What wine to pair with wild Stampede food

It is Calgary’s favourite time of the year again, Stampede! Along with the boots and cowboy hats, us Calgarians are also used to seeing some adventurous food and treats on the midway.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetGlazed donut grilled cheese, via The Big Cheese. 

Each year, vendors release some delicious, or disturbing, menu items. Last year’s scorpion pizza or the mini donut poutine, we can only imagine how the wrong beverage pairing could off throw these gutsy food combos. This year, after picking up some yummy (hopefully) grub, head to the beer gardens or the Western Oasis, wine garden for the perfect Cabernet, cowboy.

Better yet, try these recipes out for yourself with the best match from the WineCollective store!


A single glazed donut stuffed with the exceptional string cheese!

The creamy cheese and sweetness calls for sparkling and specifically, the vibrant bubbles and fruity character of Prosecco!


Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato 

Club price: $17.99

With plenty of sweet ripe fruit (melons, apricot and pear) the sweetness of the donut glaze will be matched. White flowers and bountiful acidity will cut through the cheesy goop. With textured bubbles, your palate is left cleansed and refreshed!


At $100, this is the most expensive hotdog in the world according to Guinness Book of Records! Kobe beef, cooked in truffle oil with lobster tail, garlic, truffles and ricotta cheese.

Grain-fed Kobe beef* needs a wine with earthy quality and balanced tannins. Combined with lobster, truffles and ricotta cheese a versatile wine is a must with fruity nuances and just enough structure.


Costers del Priorat Elios

Club price: $20.50

A $100 hot dog deserves the fanciest Stampede dinner possible. Fortunately, you can find this blend of Grenache, Cab Sauv, Syrah and Carignan at the Western Oasis! Juicy fruits and soft tannins won’t overwhelm this combo of foods and texture.


Maple + bacon = every Canadian’s dream! Add noodles and chicken and you’re on top of the ferris wheel!

High acidity is needed to break through the salty fats, so we would definitely recommend a refreshing rosé! For a sneak peak into July’s package, check out the…


Domaine du Salvard Rosé $20.49

Made with Pinot Noir, the rosé is full of bright red fruits, peaches and minerality with big but balanced acidity. Not overly sweet, this dry example will stand up to the bacon and chicken as well all while matching the sweet maple!


Check out the WineCollective store for any of the wines listed, or others similar to for delicious pairings to wild Stampede fare.

If you find something strange or tasty on the grounds and are eager for a wine pairing, share with us on social media! Chances are we’ll be two-stepping somewhere near by and are willing to take on the challenge!


* For the best wine pairings for particular cuts of beef, check out our Cuts & Cabernet blog!

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!


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Zinfandel and Primitivo

Zinfandel is becoming an increasingly popular grape in North America. Primarily known for its fruitier and sweet styles, it is difficult to imagine its relation to the big and structured Primitivo of Italy. With several recent Zinfandel/Primitivo features on WineCollective, we’ve decided to bring you some wine education on the grape and it’s Italian twin.


Zinfandel was first introduced to the Apulia region (the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot) in the 18th century. However then, it was known as the Croatian varietal, Crljenak Kaštelanski or Tribidrag, and developed the name Primitivo from the term ‘primativus’ as it can typically be one of the first red varietals to mature in the season. Black and thin-skinned, Primitivo holds high sugar levels allowing for vast alcohol content dependant on fermentation. Overall, Zinfandel and/or Primitivo can range from 14% to 17% ABV.

In Italy, Primitivo was first used to plump thin red wines produced in Tuscany and Piedmont. After the grape arrived in California in 1968, ampelographers declared Zinfandel and Primitivo identical in 1972 after noticing many similarities. Soon after, Apulia began constructing single varietal wines of Primitivo, which resulted in rustic, juicy, structured and high alcohol wines.

