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.

Wine To The Rescue

WineCollective was pleased to attend and participate in an event that is very near to our hearts. Wine To The Rescue, an evening of awareness, fundraising, food and wine, hosted by Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS).  This was the second annual Wine to the Rescue event, benefiting the efforts of AARCS and Okotoks Pound Rescue, helping to find loving homes for dogs in need. Amber was there representing WineCollective, volunteering and pouring some of our favourite wines for the thirsty bidders.


Held at the  Gerry Thomas Art Gallery in the Beltline neighbourhood of Calgary,  some the groups’ most famous rescue pooches were in attendance. There was also a silent auction, great food and of course wine!

M. Chapoutier

While doing some background research on our wines featured in October, I stumbled across an article by Linda Garson in the Calgary Wine Examiner.  She lists the French producer M.Chapoutier as #7 on her list of “wines that give back”.  Chapoutier is donating a percentage of the sales of their Bellerouche to the Alberta Guide Dog Services during October.  Since 1996, Chapoutier has used braille on their labels in respect for Maurice Manier, family member and vineyard owner that had lost his sight as a child.

While this month we are not featuring the 2009 Chapoutier Belleruche Blanc or Rouge, we are delivering Chapoutier’s  Les Vignes de Bila-Haut (blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah).  Tom Firth’s review of Bila-Haut for the WineCollective community notes, “Savoury chocolate, rich berry fruits of raspberry and cherry, and a pleasing earthy bitterness which appears on the mid palate.” It won great reviews throughout the WineCollective team, and we are proud to be introducing it to our members.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Varietal: Carignan, Grenache, Syrah
Region: Cotes du Rousillon-Villages
Vintage: 2009

Keeping in the spirit of all things to be thankful for, I am pleased to pass along further information on M. Chapoutier’s philanthropic endeavours.  A very engaging wine maker, who has coordinated numerous creative and successful fundraisers while doing what he know best, making beautiful wine!

In addition to using braille on their labels, Micheal Chapoutier has not only instilled the company’s core values of ‘Respect, Audacity and Generosity’ into their grapes, but also into their community.  Under the title ‘M.Chapoutier Wines and Health Association”, the organization has raised money for the French Blood Transfusion Organization through auctioning wines from various prestigious houses, to funding a play “Jump out of Bed” performed by volunteers in the Medical community.  There is also the “Harvests of Hearts” where volunteers pick grapes, and for every ton, the producer donates the workers’ “pay” to their charitable organization.  Chapoutier’s social efforts, wine, love of food and all around success has made him the subject of a French film “Fac & Spera“, the family motto of “do and hope”.

It is refreshing when you discover the passion and generosity of the people behind the products you purchase and the wines you love to drink.

2 for 1 Spain & Portugal Wine Tasting Event!

Great news for WineCollective members. Any current WineCollective member can grab an exclusive deal for the Spain & Portugal (& Fortified) Wine Festival happening at 7pm on Friday, October 28th at Willow Park’s Bonaventure store (10801 Bonaventure Dr SE).

Two people can get entrance to the Festival for $40 – a 50% savings! The Iberian Peninsula offers up some of Europe’s top value wines. From Spain’s ripe Rioja to the racy Vinho Verdes of Portugal, this is an area of incredible wine values created with innovative winemaking. These interesting table wines present a stark contrast to the traditional fortified wines of Iberia. Fortified wines, on the other hand, are a complex category, so get some help from the Willow Park experts on navigating the territory.

Simply email or phone 403-296-1640 ext 4, to secure your tickets. Mention you are a WineCollective member for your 2 for 1 offer.

A bottle for every bird

All families have their own Thanksgiving traditions, and everyone’s turkey dinners are a little different.  In my family, everyone contributes a bottle (or two) of wine along with their sweet potato casserole; however, some hosts may choose to provide the wine for the evening, reserving the gifted wine for future consumption and pouring their carefully matched bottles with the turkey.

Either way, there is no need to be overly fussy when pairing wine with a turkey dinner; for the most part the flavours are fairly consistent and accommodating to a wide range of wines.  Listed below are a few tips and suggestions of how to make the most of your holiday meal.

Thanksgiving dinners have a tendency to take up the majority of the day, so when opening numerous bottles of wine, try (in general) to pour from: light to heavy, white to red, young to aged.

Save your cellared prizes and aged wines for another celebration.  They will over-take your meal, and probably not be as appreciated as they should be when serving multiple bottles over the course of the evening.

Reds that will pair well with turkey include Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, which will be young and light, with more fruit to offset the heavy and filling feast.  Juicy, berry filled Zinfandels will also balance the richness of a turkey dinner.  Avoid overly dry and tannic reds, they may taste bitter and be overwhelmed by the sweetness of the side dishes.

We would recommend the following two reds which have been featured in WineCollective. And as a special Thanksgiving treat, a WineCollective tasting card for the 2009 Loredona Pinot Noir [PDF]. WineCollective members receive a hard copy tasting note for every wine they receive!

Most whites would be a great choice with your turkey and its accoutrements; Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, or Chenin Blanc will offer a refreshing and crisp balance to your meal.  Ensure that the white you are selecting is higher in acidity, and dry to best pair with everything on the table from buttery mashed potatoes to the tart cranberry sauce.

