Sunday, January 31, 2010

my oh my Meritage

no intro, let's get straight to the wine...


clear visual, full intensity, deep garnet

clean nose, full intensity; smoke, leather, light body cigars, les petits fruits rouges (little red fruit; meaning rich cherry, strawberry, and even a bit of blackberry)

0 dryness, mod+acid, mod++tannin; tasting of green tea, blackberries, green apple, something like cured meat

body is moderate+

alcohol is a bit hot at 13+%

length of palate is very good at 10 seconds++

Backyard Vineyards 2007 Meritage, Okanagan, BC $25

Well this was a rich tasting wine with lots of potential. As a novice I would say that since I let this breathe for over 30 minutes with little growth in the palate, it must need a few more years in the bottle to develop. It is also a wine that does best with food, not on its own. I would really like to try this in another year.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Did you know that Gewurztraminer actually used to be an Italian varietal??? Who'ld a thunk it?

These days Gewurz is grown most notably in Germany, Alsace (France), California, New York State and BC to name just a few locales... I love Alsatian Gewurz, and Russian River Valley (California), but one of my favorite places for value for money is BC. Herein lies my dissection of a value-priced BC wine.


clear visual, light intensity; pale straw

clean nose, moderate+ intensity; roses, lush stonefruit, honey, light grassy nose, a bit of kerosine

01 sweetness, mod++acid, 0 tannin; flavors of honeysuckle, peaches & apricots, rose water, minerality such as granite, a touch of green apple

body is moderate++

alcohol is moderate+ (13%)

length on the palate is moderate to full (7 to 10 seconds)

Backyards Vineyards, 2008 Gewurztraminer (Okanagan Valley, BC) $15

Some really lovely bouquet, but the flavor is somewhat over-the-top with the acids right now. Drinks better 20 minutes out of the fridge, as thats when the aromas really start going. I actually had this with a Quebecois style pea soup, which while not traditional, brought out lovely characteristics in both - probably because of the ham. A roast ham would work with this, as well as lighter spiced roasted chicken or pork... try maple & bacon wrapped pork loin!

Cin-cin! Slainte!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

pain in my Neck?

well well...

New owners have taken over the "Neck of the Woods" winery (Okanagan, BC) and I was able to taste their 2006 Merlot today.

clear visual, moderate intense; light garnet

clean smell, full intensity; barnyard smells (yes I know that sounds a bit gross, but it's just individual taste and I actually like it), Russian tea, leather, dark chocolate, over-ripe plums

00 dryness, moderate++ acid, moderate+ tannin; green cherries, leather, mushrooms, dark chocolate

moderate- body

moderate+ alcohol (almost 13%)

decent length (6 seconds+)

Neck of the Woods, 2006 Merlot, $10

So I would say that either I tasted an off bottle (it didn't taste corked) or this wine is poorly balanced... the acids are overbearing and in my mind spoil the nuances that come accross so well in the nose. There were alot of tannins, which to me mean that someone built this wine to last, but if it's like this after 3 years I honestly don't know how much potential there is for it.

This wine used to be $17, and has been reduced to $10. Even at that price, I won't be buying it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Muscadet Today!

what is minerality in wine?

yes, still the same question, and now I know how to answer it... it is like the difference between Evian water and tap water. Easy. But how to re-enforce that tasting perception in wine? Well those craazzyy guys @ Marquis Wine Cellar put me onto Muscadet, and so - we Muscadet Today.

visual is clear; pale straw with hints of lemon

nose is clean, moderate intensity; dust, granite, some honeysuckle and mild lemon

palate is very dry (00), moderate+acid, 0 tannin; granite, dust, meyer lemon, grapefruit, underripe green grapes

moderate body, moderate+ alcohol (12%), long length (10 seconds+)

Muscadet 2005 "Domaine L'Ecu" (France) $25

A bright, crisp, clean wine. Very well balanced and high enough in acids (think young riesling) that you might want it at the beginning of the meal as an appertif to open the palate, or the middle of a long meal as a palate cleanser. With a simple meal (1 course) I would probably serve a herbaceous roast chicken (rosemary, thyme, garlic), or something sinfully rich like coq-au-win. I imagine that a traditional sommelier would want to serve it with fish, perhaps sole Veronique (with olives) or even a 1990's-style cedar-planked salmon.

