What do you know about VERMOUTH?

Chances are that you are not very familiar with vermouth (neither were we). Most people think of vermouth as something that is added to a Martini, or what old ladies sip on after dinner. However, we recently found out that there is so much more to know about vermouth. Once you have learned why it is essential to every bar, you will have a new appreciation for the apéritif!

At a fun gathering hosted at Milk Tiger Lounge, we learned the basics to help us understand vermouth. Not only is vermouth enjoyable on it’s own and as part of a cocktail, there are many different styles and flavours to try. There is sure to be a vermouth for everyone!

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The Basics

Vermouth is an apéritif, meaning that it is intended to be drank prior to a meal. The word ‘apéritif’ derives from latin, ‘to open up.’ An apéritif should ‘open’ your palate, inducing your appetite and preparing you for the meal ahead.

Vermouth falls under 2 categories, a fortified spirit and an aromatized spirit. A fortified spirit has alcohol added to the base, rather than going through fermentation (converting the natural sugars to alcohol and Co2). An aromatized wine or spirit has the addition of botanical to the base, increasing the taste and phenols. Juniper, coriander, cinnamon are all examples of botanical that can be added.

Vermouth is a vermouth because it contains wormwood. There are other spirits that are fortified and aromatized, but they do not contain wormwood. In order to be called vermouth, one of the botanical added must be wormwood. The word “vermouth” actually comes from the German word for wormwood.

Vermouth can contain many different botanical, creating a recipe that is distinct and representative of a producer’s style and preferences. Some producers will let you know what is in their vermouth, others keep it a secret.

Vermouth comes in 3 styles: dry, blanc, and red/sweet. Dry vermouth is always white in colour, contains less sugar and is ideal for mixing. Red vermouth is also called sweet or Italian vermouth. Blanc vermouth is similar in sweetness to the red vermouths, but has no caramel colour added.

Vermouth has it’s history in the Alpine regions of Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France. Turin, Italy and Chambray, France are the only regions that have a designate for vermouth. Today vermouth is produced around the world.

Vermouth is great on it’s own, served on the rocks, or as component in a cocktail. Some of the more well-known cocktails are the Negroni, Martini and Manhattan.


Thanks to Nathan at Milk Tiger Lounge for hosting this educational evening. We look forward to stocking the shelves at Highfield by WineCollective with some great new vermouths!

Wine festival pairing guide

We are excited for this weekend’s festivities! Calgary’s Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival begins tonight at the BMO centre, and finishes off tomorrow evening. There will be over 150 different wines poured and about 50 food vendors available for sampling.

Veterans of the festival have their routine of navigating the rows of booths. Most popular, walking the perimeter, then travel end to end down each of the rows. Or, you might start at one end of the hall and meticulously work your way to the other. Either way, there is always the risk of missing out on something, as there is just too much to fit in such a short amount of time!

rocky mntn app

This time around we are going to employ the festival’s app to ensure no sample is left behind! Besides being able to vote for your favourites, the app has a list of all purveyors, mapping them out so even after sample #67, you will be able to find your pulled pork slider.

The best feature of the app, is the ability to record your tasting notes on each pre-recorded wine. Select the wine samples from the menu, then find the wine you are trying. You can write your own notes without having to carry around a book and pen. WineCollective members can also record their tasting notes on the go, accessing the members-only site from their phone or tablet.

We analysed the lists and cross-referenced with the map, and put together a list of our must try wines with a nearby food pairing. No excuse to try the sashimi with your Syrah just because they are neighbours!

Fox Run Vineyards should be your first stop. Once you enter the hall, take a hard left and find Jeremy from North by Northwest pouring Fox Run, conveniently placed by Springbank Cheese Company, and not too far from the Cactus Club Cafe booths. We suggest the butternut squash ravioli with the Chardonnay, ceviche with the Riesling and finish off pairing the Cab Franc with braised short rib.

