How Many Merlot Facts Are You Aware Of?

The home of Merlot, the territory of Bordeaux, France, is considered the wine capital of the world.

Merle is French for blackbird. It seems blackbird love these grapes.

The aroma and flavours of Merlot are generally composed of black cherry, berries, plum, chocolate, and herbs. They are an easy wine to drink due its medium body, smooth acidity and low tannins.

Merlot grapes, vitis vinifera, prefer a clay soil.

Merlot can be found in a white version which is produced in the same fashion as rose wines or Zinfandel. The grape skins are in contact with the grape juice for a very short time, just long enough to give it a blush colour.

It pairs well with salmon, shellfish, mushrooms, camembert and gouda cheese. Personally, I think red wines in general pair well with chocolate.


The first mention of Merlot is from 1784 in the Bordeaux region of France.

A severe freeze practically wiped out the Merlot and Malbec grapes in France.  Viticulturalists attempted to produce a new crop every year after this, without success.

In 1970, the French Government placed a ban on the growth of new Merlot grapes since there had been so much financial ruin.

Then other countries were becoming successful with the grapes so, to get back into the game, they lifted the ban.

Predominant regions to produce Merlot are Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Chile, Australia and, of course, Bordeaux, France, the home of this grape.


Some say 2013…but it depends on who you talk to and the origins of the Merlot you are drinking. For an extensive list by region, this might help.

One thing I have learned is Bordeaux’ best year is 2015. I’ve tried it and it is devine!


Harvest occurs in California in July or August.

Ontario as late as October.

Western Canada might start in September and continue as far as November.

France’s Grape Harvest can start as early as August and continue into October.

Harvesting in Spain ranges between August and October.

Australia harvests from January to March.

In Chile, harvesting begins in the spring, March to May.

It all depends on the orchard and what flavour they are trying to produce. Ice wines are typically harvested in January.

Contact an orchard near you. Many of them welcome volunteers to help harvest. You’ll be glad you did!

Happy National Merlot Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on November 7, 2017.




National Brandied Fruit Day

What is brandied fruit? My mind goes back to my childhood when those boxes of Pot of Gold sat open on the coffee table at Christmas time. Rum chocolates and that sort of thing.

Brandied fruit is not so tame, I’ve discovered.

Bourbonized Apricots

When I think about it, I have actually eaten this. On a vacation to the Dominican Republic a few years back, I returned, quite happily, with some delicious tequila, called Bear Hug, that I had sampled at the duty free shop.

No lemon, nor salt is required to toss one of these shots back. It is the sweetest, smoothest tasting tequila I have ever tried. Better yet, don’t toss it back. Savour it’s delightfulness with a small ice cube. Move over, Jose Cuervo!

A nice little gift waited for me at the bottom of this bottle of Bear Hug. Not a worm but strips of papaya! Those little babies pack a punch! Be careful eating too much in one sitting, otherwise you’ll end up with alcohol poisoning.

Granted the title implies using brandy, but, based on the above combination, why not use any favorite liquor? Incidentally, brandy is produced from the distillation of wine. Whereas, wine is the product of fermentation and, in many cases, aging.

Again, I will mention the Bitters Experiment. The fruit I have used so far are apricots and cranberries. Use your imagination! Mangoes are my next target. The most popular are: Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Pears, Peaches and Plums. A variety of berries work great, too!

As far as the alcohol aspect, you can use Armagnac, American Brandies or Cognac. Catch my post coming up in February for National Brandy Day.

Jack Daniels & Cranberries

For the best results, infuse your chosen fruit in your best tasting alcohol for at least one month.

The down side is you have to add alot of sugar, such as the case of this recipe. I did not add sugar to my fruit infusions but could add honey if I so chose. Or I could mix my bitters with a fruit juice or a sweet liqueur, the options are endless.

I did find one that requires much less if you’re interested in attempting your own concoction for National Brandied Fruit Day.

Make Your Own Brandied Fruit

1 pound of fruit

3-4 tablespoons of sugar (more if the fruit used isn’t overly sweet)

1/3 cup water

2 inches of a vanilla bean

Additional spices, such as cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, etc, even citrus peels, can be experimented with.

Simmer water and sugar and cook until clear. Let cool.

Sprinkle the cut/sliced/chopped fruit with lemon juice. Fill sterilized jars, leaving half an inch of space at the top. Pour the brandy/liquor mix to fill the rest of the jar.

Add small bits of vanilla to each jar and any spices you wish. Seal and store in a dark place for a month or longer.

Once it’s ready in a month from now and you want to nibble on a couple of pieces, top up the jar with more of the same alcohol/brandy to keep the fruit safe for consumption.

