Beringer Wine Tasting

Donna and I are on a roll in the wine tasting luncheon department! This month we were lucky enough to be invited by Natalie Maclean (read her review of the event here) to have Beringers’ chief winemaker, Laurie Hook, talk us through a flight of 11 fabulous wines.


Now, we are a little biased here, but it was wonderful to hear such a talented female winemaker speak. Laurie has been in the business for over 30 years and approaches winemaking as an art rather than a recipe. This makes so much sense since the grapes themselves vary from year to year. She is continually tasting and adjusting each vintage of wine as it is produced.


This event was held at the beautiful Shore Club and, true to their reputation, they showered us with fine food and service. We both agreed that the gourmet cheese plate at the end was the perfect finishing touch. Of course, we had saved a little wine to sample with the various cheeses!



Although it was hard to narrow down, we are going to share our favourite wines of the day.



Beringer Quantum 2010


The name implies the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that it is. This blend is primarily Cab Suv with a little Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah thrown in for some spicy, juicy silkiness. Aromas of ripe plum, spice and leather are followed by flavours of black cherry, licorice, cloves and mocha.  I would love this paired with a nice juicy steak.





Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

This beautiful golden Chardonnay will make you a convert if you already aren’t one! Aromas of honey and caramel introduce you to a velvety smooth wine with butterscotch and peachy undertones. A hint of oak completes the finish. I paired it with shrimp and a spicy sauce with great success. Also delicious sipped on its own, which I intend to do as soon as I can get my hands on a bottle!


Mary Anne thumbnail

Mary Anne…Cheers!

It was, yet again, an excellent opportunity for both of us to stretch our wine muscles, trying 11 – yes ELEVEN – Beringer wines!  Everything Mary Anne has said – the wine, the winemaker, the venue, the food and the company – were all perfect!  With so many wines to try it was interesting that Mary Anne and I zeroed in on many of the same as our “favourites”!  After a bit of a tussle  *wink* we agreed on our favourite vintages for this post.  Here are mine:


beringer waymaker 2012

Beringer The Waymaker – Paso Robles 2012

The newest wine in Beringer’s portfolio, this red is an perfect example of Winemaker Laurie Hook’s outstanding skill at blending grapes. With a base of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and small additions of Malbec, Petit Syrah and Petit Verdot, the surprise is a splash of Viognier for good measure. Medium red in colour, the resulting blend is the perfect mix of floral aromas and smooth mouthfeel with notes of cherry and plum.




Beringer Founders Estate Chardonnay 2013

The Chardonnays suprised me as I am not typically a fan of this wine.  This particular one was the first we tried and I loved the crispness.  Light in colour and body, this Chardonnay is crisp apple on the nose with an ever-so-slight oak flavour. With a long finish, this is the perfect summer Chardonnay – and you can’t beat the price point at $16.95.  Picture patio weather, soft tunes in the background and a good friend to chit chat with!



Donna ThumbnailTo your health….Donna!


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Wolf Blass Wine Tasting

Last week, Mary Anne and I were lucky enough to have lunch with Chris Hatcher, winemaker for Wolf Blass.  Joining Natalie MacLean and a group of sommeliers and fellow wine enthusiasts, we sat down with Chris at Social Restaurant in the Byward Market to hear all about the philosophy behind the wines of Wolf Blass.

You may remember that the TBBs met Wolf Blass  or “Wolfie” as we call him, when he was in Ottawa a few years ago, so when Mary Anne and I were invited to meet the winemaker, well … you can imagine that we jumped at the chance!

On the wine menu were 9 Wolf Blass wines, ranging from the mid-range priced Yellow Label wines right up to the premium-priced Black Label Cabernet Shiraz blend that impressed everyone at the table.

While enjoying each of the wines, Chris shared the history behind the vintage, including the specific vineyards and climates and how they influenced what we were tasting.  He also spoke of how winemaking at Wolf Blass has changed over the years.  Years ago the winemakers spent the majority of their time in the cellars, whereas most of Chris’ time is now spent in the vineyard, reinforcing the philosophy that the terroir, vines and climate have a huge influence on the resulting wine.

Natalie wrote an excellent account of the event here, but as a sneak peek, here are our favourites:


Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2013

This Riesling surprised me. Not as sweet as many of the same grape, this pale white is quite refreshing on the palate. With light notes of citrus this Gold Label wine would be great on it’s own or paired with a light creamy fish. I will be sipping this delicious white on a patio with the TBBs this summer!





Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet/Shiraz 2010

Of  course I would love the most expensive wine of the group! This is one to splurge on for a special occasion.  Chris compared this wine to a Ferrari, which I think is a great analogy. It is a juicy cabernet/shiraz blend made with the best varieties of the vintage. Hints of berry, plum and spice mingle and create a smooth long finish. Great on its own or with a steak.
Although the wine was the star of the show, the cuisine and atmosphere at Social was a close second!  Secreted away in a corner of the restaurant, our large table of wine-lovers were treated with excellent service and delicious food.  Soup and salad starters were delicious and the 3 choices for our entrée was almost unnecessary with at least 98% of the table choosing the steak.  Perhaps something to do with the number of red wines on the tasting menu ?!?   And dessert ??  A choice between warmed apple tart with a dollop of vanilla ice cream (my choice) and a milk chocolate ganache with peanut butter ice cream and banana merangue!  Outstanding!


We are both looking forward to the next wine tasting event with baited breath!

Donna Thumbnail   Cheers Mate…Donna

Mary Anne thumbnail      Here’s to Wolf Blass…Mary Anne


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Wine Tasting and Reviews

Last Sunday, Donna and I had the opportunity to hang out at Natalie MacLean’s beautiful house with some fellow wine bloggers, sommeliers and people who work in the wine industry. There were approximately 60 assorted wines available to sample and review, for a great wine website Of course we didn’t try them all, but we both found some new favourites that we will be sharing with you over the next little while! Here’s one of my favourites:CSJ-SC-Fume-BlancThis is a great white wine from Château St. Jean, Treasury Wine Estates in Sonoma, California. It’s a Fumé Blanc 2012 and is delicious.  The fact that it is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes may be why I liked it so much! I found it to have hints of grass and pear on the nose and refreshing flavours of lemon, apple and ginger on the palate. It is medium bodied and not too acidic. It would pair well with mild seafood dishes or cheese. Great on its own too! A great value for $18.95 at the LCBO, product number 537639.

Mary Anne Border

Cheers…Mary Anne

It was a great event indeed!  Natalie’s kitchen, dining room and living room were filled with like-minded wine lovers – from the professionals right down to the dabbling wine lovers like Mary  Anne and myself.  This was such a great opportunity to try out wines that we probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise and with so many to try we made travel arrangements ahead of time (a big thanks to Mary Anne’s hubby)! Here is one of my favourites –henry-of-pelham-reserve-baco-noir-2012-208540-bottle-1413308028The 2012 Reserve Baco Noir from Henry of Pelham was a delicious full bodied red with a deep red colour.  This Niagara Baco Noir is deliciously fruity and smooth on the palate with full bodied fruit flavours.   It would be a fantastic wine with a spicy charcuterie platter or with a meaty spaghetti sauce!  A little pricey at $24.95 a bottle, this would make a perfect “special occasion” wine or an awesome hostess gift for the upcoming holiday season.  Available at the LCBO – product #461699.Donna Border

  Saluté … Donna



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The TBB’s are still alive…really!

Well hello out there! We realize that we have been missing in action since we signed off for summer vacation way back in June. But don’t worry, we are still a rogue band of six designing friends. However, we have all found ourselves consumed with other things and priorities. You know, life sometimes gets in the way! Check down below to read what we all have been up to individually.

TBB half birthday

After much deliberation of what direction to take with this blog (over wine, of course), we have decided to make posting much less formal. Rather than regularly posting three times a week about wine, food, and design, we will post when, and if, we can. As we all have our own blogs, we may also share links to relevant postings there. We promise to keep up the fun tone and stay in touch as much as possible.

Mary Anne BorderMary Anne says:  “I am fortunate to be enjoying a great work/life balance. I keep up my design business on a part-time basis, with 2-3 clients on the go at any one time. The rest of the time I spend with family and friends, at the cottage, working through my travel bucket list, and enjoying this beautiful city in which we live. I have also renewed my interest in yoga and clean eating. My husband is inching towards retirement by working 4 days/week, the kids are launched and we want to be free to enjoy life while we are able.”

Lisa BorderLisa says: “Much like Mary Anne I have found a great work/life balance.  Dividing up my time working on my clients’ projects, my own cottage renovations, travelling and keeping up with friends and my large extended family.  I’m so fortunate and thankful to be able to do all of this and hope to keep this wonderful pace of life going for a long time.”


Donna Border

Donna says; “Busy.  That would describe life for this TBB. With a full time day job that is taking up more and more of my time, I’m dividing the rest of my time between family (including my darling little grandsons), my increasing travel portfolio and starting a new blog.  ~deep breath~  With all of this activity, spending time on the design side of my life has been limited to our own home, which will have to satisfy me until other areas of my life slow down.”

Maureen border Maureen says: “My life has taken a huge direction change.  My husband is now headquartered in the Big Apple for up to 3 years and we decided we had had enough of his commuting (for the past 20 years) so I am along for the Manhattan ride. While I’m here I plan to absorb any DESIGN in any form that NYC has to offer. I will also endeavour to use this time to expand my design /computer skills. As much as I’m looking forward to family and friends visiting us, I’m super excited for a NYC  TBB reunion.”

