By Al Begin
If you are looking to take your wine experience to a different level, you should really consider taking a wine tour.
Brenda Leenders removes a loaf of bread baked in an outdoor oven as part of a workshop to teach people how to make homemade bread.
This does not have to be as extravagant as a month-long tour of Tuscany or Napa. You can get as much out of a wine tour by taking an extended weekend to a closer wine region. There are numerous wine regions to be explored that are not far away.
In recent years we have toured the Annapolis Valley, Prince Edward County in Ontario, the Finger Lakes in New York, and Virginia.
Before you book your wine tour you need to decide on your focus. Are you thinking of a particular region, a particular wine type, a particular country, or a particular time of year? Different regions tend to specialize in different wines.
My preference is to visit a region that still has the vineyards in full production, with the grapes still hanging off the vines.
There is not much romance in visiting vineyards when the leaves and grapes are missing, and you are staring at a bunch of bare sticks in a field.
I also prefer to go to developing regions where you are more likely to find the passionate vineyard owner in the tasting room.
These are the regions that have been around for less than 25 years. You won't find this passion in the large commercial wineries in Napa or Niagara.
You should plan to visit five to seven wineries per day. This will give you ample time to do the requisite tastings without having to chug your samples. You should also be prepared to pay for your tastings, with the average cost being under $10 per winery for a good assortment ("flight") of wines.
A great way to do the winery tour is to hire a tour company. This allows everyone in your group to enjoy all of the samples. Ensure that you have a plan for your tour driver or you could end up seeing wineries that are of no interest to you.
Plan your wine trip six to nine months in advance. This will provide you with the time to do the necessary research. Get onto the Facebook and Twitter feeds for the region you plan on visiting. Buy the "App" for the region to get the detailed information on all of the wineries in the region. Get maps mailed to you and contact the tourism association for the region in question to find out about other festivals or attractions in the area.
For example, we recently did a Virginia wine tour and knew about the Luray Caverns ahead of time and we made special plans to visit that site. It was well worth the side trip.
If you are planning on renting a car for your wine trip, make sure that you bring your GPS, as many wineries are off the beaten path.Also, renting a car lets you explore the region that you are visiting in greater detail.
Don't forget the duty free rules when you are returning to Canada. You are only allowed to bring back 1.5 litres in total. This usually means two 750 ml bottles.
Don't try to sneak extra bottles in because if you are caught you will be red-flagged for the rest of your life, making further international travel rather unpleasant.
Wine pairing for your Thanksgiving turkey
Thanksgiving is this weekend. It is time to give some serious consideration to the wine you will be serving with the roasted bird. You don't have to serve white wine with turkey. It is perfectly acceptable to go red for this occasion.
If you are thinking of sticking with the traditional ‘white wine with white meat' you should consider a drier sparkling wine or a dry riesling. You don't want either of these choices of whites to be too sweet, as turkey meat can have a sweetness to it, and you need to strike a balance in your pairing.
You should really think outside the box and try a red wine with your burnt offering. Try a pinot noir or a zinfandel. You will be pleasantly surprised as to how nice they will pair together.
The Unquenchable Truro Daily News Wine Judging Panel recently tasted the 2012 Blomidon Baco Noir. This is a Nova Scotian wine available at your local NSLC for $18.95.
This wine would be perfect for those who love the jammy, fruity, red blends that are quite popular these days.
This wine accomplishes this by blending Baco Noir (75 per cent) and Marechal Foch (25 per cent). This wine has a nose of dark berry, blackberry and plum. It tastes of rich berries and is very smooth. It has a jammy taste (that can be a good thing) and no hit of tannins.
This wine could be a meal on its own! It is nice and full. It should cellar nicely for a couple of years and develop enhanced flavours as it matures. The Unquenchable Tasting Panel rated this wine not quite a full bunch of grapes, but a respectable 47 grapes out of 55.
Al Begin is the chief label reader for the Unquenchable Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel, and you can send your wine recommendations to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.