Sunday, May 30, 2010

BC Uncorked! Stag's Hollow

An "undiscovered" winery in the Okanagan Falls area, Stag's Hollow ( ) is - as is the case with so much in this industry - a labor of passion. These people are dedicated to following their passion and letting the varietal and the terroir showcase with minimal interference. This winery focuses on letting the vines produce the best quality they can, rather than any amount of quantity that may satisfy fiscal targets. Quality over Quantity? These are people I understand! I only had the pleasure of tasting one of their wines, but look forward to more in the near future.
2008 Viognier $25 *very good value
  • for all the world, smelling like New Zealand Viognier, which to me means cat-pee. I know this sounds disgusting, but really, that's how I've had it explained to me in tastings and class, and it really is what it smells like
  • the palate is where this wine shines! crisp and lean moderate+ acids are balanced with lemony-peachy-apricot flavors and a distinctively excellent structure. Long long presence on the palate to be savored

Ok. I may have insulted some people by saying this wine smells like cat-pee. My apologies for that, but I will not recant. This is a great wine, in the style of Viognier that the winemaker wanted! It's not one of those vaguely Gewurztraminer or Muscat Viogniers... it is what is it. Grill some chicken (skin on for god's sake) and finish it with a summer stone fruit glaze or compote - serve it with this wine - live life to the fullest!

BC Uncorked! A wine event in the tri-cities

Port Moody is known for many things: the scenery of Anmore, or Buntzen Lake, walking along the inlet, or a pint at The St James Well (one of the best kept food secrets of YVR). What it is not known for is the wine-scene. That, too, shall change.
BC Uncorked is an event organized by fellow wine-guy John Gerum ( ). If you haven't had the chance to checkout his new wineshop - he is currently running and sommelier for the St John Liquor Store ( ) which has a fantastic selection of classic and hard-to-find wines, ales, ciders & hard alcohols. So BC Uncorked was over 30 wineries and over 100 wines (much more if you ask me) and a really wonderful showcase for all that BC has to offer. I'll try to break this into manageable pieces!
Gehringer Wines ( ), "Golden Mile", Oliver, BC
2009 Sauvignon Blanc $18 *good value
  • a really refreshingly citrus & floral nose
  • high acids, but well balanced when served @ the right temperature. Lots of minerality and citrus notes
  • I thought this was a great wine to serve with your brie type canapes at the start of a meal, or white fish (think local sole) with a light cream sauce

2008 Riesling $15.50 *very good value

  • light stonefruit nose with notes of orange blossoms
  • moderate+ acids with rich mouth feel, very good body and flavors of lemony-rosehips
  • brilliant summer wine! opens the palate and makes it want more - try with Moroccan style grilled chicken

2008 Ehrenfelser $15.50 *very good value

  • light to moderate Muscat styles nose, meaning lots of exotic florals and rich fruit notes
  • moderate+ acids, really wonderful because that acid balances the rich flavors of lush stone and exotic fruit. Think over-ripe peaches & nectarines, some melon, guava, papaya

These are wonderful, world-class wines. You need look no further than their impressive list of local and international awards to see that whilst we in BC may or may not recognize the level of craftsmanship we have - the rest of the world is certainly taking notice. I look forward to tasting more of this impressive work.

Finca Los Primos (wines under $10)

Another rainy weekend in YVR (Vancouver), and little to do but clean the house, build a fire and drink some wine. Well, maybe not that bad of a weekend after all!
I had walked past Finca Los Primos many times in the Argentinean aisle many times in the wine store... I'm not one to usually buy $10 wines. It's not that I don't love a good deal, because I most assuredly do, it's just that I hate spending $10 and then finding out I bought cooking wine. In fact, my dear old Dad would say "Don't buy cooking wine that you can't drink whilst you cook.". Good advice Dad.
I adore Argentinean wines; they are rich, full-bodied, and intense value for the money. I could sing the praises of many wineries from there right now - but I'll talk about Finca instead. All I can say is how much I would love to go there and visit the Bianchi family ( ), and try the wines they don't export to Canada. I have the feeling that in the USA, these wines would retail about $4-$5. Maximum.
2009 Finca Los Primos Syrah (San Rafael, Argentina) $10 *NMCT (not my cuppa tea)
  • deep, rich garnet color
  • thin, acidic blackberry notes on the nose - some terroir
  • moderate acids, moderate chewy tannins, fruit forward with back palate of chalk & blackberry... spicy finish
  • this wine gets better the longer you leave it open. Do yourself a favor and open it the day before you plan to drink it

2009 Finca Los Primos Malbec (San Rafael, Argentina) $10 *good value

  • deep ruby/garnet color
  • surprising well balanced nose of blackberry/cherry, light red currant, oak, terroir
  • moderate- acids, moderate+ reasonably smooth tannins, flavors of cherry, oak, leather, tobacco, even a touch of floral
  • I opened this wine 2 days ago the put the top back on. Taste and nose have soften, richened - I would and will gladly drink this wine now. 2 days ago I would have cooked with it only under duress

2008Finca Los Primos Cabernet Sauvignon (San Rafael, Argentina) $10 *good value

  • deepest richest black garnet color
  • nose of chalky terroir, old leathery oak, pencil shavings, dusty plums
  • moderate- acids, moderate+ slightly chewy tannins, big palate full of red berries, some black fruit, the oak really showing throughout... alcohol is a touch warm, but also is 14% - don't serve with spicy food or the alcohol will seem even hotter
  • totally decent wine! I have to thank John Schreiner ( ) who often will leave a less expensive wine open for a few days to see what develops. Smart man!

