Exclusive for WineCollective Members Only!

Not that you need another reason to join the largest monthly wine club in Alberta, but we’re going to give you a good one anyways! WineCollective has received an exclusive on an exciting Tinto Fino from Spain. WineCollective members will be the only lucky consumers in Alberta to receive this wine!

If you are already a member, don’t worry, you will have this exclusive wine in your June package. If you are not a member yet, why not join? You have until May 31st to join and ensure you receive this special selection.

Watch for further WineCollective exclusive wines over the summer!

Join WineCollective at the Regier Memorial Golf Tourney

WineCollective is proud to be a part of the 4th Annual Regier Memorial Golf Tournament. The Texas Scramble is being held at the Meadowlands Golf Club in Sylvan Lake on July 28, 2012. The Regier Memorial Tournament is held in honour of Stacy Regier in support of the Stacy Regier Legacy, with all funds being donated to the Calgary Health Trust.  To date, the Stacy Regier Legacy has raised over $80,000 for the ICU of the Foothills Hospital.

WineCollective has helped contribute a 6 month Evolution package to be raffled along with an IPad and a $2000 travel voucher. There is still time to purchase a raffle ticket ($10 each), volunteer your time or donate an item to auction.

You have until July 20th to register yourself or a team in the tournament. WineCollective still needs to round out the team, so join us on the course!

BYOW: Poplar Grove Chardonnay at Farm

There are a number of local eateries that allow you to bring your own bottle, and on certain nights you can bring your favourite wine for free! Free-corkage nights are beneficial for the restaurant as well as the diner, it is a great way to fill tables on slower nights (most BYOW nights are Sunday-Wednesdays), and the cost savings are an obvious advantage to the customer. However, BYOW isn’t about being a penny-pincher, it’s an opportunity for you to share a special bottle with your company and pair it with an elegant meal, and not be restricted to your own culinary abilities.

I brought a bottle of 2010 Poplar Grove Chardonnay to Farm last Monday. I was excited to share this bottle with a friend that I knew would appreciate it. I wanted to make sure the pairing was perfect, so we had asked our server to select our meal based on the tasting notes of the Chardonnay.

A richly textured Chardonnay, with aromas of honeyed cashew and toffee. Toasted nut and oak integrate nicely with clean, bright acidity on the palate. Soft hints of vanilla linger with the long finish on this voluptuous Reserve Chardonnay.

We made our own notes on the Chardonnay, and found toasted nuts and warm honey on the nose with baked apples.  The palate was luscious with soft flavours of melon, apples and vanilla. There was surprising acidity that added a crisp and fresh component . Our server first brought us a charcuterie plate of P’tit Basque Sheep cheese from France, Coppa (like proscuitto but with less oily-ness) and air-dried strawberries. We had the steelhead trout with an herbed vinaigrette and almonds as our main.

The creamy cheese complemented the mouth feel of the oaked and full Chard, while the Coppa’s salt helped to enhance the fruit presence in the wine. The trout was a perfect fish pair to the wine, it had an almost sweet miso-glaze. I would hold off on the Asian slaw next time,  too much acid for the wine can bring out an undesireable tart-ness. Post-Chardonnay, we indulged on an eccentric selection of truffles: goat cheese, vanilla bean, bacon and dark chocolate paired with Moscato.

A few tips if you are going to take advantage of a BYOW: give the restaurant a head-up that you will be bringing your own bottle, if you want the kitchen to pair with your wine, let them know what it is and any tasting notes you have. I gave the server the tasting card for the Poplar Chardonnay, your WineCollective tasting cards are perfect reference for the server or chef. Avenue Magazine has a list of corkage nights in both Calgary and Edmonton. Even if restaurants don’t promote BYOW, if you ask, most will accomodate you at a price.


Tasting a tank sample of Meyer Family Vineyard’s 2011 Gewürztraminer

Winemakers use samples to gain insight into the development of their wine. For the public, a barrel tasting is a great way to learn and partake in some aspect of the winemaking process. Most importantly, barrel sampling is an exclusive and fun event. You may have the opportunity to try a barrel sample if you visit a winery, and many California wine festivals are now showcasing young wines from the barrel to the general public. If you are fortunate enough to take part in a barrel tasting, remember that you are not drinking the finished product, the sample is a small reflection of what you may expect from the bottle.

