It’s Not Easy Being Green

Issue #18 September, 2020

Every month down here in the cellar we pour ourselves a healthy glass or two. This month, let’s have ourselves an even healthier pour of wine made using the greenist of practices. That is, wine of the organic variety. And with this month marking National Organic Week in Canada, why not?

At risk of getting lost down the ‘organic’ rabbit hole, here is a fairly basic idea of what is, what sort of is, and what isn’t, ‘organic’ wine. 

So fasten your Birkenstocks, here we go.

Certified Organic wine is made from grapes grown excluding the use of artificial fertilizerspesticidesfungicides and herbicides.

Producers often fertilize with compost, compost teas, green manure, and cover crops. They also rely on mechanical weeding, mowing around the vines, mulching, and companion planting.

To avoid using insecticides many organic wineries let chickens (I assume organic ones) graze under their vines. And growers handpick worms off leaves. Plus, certified organic wine doesn’t use genetically modified organisms and in some wine producing countries, it cannot contain sulphites. 

Still with me?

EU symbol denoting Organic

Wines that show ‘Made with Organically Grown Grapes’ somewhere on their label, are not quite the same as ‘certified organic wines’. They’re often processed using the same equipment and in the same facility as conventional wine. So they’re kind of organic, sort of.

In wine produced within the European union, the addition of sulphites, used as presevatives, are allowed in organic wine, but at lower maximum levels than in conventional wine production.

The strictest interpretation of “organic wine” comes from the USDA. They ensure organic wines have grapes grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and that all additional ingredients are also certified organic.

EU symbol denoting Organic

Additionally, their organic wines cannot have any added sulfites. That’s mostly a good thing, except that it slightly reduces the shelf-life of your bottle. There’s a solution for that; don’t hold on to it, drink it.

Speaking of sulphites in wine, many wine tippers have wondered if they are to blame for headaches. Apparently, scientists have found no evidence of this. I read recently that tannins could be the culprit. They are found in the skin of grapes, particularly red grapes. They give wine substance and flavour and contain antioxidants. But they also spur the release of serotonin, which can cause headaches in some of us.

Okay, well I think it’s time to come up for air. That wasn’t a rabbit hole, it was an abyss!  Who’s ready for some wine?

Have a seat around the old oak tasting table. I’ve set out some granola and bean sprouts to munch on while we sip some tasty organic wine. 

Welcome back to the cellar.

I Giusti & Zanza Vigna Vecchia 2015
Tuscany, Italy
750 mL  bottle VINTAGES#:  13456

Our first red features entirely Sangiovese grapes grown organically under the Tuscan sun in the north of Italy. Looking at a glass of this wine is like peering into a deep, dark cave but with an aromatic welcome mat out front. And an enticing welcome it is, with the scent of a leather satchel loaded with ripe fruit. This is a cave of goodness called Giusti & Zanza Vigna Vecchia 2015.

With your first sip, you’re greeted with tastes of wood smoked hickory, roasted plums and licorice. Yes this bottle is a little over our $20 threshold, but I think the ‘O’ factor perhaps justifies it. 

As much as I’d like to remain in this wonderful Tuscan cave a little longer, we must turn our attention to a bottle from Chile. 

Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Organic
San Antonio Valley, Chile
750 mL  bottle LCBO#:  553800

Last month we enjoyed the Pinot Noir brother of this crisp white. Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Emiliana Organic Vineyards in San Antonio Valley, Chile. 

Emiliana is one of the foremost producers of certified organic and biodynamic wines in the world. Chickens are used here for pest control. Alpacas and horses live alongside the vines to encourage biodiversity. 

One of Emiliana’s alpaca workers  

There are also nurseries and biological corridors of native plants and trees, and cover crops of grasses and flowers between the vine rows.

This wine is a pale, pale yellow. It’s certainly dry and fresh with mild flavours of citrus. I could swear there’s some peach in there too. Or maybe that’s just a waft of alpaca.