If this is a sample of what I can buy in BC (with it's huge liquor taxes) for $10, then I really do need to go to San Rafael!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Many Joys of Tinhorn Creek (BC)

It is always a wonderful thing to be able to drink and taste fine wines at the end of a business day. How much better could it be then if tasting wine was your business day? Well... I'm not there yet, but just maybe, if I keep up the hard work...
Tinhorn Creek ( )put on a brilliant wine tasting tonight! Not only did Sandra Oldfield (winemaker) keep the atmosphere casual & exciting, but the entire staff was full of life & vibrancy. Wines full of depth, high-energy music, and a room full of people @ the CBC who wanted nothing more than to enjoy yet another glass. Well done Tinhorn Creek, you've made another convert or three.
Pinot Gris, $14.50
  • ultra pale in the glass with light legs
  • I found the nose grassy with a touch of waxiness
  • sharp palate, this has full acids with notes of lime-citrus & mildly garrigue

Vibrant - this was a brilliant way to start: it opened everyone's palates & made me excited to try more.

Chardonnay, $17

  • the color of pale straw with a hint of lemon
  • refreshing nose of floral, apricot-stonefruit & a touch of minerality
  • crisp full acids, sharp minerality came through immediately on the palate with some young stonefruit & citrus at the end

I never would have guessed Chardonnay. The winemaker has created her own zingy interpretation & what a wonderful way to start a meal. Try it like a Macon - with your richer cream based dishes & soft brie.

Oldfield Series 2-Blend White, $23

  • once again, I found this very pale in the glass
  • moderately intense nose of buttery stonefruit - which almost made me think of a Californian Chardonnay (without the oak)
  • moderately intense acids with lots of lime, young stonefruit, melon & green apple

I found myself comparing this alot to one of the predominant varietals in the blend; the Chardonnay (31%). But - then the 1-3% Muscat comes along in the nose and gives you some lush fruit & wild florals. Interesting blend with a variety of food pairing options. Grilled spot prawns anyone?

Gewurztraminer, $17

  • almost transparent in the glass
  • a full, huge Gewurztraminer nose; roses, lush stonefruit, lychee
  • moderate+ acids... very crisp with a palate of grapefruit & stonefruit. Not what I would expect, the body was light & the acids quite high

This surprised me as well. I've never had Tinhorn wines before (except the Late Harvest Kerner which is brilliant), and haven't had a Gewurztraminer that was so acidic - so sharp and aggressive. I must admit that although it's not my particular taste, I found it invigorating & once again, would see it pairing wonderfully with rich seafood. Try butter poached crab/lobster.

Pinot Noir, $19

  • moderate cherry/garnet center with moderate legs
  • moderate+/full- intense nose of PINOT NOIR! Beautifully rich cherry, strawberry & cherry blossom. Lovely layers & a joy to savor
  • moderate+ acids, moderate+ tannins - I found the tannins a bit chewy (John Schreiner advises decanting - ) a perhaps they got in the way of the fruit a bit. Notes of leather, mild cigar box, dried apples & cranberries

Cabernet Franc, $18 **Buy this Now!**

  • a moderate garnet centre with a cherry rim & moderate legs
  • moderate++ Merlot nose. Please forgive me, but that's how I explain it - it was ripe plums & blackberry and all I could think was "Merlot" - but it isn't (lol)
  • moderate acids were balanced by moderate++ tannins which were also chalky & chewy. Rich flavors of cherry, blackberry & black currant... I wanted to drink this all night

A luscious wine. Moderate+ body with a dynamically strong structure, I think this wine drinks superbly well now (decant decant decant) - or let it sit for a few years & open a treasure! This reminded me of Beni di Batasiolo Barolo... a wine for sitting and thinking.

Merlot, $18

  • deep garnet center with the slightest strawberry rim
  • moderate+ intense nose of deep earth, baie rouges & plums
  • moderate+ acids with moderate++/full- tannin (chalky/chewy). Flavors of blackberry & black currant

A moderate+ body and long structure - I felt another few years might soften the tannins enough to allow more fruit to showcase. Others have simply opened the bottle and drunk it slowly over 5 days! Well, another reason to use the decanter.

Oldfield Merlot, $28 **Excellent Value**

  • deep garnet center with a pronounced cherry/brick rim
  • soft & sophisticated dark berry nose with a touch of pepper
  • moderate+ acids with moderate++ tannin. Fully intense flavors of dark berries & a hint of spicy dark chocolate

This reminded me of full bodied Australian reds from the Barossa Valley. Perhaps that shows my lack of training, but there it is. Excellent structure, I would drink this any day of the week, and share it only with people I like (which is just about everyone - lol).

Oldfield Syrah, $35

  • deep, deep garnet center with very little rim
  • fully intense nose with lilies, plums & hot alcohol
  • full acids & moderate+ tannins.... the fully intense flavors in this wine threw me off... I noted very sharp acids, currants & cranberries

My palate failed me here I assume. No excuses - I thought it was Gamay Noir with it's high acids & light to moderate body... forgive me, but I obviously learn from mistakes. It has an excellent structure and felt completely refreshed by it, but alas - I missed all of the beauty and poetry that so many have noted in this fine example of crafts(wo)manship.

So a wonderful evening. The grand unveiling of this blind tasting was done by 7pm (online & live on Twitter!) and I was home by 8:30 to go through my notes. What a truly lovely selection of wines. Rich, vibrant reds & uniquely crafted whites, all with character, and all with reasonable price points: all of the regular wines are under $20 and the Oldfield series are $35 and under. It's value for your money & I look forward to seeing the next development where some wines will be held at the winery for an extra 12 months... when do we taste the 2008 Pinot Noir?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pear Cider

A beautiful early summer day... hot sun from a sky touched by the occasional cloud, light breezes dancing off the bay and everywhere the sound of kids playing. That is summer.
And what could be better on a summer day then a refreshing pint of cider? So I stopped in at a new local wine & liquor shop (St Johns Liquor Store, Port Moody - ) to see what the exciting sommelier/purchaser had brought in. I have to say that I was so pleasantly surprised.
A very diverse selection for a small shop, I found treasures in each and every corner, including a selection of Washington wines which - let's be honest - one doesn't see very often. I picked up a 6-pack of the best gluten-free beer on the market ( ) and some lovely pear cider from England, which in England is known affectionately as "Perry"
Sir Perry Pear Cider
  • visually? this is lovely - light lemony yellow & effervescent
  • aromas? smells more of apple then pear, but smells nice
  • taste? the sugars hit you quickly, with cheap bubbles like a poorly made spumante (baby Duck anyone?) Flavors of crisp apple, but I wouldn't know this was perry unless I saw the label. It drinks well when it's hot outside and its cold from the fridge -

This is not for serious cider people, but if you want something cool & refreshing on a hot day - then this may just be a new alternative for you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

great wines of Langley

Spring? Summer? Spring? Winter? What chaotic weather. Last night the wife and I were shivering in front of a fire, drinking a Late Harvest wine... today it's cool breezes but lots of water falling from the sky and everything looking green (except the sky which is grey). Tomorrow is supposed to be over 20C with bright sunny skies.
Well what wine is a chef supposed to pair with his food? I decided to go as local as local could ever go, and with our chipotle and roasted corn chowder I served this:
clear visual;
  • pale lemony - straw centre
  • light watery rim
  • moderate - legs indicating alcohol about 11.5-12% (actually 12.5%)

clean nose; moderate++/full- intense aromas of

  • exotic florals start the nose (from the small amount of Muscat)
  • exotic fruits of pineapple & candied banana
  • vanilla & butterscotch

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acids, 0 tannin, full flavors of

  • soft and full-mouthed lemony acids open the palate
  • balanced by some residual exotic fruit sugar (from the Gewurztraminer I think)
  • long lingering touches of vanilla & more citrus including some lime zest

moderate+ body, moderate alcohol (but very soft & deceptive), very good structure

A wine to be enjoyed at the beginning of a meal, this will open the palate and ease it into whatever meal you may be settling into. Try this with a grilled scallop & fine herb salad frisee!

2008 7-Blanc blend (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat)

by Township 7, Langley (& Naramata), BC *good value @ $18

Later on tonight I think I'll make caramelized pineapple & bananas on vanilla frozen yogurt, so what to pair? Local wine of course!


clear visual;

  • very pale straw centre
  • watery rim
  • moderate legs indicating alcohol about 12% (12.5% actual)

clean nose; fully intense notes of

  • rich Gewurztraminer-like roses & stonefruit
  • ripe peaches, apricots
  • orchard fruit especially over-ripe pears (Bosc especially)
  • more floral on top of the rose... wild prarie flowers

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++/full- acids, 0 tannin, fully intense flavors of

  • stonefruit especially green peaches
  • some flavors of red cherry mid-palate
  • long soft lemony citrus with a touch of grapefruit

moderate body, moderate alcohol, good structure

This is a well balanced wine, but. But make sure you pair it with northern French cusine... coquilles-st-jacques with this wine would be a dream, where as anything tomato based may in fact be a bit off kilter (unless thats a tomato and goat cheese ravioli). Bon Appetit!

2008 Siegerrebe (born from Gewurztraminer and Madeline D'Angevine)

by Domaine de Chaberton, Langley, BC **Good buy @ $20

Saturday, May 22, 2010

late harvest wine

A chill is in the air... spring winds are blowing the rain down from the local mountains and my wife & I are huddled up at home. The fireplace has a little crackle, the TV is glowing with the warmth of Grey's Anatomy, and I have a glass of late harvest wine.
A little plug here for, surprise surprise, the BCLCB. I really like going into my local speciality store now; the staff are incredibly helpful, the selection is immense, and there seems to be something for any occasion. Well it's true that I like a deal when it comes to wine, and every so often I even seem to find them (now) at the BCLCB. Case in point - this wine!
clear visual;
  • light liquid honey/straw color
  • slight greenish tinge from the Sauvignon Blanc
  • huge glossy legs indicative of massive sugars

clean nose; fully intense bouquet of

  • citrus peel from the Sauv Blanc; lemon, mandarin orange, lime
  • layers of honeyed rose petal from the 15% Gewurztraminer
  • ripe orchard fruits: gala apples & Anjou pears
  • ultra rich background of apricots (fresh & dried)

clean palate; 6 sweetness, moderate++ acids, 0 tannin, fully intense flavors of

  • absolutely the same as the nose
  • I must add the Gewurztraminer in the blend is so rich it's reminiscent of Muscat

full bodied, moderate alcohol (a touch warm and spicy like candied ginger), excellent structure

This is a tremendous wine. I can't say enough good things about it, except: buy it. Buy it now. Buy alot of it and drink a bottle every 6 months until you run out. Then buy another vintage. Have you bought it yet?

2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (Errazuriz Estates) **BUY THIS NOW @ $15**

Casablanca Valley, Chile

Gastown, Vancouver, BC

So the wife and I decided to spend some time with our favorite cousin & hang out in Gastown... walk the historic streets, stopping in at little coffee-shops, winebars & restaurants and do a little "Food & Wine Tour". Wow. What a great city I live in & what a fantastic way to get to know it a bit better...
When was the last time you toured your city?
-a funky little cafe called the Acme Cafe. Great service - virtually impeccable (and coming from someone in the industry that's a real rarity). The food was utterly delightful. I had a free-run omelette and my wife had the free-run over easy with sausage & grilled peppers. Esthetically pleasing presentation, a more than reasonable amount of food, excellent quality ingredients - we rarely say this as well, but we really can't wait to go back! They make their own pies, cakes, cinnamon buns & even have Pop Shoppe soda pops!
-after a great deal of walking off our fantastic breakfast/brunch, we decided to pop into Pourhouse, which has been written up internationally for it's brilliantly old-school, classic cocktails. I've had the pleasure to meet one of the owners before, Mr Jay Jones, and even followed his blog during the construction of the restaurant. Really great guy - very approachable - and I've enjoyed our chats... Jay certainly knows how to create a hospitable environment. I had a glass of wine with a plate that was written as "slow baked beans with grilled sausage & crispy pork belly". What I ended up getting was a full pasta bowl of beans! I mean seriously, this was enough for 2 grown men after a day working the field... it did go excellently with the wine I chose though.
clean visual;
  • garnet centre
  • cherry brickish rim indicating little age (2007)
  • moderate++ legs indicating 13% alcohol or plus

clean nose; moderate++ intense notes

  • hot alcohol!
  • lots of leathery oak
  • cigar box
  • classical Malbec aromas of blackberry, plum & dark chocolate
  • rich Argentinean terroir: I don't know how to explain that, but when you've had enough Argentinean wine - you know it

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate+ acids, moderate++ tannin, full- intense flavors of

  • rich and robust Malbec flavors predominate this wine; blackberry, plum, dark chocolate
  • some definite spiciness due to the Shiraz in the blend
  • tannins are chewy, but not as rough as one might expect from so young - this is due in large part to the winemaker and his unique methods (see the article in )

moderate+ body, very hot alcohol (14.5% and you feel it), excellent structure

Great wine. It wasn't until now that I realize this is a 90 to 91 point wine disguised by a $15 to $20 pricetag. Wow! Delightfully rich in flavor, and surprisingly soft in it's tannins for so young, I think this wine drinks well now - but will be superlative in another year or two. It really does love grilled meats and as I said - was delicious with a cassoulet-like dish.

2007 Clos de Los Siete (48% Malbec, 28%Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah)

by Michel Rolland in the Oru Valley, Mendoza, Argentina



Nuba Lebanese Restaurant

-we stopped in here almost by chance... a little restaurant downstairs that has changed hands many times over the past 10 years, it was just begging to have someone snoop around (*grin*). Wonderfully attentive staff, we were inspired immediately by their selection of freshly squeezed juices which anyone in Canada will tell you is far too rare.

My cousin had fresh raspberry juice, which I suppose was good, but couldn't tell because it disappeared so quickly! My own drink was raspberry juice with Flor de Cana rum, pomegranate juice, lemon juice & a sugar rim. Fantastically refreshing, this opened my palate and quenched my thirst... serve this on a hot summer day and I'll order a dozen!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

what a beautiful province!

British Columbia, and more specifically the Lower Mainland, is home to some beautiful - and unknown - wineries.
Case in point: Domaine de Chaberton & Township 7. Both wonderful examples of BC product, excellent value for the money, and just great places to go for a visit. Doubt me? Try Township 7's yearly Easter Egg hunt or the bistro @ Domaine de C. You will have the time of your life, while enjoying world-class wine, and yet only 90 minutes (or less depending on traffic) from downtown Vancouver. The wife and I took a day-trip out here & almost a year later, we're still reminicing!
clear visual
  • pale straw centre
  • watery rim
  • moderate legs indicating moderate alcohol of 11.5%+ (actual was 12.5%)

clean nose; moderately intense nose of

  • grassy notes, almost New Zealand like
  • clean barnyard
  • soft orchard fruit
  • slight stone fruit on the end with peach & nectarine

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++acid, 0 tannin, moderate+ intense favlors of

  • rich stonefruit starts the palate
  • some orchard fruit coming through mid-palate again... mostly pear (Bosc)
  • floral. hard to identify, but seeming like small prarie wildflowers
  • crisp acids

moderate+ body, moderate alcohol (although I must say it is quite hot for 12.5%), good structure

This wine has pretty good structure, with (IMHO) alot of things working for it; crispy and clean acids, lots of fruit flavors but not overpowering, interesting layers. But. But for some reason it just doesn't feel complete to me yet... perhaps that's because I just served this wine @ the end of spring on a day that didn't see over 20C. Serve this again on a hot summer day, 33C, on a patio, and I'm sure there would be a different review!

2008 7-Blanc blend by Township 7

grown in the Okanagan, blended & casked in Langley (BC)


clean visual

  • ultra pale centre
  • so pale you can't tell where the centre ends and the rim begins
  • moderate+ legs indicating alcohol 13% (possible a touch more) (actual was 13.4%)

clean nose; moderate notes

  • clean grassy notes
  • rich stonefruit (late summer peaches when they burst with flavor)
  • strong lychee with a touch of pink grapefruit

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate+ acids, 0 tannin, moderate+ flavors of

  • crisp exotic fruit acids predominate
  • then lychee & stonefruit come in mid-palate to soften
  • floral notes are felt throughout
  • end palate is still exotic fruit with pineapple, lychee and some lime zest

moderate+ body, moderate+ alcohol (still hot), good structure

With all of these exotic flavors, I'm honestly not sure where I would place it in a meal - or - what I would serve with it. The acid structure makes it a kicka$$ granite and serve it as a palate cleanser to bridge. Serve it with something dairy based & this could even be a wonderful desert wine because it isn't too sweet.

2008 Bacchus by Domaine de Chaberton, Langley, BC

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Late Harvest wine in the Spring?

There is a movement across the world to become as zero-impact as possible, even in the wine industry. Leading the pack in BC would be the fine people at Tinhorn Creek. Not only are they committed to Land Stewardship, but are adamant subscribers to maintaining a healthy balance with their local environment. As an example, not only do they use up to 50% recycled glass in their bottles, but the same bottles are made within 500km of the winery. For those of you not from Canada, that is a relatively short distance for us.
Tinhorn Creek winery is south of Oliver, on the "Golden Mile" which others will know as the Black Sage Bench. Many of you have had the chance to visit I hope as there are a myriad of delightful wineries there, and much to tantalize your palates. This wine in particular was meant to be an icewine, but the cold came too late in the season and so they ended up harvesting it as a "Late Harvest" and my oh my but what a wonderful mouthful it is... made in the Alsatian style I'm told.
clear visual;
  • pale lemon centre
  • pale watery rim
  • moderate legs (alcohol 12%+)

clean nose; moderate- intense notes of

  • stonefruit
  • light citrus notes including pink grapefruit
  • some mild exotics (pineapple & banana)

clean palate; 2 sweetness, moderate++ acids, 0 tannin, moderate++ flavors of

  • apples (golden delicious & Gala) and pear (ripe Anjou)
  • meyer lemon
  • vanilla
  • pineapple fresh from the tree & young guava (not quite ripe)

moderate+ body, moderate+ alcohol (13.5% but quite smooth), very long structure

A touch unbalanced still in it's youth (IMHO), and with a structure like this I would personally let it sit for a few years. The citrus notes are a tad overpronounced & might mellow enough in the coming years to allow more of that brilliant floral to shine through & balance completely. Still, an excellent price & a wonderful value. I will buy this again - what better praise to give?!

2008 Late Harvest Kerner (Tinhorn Creek) Black Sage Bench, BC

Sandra Oldfield - winemaker

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Some still say that the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world come from New Zealand. Those that make this proclamation invariably will state that Marlborough makes some of the best in NZ. Well, to each their own - that is one of the great marvels of wine-tasting: we each have our own sense of taste...we all taste sweet a little differently, sour a little differently. Some of us love pickles, even with wine - and some could think of nothing better than NZ Sauv Blanc with some warm brie and fresh bread.
This winery actually is fairly new to the wine-game, and recently has invested a great deal of capital into developing all of their hardware & wine making gear. If memory serves, they even engineered some of the equipment themselves! Pretty cool if you ask me.
clear visual;
  • very pale straw
  • slight green tinge to it
  • moderate legs

clean nose; moderately intense notes of

  • green grass
  • granitey minerality
  • soft floral notes
  • subdued fruit nuances of green grapes, golden delicious apples

clean palate; 0 dryness, full- acids, 0 tannins, moderately intense flavors of

  • the green apple is immediate and intense
  • mellow grassy notes
  • crisp minerality on the back of the palate
  • after-palate is all lemon, grapefruit & a touch of cape gooseberry

moderate body, moderate or moderate- alcohol, decent structure

IMHO, this is not a wine to be drunk on it's own - this is a food wine. The acids I found a touch overwhelming and so I would pair this with rich rich food - such as chicken florentine or chicken Kiev. Really! You will never hear me advocate chicken Kiev (that throwback to the 1980's) but in this instance, with the black forest ham, the gruyere cheese... I think it would pair marvellously and allow those acids a good counter-balance.

2009 "Nautilus" Sauvignon Blanc

from the Wairau & Awatere Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand

Chateauneauf-du-Pape, a blend unto it's own

My wife loves Chateauneuf-du-Pape. She adores it. We in fact will go to a little restaurant in San Francisco, in the bottom of a hotel, and sit through arguably the worst service in any restaurant in the world - just so we can order their beautiful bottles of Chateauneuf for $30. We suffer for our wine .
Well I had the good fortune to be spending time with family up in Whistler, BC just the other weekend, and my sister-in-law (who also loves a great wine) brought up a special bottle. A very special bottle. I didn't care so much about the occasion after the cork was opened and it had decanted, because Oh My... this was a wine to indulge the senses.
clear visual;
  • full ruby centre
  • pronounced cherry/orange/brickish rim indicating some strong age (10 years would have been my guess)
  • moderate++/full- legs indicating high alcohol of 13.5%+ (was 13.5%)

clean nose; full bouquet

  • strong leathery oak
  • cigar box
  • pencil shavings
  • deep plum & blackberry
  • rich floral (akin to black roses)
  • slight mushroomy fungal at the end

clean palate; 0 dryness, full acids, full- tannin, fully intense flavors of

  • absolutely all the same things - this smells just like it tastes and vice-versa

moderate++/full- body, full- alcohol (not too much heat - just a wonderful warmth), full structure

Rich, lush fruit are emphasized by the pencil shavinmgs and cigar box tp start.. leadsinto a leathery oakiness that lasts forever on the palate. Red currant to finish. Drink this now for an amazing experience, or (IMHO) you could cellar this for another 5-10 years. Drink this on it's own as a "thinking-wine" or as we did, with prime-rib roast beef, confit of elephant garlic & leeks & white truffle mashed potato.

1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape by Chateau de Beaucastel

(Pierre Perrin, winemaker) in Courthezon, France

**If anyone offers you this - pay the pretty penny for the experience**

Monday, May 17, 2010

bubbly anyone? what about Cava?

what a decadent thing is a glass of bubbly wine... it simply states luxury, wealth, something sinful. How much better can it get, then, when you spend less than $20?
When I used to think of bubbly wines, I either thought of the cheap stuff teenage girls drank that tasted like "Pop" brand pop with vodka, or else I thought of my father hoarding a bottle for my parent's anniversary and it was savored like liquid gold. Never did I imagine there was such a wealth of diversity in between.
Spain has been making bubbly wines (called Cava) for centuries. And they make them well. Very, very well. How well you ask? So well that Mr Robert P. himself gave the following wines 90 points. Nice to know I share at least something in common with The Man.
clear visual;
  • moderate strawberry or pale garnet centre
  • thin watery rim
  • moderate legs indicating 12% alcohol (11.5% actual)

clean nose; moderate+ intense notes of

  • baies rouges (young fresh strawberry, raspberry, red cherry)
  • melon
  • lush floral, almost like roses and lilies (are those peonies again?)
  • austere terroir with a touch of minerality

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, 0 tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • young, lush red & black cherry
  • rose like floral notes again
  • ** austere terroir** I don't know how else to explain this very lean flavor
  • vaguely muscato with it's back palate of lush fruit

moderate++ body (the bubble are soft, creamy and small), moderate alcohol (drinks wonderfully at 11-12C), very good structure

This wine screams apero to me, the time between ending work and starting the dinner meal. What a wonderful way to open the palate after too much coffee and too little excitement! And is this co-incidence??? Vintner's Brunch this year started out with just that very same idea!

N/V Siguar Viudas rose Cava, Torrelavit, Spain **Buy this now @ $22**

a Gamay Noir by another other name...

would still smell of over-ripe tomatoes?
So Gamay Noir is the varietal and Beaujolais is the place (and the wine from that appellation of France). I still have a tough time deciphering between New World Gamay, Old World Beaujolais and Grenache/Garnacha, but, I'm getting there. Along the way I am having a lovely time getting to know some beautiful wines.
In Beaujolais (the appellation) there is a vineyard on the side of an ancient volcano. The volcano is, of course, worn down to a snub little hill, but the soil remains volcanic in nature. All sorts of wonderful and exotic things can happen to wine when it has the happy circumstance of being grown in a place like this.
clear visual;
  • pale garnet centre
  • slight strawberry/brick rim indicating little age
  • moderate legs indicating alcohol around 11-12% (12.5% actual)

clean nose; moderate+ intense notes of

  • rich terroir - a minerality I can't explain readily
  • creamy lush baie rouges, especially ripe strawberries and perhaps black raspberries
  • floral notes of iris (I second guessed myself on this) and the winemaker says "peonies"

clean palate; 0 dryness, full- acid, moderate++ tannin, moderate intense flavors of

  • those red berries again
  • terroir that I originally called "gravelly" but later upon reading about the winery discovered was tasting the volcanic soil
  • oak upon oak - the winemaker says only 6 months, but with such a moderate bodied wine and thin skinned grape - 6 months is heavy oaking (IMHO)

moderate body, moderate+ alcohol (I found it a bit hot for only 12.5%) and a very good structure

Big acids are balanced by big tannins, but... but I still think these tannins are interfering with the fruit being able to show themselves to their best. I would wait at least 6 months to a year before trying this vintage again. I found it excellent with out antipasto platter, and could imaine it in a year or 3 with a smoked pork shoulder on an aged cheddar dauphinoise.

2007 Cote de Brouilly (Beaujolais)

(from Chateau Thivin - Les Sept Vignes - Odenas, France)

** wonderful buy @ $20

a Beaujolais by any other name...

Gamay Noir - ah you do smell as sweet! Okay, perhaps the Shakespeare reference should have ended there because, let's face it, Gamey Noir doesn't smell smeet... unless you count the smell of ripe heirloom tomatoes as sweet (which can be argued).
BC is lucky enough to have wonderful terroir for Gamay Noir (Gamay is the varietal used to make Beaujolais Nouveau - but only Gamay from Beaujolais can be called Beaujolais) especially along a little stretch of road called "The Black Sage Bench". Black Sage Bench is also sometimes known as The Golden Mile and lies in the south Okanagan, south of the town of Oliver. a rugged mix of rocky and sandy soils with long, heat infused summers.
clear visual;
  • moderate cherry or garnet centre
  • slight pale cherry/strawberry rim indicating little age
  • moderate+ legs indicating alcohol 13%+ (was actually 14%)

clean nose; moderate- intense notes of

  • dusty, earthy terroir
  • overripe heirloom tomatoes

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, moderate tannin, moderate+ intense flavors of

  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • slight copperiness
  • young baie rouges, especially red currant

moderate- body, moderate+ alcohol, long long structure

Fresh, crisp acids are balanced by beautifully structured smooth tannins. This wine is drinking perfectly right now! I prefer it on it's own at the start of a meal, or if you must balance the flavors - balance it with a thick slice of brie on fresh baguette... bon appetit!

2008 Gamay Noir, Desert Hills (Black Sage Bench, BC)

**drink this right now @ $20

Sunday, May 16, 2010

an old favorite

Good day all. Isn't it a joyous experience to save a bottle of wine for a special occassion - then pull it out for a barbeque?!
There is a little valley in southern BC called the Similkameen (also known as Cawston)and there are a few wineries in that valley. Most of them are small (5000 cases per year max) but what they are doing (IMHO) is Big Big. Do yourself a favor, if you're in Vancouver - take a day trip and drive out to Cawston for some beautiful expression of BC Terroir.
clear visual;
  • light garnet centre
  • pronounced strawberry/brickish rim (indicating age of 5 years+)
  • strong legs indicating alcohol 13.5%+

clean nose; moderate++ or full- notes of

  • rich terroir... I called it gravel at first, but was corrected by James who said it was more ferrous
  • blackberries & deep black cherries
  • a deep floral note (I always have a hard time identifying florals)
  • leather of French oaking

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate tannin, moderate++ flavors of

  • the ferric notes come through much stronger as gamey, meatiness
  • more black fruit (blackberries & black cherries but no plums)
  • more of that long leather flavors from the oak
  • soft, smooth tannins

moderate body, moderate+ alcohol (it is very smooth for 14.5%), full- structure (this last on the palate in a beautiful way)

Really. This must be one of the best Merlots I've tasted from BC in years. And for the price>? Oh my god - let's be serious - fantastik buy. If you want to get a good idea of Similkameen Terroir - then this is it. Pair this with grilled red meats (no acids) and aged cheddar.

2006 Barcello Canyon, Similkameen Valley (BC) **buy this @ Marquis Wine Cellar @ $22**

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

wine can be LUXURY

So every once-in-awhile everyone needs to treat themselves to something luxurious... I mean truly decadent. Not a chocolate bar, but some Bernard Callebaut. Not a steak, but free-range beef tenderloin. You get the idea.
For myself, I decided to treat myself for finishing my ISG Level 1 with honors. I bought a Chateau Mussar. I won't bore you with the details of how I flew it to Cuba, then home before drinking it...
For those of you who are not familiar with this immense winery, allow yourselves the pleasure. This winery from Lebannon does everything right, including (but not limited to) not releasing their wines until they believe that they are truly showcasing themselves properly... ie: you will never get green or immature wine from these consummate professionals. Ever. These are wines that Sebastian LeGoff (moved on to Singapore) saves as a treat for himself, and am I not supposed to learn from the example of my much more learned colleagues??
clear visual;
  • liquid amber centre - think gold with a touch of orange
  • the lightest pale rim
  • moderate legs (a wine of 12.5%)

clean nose; fully intense bouquet

  • exotic flowers - I wish I could be more specific, but alas
  • wild grasses
  • dusty terroir
  • something deep, dark and earthy - almost but not quite truffle

clean palate, 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, 0 tannin, moderately intense flavors

  • very sherry notes! this tasted for all the world like it was made using a Solera system... my father (a font of information on wine) says this may be due to bottle shock from all the travel
  • smelled and tasted of oak, but it didn't seem like French or American > puzzling
  • apple flavors throughout the palate, most especially Golden Delicious apples

moderate body, moderate alcohol, exquisite structure

"It's the white wine that drinks like a red" said Sebastian. And he was right! It was the craziest thing, sipping on this wine and closing my eyes - almost drinking it like a Chianti (with the sherry notes of course). A really intriguing wine that demands alot of it's drinker. My beautiful wife said that it wasn't her favorite white - but she's more into the Gewurtz, Viogner, etc... for me, I love Muscadet, Alvarino, Alsatian Pinot Gris.... I frikin loved this wine. Decant it for a minimum of an hour - 2 is even better. And if it's travelled any length of time - please allow it to rest before serving.

I will make more notes on this later, when I have another reason to truly celebrate and treat myself!

1999 Chateau Mussar (white) Bekkaa Valley (Lebannon) by the Hochar family

**treat yourself one day - this wine is worth much more money than they charge!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2 oz tasters!

What a joy it is to go to a restaurant or wine bar and be able to order 2oz tasters of wine - thus being able to sample a mulititude without the heavy onus on the wallet (or the liver for that matter).
The wonderful people at JOEY's (Burrard) have such a thing, and it is a marvel to behold. The largest selection of wines in Western Canada (I believe) in their electronic pouring system - if memory serves they have something in the range of 15 to 18 wines by the glass or by the 2 oz taster. Perhaps this means a regular visit to JOEY's?? Oh yes, perhaps so.
clear visual;
  • deep ruby centre
  • slight strawberry rim
  • moderately strongs legs (12%+ my guess - 13.5% actual)

clean nose; moderate++ or full- intense notes of

  • hot alcohol!
  • moderate oaking & leather
  • ripe red cherries
  • a bit of gaminess to it

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate- acid, moderate++ to full- tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • chalky gravel
  • moderate++ oaking (18 months?)
  • baies rouges (those ripe red cherries again and a touch of currant)
  • blackberry and saskatoon
  • dark chocolate at the end of the palate

moderate++ body, modrate++ alcohol, full palate

This wine had long, chewy tannins with a rich & fully developed flavor. Even with the tannins as big as they were, they didn't get in the way of the crisp red fruit. I say: Enjoy now and buy a few more bottles to open every 6 months - savor the development of an excellent wine.

2007 Barone Ricasoli Chianti (Tuscany, Italy)


clean visual;

  • moderate garnet centre
  • clearly defined moderate strawberry/brick rim
  • heavy legs (my guess 13.5%+ - actual was 14.5%)

clean nose; moderate++ intense aromas of

  • ripe strawberries and cherries
  • light floral scents
  • slight tinge of iron (the terroir?)
  • hot alcohol again

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, full- tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • all the same as above
  • the oaking seems moderate++ (12 months new oak at least I would guess)
  • the iron comes through more on the palate

moderate body, moderate alcohol (but it feels hot!), full palate

Why are the acids soooo high?? This wine has a lovely, rich flavor - but I feel like I'm drinking it prematurely. The acids and tannins are still too predominant (IMHO) and overwhelm the fruit - though the terroir still has a chance to show. I would wait another 2 years before I even opened anpother bottle - but with the structure I can imagine this being an incredible wine (later on).

2006 Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape (Rhone, France)


clear visual;

  • moderate garnet centre
  • slight cherry rim
  • moderate- legs (my guess was 11-12% but actual was 14%!)

clean nose; moderate- intense aromas of

  • black plum
  • floral such as lilies or irises
  • moderate leathery oak (9 to 12 months I would guess)
  • light mushroom

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate acids, full- tannins, moderately intense flavors of

  • baies rouges
  • chalky, rough, chewy tannins
  • cigar box
  • green apple - very intense

moderate body, moderate++ alcohol (but very soft on the mouth), long and developed palate

Once again, (IMHO), the overwhelming tannins really get in the way of the fruit. This of course could be stylistic - or because it's meant to be enjoyed with food rather than on it's own, or it's a touch too young, or any number of things. The bottom line to me was that I didn't want more than 2 oz. 2 oz and I got a great taste of something new - but more than that and my palate would have crashed on itself...

2007 Pesque "Terrases" Cotes-du-Ventoux (Rhone, France)

Monday, May 10, 2010

fruit wines?

Well, I've given myself a new directive... because I now have about 10 wines waiting to be documented into the blog, I will buy no more wine until all of my notes are done!
Not to mention I simply can't afford it (lol).
But lucky me, I do have people around me who gift me with wines and such every so often just to hear what I have to say. That brings me to today, and fruit wines.
I have to be honest and say that, for the most part, I'm not terribly interested in fruit wines. I find quite often that they lack balance and strongly defined structure, and - as I'm a fan of red wines - I miss the tannins. There have been exceptions! There is a great fellow up near Summerland (Okanagan, BC) who makes a truly delightful pumpkin wine. It honestly tastes like the most velvety pumpkin brulee... sinful, and not overly sweet. He sells out every year.
So notable expections to one side, I am not a fan. Sometimes, I can be surprised though!
clear visual;
  • moderately intense gold centre
  • pale, watery rim
  • thick, glossy legs

clean nose, moderate+ intense notes of

  • rich apple
  • vanilla
  • butterscotch
  • floral background, almost rose-like

clean palate, 10 sweetness, moderate+ acid, 0 tannin, moderate+ intense flavors of

  • intense golden delicious apple flavors
  • caramel - butterscotch - vanilla
  • more floral notes lingering on the palate, rose and something more wild
  • honey and more honey

full- body, moderate alcohol (11%), good structure

This, for all the world, tasted to me like an iced apple cider. As such, I thought it was very well made, and enjoyed it over several days. It was wonderful at the end of a meal on it's own, or with some fresh fruit. I don't think I would serve it alot, but then again, I don't serve alot of any iced wines. I am much more of a spirit man at the end of a meal (aged rum, cognac) or a fortified wine. That being said, I can see myself buying this in the future as much for the quality of the product as for the uniqueness of serving an iced apple wine from the Similkameen Valley!

2008 Iced Orin, Rustic Roots Winery (Similkameen Valley, BC)

a beer by any other name...

So I know the blog is supposed to be about wine, but...
Some of you may know that I am a celiac (allergic to gluten, ie: wheat, barley, etc). This means that I can't drink regular beers, and for an Irishman that's just mean. So what am I to do you ask?
Normal I drink cider now. I am fortunate enough to have access here in Vancouver to all sorts of world-class ciders (Magners for instance), and if that were not enough, I have an excellent friend who is one of the only certified Master Cider Makers in BC. Ohh, if I ever needed an excuse to drink cider - that would be one of them. Not to mention that pretty much all gluten-free beer is either (a) shite, (b) expensive or (c) both.
Not a big incentive to drink g-f beer.
However, it seems as though someone has challenged my preconceptions!
clear visual;
  • moderate amber color with a hint of rust

clean nose; moderate+ intense notes

  • almost "hoppish"
  • clean hay/straw
  • slight vanilla

clean palate; moderate+ intense flavors

  • crisp and clean forefront on the palate
  • a touch of pepperiness
  • an almost "Pilsner" quality to the long bite on the end of the palate

moderate- body, moderate alcohol, great structure

I would serve this any Summer day to anyone and if they like Pilsner, they would love this! This beer shows immense quality and craftsmanship and is a true drinking pleasure for anyone who loves finesse and strength in their brew. Pair it with grilled meats, or just a plate of summer sausage and cheddar with maybe some smoked fish on the side (try smoked Northern Pike if you can get it - smoked trout will work as well).

Bard's, "The Original Sorghum Malt Beer", Utica, New York **buy this @ $18/6-pack

Monday, May 3, 2010

long delayed posting

Well, well, well...
We all get busy, and I was no exception - being very busy drinking wines and not tasting wines! So now I have more notes than I know what to do with.
Let's talk about ALSACE... a wonderfully rugged part of North-Eastern France, although it used to be a part of Germany prior to World War I. Alsace has an immense diversity of terroir, including calcareous & lots and lots of granite. True, true - there are a myriad soil types, but, I mention the two I like the most in a white wine.
Which brings me to the particular part of Alsace we're tasting today - Pfaffenheim. No grand crus today, just the appelation's "vin-du-table".
clear visual
  • pale yellow centre (think light Meyer lemon)
  • moderate+ legs (13.5%)

clean nose; moderate++ intense notes of

  • mineral terroir (granite here I believe - and shist?>)
  • clean, sun-baked, straw
  • vanilla - oak (moderate)
  • slightly fungally mushroom (think button or crimini)

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, 0 tannin, moderate+ flavors of

  • stonefruit
  • oak (again, moderate-)
  • minerality
  • lightly floral such as dandelion
  • slight exotic notes of pineapple & guava

moderate body, full- alcohol, excellent palate!

This was an utter delight to drink. Bring it out at 3 in the afternoon when it hits 25C and sip in the long sunlight of Summer. Crisp acids delight the palate with rich fruit and floral. Wonderful on it's own, and we tried it paired with grilled chicken *(on the bone) and a light artichoke salad.

2008 Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris (haut-rhin) France **BUY THIS NOW@ under $20



clean visual

  • moderately intense lemony yellow with hints of gold
  • moderate+ legs (same alcohol of 13.5%)

clean nose; moderate+ intense notes

  • stonefruit
  • still has that granitey mineral terroir showing through
  • more floral including several types of roses
  • some rich exotic fruit with melon and pineapple showing well

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate+ acids, 0 tannin, moderate+ intense flavors of

  • the same as the nose!
  • stonefruit & exotics still predominant
  • terroir is in the background keeping balance
  • some beautiful floral keeps long on the palate

moderate+ body, full- alcohol, excellent structure!

Once again, for under $20 this is really hard to beat. True enough, minerality is personal taste, and I adore the minerality of Alsace. Crisp acids balance out the rich fruitiness, the floral in this is of course stronger than in the Pinot Gris, but actually moderate compared to many other Gewurztraminers. Beautiful sipping wine (watch the alcohol), Thyra & I had it with Thai food and it was a joy.

2008 Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer (haut-rhin) France **BUY THIS NOW @ under $20