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.

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The Chileans Are Coming!

Are you ready for the biggest wine event of the year? The annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, one of the biggest in North America, starts in just ten days, on Monday, February 27th and runs to Sunday, March 4th!  This year the Chilean's are coming along with 35 visiting Chilean wineries, 500 Chilean wines, and over 10 festival events. Wines of Chile is ready to present their best to the wine world at the Festival, which sees more than 25,000 people attend every year.

Today, Chile is well respected as a producer of fine and affordable wines. At the festival you can choose from hundreds of delicious Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and the delicious, Carmeneres. Like Vancouver, Chile is on the Pacific Ocean, and its residents  regularly enjoy the amazing local seafood. Wines from Chile, with their balanced acidity and juicy fruit, are a natural partner to a West Coast menu.

Participating Chilean Wineries Coming to Town:Anakena Wines
Baron Philippe de Rothschild
Viña Caliterra
Viña Chocalan
Concha y Toro
Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery
Cremaschi Furlotti
De Martino
Emiliana Vineyards
Viña Errázuriz
Haras de Pirque
Junta Winery
Viña Leyda / Viña Tabalí
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards
Viña Maipo
Miguel Torres
Misiones De Rengo
Viña Montes
Viña Morandé
Viña Quintay
Viña San Pedro
Viña Santa Carolina
Viña Santa Rita Seña / Viña Arboleda
Viña Tarapacá
Viña Ventisquero

The Playhouse Wine Festival is one of the biggest and oldest wine festival events in the world starting in 1979 with only California represented. Since then, it has grown exponentially. This year, in additon to the theme country, Cabernets are the focus grapes. So if you love Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc, you'll be tickled pink....or red. The Festival features a week of special events including the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, wine seminars, wine minglers, winery dinners, and lunches and brunches at fine restaurants and hotels.

To find out more about the best wine event on our doorstep and how to order your tickets,  go to but don't wait much longer!

Tickets have been on sale since early January so some events are now sold out. But many
are still available to purchase, including the very popular International Festival Tasting held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The big room is home to all 181 participating wineries, who will be pouring 791 different wines so if you believe choice is good, you will be in Wine Heaven! Don't forget to have a battle plan on which wines you want to sample because you can't taste all the wines, even if you spit them out. My hot tip, go on Thursday night before the big crowds come on the weekend. And don't forget the obvious plan to get home safely.

See you there. I'll be the one with the wine glass in my hand and a smile on my face. Cheers.


 or CALL FOR TICKETS: 604-873-3311

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Free BC Wine Tastings at Sip Wines VQA Store at Ironwood Richmond

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16 from 4 to 7pm


The greatest white wine grape!

All 5 wines being poured won medals in the Wine Access 2011 Canadian Wine Awards. 

This tasting is the way to venture into, enhance one's knowledge of, or just have some fun with, B.C. Riesling.

The wines being poured are:
CedarCreek Riesling 2010, $17.90
Gray Monk Riesling 2010, $16.99
Mission Hill Reserve Riesling 2009, was $19.99 NOW $16.99
See Ya Later Ranch Riesling 2010, $16.99 
The View Riesling 2010, $17.90

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18 from 3 to 6pm


NK'Mip Cellars (pronounced in-ka-meep) is North America's first Aboriginal owned and operated winery. The winery is owned by the Osoyoos Band and is operated in a joint venture with Vincor. Winemaker Randy Pickton makes wines mostly using grapes from the Band's Inkameep Vineyard, established in 1968 in Oliver and from the estate vineyard around the winery.  

John Schreiner, in his Okanagan Wine Tour Guide wrote "A demanding winemaker, Pickton is able to get grapes from the vineyard's top sites, hand-tended by the vineyard's most experienced crew. When Pickton asks the vineyard for special favours, he gets them - and repays the favours by making award-winning wines."

The wines being poured are:
NK'Mip Cellars 2008 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, was $24.99 now $23.50
NK'Mip Cellars 209 Chardonnay was $16.99 NOW $15.49
NK'Mip Cellars Merlot 2009, was $19.99 NOW $18.50
NK'Mip Cellars Pinot Blanc 2010 was $15.99 NOW $14.49 

Ironwood Plaza

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


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jackson-Trigg's 2009 Gold Series Chardonnay: Creamy and Buttery

Chardonnay continues to be the most popular white wine. What's not to love?  Winemakers often compare Chardonnay to a blank canvas where they can dramatically change the wine's personality. Age it in stainless steel and it is fruity and fresh. Age it in oak and it becomes more complex and sturdier. Chardonnay made in the cool region Chablis in Burgundy is lean and crisp and a completely different kettle of fish than a rich, smooth Chardonnay from Napa Valley in California. There is a smorgasbord of flavours and styles to suit all tastes, and that is the secret to Chardonnay's undying popularity.