Sonya Border

Sonya says:” I don’t even have time to think about how busy I am! I’ve spent the last year working on several design projects, the largest being seven – yes SEVEN – Tamarack model homes in Kanata with fellow TBB Maureen. Between the design work, a contractor hubby and 3 busy kids, there is sometimes just enough time to relax with a glass of vino at the end of day … and then we start all over again!”

Nicole BorderNicole says:”Busy? Did someone say busy? I’m working full time making windows pretty and functional in Ottawa, specializing in Hunter Douglas blinds. On the side, I do a little colour consulting and room design as well. When I’m not measuring rooms or windows, I’ve got two little people in my life that still require a fair amount of hands on care. I also commit many (MANY!) hours volunteering and fundraising for my children’s school. Movie nights, logowear, Spring Fling…you name it, I’ve done it! After that, I train for half-marathons. 10 completed so far! I cherish my TBB outings and      getaways to unwind and disconnect. Come on NYC!”

Well, that about sums it all up. We are still committed to Wine, Dine and Design, just in a more informal way. Believe us, we still have lots to share with you, our wonderful followers. Thanks for listening and we will be in touch soon!

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Spotlight on Christopher Solar Studio

The ladies and I were sitting around at Lisa’s lovely cottage a few weeks ago and I was finally getting a chance to flip through some of my neglected decor magazines.  Spring had been very busy for me and this was a huge treat!  As I flipped through the Style at Home magazine I came across a picture that caught my eye.  It was of a stunning bench made of wood and a woven material on top.  A closer look showed me that the maker of this fine piece was from Ottawa.  Wanting to learn more about this fine artist, I checked out his website, contacted him and asked if we could get a TBB sneak peek at his work.  So here’s what I found out about Christopher Solar as I checked out his Glebe studio.

Firstly, Christopher is trained as an engineer, and then took an interest in fine art and print making.  From his work, you can see his attention to detail and his fascination with materials. When I arrived, he had a strap bench in progress.  A closer look revealed the source of the strapping…seat belt material!  Because the strapping is available in 30 different colours, this is a super versatile piece that can be ordered in any colour combination, with or without arms and at custom heights and lengths.  He uses CAD to design the pattern of the strapping to get both the perfect colour combination and layering of the straps.  The bench he was working on is actually going to be at the new Alteriors on Bank Street, so if you are from our fine city (or are visiting!) you too can see and test out this lovely piece.

Strap Bench

The next piece that had me drooling was his Danish Lounge Chair.  The arms have this beautiful curve that meet at a 90 degree mitred joint.  The joint is then splined to create this seamless curve that is both durable and beautiful, without the joinery being too flashy.  The seat is woven in a traditional pattern with Danish Cord.  It is as stunning from the front as it is from the back.

Danish Lounge Chair

For something a little different, there was a standing screen in the corner.  This piece can be used as either a divider or as a screen or simply as an art piece in the corner of a room.  It consists of steam bent pieces of wood that are alternated so that the curves don’t line up.  The back of the pieces are painted with milk paint to give a pop of colour and allow the wood to stand out a bit.  A concrete base stabilizes the piece.  I picture this piece with a light shining from behind to cast shadows around the room.

Standing Screen

In a similar fashion, Christopher came up with the concept for his Stave Table.  It is veneered pieces of steam bent wood with a concrete base and a glass top.  The difference of materials and the texture of the wood grain and the slats of wood really make this piece stand out.

Stave Table

Lastly, the Bento Cabinet requires a mention.  It is an ebonized wood piece that has a glass top, and has several pieces of steam bent wood that alternate top to bottom.  By painting the edges of these smaller pieces with milk paint, this piece has just a hint of dare I say, sex appeal…but then maybe it’s the red that’s caught my attention.

Bento Cabinet

After meeting with Christopher, I realized I had actually spoken to him once before at the Interior Design Show in Toronto.  He says he’s already signed up for next years show.  He’s still deciding what he’ll bring with him to showcase his work, perhaps a light fixture.  We should be so lucky!

If you want to learn more about Christopher Solar Studio, check out his website at  All photos for this post are courtesy of Christopher Solar Studio.


Donna says: “His work is so beautifully unique!  I especially love the Bento Cabinet, what an amazing statement piece in any room!”



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Jenn - July 5, 2013 - 2:05 pm

I love the unique lines of all of his designs. He stays away from boring straight lines! Great pieces!

Inspire Me Heather - July 6, 2013 - 8:11 am

Gorgeous furniture, thanks!

Anne@DesignDreams - July 6, 2013 - 9:20 am

what fabulous designs! Thanks for sharing!

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