Friday, April 18, 2014

Underground Cellar $10,000 getaway giveaway

UC Sonoma getaway
Yes, that’s right, a $10,000 USD trip for four to Sonoma wine country and they’re giving it away THIS MONTH *(April) to some lucky s.o.b in the States~! You have to get your name in this contest right now because if your neighbor ends up winning – if your boss… if your EX wins this… My friend, you will be supremely disappointed if that happens.
Want to grow your knowledge of wine? See the immense education credentials at Underground Cellar:
Because it’s not just about the $10,000 value of the trip! In fact, the money is barely relevant because some of this couldn’t be bought for any amount of money. Imagine sleeping in a Mediterranean-inspired First-Class villa, having a private tour of Iron Horse vineyards and then being personal guests of the critically acclaimed “Girl and the Fig” restaurant. Even money can’t always buy access and my well-heeled friends at Underground Cellar have truly out-done themselves with this stunning “getaway giveaway”.
UC great captionIron Horse vineyards ( http://www.ironhorsevineyards.com ), for those who aren’t familiar, has been served in the White House for decades; it has been poured for multiple American presidents, Asian presidents, European royalty, movie stars… truly one of the iconic sparkling wines of the New World. Wine Spectator constantly rates their wines over 90 points and Wine Enthusiast even gave the 2004 Brut vintage 96 points – virtually unheard of for a North American producer. It’s easy to understand why “those-in-the-know” are always putting a half-case or more per vintage of this in their cellars. Who wouldn’t want to walk through this vineyard with the winemaker and then go on a little tasting spree in “le Cav du Vin” *(the wine cellar)??
And what of where you’ll be resting your head at night? The township of Sonoma is the very first recognized Slow City in the United States, and the Terra Nova Sonoma fits perfectly with the sustainability drive behind the slow-food, slow-city movement ( http://terranovasonoma.com ). This inspiring and incredibly private villa was build by local artisans using local quarried rock and local wood. The attention to detail leaves one breathless and the majesty of the Great Room shines making anyone who stays feel like a movie star… speaking of which, Underground Cellar has produced a rather amusing video entertaining this very concept:
Which leaves the food to talk about. Let me “wax poetic” as only an Irishman can:UC great caption2
         Green tomato and bacon tartine…
          Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad with fresh goats feta
         Slow braised pork belly sandwich with soft fried local egg
          Grass-fed beef tartare *(traditional) with pickled caperberries and fresh crostini
Ok. Truth be told I just sounded a lot more French then I did Irish, but who cares? As a chef with 20 years formal experience; having worked in ultra-traditional Marseille *(French) kitchens: This. Is. French. The Girl and The Fig www.thegirlandthefig.com ). 
Billed as “Country food with French passion” I am wholeheartedly impressed with not only their devotion to producing beautiful food, but also their uncompromising approach to sustainability. We all understand by now that the Earth is an ecosystem with limits; it is therefor inherent that those within the system respects its limits! Great restaurateurs are perhaps more driven by this then most: for it is the chefs who shape the fruits of the earth, the sommeliers who help us understand the nuances of soil and the restaurateur who must then craft this into a legacy that, in some cases, lasts generations. “The Girl and The Fig”, I have no doubt, will be standing for many years to come with its passion for culinary excellence and its respect for the work in local farms.
UC Sonoma getaway2
And all of this – is free. To one lucky American. Not me – I suffer the misery of being Canadian and will watch with envy as one of you
 walks away flies away with this prize… a round of applause for Underground Cellar for putting this together. I find myself admiring their spirit even more then the fantastic assortment of gems they discover on what seems a daily basis for their esteemed clientele.
So pour another glass of bubbly, follow the link *(https://www.undergroundcellar.com/landing/6/0/ExclusiveWinecation)
and please don’t forget to tell me in intricate detail about it when you come back either here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roast Gold Beet and Turkey-Breast Salad

