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About Diane Nelson:

Diane Nelson is a long-time journalist and former Sun staffer who really likes wine. A lot. Chat with her online at

  • Crown Royal cocktails get Winter Fair off to a classy start

    I always like it when I’m introduced to something new. Or when something that’s NOT new surprises me because it’s presented in a totally different way than I expected. The latter was the case a couple of weeks ago at the kick-off reception for the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. Not, until recently, a whisky drinker, I’ve never — at least, not in the last three decades — been much of a cocktail person. I don’t like the sugary, syrupy concoctions full of fruit juice or wannabe juices that are just gaggingly sweet. And fairly or unfairly, that’s always how I’ve found them.
  • Winter Fair reception gives VIPs the (Crown) Royal treatment

    I’ve never been much into whisky. Until recently.
  • Rodney Strong wines impress -- again

    “What’s this wine?” my husband asked a couple of weeks ago. I stopped cold. He almost never queries me about what wine he’s drinking. He just takes whatever I pour him and either says, “that’s nice,” or shrugs and says, “it’s ok,” or says nothing at all and just keeps sipping.
  • More on our 'unhealthy' tap water

    I know this is a wine (and occasionally, spirits) column. But sometimes, infrequently, I veer into other areas to examine an issue that I hope will be of interest, and of import, to Brandon Sun readers. So in a column a couple of weeks back, I detailed why I don’t drink Brandon tap water. I won’t bore you with a rehashing of all the details, but I’d suffered from stomach cramps and aches and nausea for many years. And when I stopped drinking Brandon tap water, all those problems went away.
  • Some green memories for St. Patrick's Day

    After many years of futile attempts to come up with a clever angle for a column that precedes St. Patrick’s Day (although I suspect the bulk of the parties will be happening tonight as opposed to Monday), I decided to go with what I know, and perhaps push the limits a little. Anything remotely close to Irish wine has eluded me for the past seven years (I don’t suppose anyone makes wine from shamrocks, do they?), but I do like Jameson Irish Whiskey (which sells at the Liquor Mart for $29.06 for a 750 ml bottle). I especially enjoyed a shot of it after my volunteering shift at the Irish Pavilion at the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival on Feb. 1 this year. It was slightly chilled (unintentionally, I think) from storage on a wretchedly cold day. I drank it straight and it really hit the spot. It comes in a green bottle, too, hence what follows.
  • Drink wine -- it might be better for you than tap water

    Eight years ago, I stopped drinking Brandon tap water. I was born and raised in this city, and with the exception of a couple of years spent on the road with a band, during which I’d still be back home every few weeks, I’ve never lived anywhere else.
  • An intro to aeration and two deep, dark, delicious reds

    Aeration. It’s something that’s been written about time and again in these lines, but I’ve discovered some new tools that I think bear further exploration.
  • Two pinots and a syrah to try, each less than $20

    A few weeks back, I was lamenting that I hadn’t been able to discover what I considered was a really decent pinot noir for a really decent price. I sang the praises of the 2011 Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from California. It’s primarily cherry aroma had just a hint of earthiness, which is one of the qualities I adore about good pinot. Velvety smooth and delicate, this wine still had plenty of backbone, and I loved it.
  • Sharing bubbly a lovely way to celebrate St. Valentine's Day

    Nothing says ‘I love you’ like the gift, or the sharing, of a bottle of sparkling wine. Well, unless your sweetheart doesn’t like sparkling wine. Then it says, ‘I find you contemptuous,’ or ‘Your feelings don’t matter to me.’ Which would make me question why you were together in the first place. But let’s think positively, shall we, and use the premise that you both like — or at least your significant other likes — bubbly. Then she/he is happy and feels spoiled and adored, and you’re sweet, thoughtful and/or chivalrous. Anyway, there’s just something about sparkling wine, be it Champagne or a bubbly that doesn’t come from that esteemed region in France. While there are many reasons to enjoy it these days — it’s refreshing and delightful at any time, and goes exceedingly well with heavily sauced or spicy foods, in that it cleanses the palate with every sip — folks still seem to associate it with special occasions. And while I urge — and indulge in — sparklers at any time, I also agree that it adds an extra-festive touch to get-togethers and celebrations.
  • Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc makes me a convert

    As I wrote a few weeks ago, there’s a first time for everything. But this was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
  • Stunning Pinot Noir a worthy investment

    There once was a lady from Brandon Who chose wine with wildest abandon
  • Don't eat asparagus before drinking wine