Winemakers use barrel samples to check the wine’s aging and progression. Wines are constantly evolving based on hundreds of variables. After taking a sample, a winemaker may use a number of techniques to adjust the levels of sugar and acidity, and even the oaking treatment.  Peachy Canyon‘s blog notes in ‘A Crash Course in Barrel Tasting’ another important aspect of barrel samples:

“One of the more interesting aspects of barrel tasting is the incredible variation. Most wines are the result of blending together multiple barrels (if not multiple barrels of multiple varietals). Although a winemaker selects barrels specifically, each barrel is slightly individual, and there will be some variance from one to the other (one barrel, for example, might give off more of a toast flavor than its neighbor), due to subtle differences in coopering, age, and conditioning.”

When analyzing a barrel sample you are still looking at the wine as you would if it was from the bottle, but there will be certain characteristics that will be attributed to its youth and what stage of aging it is in. As mentioned in Tastes Peachy, with red wines there may be significant gas on the nose with subtle fruit notes, and the palate will tend to be overwhelmed with tannins and acidity at first taste. The most important thing to remember is that a barrel samples are not a finished wine.

We were fortunate enough to receive a sample of the Meyer Family Vineyards‘ 2011 Gewürztraminer and sat down recently to really enjoy this unique experience.

The 2011 Gewürztraminer sample was showing very well.  White varietals such as Gewurtz are not usually intended to age as long as red wines, so the time between a sample and bottling is not as long. A portion of the grapes were whole bunched pressed, which can help with the drainage of the juice from the grapes.  The remaining grapes were left with their skins for a short period, this can help extract greater flavour as well.  However, too much contact with the skins in white varietals can cause unwanted astringency in the wine; we did not notice this in our sample.  Both batches of grapes were then gently pressed, rigorous press would again induce stronger astringency in the wine. All grapes were then combined for a long cool fermentation in stainless steel vat. The cooler temperature helps create a more light and fruity wine. The wine is then aged for several months sur lie, before bottling. We noticed some bready or yeasty characteristics that would have come from the process  of leaving the wine on its lees. This process is common in Chardonnays, adding a creaminess and also affecting the clarity.

We are excited to try the 2011 Gewürztraminer after bottling and compare our previous notes. We can expect a rich textured wine with strong acidity to balance the spice and savoury qualities.

If you haven’t been invited to try a barrel sample, you may have to schedule ahead of time to find a winery that will host you. There are many more unique opportunities where you can sample wines during your holidays. Travel to Wellness has a comprehensive list of Canadian wine and food festivals where you can taste many producers in one convenient location. Closer to home, the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival, May 4-5 in Banff, is a chance to indulge in rare wines and meet some of the producers. We are also approaching the tasting season of our neighbouring BC vineyards.  Visit BC Wine for easy reference to BC wine regions and mapped locations of wineries such as Meyer Family in Naramata.


Tasting Card Makeover

WineCollective‘s tasting cards got a makeover! If you receive a monthly package of great wine from us, you probably have noticed that the tasting cards have been revamped.  We hope you like them as much as we do!

The new design will be easier to store and catalogue. Also, the close-up image of the label will make it easier to find your new favourite bottle at the liquor store.  The online version of the notes have undergone a refresh as well.  We have made it easier to comment and rate the wines you receive, so make sure you tell us what you think!

Raise a Glass for World Malbec Day!

We rarely require a holiday or special event to justify opening a bottle of wine, but when an excuse so obvious presents itself, it would be a shame not to indulge! World Malbec Day celebrates all aspects of this wine, from its origin to the explosive popularity over the last decade. WineCollective is participating in this global event by sharing with you some of our favorite Malbecs.

Malbec originated in France, and was most commonly used as a blending grape. It was known as Cot Noir or Auxerrois in the region of Cahors where it was most usually found. In the 19th century, the émigres brought the varietal to Argentina where it flourished and became the flagship grape of the country and more specifically the Mendoza region. Argentine Malbec is more lush and velvety than it’s single varietal French cousin. The grape itself is actually quite different from those in France, smaller berries and tighter, smaller bunches.  The superiority of Malbec in Argentina is most commonly equated to the extreme elevation of vineyards compared to European producers.