A jar should last up to 10 months in the refrigerator after opening.

For the full recipe, since I made modifications to my own preference.

Ways to Enjoy Brandied Fruit

  1. On top of ice cream.
  2. All by itself.
  3. When the girls come over for a pajama party. (No one’s driving after a few of these, right?!)
  4. Toss some in your Sangria.
  5. As an accompaniment to your cheese plate.
  6. Bake it into a cake.

I would love to hear of any of your variations of fruit and liquor/liqueur. Drop me a line!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on her birthday, October 20, 2017.


National Liqueur Day

First, let’s identify liqueur. As it is different from liquor.

Liqueur is an alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit such as vodka, rum or gin flavored with the likes of fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers, Nuts and additional sugar.

Liqueur vs Liquor

Something to note: a final liqueur is made up of 25% sugar. Avoiding carbs? Avoid liqueur.

Essentially, it is alcohol and plants.

The name comes from the French word, liquifacere, meaning to liquify.

As this meaning implies, liqueur is blended long enough for the flavors to marry. There is no aging involved.

Originally,  it was used as an herbal medicine in Italy in the 1300s. As a digestive, for example.

Monks were generally known to prepare them. Imagine dropping in to your local monastery for some feel good beverages!

Liqueur is also known as a Cordial  or Schnapps. However, the Commonwealth of Nations considers it a concentrated non-alcoholic fruit syrup, such as the bar-essential grenadine or a Cherry Cordial.

Germany and the Scandinavian regions refer to brandy or aquavit as Schnapps.

No wonder it gets confusing!

To add to the confusion, distilleries are adding flavors to their products which can adjust the ABV or the amount of sugar.

The Difference (excluding flavored liquors)

Liqueur Liquor
Distilled alcohol is the base to which spices, herbs, fruit, nuts, anything plant-based really, and sugar (usually lots of it!) are added. Is first fermented from a grain or a plant then distilled.
Very sweet since a form of sugar is added (honey, molasses, glucose, etc). Not sweet tasting because any natural sugar is turns into ethanol and carbon dioxide during fermentation.
Lower alcohol content, due to the addition of sugar – most are minimum 20% ABV. Higher alcohol content – usually about 40% ABV or higher.
Syrupy consistency. Watery substance.

In a nutshell, the succession is as follows:

Liquor (Base Grain) → Bitters (+Herb/Spice) → Liqueur (+Sugar)

Bourbonized Apricots

This brings me to my Big Experiment of the year. The Bitters.  A few months ago, I began the infusion of various liquors with plant based products, for example, apricots and bourbon.

The result is a softened tasting bourbon and some very potent apricots! Based on the above principles, I added an ounce of vodka and a spoonful of honey. Voila, a homemade liqueur! Notice the change in transparency (see below). Pure Apple Cider is also added to make it into a delicious fall beverage.

Anise is a very fascinating liqueur. In its plain form, it is clear. Add water and watch the change. It becomes cloudy. The licorice oil

Anise Flavoured Liqueur

remains within at the high concentration level when it is sold. As soon as the alcohol concentration changes, it reacts, crystallize get.  This is referred to as the ouzo effect. Not to be confused with actual Ouzo.


Fun With Liqueur

1. Shoot it straight up

2. Sip it with ice after dinner.

3. Layer it into a work of art.

4. Try Advocaat for a different edge. They use non-plant additions: egg yolks. Think egg nog (ish)

ABV = alcohol by volume

Apricot-Infused Bourbon with Vodka added
Apricot-Infused Bourbon with the honey then cider added









Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on October 16, 2017

It’s National Vodka Day

Vodka, an Eastern European spirit stems from the Russian word voda which means little water.

Polish Vodka is traced back to the 11th Century and was referred to as gorzalka. This translates to “to burn”. Hmm, how proper.

Today, it is more commonly called  Woda in Poland.

I’m not so sure I like Wikipedia’s description of vodka where it states that it is made up of water and ethanol. Think I’ll steer clear of drinking vodka and maybe put some in my gas tank instead.

But really, it is fermented cereal grains, and sometimes, potatoes. Some brands use fruit or sugar.

In 1405, the first written mention of the word vodka comes from court documents  from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. It refers to medicine while gorzalka was still meant as the distilled drink.

The Age of Vodka

The oldest distillery, Sobieski, dating back to 1864 in Starogard Gdańsk,  Poland.

Made from 100% Dankowski Rye.

In the fields of nearby towns, Freda, Lubichowo, and Osowo Leśne, the grain, specifically for their vodka, is grown. Rye is their specialty and has received a Gold medal for their product.