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, but in Vancouver that could all change in a heartbeat. Welcome to the WestCoast WetCoast~! If you’ve ever been here you understand how and why we always cherish the *(brief) moments of sunshine when they arrive… and what could be more in keeping with the current conditions than a hearty salad for dinner.
salad compose of roast gold beet, sugar peas,cucumber,tomato,cucumber in lemon basil mayo - chevre almond dried cranberry scone2The trouble is, it’s only the first week of April and we really don’t have salad crops coming in: hence the need for what a chef-colleague of mine refers to as “The Crunchy Salad”. Not for the faint-of-heart, this salad includes celery, cauliflower, carrot – just about any winter crop that you can think of. And when it comes to those wintery vegetables, don’t think that they can’t fit into a salad – they just need a little extra love!
So for this salad I’ve roasted some beautiful Gold Beets, then sliced them against the grain to showcase the gorgeous colors. I also roast a sweet potato and parsnip for my next salad at the next time. Trust me, with the right dressing even my finicky 2-year old gives it a try… “What is it Daddy?” she ask. “Oh,” I respond with fingers crossed, “it’s just carrots. You love carrots!
And there’s nothing that says summer to me more than sparkling wine; in any of its guises. CavaProseccoChampagne… bubbles are the Sirens call for weddings, baby showers, Mother’s Day mimosas and so much of what we celebrate in the “School-Free” season. I’ve paired this salad with two unique wines that not only provide excellent balance for the dish but are from producers who I have the highest respect for; as winemakers and as people.
THE WINE
  1. Summerhill Cipes-Rose1.    Summerhill Cipes Rosé
Gold Medal, Top 10 Sparkling Wines of competition - 2013 Effervescents du Monde
100% Pinot Noir
$27 at the winery
91+ points, EXCELLENT VALUE
… Springtime in a glass~! An enthusiastic mousse rushes to the surface carrying with it aromas of cranberries, young strawberries, clean flinty-mineral tones and a light savory herb tint. The palate is brisk with tight/lean/focused cranberry acids driving that mineral backbone. Dry enough to be almost austere, the generosity of the concentrated red berry flavors (currant, young raspberries) delivers excellent balance and superlative structure for the price. This is a natural pairing for most any poultry dish but is so refreshing that I love to serve it at home just before dinner to wake-up the taste-buds and get everyone thinking about food~! It is worthy of note that Summerhill is not only an organic winery, but also bio-dynamic, which means that while you’re getting your great value – you’re also supporting a company that works with their eco-system. Bravo!

  1. lamarca prosecco label2.    LaMarca Prosecco D.O.C
100% Glera varietal grapes
from $10 USD in some American markets to $20 in some Canadian *(BC)
90 points Wine Spectator
89 points, Great Value
… as the Summerhill rose is the essence of bright red berries, the LaMarca Prosecco is the essence of white fruit: young peaches, Golden Delicious apples, Anjou pear, melon and light honey tones. Another example of dry sparkling wine *(brut), once again the concentration of fruit flavors more than adequately compensate. Very good balance and structure, only the (relative) coarseness of the bubbles made me score this less than 90 points. If you’re in the mood to serve this with breakfast, try it with chorizo and onion scrambled eggs, tomato-cilantro relish…. Sparkling wines, of course, being one of the best bevvies to pair with egg dishes, the flavors in this particular Prosecco get a little giddy when around cilantro and/or fresh basil~! I love the wine, love the price, but especially love that consulting winemaker Fabrizio Gatto started off on the family’s modest vineyard, in a small town. He sets his sights, worked his tail off, and grew a career bringing the grapes of his native hillsides to international respect.

THE FOOD
The (sometimes) dullness of winter vegetables can easily be uplifted by the ultra-fresh flavors of sugar-peas. The addition of a handful of peas from Mexico/California bring an entire dish to life and become, to me, an incredibly effective seasoning. My daughter also likes snacking on them raw and I can’t say that I blame her!

RECIPE (4 portions)salad compose of roast gold beet, sugar peas,cucumber,tomato,cucumber in lemon basil mayo - chevre almond dried cranberry scone
3         tomatoes, seeds removed, julienne
½        cucumber, seeds removed, julienne
4 stalks celery, julienne
3 oz    sugar peas, julienne
2 oz    cauliflower, julienne
2 oz    carrots, thin julienne
1 oz    purple onion, julienne

(THE DRESSING)
3 Tbsp mayo
1 fl oz fresh lemon juice
1 fl oz rice wine vinegar
10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade *(fine julienne)
           Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

1 lb     gold beets, roast until just tender
1 lb     roast turkey breast, cooled
4         savory scones: I made sun-dried tomato, dried cranberry and BC goat cheese

While it’s true that food is sustenance; we need it in order to live, it is also true that great food nourishes the soul or the spirit as much as it does the body. Living with the seasons celebrates what is surrounding us and helps us keep our focus on what really matters. To me, that becomes abundantly apparent when we sit down as a family and share what other families have worked so diligently to offer us.
 IMG_4940
So enjoy your meal with great wine and family or friends. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savour the moment~! Many thanks to E & J Gallo Winery Canada for letting me try the LaMarca Prosecco!
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Friday, March 28, 2014

