Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wines for Christmas and through the Festive Season

Wine List for Christmas 2012
Found at Seafair LDB in Richmond (and most LDB stores in Metro Vancouver)
Wines in Brackets may be only at Signature LDB Stores (Like Ironwood or Cambie & 41st or Thurlow) or VQA BC Wine Stores (like Sips at Ironwood in Richmond or Dunbar & 41st)

  1. Sparkling/Champagne
Cristalino Cava $13, Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay $25, Segura Viudas Cava $16,  Louis Roeder $63 Excellent French Champagne

  1. BC
Road 13 Stemwinder White $15, Rockpile $25 delicious blend of reds, Hester Creek Merlot/Cab $19, Hester Creek Character White $20, Hester Creek Character Red $20, (Church & State Syrah $30, Church & State Meritage $25), Church & State Chardonnay $25). (The View Pinotage $20 and Red Shoe Red $16) Quails Gate Chardonnay $18
Any Prospect Winery white or red $12 - $20.

  1. Argentina
Norton Privada $23, (Norton Reserve Malbec $20)
  1. Chile
Marques Casa Concha Chardonnay $20, Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon $20, The Junta $15, Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir Reserve $18, (Escudo Rojo $16),( Concha y Toro Trio Merlot, Carmenere, Cabernet $16)

  1. Australia:
Peter Leyman Layers $17, Clancy’s Legendary Red $20, Little Yering Pinot Noir $16, Heartland Shiraz $23, Wakefield Riesling $20, Killikanoon Killerman’s Run $25, Razor’s Edge Shiraz and Grenache-Shiraz (both $15)

  1. New Zealand,
Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc $16, Mapmaker Sauvignon Blanc $20, The Ned Sauvignon Blanc $15, (Stoneleigh Chardonnay $16), The Dr.’s Riesling off-dry $20, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc $20

  1. South Africa:
The Grinder Pinotage, $15, The Wolftrap $16, KWV Tawny Port $12,

  1. Spain:
Laya $14, (Faustino V 2005 Rioja $25)

  1. France
Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay Reserve $20, Chateau La Gorce 2009 Red Bordeaux,

  1. California: Rodney Strong Chardonnay$22 and Chalk Hill Chardonnay $26, Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon $22,
  2. Italy:
Farnesse Primitivo $10, Nipozanno Chianti Rufina Reserva 2008, $23, Masi Campiofiorin $20

  1. Portugal
 Tio Pepe Fino Sherry very dry $20, Alvear Montilla Fino dry $15

Monday, October 15, 2012

Eleven Wines for Autumn

I had my Introduction to Wine Appreciation for Burnaby Continuing Education at the beginning of this month (October).  Here are my notes on what we uncorked and unscrewed.

Dr. L (Loosen) Sparkling Riesling, Mosel Germany
12%                 $18.99

For over a decade I have enjoyed serving the still version of this Riesling and in the past year or so, the sparkling edition has graced our shelves. It is a Sekt, which is what the Germans call a sparkling wine which is made by a different process than Champagne and is thus more budget friendly.  Apples and peach on the nose and palate with a sweetness of 2/10 to balance the crisp acidity, and ending on a long citrus finish.  Light, elegant, but flavourful.  A wunderbar apertif for the holiday season just around the corner and perfect for roast pork, bbq rib dishes, baked ham, duck and turkey!

Stoneboat 2011 Chorus (six grapes in the blend), Okanagan VQA BC 11.5%              $17.99

From Oliver comes this off-dry Germanic white made from six grapes including the aromatic peaches and apricots of Kerner, Schoenburger, and Muller Thurgau with some orange Viognier, against the mineral background of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc all singing in harmony. We have lots of fruit for you. I prefer their drier Pinot of the best of the Okanagan with lots of minerality to balance the fruit. Yum.  

The Ned 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand   13%                 $15.99

Mention New Zealand and I automatically think of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Ned is an affordable SB at $16 and delivers the gooseberry and guava fruitiness complemented by green beans and grassiness we expect from the vineyards of Marlborough down in the cool South Island.  And there is plenty of bracing acidity to f curried mussels into a delectable duo of flavour flavour. Also beaut with goat cheese.  Try the ones from Salt Spring, Kelowna, and Agassiz.

Chateau de la Roulerie 2010 Chenin Blanc, Loire France   13%                 $21.99

From an off-dry white such as Chorus, we go to bone dry Chateau de la Roulerie.  The Loire valley is famous for their Sauvignon Blancs, their Chevre Cheese, and their Chenin Blanc.  This Chateau region of France produces a wide range of styles of Chenin Blanc, from driest of dry (like the de la Roulerie, to sweet and sparkling wines of class.  It has a regal golden colour, unlike most two year old whites that are often straw coloured.  This is an elegant and flavourful wine of quince, good acid, and pedigee. Enjoy with prawns in a curry sauce.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Chardonnay, Washington State     14%                 $19.99

If you drive north of Seattle on your way back to BC, its well worth a sidetrip to Woodinville and Chateau Ste. Michelle.  A French Chateau nestled in a park like setting in the Pacific Northwest lwhere in the summer you can purchase wine and picnic goodies and enjoy the lay of the land, and also attend outdoor concerts on the estate where Paul Simon and Joan Baez just to mention a few have played.  And did I mention how delicious Chateau Ste. Michelle wines are? This Chard is a delicious combo of apples, vanilla, toasted hazelnut, with the oak pleasantly balanced with the the fruit and the crisp acidity.  A leaner style of Chardonnay that Pacific Northwest wineries usually make, but with plenty of personality, just more restrained than the overly oaked versions you can still get from California and Australia. I would love some lobster with that, if you don't mind!

