We Have Lift-Off!

Issue #23 February 2021 

Before we make our way down to the cellar for this month’s wine session, I’d like to suggest we step outside for a moment and look to the sky. (Don’t worry, I’ll make sense of this shortly). 

As of last April, there were around two thousand satellites up there in continuous low Earth orbit with another 600 hurtling around further in space. Also orbiting about 400 kilometres above us and circling Earth every 93 minutes, is the International Space Station. And 54 million kilometres away is Mars, which NASA plans to reach with astronauts in 2030. Why am I lost in space?

February 20, 1962 John Glenn lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida

Well this month in 1962, John Glenn was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral on the east coast of Florida, (in ’63, it was renamed, Cape Kennedy). 

John Glenn in orbit.

He was the first North American to boldly blast off to an altitude of 260 kilometres, where he completed three trail-breaking orbits of our planet in a mission that lasted just under five hours.

I remember it well. When Captain Glenn lifted off that day in February, it just so happened to be my sixth birthday. He instantly became a hero to millions and certainly to me. 

John Glenn with his space capsule, ‘Friendship 7’

So with that courageous and important beginning to human space travel in mind, let’s get back down to earth and meet three affordable wines that are absolutely made of the right stuff.

Welcome back to the cellar.

Our wine travels this month launch with a tasty tongue twister from the Alsace region of France. It’s a Gewurztraminer. A sommelier once helped me wrap my mouth around that 5-syllable monster with this pronunciation hint. Turn the ‘w’ into a ‘v’ and make the miner, meaner. Then it should sound something like this; 


Who knows what it will sound like after you’ve finished the bottle. 

Anyhoo, here it is. Is it me or does that look a little like a rocket on a launch pad?

Pierre Sparr Grande Réserve Gewurztraminer 2018
Alsace, France
750 mL bottle VINTAGES #747600

This Grande Reserve Gewurzt is luscious and fragrant with citrus scents of grapefruit and kiwi. It’s full of flavour and not sweet but mid-dry; making it a perfect match for meals with a kick, like Indian lamb curry or spicy chicken Phad Thai. 

But it certainly doesn’t need a single morsel of food to give it reason for being. Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer’s refreshing qualities make it a perfect sipper before supper.  

Now our orbit around the wine world is pausing over Spain. In particular, over the Castilla-La Mancha region to the south and east of Madrid. The land of the man of La Mancha, Don Quixote.

Way down there somewhere amongst the vineyards, castles and windmills is the Bastida family winery and from it comes this rich and full Alceo Tempranillo. 

Alceo Tempranillo 2017
Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES #18768

Alceo Tempranillo 2017 sits in the glass like a deep, dark sea of tranquillity. It has inviting aromas of leather and cinnamon spice with flavours of dark cherries, and ripe blackcurrants. 

It’s dense and full-bodied and would be out of this world with barbecued chipotle seasoned burgers.  

John Glenn’s very first orbit around the earth passed directly over South Australia’s Barossa region and very likely the Eden Valley. The home of our next red.

Mountadam Vineyards was created by the late David Wynn.  Wynn was one of the shooting stars of the Australian Wine Industry and the first to recognize the potential of the cool, elevated area of the Eden Valley to produce Australian wines of great elegance and structure. 

The vineyard was named after David Wynn’s son, Adam.

Mountadam Vineyards Five-Fifty Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Barossa, South Australia
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES #18006

This tasty cab has scents of plums, blackcurrants and herbs. It’s rich and dense with dark fruit intensity. And it’s smooth with a lasting finish that makes you want to start all over again with another sip. Thanks to David Wynn and his son Adam. This is wine is definitely a Wynn Wynn.

When the bad puns start happening, you know it’s time to get out of the cellar. So let’s lift off from our chairs and look forward to meeting again in a month. That’s about one tenth of the time it would take to get to Mars. 

But before we part, let’s raise a glass to all of the intrepid space travellers and interstellar trail blazers. And with special thoughts for those who never made it back.

We’ll see you in March. 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.