CTV Morning Live

CTV Ottawa Morning Live

April 6th, 2016.

Today on CTV Morning Live,  Sommelier Matt Steeves and the talented Melissa Lamb showcased some terrific wines to enjoy this spring as part of our regular wine segment.  We also tasted some wonderful Californian wines to get ourselves primed for Ottawa’s California Wine Fair on April 8th at the Westin.  Check out the CTV video here: Spring Wines & California Wine Fair on CTV Morning Live.


Today’s theme: Spring Wines & California comes to Ottawa

If you’re anything like me you probably enjoyed plenty of rich hearty meals with big red wines this past winter.  Those hearty pairings are perfectly suited for the dark, cold, and snowy winter months.  Well, now that spring is officially here and the weather has certainly begun to change for the better, it’s time to switch-up what we’ve been enjoying all winter and spring forward into some more seasonally appropriate wines.  Just as you’re putting away most of your winter clothes and switching them out for lighter and more vibrant spring and summer clothes, well here’s your opportunity to do the same with your wines by incorporating more seasonally appropriate wine choices in your meal planning and entertaining.  Wines that complement what you’re eating, and if you’re like me, you’re firing-up that BBQ more and more and likely eating less hearty stews and roasts and favouring lighter dishes now that the days are getting warmer and the patios are finally opening for business.

Some of my favourite wine styles for the spring are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Rosé.  The reason I like them is that they’re great in-between wines.  Wines that go great with foods that are enjoyed in the fall and spring, in-between summer and winter seasons. Now I must admit, I enjoy those wines all year round but I find myself enjoying them most frequently (as in very often!) in the fall and spring.  Every year around Thanksgiving and Easter, these are the wines I’m pouring the most as they’re perfectly suited for the meals we’re enjoying then.  Poultry, ham, fish, prepared in various ways with different sauces and flavours provide a wide range of wine pairing options with the wines noted above.
So a bit of info on each of my recommendations starting with Pinot Noir (pronounced as ‘pee-no nwar’).  Pinot Noir or short as “Pinot” is a red wine, but a very thin-skinned grape so it produces light-coloured red wines; wines full of flavour but not with a ton of body like a bold Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.  The original home of Pinot Noir is Burgundy, but it’s being made nowadays in most wine regions, and excelling in cooler wine regions around the world such as New Zealand, Canada, Oregon, Germany, and of course, in the storied wine region of Burgundy where it still reigns, with many bottles selling for $500- $1,000 each.    Pinot Noir as a light red wine complements a wide range of foods, lighter/fruitier styles are a great complement to salmon or other fatty fish, roasted chicken or pasta dishes; whereas bigger, more tannic Pinots are perfectly suited for duck and other game birds, casseroles or, the Burgundy pairing of all time, stews like beef bourguignon, but for most that’s an autumn and winter dish, whereas salmon, chicken, pork are great in the spring, especially when BBQ’d.  When dining out, Pinot Noir is a great wine to enjoy by the bottle if you want a beef dish but your dining partner wants a lighter meal such as grilled fish.

Rosé wines are made from red grapes, but when the winemakers press the grapes during winemaking they only allow the juice to touch the grape skins for a short period of time so they don’t incorporate much of the red-wine characteristics that the parent grapes would if red winemaking processes were otherwise followed. Rosé wines are ideal for enjoying throughout the year but my favourite time for rosé is when sitting back on a patio with good company and that’s what many people start doing this time of year as the sun comes out and the temperature reaches t-shirt and shorts appropriate weather on those sunny afternoons.

Chardonnay (pronounced ‘shar-dun-nay’), the world’s most famous white wine, tends to be a bigger, bolder style of white wine (the oaked versions are anyway), so unlike super crisp and light white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, a full bodied Chardonnay is a great wine to enjoy in-between seasons as it has a lot of body and can complement those grilled fish tacos or chicken kabobs (or beer can chicken) perfectly and is dynamite with any rich and creamy dish, or even grilled veal chops with mushrooms.  Lighter, non-oaked Chardonnay, is beautiful with grilled fish and absolutely perfect with oysters, which of course are great on the half-shell on the patio in the summer.  So for this period, I’m reaching for richer styles of Chardonnay (and California is at the top of my list for those), and I’ll move to un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay as the weather gets warmer and my go-to regions for those are Ontario and British Columbia, followed by Burgundy.   On that note, consider checking out the International Cool Climate Chardonnay conference that’s held annually in July in Niagara which brings in the world’s leading wine experts to discuss and showcase the world-class wines being produced here in Canada as well as in other cool-climate winemaking regions. www.coolchardonnay.org

Rielsing (pronounced ‘reece-ling’) is a favourite of mine this time of year as it’s so versatile!  This is arguably the choice white wine of wine experts and sommeliers around the world for its natural complexity and ability to reflect the characteristics of the vineyard it was grown in.  Produced in a wide range of styles from bone-dry to extremely sweet (such as the prized Ontario Riesling Icewines that the world loves), it’s an impressive varietal that if you haven’t explored it then I’d highly recommend you do so.   I’m a big fan of Riesling, including the styles with a touch of residual sugar, when paired with spicy Asian dishes as that touch of sweetness permits the wine to stand-up to those big flavours in the dish and also helps keep the palate cool and refreshed.  Rich and fatty German cuisine, such as Schnitzel (breaded cutlet of meat) and Wurst (sausages) go great with refreshing Rieslings too, but for me this time of year I love Riesling with spring BBQ fare, including sweet and tangy BBQ ribs, pulled pork, or smoked chicken wings.  Ontario (and the New York Finger Lakes wine region) is well known for their ability to grow high quality Riesling, in a range of styles, including dry, off-dry, and the most famous being Icewine.  Today I’m pouring a semi-dry Riesling from Ontario that goes great with BBQ fare, spicy Asian, or grilled fish with fruit chutney.

I’m also presenting a Gamay Noir (pronounced ‘gam-may’), which is similar to Pinot Noir, but distinctly different.  Think of Gamay Noir as Pinot’s little brother that seldom gets the spotlight as his big brother (Pinot Noir) is so loveable that most don’t bother to look elsewhere, despite the wonderful things Gamay has to offer.  Well, for Gamay Noir, those that know about it are very fond and since it’s often less expensive than Pinot it’s a great alternative when enjoying foods that would complement a Pinot Noir.  As it happens, Canada is 2nd behind Beaujolais (France) in the production of world-class Gamay and there’s a Gamay buzz happening now in Ontario which is going to get more and more popular over the years as more people realize the quality Gamay we’re making right here!  Just as Beaujolais is renowned for their prized Cru Beaujolais (made from 100% Gamay), Ontario is well positioned to produce high quality and truly world-class Gamay that is sure to capture the attention of wine lovers around the world.  I’ve got a couple Gamay (containing) wines here today from one of my favourite French-Canadian winemakers, Jean-Pierre Colas of 13th Street Winery.  JP has a great track record having made some of the best wines in the world, literally!  He produced Wine Spectator Magazine’s 1998 White Wine of the Year, an award he received for his Domaine Laroche Grand Cru Les Clos 1996, and in 1998, Jean Pierre was awarded with the Best Wine in the Wine Enthusiast, Grand Cru Chablis Blanchots “Reserve de l’obedience” 1996 (99 pts).  I ran into JP recently at on Ontario wine tasting and chatted with him about Canada’s position in the world for Gamay and just as we’re excelling with Pinot, Riesling, and Chardonnay (to name a few), it would seem that Gamay is well positioned to be one of our next signature wines; wines that help put Canada on the international stage of excellence in winemaking.  Exciting times and I’m happy to be pouring some Ontario Gamay today.

So here are a few terrific wines to enjoy this spring, whether it be with BBQ fare, or just sitting back soaking-up the sun on a beautiful patio.


Foxtrot Pinot Noir 2012, Naramata Bench, British Columbia – $58 (winery direct)


One of Canada’s best Pinot Noirs comes from a small family owned winery on the Naramata Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s here where Foxtrot’s winemaker Gustav Allander grows some of the country’s finest Pinot Noir and transforms it into award winning, cult-status wine that’s enjoyed in many of the Canada’s finest restaurants, including top-rated restaurants in California too, such as Top-Chef runner-up Amar Santana’s Laguna Beach restaurant “Broadway” www.broadwaybyamarsantana.com

The 2012 vintage of their Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir is a medium ruby red with a rich and inviting profile of field berries, dark cherry, dried fruit, black sage, cedar, leather, and a touch of flinty minerality. Dry with fine textured tannins that strike a perfect balance between the medley of flavours and refreshing acidity. Pure harmony in a glass! Foxtrot has produced, once again, what is perhaps the finest Canadian Pinot Noir available. I highly recommend finding space in your cellar for this iconic wine and test your patience with 5-7 years of bottle aging. Enjoy with grilled pork, salmon, or even beef tenderloin, or go fancy with a duck & pork terrine with cranberries & pistachios. Tasted March 2016. 94 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Buy Foxtrot Pinot Noir here


