlet and let us know about your favourite seasonal greens and wine pairing.

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Surprise Dad with wine!

Say ‘thanks’ to Dad this Father’s Day with wine. We have carefully curated two knock-out wines for this special package, which will even impress the Dad with a discerning palate!

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Your gift to Dad will include two different bottles of Italian red wine and a WineCollective corkscrew. Tasting cards for each bottle of wine will be included, giving Dad useful and interesting information on the wine, food pairings and tasting notes.

When you purchase the Father’s Day Special, a gift email will be sent to your Dad letting him know of your thoughtful gift. If you would like to send the wine as a surprise instead, simply select to not have the email sent. You can print the digital note and place it in a card.

All Father’s Day gifts are one month shipments and will be shipped between June 10th to 22nd. If you purchase prior to June 10th, we will be sure to ship your gift so that it is received in time for Father’s Day. If you are a last-minute shopper, don’t worry, we have you covered! You can purchase up until June 21st and we will ship the wine the following week.

If you have more questions, get in touch with us today!


Spoiler Alert: August wine feature leaked

Many WineCollective members love the excitement of opening their package every month and discovering what new wines they have to try. The anticipation has been compared to being a kid on Christmas morning. This is why we are giving you a warning; if you do not want to know which wine could be in your August WineCollective package, stop reading!

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Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect as John Buchanan from Mount Riley was just in town. Mount Riley has been in Canada for the last decade and has some solid presence at a handful of restaurants and boutiques. The consistency in quality and affordability has made Mount Riley a go-to New Zealand producer.

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We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mount Riley Pinot Gris, which has been secured for members’ August editions. Mount Riley has been on our radar for awhile now and we thought that the crisp and textured Pinot Gris would be perfect for your summer enjoyment.

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Meeting with John at Murrieta’s in Calgary, we learned a little more about himself, the wines and his family. John spoke briefly about each wine to the crowd of about 50 diners, while they sipped and enjoyed the five-course dinner. Although the food and wine, of course, were great, it was hard not to notice how engaged John was with everyone in the room. It was great to see a producer so genuinely interested in ensuring everyone was having a great evening. John made a point to visit with every table.

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The wines showcased from Mount Riley: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Pinot Gris, 2013 Pinot Noir and 2013 Syrah. By far, the most successful pairing of the night was the curry-dressed salad with prawn and goat cheese, partnered with the Sauvignon Blanc.

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The Pinot Gris, John explained, is beginning to replace the once most popular choice of Chardonnay. Murrieta’s pairing of halibut wrapped proscuitto, could pair equally as well with the Pinot Gris as a cool-climate Chardonnay.

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The Pinot Noir was lean, but complex mix between fresh fruits and rustic charm. The show-stopper was the Syrah, which had everyone asking for a second glass. The 50+ people in attendance were the first in Canada to ever try the Mount Riley Syrah. There will be a limited amount available later this year, stay tuned for your chance to try it.

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If you are impatient and will have a hard time waiting until August to try Mount Riley, stop by Highfield by WineCollective and curb your appetite with the Sauvignon Blanc.


Thank you to The Shakespeare Company!

WineCollective was delighted to partake in the 2nd Annual Bard Bash, produced by The Shakespeare Company! It was an evening full of laughter, wine, food and a great performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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With the help of volunteers, we poured some recently featured and past favourite WineCollective wines including Milou Rouge, Schug Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Tolloy Pinot Grigio and Mac & Fitz’s Shift’s End Red!

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Highfield by WineCollective also took part and donated a basket full of unique liquors such as Laura Secord Chocolate Liqueur, IronWorks Fruit Trio, Glen Carlou Sweet Chenin Blanc and an Auchentoshan scotch taster pack.

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If you were unable to attend this year’s Bard Bash, don’t fret! The Shakespeare Company’s next production, As You Like It, begins on April 30th!

bard bash performance