Meanwhile, back in California, White Zinfandel began to emerge and soared in popularity. Stripped of its skins prior to fermentation, White Zinfandel does not hold big alcohol, or tannins and body as the grape normally would produce. Instead, producers are able to play off the sweet flavours of Zinfandel and today, the rosé wine makes of for 85% of Zin production in the United States and six times the sales of regular Zinfandel wines.

The name, Zinfandel was created along with its introduction and production in America. Overall, the grape is the third-leading wine variety grown in the state with more then 48,000 acres in 2013.


While we do love sweet rosé wines, we are very grateful that California began to make wonderful bold reds from Zinfandel. In the 1990’s a few wineries including Ravenswood and Turley proved that hearty world-class reds could also be produced from the grape. Today you can find delicious examples from Sonoma, Napa and Lodi.

Zinfandel & Primitivo Characteristics

Fruit: Blueberry, cherry, plum, jam, cranberry. coconut

Earth: Spice, tobacco, black berry, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, coffee

Other: Smoke, burnt sugar, sawdust, candied fruit

Because of Zinfandel and Primitivo’s fruity sweetness, the wine is a great match for curry spices, and sweet and hot BBQ dishes. In Italy the wine is typically paired with rustic tomato dishes or chilis and meatballs.

Interested in trying the difference between the grape brothers? We have had several recent Zinfandel and Primitivo features on WineCollective, from Lodi and Apulia, all available on the online store! Use the coupon code GRAPERELATE for $10 off your order.


Rampage 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel 

Lodi, California

Mouth: Ripe red fruit, cherries and strawberries are concentrated and deep. There is enough wild-berry and secondary notes to balance the richness of fruit. Aged in both French and American oak, adding vanilla and spice to the wine. The Zinfandel is blended with Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot, which add to the structure and tannins of the wine.


Pirro Varone 2009 Casa Vecchia Primitivo 

Puglia, Italy

Mouth: Similar fruits from the nose of plum, currants and dried cherries. Combined with some chocolate notes, reminiscent of Black Forest cake. We are most impressed with the lusciousness of the wine, that supports rounded tannins, moderate acidity and a juicy finish. A very well-balanced wine!


Cameron Hughes 2012 Lot 464 Old Vine Zinfandel

Lodi, California

Mouth: Dark fruit with more chocolate and spice. The oak is clearly apparent, however well integrated, creating a luscious and warm palate. Tannins are present and pleasant, not overly drying. Dense and concentrated, the finish trails on and on.

All in all Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetic twins. Whether you are enjoying a bright White Zin, a big and bold Primitivo, or both, take a minute to appreciate the differences in history, cultivation and wine production which have all lead to a variety of delicious styles that any wine lover can enjoy today.

Happy Holidays, love WineCollective

2014 has been a fully loaded year for WineCollective. Busier than ever, and with a new warehouse and store front in Calgary, we have been searching for ways to make the experience even better for our ever-growing club members.


Along with our trials, errors and successes, we feel extremely fortunate to have the customers that we do. And so, with that, we would like to send out a warm Happy Holidays to all of our wine-lovers. From Vancouver Island, to Igloolik, Nunavut, thank you for a spectacular year! We hope that you have enjoyed the wine and service as much as we have loved providing it!

We hope that over the next week or so, you get to enjoy some WineCollective favourites, and amazing food pairings with your feasts! Of course, be sure to enjoy some delicious sparkling or Champagne as you count down to the New Year.

If you are unsure of what to pair, or what to drink, we’ve listed some delicious 2014 WineCollective features that are sure to serve you well! Hopefully you still have a few of them lying around.



Mason Cloudberry

Glen Carlou Unwooded Chardonnay

Panther Creek Pinot Noir

Olivier Merlin La Rochelle

Tolloy Pinot Grigio

Lorca Fantasia

Emeritus Hallburg Ranch

Dal Cero Soave

Joseph Mellot Sincerite

Portillo Pinot Noir

Jean Orliac Le Loup dans la Bergerie

Stag’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc

Bernard Massard Brut Rose

Little Yering

For those in Calgary, you can visit Highfield by WineCollective during our holiday hours for many of the wines listed above!