Malbec as a component of a blend such as Château La Bastide’s 2008 Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Syrah and can be as expressive of the grape as  a single varietal bottling. Marcello Pelleriti’s Reserve Malbec 2007 and CarinaE Malbec 2008 are reflective of the spice and richness of the Argentine grown grape. Visit WineSpectator for a list of French representations of Malbec and more insight into the Argentine, ‘new world’ take on the varietal.

Château La Bastide

Quite a bit of rusticness, notes of mushroom, forest floor and hay. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fruit here. Lots of red currant and blackberries are present. We also picked out an intriguing “salted pretzel” smell, which combines salty minerality with touches of yeast. An extremely complex nose for this price point. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $14.43



An exceptionally spicy wine, except that unlike most entry-level Malbecs, the spice here isn’t from heavy duty oak, it is from the terrior and the actual grapes. The spice, rather than being predominately pepper would be more like habanero or jalapeno, but less palate scorching. The fruit is juicy and pleasant. The tannins are present, well structured and rounded. A different take on a Malbec. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $16.89


Marcelo Pelleriti

Easy to enjoy with tannins and intensity dialled down compared to some Malbec. Spice characteristics lead the palate with black pepper, clove, wood box, liquorice and slightly smoky, jammy berry fruits. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $25.00



Tonic, Mix it Up for a Cause at Hotel Arts

WineCollective and Tannic recently participated in a fundraiser for KidSport Calgary that was held at Hotel Arts. This fundraiser, Tonic, Mix it Up for a Cause, held on April 14, 2012, had 100% of the proceeds go to KidSport Calgary. This event raised a record $106,500. This amount will help KidSport Calgary support the sport participation of 450 kids.

With the help of this event, KidSport Calgary is hoping to have helped over 2500 kids in 2012. This was a great event which showed the belief that all kids should have the opportunity to participate in sports. KidSport Calgary allows children to be active in organized sports by removing financial barriers. They achieve this by raising funds to remove those barriers and by advocating the importance of all kids having access to sport programs.

At Hotel Arts more than 400 guests were entertained by local Kyemara, and cocktail flair was showcased alongside fabulous eats and a silent auction. For the silent auction, WineCollective donated 3 month’s of of Evolution wine package (12 bottles, $250 value) and 1 year’s membership to ($195 value). Other key sponsors of the event include: Avenue Calgary, Cal Frac Well Services, Bennett Jones, Peters and Co. Limited, Canoe Financial, TransCanada, Mackenzie Investments, Horizons Exchange Traded Funds, and FGL Sports.




Congratulations Susan E. !

WineCollective would like to congratulate Susan E. on winning the March Indulgence package($148 value).  Susan was randomly selected after commenting and rating her WineCollective wines.

Thank-you to everyone who participated.  Remember, you can login to your account to view, rate and comment on all the wines you receive from WineCollective at any time.  We love your feedback, and truly appreciate your opinion!

Everything you need to know about the Calgary Wine Fest

Your first Winefest is never your last, that is why most attendees are seasoned veterans. Winefest is Calgary’s longest running wine festival, 2012 marks their 20th Anniversary.  We have compiled some valuable tips and event info for both the newbies and the more experienced.

You can find all essential information on the Winefest site regarding dates, tickets and parking. However,  @winejennifer helps the novice and experts alike by listing her top 11 tips for Winefest in “How To “Do” Wine Festivals”. #6 on the list, ‘Don’t wear white’ is crucial, and so is comfortable footwear!  Also, #10 “Don’t rinse your glass with water”, this is the most repeated offense I witness at wine tastings.  Make sure you are rinsing with a splash of wine instead. Whether you are industry or amateur, everyone likes finding their new favourite vino.  Instead of trying to balance a pencil, notebook and glass to take notes, snap a photo of the with your phone and give it a quick rating.

The most important thing to remember is that Winefest is a social event, don’t be too focused on the details of each wine. Look for wines you have never tried, then research them after the event.  You can find where your favourites are sold at  This way you can relax and not be rushed to learn everything about every wine.