Bartier-Bros-Illegal-Curve-2012 Bartier-Bros.-Semillon-2012

Canadian producers, Bartier Bros. is located at C122, furthest left when you enter the hall. They will have a wide range of wines to try. We suggest you take the Chardonnay and the Goal, and visit The Fairmont Pallliser just a couple booths down. The dirty mac & cheese and braised Alberta beef short ribs will do the trick! The Gewurztraminer will go with the exotic dishes from booth #127, Jane Bond Catering.

Joseph-Mellot-Pouilly-Fume-Le-Troncsec-2012 Joseph-Mellot-Sincerite-2012_(1)

From Bartier Bros. you won’t have to travel far to sample the Joseph Mellot Sincerite Sauvignon Blanc and Pouilly Fume Le Tronsec. Both wines have recently been featured on WineCollective and Tannic. The booth is located just across the aisle from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, where there will be a great cheese selection to pair with.


The next row over, WineCollective faves from Spy Valley are at #227. It is a bit of a jaunt, but on the far end of the same row is Cobbs Bread with an artisan grilled cheese. Or, pair the Pinot with the chicken and olive empanada and the Sauv Blanc with the feta empanada from the Empanada Queen.

Continuing down the rows, at #331 on the corner is Sokol Blosser with exceptional Oregon Pinot Noir. Here, you will also find Sokol Blosser’s brand ambassador Mariano. You will find great pairings down the row at Bite. Try the porchetta foccacia panini or the duck confit panini.


At the far end of the hall (by the Gelato truck) is Deerfield Ranch Winery and Enkidu. The Deerfield booth will have PJ Rex, the owner of Deerfield, pouring the wines. Be sure to ask PJ about ‘clean wine’ at Deerfield! The White Rex is a versatile blend that could go with the nearby Baby Naaco chicken Tikka Masala at #820. Or visit Highwood Catering and pair your Deerfield Merlot with the stuffed yorkshire pudding.

The menu at Pampa Brazilian steakhouse was meant for the wines of Enkidu. Try the Humbaba or Field blend then find the garlic rump steak.

We hope this helps start you in the right direction, be sure to download the app for easy navigation. Let us know what wines you discovered!

Celebrating Grenache Day with WineCollective

Not every varietal has it’s own day. In fact, Grenache is in a league with several grapes that are celebrated internationally each year. Malbec World Day was initiated by Wines of Argentina to bolster the grapes’ presence. Most recently, International Cabernet Sauvignon Day, took place on August 30th.

#GrenacheDay has been presented by the International Grenache Association for the past 5 years. These special days give producers and the wine industry a chance to shine a spotlight on a particular varietal. We don’t mind taking part in the festivities and toasting with Chardonnay on May 23rd or Merlot on November 7th, even though every day should be a wine day!

While we enjoy any excuse to talk about and drink great wine, we especially love Grenache! Why? Grenache is fitting all year round, it is incredibly food friendly and it plays nice with other wines when blended. Grenache can also fit into all budgets. We find many affordable and fun Grenache, and of course, we splurge on great Chateauneuf du Pape.

What wine should you be pouring today in celebration of Grenache Day? Here are some of our recent favourites, all are available for WineCollective members online and at Highfield by WineCollective in Calgary. Not a member? Use the coupon code “GRENACHEDAY2014” to receive $15 off your first delivery!


The Peacock’s Tail is a wine produced by Ben Riggs, at his home in Southern Australia. Peackock’s Tail is 85% Shiraz and a 15% splash of Grenache. Sister’s Run is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro from Barossa. We think this wine is uniquely distinct, with stewed plums, blackberries and blueberries with a complex herbal tea and spice mix on the mid-palate – like walking through a flowering vegetable garden. Pair either with grill marks and a jazzed-up BBQ sauce with a marmalade base.