    A few months ago, I had dinner at The Keg with my friend Jennifer. We make it a point to get together — well, I was about to say frequently, but while our intentions are good, we certainly don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like. So when we do manage to arrange a visit, we usually make it an extended time — an evening, as opposed to just a quick glass here and there. Anyway, we both had steak, as we are wont to do. I ordered a side of asparagus, which Jennifer also thought was a good idea, so she did the same. She had white wine because she can’t drink red, but I had a couple of glasses of my favourite, the J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($21.41 at the Liquor Mart).
  • Gift of wine makes for a sweet treat

    I had a great surprise this Christmas. But it wasn’t the beautiful red sweater and burgundy lace top from my mom, Leota. Nor was it the funky kitchen scale from my brother, Grant. It also wasn’t the set of candles from my stepson, Kevin, or the multiple-roll toilet-paper holder from my husband Ken. (We joked that our romance must be dead, because I gave him a can opener and a big saucepan. Nothing says love like bathroom and kitchen accessories! But this is also a man who gave me a garburator one year, and gave his mother, Edna, a chainsaw. However, we both, she and I, wanted these particular items, so really, he remembered what we asked for and followed through, which, in itself, is a great present.
  • Beautiful bubblies to bring in the New Year

    There’s nothing that says ‘festive’ like a bottle of bubbly. But there’s been a strong movement lately to try to encourage people to consume sparkling wine not only on celebratory occasions, but anytime. It’s a lovely beverage that shouldn’t be limited to special events or milestones or what have you. Why else would people mix it with orange juice in the morning and call it a mimosa? I guess because that’s a way to legitimize drinking alcohol before noon!
  • Indulgent and inexpensive wines to accompany festive foods

    I got thinking the other day about my ideal holiday feast. Turns out I have more than one!
  • Getting into the "spirit" of the holidays

    There’s no point in beating around the bush — or in this case, the tree — so I’ll just ask this directly, without hesitation: Is booze, in whatever form, a mainstay on your festive gift-giving list? If the answer is yes, here are some suggestions for fabulous and extravagant potential gifts for the alcohol aficionados for whom you have to — or better yet, WANT to — purchase a present. This is the time of year we seem most inclined to spoil the people we love with special items they might not buy for themselves on a regular basis.
  • Pinots, Proseccos and more from the Westman Wine Fest

    Ah — Pinot Noir. There was a time, not that long ago, I’d never have written those words. I wasn’t a pinot fan, you couldn’t make me a pinot fan, and I was never going to be a pinot fan.
  • Drink Canadian wine at your Grey Cup party

    So tomorrow, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the 101st Greg Cup game in Regina. And while wine isn’t usually the first thing most people think of when they consider that event, for many of us, having our favourite beverage in our hands while we cheer for whichever team we choose (or ignore the game completely and just enjoy being in the company of those around us) is a big deal. And although there are lots of options available, I just think it’s kind of neat to consume Canadian products as one views, or at least pays tribute, to an iconic Canadian event.
  • Reality check: Westman Wine Festival faves revisited

    Wine festivals can be wonderful things. In fact, they almost always are.
  • Wineglasses can serve many diverse purposes

    Vessels. Some think of ships or boats when they hear that word. Others envision large pitchers or jars, generally ones in which to store, for however long or short a time, something in fluid form.
  • Some great finds at Westman Wine Festival

    Well, they did it again. Yet another stellar event was staged by the Rotary Club of Brandon a couple of weeks back, as the Westman Wine Festival showcased a record 31 tables at its most recent incarnation.
  • Crystal Head Vodka is a real treat

    It’s crisp, yet smooth. It’s delicate, yet fiery. It’s Crystal Head Vodka, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted.
  • Zucchardi Q Malbec makes me a believer

    OK. There's no getting around it. I'm a convert.
  • Lovely whites to sip or to complement food

    “It’s SO nice to drink good wine again,” a young friend of mine murmured when she returned home from university at the beginning of the summer. She made the comment dreamily, a gentle, sweet smile playing across her face as she almost reverently contemplated her perfectly chilled glass of white while the sun filtered through the blinds and the giant hibiscus tree in her parents’ living room.
  • Weird Grapes Part Two: Unusual reds are yummy!

    I worked wildly to wrangle an amazing alliteration alluding to the wonderful wines we wrested from peppy, personable pourers at the Brandon Wine Society’s special season-starting session, which featured uncommon, usually unconsumed grapes, at least in this part of the world. But as you see, I failed miserably.

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