This year Winefest is featuring 230 different wines from 15 regions, as well as a delicious tapas menu. From what I have heard of the Edmonton Winefest last weekend, you won’t be disappointed by the selection! You can check out the list of producers and the menu on the Winefest site.  If you are already a WineCollective member, you will recognize our favourites on the list.  Here are some wines to look out for!

Spy Valley Pinot Noir

Sip this with the Miniature Apple and Brie Grilled Sandwich. This wine delivers big time Pinot Noir blueberries and strawberries up front. There are good levels of vibrant acidity which make it food friendly but is also great on its own. The tannins have a softness and approachability which are rounded out by its medium length finish

Road 13 Jackpot Syrah

This wine is ideal with 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier which gives the wine some fruit to go along with the savory Syrah core. Try this meaty Syrah with Bulgogi Pork on toasted Baguette.

If you haven’t already bought your tickets, there are only ones left for Saturday afternoon 2-5.

The best lasagna I’ve ever eaten!

I rarely follow a recipe when I cook, it’s a testament to what my mother has taught me in the kitchen; to be resourceful and creative!  I like to read cook books, look up recipes online (WineAccess has recipes and pairings), and then combine all the A-list ideas into my own creation.

This is how I made the best lasagna I have ever eaten! (Yes, I am bragging a little)  Everyone knows how to make a standard lasagna, and it is fairly easy to spice-up and re-invent.  Here is what I did to create the best lasagna EVER:

  • After the pasta has been boiled, rinsed in cold water and patted dry; toss in olive oil
  • Use half ground beef and half Italian sausage (removed from casing) for the meat-tomato sauce layer
  • Blend 2 chipotle peppers with some adobo sauce and add to the tomato sauce mixture (and 1 cup of red wine)
  • I made one layer of mushrooms in a heavy cream sauce with loads of garlic (and 1/4 cup white wine)

The only negative to this recipe (and most lasagnas) is the amount of dishes; but after 45 min at 350, dishes were done and I was ready to eat!

You might be wondering what wine to pour with this caloric feast?  Lasagna is very friendly with wine, a versatile dish that will pair well with several varietals, from many regions and all for different reasons.  A simple pairing formula to follow: your wine should either compare or contrast to your meal’s weight, texture, or flavour.  Here are a few favourites from the WineCollective archive,  that I think are matches made in lasagna heaven.



Wrong Dongo 2010

Varietal: Monastrell
Region: Jumilla, Spain
Approximate Price: $21

The spice from the Italian sausage and chipotles are paired well with the peppery nature of Shiraz or boldness of a Spanish Monastrell.

“There is some signature Spanish earthiness and spice on the mid-palate before the wine ends on some fairly rounded tannins.  This wine is not a casual sipper, it is a huge food wine. Pair with BBQ, big red meat or something equally hearty such as pasta in a tomato sauce.” -WineCollective Staff



Alias Chardonnay 2009

Varietal: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc
Region: California
Approximate Price: $18

Match the creamy texture and richness of the cheese and garlic cream sauce with a slightly oaked and acidic Chardonnay.

“… surprisingly crisp with a very good acidity profile. The oak and vanilla notes are there but take a backseat to lemon or grapefruit citrus notes, which are complimented by stone fruit such as apricot and perhaps nectarine.” -WineCollective Staff



St. Supery Elu Meritage 2006

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Region: Napa Valley, California
Approximate Price: $71

The weight fullness of pasta won’t be overshadowed by an equally big wine like a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Silky tannins, great, cleansing acids, and a great sense of balance from start to finish.”-Tom Firth, Wine Access National Tasting Panel Member @cowtownwine



Castello Sonnino Galterra 2007

Varietal: Sangiovese, Merlot
Region: Tuscany
Approximate Price: $31.59

However, when in doubt, go Italian! The high acidity of the tomato sauce pairs best with a well-balanced, acidic Sangiovese or Chianti.

“Galterra is made from a blend of 65% Sangiovese and 35% Merlot, to give an intense dark ruby-coloured wine with a spicy nose and hints of licorice and black pepper… a very versatile wine to pair with food and complements almost anything with tomato-based sauces, red wine sauces, ratatouille, mushrooms and bell peppers, eggplant dishes, spicy sausages such as pepperoni pizza…” –Linda Garson, Calgary Wine Examiner


All wines shown can be found at Willow Park Wines & Spirits!