Jackson-Triggs winery has recently renamed their wines and revamped their labels. This Chard is part of their Gold Series tier of wines. Made from Okanagan fruit and aged in both French and American oak, it is now at two years of age, perfect for
uncorking...oops...unscrewing. Unlike most white wines, Chardonnay is a bit lilke a white wine that wants to come out of the closet and act like a red wine, which it thinks it really is. Unlike most whites, it can take oak aging, just like a red.  And unlike most white wines which should be enjoyed immediately on being released, Chardonnay, like many reds, improves with some bottle aging and s actually better when it is two years old. Expect a golden straw colour in your glass, and a rich, ripe apple and buttery personality along with a full creamy mouth feel. Well balanced, affordable, and yummy at $17.99!  My wine buddy, Eric, at Sip Wines VQA Store in Richmond, claims it is the best Chardonnay in the store in terms of quality for the price and several of Vancouver's top wine critics rave about this gem.

Like a red, Chardonnay should not be served as cold as most whites.  I would put it in the fridge for about 90 minutes and let it warm up for about 15 minutes to bring it to cellar temperature. Serve it in a red wine glass, the one with the bigger bowl.  And while you can enjoy sipping this J-T on its own and let it sing a capella, it's richness is a perfect partner with shellfish: think scallops, prawns, or lobster, sauteed in garlic butter.  Sinfully sensational.

Jackson-Trigg's 2009 Gold Series Chardonnay: Creamy & Buttery.
Okanagan VQA. $17.99, 14%

Rich White Wine.Highly Recommended! $17.99

Monday, February 13, 2012

Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills 2009 Merlot: High Ho Merlot!

Merlot was given a bad rap after it was mocked in the movie Sideways which gave Pinot Noir star status in the galaxy of fine wine. Maybe its because Merlot is so easy to grow and make into a good wine; there's no challenge to work with it. Heck, even here in British Columbia, where producing good red wine has been a challenge, Merlot is easily our best effort.  It is so darn predictable, and for some people, boring. But not this Merlot, from nearby Washington State.

I first became aware of Horse Heaven Hills (H3) when my daughter's boyfriend brought me a bottle of H3 Cabernet Sauvignon from their trip south of the border. I was in awe! A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see their Merlot on local shelves. And I wasn't shocked when this Merlot delivered as much "ooh la la" as the orginal Cab that wowed me.

I don't often 'buy' the description of wines on the back label; too often they are full of hyperbole,  exaggeration, and science fiction. But this time the winery depiction was accurate. "Medium bodied Merlot, delicous aromas of spice and blackberry with a perfect balance of earthy, dusting of cocoa, and ripe cherry flavours and lingering rich, velvety finish.." Amen!
Layers of mouth watering flavours, complexity, and can easily get to love this kind of vino.  Part of the complexity comes from the small amounts of other grapes blended with the Merlot. For the 09 vintage, along with the 96% Merlot, there is 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec. The previous vintage had Merlot with Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Syrah stirred in. For those of you who must have a score for a wine, Wine Spectator rated this particular red 89% and labelled it "intriguing". If you are having a delectable medium rare Rib Eye or T-bone for Valentines Day, this H3 Merlot would be an intriquingly delicious addition to the menu. You might want to sip some as you nibble your way through some dark chocolate which cupid sent for the occasion. Bon Appetit!

Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills 2009 Merlot: Washington State, $22.99, 14.5%High Ho Merlot!

Rich Red Wine. Highly Recommended. $22.99

Veuve du Vernay Brut Rose: A Toast to Your Valentine!

I might have champagne tastes, but I definitely have a beer budget when it comes enjoying sparkling wine.  And that's where this rose fits the bill.  Its delicious, festive, an appropriate colour to celebrate Valentine's Day, and its only $14!

