What do patio umbrellas, floppy hats, coconut scented sunblock and backyard bbqs bring to mind? If you’re a wine lover, it’s a crisp, refreshing glass of chilled white wine.

Here are a few selections from a country that knows how to rock the outdoor get together, Australia! They may be best known for their powerhouse Shiraz reds, but I think you’re going to fall in love with these distinctive, lively whites from some of the oldest family wineries in the country.

Next time you head to the wine shop, seek out the Aussie section for these tasty bottles:

‘The Money Spider’ Roussanne 2013 – d’Arenberg

Rumour has it, if the tiny money spider crosses your path, money is soon to follow. This zesty, zingy wine is vibrantly full of lime and honey blossom. If you’re into NZ Sauv Blanc, give this little number a try! $17+

Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013 – McWilliam’s

Made from high altitude grapes, which helps capture bright acidity, and concentrated crisp green apple and pear flavors. If you’re into Chablis, give this zinger a chance to delight you at your next picnic. $18+

‘Museum Release’ Marsanne 2008 – Tahbilk

Not too many people have had the chance to taste a Marsanne-based wine, a bit of a shame really, as with a little age like this 2008 release, it has incredible mineral, peach & melon, plus a nutty, toasty richness. Perfect for a leisurely glass on a chic patio. $21+

‘Vat 1’ Semillon 2011 – Tyrrell’s

This lux sipper is perfect for bringing to a fancy BBQ, a total crowd pleaser with hints of lemon, lime and a hit of popcorn richness from bottle aging. Pair with some shrimp kabobs and you’re golden! $35+


ONCE upon a time, the powerful Republics of Florence and Siena were great enemies. Being medieval times™, it was decided a battle between two noble knights would settle the score over just who owned the territory between their beautiful cities, in the area we know today as Chianti.

At dawn, the rooster’s crow would be the signal for each knight to leave their city and where they met, they would fight to create a border between the territories. The Sienese had a lovely white rooster, who they groomed and fed. The Florentines had a black rooster, who they caged and treated (at least according to the Sienese) quite poorly. The little guy was underfed, and really, really hungry.

On the day of the duel, the black rooster was so eager for the day to begin, and for breakfast, that he started crowing and crowing, nevermind that dawn was hours away. Since, technically, Mr. Florence can now start to ride, he gains a massive head start on his journey south. Dawn arrives, and the white rooster crows. Mr. Siena starts on his way. But the black rooster has given Florence such a head start, that the two meet only a few miles north of Siena! The Florentine knight wins the duel, and coincidentally, most of the territory of Chianti comes under Florence’s power.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the black rooster comes to be on bottles of Chianti Classico… or so they say!

When you think of Chianti, does it bring to mind the straw-wrapped candle holder from Lady and The Tramp? Well, if so, it’s time to reconsider, and give Chianti a fresh chance. A good Chianti is a delicious prospect.

Chianti Classico is a region in Tuscany that lies between the cities of Florence and Siena. Look for ‘Classico DOCG’ and that trademark symbol of a black rooster on the label, this means you’re getting wine from this specific region. There are about 10,000 hectares of rolling-hill vineyards in Chianti Classico, and most of them are the grape variety Sangiovese. Sangio must make up at least 80% of what’s in your bottle, and the other 20% can be a local grape like Canaiolo or the more familiar Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

About that Sangiovese: when it’s a younger wine, expect red fruit flavors like strawberry and some good tannins. Then, as it matures, it can develop an earthy, baking spice note that is quite appealing, and as those tannins soften they become almost magical. I love this grape when I catch the scent of violets. I think of it in some ways as a more powerful cousin to Pinot Noir, so if you like those aromatic PN qualities, I think you’ll enjoy Sangio.

Sometimes, it’s a little confusing – what’s the difference between regular Chianti and Chianti Classico? For that, we have to go back to 1716, when the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III, gave official borders to the wine region. Then, flash forward to the early 1900’s, when Chianti, growing ever more popular, has greatly expanded production. In response to the higher demand, wine starts being grown in lesser areas, outside the official zone but still called Chianti.

Of course, quality and reputation start to suffer. So, in 1932 specific rules were set out, that only Cosimo’s original historic area can call itself ‘Chianti Classico’ (there are 9 communes within Classico such as Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti). The outer areas that don’t fall within Classico can call themselves plain old ‘Chianti’ plus a place name (for example Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Senesi).

Italians love quality, just think of Italian suits or Italian sheets. So of course, they have a quality ranking system within Classico:

~There’s the basic ‘Chianti Classico’, which has to have at least 12% alcohol and mature for 12+ months. These can be quite good, and will be the most cost-effective option.

~Then there’s Riserva, which has a little more alcohol, 12.5%, implying that maybe the fruit was a little better, and it gets double the aging at 24+ months, which can also help those tannins get a little smoother and bring out the spice and earth notes. Very good value to be found here.

~Now, as of 2013, there’s a new top tier blockbuster, called Gran Selezione, boom! It needs to have at least 13% alcohol and age for 30+ months, plus it must be made from the winery’s best grapes of a single vineyard – and yes, the price is much higher to match. If you like Brunello, you’ll love the Grand Sel’s.