Despite all this greatness, the cost is very comparable to the ever popular Smirnoff.

A point of interest, if you’re in Poland, visit the largest castle in the world, the 14th Century Malbork Castle, near the Baltic Sea coast.

Also in Poland is the Wierzynek, a restaurant in Kraków, which showcases its long running heritage. The building originates back to the 1300’s!

On opening night in 1364, 5 kings and 5 princes attended the affair. It has maintained upper status ever since.

Smirnoff History in Short

Made from Fermented Corn.

Pyotr Smirnov began his distillery in Moscow in 1864 and labelled it as PA Smirnoff. He pioneered the charcoal method of distillation. His third son, Vladmir Smirnoff took over when Pyotr passed away in 1898 and made it a huge success. For awhile.

In 1904, Vladmir was forced to sell. He re-established the distillery in Constantinople in 1920 after having to flee Russia, escaping, luckily with his recipe, from an anti-alcohol campaign . He moved again to Poland and renamed the vodka, Smirnoff, the French spelling. A second factory opened in Paris in 1925 with marginal success. He joined with Rudolph Kunett but ran into financial trouble. Enter John Martin, of A1 Sauce fame who bought the rights to Smirnoff in 1939. Martin marketed the corn-based spirit as the “white whisky” with no taste and no smell.

A Soviet-based Vodka made from wheat and rye.

They, too, use the charcoal method which they believe mellows the spirit and removes impurities.

Something to make note of: Regular Smirnoff is gluten-free whereas, the flavoured Smirnoff, all 31 of them, are not.

Żubrówka is a pale yellow vodka distilled from rye. Translated, it is Bison Grass Vodka. The Bison Grass is grown in Białowieża Forest, Poland.

Gotta love wikipedia. They have compiled a list of vodka, the country they’re  from, and from what they are fermented.

I dare say, Canada has one of the coolest looking bottles in the list! You’ve probably seen it in your liquor store?

Not on the list, however, is Beattie’s which is made from potatoes. They are situated in Alliston, Ontario but the family-owned business has Scottish heritage.

Wherever you are, there is likely a distillery nearby to  try out for National Vodka Day.

Some may drink this spirit straight but personally, I prefer to mix it, especially in a Caesar.

Mix it up with almost anything! Cranberry juice, 7-UP, I hear Mountain Dew is quite good, too, lemonade, even throw some in your Sangria for an extra kick. Add a mix of pineapple and orange juice or each on their own. Not that I’m promoting it but Red Bull is a staple mix for it now. It does taste good but so not good for you for so many reasons. But that’s another blog….

The dangerous thing about mixing with vodka is how it sneaks up on you. It is virtually tasteless so you think you’re drinking juice, or whatever your mix is, then drink a ton of them. End of story. We know where THAT leads….to a day after hangover!

So please drink responsibly.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on October 4, 2017.








What Are YOU Doing For Oktoberfest?

On October 12, 1810, King Ludwig married  Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The entire town was invited to the celebration on the fields at the front of the city gates. These fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”), to honour the Princess.

Horse races were held on October 18, 1810 to honour the newly wed couple.

The celebrations were repeated the following year and have continued ever since. Well, mostly. They skipped the year 1813, considering Bavaria’s involvement in the Napoleonic War. Over the years, occasional years have been missed, as well, due to cholera outbreaks, depression and World Wars I and II.

In 1819, it was declared an annual event and in later years, officials pushed the date back. The temperatures in late September were much more tolerable and the days were longer.

Since 1850, there has been a parade to honour the wedding of King Ludwig and his bride, to mimic the one that occurred in 1810.

The parade starts in downtown Munich and ends at the fairgrounds, today known as Weisn, where the town Mayor officially opens the taps at exactly 12:00 pm.

12 gunshots are sounded off to alert the town’s restaurant owners that they can officially open their beer taps.

Oktoberfest is a huge fair with amusement rides, beer tents, music, games and and all of the traditional foods famous of Germany.

Munich, Germany

In Munich this year, celebrations are held under the Schottenhamel tent in Thereisienwiese. It might be a good idea to reserve a spot in the beer tent as it will fill up quickly. Once it does, they close off entrances. There are many options of getting there.

More than 6 million people visit this particular Oktoberfest every year. Can you imagine how much beer is served to accommodate all these visitors?!

In 2013, 7.7 million litres of it! Get your litre on September 16 until October 3rd.

While you’re in Munich, skate at the Olympic rink or swim in the Olympic sized pool. 1972 was the year of Olga Korbut so take a trip down memory lane.

Where Is The Second Largest Oktoberfest Celebration Held?

Next to the massive Munich celebrations, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, nailed this one. They are rivaled to be the second largest fair in the world with somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million visitors. It is the largest in North America and runs from October 10-18 this year.

Oktoberfest leads up to the Canadian Thanksgiving Parade which is televised annually from Kitchener-Waterloo, the very German region of Ontario. Despite the mass numbers in attendees, it still does not reach the caliber of Munich with the exciting roller coasters.

Across The World

Next in line, as far as size is concerned, is Blumenau, Brazil where 700,000 people attend the 33 year old festival. It runs from October 8-26.

Otto Blumenau, a German philosopher, founded the town along with 17 countrymen and established it as a farming community in 1850. Of the 320,000 residents, 30% are of German descent. Remember, this is Brazil!

Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, with it’s large German region, puts on a fairly large Oktoberfest. Aside from the usual fare of beer, food, more food, music, they at least feature one out of the ordinary event. Weiner dog races!

They claim to be the second largest with anywhere between 500,000 and 650,000 annual attendees. This slightly pales to the Ontario version with 750,000 people. Their week long festival runs from September 19-26.

The Marco Polo Hotel, in Hong Kong, hosts a 23 day festival where an attendee might drink a modest 1 and a half litres of Lowenbrau-equivalent beer, or about 4 cups per person. Get there early, though, because they only serve 200 steins per night. The festival starts October 17 and ends November 8.

Brisbane, Australia, Frankenmuth, Michigan and Fredricksburg, Texas are just a few cities that have been celebrating Oktoberfest for years with the usual set-up.

It would be great to find a city that created a little more edge and excitement to compare to Munich, Germany. So, I’ll keep going….

South Africa brings a travelling Oktoberfest show, Bierfest, to various cities from September to November. These add a little sparkle with a costume contest. From Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, a 4,000 seat tent is set up for the festivities.

Another in South Africa is Oktoberfest SA with a big list of musical entertainment.

The National Beer Festival in Argentina, started by German immigrants in 1963, is held at Villa General Belgrano, Córdoba. The 6,000 German residents of Belgrano welcome 30,000 people for their festival that has run for 52 years. Catch this one from October 6-16.

Now we’re talking…. Portland, Oregon treats their partygoers right! They offer roller skating, mini golf, performances and rollercoasters.

Colorado has it going on, too, with an outdoor DJ in the ballpark region in Denver.

Tampa, Florida even celebrates and holds a “Carry The Wench”. Men carry their wives through an obstacle course.

Miami hosts a ferris wheel and a zipline. Now it’s getting fun!

Here is a list of what has been organized across Florida but double check as the site may not be updated due to the storms.

Festivities are literally everywhere. Where is the one closest to you? All it takes is a Google search.

Update: In lieu of the hurricanes, flooding and fires happening all over the world recently, some festivals  may be cancelled. Godspeed to those who have lost and suffered through this devastation.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe for Oktoberfest 2017


Want The Bottom Line on Red Wine? Here’s 10!

Hot on the heels of Pinot Noir Day, we have, yet again, reason to celebrate with a glass of wine.

Red wine, that is.

Uno. The ideal temperature for wine storage is from 45-65 F or 4-18 C. And the same temperature must remain constant, no fluctuations. The colder it is, the longer it will last.

I mean, really, have you ever left a bottle of wine the trunk of your car in the summer heat? It’s done, vinegar. Don’t drink it.

Dos. Shorter fermentation period = low histamines

Tres. Low sugar content = drier wine, sugar depletes the liquid in your head which will cause a headache so if there’s less sugar, there’s less chance of a headache. And please, avoid eating something sugary when drinking wine. Double Trouble.

Cuatro. Humidity should be between 60-80% to slow down the aging process.

Cinco. Keep it out of direct sunlight. For the same reason. Dim lighting is ok.

Sample Organic Section

Seis. Organic = low sulphites

A couple of examples: Domaine Jean Bousquet, 35 South and this Bordeaux

Siete. Tannins = a preservative, there could be some truth to the wine drinker being well-preserved.

Tannins are present due to the grape skins, seeds, stems and the good old oak barrel.

Beaujolais or a Tempranillo tend to have lower levels of tannins. If you don’t live in Canada, search your local liquor store for a good brand.

Nueve. For those who stay away from wine because they give you a headache? It’s dehydrating you…drink water.

Diez. Oxygen = killing your wine.

So yes, if you transfer unused wine to a smaller bottle, it will maintain it’s freshness. I picked up a mini bottle and re-use it all the time now. Grab one near the liquor store check-out. If  there isn’t any room for the oxygen to sit within your bottle, it won’t break down.

