Written by Lara Cowan

Related Links
September 01, 2009

September is by far, my favourite month of the year. Summer is not completely kissed good-bye, but Fall begins to show its colours. It’s the best of both worlds! Even the mood seems full of fresh ideas and promise. Perhaps it’s that collective energy of students all carrying those glorious memories of the summer just gone by, along with secretly nursing the curiosity of the new year in school! Whatever it is, there’s no denying the shift of “scene” all around. Nature is like the mother (hence Mother Nature, I suppose!) who calls out the first announcement for dinner. “Playtime in the sun is done...it’s time our hearth at home hath nurtured thee”. If you haven’t already done so by next month, Mother Nature’s call in October will come down on you like rain and snow!!

So taking our cues from nature and the mood of September, our newsletter this month is all about Merlot for reds and Fumé Blanc for whites.

Merlot, because it always seems nurturing...mother-like. Merlots come in different styles like different maternal figures we know around us. Some are soft and gentle, some are super-moms, while some are power moms...you know the corporate, business kinds? However, every once in a while you find one...the one you’ll always reminisce as “the yummy mummy”! Yes, so now do you get why a Merlot can be considered a “comfort” choice?

This month do I ever have a nice little number to share with you! I was pleasantly surprised by the 2007 Merlot from Herder. This wine is made by a husband and wife team, Lawrence and Sharon Herder at their impressive winery in Keremeos, BC. Bold spices, coffee, leather, black cherry and juniper, toasty oak, tobacco and hints of vanilla on the nose. Deep ruby colour suggesting black cherries again. Rich, pronounced acidity and structured tannins. The palate uncovered layers of chocolate, prune and blackberry jam.  This wine possesses a medium plus body with a lingering finish that tells tales if you dare to listen! Impressive wine with a hefty alcohol content (13.9%!). It seems to have the fruit quotient to carry it through a little more aging, but with its promising balance of acidity and tannins right now...why wait!

As for Fumé Blancs...well, September brings the promise of crisp breezes, but it still holds on to a few warm notes. Taking our cue from the season again, nothing suggests delightful crisp nuances consistently like a Sauvignon Blanc. Add some smokiness to it with a little oak and you have yourself an interesting Fumé Blanc! That’s the history at least...it is known that the late Robert Mondavi, who is one of the leading names to launch California as a prominent wine producer in the world, is responsible for the genesis of Fumé Blanc. Back in 1966, Sauvignon Blanc was not really a favourite grape in the U.S. However, that year, he received a particularly great batch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Being ingenious as he was, he decided to age the wine made from this grape in oak barrels. The result was an elegant white wine, similar to Pouilly-Fumé from France’s Loire Valley. Mondavi marketed this wine as Fumé Blanc. Hence, this month, why not try Robert Mondavi’s 2007 Fumé Blanc!  It’s pale strawy hues are deceiving. You wonder if its flavours are washed out, but the nose is assuring with citrus notes and quince. This light-bodied wine has a lively acidity with a finish that’s bright with pear and herbaceous notes on the palate. I’m tempted to pair it with a pan seared arctic char fillet and broccoli florets. Mmmm...I’m seeing dinner already!

So what do you think? Perhaps you’re not ready to pull out those woollies yet, but you may want to consider lighting up the fireplace and hunkering down to one of these lovely wines, this Fall! Savour every moment. Life is worth living to the fullest...especially with a great glass of wine!

Until next time...be safe and drink responsibly.



Arugula and Spinach Salad with seared Portobello Mushroom and Blue Cheese, served with Merlot

3 large Portobello Mushrooms
1 large red Onion
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 bunch Arugula
1 bunch Spinach
½ cup crumbled Blue Cheese (try a Bavarian Montagnolo or Roquefort or any other one preferred)

1)    Wash and dry the Arugula and Spinach and place in your serving bowl.
2)    Slice the Red Onion into about ¼” rings
3)    Brush and slice the Portobello Mushrooms into about ¼” slices
4)    In a heavy sauce pan (or even a wok) heat about 2 tbsp of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5)    Fry the Red Onion slices until almost caramalized (dark brown on the edges)
Keep the heat high, but watch it does not burn. Remove and place aside in a bowl.
6)    Add 2 more tbsp of the Extra Virgin Oil and add the sliced Portobello Mushrooms.
Sauté on medium high heat. The mushrooms will soak up the oil and brown well. Make sure not to crowd the mushrooms or they won’t brown.
7)    Add the caramelized onions to the mushrooms. Make sure the heat is still medium high to high. Toss together for about 30 seconds.
8)    Add in the Balsamic Vinegar and remove from heat. Toss the onions and mushrooms together again while scraping off the bottom of the pan.
9)    Add the remaining Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
10)    Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Onions and Mushrooms on top of the Arugula and Spinach and drizzle the Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil reduction from the pan over the salad. Lightly toss together.
11)    Top the salad with the crumbled Blue Cheese and enjoy!

Serves 4

Try this hearty salad with our month’s pick, the 2007 Herder Merlot. (approximately $35.00). Alternatively, try the 2007 Casa La Joya Reserve Merlot, from the Colchagua Valley in Chile.
Good value at around $16.00!


Must talk about the “flu”! Everywhere these days, you hear cautions heralded by the media and health authorities about the H1N1 flu. It seems the drasted old annoying flu we’ve known for years is neglected! However, it still lurks around and while there have been no breakthrough cures involving wine and the H1N1 flu, there is talk that wine can help in keeping the well-known dreaded flu away.
Well, not just loose talk now...we’re talking scientific suggestions folks! According to researchers at the University of South Carolina, a polyphenol, or simply put, a chemical called “quercetin” that is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables works as an effective anti-inflammatory that protects against influenza. Besides being found in apples and onions, quercetin is found in the skins of grapes. Red wine is therefore considered a good candidate to work against the flu. The anti-viral properties of quercetin still remain unknown, however the speculation is that it may inhibit the ability of influenza to replicate itself. Don’t know about you dah’lings...but I’ll drink to that!

“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile”

Homer, “The Odyssey”