Of course, there are a ton of previous wines that we have selected for you to try, apart from those listed. For turkey dinners, we recommend a red wine with lighter tannins, and red berry flavours to compliment the light meat and various side dishes. For example, Pinot Noir, Grenache, or a well balanced Zinfandel. White wine drinkers, be sure to select a bottle not overly high in acidity. We suggest, Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier!

We are very excited to welcome new members eager to start their wine journey in 2015, and those gifted Holiday Packages (available until December 31st). Aiming to make the upcoming year our best yet, we have a few new tricks up our sleeve. We hope that you stick around to taste with us! Cheers!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and bright New Year,

The WineCollective Team

p.s. Sneak Peak! You can use the coupon code BOXINGDAYSALE2014 on Dec 26th for $20 off wine! Use on a new subscription, gift, or even in store! Merry Christmas!

A guide to Bubbles! Champagne & sparkling wine – not just for the holidays

Sparkling wine has unfortunately been type-cast as a wine for celebrations, receptions, holidays and congratulating accomplishments. The dramatics of presenting a beautiful bottle, popping a cork and an eruption of bubbles aids in a joyous occasion. But why only these particular times of year? The composition and profile of most sparkling wines allows for enjoyment all year-round!

There is no other style of wine that will allow for such diverse food pairings, from Thai curry to crème caramel. So why do we not stock our cellars and wine racks with more bubbles? This may have to do with a few fallacies that have plagued the popularity of sparkling wine in main-stream wine world.

1. Champagne is expensive.  This is correct, most Champagne ranges upwards of $50. If Champagne isn’t in your budget, try Prosecco, Cava, sparkling wine from California, Chile or Luxembourg!

2. Sparkling wine is too sweet. Au contraire! Sparkling wines come in various levels of dryness, from 0 grams per litre of residual sugar (RS) to over 5o g/L RS. The RS in sparkling wines is balanced by mouth watering acidity. If you think sparkling wine and Champagne is too sweet for your palate, look for bottles that are Brut Nature or Extra Brut (0-6 g/L RS).

3. Bubbles are for special occasions only. As previously mentioned, parties and festivities are a perfect time to pop a bottle, but so is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. you get our point! The bountiful acidity and refreshing bubbles allow for sparkling wines to pair with pizza night to Chinese take-out.

How is sparkling wine made?

Sparkling wine can be made in several different ways: classic (or traditional) method, charmat or tank method, and carbonation. Just as there are different ways to create the bubbles, there are many different ‘types’ of sparkling wine around the globe. From Italy’s Prosecco, Spumante and Lambrusco to Champagne, Crémant d’Alsace and Spain’s Cava.


1. Of the techniques to make sparkling wine, carbonation is the most cost effective and usually produces budget-friendly alternatives to higher-end producers and Champagne houses. Carbonation is the process of taking a base wine and inoculating it with CO2, then it is bottled.

2. Tank method or sometimes referred to as Charmat, adds sugar and yeast to a base wine. In the large tank, the wine undergoes a second fermentation, where the yeast eats the sugar and produces CO2. Bottles are then filled from the tank. This method is used commonly for Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.

3. The Classic method, or méthode classique (also referred to as Champagne method) is a  process similar to the tank method, until the 2nd fermentation. After the sugar and yeast are added, the wine is put in bottles, where it undergoes the second fermentation, rather than this taking place in the tank. The bottles are rotated, a process called ‘riddling’ to stir the lees. The wine is then disgorged, a process of freezing and removing the lees that have settled in the neck of the bottle. Then the wine may go through dosage. Dosage is the addition of a ‘top-off’ of wine and sugar to fill the empty space in the bottle and add flavour. Then the bottle is corked.  Obviously with many more steps, and lots more time involved, this method of producing sparkling wine commands a higher price per bottle!