Moving on now to a popular bottle from Argentina. 

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec Organic
Mendoza, Argentina
750 mL bottle LCBO#: 160952

I’m a big fan of Malbec for it’s raw and full-bodied characteristics. But this one seems a little less bold than I expected. For me, it’s a little introverted. That said, sometimes introverts have the most to say.

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec is a deep ruby colour and rich looking in the glass. And it is tasty and spicy, with flavours of red berries; raspberries in particular. 

So, if you want a tasty small ‘m’ Malbec, this would be a good choice.

Well, that brings us to the end of our organic adventure. The good news is there are many other organic producers and wines out there for us to explore. And we will boldly go there in future issues.

As Jim Henson via Kermit the Frog so poignantly sang, ‘It’s not easy being green, so here’s to the wineries and the winemakers of the world who choose perhaps the more difficult path; to create their wine in ways that are good for us and respectful of the earth in which they grow their grapes.

See you back in the cellar in October for a special Halloween themed get together featuring scary wines. 

Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer. 


If you’re enjoying my wine meanderings, I’m really glad. And please let me know your thoughts or tell me about any great wine you’ve discovered. Of course, if you know someone who might like to join us in the cellar each month, send me their email or they can contact me at: 

“The time of year for getting into cabs.”

Issue #9   December, 2019

In 1961 the velvet voiced and gifted songwriter Mel Tormé, nicknamed The Velvet Fog, penned the words ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose’ to begin what would become probably the most well-known (and quite lucrative for Mel) Christmas tune of all-time. Nat King Cole’s silky vocals took Tormé’s words and etched their warm sentiment into hearts everywhere.

Needless to say, this month more than any, we all head out with Jack Frost nipping at our noses, to visit and celebrate alongside friends and family. It is also the month to rely a little more on taxis and uber rides to get us where we’re going and bring us back home safe.

So for this festive December issue of Jim’s Affordable Cellar I thought it would be appropriate to call three Cabs to our attention. And they’re lined up waiting for us to get into them.

Welcome back to the cellar.

Our first Cab has come all the way from the Maipo Valley; mid-way down South America’s very own sunset strip, Chile. Wine-making began there in the 1600’s thanks to the Spanish conquistadors. French wine varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon were introduced in the mid-1800’s. So the Chileans have had a few years to perfect the many terrific wines they now produce.

Perez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly one of them.  


Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
Maipo Valley, Chile
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  694208

It’s definitely proof that inexpensive can be elegant. And in this case elegance comes with aromas of cassis, black cherry, and tobacco.  This is a steal of a wine you can always find in the store and always find yourself satisfied for having brought it home. Introduce it to a burger and you’ll find they get along famously.

Our next Cab is waiting, so let’s take our taste buds for a smooth and easy ride. Our driver is Mr. Tom Gore of Sonoma County. I have a weakness for Cabs from California. This one is made beautifully with grapes Tom sources from vineyards on the Central and North Coast.  


Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon
California, USA
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  451336

When you pour it, your glass is transformed to deep, dark red. Vapours of black berry, raspberry, plum and orange fill the air and your soul begins to smile.

It’s rich and round. Uber-smooth, oaky and smoky with some mocha and vanilla. And it has tannins you can taste on your teeth.  A glass of Tom Gore tastes like, ‘I’ll have some more.’

As always, as is our tradition here in the cellar once a month we go under the radar to a place where perhaps we’ve never gone before. In this case we’re going not so much to a country but a region, found at the most southern tip of South America. Patagonia. It’s surrounded by three oceans; the Pacific to the West, the Atlantic to the East and the Southern Ocean to the,…well you get it.  

Although Patagonia is shared by Chile and Argentina, the Argentines claim bragging rights for this Wapisa Cabernet Sauvignon.


