Saturday, 10 October 2015

Real Man Travels: Wine Tasting 101

Wine Tasting 101-

When I was a young man, at the ripe age of 19 , I thought Coors light was a good beer....I also thought wine was awful. Thankfully, as I have matured so has my palette and I find myself enjoying the wide variety of beers available. Unfortunately as my beer knowledge has expanded, my knowledge of wine has remained at a standstill. As I creep ever so close to thirty,  I feel that now is the time to put on my big boy pants, take a seat at the grown ups table, and learn how to enjoy wine.

Earlier this year I tried to educate myself by simply reading the small "vintages" flyer available in my local LCBO. I found a few I would label as "not terrible"  before being distracted by a new craft beer I'd yet to sample.

Determined to explore this new horizon, I set off to beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario - One of Canada's premier wine regions- to quench my new found thirst for knowledge. With some guidance from the great folks over at Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would know just where to begin.

Inside Diamond Estates winery. Wine as far as the eye can see!
Diamond Estates winery is home to many great wines, producing wines under 10 brand names, with grapes from 25 Niagara region farms.  It was there that we were introduced to Diamond Estates On-Site Wine Expert, Brae. After getting a feel for our knowledge about wine, Brae thought she would start us off with the simple 5 steps of  wine drinking.  You can follow along at home, start by pouring a glass and then follow along.

Step 1: Look at the wine. Simple enough place the wine glass against a white background,  or a sheet of paper if available. "the colour of a wine will give you some clues to what the wine might taste like" Brae remarked. A golden colouring could indicate a toffee, or buttery taste. Where a lighter yellow (straw coloured) would indicate citrus flavours. With red's the darker the colouring the more bold the flavouring from the grape will be.

A pure white background can be handy when decoded the characteristic of a wine.
Step 2: Swirl it.  This actually accomplishes something more than making you look like a pompous ass, it oxygenates the wine. Pulling air into the wine helps to smooth out the flavour and opens up the aromas.  Brae further punctuates the importance of aeration to wine with this equation - "pouring your wine through an aerator has the same affect as one hour in a decanter. One hour in a decanter is equal to one year in a cellar"

Step 3: Smell it. Your nose and mouth aren't close together on your face for nothing. By taking a big whiff your pre-programming your brain to what tastes might lie ahead. The average person has trouble readily identifying most scents listed on a wine tasting notes.  "You can start off smelling more items on your trip to grocery store,  or if you are just trying to seem cool to your friends  you can just make it up"

Grapes continue to ripen on the vines surrounding Diamond Estates.
Step 4: Cheers!  Often overlooked in wine circles is the social aspect. As with beer share the experience with those around you, and as we know from history it ensures your enemies have not poisoned your drink.

Step 5: Taste it. Brae suggested doing this in three sips to let the flavours cover your entire palate. I say just don't pound it back like a shot.

There you have it, an easy to follow five step guide to wine tasting. This process allows you to experience a wine as it was intended. Additionally important is sampling from a wide selections of wines to find a style of wine you enjoy. For me it was barrel fermented Chardonnay, it has a smooth oak flavouring that reminds me of scotch or whiskey. Please feel free to share your own favourites in the comments below!
Stay tuned for more from my recent travels in Niagara-on-the-lake, next up, Wine pairing!

Real Man Recipes - Thanksgiving Dinner Part 1: Turkey

Real Man Recipes - Thanksgiving Dinner Part 1: Turkey

It’s that time of year again when turkey’s everywhere (well mostly just in Canada) start running for their lives. I’m talking, of course, about Thanksgiving. And the crew here at Real Man Travels has got you rookies covered with some easy recipes to make sure you can knock the big dinner out of the park.

traditional thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving in Canada is just like in the USA, just earlier, and without NFL games.

A lot of people go to great lengths to try and take their turkey to the next level. News flash! Turkey is pretty damn good just the way it is. Here is a great, basic recipe to make your bird sing.

Go to the grocery store and buy a frozen turkey when they start going on sale. Make sure it’s a Grade A turkey, but don’t shy away from the utility turkey label. This usually just means it’s missing a wing or a leg or something superficial. Thaw the turkey out. Keep in mind that this might take a number of days. Thawing in the fridge is safest. Now, most turkeys come with the neck and giblets, which are usually stuffed up inside the abdominal cavity. I’m not a huge fan of the giblets, but hold on to the neck (queue the Christmas Vacation ‘Save the neck for me for Clark’ quotes). Throw the turkey into a roasting pan and put the neck in the pan beside it. Roughly chop 2-3 medium size onions and put those in the pan too. Pour some chicken broth into the pan (I make mine with chicken Bovril) so that there’s about an inch or so in the bottom of the pan. Now take a healthy dose of room temperature butter and start massaging your bird. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover that bad boy with foil (or a lid if your roaster is big enough).

male turkey
"You want to put what, where???"
Preheat the oven to 350 and pop him in for 15 minutes a pound. I like to crank up the oven to 400 and uncover for the last hour or so to get that nice golden colour on top; plus the crispy skin is most definitely where it’s at. Get yourself a meat thermometer and double check the internal temperature before taking it out. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.

When your bird is done, pull him out and let him rest a good 20-30 minutes before carving. For the love of all that is awesome, don’t get rid of your pan drippings. That’s where the sweet, sweet gravy lives. Check back later this week for the gravy recipe.

roast turkey
enjoy, and then nap,
Now I know what you’re thinking; where’s the stuffing? I don’t stuff my turkey because I make what we call ‘stuffing balls’. And you’ll have to check back later this week for that one, too.