A Sense of Wine

A Sense of Wine is Wine Sense's journal of new products, techniques and behind the scenes info for those who love to make wine. The authors are the Wine Sense staff. You will be familiar with them as the friendly faces that serve you whenever you stop by one of the stores. Join us as we share our insights on new procucts, advice and our experiences. Please feel free to comment on any posts- we look forward to your input!

November 2009


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Water into Wine

November 28, 2009

We’ve had a great debate in Brandon regarding tap water vs. filtered water as our former competition in Brandon was convinced you could not make wine with tap water.

Tim Vandergrift on the other hand has told us for years that tap water works every bit as well as filtered or distilled water.  This is born out by the number of medals Wine Sense staff  have won over the years using plain old H2O from the tap (in Winnipeg and Brandon).


Good old tap water is fine for your wine!

What you have to keep in mind is that wine kits are loaded with solids/minerals etc. that they have picked up from the grapes being grown in the ground. Any perceived benefit of filtered or distilled water is completely washed away when you add it to the juice/concentrate in the wine kit.

If you live in the country and have well water with iron in it you may want to use another source of water. Other than that there is not a lot of reason to drag 5 gallons of water home with you to make your wine.

Manager (Wine Sense- Brandon)

Filed under: General by Craig

Taste for Yourself!

November 25, 2009

Bob ThumbnailFor those of you who were unable to make our sold out Wine Sense Selection Limited Edition Wine Tastings, I’ve put together a list of the commercial equivalents that were tasted at the event.

For January’s Limited Edition South African Shiraz we use the Golden Kaan South African Shiraz (2007). It was paired with 85% cacao Chocolate and was a big hit.

For January’s California Lake County Trio Blanca we used Ménage A Trois from California. We had to order this in as it is not available in Manitoba. It was paired with hummus on pita bread.

Lot's of wine, food pairings and fun at the Limited Edition Wine Tastings!

Lot's of wine, food pairings and fun at the Limited Edition Wine Tastings!

For February’s Australian Petit Verdot we used the Deen de Bartoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot (2007) from Australia. It was paired with grilled beef strip loin- very tasty!

For March’s Pacific Quartet we used Rigamarole White (2008) from British Columbia. For this wine we offered a component food pairing. First the wine was tried with chevre goat cheese which accented the off-dry character. It was then tasted with honey which highlighted the wine’s zippy, acidity. This was a great example of how a wine can behave with different foods.

For April’s Italian Brunello we used Di Majo Norante Sangiovese (2007) from Italy. This wine was paired with chunks for Parmigiano Reggiano. When you think wine and cheese- think Italian Brunello and Parmigiano!

If you want to sample the above wines, they are available at local liquor marts and the private wine merchants and average at about $16 per bottle.

You can also visit our website to view Tim giving a brief video presentation about each wine (It’s the next best thing to being there). Remember, you can always speak to your friendly Wine Sense staff for advice in picking the Limited Edition wines that will best suit your tastes.

You’ll notice that I’ve included the vintage year of each wine and that they’ve all been aged- but that’s a blog for another day : )


Manager (Wine Sense- Springfield Road)

Filed under: General, Wine by Craig

Wine and Chocolate

November 23, 2009
VictorRecently, in preparation for the Wine Sense Selection Limited Edition Staff Pre-Tasting, I grabbed a bottle of my Selection Limited Edition South African Shiraz that I made in 2006. Yes, I follow my own advice: it was one of the 6 bottles put away for long-term aging.

It was my job at the pre-tasting to do a presentation of the South African Shiraz with a food pairing of chocolate. Here’s what I shared with the rest of the Wine Sense folks…

South Africa has three hundred and fifty years of wine history. They originally used the local vines and found the climate and terrain to be conducive to making wine. Because of this, they brought in European vines and began planting those as well. Shiraz was taken by the French to the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, and from South Africa to Australia in the 17th Century. It is well suited to the warm climate.
 Today, Shiraz is one of the prominent varietals in single varietal wines, as well as being used in blends. These are big-fruit wines with chocolate, smoke, and spice. It is emerging as the Cape’s leading red varietal and is currently the third most planted red grape after pinotage and cabernet sauvignon.
Our Limited Edition South African Shiraz specifically comes from the Stellenbosch region. Stellenbosch is in a hilly region of the Cape Winelands and is sheltered in a valley by high mountains. The region possesses a wide range of soils in the area, from light, sandy soils to decomposed granite, and combined with the well-drained, hilly terrain and Mediterranean climate, prove ideal for grape growing. Summers are dry and warm to hot, while winters are cool, rainy and sometimes quite windy. Snow is usually seen a couple times in winter on the surrounding mountains.
Mmmmmm… chocolate
The richest, most intensely flavoured chocolates are known as the bittersweet darks, which contain the least amount of sugar, and the greatest amount of cacao – anywhere from about 71% to 100%. Their bitter, roasted flavouring is so intense that it really needs a strong red wine to balance the taste. For this tasting I used both an 80% and a 90% cocoa chocolate.
Upon pouring this wine it had an abundance of fruit, aromas of blackberry, spice, and I detected a hint of leather. Start by tasting the wine allowing the flavours to saturate your mouth. It is an easy drinking wine with well-rounded tannins. After tasting the wine, take a bite of the chocolate, letting it slowly melt on your tongue. Sip the wine once again, and you might never consider having one without the other ever again.

If you want to learn more about wine and chocolate you can view a video from earlier Wine Sense Staff Training Session. In this video Tim Vandergrift talks about wine and chocolate

Although it seemed the two flavours would be inherent opposites, the wine and chocolate compliment each other smoothly. The flavours work well together due to chemical similarities in the cocoa bean and parts of the red grape skin.

Needless to say, with its smooth, soft mouth feel, I have 2 less bottles of this delicious wine. Good thing I have my order in : ) Don’t forget to reserve your South African Shiraz!

Manager (Wine Sense- McPhillips St)

Filed under: General, Wine by Craig

Ten Years of Tastings

November 20, 2009

Craig1It all started 10 years ago when Jeff Anderson, our Winexpert Account Manager at the time and Tim Vandergrift wanted to create more excitement with the Selection Limited Edition program. They felt if they could get folks to try the styles- people would get a better understsanding of the great wines available. They asked us if we would be interested in hosting a tasting and the rest is history.

We had our first wine tasting at the Viscount Gort Hotel. 46 People attended on an evening that included a huge thunderstorm that had a lot of people soaked from the quick walk from their car to the front doors.

Ten years later and Wine Sense is holding 4 consecutive nights of tastings at our Selection Limited Edition Wine Tastings and will pour wine for about 1100 people. This includes one night in Brandon and three in Winnipeg. We are now holding our events at the Victoria Inn and Convention Center as they are one of the few hotels that can provide a room big enough.

For myself, Colin, Rick and Tim it’s like a road trip for a band. Pack up the truck and off to Brandon- then back to Winnipeg for a 3 night gig. It’s a fun time though and we always have lots of volunteers eager to help- including Andy and Adrian who joined us on the trip to Brandon. The show couldn’t go on without all of the staff, spouses, family and friends who give their time to us. We are very grateful for their support.

Tim presents to another full house.

Tim presents to another full house.

As much work as it takes to host the events, this work is dwarfed by the fun we have. But how can you not have fun? The Wine Sense folks get to spend time with our customers in a casual setting and share our passion of wine while we have a glass of it in our hands.

Tonight is the last night of this year’s tastings. It will be another fun night as Friday’s crowd is always a lively one. Thanks to everyone who has attended (and will attend tonight) and we look forward to next year!


Craig- Wine Sense

Filed under: General by Craig


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