  1. Stoneboat 2009 Duet, Okanagan VQA BC
13.6%              $19.99

  1. Razor’s Edge 2008 Shiraz-Grenache, McLaren Vale South Australia
14.5%              $14.99

8. Tatty Road 2012 Shiraz, South Australia
13.5%              $14.99

9. Morse Code 1010 Padthaway Shiraz, South Australia
$14.5%            $13.99

      10. Concha y Toro 2011 Trio (three varieties), Chile
14%                 $14.99

      11. Oro Osborne Pedro Ximenez (sweet sherry), Jerez Spain
15%                 $15.99

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Bubbly to Celebrate the End of Summer

Even if we no longer are a student, the end of August with its golden haze and cooler nights signals the end of  summer and the return to our Fall routines.  While we still have a week or so before September, its a good time to toast our fleeting summer with some bubbly. And while I would love to uncork some real French Champagne, being semi-retired means I look for more economical sparklers like our Cristalino Brut Jaume Serra. This is a Spanish Cava which means it is fermented with bubbles right in the bottle, just like Champagne. Plus, it is made from a strain of yeast from Champagne. And its a treat to taste and enjoy, just like Champagne.  But its only $12.99, not $60 or more!!!  

What's not to like?  Pop the cork (don't point it anyone) and your nose will delight in the bouquet of stone and tree fruit along with a toastiness found in most Cavas and Champagnes.  Swirl it in your mouth for a few moments to savour the sweet summer taste of peaches, nectarines, green apples. There is lots of flavour and complexity for a wine at this price. 

You can enjoy it on the patio by itself with tapas.  I often like to pour half a glass of Cava with half a glass of red wine to make a Sparkling red.  Or you can make a Kir Royale by adding about an ounce of French Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) to a glass of Cava.  Or you can make a Spanish Bellini by adding some fresh peach juice to a glass of Cava.  Make sure the bottle is in the fridge for a couple of hours as you want it chilled.  If you want the tiny beads of bubbles to last a long time, store tall flute glasses in the freezer for 15 minutes before pouring the wine.

Wine & Spirits rated the Cristalino Brut Cava 88 points out of 100, which is an A grade.  It also rated the Jaume Serra winery Value Brand of the Year for the past three years.  Its relatively new on the market in BC but its a bargain, even for Spanish Cavas, and a real favourite of mine.

Cristalino Brut Cava from Jaume Serra.  $12.99, 11.5%, available in most LDB stores.
A Bubbly to Celebrate the End of Summer
Dry Sparkling Wine Highly Recommended

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Might Fine Fino!

As the summer continues to occasionally feel as hot as Spain, I have an urge to chill some dry Spanish sherry, make some gazpacho, and eat some tapas.  Sherries, to be called sherries, must come from Spain, down in the south-west corner, in the region known as Jerez.  Sherry is an Anglicization of the name, Jerez.  And while Sherries are relatively inexpensive considering the quality, their neighbour next door, in the region known as Montilla, makes them even cheaper.  While the quality is not quite as high as the wines from Jerez, the Montilla fortified wines are still worth trying and delicous in their own right!

Last weekend, I chilled an Alvear Fino Montilla.  This is a bone dry sherry....fino, Spanish for finest,  the driest and palest of the fortified wines in Spain.  Most Spaniards drink this type rather than the sweeter dessert wines,because  fino is so versatile with food, the Spanish love to eat and drink, and the British old ladies need the dessert sherries.   Served chilled, the Alvear is meant to be enjoyed with the tapas appetizers, bite sized snacks with serrano ham, manchego cheese, garlic prawns, stuffed olives, marinated red pimentos, tinned other words with a real variety of food.

The Alvear has a bouquet of the salty ocean, along with hints of toasted almonds. The flavour is complex, dry fruit, nuts, green olives.  When I sip the fino along with the chilled gazpacho soup, the flavour takes on more of the stuffed green olive personality...its wonderful how a wine will develop a new flavour profile when eaten with food.  There is the tanginess that one gets when you dive into the ocean after a hot day at the beach and a savoury finish that lasts till sunset!