What kind of sparkling wine should you buy?

Another factor impeding the popularity of sparkling wine and Champagne, is the intimidation factor. There is already so much to know and understand about still wines, that ordering a bottle at a restaurant or selecting one for your dinner party might seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are great wine stores and boutiques across the country that offer intelligent service without the pomp and arrogance. Never be afraid to ask for advice and suggestions!


If you are keen to go rogue and make the decision on your own, here is a list of terms commonly found on sparkling labels. This should help narrow down the choices to a wine suitable for your palate.

  • Vintage – The result of a single harvest, not a blend of vintages. In Champagne, they must age 3 years.
  • Non Vintage – Blend of multiple varieties and vintages. Champagne houses create a non-vintage that is supoosed to be consistent year to year and representative of their brand and style.
  • Vintage Millésime – a vintage wine that is only produced in the best years. These must be aged 3 years prior to release
  • Blancs de Blancs – a champagne made completely of white grapes
  • Blanc de Noirs – Champagne made of either/both Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier
  • Rosé is made of a blend of red and white wine.
  • Dosage is the sweetness level, and will comonnly be on the label. There is a list below of the different dosage levels.
  • Spumante – An Italian term for ‘sparkling’ and can be found on Prosecco bottles
  • Sekt – German term for sparkling wine.

The sweetness/dryness of a sparkling wine is identified by the brut level, and can range from bone dry to dessert-sweet! The sweetness in traditional method sparkling wines comes from the dosage, where the winemaker adds sugar and wine just prior to corking the bottles. This mixture can be produced with cane sugar, beet sugar or grape must. The brut level indicates the minimum and maximum residual sugar in the wine. Measuring the residual sugar allows us to classify the styles of sparkling wine, and hopefully help you understand your preferences.

Brut Nature= 0-3 g/l
Extra Brut= 0-6 g/l
Brut= 0-12 g/l
Extra Dry= 12-17 g/l
Dry= 17-32 g/l
Demi Sec= 32-50 g/l
Doux= (sweet) 50+ g/l

We are now all familiar with Champagne, but there are also other kinds of sparkling wines that are identified by their place or grape. The following are examples of wines that offer different styles and characteristics, while all providing some fizz.

Champagne can be produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. The region of Champagne is in north east France, just NE of Paris. Within the region of Champagne, there are 5 sub-regions: Montagne de Reims, Cote des Blancs, Vallee de la Marne, Cote des Sezanne, Aube. Champagne is home to approximately 82,000 acres of vineyards and produces about a million bottles per year.Classic Method produced wines generally have long lasting bubbles that are small in size.

Cava is a Spanish sparkling winemade from Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada and other varietals like Chardonnay.  Cava is produced in the traditional method, like Champagne. Compared to Prosecco, Cava is drier and less fruit-focused.

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine made from the grape Glera. Prosecco is made mainly in the region of Veneto and Friuli. Most Prosecco producers use the tank method, making Prosecco more affordable. Expect off-dry, creamy and fruity qualities.

Crémant is a sparkling wine that is made outside the region of Champagne, but produced with the same methods. Different regions have different guidelines on the production of their sparkling wine.

Serving sparkling wine

You should always serve your sparkling wine chilled. The carbon dioxide in the wine becomes more soluble as the temperature of the wine decreases, allowing the CO2 to be released slowly and last longer. This will result in longer lasting bubbles. Ideally young Champagne and sparkling wine should be served at 8 degrees Celsius. More robust wines can be served slightly warmer. It will take approximately 2 hours to chill a bottle from room temperature if it is placed in a fridge.


The Champagne flute is designed to maximize the bubbles and their longevity in the glass. The stem is important too! Holding the glass by the stem, rather than the bowl, will not warm the contents of the glass as quick.

