At 33 years old, J. Webb Wine Merchant is Calgary’s oldest wine store.
Started in 1985 by Janet Webb, the store sources organic and sustainable wines from small family estates that you won’t find just anywhere. Today Kevin McLean, general manager and wine buyer, has tips on wines for budgets and tastes of all kinds.
Here are some essential tips from Kevin.
People always want to use the latest wine app or read scores from popular critics, but the best way to find out about great new wines is to find a good wine store.
Tell them what you like and ask for recommendations. Go to the same person over and over, they will get to know your palate. A good wine clerk helps you explore the world of wine by pushing you into new and unexplored ground. If they only recommend what’s on sale and don’t listen to what you like, then find another store.
Calgary is blessed with so many great independent wine shops. Find one close to home and get to know the people who work there. A good shop will have lots of wine open to taste too.
People get caught up with rules but when it comes to wine, there are no rules. Experiment.
Think about the flavours, how heavy the dish is, and consider regional wines for the dish. Cooking lasagne or a pasta dish with tomato sauce? Think Tuscany – anytime you can pair a wine with a food from the same region, you usually win.
For Asian or any spicy dishes, look for an off dry German Riesling. Riesling is the most overlooked grape and it also happens to be the best wine you can pair with food. It’s usually a great value and the selection today is amazing.
The biggest mistake you can make is overpowering food, don’t try and match power with power. If you pick wine that is balanced and fresh you usually end up with a good experience at the table.
Here are three of my favorites:
Budget: 2015 Castello D’Alba Douro, Portugal $15.95
If you want great value – and I mean really great value – you need to look at Portugal. The country has so many great indigenous grape varieties from off the beaten path. This wine is made from Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional – never heard of them? No problem, these are the very same grapes used to make the famous Port wines of Portugal, only here they are made into a dry table wine. It’s juicy, soft and delicious wine that you can’t beat this for the money.
Mid-range: 2016 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie – Beaujolais, France $27.95
Beaujolais has made an incredible comeback in the last five years. Gone are the days of the bubble gum “Nouveau” wines and in their place are some serious reds, the best examples of Gamay the world has to offer. This wine has always been a favorite of mine, a sturdy example of Beaujolais from the village of Fleurie, produced from old vines that deliver an intensity most don’t expect from Beaujolais. The nose has bright red fruits with aromas of violets and spices. When you get this in your mouth, the fun really starts. It dives around your mouth hitting every corner with ripe, delicious flavors and a velvety, soft texture. This is my all-time favorite wine for roasted chicken. In fact, it’s become a bit a Sunday tradition at our house.
Splurge: 2012 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – Santa Cruz, California $99.95
Mount Eden was started in the 1950s on the top a remote mountain outside of Saratoga, California. The grapes grown on mountain sides are not like those grown in the Valley below. The cool winds and rocky soils make the vines struggle, producing grapes with unusually thick skins and deep colors. The special vineyards of Mount Eden produce some of the most remarkable and singular wines in all of California. This restrained and sophisticated wine offers aromas of green tobacco, cassis and graphite. For those with the space and the patience, this wine will easily last two decades in your cellar. It is already starting to shed its tannic coat, revealing a thrilling wine beneath. Although there are more expensive wines in California, I cannot say there are any more complex or compelling then this beauty from Mt Eden.
Interested in paying J. Webb a visit? Come by for a tasting and stay to learn from them about the ins and outs of a great bottle of wine.
Have a favourite locally owned and operated business in Northwest Calgary that you’d love for us to speak to? Let us know in the comments below— at U/D we’re always on the lookout for new neighbours, friends and partners!
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