Alvear Fino Montilla, Spain, Mighty Fine Fino, Dry Fortified White
Spain, $14.99, 14%, Highly Recommended

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Perfectly Priced Pinot

If you are a fan of spring and of great value, then New Harbour Pinot Noir might be your 'cup of tea', if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor.  Like spring, this medium bodied red is fresh, full of life and flavour.  You can sip it on the patio while you are barbecuing, it will go with so many BBQ foods: ribs, chicken, lamb, burgers, salmon, tuna. Besides being versatile, it is also  fruity and savory in character which will make it seem like its right from your garden and orchard.  Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to transplant, but Marlborough in New Zealand is one place it does well.  There is a meatiness or umami, the savoury flavour.  Cherries, cranberries, earthiness (the terroir) with smokey and oaky elements are in there as well. The fruit is almost sweet in the mouth but it finishes with a dryness you expect from reds. There is the refreshing acidity of Pinot Noir (that's what makes it a great food wine, there. Not too much tannins (Pinots have thin skins) so you can expect a smooth velvety mouth feel instead of pucker power.  

And did I mention its only $15.95?  Pinot Noirs are usually much higher priced, you can easily spend $20+ and much more so this is definitely worth a try. For me, its worth many tries.

New Harbour 2009 Pinot Noir, , Marlborough, New Zealand, $15.99 13.5%
Medium Bodied Red, Perfectly Priced Pinot, Highly Recommended

Monday, April 23, 2012

Luscious and Latin!

I have discovered my favourite Malbec. Like most Malbecs, this one originates in Mendoza, Argentina, the largest wine-producing region in this red wine country.  Made from 30 year old vines, this is one heck of a complex wine for $20!  The bouquet has layers of scents, from dark fruit, leather, and cocoa, to a little of Castro's Cuban cigar and cedar box. You will be tempted to endlessly swirl the glass and sniff in rapture as you discover the depth of the nose....every sniff reveals a new dimension to the bouquet.  But of course, the proof is in the pudding, I mean palate. Savour the ripe black and red fruit, with leather, violets, cloves, and licorice.  A multi-layered complex extravaganza with enough tannin to give a good mouth feel, but soft enough to enjoy right now. After all, it is now four years old.

If you're used to the more fruity simpler and inexpensive Malbecs, try this one that is a winner and reminds me of aged European reds.  It was the favourite wine in my recent Burnaby South American wine class the other month..Enjoy with some Moroccan lamb sausages or meatballs that Herringer's Meats in Steveston prepares.  

Bodegas Norton 2008 Malbec Reserva, $19.99, 14.5%, Mendoza Argentina
Medium-bodied complex Red. Luscious and Latin!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two great reads for wine lovers!

Once in a while there is a wine book that comes along that rings true to the wine lover. The writer is passionate about wine, and usually wine and food, and conveys his or her passion and makes the reader even more passionate about the enchanting subject of wine in all its glory!  Such a book was The Heartbreak Grape: A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marq de Villiers, published in 1993.  This non-fiction book is bound to appeal to anyone who fell in love with the movie, Sideways or is fond of Pinot Noir.  Titled the Heartbreak Grape because Pinot Noir is fickle and difficult to grow, and makes the winery owner and winemaker shed a few tears when it doesn't meet their high standards. Even in the traditional region where fine Burgundies are made, they only make really good ones three times out of every decade.  Furthermore, Pinot Noir  does not transplant very well. Unlike Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, there are only a few regions where remarkable Pinots are produced, Oregon being one. Written by Canadian author, de Villeirs, this little gem of a book recounts the story of Josh Jensen, who went to Burgundy to train to make Pinot Noir in the traditional way. Jensen then went to California and looked for a site  that had the same type of soil as Burgundy  where Pinot Noir thrives: limestone. Jensen built his winery Calera, planted his vines, grew his grapes, and made wine with love and by instinct rather than by sophisticated technology. Along the way you learn about grape-growing, wine-making, and the ups and downs of trying to tame a diva of a grape.

But I digress.  I really want to share with you my latest favourite read, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy,  by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008.  No I don't think Sergio is Phil's brother...maybe cousin.  Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and immigrated to New York in the 70's with his family. He originally trained to be a chef but ended up in the wine importing business in New York City. From there, he and his brother traveled regularly to the various regions of Italy (the famous northern region of Piedmont, the sweeping estates of Tuscany, the lush fields of Campania, the chilly hills of Friuli, etc.) to taste and buy wine, encountering  traditional wine makers, biodynamic fanatics, as well as modern technocrats. And in addition to learning about Italian wine, you learn lots about family, Italy, food, passion, and life. Like Marq de Villiers, Sergio Esposito is a skilled writer who not only can write about wine in an engaging way, he can spread his passion and joie de vie with you.  He is so contagious!  This, like the Heartbreak Grape, is a Must Read for anyone who sort of likes wine and more.  I found it in my local (Richmond, BC) library. Frances Mayer salutes the author by writing, "Esposito's glass is always half-full, when not filled to the brim, and always with something beautifully red and swirling and passionate, as re his words in this wine-adventure, story-memoir, deep-rooted; and the wines--perfect on the tongue, with a long finish." Not only is Esposito a great wine-lover and epicurean, he is a great story-teller. He makes you wish you were in the wine business and Italian! 
Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy,  by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008.  A full-bodied book with lots of complexity and a delicious finish!
$17.50 paperback. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cheap, Greek, and White

When I decide to make a Greek meal (tahini, Greek Salad, barbecued chicken souvlaki) my romantic side of me wants to open that one litre bottle of Retsina and savour all the intense flavours that a wine tasting like Pine-sol can add to feta cheese, rosemary, olives, garlic and onions.  My wine-lover side prefers to go for a compromise.  No pine-resin please but let's enjoy it with a Greek white. Voila! Boutari Kretikos 2009.  With a name like Kretikos, you hope its not made for cretins but it is made in Crete, the home of the Minotaur and early Greek civilization, For the longest time, Greece has had the reputation for making mediocre wine as well as being tax-evading and bankrupt. This wine should change your mind.

For $12,99, it is amazingly tasty. And for a 2009 white, it is still very fresh and alive; often inexpensive whites that are 2+ years old, have few acids left so they taste dull and lifeless.
Putting my nose as close as its been to Greece, I smell gentle lemon and rich pear aromas.The flavour matches the smell along with a perfumed ripe peach flavour.  Not too heavy on the alcohol (12%) with the fruit flavours accented nicely, here is a wine fit for the first week of Spring.  I can see myself after cutting the lawn for the first time, getting out my lawn chair, lighting the Weber coals on the barbie, and sipping a cool glass of Kretikos while my souvlaki marinates to perfection.  

Boutari Kretikos 2009, $12.99, 12%, Crete Greece
Light White, Recommended, $12.99, Cheap, Greek, and White

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Duo of Spanish Reds: Part Two

Now that you know from the previous post that Spanish reds are inexpensive and good, you will now learn that they are also moderately priced and great!!!  May I introduce, the Faustino V 2005 Rioja, a wine produced from Spain's premium red grape, the Tempranillo

Back in 1970 when I first caught the wine bug, I remember a wine critic speaking of how amazing Spanish reds were and he mentioned the Faustino I which today is in the $30's.  Back then it was $10 or so.  I have tasted that wine and it is remarkable but my budget usually grimaces at wines over $30 so I get seduced by the Faustino V which is $5 cheaper.  Despite the fact it is cheaper, it too is one remarkable  wine.!

For a six year old red, it still has a beautiful ruby colour. The bouquet is multi-faceted with cherries, vanilla, and a whiff of campfire and a subtle compost or terroir.  The flavour is rich in dried black cherries and enough barnyard to make you know you are savouring a real fine European red. The wine is simply smooth, elegant and has the balance between the grapes in  age (mild tannins) and youth (enough fruit and acid to make it tasty and refreshing, fruit and terroir, bouquet and has it all. All that and a tasty lingering finish to make you smack your lips.  This is my favourite red that is available and affordable and wonderful. I recently took it to a party where everyone was supposed to bring their favourite red and a tapas. I brought skewers of Spanish manchego cheese along with grilled red pepper, a green olive stuffed with anchovies (no they don't taste fishy!) and a slice of proscuitto.  There's a match made in Spain, in Rioja to be exact.

Faustino V Rioja Reserva $25.99, 13%, Spain, Available, Affordable, and Wonderful!!
Medium-Bodied Red, Highly Recommended $25.99 

A Duo of Spanish Reds: Atano Rioa Crianza Part One

Last year's Vancouver Wine Festival featured Spain.  And I not only became even more seduced by Spanish wine, but I willed my way to Spain. It helped that my wife also suggested the idea and we went for two weeks of Riojas, Cavas, tapas, paella, history, geography, culture, art,!  Spain is amazing as a wine producer because most of us are unfamiliar with the grapes and the wine regions. Rueda?  What is Rioja?  You mean that Sherry is actually a white wine?  And what blows me away is that you can literally go to liquor stores and buy a 2005 red wine for $25, sometimes a 2001 for $20!  Try that with almost any other country and (a), you can't find them in stores, and (b), if you can find them on the shelves, you are paying close to or over a hundred loonies!  So Spain is a bargain as well as an adventure.

Barbara Philip, one of the few Masters of Wine in Canada,  now in charge of European purchases at the BCLDB, chose an inexpensive Spanish red at this year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival's seminar, "Excitement in a Glass".  Barbara's choice was the 2008 Atano Rioja Crianza. For $12.99 for a 3+ year old red wine, this seems like a bargain.  And Barbara admitted it is too good for its price!  Wine fans in B.C. don't often get bargains like this, so please, don't up the price! 

It is an old style Rioja which speaks to Spain and Rioja, typical of the country and the region. There is the strawberry and earthy compost terroir in both the bouquet and the taste.  The tannins are soft and the wine is smooth, fruity in a suave and gentle way, and very appealing. 

Antano 2008 Crianza Rioja 2008
$12.99      13.5%
Medium Bodied    Highly Recommended

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Trio of Rieslings: Take Three

And now for something completely different!  No its not Monty Python, its the Pewsey Vale Contours 2003 Riesling from the Eden Valley in South Australia.  The Eden Valley is near the famous Barossa Valley and its there that a 75 year old vineyard produces the fruit that splashes into this wine.  This was Sommelier of the Year, Terry Threlall's choice at the Wine Festival's seminar on Excitement in a Glass earlier in March.

