The Canadian Cellar

Issue #16     July, 2020

As you know each July we celebrate our country’s birthday and toast this wonderful place we’re so very lucky to call home. We normally do so with colourful, (not colorful) public gatherings and grand displays of fireworks and parades. While those events were sidelined this year, (we’ll make up for it next July) there has been no holding back with flag flying and wardrobe bearing our well-founded nationalistic pride.

This being the case, a good friend and loyal visitor to the cellar each month rightfully suggested that perhaps this issue of Jim’s Affordable Cellar  could celebrate some of this country’s very own wines. Brilliant idea! And it’s about time, because there are quite a few fine Canadian wines worthy of our attention.

So this month, we’re going to celebrate Canada and sorry but we’re not going to apologize for it. (Ah crap, I just did.) Anyway, it’s absolutely fitting we have three bottles from Canada on the tasting table because we’ll be doing something we do with joy every month. We’ll be celebrating red and white.

Welcome back to the cellar.  

As you can see by the colour scheme of the label, this bottle is absolutely made for our little tribute. But looks aren’t everything, it’s what inside that counts. And upon opening it we discover that the winemakers at Tawse in Niagara put a whole lot of goodness into their wine thanks to their rigorous organic methods. And a very special ingredient; know-how.

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir
750 mL bottle  VINTAGES#: 130989

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir is slightly transparent, as you’d expect from any self-respecting Pinot. It has a ruby colour that dances and shimmers particularly with a little late afternoon sunlight behind it. Then there are sophisticated flavours of raspberry and cherry along with classic Pinot earthiness. Each sip reminds you that this wine is undeniably of the land it came from. All this to say, I’m really glad I put my paws on this Tawse.

From the Niagara Escarpment, we travel west to one of the most beautiful valleys in Canada. The Okanagan. This majestic valley is roughly 200 km long and 20 wide. It lies between the Columbia and Cascade mountains in south-central British Columbia. Many summers ago I picked cherries there. But that was before grapes got under my skin.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay is beautifully produced at the Quails’ Gate Winery from grapes that thrive in vineyards on a south-facing slope above Lake Okanagan. Nice place to live especially if you’re a grape.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay
British Columbia, Canada
750 mL  bottle  VINTAGES#:  377770
$21.95 $24.95Save $3.00

This excellent wine is a pleasing pale yellow in the glass, like you’ve just poured the morning’s first ray of light. (Just to be clear, I did wait until noon to pour my first glass.) It wafts a fresh minerality and asparagus comes to mind, plus aromas of walking in a herb garden. There’s lots of tasty flavour (not flavour) here too; kiwi and slightly lemony but smooth and refreshing. In short, this Quail is very quaffable.

We could spend quite a bit of time enjoying many other great wines from the Okanagan, but we have an interesting one waiting patiently for us from back in Niagara.

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy
Ontario, Canada
750 mL  bottle  VINTAGES#:  149237

This wine is perfect for our monthly ‘under the radar’ selection. The Foreign Affair Winery is one of the pioneers in the Niagara Peninsula of making wine using a not often talked about method called ‘appassimento’. Appassi-what, you say? I had never heard of it either. But basically it’s a classic European wine-making tradition that means harvesting the best bunches of grapes carefully by hand. Then, these ‘chosen ones’ are placed gently on racks in single layers to air dry for two to three months. This process concentrates the ripe juices and adds flavours that are full and robust.

Here we have a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And as the intriguing name suggests, they conspire to create a tasty result.

It’s aromatic and dark in the glass and it’s a fruity, full-bodied affair for the taste buds. Definitely worth raising the flag, and a glass for.

There you have it, three more reasons other than Leonard Cohen, Terry Fox, Michael J. Fox, The Group of Seven, Emily Carr, William Kurelek, Bill Reid, The Gaspe Peninsula, the game of hockey, Foster Hewitt, Sydney Crosby, William Naismith, the game of basketball, Mount Logan, Mike Weir, Chris Hadfield, Christopher Plummer, Rick Hansen, Alice Munro, Stephen Leacock, Roch Carrier, Margaret Atwood, The Fraser River, The Cabot Trail, Stanley Park, The Confederation Bridge, The Canadarm, Sir Frederick Banting, Gordon Lightfoot, Gord Downie, Gordon Pinsent, Gordie Howe, Rush, Oscar Peterson, back bacon, butter tarts, Stompin’ Tom Connors, and our health care system, to be very very proud that we’re Canadian.

That list could go on and on and on but let’s leave it there for this month. And before we leave the cellar let’s remember our many remarkable and strong front line workers who have helped get us through these past challenging months.

See you back here in August. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.

Oh and as I mentioned last month, if you’re interested in any back issues of Jim’s Affordable Cellar, or a little background on yours truly, just visit where you can revisit our times together over the last 16 months.


As I mention every month, if you know a lot more about wine than I do, and are finding yourself thinking ‘thanks but no thanks’, please tell me to put a cork in it. I won’t be insulted, and I’ll give you one less email to read each month. On the other hand, if you’re enjoying my wine meanderings, I’m glad. And please let me know what you think. Of course, if you know someone who might like this monthly distraction, they can contact me at:

“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.