There are traditional pairings that sommeliers can recite like a verse from a pop song, like oysters and Champagne. There are also more unconventional options that previously you might have never thought could be paired with wine. Here are some common and not so common options:

Food Pairings

  • Extra Brut and Brut Nature pair best with smoked salmon, shellfish, oysters.
  • Vintage Extra Brut and Brut Nature’s richness balance best with crab and lobster.
  • Sec and demi-sec is when you are having desserts, crème brulee and fruit cake.
  • Brut Blanc de Blancs is typically made of Chardonnay. Look for other Chardonnay partners, like creamy clam pasta
  • Brut Rose will often have Pinot Noir in the blend, try Asian duck recipes or dishes with berry compotes.
  • Prosecco, think Italian! Salad with Parmigiano, cured meats and charcuterie.
  • Cava, when in Rome! The Spaniards have a flavourful Mediterannean cuisine,  spice with paprika and salted white fish.
  • Sparkling Shiraz, rare in Canada but common in Australia. A great alternative for summer BBQ’s and even blue cheese.
  • Moscato- fruit tarts and desserts.
  • Breaded and deep-fried foods will be cut by sparkling wine’s acidity. Don’t be afraid to try egg rolls, samosas or deep fried zucchini blossoms.


Opening a bottle of sparkling wine – There really isn’t too much to it, but there are some tips to ensure no one looses an eye:

  • Once you remove the foil and cage, keep your thumb on the cork. There is enough pressure in the bottle to pop without warning!
  • Don’t shake the bottle like you won a Nascar race. We expect no one at your table wishes to be covered in sticky, delicious wine.
  • The less noise and foam, the better. Carefully open the bottle and resist the urge to create a loud ‘POP’.
  • Sabering can be dangerous, but if you insist, watch our video above for an example! Ensure that the bottle is cold, and remove the foil and cage. Aim the bottle away from people, pets and valuables. At a 45 degree angle, run a knife or swordup the vertical seam of the glass bottle.


Champagne houses create a non-vintage that is supposed to be consistent year to year and be representative of their brand and style. Non-vintage is suitable to enjoy upon release and does not require cellar aging. Vintage Champagne and classic method sparkling wines can be aged, creating more expressive secondary flavours, while you will see the bubbles fade slightly. This is a welcome trade-off for well made sparkling wine.

Storing or ageing a bottle of sparkling wine is slightly different than a still wine. It should still be kept in a cool, dark, neutral room, but instead of laying down the bottle, stand it up.

If you have an unfinished bottle (tisk tisk), you will need a special stopper to cork the wine. The life-span of an opened bottle is relatively short. If the wine is less than half full, expect it to only last a day at most. If there is a glass or two left the next morning, they will be perfect for a mimosa!

Be sure to let us know of your comments and questions. We would love to hear from you! Tell us about your favourite sparkling wine, the time you broke the lamp with a shooting cork or, if you still haven’t found a bottle of bubbles you like. We’ll accept the challenge.

Discovering Cocchi

A couple weeks ago we shared some basic information on understanding and enjoying vermouths, and now, we are going to take our vermouth knowledge to the next level! Last week we attended an event focused on the history of negroni and aromatized wines, hosted by Bonvida Wines and Guilio Cocchi (KOE-kee).


Guilo Cocchi was established in 1891, after the founder moved to Asti from Florence. Guilio was not only a distiller, but also produced sparkling wines. The popularity of Cocchi’s Italian aparitif grew quickly, exporting to Venezuela, London, Sydney and New York by 1913.


Asti, in central Piedmont, is known historically for its vermouth production and aromatic wines. Inspired by history, Giulio produced his sparking wine based on Moscato d’Asti.

We featured the Primosecolo on Tannic and WineCollective last year. The Primosecolo has been produced since 1991, when it was first created to honour Giolio Cocchi’s 100th anniversary. The Primosecolo is left for an extended period on the lees and undergoes extended secondary fermentation, a method referred to as “Metodo Italiano Lungo.” During the process the wine ferments in stainless steel tanks, rather than individual bottles and is then bottled under pressure.