13th Street Winery Gamay Noir 2013, Ontario $19.95 – Vintages April 30 or winery direct


Buy 13th Street Winery Gamay Noir at LCBO or Winery Direct

Gamay is a super food friendly wine and it’s ideally suited for spring and summer dining, outside, even in the heat of the summer!  Served slightly chilled, it’s great with charcuterie, seared tuna, and puts smiles on faces when served with BBQ grilled burgers.  As it happens, Ontario is one of the top producers of world-class Gamay (second only to the French wine region Beaujolais where they produce exclusively Gamay), so we’ve got some great Gamay wines to choose from right here in Ontario.  13th Street Winery’s Gamay Noir, and their premium Sandstone Vineyard Gamay Noir, are terrific options to pour, chilled, this spring and summer.

13th Street Winery Gamay Noir is a medium ruby red colour with an impressively robust nose of dark berries, bell pepper, earth and spice. Very versatile, this food-friendly medium bodied red shows best when served just slightly chilled and paired with rich artisanal sausage and Octoberfest fare. This wine won a prestigious Platinum Wine Award at the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada. Tasted September 2015. 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Try these recipes with 13th Street Gamay Noir:  Rib Steak in Gamay Noir (Beaujolais)

or this with the 13th Street Sandstone Vineyard Gamay Noir: Tangy Chicken Wings with Juliana’s (rich and spicy Gamay Noir) Sauce

13th Street Winery Red Palette 2013, Ontario – $15.95


A blend of Gamay Noir (75%) Cabernet Franc (11%) Pinot Noir (10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4%).  Ruby red in colour, the nose shows black cherry, raspberry, vanilla, baking spices, and dried herbs. Raspberry preserve with dried herbs on the palate. Well balanced with lively fruit, refreshing acidity, and tannins to complement a wide range of meals. My choice, spicy Italian sausage wood-fired pizza. Tasted August 2015 and February 2016. 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Buy 13th Street Winery Red Palette at LCBO  or Winery Direct

Painted Rock Rosé 2014, British Columbia, $25 Winery Direct


Following their successful inaugural rosé in 2013, Painted Rock’s follow-up from the terrific 2014 vintage is another work of art. A blend of 39% Merlot, 29% Cab Franc, 23% Malbec, and 9% Petit Verdot, this Bordeaux blend shows all the hallmarks of a fresh and well structured rosé. Layers of sweet field berries, candied orange, peach, nectarine, with floral and herbal notes, the layers of flavours are balanced with refreshing acidity. The palate is soft, gentle, layered with complex fruit and herbal notes.

One of the finest rosés I’ve tasted in the Okanagan. Incredible alongside charcuterie, autumn harvest meals, or lighter spring fare such as grilled fish and summer salads. Serve slightly chilled. Tasted September 2015. 92 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca



Peninsula Ridge Semi-dry Riesling, Ontario – $13.95


Orchard and stone fruit with sweet mandarin orange on the nose and palate. Refreshing acidity makes this off-dry wine a great value-priced wine to enjoy with spicy dishes, BBQ fare, pulled pork, or simply serve it chilled on a patio with good company. Next time you’re in the Niagara region make sure you check out Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery and their award winning restaurant that was recently named one of the 100 Best Restaurants in Canada.  Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Buy Peninsula Ridge Semi-dry Riesling at LCBO


Painted Rock Chardonnay, British Columbia, $35


Painted Rock’s 2014 Chardonnay is a blend of three micro-harvests that were conducted over a seven day period to capture the best characteristics of the grapes during that final week of grape maturation. 80% oak aged, 20% stainless, to achieve a fine balance of aromatic and textural elegance. The nose shows citrus fruit, honeydew melon, ripe pineapple, sweet corn, herbal notes, butter, and lees. The palate is soft and refreshing with crisp yellow apple, tart pineapple leading the long finish. The winemaker has produced another gorgeous wine from their high-potential estate vineyard. Tasted September 2015. 92+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Although they’ve recently sold out of the 2014, the 2015 Chardonnay will be released this spring.  Look for it when it’s released as it won’t last long.  www.paintedrock.ca



California comes to Ottawa!


Now, seeing as California is making the trip all the way up north to Ottawa to showcase some of their absolutely delicious wines, it’s a tremendous opportunity to sample from a few hundred fantastic wines all under one roof, without having to make the trek down to sunny California.  Wine lovers will tell you this is the best wine tasting in Ottawa and certainly not to be missed.  Many of the wines being poured will be available via Vintages (LCBO) throughout the year, while some are only available on consignment directly with wine agents, so this is the one and only opportunity you’ll get to sample as many as three hundred California wines.  So to get us primed for all these California wines in Ottawa, I’ve picked a few great choices that also complement spring and summer (especially BBQ) fare exceptionally well!