Wapisa Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Patagonia, Argentina
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  10970

Wapisa is deep, deep purple in the glass. It casts off aromas of dark berries, smoke and cinnamon. It’s medium to full bodied with lots of dark, fruity tannins and a bit of spicy attitude. For me, Wapisa isn’t as round and rich as say, a California Cab like the Tom Gore we just tried, but then Patagonia is practically a hemisphere away from California. I’d have this Cab in a heartbeat with spicy wings or a peppercorn steak.

There you have it. Our three Cabs have delivered us to the end of this month’s issue. I guess that means it’s time to leave the cellar. So in parting I’d like to thank you for visiting the cellar this year and wish you all the best of the season with these words from The Velvet Fog.

‘And so I’m offering this simple phrase.
To kids from one to ninety-two.
Although it’s been said many times,

Many ways: Merry Christmas to you.’

Hope to see you back here in the new year. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and you’re friends even closer.


“Hot August nights and three refreshing companions.”

Issue #5   August, 2019

In August of 1972, the popular and prolific singer songwriter Neil Diamond performed 10 sold-out concerts at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. These performances were recorded and became a hugely-selling live double-album named Hot August Night.

With that sip of music history in mind and this being August, I thought it fitting to bring out three refreshing wines perfect for a hot August night.

Welcome back to the cellar. Pull up your chair to the weathered old oak table here in the tasting room and let’s get to know three new friends; this month’s red, white and as always, my monthly under the radar wine.


Meiomi Pinot Noir
California, USA
750 mL bottle   |   VINTAGES#:  130138

In life, it’s good to have a thick skin but in the life of grapes having a thin skin can be quite an attribute. As is the case with Pinot Noir; considered one of the most delicate and finicky but potentially rewarding grape varieties there is. Pinot Noir is thin-skinned and sensitive. But when grown right, and handled with care, it produces wines that are subtle, complex and full of juicy flavour.  And Pinot Noir produces wine that most reminds us of the earth (or in wine vernacular, the terroir) that it comes from.

The earth that beautifully produces this month’s red lies in the coastal region of California. Meiomi Pinot Noir is a fine example of a California Pinot. It’s has fuller body than what you would experience in a Pinot Noir from France, where it is known as Burgundy.

This Meiomi is deep ruby while slightly transparent. It has aromas of earthiness, ash, fresh leather and berries. It tastes of black cherries with a touch of cloviness. This is an elegant wine that doesn’t need to ask for attention, it just seems to quietly attract it. Pinot Noir simply stands alone. If it was a Neil Diamond song, it would be Solitary Man.


Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier
750 mL bottle | LCBO#:  64287

One of the joys of summer is taking out the bike and riding away a morning. But one of the joys of a summer evening is taking a bicycle out of the fridge. No, I haven’t hit my head on a beam in the cellar. I’m talking about this month’s white wine. Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier. The bicycle on the label makes it easy to spot. And the taste of this crisp and dry refresher makes it easy to drink.

It’s crystal clear and shimmering soft yellow in the glass. It wafts aromas of woodiness, citrus and honey. And tastes of kiwi, honeysuckle and gooseberry.

And if it was a Neil Diamond song, it would definitely be Sweet Caroline.


Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé
Ontario, Canada
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES#:  172643

In the past months, under the radar we’ve travelled to some distant locations; Portugal, Italy, and Bulgaria to name a few. This month we’re going no further than our very own backyard; Niagara. Now before you say, ‘seriously? Niagara?’, remember this part of the newsletter is about getting out of our comfort zones. But actually, you may soon discover Tawes Sketches of Niagara Rosé is a summer wine you can get quite comfortable with.

To the eye, it’s soft pink with a slight tangerine tint. But the taste buds get the treat of a light, peachy flavour with subtle refreshing effervescence and a caramel undertone.

The Tawes winery is one of many across the other pond (Lake Ontario) producing very fine wines that deliver quality way above the negative perceptions many wine lovers still harbour about the region. And like this one, not all of them carry a high price tag.

