La Grande Dégustation de Montréal offers a world of exquisite drink

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Every year I encourage people to attend the wine and spirits show in Montreal. It’s not to encourage them to drink but rather to expand their knowledge and choices when it comes to social occasions. With the holiday season rapidly approaching there will be many such opportunities.

With over 1300 products from 18 countries spread out over 230 booths it was impossible to try every offering, so we had to be selective. This year’s focus was on Italy, Pinot Gris and gins.

The first booth that caught my eye was Quebec’s Distillerie Mariana. It was the result of Jean-Philippe Roussy, a brew master, who decided to become a distiller of artisanal spirits. Joined by childhood buddy Jonathan Couturier, they started Mariana three years ago and now have eight products available at SAQ stores.

Two gins are offered: Canopée ($35), a forest gin; and Violette ($48), a gin made from wildflowers. Morbleu ($35.25) is spiced rum that tastes great either on it own or with cola. Surprising many a visitor, they produce a decent absinthe named Balzac ($45.25) that is dangerous for the beginner with a 70% alcohol per volume rating. Vodka lovers will enjoy Azimut ($28.30) either plain, on ice or in a mixed drink.

What I really enjoyed was Avril ($35.25), their amaretto. Yes, that’s right: a Quebec-produced amaretto! With hints of maple syrup, when you add it to coffee you only need to add cream or milk to have a great drink. Another tasty way was to add orange pop to create something special that will make you swear off Palm Springs forever.

Another Xmas cocktail sure to please was the Aperol Spritz from the Campari Group. It’s made with two parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol and one part soda water. A nice blend and Aperol is a mere $21.45 at your local SAQ.

Every year is an opportunity to learn something new. The different types of casks used to age a scotch play a big part in the taste. Macallan really brought it home for people with two 12-year-old scotches. The only difference between two was that one was a double cask scotch ($100.25) matured in sherry oak casks and the second 12-year-old was a triple cask ($100) matured in sherry and ex-bourbon oak casks.

The double cask was more to my taste. While Macallan Amber ($94.00) is still available in SAQ stores they are not making it anymore so it might be a worthwhile investment as a collector’s item. Another fine scotch that is sure to please is the 15-year-old Dalwhinnie Highland Single Malt at $94.75. It has a smooth taste with a touch of smoke that lasts an amazingly long time on the tongue and travels throughout the mouth and the nose. Sweet bliss for a scotch aficionado.

Now for those who enjoy the fruits of the vine. The red wine that made a splash was the Amarone Riserva 2011 from Tenute Falezza. Only available from Agence PF, it’s a strong red that goes with almost any wild game. They also offer a white from the Mediterranean that complements any seafood or fish. Chiusa Grande Abruzzo Trebbiano Perla Bianca has hints of lemon while soft tastes of melon and pears make it a wonderful experience. Try it with this pasta recipe I got from Paul-Sébastien Jacques. For these two wines contact him at

Pasta with Alfredo-type sauce with scallops

Ingredients for the sauce:

(4 servings)

1 package of fettuccine

Keep 1/2 cup of the cooking water aside

1/4 cup of butter

250ml of cream 35%

1 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano

1 leave of fresh sage finely sliced

1 tablespoon of capers

1/4 cup of olive oil

8 big scallops

1/4 cup of green onions finely sliced


Boil 5-6 cups of water to cook the pasta “al dente”.

Heat up the olive oil to high temperature, add capers, let them fry until they open like pop-corn around 5 minutes, take them out and put aside.

Melt the butter in a big pan, simmer the cream gently then add 3/4 of the cheese and the sage, when the texture is fine put aside and season with salt and pepper.

In the same pan you did the capers in, add scallops and sauté at high temperature until you get a nice colouration.

To create your plate, put pasta in sauce (add a bit of cooking water from the pasta if the sauce is too thick) and mix in the green onions, split in four plates, sprinkle some capers and the rest of the cheese then add two big scallops on top.

And finally, for all of you wanting to make a little extra money this year check out Made With Love is a new Montreal-based bartending school that can have you serving up drinks like a professional in just two weeks. The next session starts November 26 for a limited class of 12 in the evenings 6-9 pm Monday to Thursday with an exam on Friday night for a cost of $589 plus tax. The price includes all course books and bartending tools you’ll need… plus tasting drinks.

A fanged tipple

Do like your wine bloody? No, we’re not talking steaks or Caesars – but about the Legendary Dracula line of wines and brandies from Romania-based Transylvania Wine LTD.

Their display at the wine and spirits exhibition played heavily on the throat-sucking theme with wines such as the Legend of Dracula, and brandies with monikers including Age of Vampires, Power of Dracula and Potion of Dracula.

It’s a kitschy attention-grabber playing on their Romanian roots, and, judging by a sampling of the red wine, one that may be necessary for market share. The cabernet-sauvignon – available at the SAQ for $19.05 – tasted like the count’s last victim may have suffered from anaemia. But it could be a fun talking point in your cellar.

Our host, Doina Horvat, insisted that the brandies could bestow some supernatural powers, however. The Power of Dracula will make you fly like a bat, she said, while the Potion of Dracula could bring you back from the afterlife. Not for the faint of heart!

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