The Veuve du Vernay Brut Rose is made somewhere in France, but not in Champagne. Neither is it made from the Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.)Instead, our little fizzy is produced from Spanish Termpranillo grapes, where the juice is kept on the skins for a short time so there is the pink rose colour but not the normal ruby which Spanish Riojas, made from the same Tempranillo grape, usually have. Finally, the rose is not made in the champagne method or methode champenoise: instead of the labour intensive and expensive secondary fermentation in the bottle method, our Brut Rose is made by the quicker, cheaper Charmat process where the bubbles of CO2 are injected into the wine, similar to the way Coca Cola gets its fizz. And that my wine companions, is why our little sparkler is $13.99 and not $53.99.

If the price is right, so is the quality of the wine.  You can expect a delicious strawberry cherry bouquet and flavour with a dry or brut finish. So many inexpensive dry roses lack flavour. Those with flavour, are often too sweet. This is dry (0) and refreshing, with plenty of beedy bubbles to partner with the delicous taste to make any event a celebration.  Refreshing and versatile.  Sip it on its own, try it with tapas of smoked salmon, proscuitto, brie cheese.  Sante.

Veuve du Vernay Brut Rose: $13.99, 12.5%, France.
A Toast to Your Valentine!

Highly Recommended! Sparkling Rose: $13.99

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

KWV Paarl Cape Tawny, Crème Brûlée in a Glass

Real Port is a fortified red wine made in Portugal and produced in the port of Oporto. Now you know why its called, "Port". And you know why this South African fortified wine does not and cannot have the word Port on the label. But it is made by the Port Method and tastes very much like a real tawny port except its price is about one-third of the genuine article. Do I now have your attention?

Tawny refers to the wine's amber-orange colour as it ages for years in oak, developing the colour of the wood casks. Fortified refers to the addition of brandy half way through the fermentation. The high alcohol of the brandy kills the yeasts so that there is a mixture of sweet unfermented grape juice, with dry fermented wine, plus a good measure of extra 40% alchool to boost or fortify the strength of the final 'port'. It is made by the huge wine cooperative KWV in the beautfiul Paarl district in the Cape Province where they've been making wine since the 17th Century.

I often describe the Paarl Tawny as Crème Brûlée in a glass because it has the bouquet and flavours of sweet butterscotch and caramel. But there is more! Much more, in fact. Its like Christmas cake as well: rich smells and flavours of roasted nuts, raisins, dried citrus, figs, dates....I could go on and on with other delicous descriptions but I am sure you get the idea.

One misconception about fortified or dessert wines: the good ones are never ever sickly sweet. That's because they are balanced with the right amount of acidity coming from the wine, so its sweet but not cloyingly sweet. At my tastings, people who have never tasted port before are amazed how good it is. And this Cape Tawny is good.

Serve it after dinner with the classic match: Stilton cheese from England, some crackers, mixed nuts, and a grape or two. Churchill would have called this "Wine's finest hour" and he would have wanted his Montecristo Cuban cigar as well. If you're enjoying this in the summer, put the Cape Tawny in the fridge for an hour before serving. Cooling a sweet wine reduces the perception of sweetness and makes it more refreshing. And use a large red wine glass with a good sized bowl. Swirl it around and savour the complexity of it all.

Is it real Port? No! Its not from Portugal and not made from the same type of grapes. But its made in the Port method and for anyone except wine experts and snobs, it looks like, smells like, and tastes like the real McCoy. And its very affordable.

KWV Paarl Cape Tawny, South Africa, $12.99, 19.5% Crème Brûlée in a Glass

Fortified & Highly Recommended! $12.99

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Emiliana Novas 2010 Chardonnay Marsanne. Chill this Chilean and Cherish

Here's another Chilean wine that will tease your palate while you await this year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival which features Chile. There's not many Chardonnay blends with Marsanne on the shelves. Marsanne is a white grape originally from France's Cote du Rhone where it is a main componsent in white Cotes dur Rhone wines. Made from Chilean fruit in Chile's Casablanca Valley where premium white grapes flourish, the Chardonnay takes on extra flavour, colour, and body from its new partner. A golden drop with rich honeyed peach and honeysucklle aromas and tastes, this is one delicous and refreshing blend.  Absolutely spot on with the scallop prawn soup I made using the lobster and chicken broth last month. And if that's not enough to persuade you to indulge, did I mention it is organic?

Emiliana Novas 2010 Chardonnay Marsanne, Chile,  $17.99 14%.
Chill this Chilean and Cherish.