If you’re open to giving Chianti Classico a try (and you really should), these are all wines that I loved and would give my ‘buy’ rating to:


Chianti Classico DOCG Cennatoio Avorio 2012

Chianti Classico DOCG Casina di Cornia 2012

Chianti Classico DOCG Rodano 2010

Chianti Classico DOCG Castello di Cacchiano 2009

Chianti Classico DOCG Felsina Berardenga 2012


Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Castello di Gabbiano 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Villa Antinori 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Cortevecchia 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Carobbio 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva O’Leandro 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Casa Sola 2009

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Montornello 2012

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Poggio a’ Frati 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Vigna Misciano 2011

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Campoalto 2009

Gran Selezione

Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Don Tommaso 2010

Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Castello Fonterutoli 2011


Cin Cin, Rachel


Image of Magill Cellar Door Courtesy Penfolds

Image of Magill Cellar Door Courtesy Penfolds

Have you seen the documentary Somm? A great movie for wine lovers, it follows the travails (and wine-mad drama) of four aspiring Master Sommeliers, as they study, prepare and panic for the big exam, one of whom is Mr. DLynn Proctor.

DLynn is now a Brand Ambassador for Aussie giant Penfolds (#dreamjob), travelling around the world to promote, pour, and chat about their wines. Tonight in Vancouver, he’s impeccably dressed, just like in the movie, complete with natty tie and pocket square. In person, he’s animated and ready to pour while charming the crowds with a tip or anecdote, a born entertainer.

Before chatting with DLynn, I tasted the Penfolds wines on offer. The Hyland 2008 Chardonnay from Adelaide stood out as a winner, it had great texture and body, with a hint of vanilla on the palate. For those with a sweet tooth, the Penfolds Club Australian Tawny is a steal at $20. It’s all brown sugar, dried fruit and caramel, with over 200 component wines in the blend – there’s a reason Aussies call these wines ‘stickies’, they’re sticky like a good toffee pudding.

I also had a chance to taste the super premium 2012 RWT (Red Winemaking Trial) Barossa Shiraz, which retails for about $200 – nice wine if you’re buying! If you’re shopping for Aussie reds, not just those of the super premium variety, keep an eye out for the very good 2010 and 2012 vintages.

Q: What’s the your best tip for someone just getting into wine?

DLynn: Find what you like. Whatever you’ve tasted and liked, whether it’s wine with blue fruit, dry wine, tell your somm what you like and have them make a recommendation for you. Drink what you like, don’t be pressured into drinking what your friends talk about.

Q: What’s a region in Australia that you think we should check out?

DLynn: Adelaide, for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.

Q: How about a top new area worldwide?

DLynn: Walla Walla, Washington.

Q: What’s the coolest opportunity that’s come out of the success of Somm?

DLynn: I’ve been in the wine world since the age of 20, 21, so I’ve had the chance to experience lots of things before Somm. The coolest wine related experience was in 2007 at Vinitaly, I wandered over to the stage where the band was on a break and just started playing the guitar. Before I realized what was happening, the band had joined me at the stage and suddenly we were playing for everyone. Very cool experience.

Somm’s sequel Inside the Bottle is out as of Summer 2015. Expect to catch up with familiar faces while delving behind the wine industry’s velvet curtain. Cheers!


Lovely Brunello. Delicious, expensive, debonair Brunello di Montalcino.

Brunello is a red wine made from the Sangiovese grape. The best Brunellos are capable of long aging (30+ years), and can take several years of cellaring in order to be considered ready to drink.

The region has about 3,000 acres of vineyard, in the tiny and romantic Tuscan hilltop town of Montalcino, Italy. If you visit, you will get some exercise as you walk up the cobblestone walkways, under arches and past fountain squares, to arrive at one of the many chic wine boutiques.

Brunello is aged for a minimum of five years after the year the grapes are harvested (six years for Riserva wines). The time in oak barrels, and in the bottle, helps to mellow this powerful, tannic, and complex wine. If you like Pinot Noir, think of Brunello as it’s older, more powerful cousin.

Yes, a good Brunello will set you back some money. It’s not the kind of wine you pop out for and drink the same night. These bottles require a little love and patience. I’ve got a couple sitting downstairs that will be ready to drink over the next five years; I visit with them every once in a while, just to check in. That being said, if you’re splurging and see a bottle on the winelist, prepare for a sensory experience – this is a sexy, thoughtful wine that will prompt discussion!

The other thing to consider about Brunello is that not every vintage is as good as the others. Keep an eye out for these years, they are excellent vintages: 2004, 2006, 2007, & 2010.

If you want a taste of Brunello, but at a lower price point, may I humbly recommend Rosso di Montalcino. These wines are less than half the cost, made from younger vines and aged for less time. But, they are good drinking, easy to enjoy (less tannic and softer), and offer some of the same intoxicating bouquet of a Brunello. 2012 is a vintage to buy.

What to eat with your Brunello: this wine pairs best with savory, rich dishes. Think roasted or grilled meats, or aged cheeses like Pecorino.

Here are my top 5 Brunello to look out for from the 2010 vintage. These are in no particular order, but if I had to buy just one, it would be the Campogiovanni:

~ Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {sweet earthiness, plum, light cinnamon spice, vibrant & alive}

~ Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {black roses, hint of vanilla, dark sour cherries, moody spice, grippy}

~ Capanna Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {violets, juicy red fruits, softer, sexy, feminine, earth, pure silk}

~ Il Grappolo Fortius Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {powerful concentration, a little savory, mineral, spicy violets}

~ Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {ripe fruit balanced with leather, earth, spice, stone, silky tannins, approachable now}

Cin Cin,