A Little Help from My Friends

Issue #28 July 2021

Recently I was sitting on the back patio in the late afternoon sipping a little, you know what, when one of the great songs of the late 60’s came up randomly on Spotify. 

A Little Help From My Friends was written by, you know who and came to the world’s ears in 1967 as the second track on the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s album. 

A year later, the inimitable Joe Cocker presented his stirring, heartfelt rendition of the song that would build on its popularity and solidify its place in music as a rock classic.

JUNE 1: Album cover designed by art director Robert Fraser for rock and roll band “The Beatles” album entitled “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which was released on June 1, 1967. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Well sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes they just plain happen. 

In this case, pure serendipity was at work. As you may have seen in last month’s issue I invited anyone who would love to sing to the hilltops (kind of tough from a wine cellar) about a wine they love, and to send me their notes. I’m thrilled that a number of you took me up on the idea. As I thought, I’m not the only one who loves to talk about wine. 

So here are some wine favourites and words from a group of wine appreciators that I affectionately think of as Jim’s Affordable Cellar Dwellers.

Welcome back to the cellar.

Our first recommendation comes from Steve in Toronto. He says, “Our neighbours recently brought over this Chenin Blanc from South Africa as a gift.  A few days later it was well chilled and ready for a warm summer day.”

Steve’s Pick: Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc
South Africa
750 mL bottle  LCBO#:  495507

Steve goes on to say, “I noticed on the label it had a rating of 93 from a Star wine critic. But I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and taste; very light, refreshing, and understated, yet delicious. It’s dry, smooth and easy to drink, like the grapes decided to throw summer party for my taste buds. 

It’s well balanced and presents flavours of citrus. But they are subtle and it’s enjoyable to continue sipping to unearth the flavour.  It’s 13% so be careful with it, because it can sneak up on you. Great for sipping this time of year or pairing with cheese and crackers.  At one time it was only sold in cases, now the LCBO sells it individually. Best of all, it’s only $10. Enjoy!

Wow! I get the feeling Steve kind of likes this Chenin Blanc. Actually, it does sound very good. By the way, the Chenin Blanc grape is originally from France’s Loire Valley. South Africa adopted it and has been growing it since the late 1600’s.

We’re going to stay with white wine for our next recommendation. A different grape but an equally refreshing choice. This one comes to the cellar from Pam on that beautiful hideaway just east of Kingston known as Howe Island.

Pam’s Pick: Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio
Trentino, Italy
750 mL  bottle  LCBO#:  302380

Pam tells me she is not a monogamous wine drinker. You are not alone Pam. She says, “I have few favourites and many likes,” and succinctly describes this Mezzacorona as “a lovely crisp wine that is almost tart.”

Since learning about it I wanted to know more about where this wine comes from.

The province of Trentino in Northern Italy

Trento. Italy

Trentino (officially the Autonomous Province of Trentino) and its capital, the city of Trento, sit a little northeast of Milan in a valley where the Adige River flows from the Italian Alps. It’s refreshing just thinking about that.

Our next reco comes from Cathy in London. She modestly claims not to be an expert on wine.

That makes two of us Cathy. 

Actually, that reminds me of a wonderful line I must attribute to someone who is a wine expert and also a very good wine writer; Natalie MacLean. She puts judging wine in perspective with this practical thought, “If you like it, it’s good.” 

Wise words indeed. Btw, if you want a great wine read, I recommend Natalie’s excellent book, ‘Red, White and Drunk All Over’.

Back to Cathy’s wine pick. She tells me she has a few favourites and one of them is this Californian Chardonnay. 

Cathy’s Pick: Sand Point Chardonnay
California, USA
750 mL  bottle  LCBO#:  11194

Cathy says, “I am definitely not a wine expert but I do have some favorites. I lean towards the Chardonnays and the oakier the better!!” 

Well, I’d say she knows what she likes. And as for oaky Chardonnays, there are more of them in California than there are Ray Bans and Porsches.

It’s time for a red wine reco. This one comes courtesy of Brian in Toronto who is taking us back to Italy where he has found a real beauty that he wants to tell us about

Brian’s Pick: Terra d’Aligi Tatone Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016
Montepulciano, Italy
750 mL bottle  |   VINTAGES#:  994616

Here’s what Brian has to say. 

Tatone was a delightful surprise, to say the least. Located on the bottom shelf at the LCBO(a traditional bargain hunting ground for me), it was Tatone’s price that first drew my attention. I knew this wine was well-loved by its producers after raising the weighty bottle, appreciating its clean exquisite label, and feeling the deep punt. Bad wine rarely comes in well-made heavy bottles.”