Gift Ideas Galore

There are four days left until Christmas, and if you are like most people, you are stressing over what to buy the hardest people on your list, or your entire list!  Luckily WineCollective has some friends that continually impress us with their ability to find unique gift giving and holiday entertaining ideas.

We may be a little biased, but we think a WineCollective Holiday Package is the perfect gift to give and receive!  You can purchase 2, 3, or 6 months of our carefully curated selections for the wine lover in your life, up until December 31st (if you need a last minute/belated gift).  When you think that this couldn’t get any better, each Holiday Package comes with a year’s subscription to Wine Access magazine!

Toque Girls recently posted an interview with Shelley Boettcher, executive editor of Wine Access, giving her top toasting picks for the Holidays in “A Drink List for the Holidays“.  The WineCollective staff are particularly fond of the Waterbrook Melange Noir.


Tom Firth of Wine Access suggests a diversion from grapes to grains, Samichlaus beer.  Yes, he does mention that it sounds like “Santa Claus”, that is because it means Santa Claus in Austrian.  This post has inspired the perfect gift for my dad’s stocking; a gift box set of Samichlaus is available at Willow Park.

Avenue Magazine gives us lists of ideas for everyone on our lists: kids, dads, the women in your life, and foodies.  Our favourite list, considering mall crowds are frightening, is their “No Fuss Online Gift Ideas“, and yes, we are on it!

If you are looking for something special for a lady, I recommend Sister’s Home boutique in Bridgeland.

They have the most amazing assortment of jewellery, bags, accessories and unique wardrobe enhancers.  You can contact them to plan your own shopping party.  Wine, friends and shopping = a great girls night to kick of the New Year!


Tales of Wirra Wirra

I had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting of Wirra Wirra wines at Willow Park about a month ago; my first sit-down, communal type of tasting, and it was thoroughly enjoyable!  Willow Park provided a buffet of hors d’oeuvres: steak on crostini, assortment of cheese and crackers, and savory canapés. I was glad I came hungry, everything was delicious.

Besides the tasty eats, and the welcoming glass of Mrs. Wigley Grenache Rose, the engaging table talk with fellow tasters was open and light, there were a lot more laughs than expected!

The wines were all enjoyed, from the Scrubby Rise Sauv Blanc to the crowd pleasing Church Block Cab blend.  The Dead Ringer Cabernet and RSW Shiraz were great opportunity to try something out of my price range of everyday wine (around $50 a bottle).  Of all wines tasted, my favorite was the Scrubby Rise Shiraz, featured this month in WineCollective.  On my second tasting of Scrubby Rise, it was paired with a juicy @alleyburger; we highly recommend the combination!

Wine and food aside, by far the best part of the evening was the stories; our host, straight from Wirra Wirra, did not have a shortage of quirky tales that reinforce the whimsical and humorous nature of the wines and those who produce them.  The first pour of the evening, a Grenache Rose named after an exceptionally fortunate feline, Mrs. Wrigley, who had taken permanent residence in the Wirra cellars and dined on left over cheese from the winery’s tasting room.

Robert Strangeway Wigley, the original founder of Wirra Wirra in 1894, and well know eccentric, is the topic of many Wirra tales.  He was sent to Mclaren Vale as his family’s means to containing him and his pranks from the eyes of Adelaide’s society.  A joy ride through the town on a stolen pie cart was not his family’s idea of proper behaviour.

The original cellar and homestead of Wirra Wirra.


Greg Trott and cousin Roger revived Robert Wigley’s vision in 1969, carrying on with the same unique and fun-loving personality of the vineyard.  The catapult designed and founded in Greg Trott’s imagination, with the sole purpose of flinging wine from Wirra Wirra onto neighbouring vineyards in hopes that they would then devise a catapult of their own and return the favour; is now mostly being used with watermelons and not wine.  We were further informed of Mr. Trott’s adventures, disappearing without notice to attend a cricket match; his minders had put a full page “missing person” ad hoping someone would contact them with his whereabouts; he was found.

Greg Trott

Woodhenge Shiraz to the 12th Man Chardonnay, numerous bottles of Wirra wine are named after the mis-adventures and iconic structures found at Wirra in Mclaren Vale.  They are worthy of a read, and a few laughs.