Better yet, grab your friend and enjoy the whole bottle today for Red Wine Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 28, 2017


Prefer Bourbon or Whisky For Your Sour?

Simple…. Delicious…. Whisky Sour.

1 oz bourbon…. Why bourbon? Because it tastes better!

3 oz lemon/lime

Made the best way…with Bourbon

Garnish with whatever you like but traditionally it is with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry.

For National Whisky Sour Day, try these variations:

Boston Sour – same as above but shake with an egg white and ice.

Ward 8 – same as above but add orange juice and grenadine.

I’m not knocking the whisky. I’ve had a few sours in my day and loved them! Then, one kind bartender made one for me with Bourbon. I’ll never go back to whisky now!

As a quick reminder, whisky could be made from various grains such as wheat, rye, maize or barley and is aged in charred white oak barrels.

Elliot Stubb claims to have invented the Whisky sour in 1872.

Prince Edward County’s Finest Whisky

But let’s back up 2 years. In the weekly Waukesha, Wisconsin newspaper, Waukesha Plaindealer,  on Tuesday, January 4, 1870, there is an article written by Terence McGrant (Irish cousin to former President Ulysses S. Grant) who makes a reference to this cocktail: “Amen,” says the Methodist, as he ordered another whisky sour. (In the link above, 4th column from left, near the bottom).

Back it up even further, to 1862, when Jerry Thomas published The Bartender’s Guide. His Whisky Cocktail is strangely close to what we know as a whisky sour today. Enter “50” in the page number box to find it.

In the same fashion as the rum rations of the 17th Century, whisky would have substituted rum since it was more readily available. Otherwise, you had to wait for the rum to arrive. Surely, that wasn’t happening! To the rye, the juice from a lemon or lime would be added.

Since the real origins could be anywhere in the world, and since I couldn’t find any older concrete evidence other than Terence McGrant’s article, let’s go with Wisconsin!

Not too far from Waukesha is the city of festivals, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There’s always something going on. Today on Whisky Sour Day, there is a Mexican Fiesta running for the next 2 days. Don’t miss the tequila tasting. Ahem, a little off topic but worthwhile just the same.

Take your pick of distilleries scattered throughout Wisconsin, with 3 of them in Milwaukee, to include on your next visit. They’re on my list!

Find someone to concoct your whisky sour today or whip one up at home. It’s so easy. Check your freezer section for frozen concentrated limeade, even lemonade, and make a pitcher of it to share with friends. It’s Friday after all!

Experiment with the lemons and limes to find out how you like it best.

What’s your preference, whisky or bourbon?

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 25, 2017.

What your cocktail will look like shaken with an egg white.




National Pinot Noir Day

Pinot Noir is French for pine and black. Pine because the clusters of grapes resemble pine cones. Black due to the dark colored grapes which tend to produce a lighter colored, medium bodied wine.

If you are looking to lower your tannin intake when enjoying your wine, Pinot Noir is a good option. The grapes, Vitis Vinafera, contain lower phenolic compounds.

Pinot Noir originates, but is not limited to, the Burgundy region of France, namely in Cote-d’Or. It grows very successfully all over the world and does well in cooler climates.

Funky Purple Closson Chase

Even in Canada. Locally, visit Prince Edward County and you will most likely find a Pinot Noir grown and bottled right there.

Closson Chase headquarters is an interesting purple barn with a neat backyard area, right beside their vines. Grab a patio table and linger over your selected wine samples.

Huff Estates, which is also a hotel, did not offer something quite so comfortable for tastings. It was extremely busy, being a Saturday, so the servers were very rushed and could not afford too much time for explanations. Nor do they offer organic wines.

They do offer live music on the patio every Sunday afternoon from May to September.

View of vines from our table in the backyard of Closson Chase

The rustic style of The Grange proved to be very inviting. The taste of their wines, a riesling, a rose and a gamay pinot, were surprisingly excellent.

I tend to shy away from Ontario wines at my local shop. Perhaps, they deserve a little more attention because these Pinot’s caught my attention.

At Naggiar Vineyards, the grapes are hand-picked at night because the bugs and the heat make it very uncomfortable. Since their humble beginnings in Grass Valley, CA in 1998, they now produce 5600 cases of wine annually.

The list could go on forever with so much Pinot Noir made all over the world. The organic section of wine stores is growing quite rapidly, too.

Organic is a vague term and used in many different ways with regards to wine-making.

If a vineyard’s grapes go through 3 consecutive years of growing without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it can be labelled as organic.

Parts Per Million Debate

A wine can be labelled organic even if it is 90% organically grown as long as the sulphite levels are low enough. It might be a good  thing a little sulphite is present for its antioxidant properties. Without it, the wine will spoil sooner than later.

