Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Here's to Earl Grey

Get adventurous with beer, bubbly and fresh with wine

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Well, our Winnipeg Blue Bombers are nowhere near a locker room or Astroturf this Grey Cup weekend. If you've been following the roller-coaster of a season -- from the delay at the stadium to the hiring, firings and quarterback woes -- chances are you've dipped into the sauce at some point to take the edge off this less-than-memorable year.

Yes, it's been a season to forget for Bomber fans, but it doesn't change the fact the 100th Grey Cup will be played on Sunday. If you're a football fan, chances are you'll be glued to the TV, with a full spread of snack food laid out for the devouring.

If beer is your go-to drink when it comes to watching football, consider getting adventurous -- steer away from mainstream, boring brews and try something new. I recently tried the Lost Coast Brewery Downtown Brown (Eureka, Calif. -- $5.32/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts), and it's darn tasty. Deep caramel brown in colour, the Downtown Brown brings toffee, toasted nut, caramel and light spice aromas. The toffee and nut flavours are especially prominent on the somewhat chewy palate, and there's a hint of sweetness in here that shows really well.

Another cool beer to try would be Howe Sound Brewing's Baldwin & Cooper Best Bitter (Squamish, B.C. -- $9.99/1L bottle, Liquor Marts). The larger format makes it a perfect bottle to share with friends. Deep gold in colour, the nose delivers grassy, raisin and bright herbal hoppy notes. The hops are prominent on the palate -- the "bitter" part of this beer -- while the raisin, malt and pear flavours are delicious. And hey, if there's one flavour Bomber fans can appreciate after this season, it's bitter.

If the Bombers aren't your team of choice -- understandable, given their dismal record -- and your team made it to the Grey Cup finals, you might want something celebratory on hand. It just so happens bubbly goes great with most appetizers/finger food. Think about the last fancy event you attended -- chances are there was bubbly being passed around to sip while nibbling on hors d'oeuvres.

Spain's always a good bet when it comes to bubbly -- their Cavas, as they're called, are typically lean, crisp and fresh, and the Segura Viudas NV Brut Rose (Cava, Spain -- $14.75, Liquor Marts and beyond) is certainly no exception. Raspberry, floral, flint, nut and bread dough aromas are gorgeous on the nose, and fresh red berry flavours do well with toasty, chalky notes on the light-bodied, crisp palate. Salty snacks like pretzels and chips will work perfectly with this wine. And if your friends give you heck for sipping pink bubbly while watching football, get new friends.

Fresh and crisp is the name of the game when picking wine for football snack food, and Junta's 2012 The Mine 33 (Curicó Valley, Chile -- $16.99, De Luca's Fine Wines) is fresh as a daisy. It's a 60-40 split of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and is named in honour of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days in a mine in the Atacama Desert. Peach, lemon-lime, grapefruit and spice aromas are intense on the nose, and this super-crisp, racy white delivers more of the same on the palate. I swear this would be amazing with jalape±o poppers.

For a red, you'll want something with a decent amount of fruit but not too much tannin. Entry-level Aussie blends, Ontario Gamay or New World Pinot Noir fit the bill nicely. Impress your football buddies with the Belle Glos 2011 Meiomi Pinot Noir (California -- $24.99, Liquor Marts and beyond). The grapes come from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties -- the best regions in California for Pinot -- and deliver ripe cherry, raspberry, plum, spice and earthy aromas. It's light-plus bodied and juicy, with rich red berry notes and plum, caramel, and vanilla flavours. The Meiomi is a fantastic Pinot for the price.

If you're looking for something a bit stronger than beer or wine, the logical choice would seem to be Gibson's Finest 100th Grey Cup Limited Edition Whisky (Oakville, Ont. -- $33.29/750ml bottle, Liquor Marts). Brian Kinsman, malt master at Scotland's Glenfiddich distillery, came up with this special blend of whisky mixed with a touch of maple syrup -- how very Canadian. Slightly darker in colour than most of the Gibson's whiskies, there are definitely some maple/butterscotch/vanilla notes on the nose, with a hint of spice in there as well. That maple/butterscotch note is quite prominent on the palate, with modest secondary spice notes. It's smooth, somewhat sweet and is pretty drinkable on its own -- no need to mix it with cola or other sweeter soda. Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2012 E4

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