Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Hundred-Dollar Challenge

When it comes to wine, I tell people to throw away the vintage charts and invest in a corkscrew. The best way to learn about wine is the drinking.
- Alexis Lechine

I need some new wine. Yes, I know I have a bunch of bottles in the cellar - all favourites and familiar brands, safe and reliable stuff I've had before. Time to mix it up a little.

This past week I joined family for a luncheon at the Canal Ritz, a sort-of Italian restaurant perched on the Rideau Canal. The view is spectacular, the food decent and the wine list a nice blend of local and international choices. Feeling adventurous, I chose a CiuCiu Oris 2008 Falerio dei Colli Ascolani (Marche region of Italy), simply for its unique blend of varietals: pecorino, passerina and trebbiano.

I'd never heard of those first two grapes before, let alone tried anything like that wine. It turned out to be a pretty good choice: grassy nose, medium weight, tropical fruit and honey on the palate, and a long, succulent finish. Lots of happily raised eyebrows around the table (my work here is done). But it could have just as easily been disastrous.

Normally, I don't like to spend money on an unfamiliar bottle. One, it's a waste of money. Two, if it turns out to be something a mere step up from sewage, I look like a total dork for having ordered it.

But I need to overcome that fear of the unknown. I have my tried-and-true selections, but there's so much to learn in terms of what's out there, in a market that is constantly changing. I need to keep up-to-date. Be adventurous. Broaden my horizons.

So here's what I propose to do: earmark $100 to spend on obscure varietals, unusual blends and unsung regions. Nothing can cost more than $20, nothing can come from a producer I've had before. Emphasis will be on venturing beyond my comfort zone.

I've gathered up past issues of Vines and Wine Access, and have been checking off items of interest from the latest Vintages releases. I encourage all of you, dear readers, to send suggestions my way. The drinking may not happen all at once (dear gawd, I certainly hope not!) but I will be sure to make note of each review being a part of the 100-Dollar Challenge.

Stay tuned ...

A side note: Run, don't walk, to the LCBO and get your Ironstone Obsession 2009 Symphony (California), fresh from the August 7 Vintages release (yeah, I know. I was slow on the uptake this time around. Still managed to get my half case, though.)

A surprising match with steak: Mission Hill 2007 Five Vineyards Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley, BC). Coming from a warmer climate, it showed very little of the earthiness common to Ontario p.noirs. Fruit forward, with lots of maraschino cherry, and a hint of green pepper. Peppery, light-to-medium bodied, with bolder tannins than expected. Long, red berry finish.

Spoil yourself with a Zonin 2007 Ripasso Valpolicella (Gambellara, Italy). "Ripasso" refers to the method by which the wine was made: grapes that have been air-dried on racks are pressed, releasing intense, concentrated juices (think of a hot version of icewine production). This one tasted like the slightly burnt runoff from a bumbleberry pie fresh out of the oven. Dry, dusty mouthfeel, but with an alcoholic clout on the finish, owing to the 13 per cent ABV.


  1. There was a Torres white in a release a little while ago - Gewurztraminer/Moscatel blend called Torres Vina Esmeralda from Spain. Very tasty and it was a steal at $12.95. We picked up a bottle at King Edward a couple of weeks ago. Great mouthfeel and aromas... it's perfect for sitting on the patio.

  2. Have you tried an Agiorgitiko? We had one earlier in the summer and it was yummy. I see there's one in the LCBO now, only $11.95... not sure what it's like though.


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