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The Cocchi tasting at Bar C was not conventional. We were guided through an interactive mixology experiment, reminded us of junior high chemistry class. With beakers of brightly coloured vermouth and aromatized wines, we concocted different layers of flavours with basil, peppercorns, lemon peel and even Primosecolo.

Vermouth is intended as an aperitif. It is to be enjoyed at the beginning of a meal to ‘open your palate.’ Depending on the style of vermouth, it is also fun and versatile to pair with different foods.  We tried dates with the Cocchi Vermouth Amaro. Traditional Italian chocolates made with decadent hazlenut called Gianduja was perfect with the Barolo Chinato (KEE-nat-O).


Get in touch if you have any questions about Cocchi and discovering the vermouth. You can find the Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Turino at Highfield by WineCollective.

Spier visits Calgary

We visited with South African exports, Danie and Johan from Spier Winery last week. As part of their whirlwind adventure through North America and Europe, they made a quick stop in Calgary. WineCollective was able to steal some time with the duo, and re-visit our favourite S. African wines from Spier.

Spier---Chenin-Blanc-2011 2009-Spier---Pinotage Spier---Shiraz-2010

We have previously worked with a number of wines from Spier, the Signature Series Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz.  You might be surprised to know that Spier exports about 80% of their wine production to foreign markets. Some of the wines are not sold in South Africa at all. Danie made a point to try the Vintage Selection Cabernet, noting that they do not have access to it domestically.

Duck and prosciutto terrine with pickled fruit puree, grainy mustard and sourdough. Served with the Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc.

Hosted at Alloy, we enjoyed lunch from the newly launched menu while we sampled through a selection of Spier wines. The Signature series Chenin Blanc and Pinotage have been in Alberta for a while now and they represent 2 of 7 single varietal wines produced. The Creative Block series is a range of blends, creating wines “far greater than the sum of their parts.” The Creative Block 3, a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Viognier is featured on Alloy’s current wine list. The higher end 21 Gables references the winery’s history and architecture in the region.

We look forward to bringing you more wines from Spier in the near future, stay tuned!

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!

Wine cocktails to match your Thanksgiving feast!

Now, before we start stuffing our bellies this Thanksgiving weekend, we wanted to provide some delicious cocktail ideas as a pre-dinner treat or as a pairing for famous fall desserts. These yummy sips are all prepared with our favourite red, white and bubbling wines for the holiday – all of which have been previously featured in WineCollective packages.


Cherry Bubbles

Mix one spoon of cherry jam with 1/3 oz. lemon juice, 1/3 oz. vodka and 3 oz. Mauricio Lorca Fantasia.

The Extra Brut sparkling is made from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Mixed together with jammy cherry flavours the cocktail will match with toasted dried fruit crackers topped with baked Brie cheese.



Berry Sauvignon

Crush three chopped strawberries in one Tbs of lemon juice and a touch of agave nectar. Then, add 1 oz. of Gin and 3 oz. of Stags’ Leap Sauvignon Blanc.

Full bodied with flavours of orchard fruits, the Stags’ Leap Sauv Blanc is an ideal wine for any Thanksgiving feast. This cocktail will hold well from appetizers to dessert.



Super Sangria

Mix equal parts hot water and sugar until dissolved. Muddle 4 cherries in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Then, pour in sugar mixture, 1.5 oz. Emeritus Hallburg Ranch Pinot Noir, 1 oz. bourbon. Top with lemon slice.

Pinot Noir is the go-to for Thanksgiving. After enjoying your meal with this premium Pinot, use the remainder for delicious Sangria with leftovers!



Red Martini

Simple and delicious. Mix together 1 oz. of Smashberry Red, well chilled to 10 degrees Celsius and 2 oz. of vodka.

The Smashberry Red proved to be a WineCollective favourite. If you still have your bottle, we suggest chilling it for this fresh cocktail, or, pairing it alongside your Turkey or ham.



Of course, we recommend pairing any of these wines – in a simple wine in glass fashion – with your Thanksgiving meal. Sparkling or Champagne, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are all great companions to turkey or ham and can really compliment cranberry sauce, and side dishes.

Calgary members can visit Highfield by WineCollective this Saturday, for a special Thanksgiving wine tasting. We’ll be pouring some of the favourites listed above, and available to recommend the best wines for your meal this weekend.

Highfield Holiday Hours

Friday Oct 10: 10am-7pm

Saturday Oct 11: 11am-4pm

Sunday Oct 12 & Monday Oct 13: Closed

Mention this blog in store, and get an additional 5% off your order! 

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!



You may have noticed a new reviewer on our WineCollective Dal Cero Soave tasting card this month, fOURevrWine. Curtis Litun and Andrew Albert launched fOURevrWine toward the end of 2013. While the company and website are new, the pair are both experienced wine specialists that we have recently had the pleasure of working and chatting with.


Mainly through podcasts posted on their website, Curtis and Andrew aim to bring entertainment, news and know how to wine enthusiasts everywhere. By removing the pretention that surrounds enjoying wine, fOURevrWine is meant to be a fun and relevant means of bringing wine knowledge to all of those willing to learn.

A popular podcast of theirs is #trendingsips, where Curtis and Andrew share what they are drinking, and what maybe you would like to drink during local and worldwide events. For example, the most recent post focusing on Calgary’s Sun and Salsa Festival, and what they recommend pairing with delicious Mexican cuisine.

Curtis says that he encourages wine drinkers to go beyond their norm, to explore their preferences and find new favourites. As WineCollective has mentioned before wine education is continuous, and Curtis feels very much the same.

“I will never know everything there is to know about wine,” says Curtis. “But my goal is to continue to learn and share the stories behind wine.”


Curtis compares the wine world to a “modern library,” where within every spirit, beer and of course wine bottle, there is a story to tell. “Wine has as a culture and history. There is so much more inside the dusty bottle if you want to explore.”

In order to expand their palate, Curtis suggests that wine drinkers move on from what they know, or assume to know. “People should know that Malbec doesn’t just come from Argentina,” he says. “You will never try your next favourite if you never put it in your glass.”

Even more, Litun admits himself to not having a favourite wine. “There are things about certain wines I will always enjoy, but there is a time and place for every wine.”

As an example, Curtis touched on big burly men not wanting to drink rose. A concern we posted on our last blog, as many roses are perfect for hot summer days, and as a pairing with BBQ. To those men out there, Curtis says to move away from the norm of big Californian Cabernets and expand what you know!


Even though we were fortunate enough to have Curtis write a July review for us, and another for August packages, fOURevrWine does not typically concentrate on ratings and reviews.

“What we try and do is give you a starting point, offer some flavours you may taste and then have you try it,” he says. “If I tell you a tasting note, before it’s even hit your lips, chances are you’re going to agree with me.”

Even though Curtis has tasted wines through his wine career over the last decade, he still admits that a review or note is just his opinion. “Just because I think it’s really good, or someone else thinks so, it does not mean that you are going to think the same.”

Instead, Curtis wants to encourage all wine lovers to really drink, enjoy and experience the wine in front of them, and more, to think and talk about it!


“It’s comparable to life with travel, where you visit places, take pictures bring back a little trinket and tell people the stories about it,” he says. “It’s the same with wine in that you can pour a glass, taste it and talk about it.”

As a previous bartender, retail operator, and current wine representative himself for some WineCollective features such as the 2008 Baluarte Crianza, it is no doubt that Curtis Litun is a wine pro. However his work is not done yet.

“I want to experience of all facets of wine. From picking grapes, to pulling corks,” he says.

Hoping to forever be in the wine industry, and forever moving forward, WineCollective can’t wait to watch fOURevrWine continue to grow. We hope each of our members gets a chance to visit their site and social media channels full of tips, tricks and trending sips.