This tasty wine is called Sketches of Niagara, but it’s a wonderful sketch of a torch-lit warm August evening with the music of cicadas and every sip bringing with it a soft cool breeze that washes over you. If it was a Neil Diamond song, for sure it would be Cracklin’ Rosie.

That cool breeze brings us to the end of this month’s issue. But not to the end of summer. We still have some hot August nights ahead. Many thanks to Neil Diamond for all the great songs.

See you in September when we get together once again in the cellar. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer. 


“Three tasty wines that don’t play hard to get.”

Welcome back to the cellar.

The last few months I’ve profiled a number of wines released specifically in Vintages

at the LCBO. Often these bottles only stay on the shelves until they’re gone. Perish the thought but they can be sold out before you have a chance to get home from work, go to the gym, make some dinner, do the laundry, and peruse this newsletter.

One of my loyal visitors to the cellar each month got me thinking perhaps I should highlight some bottles you don’t have to race out for because they are always available at the LCBO. So this month as is our custom I’ve set out a red, a white and an under the radar choice but relax because these wines you can mosey out for and pick up when you’re good and ready. After all, the purpose of this newsletter is not to raise your blood pressure.

Now on to the wine because while you don’t have to be in a hurry to find these bottles, I’m anxious to tell you about them.

I happily discovered this month’s red a couple of years ago. It stood out firstly on the shelf, because it’s a Gran Reserva (Spanish wine must be aged at least five years in the bottle or barrel to earn this designation) for under $20. And secondly, in my glass.

It’s real tasty. Monasterio De Las Vinas is a tribute to the Cistercian monks who built their monastery in the 11th century and began making wine.


Cariñena, Spain 
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES 82024

This Spanish beauty is a full-bodied blend of three grapes that get along great together; Garnacha, Tempranillo and Carinena. For me, it’s a blend that deserves full credit for its silky smoothess.

Monasterio also treats you to aromas and rich flavours of ripe raspberry and juicy plums with subtle wafts of ash from a fine cigar.  

Casas del Bosque Reserva found its way into the cellar this past month when I was looking for a Sauvignon Blanc that just for a change, was from someplace other than New Zealand.  

Chile answered the call with this inexpensive reserva. It’s pale yellow in the glass with aromas of soft grapefruit and melon rising to greet you. Flavours of kiwi and lemon are instantly refreshing and soon you discover it’s not just a glass of wine. It’s a cool, soft citrus shower for the palate.


Casas del Bosque Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
Casablanca Valley, Chile
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES#:  974717

This wine comes to us from a Chilean valley called Casablanca. When you’re having your first sip remember what Humphrey Bogart said in the classic 1942 film, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” At the very least it will be the beginning of a glass of very nice white wine. Here’s looking at you kid.

And now it’s ‘under the radar’ time; when we throw caution to the wind and get to know a wine or a grape that perhaps we wouldn’t normally choose or think to try.

For years, I was ignorantly guilty of perceiving Riesling as nothing more than a sweet German wine not to be taken seriously. But oh how wrong I was. On two counts.

Riesling can be sweet and sparkling but it can also be as dry as an Alberta afternoon in July. And while Germany is known as the home of Riesling, so is France. In Alsace, their wonderful, wine producing region to the northeast.


Alsace, France 
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 11452

Here is Willm Reserve Riesling. In the glass it glows like sunlit straw. It has an earthy, grassy, granny smith apple fragrance that somehow reminds me of a lemon Fruittella. Anyone not familiar with Fruittella? It’s a tart, chewy candy that’s way too easy to eat.

Willm Reserve has soft citrus flavours. It’s zesty and tangy and quenchingly dry. Beautiful with spicy food and just as great late in the afternoon by the lake.

There you have them. Three always available, always enjoyable choices from

Jim’s Affordable Cellar that you won’t have to break any speed limits to secure.

Hot August days are coming. See you back here in the cool cellar a month from now. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.