Vista D'Oro "D'Oro" with roast pineapple

http://www.vistadoro.com/


Everyone deserves a little something sweet…
As a chef with a conscience, I endeavor to cook as seasonally as possible: a lot of rutabaga and parsnip in the winter – a lot of strawberries and fresh tomatoes in the summer. That being said, every once in a while, we all deserve something special~!
broiled pineapple, greek yoghurt, berries, toasted coconut
And so when I found out that we had family coming to dinner a few days ago, off I went to the local stores to see what was bright, fresh and exciting. Huge pineapple on sale? Brilliant! I knew right away that a curry-fest was in order and, because I hail from Irish lineage, I also knew that I could get away with deviating from the normal “butter chicken”.
Well the meal was a success (*curry recipe to follow in another article) but dessert was the thing that really stopped conversation and got the table down to some serious eating! And looking at the photo now, I can remember how it even tasted better than it looks. Seriously.
But you know me, I simply can’t conceive of creating a beautiful meal without a beautiful beverage to compliment. And instinctively I wanted something sublime to finish the meal: a dessert wine that was going to have as much impact on the palate as this dessert has on the eyes. There was one wine that sprang to mind immediately: the Vista D’oro (eponymous) “D’oro”: a fortified walnut wine from Patrick and Lee Murphy.
Patrick amongst the vines
Patrick amongst the vines
When I was out to visit Patrick last summer we had the better part of a lazy afternoon to walk the fields, chew the fat, and reminisce. We’ve known each other for several years and so it is with a certain pride that I listened as he explained the growth in sales... Patrick and Lee are bastions of quality in a wine-region (Langley) that even within BC is “snubbed” a little. Outside of BC? Outside of Canada? Unknown and certainly unrecognized.
But the first time I tried the wines of Vista D’Oro I knew that there was something special here: contemporary Pinot Noir, lush dessert wine, and now even branching into Sherry! It was the “D’Oro” though that I remembered for years after that first tasting. I remembered because it was the first time my wife went to a tasting with me and told me *(husbands: you know what I mean) that “we were buying it”.
It was a bit over $50 at the time. More money than I think my wife had ever spent on a half-bottle of wine. We kept that bottle far longer than I wanted to; always putting it back on the shelf for “a special occasion”. And there I was just a few months ago, walking with Patrick as he told me that all of his customers were doing exactly the same thing: saving the bottles rather than drinking them. This meant slow sales and the Murphys needed a solution.
Solution? Drop the price: from $50+ to under $40; and listed in the BC government stores as well, which meant that anyone anywhere in BC could find it or get it. And whilst $35 still isn’t an inexpensive treat after dinner, it is reasonable enough that clients started drinking the wine rather than just shelve it for when the relatives come calling. More people drinking the wine meant more people wanted to drink the wine! Result? Vista D’Oro is finally starting to bask in the glow of well-earned admiration from paying customers.
IMG_3723Still not convinced? When you stop by for a visit, make sure you ask about Patrick’s tomatoes (there is a waiting list of A-list Vancouver chefs) or the stunning preserves which you can enjoy on the deck of the tasting room.

THE WINE

Vista D’Oro “D’Oro”

91+ points, Excellent Value

Marechal FochMerlot and Cabernet Franc infused with estate walnuts, fortified with 100% pure, gluten-free, BC grape spirit
. In the glass this appears to be another quality example of fortified wine from Portugal. Then I remind myself that it is, in fact, from Langley, BC. The aromas offer stewed plum, cherry compote, dried savory herbs and warm/dusty earth… the only give-away is the trademark Vista D’Oro musky perfume in the background; like walking through an Arabic coffee shop and smelling the hookah-spice from the night before. The sweet palate is classic port-styled as well, with many of the aromas being mimicked perfectly (always a sign of professional quality) as well as a distinct note of fresh currant bread and finishing with a dab of spicy pepper. Absolutely excellent balance, structure and concentration; I enjoy the fact that, though a dessert wine, this is medium bodied and doesn’t weigh too heavily on the palate. Tastes like more!

broiled coconut, greek yoghurt, berries, toasted coconut2


THE FOOD

Grilling pineapple is nothing new, but the addition of a hint of vinegar brings the entire dish into balance. I love sweets, but sweet upon sweet just dulls the taste buds. Try this new approach, this healthy approach, and discover a quick and (relatively) easy dessert that wows!


