Those of you who know me know that I’m not a huge drinker. I remember when my friends were starting to drink in high school, I tried my oh-so-very-best to get the rot-gut liquor they were drinking down my delicate esophagus, but I just never acquired the taste. Believe me, I’m not some prude — I like a good gin and tonic with a twist as much as the next guy – but anyone who knows me knows that my very favourite thing to drink is a delicious glass of big, red wine.
When I moved to Toronto, I knew but two souls, both of whom had also moved from Houston. In an effort to meet some cool Canadian people, I searched far and wide for a wine club so as to pair two of the things I love: being social and drinking wine! I stumbled across the iYellow Wine Club which, at the time, had about 100 members. The founders, Ange and Pax, took me under their little wings and have kept me there ever since. I’ve watched Ange and Pax grow their business into an incorporated, and very reputable, Canadian wine business with about 4,000 wine club members, and television appearances and press coverage too numerous to mention. I’ve been privileged to have served as one of their Ambassadors, too. iYellow (a nod to Ange’s last name, Aiello) always puts on amazing events. I try to attend, and help with, as many as possible, so when Ange asked if I’d help with their Santa Ritalicious event, I didn’t even blink.
Santa Ritalicious was a relaunch of the Santa Rita winery’s 120 label. About 175 people, including wine club members, media, and VIPs attended the event to sip some fantastic Chilean wines, listen to the winemaker talk about his wines, nosh on some yummy hors d’ouerves, and shake their groove thang to the rockin’ good tunage! Santa Ritalicious was held at Thrush Holmes Empire, a way cool and very industrial Queen West art gallery. I am way hipper in my head than in reailty, so I was psyched they even let me in the door. These Torontonians were so hip, it hurt.
I find that I always seem to gravitate to the red wines, so I started with one that was very close to my heart. It was called the Santa Rita Pehuén Carménere, which I know is just a grape, but I like to pretend it’s named after me. Because I’m narcissistic that way. This wine was super intense and very spicy, and was not a wine I could ever just sip. Rather, it would pair well with a tender piece of beef or lamb or a big chocolate dessert. Because nothing goes better with big red wines than big chocolate desserts. Just sayin’. This particular wine proved to be very popular, thoughl, and was the first to run out. You can try it, too, for the low, low LCBO price of $54.95. That’s $54.95 CAD…or $14.95 USD. ;-)
Next, I tried the other out-of-my-price-range wine called the Santa Rita Triple C. As the name indicates, it’s a triple blend of Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauv and, naturally, Carménere. It was fantastic, with notes of black currants, tar, cloves, chocolate and vanilla. Kind of sounds like you’re sipping an old man’s smoking club, nón? It was a big, big wine, and was very, very good. It, too, is available at the LCBO for the low, low price of $49.95.
Not surprisingly, two of the best wines of the evening fell, in my very novice opinion, in the affordably affordable category of my-house-won’t-foreclose-because-I’ve-spent-a-fortune-on-wine. Which is funny, because it’s a well known faction (fact + fiction) that I usually have champagne-taste on a beer-budget and not the other way around. Anyway.
Firstly, the Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc. I typically shy away from white wines, but this one was lovely! It was acidic, but not overly so, with lots of grapefruit and herbal notes. It would be fantastic with a grilled chicken salad or a big juicy piece of Atlantic salmon. It had a wonderful finish and sells for– wait for it — $10.45. Ten dollars and forty-five cents!! I could buy a whole case and still have enough money to pay my Rogers cable bill!
Lastly, and my most favourite wine of the night, was the Santa Rita RESERVA Cabernet Sauvignon. It was big and ripe and just stunning. Fruity and fragrant, it’s aged in American oak barrels, but was not at all overly “oaky”. It would be good with, well, anything — ANYTHING, I say! It had an amazing finish and, implementing my own personal red wine “taste test”, didn’t at all burn my mouth. Robert Parker would be so uber-impressed. Were it available, I would totally buy a Catholic-family sized jug of this deliciousness. And, it’s only $13.95 a bottle. Sign me up.
In a fitting twist to the night, and in a Canadian Adventure kind of way, as I was listening to the winemaker, the girl standing in front of me lifted up her hair to play with her dress and as she did, I noticed that she had the Olympic rings tattooed on the back of her neck. Being the perpetually nerdy Canadian tourist I am, I tapped her shoulder and said “I promise I’m not stalking you, but were you in the Olympics” or are you like those dorks in high school who wore t-shirts for bars they’d never been to just so we’d think they’d gotten in with their terribly-fake fake ID’s? (I didn’t really say that). She said “yes, I was on the gymnastics team in Beijing”. What?! A real, live Canadian Olympian in my midst? Well, you know what my next move was, don’t you? Photo op!! Party pic!! Please note that, even whilst wearing my usual 4″ heels, she was still taller than me. I should probably just go ahead^ and start watching “Little People Big World” now. Her name was Alexandra Orlando (in the din of the crowd I do, in fact, remember her saying “Orlando” just to prove I’m not making this up) and she was, in fact, on the Canadian Artistic Gymnastics team! How cool is that? I think my Canadian adventures are now officially complete. (Related: how is it possible that I was drinking with someone born in 1987. 1987!!! Holy Hanna Barbera, I’m a dinosaur. Which may also explain my recent penchant for listening to the Galaxie Adult Alternative channel rather than my previous penchant, Max Trax Hit List. Gah!)
Santa Ritalicious proved to be another astounding success from the iYellow Wine Group – the vibe was kickin’ and people stayed well into the evening…a sure sign of success. The setting was perfect, the people were fabulous, the food (courtesy of Le Germain hotel) was totally tasty, and most importantly, there was excellent, excellent wine. Oh, and excellent, excellent swag, too. Because who out there doesn’t love free stuff? Awesome.
^Can you name that movie quote?