Like the Aussies themselves and the Land of Oz, Australian Rieslings are a breed apart from anything else.  While the previous two Rieslings were delicate, this is bold and brash.  Even though its nine years old, the acidity is still alive and vibrant, thanks in part to the nature of Rieslings and the fact that the Eden Valley is a cool climate area, Because of  the acidity, its a great match with seafood, a fact that Andrea Vescovi of Blue Water Cafe reminded us.  And then there's the typical Aussie fruit of lime and citrus and a squirt of petrol, kerosene, or diesel. Moderator of the seminar, wine educator Mark Davidson pleaded that it should be described as marmalade, but I think the petrol descriptor is more accurate, even if it scares the heck out of many consumers.  Aged Rieslings, from Germany and Australia, often have this 'crude' characteristic which is very appealing and a sign of a good R, once you get used to this acquired taste. A scallop ceviche and this beauty would be heavenly.  Just don't light a match...only kidding.

2003 Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling: A Different Kettle of Riesling
Full Bodied Dry White: $33. Highly Recommended

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Trio of Rieslings: Take Two

My favourite Riesling is one I often feature in my Intro to Wine Classes, the Dr. Loosen Dr. L Riesling.  I am amazed at how many young female students cheer when I serve it, "It's my favourite wine!"  I am not young nor female, but it is one of my old standbys. For over ten years, this is often the favourite white wine of a ten wine tasting.  Even people who are red wine fans, can't believe how delicious this wine is.

Dr. Loosen makes wine in the Mosel, a small tributary off the major Rhine waterway where the fruit is hand picked off vines on steep hillsides. . Mosels are bottled in tall slender green bottles and have a more 'feminine' delicate quality to them. A gentle and suave aroma of apple and a hint of peach seduces your nose.  The flavour is deliciously balanced with those fruits and the crispness of the natural acids which gets your digestive juices flowing, desiring more wine and perhaps some appies to go with it!  Yes it is off-dry (1 out of 10 in sweetness), just enough to balance the tartness of the wine with a lingering finish that screams out, "I want more!" If you get really analytically, you can detect some refreshing minerality, perhaps a hint of slate where the grapes grow on those steep hills overlooking the Mosel. "Das is Gut" as they say in the Mosel.

Because of its fruity character and acidity, Riesling partners very well with many foods, including pork.  When I cook a roast pork or pork chops, I usually will pour some Riesling into the pan juices with a splash of chicken stock, along with a sprig of rosemary. Then when the pork is sliced and plated, a glass of Riesling will be the absolutely perfect partner.  The acidity of the Riesling will cut the richness of the pork and the gravy, and the fruity apple character of the wine will be the 'applesauce' which is always a great fit with pork.

Dr. Loosen Dr. L 2010 Riesling, Mosel, Germany, 8.5%, $18.99
Light Aromatic White; Highly Recommended

A Trio of Rieslings: Take One

Riesling is a tough sell, despite the high quality of the wine. Many experts consider Riesling to be the most noble of the noble white wines! Many consumers consider Rieslings to be sweet. Some are, especially the expensive ones but they have enough acidity to balance the delicious sweetness. Most Rieslings have a touch of sweetness in the form of unfermented Riesling juice added to counterbalance the natural high acidity of the Riesling fruit, so the wine is no longer tart. Many of us older wine lovers remember mediocre German wines, many which were cheap and not so cheerful, and had little or no Riesling in them.

I recently sat down with a panel of local sommeliers to learn of their favourite choices of Rieslings at this month's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival, the finale of the festivals for that veteran art's group.  Sebastian Le Goff, a French sommelier who now works for the Cactus Club, chose a Balthasar Ross Riesling Kabinett Hattenheimr Schutzenhaus 2010. Now the long foreign name alone is somewhat problematic for wine fans to remember German Rieslings.  It is a QmP, which means a quality wine with special attributes, Kabinett is the first rung in a ladder of really good German wines that get this presigious quality.  It comes from the most prestigious region of the Rhine Valley, the Rheingau, and like many German Rieslings, it is low in alcohol, only 9.5%, compared with many white wines these days which have 13% to 14% alcohol.  Which means you can perhaps have another glass and it is the perfect luncheon wine. Expect the familiar apple aroma and flavour, fresh acidity with ample fruitiness.  Well balanced, light, and deliciously fruity. 

Balthasar Ross Riesling Kabinett Hattenheimr Schutzenhaus 2010 Riesling Kabinett, Germany. 9.5%. $23.99
Light Aromatic White; Recommended

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival: Excitement in a Glass with Bubbles

Here was my last seminar I attended, bright an early Friday morning at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. Take five of the top sommeliers and wine buyers and get them to choose ten wines from around the world that really excites their over-stimulated palates, and what do you get?  A wonderful tasting seminar at the 34th Annual Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival that ended yesterday, March 4th.
Sommeliers Who Chose the Wines
To kick start this very entertaining and insightful seminar hosted by Mark Davidson, we went to northern Italy. The Cantina Breganze Rosa di Sera Vino Spumante Extra-Dry was our breakfast wine which dazzled my taste buds at 9:30 in the morning. Sebastien Le Goff, a French trained sommelier currently works with Rob Feenie at the Cactus Club, planning their innovative wine program. Sebastian described this as the quintessenial breakfast wine; "Its like a fruit  salad for breakfast and is very pretty!" With pretty pink hues and its gorgeous rose petal and strawberry personality and gentle refreshing bubbles, who would disagree. Like most tasty bubblies, its a blend of white and red grapes: 75% Prosecco and 25% red Marzimino. Although the label  states it is Extra Dry, it actually is Off Dry. Dry sparkling wines are labelled Brut. Confused yet?  Basically it is a 1 out of 10 on the sweetness code. 

As a consultant in Asia Le Goff reports that Proseccos on tap is a huge trend in Asia where property is expensive and most restaurants can only feature two or three wines. The saving in packaging using a box rather than heavy bottles and the efficiency of serving, is usually passed on to the consumers.

Here in BC, this product is available in stores in a 750 mL bottle but expect to see it on tap at the Cactus Club where it should be approximately $6 a glass...very affordable.  Delicious on its own at any time of day, breakfast, noon, or night.

For something completely different, Terry Threlfall of Hawkesworth chose the Maisons & Domaines Hentriot Cuvee des Enchanteleurs 1998 Vintage Champagne. The good news is this is one heck of a complex and delicious aged Champagne, produced from only the top Grand Cru vineyards. Most champagnes are non-vintage, blends of several years, but Champagne houses choose about three years in every decade where the growing conditions are superb. And Vintage Champagnes receive longer aging on the lees in the underground limestone cellars, adding layers of character. The acidity is still fresh, even though its a dozen years old, but the maturity has made the wine's mouthfeel oilier with more body.The bouquet is full of toast and bread dough with fruit, and the flavour from the blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is elegant and complex with a long citrus finish. According to Threlfall, this is the kind of wine that wine people drink at home. If you can get it....its not availabe in BC and if it was it would sell for $200!  While you might wonder why I would bother wrting about some patrician wine, its to let you know that this is why the Playhouse Wine Festival is so exciting. You get to educate your palate on what the premium wines of the world are really like. plus sample wines you normally wouldn't be able to taste.
My 10 glasses, before I tasted and swallowed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

This Weekend's Wine Tastings at Marquis Wines

Marquis Wines in Vancouver on Davie near Howe are known for their selection of fine wines and their weekend wine tastings.  Here are their selections for today (Feb. 24th) and tomorrow (Feb. 25th). I have not tasted any of these so its up to you to decide if they live up to the hype below. They probably do!

The following is from the weekly email I receive from Marquis.

This week we go around the world for our Wines Of the Weekend. We start off in Australia with Tyrrells 'Lost Block' Semillon, and from there go then to Greece for a unique and very flavourful red wine.  Our higher end offering this week is from South Africa, with the smooth, classy and elegant Shannon Wines Pinot Noir. The Elgin Valley where this is from is fast becoming a burgeoning area for classic cool climate Pinot. We'll have these wines open at 2PM tomorrow Friday Feb. 24th) so feel free to swing by the store and give them a taste.

And don't forget to join us on Saturday, Feburary 25th from 4-6pm to sample Bioganicable™ (Bio-Dynamic, Organic and sustainable) wines from Chile. We will be pouring 10+ wines to wet your palate. This event will be hosted by our very own Ryan Hooper, South American wine buyer for the store.

2008 Tyrrell's Lost Block Semillon 

"The 2008 Lost Block Semillon has a moderate intensity of lemony fruit and a touch of quince and mange-tout on the nose. Crisp, rasping acidity is balanced by a notable touch of sweetness (6 g/l RS). Clean, medium bodied giving a long finish. Drink now to 2015. 85 points"
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate #188

 It's Tyrrell TimeAustralia is renowned for showing the Semillon grape to its full advantage by making voluptuous, nutty, honeyed semillons that develop desirable varietal characteristics with bottle age. Tyrrell's Wines make classic Hunter Valley style Semillons which are initially restrained, yet with bottle age become fuller, richer and intriguingly complex developing rich, toasty, honey and fig characters whilst still retaining freshness.

Regular prices: $17.99   
W.O.W Prices: $13.90 

2010 Tetramythos Agiorgitiko Time to go Greek!

The winery is located at the stunning landscapes of Aegiala in the Peloponnese. The 14 ha vineyards are situated on the slopes of Mount Helmos, at an altitude of 450 - 1050 m, making this one of the highest vineyards in Greece. All wines are organically produced and grapes are picked by hand only. The best examples of Agiorgitiko come from the Peloponnesian region of Nemea located on the eastern coast of Greece. Though lighter in style, when grown at high elevations it can produce serious reds of both quality and ageability, exhibiting aromas and flavors of red and black currants and exotic spices. 
"This is certainly a perfect example of region, vineyard and grape variety.  Impassively dark in colour, this wine radiates notes of dark currant, forest floor and spice.  The palate is smooth and rich with soft tannins and acidity. A highly agreeable wine; you can drink this on its own or of course, pair it up with Greek food."- John Clerides, owner of Marquis Wine Cellars    
Regular price: $17.90  
W.O.W Price: $14.90

2009 Shannon 'Rockview Ridge' Pinot Noir  
 Shannon Pinot. Time to give it a try.
"In our quest to achieve a truly great Elgin Valley Pinot Noir we are not influenced or side tracked by other international Pinot Noir producing areas. It is to be true to our own parcel of land with its ancient soils and cool climate; to be proud to create an Elgin Valley Pinot Noir as we believe that the Elgin Valley and the Palmiet River represents the best growing conditions for Pinot Noir in South Africa." - From the winery

"James, the viticulturalist, is fanatically passionate about his vineyards and knows them intimately. The use of 45% of Pinot Noir clones Dijon 667 and 777 delivers an expression of darker berried fruits. This winery is dialled in to each vineyard blocks contributions to the sum. These range in aromas from vibrant cherry, raspberry, black currants, to licorice and cinnamon. Nuances of cranberry, smoke and mushrooms on the palate. Supple tannins, vibrant, elegant and refined. This shows what great South African Pinot Noir can aspire to. Pair with duck or pork tenderloin medallions."
- Kevin McKinnon, Marquis Wine Cellars
Regular price: $35.90  
W.O.W Price: $29.90

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chardonnay and Spierhead Tasting in Richmond: Have a Sip

I used to work for Sip Wines at Ironwood in Richmond about five years ago doing their free Saturday afternoon tastings, but I no longer do. They also have freeThursday tastings. You can expect  a range of wines from different wineries based on a theme, like Chardonnay, or a range of wines from one winery, like Spierhead. All members of staff, including the owner, Simon Wosk, are intimately familiar with the VQA BC wines they sell. They will be able to suggest wines and will honestly tell you if they personally recommend them or not. Furthermore, all wines are priced at winery prices. Unlike most private wine stores, they do not add an extra $3 to the price of the wine. And they have a selection of chilled wines at no extra markup. And they have probably the best selection of BC wines of any store in the province...all of the wines sold are VQA from B.C.

Tomorrow's tasting is for those that love rich, flavourful Chards. I've tasted all of them and they are my kind of Chardonnay. Rich, buttery, oaky, flavourful, well balanced, but not inexpensive! I once balked at the clerk's recommendation that I buy a bottle of the Cassini at $29. But as it was a special occasion, I did take his advice, and I was simply amazed at how delicous it was. My more affordable favourite of the bunch is the Church & State for $25.  But don't take my advice, try it yourself.

 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23 from 4 to 7pm


This tasting is not for the meek of palate. This is about finding your favourite buttery, oaky, smooth, rich, mouthfilling, long finishing, Chardonnay.

We will pour Mission Hill's iconic Chardonnay "Perpetua" and 4 other Chardonnays that may lay claim to the term "iconic".  You can decide for yourself or just sip and enjoy. 

The wines being poured are:
Cassini Reserve Chardonnay 2009, $29
CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay 2007, $30
Church and State Coyote Bowl Chardonnay 2010, $25
Joie Farm Chardonnay Reserve 2008, $30
Mission Hiil Perpetua 2008, $40

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25 from 3 to 6pm

I have not tasted any of the Spierhead wines as the winery is relatively new.  But the credentials of the winemaker and the vineyard, as well as the medals won at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards.

The wines being poured are: 
Spierhead Merlot 2009 was $29.90 NOW $27.90
Spierhead Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 was $32.90 NOW $27.90
Spierhead Vanguard was $34.90 NOW $29.90
Spierhead Chardonnay 2010 was $23.90 NOW $21.90

 (a winery to watch) 
   Spierhead Wine Bottles
Ironwood Plaza
(between Kisha Popo & Browns Social House)
Unit 1030 - 11660 Steveston Hwy
Richmond, BC V7A 1N6
Monday thru Wednesday 11 to 7
Thursday & Friday 11 to 8
Saturday 10 to 8
Sunday 12 to 7

Statutory Holidays 12 to 6 
Tel 604.271.9463


Try some new 2011 BC wine. A joyful experience

I do not work for Joie Farm nor do I personally know the winemakers nor do I own any shares in their winery.  But these hand-crafted BC wines are some of the most popular and are usually only found in private wine stores and in fine restaurants. The winery is located in Naramata in the Okanagan, just north-east of Penticton. Their wines are exuberant in fruit and well balanced and tasty. They often sell-out very quickly at wine stores. I have tried all of the ones listed except for the new Pinot Blanc. The Noble Blend is a blend of aromatic whites similar to Edelzwicker blends from Alsace. You have to order buy the case but it can be a mix of any wines you want that are listed below. If you like flavour in a locally produced wine, Joie won't disappoint.
Dear JoieFarm Supporters,
We are pleased to announce the release of the 2011 Vintage of JoieFarm A Noble Blend, Rosé, Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Riesling and Muscat and our brand new Pinot Blanc.  The wines are now available to order online from our newly updated website by clicking on the Order our Wines link.
As in past years, we will offer a complimentary pickup day in downtown Vancouver.  We look forward to seeing you on Saturday,  March 3rd from 10 am – 2 pm at The Storeroom, 1396 Richards Street.    It is a pleasure to see all of you in person at this annual event.   Please submit your orders by 6 pm Friday, March 2nd  to take advantage of this pick up day.   
If you do not wish to or are unable to use the Vancouver pickup day, orders will be sent out by courier, free of charge to all Canadian clients within major metropolitan centres.  Please contact us for shipping charges to outlying areas. We are unable to ship internationally.
Thank you for your ongoing support,

Michael Dinn & Heidi Noble
© 2012

Segura Viudas Brut Cava: Fancy Fizz

I have a beer budget but I love French Champagne. James Bond loves Bollinger RD. Me, I have simpler tastes: Krug Grande Cuvée at $255 a bottle. Only kidding, Louis Roederer Brut Premier  at $68 a bottle or Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin at $69 are two of my favourites. The problem is I seldom can justify popping their corks; great as they taste, its just not in the cards for this retiree. But Spanish cavas are! And the Segura Viudas Brut is one of my favourites. And its $17 a pop.

Cava is the Spanish equivalent to French Champagne...sort of. Since the 19th Century, Spanish winemakers in Penedès near Barcelona have been making sparkling wine (Cavas: they are aged in limestone caves) in the traditional Champagne method.  After the first fermentation, the wine is bottled and then extra yeast and sugar is added, the bottle capped, and a second fermentation which produces the sparkle occurs.  Unlike French Champagne, the Spanish do not usually use Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Instead they rely on native Spanish grapes most of us have never heard of: A cuvée of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

It is a medium light, refreshing, balanced wine with more character than other similar wines in this price range. You wouldn't call it rich, but neither would you describe it as wimpy. It hints at the classic combo of subtleness and complexity like French Chardonnays do. The bouquet has lemon and light toast; fresh but having depth. The flavour has the citrus element with toasty hazelnuts and there is a crisp lip smacking dry finish. It is actually blended from a dozen different wines, aged on the lees for over a year, and aged a further two years in the cavas before being released to the public. As a result, it is not a simple wine. Like Mona LIsa's smile, this wine is enigmatic and will get you coming back to appreciate its many delicate layers of personality.

Enjoy it on its own. At a recent party, I served it with homemade brioche (challah) with cream cheese, smoked sockeye lox, capers, red onions and dill. Good sparkling wines like this are perfect for all types of foods, from caviar to potato chips, and everything in between, including a nice soft Brie or Oka from Quebec.

Sparkling wines (including this Cava and  Champagne) should be served very cold. Put it in the fridge for three hours. Take it out 5 minutes to take any iciness off the wine; you don't want to freeze your tongue!  Chill your glasses in the freezer and the bubbles in your tall flute glass will keep their tiny persistent bead much longer. When I want a rosé, I usually add a small amount of red to the Segura Viudas and you have a lovely rosé!  At $16, you can make any day of the week a cause for celebration!

Segura Viuas Brut Reserva: Fancy Fizz. Spain. $16,99, 11.5%

Cava/Sparkling Wine. Highly Recommended

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Grinder 2010 Pinotage: For Starbucks Fans

If you enjoy a hearty brew with dark roasted beans, consider uncorking this South African new arrival. You would swear it was either made by Starbucks or their dark roasted beans were blended with grapes. Actually, neither is the case. It is made by South Africans, not Seattle folk, and is produced from 100% Pinotage.  Thats the made in South African hybrid grape, a natural blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsault parentage.  Not as elegant as Pinot Noir but easier to grow; not as alcoholic or bland as Cinsault, but it does grow as abundantly. While it is grown a bit outside of South Africa, including B.C., 99% of it does come from its native land and they've been making Pinotage since the 1930's.

The grinder has the smokey character of most South African reds, the coffee aroma and flavour you would expect in a Starbuck's Grande, the red berry jamminess you would taste in an Aussie Shiraz, and the chocolate character you get from Purdy's. Its got spunk, quite smooth, and though there is sweetness while its in your mouth, the Grinder finishes dry, just like most reds.  I really like it and think its a great buy at $15.  No doubt it would be goot with grilled ostrich if you are dining on the veld. Here in North America, grilled beef or lamb  would be an appropriate alternative, especially if you ground up some espresso beans with black pepper and made a crust with some seasoned salt. I would be tempted to try some with dark chocolate after dinner too. Chill it in the fridge for half an hour to let the wine cool to cellar temperature. It will be much more refreshing and tasty.

If you wonder where that coffee/chocolate character comes from, Beppi Carossial of the Globe and Mail recently wrote that it comes from the charring or toasting of the wine barrels this red is aged in.  Burning the inside of the states caramelizes the wood and creates new organic compounds that have the same natural chemical compostition of the flavour agents in roasted coffee and chocolate. Makes sense to me. 

The Grinder 2010 Pinotage: For Starbucks Fans. South Africa, $14.99, 14.5%
Medium red wine. Highly recommended.