Your sparkling wine can last the whole dinner through, from cheese log to pumpkin pie!

As a host, you can never be completely sure what sides will end up sitting on the table next to your turkey, so use the tips to help you decide between, and the order of the bottles that have been brought to the table.  Most importantly, if you are a guest at a turkey table, keep in mind these simple suggestions to best complement the host’s meal, and don’t be offended if your wine is saved for another evening.

“More important than the food pairing is the person with whom you drink the wine.” -Christian Moueix

Sparkling wine + food = fantastic

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Norwood’s restaurant in Ucluelet, British Columbia. This tiny (less than 20 tables) restaurant has been getting rave reviews for its intensely local-focused cuisine. In addition, the restaurant has a wonderful wine list, which features many Canadian wines, but also pays tribute to all of the important countries world wide.

Situated on the wild west coast of BC and a two minute walk from the harbour, it is no surprise that the menu is heavy on seafood. When we sat down at the chef’s table (reserve in advance, as it books up quickly), my attention turned not just to the menu but the wine list. We were in the mood for bubbles, so I went in reverse and selected the wine first and then picked food off the menu to pair with the sparkling wine.

I picked the Blue Mountain Brut, from Okanagan Falls. I had been hearing great things about this sparkler, but hadn’t had the opportunity to taste it yet. Many people reserve sparkling wine for celebrations and often drink it on its own. While there is no bad time for sparkling wine, I feel that it is perhaps under-appreciated in some circles as a wine to pair with food.

It is tough to match the versatility of a sparkling wine. The natural pairs are with sushi, oyster, cheese and chocolate and strawberries. All wonderful celebration foods, but people shouldn’t shy away from other pairings. The crisp acidity of the Blue Mountain Brut made it an excellent pair with both the grilled octopus and local albacore tuna appetizers. The fine bubbles but robust body made it a hit with the halibut main course.

While seafood was the name of the game that evening. I would go so far as to say other than 1) big red-meat meals, 2) super spicy entrees, 3) hearty soups, stews & chili, you could pair a quality dry sparkling wine with anything.

Blue Mountain Brut – 47% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Gris, Alcohol: 12.5%, made in the method traditionnelle style.

CIBC Run for the Cure 2011

Tannic was pleased to be a part of CIBC’s Run for the Cure in which all proceeds go to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  For the Silent Auction fundraiser on September 13, 2011 at Belgo Brasserie, Tannic donated a year Membership to Tannic plus a $100 credit to be used towards purchases on

 At the silent auction event alone, $15,800 raised was raised.  This year’s Run for the Cure was held on October 2, 2011, in 60 communities across the country, to put a stop to breast cancer. Tannic was honoured to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and very pleased to be a part of this event, which nation wide raised over $30 million.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure is Canada’s largest single day, volunteer-led fundraising event. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation focuses on breast cancer research, education and awareness programs.


Italy overtakes France to become world’s largest wine producer

According to the European Commission in 2010 Italy produced 4.96 billion litres of wine compared to 4.62 billion in France, a drop of one per cent from last year.

Domenico Bosco, from the Italian agricultural workers union Coldiretti, said:”This result is fruit of the fact that production has been stable in Italy while in France it has fallen.

Yow. I wonder how close Spain is to France now?

Full article via The Telegraph

Loredona mix-up

It has come to out attention that some members may have received the 2009 vintage of the Loredona Pinot Noir. We apparently shipped all of the remaining 2007 vintage in Alberta (yay!) and now we’re on to the 2009s. Luckily we had already tasted this newer vintage and are pleased to announce that this is still a quality product – slightly fresher and more fruit forward than the 07 and still a great price/value ratio for a Pinot!

So for those of you that might have received this fresher vintage, we’ve put together a digital PDF for you to download.

Of course, we would like to apologize for the mix-up, and as always please feel free to get in touch with any questions.

Hob Nob Chardonnay

Surprise! We’re sharing a wine that we “almost” featured this month.

Having looked back in the history of WineCollective, we have never given out an example of one of our tasting cards! Weird since it’s one of our biggest selling features that no one ever sees, unless you receive one of our packages! I guess today we shake things up a bit and start sharing.

As you may know we put through an extensive effort in choosing the wines that we decide to feature each month. Now in this case, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with the Hob Nob (heck, we loved and have featured the Pinot Noir back in the day), but we simply found another wine (that you could potentially be receiving this February) that was better. Thus, Hob Nob for anyone that wants to do the grunt work and find it for themselves.

Here’s an excerpt:

“While some unoaked Chardonnays can be very crisp and fresh, this example is buttery and luscious. We found elements of butterscotch and vanilla which somewhat covered the fruit present. If you love your Chards buttery, serve it at 10 degrees Celsius to revel in the vanilla, but if you find that is a touch much, try cooling it down to 8 degrees which will take the edge off the oak. The acidity and finish are medium in length and it offers decent balance from that perspective.”

If you’d like to read/print the full review, here is a link to a PDF of the tasting card along with some in-depth notes for the Hob Nob Chardonnay (2007).

As a side note, each and every bottle that you receive comes with one of these tasting cards. As well we keep track of everything you receive online, where you can rate/comment and tell us what you think about it! Fun right?