Spanish Tempranillo is a low acid wine

Organically-grown grapes aren’t necessarily labelled as organic if the sulphite level exceeds 200 PPM. Sulphites are naturally present in fruit, especially grape skins, but could also be added during wine processing.

Every country is different. Some do not require labels and others do. The United States requires companies to add sulphites to their labels if the its level is higher than 10 PPM. This regulation came into being since sulphur has become a great health concern.

Generally, a wine without added sulphites, au naturel, will range from 10 – 40 PPM. If they are added during processing, the level can reach as high as 350 PPM. Sorry but you can’t avoid them completely, all wines have some degree of it.

Wine is not the only drink where you will find sulphites. The same amount, approximately 300 PPM, is in soda, and fruit juice contains more than either of these.

If you know you are sensitive to sulphites, and really can’t stand the idea of not having a glass with dinner, consider eliminating processed foods instead. French fries contain almost 2,000 PPM and dried fruit tops the chart with a whopping 3,500 PPM.

That glass of dry red with 50 PPM doesn’t seem so threatening, now, does it?

Are Sulphites Necessary?

To prevent spoiling, then yes. Low acidity wines require more sulphur than wines with higher acidity. Oddly, white wines contain more sulphur than reds.

Wines with higher sugar content, which tend to be whites, have more sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.

Examples of low acid wines:




Cabernet Sauvignon




10 mg of sugar

Wines with higher acid levels:


Chenin Blanc

Pinot Noir


Cabernet Franc





Is Organic a Stigma?

Some vineyard owners believe it is. They believe people may see it as poorer quality so they will opt to leave that information out of their label.

For example, according to Good Housekeeping Magazine, Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir is organic but the label lacks this information.

Chilean Cono Sur‘s organic Pinot Noir promises low tannins without sparing rich texture. Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, Cono Sur uses stainless steel tanks to hold their wine before transferring to oak barrels. They built an additional cellar to house the 530,000 litres of top pinot noir.

In the 1950’s, French enologist Emile Peynaud suggested using stainless steel barrels when he learned dairy farms avoided transferring bacteria in their stainless tanks. He thought, why not with wine. Wood holds onto bacteria, possibly infecting new batches, and resists any attempts at sterilization. Stainless is easy to clean and sterilize.

However, just because wine is aging in stainless, does not mean it is without oak. Some wineries might use oak chips of planks suspended inside the barrels.

Domaine Jean Bousquet, an Argentinian vineyard, makes a delicious organic wine. As far as organic versions, they make a white blend with lemon and apple, a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve bought these reds numerous times and can rely on their smooth, flavourful taste.

On The Wine Trail in Prince Edward County, Ontario

If your local wine shop does not have a separate section for organic beverages, ask for help.

Or throw caution to the wind and choose any wine you desire.

But do find a way to enjoy your glass of Pinot Noir today. Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on April 18, 2017.

It’s National Rum Day!

This is one liquor that I will not find locally grown. Sugarcane just doesn’t grow around here. Here, being Canada. Maybe where you are, it grows.

Distillers of rum are generally in the Caribbean or Latin America. Any other distillery selling it, is importing it.

Imported from Guyana

It can certainly be bottled anywhere but the cane will come from the south.

Rum, itself, is made from molasses which comes from sugarcane. The quality and variety of the cane, the soil and the climate are all factors in the final outcome of rum.

The word Rum is thought to have come from either the words rumbullion or rumbustion/rumbastion which are slang for uproar or tumult. These words came about around the same time as the invention of rum. One theory.

Saccharum is Latin for sugar so it’s possible this is why it is called Rum.

Since 2011, Diageo (manufacturers) have used the slogan, To Live, Love and Loot to salute Sir Henry Morgan.

In the 17th Century, the Caribbean saw the first distillation of the juice from sugarcane.

Even prior to this, there are recordings of the production of rum all over the world.

In Brazil in 1620.

In the 14th-century, Marco Polo claimed, and recorded, that a “very good wine of sugar” was offered to him in the region that is now Iran.

Yet, long before this, it is believed that fermented drinks from sugarcane were consumed in ancient India or China. From there, it spread so that it seemed other parts of the world were the first to distill it.

Today, India is the world’s largest market for rum. Contessa, Old Monk, Amrut and Old Port are just a few of the rums produced in India.

When the Royal Navy introduced rum rations, it was meant to ward off scurvy. They kept water on board to prevent dehydration. The water would always spoil. Then they introduced beer, as mentioned in a previous blog, which led to rum. They still kept a water supply for the use of mixing it with the beer and the rum before it spoiled.

The lime that was added to the rum probably kept the scurvy away, not the alcohol.

Even Newfoundland got in on the frenzy. Fishermen exchanged their salt fish for rum when they traveled to the West Indies. As a result, fish became the main dish in Jamaica and rum became the drink of choice in Newfoundland.

Back then, Screech was a Demerara Rum, originally produced in Guyana. Today, it is a Jamaican Rum.

As the story goes, during WWII, American soldiers downed this very strong rum like it was water. It affected one soldier in particular rather intensely.

“What the cripes was that ungodly screech?” The taciturn Newf simply replied, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.”    -Screech Rum

The Kraken, originated in Trinidad in 2010.

Visit The Screech Room to find out what all the fuss is about and get yer Screech on.

Established in Barbados in 1705, Mount Gay Rum, the oldest distillery, is still in operation 300 years later. Enjoy one of many tours. The Bottomless Rum Punch Station sounds awfully interesting.

Sir John Gay helped manage a distillery with John Sober (ahem, hilarious coincidence!) who had acquired it in 1703. Together they developed a unique tasting rum that spread the world.

The island of Barbados was originally discovered by the Portegese. The name means bearded ones and is said to describe the vegetation, like the bearded trees.

Bacardi & The Bat

Bacardi, founded by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, is the largest rum producer and is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It’s humble beginnings, in Santiago de Cuba in 1830, saw Massó deal in the import of wine then branched out to spirits.

Facundo tried to tame the strong liquor, experimenting with various methods until he found the best one. He strained the fermented liquid through charcoal which removed impurities. A process they still incorporate today. He, then, aged it in white oak barrels. The result, a smooth, mellow rum.

After a fire in 1880, a new plant officially opened in 1936 in San Juan. This is now referred to as The Cathedral of Rum.

The Bat is a symbol of good fortune. Facundo’s wife, Amalia, noticed the fruit bats living in the rafters of the distillery in Santiago de Cuba and suggested associating them with their company.

Today, they offer 3 different tours of the distillery: Historical, Rum Tasting and the Mixology Tour which sounds like tons of fun! I’m checking flights right now!

The 7-generation family-owned company sells more than 200 million bottles per year. This empire business deals in more than just rum. They produce everything: vodka, bourbon, whisky, gin, vermouth, and tequila.

The Lineup at Kinsip House in Prince Edward County.

Friendly tastings and distillery tours are available at the very homey Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, and boy are they fine, especially the Gin but we’re on Rum today.

It arrives as molasses which is Barbados style. It isn’t the origin of product but represents a style.  It is the first boiling of the sugar cane which makes a much lighter syrup vs black strap which is the final boiling.”    -Jeremiah Soucie, President at Kinsip House.

According to, these are the best rum regions of the world.

Popular rum cocktails

Mai Tai – white and dark rum, lime juice, syrup, orange curacao.

Mojitos – rum, mint, soda water.

Pina Colada – rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream or coconut water.

The Hurricane – rum, passionfruit juice, lemon juice.

Dark and Stormy – rum, ginger beer and bitters.

Daquiri – rum, simple syrup, lime juice.

Hot Buttered Rum – get the full recipe.

Long Island Iced Tea – rum, gin, tequila, vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, syrup and a splash of cola.

Zombie – white, gold & dark rum, Juice: papaya, pineapple, lime, sugar.

Egg nog – just add rum and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The two main ingredients for a Dark and Stormy. Just add bitters.

What Can You Do With Rum?

Aside from the obvious….

Pour it over ice cream

Put it in a rum punch

Make a rum cake

Soak some gummy bears in it…ahem, you know who you are!

Among the recipes on the side bar, I have included some different sugars to experiment with when making Simple Syrup.

Demerara, not only a sugar, is a region in Guyana where this light brown sugar originates. Due to its growing popularity, it is now grown in Mexico, Hawaii and India to name a few. 

The Fishbowl

Compared to regular brown sugar which is really only white sugar dyed with molasses. Demerara’s large grain sugar would be a healthier choice and a tastier choice with it’s caramel flavour. White sugar is refined to remove all of the minerals, such as chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese and zinc. These all help the body digest sugar.

Demerara, and turbinado sugar, still contain these minerals. Try it in your coffee (aka caramel flavoured coffee), cookies and muffins. 

My Favourite-Malibu on Ice

Nicknames for Rum


demon water

pirate’s drink

navy neaters

Barbados water



Brad, at Malone’s Bar & Grill, makes a mean Mai Tai!

Nelson’s Blood – Admiral Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar, had his body preserved in a rum cask and transported to his final resting place. For a time after this, some referred to rum as Nelson’s Blood.

Splice The Main Brace – when you received your second rum ration of the day.



Wherever you are in the world, find yourself some rum, or whatever you’d like to call it, and salute your ancestors who developed this spirit.

Stay tuned later this year for Rum Punch Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 16, 2017

It’s International Beer Day!

Earlier in the year, we saw National Beer Day pass us by. If you missed your chance to grab a celebratory beer that day after work, today is another opportunity.

In April, I discovered the origins, so I will bypass this and go right into something else.

How Beer Has Changed Over The Years

Ale has evolved since Medieval times due to technique. Malt, oats, yeast and water are the only ingredients used back then.

The liquid containing sugars and protein, the wort, extracted from the grain, was not boiled prior to fermenting.

For it to be considered beer, it had to be boiled with hops.

There are many factors that separate beer from ale from pilsners, etc. But they all have one common ingredient. Sugar. Fermented sugar. These sugars come from the starches in the base malt.

From this common base ingredient, you can make the beer any flavour you wish.

Brew it at a low temperature and you will end up with a lager.

Brewing at a high temperature will produce an ale.

Add hops and you get a pilsner. The quick story on that? It was an accident. After some major spoilage of a batch of lager was thrown away, a professional was hired.

Josef Groll, specifically brought in from Bavaria to “fix” it so the lager wouldn’t spoil, added Saaz hops. Yes, generally, beer has hops in it but Saaz hops has a stronger bite.

Cleaning Up The Beer

One of the biggest changes in beer is the introduction of Ciders. Some have a beer taste and some are made from apple juice that is fermented.

Somersby, the new cider gaining much popularity, is a great gluten-free option. It claims to have no artificial flavours, colour or sweeteners.

It does not have a beer taste which, in my opinion, is a good thing. If you know you are gluten intolerant, it might be a good choice if you are switching away from beer.

It is made by the Danish brewers Carlsberg Group and has spread its Somersby wings across 46 countries.

A phone call may have to be made to Somersby to question the presence of sulphites in their drink.

According to the Nutrition Diva at, sulphites are preservatives and antioxidants. Remember, those antioxidants are what prevents fruit from turning brown.

Notice the last ingredient…

Is Somersby adding the sulphites for this purpose or is it in there naturally?

This from Mahorall Farm Cider where they brew cider without sulphites:

“Using sulphites are one way to kill the natural yeast that is naturally present in apple juice. An added yeast that has been cultured is then added to create a more standardised product and reduces the risk of spoilage and waste for the producer.”

If you are trying to make your own cider, be careful not to purchase a base cider that has chemical preservatives (sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate). These will kill the yeast and it will not ferment.

The process of pasteurization affects the flavour of cider as well. Usually this is through heat, but “cold pasteurization” is another option.

However, this process involves gamma rays. Sounds like an unhealthy way to go. I would likely choose a homemade version.

On that note, there are gluten free beers if you just can’t live without the taste of a cold brew on a hot day. Some breweries will use gluten free grain to produce their final product. Others, such as the Brunehaut, de-glutenize during the brewing process.

As far as sulphites in beer go, it looks like they can be present naturally during the fermentation process but as a practice, breweries do not deliberately add them.

Up And Coming Gluten Free Beer

Estrella Damm Daura – Spain. This beer has won the Superior Taste Award of the International Taste & Quality Institute of Brussels 3 years in a row. Visits to the brewery are allowed. This is the only beer of these 5 that are available at the LCBO in Ontario.

Green’s – Belgium. They brew 9 different gluten free beers ranging from pale to dark. A great option for it’s healthy, ancient grains such as sorghum, millet and brown rice which contain 3 times higher the amount of zinc found in barley.

Omission – A brewery in Oregon specifically crafts all of their beer to be below 20ppm of gluten. (parts per million)

Brunehaut Bio Blonde – Belgium. It’s also an organic and vegan product.

New Planet – Colorado. 3 out of their 5 products are 100% gluten free: Pale, Blonde and Raspberry. Seclusion and Tread Lightly go through the process of de-glutenization and they cannot guarantee it’s complete removal.

Another way beer is morphing is at the Mill St Pub with a newer addition of Barley Wine.

This version is aged in whisky barrels so keep in mind it will have tannins.

With all the eccentric mixes and new brews, don’t forget the classics….

With Clamato Juice

With Ginger Ale

And the best way to have a beer?

With a Margarita!

How about vodka and fruit juice? Well, ok, that’s not a classic version but it sure looks good! See LCBO for recipes.

New opinions on the benefits of beer can be found everywhere. Some even say moderate consumption can be healthy. Go figure!

Cheers to another beer day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 5, 2017.