RECIPE (4 portions)
1 medium to large pineapple, skin-off
2 fl oz apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp  rough chopped almonds or pecans (optional)
2 cups   Greek yoghurt
1 cup     fresh berry sauce
2 Tbsp   toasted coconut
STEPS
. cut large circle slabs out of the pineapple, about 1” thick
. remove the inner core; I use a shot-glass with a cloth over-top and it works perfectly
. warm the vinegar and brown sugar together just until the sugar dissolves
. put the pineapple slabs on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the sugar solution until all four pieces are thoroughly coated *(optional: top with rough chopped nuts)
. turn the oven broiler to high. Broil minimum 5 minutes or until the sugar is brown and caramelized
. being very careful because nothing burns worse than caramelized sugar: remove the pineapple from the oven and plate
. fill centre core with Greek yoghurt. Top with berry sauce and toasted coconut
Bon Appetit~!
So enjoy your meal with great wine and family or friends. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savour the moment~! Many thanks to Patrick and Lee Murphy at Vista D’Oro for being so generous with their timehttp://www.vistadoro.com/
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Friday, March 14, 2014

BC Riesling and Springtime Pasta

Sunshine.
Two days. In a row... my family is so stunned that they didn't know what to do! My son Adam was born less then three weeks ago and it snowed that day in Maple Ridge. Today it was 16C but felt like 25. Brilliant right? I mean, what could possibly be wrong with a sudden spell of great weather?
Well asides from the melt-off that threatens to wash away my Editor in the Kootenays... try to stay dry Ian~! Asides from that, the more practical, chef-side of me has the kitchen and the fridge organized for pot roast, roast beef, pasta bolognese... you get the idea. But the change in weather demands a change in food and so off I went in search of appropriate victuals. The trouble is, just because the sun comes out, that doesn't mean the grocery store has any different fruits/vegetables then it did a few days ago when it was 2C and pouring cats-and-dogs.
for my 2-year old, no mushrooms!
for my 2-year old, no mushrooms!

Lucky us, here in BC, we have a fantastic resource of local hothouses/greenhouses; one of my favorite being Windset Farms ( https://www.windsetfarms.com/ ). Because of sustainably-focused farmers like this, I get to enjoy local bell peppers, tomato, cucumbers, eggplant and more long before my own garden is ready to produce even the smallest sprouts. Walking into the grocery store with my daughter and seeing all of this beautiful produce inspired me to make a perennial favorite of Italian Springtime: Pasta Primavera which literally means "the first green". Of course, you know I can't think about food without considering what wine to pair and Windset Farms artisanal approach to fruit and vegetables reminded me of another BC producer who is just as adamant about quality.
Wild Goose Vineyards ( http://wildgoosewinery.com/ ). It would be enough to appreciate that the Kruger family are amongst the true pioneers not only of viticulture in BC, having purchased their property in 1983 when there were less then 25 wineries in the entire province, but of truly World-Class winemaking here. Why do I say World-Class?

Gold Medal: Okanagan Spring Wine Festival
Gold Medal: Canadian Wine Championship
Gold Medal: Northwest Wine Summit
Lieutenant Governor's Award of Excellence
... and the list goes on. But to me, as much as I appreciate the opinions of learned wine-judges, I was more impressed by two things: my own palate and the fact that the Krugers have taken such pains to divide their (relatively) small production of Riesling into three lots: the basic "House Label" which is anything but basic, the "Stoney Slope" label which drinks much like Chablis; absolutely pure in its expression of the mineral-laden soil and the third, "God's Mountain Vineyard" which is full of ripe aromas and has (almost) rich Viognier nuances.
A small vineyard, divided into three separate labels? This my friends is top-tier precision in the vineyard found only in true craftspeople, leaders in the industry. When one speaks of Riesling, leaders like this are found in the Alsace area of France and in Germany for the most part. Wine from these regions, treated with such care, is an minimum of $35-$40 in the BC market. The Wild Goose wines run about $19-$20 at the winery, or about $22 in the savvy BC private stores. With prices like this, these are easily amongst the best values in white wine on the market today. And with Spring peeking its head around the corner? Time to stock up on the white wines!

THE WINE

2012 RieslingWild Goose 2012 Riesling

90 points, EXCELLENT VALUE

$19 at the winery
. a soft yet concentrated bouquet of yellow and white Summer flowers, ripening peaches and apricots, with a keen minerality throughout. Acid is brisk yet beautifully approachable, with a lean palate that is an excellent representation of the aromas and of BC terroir. Great balance, structure and concentration - I'm hard pressed to think of any other Riesling on the market that performs as well. This is my choice for the pasta primavera I did with roast turkey, but is a natural fit for most any pork/turkey dish... what a treat with chicken pot pie made from scratch or tortierre!