Brian continues, “Tatone is a multi-layered wine from the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo area of Italy that, in my opinion, should definitely not reside on the bottom shelf. This well-made red has the typical fruity flavour of the region, but it also has traces of cocoa bean and cherry to balance out a hint of cracked pepper.Bold yet balanced with excellent structure and a long finish. While the word Tatone is an affectionate nickname for grandfather, it’s also my new word for top-shelf.” 

Woah! I think someone’s cutting my grass!! That was quite the eloquent reco Brian. Now I know who to call if I ever want to take a month off.

I don’t think there’s any more for me to say.  Jim’s Affordable Cellar Dwellers have said it all. Thanks again to Steve, Pam, Cathy and Brian for doing the painstaking, grueling work of discovering and tasting the great wines they’ve told us about. 

It really is terrific hearing wine recos from others. If anyone has a best kept wine secret they want to share with the rest of us here in The Cellar, do let me know. 

I can always use ‘a little help from my friends.’

We’ll leave it at that for this month. Until next time, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.


Thanks to everyone for signing up to my web page where you’ll see this each month as a blog. If you know anyone who is interested in following the newsletter, they just have to visit jimsafffordablecellar.ca to submit their email. The button is below the ‘back issues’. They’ll be notified each month, as will you, when each new issue is published. And the newsletter is a little more reader friendly there.

And please let me know if you’d like to share some wine you love with the rest of us. roamingbuffalo44@gmail.com 

“A visit to Jim’s slightly less affordable cellar.”

Issue #8   November, 2019

Well here we are once again at the foot of this year’s winter mountain. You could say we’re at base camp. Otherwise known as November.

As we all know only too well, there’s some tough sledding ahead. Really, we’re left with no choice but to grin and bear it, fully embrace it, or go to Florida.

In the meantime, because this month is the first in a while with cool, damp weather, maybe we deserve to brighten the gloom by treating ourselves. So this month, we’re going to live a little and break our usual under $20 rule. Fiscally friendly wine will take a back seat to three bottles that can pleasantly melt any thoughts we may have about approaching ice pellets.

The great Italian film director, Sergio Leone made a number of classic films starring Clint Eastwood that became known as ‘spaghetti westerns’. The theme of this issue, comes from the name of one of those films. ‘For a Few Dollars More’.

Welcome back to the cellar.

For this month, let’s call it Jim’s Slightly Less Affordable Cellar.

While the heat of summer not only calls for but demands a crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, a rich and full Chardonnay is just what Dr. November prescribes. This one comes to us from the home of Chardonnay; the Burgundy region of eastern France. There’s nothing like a white burgundy and Louis Jadot’s Bourgogne Chardonnay is an excellent example.


Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay
Burgundy, France
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  933077

What I really like about this burgundy is that unlike some Chardonnays, its makers are not heavy-handed with oak. They keep it subtle and let the grapes do the talking. It has a beautiful early morning golden hue. (Don’t worry, I’m not drinking it in the early morning). It has a scent of citrus, of pears and honeydew melon. And in the mouth, it’s rich and full and soft and creamy with a friendly refreshing hello from granny smith.   

As I mentioned Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay. But for me, this burgundy is quite at home in a glass in my hand.

Since the theme of this newsletter comes from a Sergio Leone film, it is only fitting that we get to know a red wine from the director’s homeland. Italy. Tuscany to be exact. So let’s get to know a blockbuster of a Chianti. Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2016.


Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2016
Tuscany, Italy
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  288530

This Chianti is deep ruby. Brooding and dark like November at five in the afternoon. Sorry for the reminder. It has a strong essence of black cherry and raspberry with sort of an orangey-ness. But the best part is having a sip. It’s medium bodied and smooth. There’s an ashy, woody flavour with some leathery spice and nice puckering tannins.

In the classic 1991 psychological thriller ‘Silence of the Lambs’, Hannibal Lecter famously liked someone’s liver and fava beans with a nice Chianti. This one would also be quite nice with a spaghetti western.

For our under the radar wine this month, just for fun I thought we should go ‘Down Under’ the radar. There isn’t anything really too out of one’s comfort zone, or that unknown about a Shiraz from Australia, except perhaps that everywhere else in the world, this grape is referred to as Syrah. I think it’s safe to say that we can refer to Best’s Bin No. 1 Shiraz as mighty nice.


Best’s Bin No. 1 Shiraz 2016
Victoria, Australia
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  222323

When you study it in your glass it’s an inky, November shadow. It invites you to drink with aromas of plums, black berries and maybe a bit of pepper. And then when you do, you get a velvety mouth wash of deep raspberry and ripe peaches.

All that said, here’s the fundamental question we need to ask of every bottle of wine.  Is it good? In this case, you can bet shiraz it’s good.

It’s time to leave the cellar for another month. I hope to see you back here in December. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and you’re friends even closer.