What makes Champagne so special?

Champagne is a culturally accepted luxury.  While there are many bottles of bubbles we consider to be Champs, there can only be one Champagne!  But even among the ranks of Champagne wines, there are some major production and quality differences.

Champagne Overview

I have to get something out of the way first – Champagne is a place, a region of the world, and not a style of wine.  There I said it!  Sorry to say that “Canadian Champagne” is NOT CHAMPAGNE,  Prosecco is also NOT CHAMPAGNE.  Sekt, Prosecco, Cava these are all types of Sparkling Wines, but none are named Champagne.

To call any bottle of bubbles ‘Champagne’ is kind of like calling Iceberg Lettuce by the name Spinach.  Both are leafy, green, and make great salad.  But Iceberg Lettuce is not Spinach by any stretch.  They taste different, they are grown under different conditions, and cost different prices accordingly!

However, I can easily understand the confusion.  All wine labelled as being produced in the French region of Champagne must adhere to a strict set of production guidelines, making it consistent as the home of the best sparkling wines in the world.  Interestingly the production of Champagne sparkling wine as we know it was born out of economic necessity.  The region of Champagne is a cool, wet region where grapes struggle to fully ripen.  With an average growing season temperature of only 16C, high ripe yields of fruit are hard to come by.  The cool climate gives grapes that are high in acid, and as such Sparkling wine was born as a way to make palatable wine from grapes that could not be made into quality still wine.   Without carbonation, these wines were undrinkable.  Thank goodness for capitalism and innovation!

Continue reading “What makes Champagne so special?”


How to Chill Your Festive Wines FAST

Have you been following along with our 12 Wines of Christmas ‘Advent’ure?  Every other day we have been revealing one of my best Value Wine picks, along with a Perfect Pairing recipe to go with them.  So far we have gone through a great assortment of Reds, Rose, Bubbles, and Whites!

The only challenge – you read about a great wine, rush out to buy it after work and then discover – dang it you need to wait an hour for it to chill in the fridge.  Or worse, you wait until the end of the day to open your Vine Life Wine Club Advent Calendar, thirsty and tired and discover it’s time to wait for the white to chill. Continue reading “How to Chill Your Festive Wines FAST”

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs

Cold days have us craving comfort foods with hearty glasses of red wine!  There is something about sitting down to a braised meal that warms the soul.

Meaty and decadent, braised short ribs are the perfect pairing to many hearty red wines.  I recommend giving this recipe a try with a bottle that offers up a nice balance of fruit and spice, with mouth watering acidity such as JL CHAVE SELECTION 2015 Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur. Continue reading “Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs”

How I am learning to take my own advice…

Life can be a little chaotic, and often I find myself telling people to take a time out for themselves.  When they do they always come back happier, and ready to tackle whatever their days throw at them.  (TRUTH BOMB: It’s actually the #1 Reason why I started the Vine Life Wine Club, but that is another topic for another day!) To be honest, I am not exactly great at taking my own advice in this department, but I am getting better.

As a Work-At –Home Momtrepreneur with two little kids, I rarely am without my children. Childcare has not been an option, and so my career choices have always been strategic in order to allow us to have the most time possible at home.

For those that follow me on Social Media, it comes as no surprise that Oranj Fitness has become a very important part of my life, but it hasn’t always been this way.  As a Wine Educator/Mom most of my work revolves around decadent food, tasting experiments, and a never ending supply of ‘easy’ snacks to keep my little monsters occupied with while I work.  It’s fast paced, and never boring.  There is always something that you feel you need to take care of .

I spend most of my days at home either in the kitchen or behind a computer screen.  It’s a combination that needs balancing out… or I find myself starting to go crazy.

Continue reading “How I am learning to take my own advice…”

The 12 Wines of Christmas ‘Advent’ure is HERE!

Are you on the hunt for some SPECTACULAR and affordable wines to enjoy with family and friends over the holidays? We are excited to say that we have hunted down 12 of the most delicious bottles for the season, and will be releasing them 1 BY 1 to YOUR INBOXAdvent Calendar style throughout December!

Every other day, enjoy receiving a new wine review right to your inbox – complete with tasting notes, a little wine education, and a Perfect Pairing Recipe to go with it!

Want to pick up a bottle or two? ONLY Wine Club members, and those signed up on our 12 Wines of Christmas E-Mail List will receive exclusive discounts and information on where to buy these great wines!

Want to join in on the fun? Simply Click and fill out the form below to be added to our E-Wine Advent Calendar!