Cin-cin! Slainte!

Friday, January 22, 2010

what is Mencia??

So what exactly is Mencia??
According to many, it is one of the most "up-and-coming" varietals in the world. It is considered a distant cousin to France's Cabernet Franc and holds many rich layers at a very reasonable price (starting in the low $20 range).
I walked into Marquis wine cellars on Denman ave tonight with high expectations: the staff @ Marquis have always been incredibly helpful & I was on a mission!
This week in class I had (2) breakthroughs; the first was that I actually saw the color green in a white wine. Honestly, I thought I was going color-blind (lol)... everyone talking about hints of green in white wines and I'm wondering if they've been drinking ethyl alcohol. But no - I actually saw it. The second breakthrough was I tasted minerality in a white wine...
Flint? Granite? I'm drinking wine - why would I be tasting gravel? Is there something wrong with the bottle??? But once again, paying for the sommelier class is paying off & DJ Kearney is earning her wage. I tasted minerals... I tasted Granite, and I liked it!
So anyways, I went into Marquis for wines that would be distinctively mineral, and walked out a bit poorer - and as of this evening, much happier with 2 wonderful white and the Mencia for tonight... the mineral-whites will follow later.

  • clear color; intense ruby
  • clean nose; smoked tea, leather, lanolin (wet sheep's wool - but in a really good way)(no- really)
  • 00 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate+tannin; chalk, cherry, blackberry, vanilla & apple pips

moderate+body, high in alcohol @ 14% (but very smooth- tasting more like 11 or 12%), deep length on the palate (more than 10 seconds)

2006 Mencia , $25

"Baltos" from Dominio de Tares in Bierzo, north-western Spain

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dolcetto & Chianti

Good morning all...
I decided that I needed to test my wine skills with a wine-professional yesterday, and so I took a trip down the street to visit Sebastian LeGoff @ Uva wine bar.
Sebastian is a warm, wonderful human being - and those are few and far between... we met when UVA first opened & I was down the street from him @ Subeez cafe. My general manager, Andrew Amy, and I went down to welcome him to the neighbourhood & were impressed with his devotion to food & wine (two of our favorite things). Since that day, I make time as I can to go and visit his oasis & forget the world in a good glass of vino.
So long story short, I told Sebastian that I was taking the sommelier class & he invited me down to taste wine with him. Yesterday I asked for two wines to be poured blind and I would write notes on them - then asking Sebastian to critique.
--moderate+ intensity nose; plum, chalk, violet flowers
--00 dryness, moderate++acid, moderate++tannin; blackberry, dark cherry, peppercorn
moderate+intensity flavor, long finish, good structure
my guess: a Cab blend with Malbec
--moderate intensity nose; bright, light cherry, grass, vanilla
--0 dryness, light acid, moderate+tannin; green apple, cherry, tiny bit of spice on the finish
moderate intensity, moderate+ finish, good structure
my first guess: Chianti
second guess : Gamay Noir
WINE A is a Dolcetto, from the Piedmont region of Italy. Beautiful rich wine that I would love to drink again with grilled meat.
WINE B is, according to Sebastian, a very old style of Chianti - the name of which is written in doctor scribble that I unfortuneately cannot read. Wonderfully bright, yet still intense, wine that drinks just a little too easily on it's own. I think (perhaps I'm mad to say this) that a sangria with that wine would kick a$$.
So, a worthwhile investment of time and money, as a visit to UVA always is... just give yourself an hour longer than you think you're going for... the balance of life tips very hard over to the "play" side of the scale when you enter those doors.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

you say Syrah, I say Shiraz

another day, another wine...

todays self-taught lesson is: DON'T BE INFLUENCED BY THE LABEL.

That is to say, don't be influenced by a $50 label, a $9 label, a well known winery or someone you've never heard of. And so, today I bought a BC bottled Shiraz @ $8.50 and an Argentinian Syrah @ $18 (both tasted blind: DJ, Will, Sebastian, and any other sommelier reading this)

clear wine, light ruby color
intense nose, aroma of leather, smoke, oak & even a bit of cedar
0 dryness, moderate- acid, moderate+ tannin, fruit forward flavors with apple, smoke & caramel, long finish

This is an easy drinking wine, without a great deal of structure. It drinks like a Syrah should, but doesn't have much in the way of complexity

clear wine, deep ruby color
mild nose, aromas of chocolate, cherry and oak
00 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate+ tannin, intense flavors immediately of cherry, blackberry and black peppercorn, long finish

This is not an easy drinking wine. I wish the nose matched the mouth a bit more, but was overwhelmed with the rich flavors.

WINE A $8.50, non-vintage , Copper Moon (cellared in BC) Shiraz
WINE B $18 , 2006 Riservado, Don Miguel Gascon (Mendoza, Argentina) Syrah

And so I learned two lessons today. The first lesson was learned before, but worth revisiting: just because a wine is $8, that doesn't mean it can't be a decent drink (the inverse is also true). The second lesson is that at this point I really enjoy easy drinking wines.

There is nothing wrong with this! As my Dad says, "there are hamburger wines and steak wines". At this point, I can really enjoy, and even savor, a well-made hamburger wine. What I want, is to be able to do the same with a steak wine. An osso bucco wine. A venison occo bucco topped with black tuffle wine.

That's why I'm in school. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 15, 2010

headcolds don't make for good tastings

So after taking care of my beautiful wife while she was sick, this week I came down with the flu myself. Too sick to attend Wednesday evening class, I am making due with learning theory.

Wine has such an immense history that I'm certain I'll be reading about it for the rest of my life. After we learn the history though, we learn what the difference is between TASTING wine and DRINKING wine.

To taste a wine is to try and discern the characteristics that make it what it is (aroma, flavor, acidity, color, etc).

To drink a wine is to succumb to those characteristics.

I realize now that I have tasted few wines, and succumbed to many and truth be told I plan to succumb to many more...


(1) the nose (most important) *what do I smell?

(2) the taste *acid level? tannin level? dry or sweet? alcohol level? what flavors come through? how long is the flavor?

(3) the color *is it clear? what color is it (can determine age)?

And so I will continue reading theory tonight, sipping on Limonbaci, succumbing just a little.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

a student of wine

Why do we want to learn about wine?

My earliest memories about wine are going into my grandparent's cellar with my Dad. He stored the wines he made down there - I was probably only 4 or 5 years old and we would come upstairs for whatever family feast it was... wine was as important as the roast beef or the mashed potatoes. Wine was a part of the experience.

Now I am a chef, finishing my Certified Chef du Cuiscene course and want to feel like I did when I was a kid, and my Dad & I would sit at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning and plan dinner, plan what wines would be served & mostly, plan an experience.

And so I have started the International Sommelier Guild's level 1 course.

It is the beginning.

I admit that whatever I may know about wine I know only through the grace of my father's patience, and the rare moments in my life I was able to keep quiet long enough to listen to friends of mine who are already sommeliers. I know enough to know how much I have to learn... it will be 3 years of studying to become a certified sommelier, and that's only if I can balance my life enough to make this happen.

But maybe that's the whole point of wine? To make us take the time for balance; for friends and family, for long discussions late in the night and summer bbqs, for romantic evenings. Maybe that is why we learn about wine: so we can create more experiences with the time we have.