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Tuck Beckstoffer’s Melée was inspired by a trip to the south of France where Tuck recognized the quality of Grenache. Grapes are harvested from two cool climate Grenache vineyards in Mendocino and the Central Coast. We paired the elegant flavours of herb d’ Provence and dried meats with lamb shanks served with carmalized onion on parsnip puree.



Priorat is an exciting wine region in Catalonia, northeast Spain. Red wines from Priorat are based on Grenache, and can contain different quantities of Carinena, Syrah and other French varietals like Cab Sauv. In the 2010 Martinet Bru we noted the fruits and florals of the purple plums and flowers with sage from the nose follow through and retain their freshness with added blackberry licorice. The finish is supple with hints of vanilla bean, mocha and minerality.



A blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Grenache, Jean Orliac Loup dans la Bergerie is located 24 km north of Montpellier, situated below the peaks of Montagne de l’Hortus and Pic St Loup. The winery resides in one of the most exciting and captivating areas in the Languedoc! The 2010 Olivier Ravoire Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend with a base of Grenache, and an undisclosed percentage of Mourvedre. This is Olivier Ravoire’s 4th vintage under his own label. Already the critics are heralding his solo efforts, the Olivier Ravoire Gigondas 2011 was ranked #15 on Wine Spectator’s 2013 ‘Top 100 Wines.’ Olivier’s success is not a coincidence, his father is well-established under Ravoire et Fils, where Olivier has acquired his traditional style. 

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You can find all of these delicious Grenache wines online at, or at our new store front location in Calgary, located at 22 1259 Highfield Crescent S.E.



2014 Sugar Bowl Fundraiser

On August 16, WineCollective was proud to support the 6th annual Sugar Bowl fundraiser on behalf of the Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation (AWBMF).


Amber Webb-Bowerman was a beautiful Calgary writer and journalist who was murdered in May 2008. Since then, the foundation has hosted the Sugar Bowl, a lawn bowling event, in memory of her.

As a member of a lawn bowling team named, The Cupcakes, Amber was a huge fan of the social sport. Today, the charity uses the funds collected from the Sugar Bowl to support scholarships and writing programs such as WordsWorth Writing Residency, organized by the Writers Guild of Alberta.


Photo by Andrew Crossett

Each year the fundraiser is held at the Rotary Park Lawn Bowling Club in Calgary. We joined other supporters, like our new neighbours Village Brewery, and donated some delicious wines for the 80 participants to bid on. Despite the rain, this year’s Sugar Bowl raised $8,000. Over the years, the foundation has raised more than $75,000.

Thank you to the board members of AWBMF for reaching out to us for a donation. We are always happy to help out to our wine club members with donations for worthy events and fundraisers, and encourage you to contact us for support!

Cuts and Cabernet

We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon and red meat pair nicely together, a fairly safe bet when ordering at a restaurant or firing up the BBQ at home.  But did you know how dramatically your pairing can can be altered depending on the style of Cab Sauv and the cut of beef you select?


How we analyze a wine is similar to how we can look at a cut of beef. There are many factors that determine the taste and quality of your meat. Not only can you choose between a sirloin and a filet, the breed of cow, where the animal was raised and what it is fed, are all determining factors in taste and quality. Visit the Artisan Beef Institute to view their beef tasting guide and for more neat info!

beef guide cab guide

We describe wine by using frames of reference and comparisons to share our experiences with others. We will describe a wine’s body by identifying the heft, broodiness, elegance, or suppleness. Flavour descriptors ranging from fruity, earthy, like summer in a glass, and pencil shaving, to toasted oats and Gramma’s brownies. It is our shared experiences of food, seasons, textures, colours that allow us to talk to each other about wine.

The same goes for beef! When we want to describe a steak, we can paint a picture with our sight, smell, and of course, taste. The texture of steak can compare to the body of a wine: juicy, melt in your mouth, chewy, fatty, etc. Now if we take what we know about analyzing wine and apply the same thought process to our steak, we can determine not only a good wine pairing, but a GREAT Cabernet and steak match.

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At an informative and engaging evening at Rouge in Calgary this past week, WineCollective was treated to a night exploring Canadian beef with Jackson Family Wines. The goal was to help promote the knowledge and understanding of how to best enjoy some of our most favourite things, beef and wine!

Rouge is a premier restaurant located in Inglewood, Calgary. With magnificent gardens, we recommend booking a table before the patio season comes to an end! Chef Paul Rogalski and Chef Michael Allemeier highlighted Canadian beef using different preparations and flavours,  paired with Jackson Family Wines.

Smoked brisket sticky bun.

To better understand how to create a perfect pairing, we were served 3 different Cabernet Sauvignon and 3 different cuts of beef. We sampled each of the wines on its own and compared the differences.

From left to right: Atalon, Stonestreet, Chateu Lassegue

Wine A Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Dark ruby core that is fairly consistent in colour to the rim, with slight purple edges. The nose is fruit forward with blackberry, plums, black cherry and a light cedar spice. On the palate there is more red fruit, slightly tart with supple tannins and moderate acidity.

Wine B Stonestreet Monument, Alexander Valley: Deeper in colour, ruby-purple. Initial notes of new leather and tree sap, minerality followed by currant and cherry with an herbal spice. The palate showed chewier tannins than the first wine, and mouth-filling fruit and cocoa.

Wine C Chateau Lassegue, St Emilion: Garnet core with slight brick colouring around the edges. The fruit takes a back seat on the nose to  smoke, wet earth, mushroom and leather. The palate showed more earth and moss with black tea tannins and briar patch, choke cherries.

From left to right: Grain fed, wet aged filet; Grain fed, wet aged ribeye; Grain fed dry aged ribeye.

Chefs prepared the three cuts of steak with no seasoning, cooked to medium rare on a propane grill (propane or cast iron will give you the most neutral influence on the meat). All cuts were grain fed, a wet aged filet and ribeye, as well as a dry aged ribeye. Wet aging is more common and imparts a more subtle flavour to the meat. While dry aged beef gives a more distinctive character to the meat.

After tasting the wine and steak separately, we were guided through a pairing of each wine with a taste of each steak. The differences between each combination were very apparent!

Wine A: The Atalon Cab was too soft for both the ribeye. The steaks’ fat overwhelmed the palate and diminished the fruits of the wine. Most notably, the wet aged ribeye left a greasy mouth feel that the wine could not cut through. Hands down, the best pairing was with the filet. The wine was not overwhelmed by the leaner filet, and even accentuated more fruit and minerality in the wine.

Wine B: The Stonestreet’s tannins were too aggressive for the filet, but were balanced by the wet aged ribeye. The structure and body of the the dry aged ribeye was an acceptable match, but the wine’s bold flavours over-powered the steak.

Wine C: The Chateau Lassegue could have been paired with any of the 3 steaks, but it best complimented the dry aged ribeye. Both the steak and the wine had similar flavour profiles of mushroom, forest, wood, and earth. The age of the wine gave more subtle fruit notes that in it’s youth would have been better matched with the wet aged ribeye or the filet

Stripping away the seasoning, rubs, marinades and sauces allows you to experience the structure, texture and flavours of the meat. There is no right or wrong, every palate is different, but treating your steak with the same attention you give to your wine will allow you an opportunity to maximize the enjoyment of your meal.

We thought this was a fun experiment, and encourage you to visit your butcher and see what pairings you discover. The Canadian Beef website has recipes, tips, and usefull info about understanding beef grades and terminology. Let us know what your favourite Cab and Canadian beef pairing is and why! If you would like some help selecting a wine for your favourite cut, drop us a line or visit us at Highfield by WineCollective, we would be delighted to help!

Join WineCollective today and receive $15 off your first shipment using the coupon code “CDNBEEF15”.  All of our featured wines come with tasting cards full of information and tasting notes, including food pairing suggestions!


Pork and pairings for your Canada Day weekend

Over the last twenty-seven days in Calgary, it has been Pork Month #yyc, where restaurants around the city present their best Alberta pork dishes to yyc bacon enthusiasts. Passion for Pork aims to celebrate the amazing quality of pork in both Alberta and B.C., raised under the strictest of conditions and animal care.


Hotel Arts’, Annual Pig & Pinot Festival on June 18th, showed off the best recipes of 13 different restaurants, all of which competed for the Divine Swine Award. Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc wine pairings took part and in the end, Black Pig Bistro in the Bridgeland area took the prize with their roasted pork belly with edaname and green and white beans masterpiece.

On the Passion for Pork website, you can find cooking methods and amazing recipes for ground pork, ham, chops and more! In celebration of Pork Month and the upcoming Canada Day, sort-of long weekend, we have taken two of these delicious dishes and paired them with some recent WineCollective features.


Grilled Maple Pork with Peaches

Because eating maple infused food just sounds like the thing to do on Canada Day. This recipe would make a great pair with the 2012 Mac & Fitz Shift’s End Red. The maple, together with peaches will blend with the red berries, vanilla plum notes and low acidity. Balancing out the sweet with dried fennel, chilies and rosemary, the dish will go nicely with the soft tannins of this easy drinking Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. This wine also shows well slightly chilled!


BBQ Pork Chops and Spiced Rhubarb Chutney 

We’ve paired the dish with the 2012 Renacer Ponto Final Reserva. This Malbec is a balanced blend of red cherries and plum with spice, dried herbs and olives. Similar traits continue on the palate with red and black cherries rounded with wood and earth. This is a toned down Malbec that brings together spice and fruit, similar to the recipe! It is soft, silky with cottony tannins perfect for BBQ pork.


If you received these wines in your WineCollective package, celebrate Alberta pork and Canada’s birthday all at once this weekend! We would also love to hear about your own pairings on our Facebook and Twitter page!

p.s. Calgary members, we have some exciting news coming soon! Keep an eye out for details on a new pick up location from WineCollective!

CKE Wine & Whiskey!

On May 24th, WineCollective sponsored and took part in the CKE Wine & Whiskey event – a community mingle and fundraiser that our very own Douglas helps put together. This is our second year participating at the CKE event and with the help of our favourite wine importers, we were thrilled that it turned out to be a great success once again.

Apart from the wine tastings, the CKE event had live music, tango dancers and a DJ to keep the party going. Some delicious Calgary restaurants and CKE sponsors such as Original Joes, Big Catch, Vintage and Village Brewery also supplied food tastings.


David from Artisan Wines and R.J. from Fluid Imports

CKE Wine & Whiskey began as a tasting party, where guests got to test out 18 wines and six whiskeys. Here are some of the favourites from each rep that helped pour for the community members. You may recognize some of the wines from the more recent WineCollective packages!

South by Southwest Wine Imports – Smashberry Red

A fruit explosion in your mouth. Keep a lookout for this wine in future packages!

Artisan Wines – Mas Sorrer

A fortified wine made from a blend of Cab Sauv, Grenache and Merlot. This wine blew tasters away with its completely unique cherry and meaty characteristics. It is now available in the online store!


Michelle from International with a bottle of Arele Appassimento

International Cellars – Tolloy

A spectacular Pinot Grigio that holds some weight. This wine was featured in our May packages and seems to be a favourite among CKE members and our own.

Bonvida – Verus Pinot Gris

From Slovenia, this wine is also quite different with its fresh minerality. Completely delicious and a new WineCollective favourite. Find it in the store today.


Amanda Bartier pouring Illegal Curve for CKE community member

Plaid Cap Imports

Amanda, daughter of one of the Bartier Bros. was our special guest and helped to pour her dad’s wines! Among these was the Illegal Curve, a blend of Cab Franc, Syrah and Merlot. This wine won’t be featured anytime soon but it is now available in the WineCollective store!

Fluid Imports – Terri di San Venanzio Fortunato

This Prosecco was the only bubbly poured that night, obviously making it a huge hit! Perfect for any upcoming celebrations, you can also find this in our store.

Gold Medal Marketing

Springbank, Teeling and Longrow whiskeys were some of the delicious scotches that were also poured. We have previously featured Springbank Single Cask on Tannic and look forward to offering it again soon.


Original Joes’ chefs making some delicious pork tacos. 

During the event, we made our online store available to all CKE community members so that they could purchase their favourites. Luckily we still have some supply of these great wines that were poured at the event, and they are available to you now. Check out the store, where you can find tastings notes and reviews for these wines and more!

The fundraiser is open to everyone and tickets sell for $100. We look forward to next year’s CKE Wine & Whiskey event, and hope that you will join us!

Highlights of the RMWFF

This past weekend, I visited Banff for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. As per usual, this event was sold out and attracted wine enthusiasts, importers and wineries from around the globe. I was fortunate in getting to try some amazing, unique wines, perfect for our WineCollective and Tannic wine clubs.


As a challenge, we tried to stick to different wines, either in winemaking style or grape variety. Some of my favourites included:

Chapoutier Bila Haut Blanc (Robert Parker, 92 points)

A blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. The wine was aromatic and fresh, with pink grapefruit, honeysuckle and golden raspberry.

Rivino 2012 Estate Viognier

True aromatic and flavour characteristics of the grape, such as white peach and tangerine, but with more of a fresh and light mouth feel.

Adega de Borba Reserva

From the Alentejo region and with a unique cork label, this wine is a blend of Portuguese grape varietals for flavours of coffee, black fruits and spice.


One of our trusted wine representatives, Gold Medal Marketing had some amazing tastings for us, including Enkidu Wines from Sonoma, California. Winemaker for Enkidu, Phillip Staehle was there to pour his blends including the 2010 Humbaba. This wine is a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah, with slight touches of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc. The wine is co-fermented meaning the grapes are all harvested and go through the winemaking process together, instead of being separated by variety and blended later. You may see Enkidu in upcoming Tannic sales.

Andy, from Gold Medal had some amazing Scotch Whiskeys to try, including the previous Tannic feature, Springbank Single Cask as well as some Telling Premium Irish Whiskey.


With North by Northwest Wine Importers and our friend Jeremy, we were able to try some delicious Fox Run Vineyards wines that will definitely be making their way into WineCollective packages. We also got to try some tasty and lively bubbly from the New York winery to finish off the evening!

If you didn’t get the chance to head to Banff, the Rocky Mountain festival will also be coming to Calgary on October 17 and 18, and to Edmonton on October 24 and 25.

Again, if you are outside of Alberta, we would love to hear about some of your local wine festivals and events! Leave us a comment or send an email with some details about previous and upcoming events so we can share with the rest of the WineCollective community!

Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

Once again, the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival will be in Banff, Alberta this upcoming weekend from May 30 to 31.  Each year, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel opens its ballroom for the #RMWFF, an event that attracts more wine and food lovers each and every year.


Tickets for the event are still available for the Friday night session, which I will also be attending, as well as Saturday afternoon for $29. If you have yet to visit this wine festival, I definitely recommend making a drive to the beautiful Rocky Mountains this weekend and experiencing the collection of fine food and wine.

The numerous wineries, breweries and restaurants are all sure to impress with their numerous tastings and samples.  Keep an eye out for the following wineries and WineCollective favourites:

  • 19 Crimes, Australia
  • Jacob’s Creek, Australia
  • CedarCrek, Canada
  • Mission Hill, Canada
  • Hester Creek, Canada
  • Chateau Trillol, France
  • Cameron Hughes, Italy and USA
  • J. Ramos Wines, Portugal
  • Saxenburg, South Africa
  • La Crema, USA


Considering this is also a food festival, there will also be amazing dishes to sample from some of Banff’s best restaurants. Balkan The Greek Restaurant will be serving chocolate baklava and The Bison Restaurant will have bison kabobs with kimchi. You will also find Elk & Oarsman, Nourish Bistro and numerous hotel restaurants with treats for everyone.

Watch for the event’s blog post next week and please let us know if you’re visiting Banff this weekend for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. It is always great getting to meet our WineCollective members over a glass of our favourite beverage!

See you in Banff!

p.s. While WineCollective is always bragging about our local events here in Calgary, we would still love to hear about the wine festivals and tastings going on around the country. Let us know when you’re visiting a wine event in your city and tell us all about it so we can share with the WC community!

Multiple Sclerosis Fundraiser

WineCollective recently took part in a Multiple Sclerosis Fundraiser with the help of our friend, Amy Nadeau. Amy is one of 100,000 Canadians living with MS. While the disease is life changing, she has managed to put together fundraisers such as the one held earlier this month on May 10, as well as run the MS 10km run that took place this past Sunday, May 25 in Calgary.


The fundraiser was held at the Blind Monk Pub with over 90 guests supporting the cause. A total of $7,000 was raised for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

WineCollective donated an Evolution Mixed package, valued at $90, which sold in a silent auction for $105. It appeared to be one of the more popular donations at the event!

The MS fundraiser was also supported by various donations from breweries, wine representatives and yoga studios. VIP tickets to a Calgary Flames game were also up for bidding. In addition to the auction, Hot Super Hot, volunteered to entertain the guests with their Caribbean jams throughout the evening.


As always, we feel very thankful and overjoyed to be able to take part in fundraisers around the city. Some members of the WineCollective team have personal connections to those living with MS and understand the struggle and symptoms of the disease. We are always willing to assist in any way we can.

Thank you to Amy and those who attended the event in support of finding treatment for MS. Click here to donate today to the MS Society of Canada and keep an eye out for future fundraising events supported by WineCollective to find out how you can help and donate.

Blind Tasting Round 2

In preparation for my WSET exam, we had another blind tasting test at the WineCollective office. Pouring two red wines this time ‘round (my specialty), and with another week of education under my belt, I was much more confident!

Paying attention to colour, aromas and tastes can tell you everything you need to know about the wine. If you’re new to tasting, check out our Welcome to Wine blog series for information on varietals and their characteristics as well as regions from around the world.

Similar to last week’s blind tasting, read the notes below and make your own guess as to which varietal and region!

Wine #1 

Eyes: Clear. Deep ruby red core with a slight trail. Thick legs coat the edge of the glass.

Nose: Clean. Ripe cherries and candied fruit. Hints of earthly mushroom with a strong aromas of balsamic vinegar.

Mouth: Dry. Medium acidity and tannins. Sweet red fruits, cheery and strawberry with more of the balsamic notes pulling through.

My guess: New world blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or Pinot Noir!


Wine #2

Eyes: Clear. Intense medium purple with a faint trail. The legs coat the glass entirely but fade rather quickly.

Nose: Clean. Tobacco and smoke, possibly from oak. Blackberry and clove with more herbaceous notes.

Mouth: Dry. Medium acidity and tannins. Hint of oak spice with fruity raspberry and black cherry shining through on the palate.

My guess: With a ton of tobacco and smoke coming through, I assumed a South American Carmenere.

I am proud to say that this week, I was much closer in my guesses compared to last week’s white wine blind tasting test. Also, our Chief Wine Taster, Amber, didn’t want to trick me… as much.


The Answers!

Wine #1: Considering its fruit bomb qualities, and my guess it was coming a New World blend, I was close! The wine was a 2011 Peacock’s Tail. A Shiraz and Grenache Blend from Australia.

Wine #2: Again I was only half right. The smoke and herbal qualities did speak to South America’s style and the wine was the 2013 Apaltagua Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.

Keep and eye out for both of these wines in upcoming WineCollective packages and be sure to take part in WineCollective’s online community and leave your own tasting comments and ratings! As well, each of our tasting cards sent with our monthly wines give space for you to make notes for your own records and we’d love for you to share them!

Blind tasting test

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been taking my WSET training through Fine Vintage Ltd., in order to further expand my vino knowledge, assist in selecting package features and add some credibility to my self-taught wine education. Amber, resident CWT (Chief Wine Taster), thought challenging my taste buds through a blind tasting test would be a great way to test my education and add a valuable learning experience.

Blind tastings can be an eye opener, as well as a nerve-wracking experience. As Amber set up the three covered bottles and glasses, I had pages and pages of information running through my head. Regions, colour, aromas and flavour characteristics can all be determining factors of a wine’s variety and origin. But when selecting from literally thousands of options, the possibilities seem endless.


Amber poured three wines from different bottles with completely covered labels.  Together we tasted and made our way through writing tastings notes in the WSET course fashion, combined with our WineCollective flair.

Eyes: Clarity, intensity, colour

Nose: Condition, intensity, aromas

Mouth: Sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavour, length, quality

We searched for the above characteristics in three white wines in order to determine the grape variety, region and vintage.

Quiz yourself and read the tastings notes to make your own guesses before scrolling down to see the answers. You may be just as surprised as I was.


Wine #1

Eyes: Medium intensity, pale lemon, quick evaporating legs.

Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Mandarin citrus aromas with tree fruit and blossom.

Mouth: Medium to high acidity. Apply with strong lemon-lime finish and minerality.

I guessed: In considering the higher acidity and minerality, I assumed a cool climate Riesling.

Wine #2

Eyes: Clear, medium intensity, very pale lemon.

Nose: Clean, medium. Aromas of under ripe green melon, tropical kiwi with traces of cucumber and green onion.

Mouth: Medium sweet, body and acidity. The palate continues to show similar tropical and herbaceous notes similar to the nose.

I guessed: Sauvignon Blanc. A warm climate Sauv Blanc can take on tropical notes as well as the typical herbaceous, green notes the variety carries.

Wine #3

Eyes: A rich and intense medium gold colour.

Nose: Clean and pronounced. Bruised Macintosh apple, ash minerality.

Mouth: Rich body. The apple continues with a touch of oak.  Very drying and tannic, as well as very low acidity.

I guessed:  Chardonnay! The darker colour and oak characteristics speak true to common characteristics of the variety.


Unfortunately, I failed miserably.

Although I attempted to pick out strong features of different varieties in order to make an educated guess, Amber chose some interesting selections to show the difference and possibilities of each grape.

Wine #1: Joseph Mellot Pouilly Fume Le Troncsec 2012 

Pouilly Fume is a Sauvignon Blanc from the region of Loire, France. This wine is known for its minerality and crisp freshness.

Wine #2: Apaltagua Gran Verano Chardonnay 2013

Again, no oak on the Chardonnay. Amber was out to trick me.

Wine #3: Ogier Heritages Blanc 2011

A blend of Viognier, Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Clairette. We both agreed this wine was a touch past its prime. The fuller body should have given away that it was a Viognier blend, but my excuse – “I’ve never even tasted Grenache Blanc!”


Although I was far off on all of my guesses, so was the rest of the WineCollective office. It was definitely a lesson to be learned among tasters on the different characteristics grapes can take on dependent on so many factors.

Your WineCollective package provides a great blind tasting opportunity! Invite friends over and pour the wines into numbered glasses. Make your own notes and compare them to your WineCollective cards to determine which wine is which!  Or host a party and ask your friends to choose wines with typical varietal characteristics and see how well you’ve expanded your wine knowledge. Study up!