Want to gather with a great group and enjoy wine deals all year?

SAVE BIG Until December 4th with our BUY 1 GIFT 1 Wine Club Membership Sale!

Check out our Wine Club!

Christmas wooden background with clock, fir tree and champagne


Warm up with Orange Scented Mulled Wine

Snow is falling, and there is nothing that says warm and cozy quite like a hot cup of mulled wine.  An often forgotten tradition, I have one recipe that will warm you from the inside out when Jack Frost starts to bite.  And while this is not a recipe to pair so to speak, it goes perfectly with cold nights, snowball fights, and gathering with friends.

A refined version of the traditional Mulled Wine, pre-toasting all of your spices adds a nice extra depth of flavour and allows them to open up before steeping them.  I recommend using a fruity, low tannin wine like an Australian Shiraz, Ripe Californian Merlot, Russian River or Central Otago Pinot Noir, or Lodi Zinfandel.

This is a great make-ahead- recipe too if you are entertaining.    Feel free to infuse the wine a day before serving it.  Then remove the spice sachet before storing it. When you are ready to enjoy it, gently reheat the wine over low heat and add the brandy, Grand Marnier, and vanilla.

Continue reading “Warm up with Orange Scented Mulled Wine”

Ghoulishly Good Wines for your Halloween Goodies

Muahhhahahahaa…  we hope that your celebrations are Spooktacular this week!  If not, we at least hope that you you are finding a small way to enjoy Hallo-Wine, I mean Halloween!

There is nothing quite like being stuck at home, answering the doorbell repeatedly every 45 seconds to make a person want to pour themselves a glass.

And in my best effort to save you from some nasty flavour interactions as you steal your kids chocolates and skittles, I have come up with a great little list of wines for practical Halloween Pairing.

Continue reading “Ghoulishly Good Wines for your Halloween Goodies”

Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi

In our home one of my favourite things to roast on the weekend is a ham shank.  I then always look forward to the many meal options I can make with the leftovers!  Split pea and ham soup, ham sandwiches for days, and my favorite comfort food… This Ham and Cheese Gnocchi – Paired with my favourite Viognier!


Why does this pairing work so well?

Both pork and oak contain Lactones, which makes a Viognier that has seen a little oak treatment a fabulous choice that matches the intensity of flavors and molecular structure of the meat.  Smoked pork in particular has a fantastic way of bringing out the apricot and stone fruit flavors found in Viognier.

Because of this, Ham works well with Viognier, particularly rich new world varieties that offer up lots of stone fruit, floral, and mineral characteristics.   While the old world French options are delicious, I find that they are more mineral/terroir Continue reading “Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi”

Creamy Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

Rustic and hearty with bright sundried tomatoes, this is one dish that can be a little tricky to pair with wine.  The creamy/tomato base can pose a bit of a challenge.  It is a dish that will require a bright, medium bodied wine with juicy acidity to not only match the bright flavours of the tomatoes, but cut through the creamy richness.

For us this dish goes beautifully with bright, fruity and acidic Barbera D’Alba or Barbera D’Asti from Northern Italy!


Try it with Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne and enjoy a little escape from the comfort of your own kitchen!  With a rich nose and palate of sour cherries, and a hit of baking spices, and light oak, it is a wine with enough balanced earthiness and acidity to compliment the dark meat in this easy pasta dish.

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Wine & Pumpkin Pie? OH MY!

Leaves are changing, and the flavours of fall can be found in abundance at Farmer’s Markets and at your local grocery store.  Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and for many that means a Turkey Dinner Feast with those we care about, and crowning the evening with Pumpkin Pie!

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie recipe has been known to send many back fro seconds… or thirds.  And while it is special on it’s own, pairing it with an equally as delicious dessert wine tends to elevate the entire evening to OUTSTANDING!

So what do you pair with Pumpkin Pie?  My personal favourite…

Arnaud de Villeneuve – Rivesaltes Ambre 5yr.  At usually around $25CAD for a 750ml bottle, this is great deal for a bottle to serve a crowd of 20!  Locally it can be found at Bin 905 Wine & Spirits, and select Calgary Co-op locations.

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, and Grenache gris, it is a smooth dessert wine that begs for pumpkin pie.  With notes of marmalade, toffee, toasted nuts, and baking spices it compliments many of fall’s ideal desserts.

Need a great Pumpkin Pie Recipe?  Try Grandma Rudd’s:

Continue reading “Wine & Pumpkin Pie? OH MY!”