Nearly three-quarters the size of France, California accounts for nearly 90% of all wine production in the United States. If California were a separate country, it would be the world’s fourth-largest wine producer, behind France, Italy, and Spain.  They’ve been making wine for quite some time but it was the Judgement of Paris in 1976 that launched them into the spotlight as world-leaders in fine wine production when a few California wines (a Californian Cab Sauv and Chardonnay) beat the top rated French wines and forever changed the profile and status of California wines.

So here are a few great wines to look for in the future from California, and if you’re able to attend one of the California Wine fairs across Canada make sure you check out the full range of wines they’re pouring from their high value $15 offerings to the coveted $300 bottles too!

Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay 2014 – $22.95


Crisp and creamy, Rutherford Ranch’s Napa Chardonnay offers exceptional value. Tropical and orchard fruit, orange blossom, with expressive Meyer lemon notes, on the nose and palate. Creamy and delicious, this high quality yet value priced Napa Chardonnay would be ideal with seared Ahi Tuna burgers topped with grilled pineapple or Grilled Halibut with Pickled Red Onion and Mango. Tasted March 2016. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Sterling Chardonnay, California – $16


Sterling Vineyards Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay is a great example of a value priced California Chardonnay. An inviting bouquet of stone fruit, orchard fruit, pineapple, and sweet baking spices repeats on the palate with a long refreshing finish. Enjoy with grilled chicken & seafood, poached salmon, or glazed ham. 88 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Sterling Vintner’s Chardonnay available at LCBO

Melissa Lamb enjoying a sun-kissed California Chardonnay by Sterling Vineyards.

Meiomi Pinot Noir, California – $26.95


Meiomi’s 2014 Pinot Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir from three beautiful wine regions along the California coast: Monterey County (48%), Sonoma County (27%), and Sanata Barbara County (25%). Each lot was individually fermented and aged in 100% French oak, 60% new, to add additional texture whilst preserving the elegant and complex fruit characteristics. Blended to achieve the greatest complexity, the result is a very expressive, dry, and flavourful medium-full bodied Pinot Noir. The nose shows dried cranberry, black cherry, cedar, and a slight earthiness. The palate is loaded with sweet dark fruit, black cherry, dried cranberry, mocha, baking spices, and kirsch. Big and bold, this creamy-smooth Pinot is the finest vintage of Meiomi I recall tasting. They’ve struck a beautiful balance in this vintage. Very impressed. Enjoy with braised lamb, roasted pork with fruit chutney, or one of my favourites – Thanksgiving Turkey dinner with sweet cranberry sauce. Tasted September 2015. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Meiomi Pinot Noir avaiability at LCBO

Lander-Jenkins Cabernet Sauvignon, California – $18.95


Lander-Jenkins Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the finest California Cabernet Sauvignons you can buy for under $20.  Each year this proudly family owned and family farmed winery, headed by Morgan Zaninovich (a 3rd generation winegrower), produce this super popular style of California Cabernet that shows the best of this storied grape at a bargain of a price.  100% sustainably grown fruit, showing ripe raspberry, blackberry, plum, mocha, baking spices, herbs, and a touch of forest floor give this popular Cabernet a rich and complex profile that shines when enjoyed with BBQ fare, lasagna, or campfires and close friends.  Enjoy 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016.  90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Try Lander Jenkins Cabernet Sauvignon with marinated grilled rib-eye steak with roasted pepper salsa and fresh corn fritters!


Lander Jenkins Cab Sauvignon availability at LCBO




Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $39.95


Bringer Knight’s Valley Cabernet Sauvignon availability at LCBO

Full bodied with great texture and structure, the fine integrated tannins softening further after a two hour decant. Year after year Beringer’s Knights Valley is a top selling California Cabernet as it offers great quality at a very reasonable price. Enjoy 2016-2025. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Exciting news!  The California Wine Fair is coming to Ottawa, Friday April 8th, at the Westin. This is one of the most highly anticipated wine events each year in the Capital and it’s filled with delicious red, white, and sparkling Californian wines which are some of the finest you can get your hands on!  Hope to see you there.




Matt Steeves is a certified sommelier, wine writer, & Director with the National Capital Sommelier Guild – follow Matt on Twitter @Quercusvino or www.quercusvino.ca