Ruffino Wine Tasting

I recently attended a wine tasting at Social Restaurant for Ruffino wines hosted by Natalie MacLean and Constellation Brands.

Starting with a deliciously bubbly prosecco, our dinner with Ruffino Global Brand Ambassador, Beppe d’Andrea was every bit as entertaining as a dinner at Nonna’s.  The history behind not only Ruffino wines, but all Italian wines was very enlightening.

Social Restaurant certainly did not disappoint on the expertly paired 4 course meal. Starting with a plate of asparagus, truffle, prosciutto, shaved foie and a poached duck egg which was complemented by the earthy yet fresh 2014 Lumina Pinot Grigio.


The Ricotta gnocchi was a group favourite, paired with a 2014 Ruffino Chianti and shared with wine stories straight from the Italian countryside. One such story, of the annual Medici celebration of San Lorenzo on August 10th which was likely the only time the hard working citizens of Tuscany ate beef.

The third course consisted of grilled steak with mushrooms and goat cheese, paired with two vintages of the Riserva Ducale (the Dukes reserve).

Grilled Steak dinner Social

Additional reds were tasted in two groups – Brunello DOCG and Modus IGT.


We finished of the evening with a delicious serving of strawberries and cream, Japanese cheesecake and matcha streusel.

Natalie covers the event in wonderful detail in her blog post here. Make sure you check out the videos in the post.  They provide solid proof that our guest was a master story-teller!

This was far more than a wine tasting event, it was an entertaining history lesson.  It is clearly evident that Ruffino wines are produced with qualità della vita in mind!

 “Wine is not only wine, wine is culture, it’s history – it’s all connected.” ~ Beppe d’Andrea

Donna Thumbnail

Saluti … Donna


|Share on FB|Tweet this|Pinterest|Subscribe

A lunch with Villa Maria Wine

Mary Anne and I spent a lunch hour recently with Josh Hammond, the production wine maker for New Zealand’s Villa Maria vineyards.  Ok, it wasn’t exactly an intimate lunch for three … we were joined by a very talented group of Ottawa based wine professionals.

villa maria logo in black

The lunch was organized by Natalie MacLean and Phillipe DanDurand Wines.  Held at The Shore Club (who have never disappointed where food is concerned), the kitchen worked their usual magic in pairing for the Villa Maria vintages offered.  Ranging from a surprisingly delicious sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a flight of Pinot Gris’, through a sampling of Sauvignon Blancs and finishing with Villa Maria’s Pinot Noirs, one of which was among the best I’ve ever sampled.  Villa Maria is New Zealand’s most award winning winery and it wasn’t hard to see why.

If you click through to Natalie MacLean’s blog post (click on on the photo below) you can read all about the event.  And while you are there, check out the individual wines reviewed.



We hope you enjoy the great read and get a chance to try a Villa Maria wine very soon! The LCBO does carry some of the wines tested so you may be in luck!

Donna Thumbnail Cheers Donna

Mary Anne BorderMary Anne says: This event featured an outstanding selection of wine and food paired with a knowledgeable and congenial winemaker.  We are two lucky ladies:)

|Share on FB|Tweet this|Pinterest|Subscribe

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!


|Share on FB|Tweet this|Pinterest|Subscribe

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


|Share on FB|Tweet this|Pinterest|Subscribe

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



|Share on FB|Tweet this|Pinterest|Subscribe
S e a r c h   f o r