Wild Goose 2012 Stoney Slope Riesling2012 "Stoney Slope" Riesling

91++ points, EXCELLENT VALUE

$20 at the winery
. an absolute purists expression of what Riesling is on rocky soil: intense aromas of crushed rocks/warm hay/Golden Delicious apples. The palate is mean and lean, almost aggressive with it's tightly wound acid and strikingly intense mineral/slightly spicy flavors... until I started to think of it as Chablis: that ultra-mineral driven, ever-so-lean Chardonnay grown in Burgundy. By allowing myself to be a bit more open-minded, I found I absolutely loved this wine! But the food pairings for this are very different to me: oysters being a natural, I would also use it with fondue/raclette/any cheese driven event. It's a racy little wine!


2012 "God's Mountain Vineyard" Riesling

92 points, STUNNINGWild Goose 2012 Gods Mtn Riesling

$22 at the winery
. a bit of the first wine, a bit of the second, but all it's own creature. A Riesling with ripening stonefruit (apricot/peach) aromas, lush tones of wild flowers and grassy hillsides... hints of German-Riesling waxiness are in the background. The palate is as fresh as Spring, with inviting apple acids (like biting into a green apple), with all of the aromas coming through as well concentrated/well integrated flavors. Harmonious. As soon as I tasted this wine I thought of seafood: BC spot prawns, cracked crab, lobster... whether it's in a pasta, salad or otherwise the rich fattiness of great seafood will cosy up to the perky acids and create an even more perfect balance.

THE FOOD

Want a really great Primavera?! To me, it's all about treating the different vegetables individually: to bring out more pronounced individual flavors. Roasting, grilling, steaming, raw... all enhance different flavors. Try using more of these techniques as a natural way to enhance what is already there in the food!
RECIPE (for 4)
1              white onion, finely diced
1 fl oz     canola oil
2 fl oz     white wine
2 cups    2% milk
2 cups   36% cream
salt and pepper to taste
cornstarch to thicken
1.5 lbs   cooked turkey meat, cubed
1 lb          pasta
1 fl oz      extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb     each: snow-pea, bell pepper-julienne
1/4 lb      Crimini mushrooms
1 fl oz        canola oil
1/2 fl oz   white truffle oil *(available at Bosa Foods and other specialty stores)
1/4 wheel Boursin cheese (about 4 Tbsp)
    • start by sautéing the onions in the canola oil on medium heat: the onions should sweat, or go translucent, not go brown
    • deglaze the pot with the white wine, then allow the wine to cook until the pan is just dry - then add the milk and cream, bring up to just simmering. Season
    • while the sauce is coming to temperature, cook the (optional) mushrooms... optional in my house as my 2-year old doesn't like them. Sauté in the pan with canola oil for 3-4 minutes, then toss with truffle oil and season - into the oven @ 350F for 5 minutes
    • when the mushrooms go into the oven, toss the turkey into the sauce and thicken with cornstarch. Now you can focus on the pasta. When the pasta is cooked and drained, toss it in the EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
    • only when the pasta is cooked do you steam the veggies! These only take 60-90 seconds and so merit your full attention.
    • Plate, then top with a tablespoon wedge of Boursin... just because life is good
turkey primavera but also with white truffle roast crimini mushrooms



So enjoy your pasta with great wine and family or friends. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savor the moment~! Many thanks to the Kruger family and Wild Goose Wines for the sample bottles. http://wildgoosewinery.com/


As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine
on Facebook @ 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

an Ode to the humble pot roast

Pot roast:


The lowliest cut of beef turned into the most succulent comfort food. I mean, what says comfort more than pot-roast? Immediately thoughts turn to Sunday evening meals; family is near, there’s good conversation amidst the bickering (it is family after all) and always a decent bottle of wine.
Well as soon as I tasted these two wines I started thinking of pot-roast, and I hope the wineries take that as a compliment! For not all red wines under $20 can actually stand-up to the richness, the intense “beefiness” that is great, slow-cooked meat. These wines deliver concentration, balance and value… perfect for your Wintery-type braised dishes.

THE WINE

2010 Milton Park Shiraz

88+ points, Very Good Valuemilton park shiraz

$14.99 www.BCLiquorStores.com

… deep, dark and inky in the glass – it even looks like a wine for beef! Rich aromas of stewed cherries and blackberries, some fresh thyme and rosemary with that background of cracked pepper that is signature Shiraz. Crisp, light acid and approachable, chewy tannin, the flavors in the wine are much in-line with the aromas and are rich enough to pair with dinner but fresh enough to appreciate a glass or two on their own.
*Shiraz: a note on Shiraz; it is the exact same varietal (grape) as Syrah… no difference at all! The only thing that is worthy of noting between the two is that in the past Syrah was considered the French style of winemaking (and so more restrained, less obvious fruit and more earth tones) and Shiraz was the Australian style meaning big bold fruit, higher alcohol. Well, the times have changed and in a recent meeting of the #WineTastingCircle of Vancouver, industry professionals couldn’t tell which was Australian, American, Canadian or Spanish Syrah/Shiraz. It’s not that there are no differences, but that wine-making has grown and evolved that much in the past 10 years. If you think that you don’t enjoy Australian Shiraz but enjoy full-bodied wines with great concentration, balance and structure then you owe it to yourself to “pony-up” the $15 and give this little gem a try.

Jumilla “Las Hermanas” organic Monastrell

jumilla las hermanas monastrell89+ points, Excellent Value

$15.99 www.BCLiquorStores.com

… fresh, fruity, inviting: this is the wine you open as you’re cooking and hope that you have a second bottle for dinner! The aromas are plush with red cherries, currants and young plums and the palate has just enough acid to crave a bit of fatty food but, once again, balanced enough to appreciate thoroughly on its own. A solid wine, this is already on my Top 100 list for 2014~!
*Monastrell: not familiar with it? I find that this grape is very much like Merlot, which all of us can remember as fresh, fruit-driven flavors. This is a classic to serve at social events, but when well-made can offer concentration and structure to pair with classic Canadian winter dishes like pot-roast, tortierre and Shepard’s pie/Cottage pie. As per this particular producer, it’s small wonder that the European Portfolio Manager for the BC Liquor Board (one of Canada’s three Masters-of-Wine: Barbara Phillip) has named this as an “Insider Pick”. This would be a great value even if it wasn’t organic!

THE FOOD

Making beautiful food doesn’t have to be time consuming! And while I can admire the economy of throwing everything into one pot and turning it on, when plating that food it can look sometimes like a plate for the dog rather than the (fussy) kids.
This plate of pot-roast took relatively little extra time to prepare for dinner @ 5:30:
STEP 1:   2pm:      pot-roast in the oven @ 350F (about a 4lb roast)
STEP 2:   4:30:      baked potato and spaghetti squash in the oven
STEP 3:   5:00:      sauté the whole mushrooms on medium-high for 5 minutes, then in the oven
STEP 4:  5:20       steam the carrots 5 minutes, then throw the broccolini in, continue steaming 3 minutes
Kristof’s Pot Roast Recipepot roast with white truffle mushrooms and veg
1 fl oz     canola oil
1              yellow onion, finely sliced
6              cloves garlic, finely sliced
4 lb         pot roast
1 lb         green cabbage, rough chopped
½ bottle red wine
1 L           beef stock
½ tsp        each: fresh thyme and fresh rosemary
*salt and pepper to taste
  • Start by sautéing the onions in the oil on medium until translucent
  • Add the garlic and continue cooking until it’s turned a nutty brown
  • Add the beef, sear on all sides. When it’s on it’s last sear then add the cabbage
  • When the beef is finished searing, add the wine, then stock, then herbs
  • DO NOT salt the dish until it’s finished cooking… as it reduces, the flavors will concentrate. If it tastes perfect at the start then by the end you run the risk of having salty food!
  • Just before serving slice the roast on your cutting board and thicken the juice with cornstarch – excellent gravy! Don't forget to rest the roast on that cutting board for a good 15 minutes to ensure it stays moist!

So enjoy your pot-roast dinner with great wine and family or friends. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savor the moment~! Many thanks to the Christopher Stewart Wine Agency, representatives in Canada, for the sample bottles. www.christopherstewartwineandspirits.com
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 Vancouver International Wine Festival: Consumer Tasting

http://www.playhousewinefest.com/


Over 20,000 people came to the Vancouver Convention Center last week for the 2014 @VanWineFest; the expected crowd of doctors and lawyers but also mechanics, secretaries and firefighters... for too long I've heard the rhetoric from people explaining to me how much they love wine but how they wouldn't feel comfortable coming to a Wine Festival.
"It's too stuffy for me. I just want to enjoy the wine!"
Gustavo Crespo, Managing Director Blends Wines
Gustavo Crespo, Managing Director Blends Wines
Take a look at my friend Gustavo from VistAlba wines, Argentina. He sure looks like he's enjoying the wine! The @VanWineFest is, to me, what people want it to be. This was my third year of delving deeply into the inner dimensions not only of wine, but the people behind the wine. That was the true allure and what has me hungry for the 2015 Wine Fest already. I mean, if the event is about people then the year that was focused on France obviously had its highlights... but Australia next year? If there's going to be one wine event you go to - this is it. And it won't be stuffy, that much is for certain!
In the space of three days I spent time with winemakers from France, marketing directors from New Zealand, sales gurus from Chile and vineyard managers from California. I sipped outrageously expensive champagne with a man who traces his family back through 8 generations of winemaking and then swapped Okanagan stories with a recent transplant to Canada who felt that this was his new home... all under the canopy of the Coal Harbor vista and surrounded  by thousands of people enjoying themselves as much as I.
Here is a small smattering of the decidedly divine wines I discovered, and the stories of the people behind them.

1.  Villa Maria "Private Bin" Sauvignon Blanc

IMG_5025

Marlborough, New Zealand

90 points, GREAT VALUE

$18.99 listed in the http://www.bcliquorstores.com/
 . Fantastic~! This winery is 100% family-owned and run, having just finished its 51st vintage and with a more then sizable production. The quality that goes into this modestly-priced white impressed me, and all the more when I started to learn their techniques: multiple passes through the vineyards when harvesting is one. What this does is allow the pickers to choose only the perfect grapes meaning that what then gets pressed for juice (and then wine) is also perfect. This is a sustainable winery, employing some of the highest-standards in organic viticulture in New Zealand and is driven by the fastidious George Fistonich, proprietor. Remember those grapes? I asked my friend who works with them, "What happens if the grapes aren't up to Georges standards?" "George doesn't believe in "good-enough" was the response. "Either they're perfect, or we pass. That's how he built this company and it's not changing."
THE WINE: aromas of young yet well-balanced stonefruit and floral tones... apricots, peaches, wild flowers. Fresh, clean and very inviting! The palate offers medium+ grapefruit acid which is refreshing on it's own but carries enough weight and structure for great food pairings: brilliantly precise minerality made me immediately want to serve this with oysters, but would be a natural for many seafood dishes including Thai/Vietnamese/Indian seasoned food.

2. Poplar Grove Pinot Gris

Penticton, BC *Okanagan Valley DVA*

90+/91 points, GREAT VALUE

 . also 100% estate fruit, I asked Ian Sutherland, winemaker what brought such concentration and finesse to the wine. "We had the courage to wait" he replied. He told me about that particular vintage and how, in the Fall, the fruit just wasn't ripe enough. They could have picked a little early... the grapes wouldn't have been perfect but it's better then letting the bears eat them, or the deer. Or watching them washed away by heavy rains or frozen on the vine by a cold-snap. I'm only one-generation off the farm and so when Ian told me about how nervous he got, watching the weather, watching the grapes, until that late warm spell when a week of sunshine came. Well, I understood what he was saying. "It's about freshness, ripeness and aromatics" he continued, "there needs to be a balance between all of the components. And that, that comes from the vineyard. If we don't do it right out there, then it just doesn't happen." Any of my readers with a vegetable garden will understand Ian as well as I do, I think.
.  THE WINE: a fully expressive wine with rich aromas of warm peach cobbler and grapefruit marmalade... crisp young acid, well balanced and a terrific representation of the World-Class work BC can produce. Food pairings? Sure the seafood dishes will work but BC salmon will lend a certain fattiness to create beautiful balance! Another? Duck is a perennial favorite of mine: same reason.

3. LaPostolle Cabernet-Sauvignon

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Colchagua Valley, Chile

91 points, EXCELLENT VALUE

$28.99 listed in the http://www.bcliquorstores.com/
. "French by birth, Chilean by nature" is the motto here and, after tasting the wine, I can understand why. "French by birth" is a nod to the restrained, elegant style of wine; a harmony of fruit, earth and floral tones I knew as soon as I tasted this that I had found something special. But it was the "Chilean by nature" that really got me because, for all the finesse, all the stylish charm of the wine, the gusto was pure Chile. It's as if what the wine says is Chilean, but it says this in a French accent! I was hooked, having loved the power and concentration of Chilean Cabs for years but am currently discovering the nuances of Bordeaux. This winery was started by Alexandra LaPostolle, daughter to the head of that famous family that has owned and grown the Gran Marnier brand into a world-wide phenomena. But she wanted to do something of her own and when she walked the vineyards of the Colchagua Valley found that she was humming to herself... she had found a place to call her own. 15 years later and you and I get to reap the benefit of Alexandra's belief that Chile still has much it can show the world, and itself, about the heights of quality it is just beginning to reach. This is the kind of value that is Very Hard to find - even for me.
THE WINE: so restrained, but with such force, such concentration... red and black berry aromas melting with roast beef and savory herbs warming in the garden. The palate opens with a burst of lively red current acid then is followed by earth/wood tones and that same herbaceousness from the bouquet. Well integrated tannin with plenty of chew to them, this is a brilliant wine for top-tier beef and while it can be enjoyed now - cellar it for a decade or more and watch it turn into a sophisticated powerhouse!