Medium White & Highly Recommended! $17.99

If you are interested in what Marsanne tastes like on its own, go down under to Tahbilk's Marsanne.  Produced in Victoria state where it has been planted since the 1860's.the Tahbilk is $18.99 and one of a kind, in a very pleasant way.

Cono Sur The Vision 2010 Pinot Noir: Pinot Envy!

Good Pinot at under $20 is a rare find.  Too often they are rather insipid and lack the touch of terroir, the earthiness that the original Pinot Noirs from France's Burgundy exhibit.  Not this little darling.  Cono Sur (pardon the pun connoisseur) literally means southern coast which is where Chile is located in South America.  Most of the wines from Cono Sur are bargain priced hovering just over $10, are very good value, and receive critical acclaim.  For another five bucks or more, they have introduced the Single Vineyard Vision onto the B.C. market, and am I impressed!  It has the complex combination of strawberry and cherry fruit character along with the earthy beetroot and a whiff of the garden in fall. Silky, soft tannins, and elegant, in a Europeaan way. Drinking well now. Like the Escudo Rojo, this one deserves some lamb, although grilled sockeye salmon, ham, pork, or chicken would go oh so well too.

Cono Sur The Vision 2010 Pinot Noir: Chile $17.99  13.8%. Pinot Envy!

Light Red & Highly Recommended! $17.99

Inniskillin 2010 Okanagan Pinot Grigio: Great Grigio

Pinot Grigio is one of the trendier white wines and this Inniskillin Okanagan PG is a tasty one. Pinot Grigio as the Italians say, (or Pinot Gris as the French say) is the grey Pinot because the grapes have a grayish colour on the vine. Here in BC, wineries call it by either name....whatever you want to call it, it is the same grape. This white wine has a copper colour which is often the trademark of a Pinot Grigio. Unlike most BC whites, this has a relatively low level of alcohol  (11.5%) which allows it to be balanced and refreshing.  Aromas of apricot, orange rind, and a hint of banana greet your nose and palate. Like most BC whites, this has plenty of crisp acidity to make the wine a perfect apertif. I also enjoyed it with a Green Thai Pork Curry. Excellent example of a Pinot Grigio and at $16, almost cheap and plenty cheerful.

Inniskillin 2010 Okanagan Pinot Grigio VQA $15.99 11.5% Great Grigio

Light White & Highly Recommended! $15.99

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Escudo Rojo 2008: Blended Splendid

With the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival opening later this month featuring Chile, I thought it would be very timely to include this amazing red which has come down several dollars since it was first introduced. Escudo Rojo is the result of a joint venture between Mouton Rothschild of Bordeaux, France, and Concha y Toro, Chile's largest winery. Basically it is a famous French Bordeaux maker producing a Bordeaux style wine in Chile with Chilean fruit. The wine is actually a blend of four grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenere, and Cabernet Franc.  There is no such thing as a perfect grape: each grape has its attributes and its deficiencies.  While Cabernet Sauvignon gives structure and longevity to the mix, it is ofen lacking in the midpalate.  That's where the Syrah and Carmenere come in with a rich midpalate, and soften up the Cab Sauv's shortcomings.  While Cab has a blackcurrant character, Carmenere often has a plummy character with hints of chocolate and the Syrah adds blackberry and blueberry tones.  If this were music, we'd be talking about harmony.

The 2008 is very drinkable and it is a hybrid between the very fruity Chlean reds and the more restrained French Bordeaux with their element of terroir.  It is a deep red, with a generous bouquet of dark fruit and subtle oak reminding me of a French Bordeaux with its cigar box scent. The flavour is rich with black and blue fruits from the four grapes. Well balanced with plenty of character and elegance. Enjoy with a rack of lamb, rubbed with garlic and rosemary, and pan roasted to medium rare. Splash some Escudo Rojo into the pan after the lamb has been cooked and is resting. Add some beef broth or demi-glace and deglaze.  Bon appetit!

About that name.  Escudo Rojo is Spanish for Red Shield which was the name for Rothschild's family shield, Das Rote Schild in the original German.  Clever!

Escudo Rojo 2008 $16.99 13.5%: Blended Splendid

Rich Red & Highly Recommended! $16.99

For consumers in British Columbia, check out the wines on my blog and their availability in the LDB government stores: