December 17, 2011

Seasonal sips and whisky gift ideas

Around our house, the Christmas season is all about gatherings with friends and family, eating, sipping, playing games, charity, music and skiing - if there's any snow! Personally, there's always an element of trying to keep it all in perspective, not going overboard with  planning, shopping and "doing", and leaving time for hanging out with no agenda - easier to say than do! Whatever your Christmas season looks like, I hope it's happy and connected, with whatever balance of peace and excitement works for you.
CBC Radio One In Town and Out Christmas chat
On the sipping front, we like Beaus for the beer drinkers, home delivered in conjunction with Operation Come Home - what a great idea.
We like bubbly at this time of year. It's celebratory, refreshing with all that rich food,  great with appetizers and delicious in a mimosa (bubbly and orange juice) for a brunch or late breakfast. Champagne is wonderful, but there are lots of other sparkling wines available from under $15 to whatever suits your pocketbook - Cava from Spain, various Cremants from different regions of France, and a wide range from many different countries and regions - California, Ontario, Australia to name a few.
I'm excited this year to try a sparkling wine from the south of England, made in the traditional method and sold in  Marks and Spencers, indeed. But there's also some Cava at the ready, some Cremant de Bourgogne and some Californian sparkling.

I like my wines to be refreshing, with good acidity. With turkey dinner and everything on that plate - game, stuffing, sauces, gravy, numerous veggies - it makes sense for the wine selections to be very refreshing. You should drink what you like - that's the main rule of thumb. If big and jammy is your preference, then go for it! For my palate, a big range of wines work with the traditional dinner. In the white department, I'd go with Riesling, white Burgundy, white Cotes du Rhone, chardonnay, vouvray, sparkling. I wouldn't use very dry or light wines.

Robust roses work well, but my own personal favourite is a good Pinot Noir - whether a really nice Burgundy or a flavorful new world Pinot - especially from California.
This year we're drinking an Ontario Pinot Noir from Peninsula Ridge and pleased to be drinking local beer and somewhat local wine. Pinot Noir is wonderfully refreshing and not full bodied. If you like bigger wines, go ahead and drink what you love. A few suggestions would be Cotes-du-Rhone, Italian Ripasso wines, Primitivo (Italy), Zinfandel (California), Chilean Merlot.
If Christmas pudding and brandy sauce is your dessert of the day, try it with a sweet sherry - inexpensive, and filled with flavours that complement the pudding. Walnut brown or Pedro Ximenez sherry is delicious with Christmas pudding, butter tarts, pecan pie, that kind of thing. 20 year old Tawny Port is also wonderful, but in a different price league.

After that lot, you'll probably need a simple cup of mint tea, but if some nice person has given you a bottle of Scotch, perhaps a wee dram will act as a digestif before the lure of the chocolates kicks in!

And now on to a few generally available whisky and Scotch picks for every budget.........(Approximate prices provided).

Canadian whiskies
Century Reserve 21 year Old Rye Whisky  $47
Forty Creek (Ontario) - a range from $20 to $70
Glen Breton Rare Single Malt Whisky  $88

Irish whiskies
Redbreast 12 year old $47
a decent range from the Connemara brand

Knob Creek, Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve $45 range

Single Malt Scotch
 There are hundreds on the LCBO shelves, not all of them in every store. These are just a few suggestions........
Glenfiddich 15 year old (fruity, rich) $64
Glenlivet Nadurra 16 year old (cask strength) $82
Aberlour a'bunadh (cognac like character, cask strength) $94
Highland Park 18 year old (one of my favourites) $139
Highland Park 21 year old - expensive
Highland Park 25 year old - more expensive
Bowmore 12 year old (lightly peated) $51
Dun Bheagan Islay 8 year old (a good buy for a smoky whisky) $48
Laphroaig 10 year old (peaty, smoky) $80

Have a safe and happy Christmas and a wonderful 2012!

Cheers and Slainte Mhath!

December 13, 2011

Burns Night Scotch Tasting January 25th

On Wednesday January 25th, come out and celebrate the 253rd birthday of Robert Burns at a fine Scotch Tasting at Thyme and Again upstairs room. It'll be a grand night with premium Single Malt Scotches, accompanying appetizers, some gentle piping, some whisky chat and a few toasts in Rabbie's honour. Click this link to see the event details and to buy tickets. (Also a great idea for a special Christmas gift!)