IMG_50344. Georges du Boeuf, Fleurie

Northern Beaujolais, Burgundy, France

90+ points, EXCELLENT VALUE

about $25 in BC, http://www.duboeuf.com/
. when Laurent Gamonet, brand ambassador for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf and I met, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit. A ready smile, a firm handshake, and an eagerness to share the joy of the Duboeuf story (and wine) - Laurent is not only a true gentleman, but a kind one as well. It was a welcome reprieve from a very long day when I shared a table with him and listened as he spoke with genuine passion about the dedication that Georges has had since the beginning. One story stuck with me of how when Georges was barely 20 years old the local merchants refused to pay him enough money for the high-quality grapes his family vineyard was producing. Rather then sell himself short, or stint on quality, Georges decided to start making wine himself! And when the wine was made, off he went on his bicycle and sold it by hand to restaurants in the local villages. Now 81 years old, George's business sells 2.5 million cases annually. It reminds me of a Kevin Costner film: "If you build it, they will buy it..."
THE WINE: what an elegantly perfumed, slightly-sweet raspberry and red flower bouquet. Nuanced hints of wild scrub-brush (known as sous-bois or under-growth) and a brilliantly keen/precise mineral backbone. Ultra fresh yet inviting acid, very fine tannin - it would be very difficult for most people to tell this Gamay Noir from Pinot Noir. The difference however is that this is about half the price (or less) then the same quality in Pinot from just across the border into Burgundy proper. Food pairing? There's a reason we called braised beef with mushrooms Beef Bourguignon!!!

5. Bodegas Santa Ana sparkling Malbec rose  (15% Pinot Noir)

ArgentinaIMG_5035

90 points, EXCELLENT VALUE

about $14 in BC
. If I hadn't been impressed by the fact that this company is just around the corner from celebrating its 125th anniversary, I was most certainly impressed by tales of "Opi" Sadler, its current winemaker. You see Opi, as he likes to be known, has been working here for 27 years... so what you ask? Well, this was Opi's very first (and only) job. He has never worked anywhere else, nor could he imagine it. Opi is the third generation in his family to work as winemaker and the only thing he likes more then telling a bad joke, is telling people about the history of Santa Ana and his family. Opi loves to talk about when he was a little kid, maybe 5 years old, and the family would congregate at his grandfathers house for a feast. Grandpa would ask little Opi to go down to the cellar and grab a few bottles of wine but Opi was scared of the bats that lived down there! That is, he was scared until he learned to look at it a different way: he started to see the bats as the Guardians of the Cellar, the Protectors of the Wine. Now he is the Protector and it is us he protects the wines for; careful stewardship of the land, passion, commitment... these are the things that I could taste in the wine. One of the best values in sparkling wine I have ever had.
THE WINE: so utterly fresh! Lightly spiced young raspberry aromas with complimentary tones of pink roses and clean minerals... the palate also so vibrantly alive: fresh cherries at the beginning of ripeness, red raspberries and the same mineral/floral bouquet. Great balance, this over-delivers for the price! Food? The start of a meal with light appies, the end of a meal with creamy dessert, after a meal with the one you love... you decide! If you need more choices, this wine will SING with a variety of sushi especially tuna, scallops and salmon.
my friend Laurent from Georges Duboeuf
my friend Laurent from Georges Duboeuf
And this literally was the tip of the iceberg. The wines were as beautiful as they were plentiful. Always something to nosh on if you're so inclined, great people from all over the world to talk to - it's easy to understand now how people can book the week of WineFest off and absolutely fill it with activities. France may have been the focus region this year on paper, but to me I will remember this year as focusing on the human heart. Perhaps it was just all the bubbly wine? But every time I turned my head I saw another smile, heard another laugh and felt another genuine person standing across from me - just wanting to share the story of their families passion.
My thanks to the @VanWineFest and Heth PR ( http://hethpr.com/ ) for access to the Consumer Tasting room and for coordinating such a stellar event so close to home.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine