Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wines of Chile ** Vancouver'10

I was fortunate enough that someone invited me to the brilliantly executed Wines of Chile TASTE CHILE Vancouver'10 in October. Not only a fantastic affair due to the level of quality chosen in the wines, but just as equally (if not more equally?) was the quality of panelists who lead the discourse throughout the two hour lecture.

     Billed as an "Organic Seminar" it was as much a back-and-forth conversation about farming methods & bottling practices, as it was a chance to sample some wines that people outside of Chile will rarely see... much less taste.

Sommelier DJ Kearney & David Scholefield
     Leading the motley throng of us was the eminent DJ  ), Vancouver based wine guru, judge and educator. I myself was lucky enough to study under DJ already, and look forward to the privilege again . DJ knows how to keep a class in check, no matter the age or skill level of her students
     As well were Mr Marco Antonio de Martino (of the infamously organic winemaking family), Phillipe Dulos (a global marketing developer and innovator for Claro Group), Giorgio Flassati (an Italian who moved to Chile to make high-altitude wine) and Jose Guilisasti Gana (who began with the mass producer Concha y Toro in the 1980's and became the General Manager and Director of Greenvic). All learned people, and we were honored to have David Scholefield as our Canadian eyes-through-the-looking-glass (as it were). I truly felt humbled by the invitation, and planned to use my time wisely... I listened, I tasted, I asked some pointed questions... I participated, on whatever level I felt I could.

     At the end of the afternoon, I was left with my head spinning, and not from blood alcohol, but from knowledge... From inspirational people opening themselves and sharing some of their passion with me - a virtual outsider to their secret world. Who knew that winemakers were so zealous about their land, their work, their love. I for one, as a chef, did not know. I thought only we chefs could be maniacal about little idiosyncrasies in our industry (that no one outside the industry really cares for or knows about). But, perhaps, all artists are like this? All artisans? For what else could a great winemaker be, other then an artisan.

ARTISAN /ˈɑrtəzən/
a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson.
— n
1. a skilled workman; craftsman
2. obsolete; an artist

     And so I will take a moment to say my thanks, my gratitude, to the endless artisans who shared the (literal) fruits of their labors with me. 
Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery Organic Chardonnay, 2009
(San Antonio Valley)
$14.49 (general listing)      GOOD VALUE
  • nose:    moderate+ intense fresh grassy & herbaceous, light vanilla, light layered citrus
  • palate:   moderate++ acids, moderately intense palate of crisp green apples, light florality
  • PAIRS WITH:   consider fresh pork tenderloin or a roast turkey with chestnut stuffing
Emiliana Vineyards Adobe Chardonnay, 2010,
(Casablanca Valley)
$14.99 (speciality listing)     GOOD VALUE
  • nose:     moderate+ intense *(very similar to above) but with more oak, less herbs
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, light grippy tannins, moderate+ intense flavors of green and gold apple, ripe Anjou pear
  • PAIRS WITH:  yam filled agnelotti with a leek & saffron cream reduction
Geo Wines Chono San Lorenzo Rose Syrah Organic, 2009,
(Maipo Valley)
$15.99 (speciality order)      GOOD VALUE
  • nose:     moderately intense florality; red roses & orange blossom primarily
  • palate:   fully intense acids, moderate tannins, palate mimicks the nose well with the addition of a tightness to the Meyer lemon finish
  • PAIRS WITH:   Raclette. Bring on the cheesey goodness!
Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery Organic Pinot Noir, 2009
(Colchagua Valley)
$14.99 (general listing)     GOOD VALUE
  • nose:     fully intense aromas of funky game, baie noir such as blackberry & saskatoon, garrigue herbaceousness
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, full+ tannins, moderately intense palate... I find the oak interferes right now... fruit not able to show through the heavy oak but a long & developed structure, moderate body. I would want to taste this in 6months/12/18 to watch the growth
  • PAIRS WITH:   steak tartare in all it's primal glory
Vina Falernia S.A. Organic Syrah, 2008
(Limari Valley)
$14.99 (speciality order)     EXCELLENT VALUE
  • nose:     moderately intense baie rouges & noirs, minty herbs
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, full tannins, moderate+ intense flavors with loads of those red & black berries, tobacco, some dark chocolate.. tannins are still strong for my taste, and I would want to revisit in 6/12/18
  • PAIRS WITH:  a natural pairing for classic Boeuf Bourguignon
De Martino Organic Cabernet/Malbec, 2008
(Maipo Valley)
$19.99 (spec order)     GOOD VALUE
  • nose:      moderate+ funky game, baie noirs with a herbaceous finish
  • palate:   moderate acids, fully+ (chalky) tannins, moderate+ intense palate with the palate mimicking the nose impeccably... strong tannins ask for a revisit in 6/12/18
  • PAIRS WITH:   charbroiled red meats (preferably with some fat to it - bacon wrapped tenderloin?)
Nativa Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
(Maipo Valley)
$unknown - completely unavailable     EXCELLENT VALUE
  • nose:     moderate+ to full- intense filled with cocoa, musk & layers of green wood
  • palate:   moderate acids, full+ tannins, moderate+ intense palate mimicking the nose.. heavy tannins and a superbly designed structure make me want to taste this in 6/12/24/36/48... moderate body... I think this wine could cellar like a charm and show well from 2015-2020 (and possibly beyond)
  • PAIRS WITH:   truffled osso bucco. This is a rich wine and deserves rich food.
Vina Caliterra Bio Sur Carmenere, 2009
(Colchagua Valley)
$14.99 (unavailable)     DECENT VALUE
  • nose:     moderately intense cigar tobacco, pencil shavings, slightly hot alcohol & baie noirs
  • palate:   moderate acids, fully intense acids, moderate+ to full bodied, decent structure (especially for the price), moderately intense flavors, but unfortunately the aggressive tannins interrupt everything else. Taste again in 6/12/18
Vina San Pedro Tarapaca 35 South Cabernet/Merlot, 2009
(Cachapoal Valley)
$13.95 (special order)     EXCELLENT VALUE
  • nose:      moderate+ intense funky Chilean"ness"; funky fungal/vegetal earthiness
  • palate:   moderate- acids, moderate+ tannins, moderate+ body, very long & developed structure (for $14), moderately intense palate already showing well & drinking easily; soft baie rouges in multi-layers & persistent oak
  • PAIRS WITH:   classic Roast of Beef with an herb-Dijon crust. The herbs will play off the red berry notes, the beef off the oak & the Dijon will give an edge to a somewhat underdeveloped wine
Errazuriz Organics Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
(Aconcagua Valley)
$22.95 (speciality order)     GOOD VALUE
  • nose:     moderately intense notes of vibrant minerality, dark cocoa, tobacco & Chilean herbs
  • palate:   moderately intense acids, full++ tannins, moderate+ body, moderate+ structure, moderately intense flavors completely masked by overoaking (In My Humble Opinion). I would want to revisit in 12/24/36/48... due to the richness in the structure & nose I believe it has a beautiful life to awaken to... but when?
Vina San Pedro Tarapaca Plus, 2008
(Maipo Valley)
$19.95 (speciality order)
  • nose:     fully intense and wildy exotic (to a Canadian) floral waves, combined with stonefruit & some exotic fruits
  • palate:   moderate acids, full+ tannins, moderate body, moderate structure, moderately intense flavors that followed the nose (though much more tamely) and were predominantly of red berries. I would only revisit at 3/6/12 (months) as the structure was that of a wine to be consumed in it's youth (I assume)
  • PAIRS WITH:   a simple steak & compound butter; Steak Frites
Emiliana Vineyards Coyam, 2007
(Colchagua Valley)
$34.99 (speciality order)    BUY THIS NOW.
  • nose:     almost fully intense bouquet of long floral layers, intertwined with pencil shavings & light tobacco of the finest quality
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, moderate+ tannins, full- body, brilliantly long and developed structure - this wine drank far above it's class, moderate+ intense flavors that mimicked the nose admirably. I have never tried a Coyam before, but will look for it again - this was my personal hit in a long list of truly well crafted wines
  • PAIRS WITH:   my notes say Grilled Ribeye, but even then I realized that a simple ribeye would fall short of this special wine... I would poach a free-range beef tenderloin (poaching to make it buttery soft to pair with a sinful wine and free-range has a greater depth of flavor to enrich the wine) and finish with some seared foie gras as that will play off the acids and round out the body of an already luscious wine
Vina Arboleda Sena, 2007
(Aconchagua Valley)
$99.99 (not available)     EXCELLENT VALUE
  • nose:     moderate+ intense Chilean florals, rich Burgundian leathery oak with the associated notes of game, bloody meat, roast beef, bay leaves & wild thyme
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, moderate+ chalky tannins, moderate+ to full bodied, fully developed-rich-nuanced structure, moderately intense flavors that mimick the nose with a strong undercurrant of baie noirs, the floral reminded me a great deal of the Maipo Valley wines, and a slight lime finish. Of note, this is actually a Bordeaux blend, just without the Malbec

     A wonderful treat to be allowed to sit in on this lecture, and a wonderful treat  for me to be able to write about it for all of you. Many thanks to my readers as this is officially my #100 Blog Article, and has now been read over 1800 times this year. 10 months ago I never would have guessed. I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ramon Allones Cigars, Exclusivo Asia Pacifico

Yet again I found myself on 4th avenue, making my way from Kitsilano to my distant home of Maple Ridge... of course I knew I was going to be driving that way, so of course I brought my humidor and a few questions so I could stop by City Cigars ( ).

     A momentary interruption of my ramble to say a thing or two about customer service: thing#1, customer service is not an option. If you are in business, then it is to serve people in some way, shape or form. It then behooves you to serve in a genuine manner... but that's just like saying that common manners should be common, isn't it?

     But they aren't. And neither is customer service.

     Hence my willingness - nay - eagerness to stop at City Cigars and spend $30 on a beautiful cigar as a little treat to myself (yes, I have been treating myself alot lately, but I've been very good). The staff here are genuine. Genuinely passionate about cigars. Genuinely friendly (I can spot the fakes - so can you). Genuinely decent folks. Thanks for being a bright spot on my commute home (which in rush hour needs all the friendly influences possible).

     So yes, back to the story, these nice people fixed my humidor, answered my questions, and then steered me onto a cigar I had never tried before: the Ramon Allones Exclusivo Asia Pacifico. Brilliant cigar, it was a fun 30 minutes as the flavors developed, and made me write some notes for my next trip to Cuba.

Ramon Allones Exclusivo Asia Pacifico, CUBA
$29 CAD, Great Value
  • structure:  very well constructed, it has a very even burn with fine white ash that will fly into your face in you're driving fast and have the windows down. Plan to smoke this on your porch.
  • aromas:   I almost thought I was smoking a pipe - it was so fragrant. Even my wife would have approved (or so I tell myself)
  • flavors:    a fully intense cigar, I found myself thinking of what the consultant at the cigar shop said "A great coffee cigar". Sir, I choose to disagree! Or rather, let me agree in part - but later. This cigar has an immediate spiciness that is distinct. I've read other reviews and many point to a particular "pepperiness", but I would rather characterize it as "spicy pepper". Anyone who has tried the Lindt dark chocolate with spicy peppers knows what I mean. As well, I found a great backbone of dried berries like blueberries, blackberries and a touch of Saskatoons (for those who know what I mean). End of palate notes definitely included wood, though I admit to not knowing what kind it is... cedar certainly, but I think a little something else as well.
  • PAIRS WITH:  Coffee, yes, I agree. But that's only part of the picture. This is a richly nuanced cigar with a fully intense flavor, and a dark espresso will play off the wood notes and the dark chocolate flavors (*and aromas) that abounded. But what about the spice? Heavy alcohol will make that spice overwhelm the palate, but a little sugar? Consider then a good port and espresso. Then you play off the berry notes, the dark chocolate, the wood, the spice... I would also consider an aged Gran Marnier Cognac (18 years or older) which will accomplish many of the same things but in a different manner.
     A truly well made, very well made, cigar for which I am grateful to City Cigar for recommending. A caveat though... the roll I found to be much looser then I'm used to. Take a gentle approach to smoking this, as it requires very little effort after some of the incredibly tightly rolled cigars out there. I smoked mine down to the last 1" and savored every moment, as indeed, we should savor every moment.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kirkland 10-year Tawny Port. No, really.

Fonseca Guimaraens ( ), one of the oldest and most prestigious producers of Vinho do Porto (Port  wine) in the world.

COSTCO, one of the biggest producers of inexpensive bulk items in the world.

How, one may ask, could the two of these meet in the middle? The answer lies within a bottle of 10-year Tawny Port made by the former, and sold by the latter. And what exactly is Tawny Port?

     It is fortified wine, made in the Douro region of Portugal, fortified by the addition of a spirit known as aguardente which is a native product of Portugal. Tawny Port is also aged in wooden barrels using the Solera system, just as in Sherry production in Spain. For this, I am at this moment eternally grateful, as I believe it gives much to the wine that may otherwise be somewhat lacklustre.

     I realize that many of you are still shaking your heads at the notion of COSTCO brand Port, but read on dear friends and colleagues. This is the same company we buy our eggs and cheese from, our tissue paper and short-sleeve shirts, even our gas. They've always done a solid job with everything else, right? Right. Otherwise we would have taken our hard-earned money elsewhere by now. So why not put away the snobby-hat and give COSTCO brand Port a chance?

Kirkland 10-year Tawny Port, NV  Douro Region, Portugal
$17 USD, 20% ABV, Very Good Value
  • visual:    moderately intense caramel centre, light cherry/brick rim
  • nose:     moderately intense aromas, mostly sugary sweetness, some stonefruit especially cherry, old raisins, light leathery notes, vanilla, touch of cedar
  • palate:   moderate+ acids, moderate tannins, moderate+ intense flavors once again focused mainly on sugar. That being said, there are layers under the sugar that mimik the nose well. Moderate+ body from the sugar levels, decent structure with a slightly bitter aftertaste & noticeable alcohol.
  • PAIRS WITH:   this, to me, is a beginners Port. If you have never tried Port before, this will go down quite smoothly and will leave a fairly nice aftertaste, especially for the price. Try it with Gorgonzola cheese, spicy candied walnuts & toasted anise bread & I think you'll find it more then adequate after a meal.
     Please understand, I'm not trying to subjugate anyone to the will of Mass Business. Quite the opposite. However, I feel it only right and proper to try and display the facts as I see them and not be swayed in either direction from a label. We can find greatness in the most unexpected places!

     This is not a great Port, but for a Canadian, it is a very reasonable product for the price. I would, and will, purchase this again, and feel very comfortable having a sip any old time... as opposed to a Colheita 1951  from Fonseca, which I would horde and feel a little guilty every time I walked past the dreadfully expensive bottle, but that's another story!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Malbec, Pampas Del Sur

A roaring fireplace, the rain beating down, and I have the house to myself!

     Time for a good bottle of Malbec and a good action movie, right? So as I was in a wine store today (odd occurrence), I just so happened to pick up a bottle of Malbec. So what do we know about Malbec?

     It is a varietal that likes the heat.  Thus it makes sense that the varietal originated in Southern France and thence emigrated to Argentina (and much later to the Okanagan region of British Columbia). Arid, dry regions feed this grape what it wants most; ripening mid-season it still has its sensitivities, but seems to be thriving in climates world-wide. Cahors is one of the only regions of France still cultivating the grape, and it is even making a re-emergence as a single varietal instead of just in the classic Bordeaux blends (although it is admirable in that endeavour).

     I have enjoyed Malbec in a variety of fashions; from single varietal to blend, from heat driven Cahors or Argentina to the relative softness of British Columbia and/or Washington. Malbec, is capable of great things. It is characteristically deep in color, like bruised plums or enraged violets, it tends to carry aromas of violets, especially from Argentina, and flavors of blackberries & mild tobacco.

2008 Malbec, Reserve Pampas del Sur
Mendoza, Argentina, 100% Malbec
14% ABV, $16 CAD (BC)
  • Visual:    fully intense ruby/garnet centre, with little rim (cherry color)
  • Nose:     moderate++ intense fruit driven aromas, followed closely by mild to moderate oak, traces of vanilla which lead me to believe American oaking, a touch of alcohol but relatively light for 14%, background of floral
  • Palate:     moderate++ acids (fairly sharp), moderate (soft) tannins, moderately intense flavors mimicing the nose with a heavy undertone of good cigar tobacco, moderate body, moderate+ structure
  • PAIRS WITH:  fat fat and more fat. Aggressive acids call for? Fat. Baked lazagna. Pasta Bolognese with an excess of Sprintz or Parmegano-Romano (the undisputed King of Cheeses). Like blue cheese? Try this with roast Anjou Pears and Bresse Bleu with toasted walnuts. The acids need fat, the fruit can handle some animal protein... perhaps even wild game? No, probably not - just a waste of good venison I'm afraid.

     So a decent burger/pasta/pizza wine, or a wine to bring out for your 19 year old brother/sister/date. They won't know the difference. But if your Dad comes over for a chat and a barbeque - spend another $3 and buy the Jean-Bousquet.


"Trio" wine from Bodegas Ados, Spain

Some days are easier then others.

On some days, the biting rains come rushing down from the mountainside, and all I want to do is hide. I want to take my beautiful wife in my arms, hold her by the fireplace, and open a decent bottle of wine... we'll sit then, in the pale mid-afternoon light; when anxious clouds roll past our snug little home, and sip a little wine, and share a little conversation.

      That's the time when I most feel like a king - like a rich man.

     Some wines have that power. They can take an ordinary moment and metamorphose them into memories that will last for years, or decades... Some wines.

     So on the recommendation of a local wine store, I picked up a bottle of "Trio" from Bodegas Ados in Ciudad Real, Spain. The winery, it is worth noting, is organic. I am a firm believer that organic wines are better wines (for the money). One needs look no further then Jean Bousquet of Argentina and the incredible value-for-money that winery produces to understand that organic wines are better wines (or at least have the capacity to be). Please read my review of Jean Bousquet should you have time, as their Malbec and their Reserva are both some of my most highly rated wines for 2010.

2004 "Trio"
Syrah / Temperanillo / Cabernet Sauvignon
bottled for Bodegas Ados, Ciudad Real, Spain by
13.5% ABV, $14.50 CAD (BC)
  • Visual:    utterly dark garnet centre, bruised plums fully intense, with a barely perceptable cherry rim
  • Nose:     moderate+ intense nose after decanting 40 minutes; dark exotic flowers (black lilies, irises), dark stone fruit & baie noirs (black cherries, black raspberries), some leather, oak & dark chocolate
  • Palate:    moderate++ (fairly well balanced) acids, moderate tannins, moderately intense palate that fairly well mimics the nose, though with a much fainter level of intensity... decent body, average structure for the price, acidic finish
  • PAIRS WITH:    Burgers. Buy good beef (add some lamb - trust me) and make a good burger. Then open the wine. This wine needs some fat to balance those ugly acids. Certainly, I am a little spoiled, but I could drink only one glass of this without food before my stomach asked me why I hated it so much? Try it with pasta as well; a baked tomato pasta with cheese and once again, you have a counter-balance for those aggressive acids (even with the tomato sauce).

So it's not a bad wine, and I apologise if I made it seem like it was, but it's not a good wine. For $14.50 it's ok - it's average. I don't think I would ever buy it again, but I wouldn't spit it out at a party either (as long as there were burgers or pasta to balance it). It's a neat blend that you won't see very often, and has more depth on the nose then could ever be reasonably expected for $14... just don't drink it on it's own.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Robusto Cigars

Well well well...

A little something different perhaps? All this talk about rum had me itching for a good cigar, and so today I decided to treat myself! Cigar Aficionado Magazine ( ) has ratings every month on cigars, new and old. When I popped by my local tobacconist (a lie - it was on 4th ave) I mentioned that it was a trying day, and I deserved a little something special.

(City Cigars)
     So now I do something I've never done before, and write a little blog about the brilliant Romeo & Julieta "Wide Churchill" I smoked on the drive home. First let me say that Kevin, and all of the service staff at City Cigars, was more then helpful... from the tips he gave me on lighting a cigar with a small lighter as opposed to the torch I usually use, to offering to take a look at my small humidor next time I'm in the area. A true font of information, and a gentlemen! So, Kevin took it to heart when I said I needed a little treat on my rough day.

     "Well" says Kevin, "I've got just the ticket for you! A new gem from Romeo & Julieta that scored 93 points in the latest Cigar Aficionado."

     I'm not usually a sucker for points, but I am a sucker for passion. Kevin was damned passionate about this cigar & so I was easily sold. I took the cigar, and the magazine (which I never pass up an issue of, and have collected for years) and walked down the street to the local STARB***s for an Americano. The rest of my afternoon was a blissful drive in the afternoon Fall light with a great cigar & a decent cup of coffee. The "Blue Rodeo" cd was a heck of a good fit as the three of us (Cigar, Man, Coffee) made our way down the Barnet Highway on our way home.

Romeo & Julieta "Wide Churchill", Cuba
$28 CAD **Very Good Value**
  • Burn:     the burn started incredibly even, with beautifully rich smoke, a clean draw, and rich flavors right from the start
  • Aroma:   fully intense aromas of leather, extra dark chocolate (85%) & even a hint of musk (although I was wearing cologne)
  • Flavor:   fully intense flavors with no bitterness! Still the leather, and dark chocolate in layers, but also Brazil nut (seriously - I'm a chef & I swear I tasted Brazil nuts) and a rich undertone of dark espresso
  • PAIRS WITH:    here is what can make the cigar a marvel, or just a really lovely experience: I smoked this whilst drinking an Americano. Big mistake. This Robusto has layer upon layer of rich and developed flavors; it needs something it's equal to match it. My advice? This could easily be my mid-morning cigar (when I'm in Cuba) with a real espresso & a minimum 10-year old rum... think Cruzan, Santiago, even the reserve Diplomatico would suffice - but it needs a rich and complex rum. Don't spend almost $30 on a cigar, then spend $2 (per ounce) for your rum. Treat yourself! Buy a $50 bottle (minimum) and only open it on special occasions.
     This cigar was fantastic, and well worth the money. My only issue was half-way down, the damned thing started to burn un-evenly, and by the last 1/4 it was basically unsmokable. Pity- I would have smoked it down to the ring. This cigar, by-the-way, would be a brilliant match with many a single-malt Scotch (but beware - the peatiness may overwhelm the palate) and especially the finer Irish Whiskeys, where the sweetness will play off the Robusto flavors.

     So ends my first cigar review, and hopefully not the last!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Port Deluxe RUM

I love a good rum.

I love a great rum.

I even love a mediocre rum, if it is sold at a reasonable price & marketed appropriately (please don't hype it up to me).

     There is very little information online about the mysterious Old Port Deluxe Rum from, of all places, India. I say "of all places" and then instantly realize what poppycock that is... India being once an English colony, dock to many an English sailor, who all loved their measure of rum. It thus makes all the sense in the world that India would make rum.

     Still, I really had no expectations of this rum, other then the fact that a pretty savvy wine & spirit friend of mine suggested it. Reading on-line did little, as there are few references to it, and the distilleries website ( ) is barren of actual information about their products. Apparently the distillery opened in 1948 with two products, destined for the Indian army. That does not inspire me with any greater confidence unfortunately... I've had a few soldiers as friends in my life, and know what a soldier will drink *(anything) and what they won't drink *(unknown)... sorry fellows, but 'tis the truth.

Old Port Deluxe Rum, non-vintage, India
$32 CAD
  • visual:      moderate+ intense color of caramelized apples, with a straw/gold rim. Definite reddish/coppery hues
  • nose:        as anyone who has ever opened a bottle will tell you: caramel FULL+, but let's be more specific: as a chef I'll say that to me it is much more butterscotch rather then caramel. There is a distinct butteriness, sharp alcohol reminiscent of a good brandy, warm Winter spices of cinnamon/nutmeg/clove/allspice, vanilla (perhaps some time with American oak or at least oak chips) and a vague plasticyness
  • palate:     sharp and aggressive alcohol, demonstrating little aging at the very least, and possibly poor production value (at worst). The aromas so prominent on the nose are barely present on the palate, except as an underlying sense of sweet candy... definite bitter finish
  • PAIRS WITH:    all is not lost! Whilst I certainly believe this to be an immature rum, made with passable quality, and lacking in true depth or structure, let's face the facts: I'm a spoiled rum drinker! I have drunk 20 and 25 year rums in Cuba, the home of arguably some of the best rum in the world. So what would I do with it you ask??? Use it for it's strengths! Use those Winter spices and sweetness for your upcoming Christmas Egg Nog! I swear you will have a crowd pleaser! And the immature alcohol? It will be masked by the high fat of the eggnog - believe me.
     So not a rum to sip whilst I smoke a fine cigar on my new porch, looking out at the mountains of Golden Ears Provincial Park. But a rum to make creme brulee! A rum for eggnog, or bread pudding! A rum for drunken rice pudding.... in short this is a superlative desert rum, one which I think every pastry chef should have on-hand. On it's own? A touch abrasive, much like the soldiers it was originally made for... but we love them for it, don't we?


Monday, November 8, 2010

New Grist Gluten-Free Beer

Ever drink the right beer at the wrong time of year? I'll explain in a minute, but first, I just had the pleasure of tasting the New Grist Gluten-Free Beer. As many know, I'm a celiac, which means that I'm allergic to all great things beer: Grolsch, Guinness, Harp... the list goes on. Of course, I didn't always know that I was a celiac, which means I had the time in my life to develop a taste for Grolsch, Guinness, Harp... oh the Humanity of it all.

     So imagine my utter delight the first time I tasted a gluten-free beer a few years ago.

     Then imagine my utter disappointment as I tasted a thin, slightly acidic & bitter, lacklustre "beer" with poor structure and a weak finish. Imagine gluten-free Labatts Blue?

     Now imagine a gluten-free beer that is crisp, rich in flavor with nuanced levels, with a strong - clean - citrusy hoppsy finish. Imagine how happy this celiac is to have found Lakefront Brewery!

New Grist Gluten-Free Beer
  • smells like good, clean, crisp beer - a light lager almost Pilsner style
  • crisp palate with moderate intense flavors of mild citrus or fresh green apple, tons of hoppy goodness, malt flavors from the malted sorghum
  • PAIRS WITH: the only downfall to this brilliant beer, is that I'm drinking it on the first snowfall of November in my part of British Columbia... this beer is made (In My Humble Opinion) in a fine Pilsner style which to me means drinking in the heat of summer

    So the fine folks at Lakefront Brewery ( ) have crafted a worthy contender for my new favorite gluten-free beer. Perhaps I can just say my favorite gf summer beer. I can't wait for a hot summer day, a New Grist and some grilled Kielbasa with sauerkraut and sauteed onions.


The man in the photo by-the-way is Jim, one of the two brothers who own Lakefront Brewery, and also the creator of many of their fine beverages. Jim & his brother Russ started the brewery seemingly on a lark after Russ gave Jim a book on beer making and Jim said "Why not?". A few years later they took an old bakery and turned it into something new. I'm always in awe of people who are willing to dream a little and dare alot (or is that the other way around?)... Jim and Russ found something they liked, worked hard at it, and now have built something to be proud of. Good on ya lads, now this poor Irishman can sit and have a decent pint at the end of the day.

Amen to that.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sleeping Giant (fruit wines), Summerland, BC

Time for me to get back to work! My apologies for those two or three of you who have been checking the blog periodically for updates; a nasty chest infection followed by the purchase of our first house (and subsequent move) has incapacitated my writing for several weeks.

     I am now on the mend, and moved in, and feel up to the challenge of gearing up for ISG Sommelier Level 2 which begins in just a few weeks. Of course, to prepare for the enological challenges, I will need to taste much wine and write about the inherent research.

     For today, let's talk about fruit wines. Fruit wines are made in much the same manner as grape wines ( ), and there are just as many varietals. Virtually anything that grows from the ground can be made into wine; tomato wine, pumpkin wine, dandelion wine... you get the idea. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that it will be good. Take for instance, the incident in which a wise and benevolent man I know (remaining nameless due to humiliation) decided to make banana wine. Sounds vulgar doesn't it? Well, it must have been pretty bad because he came home to discover his brother and his brothers girlfriend throwing up said banana wine... I mean it was uncontrollable to the point of almost needing hospitalization.

     Not all fruit wines are created equal.

     Enter Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery ( )to the equation! Purveyors of true quality, these fine folks have over a dozen fruit wines to their names, and I had the distinct pleasure of sampling more then a few. Some of the more observant readers may be raising an eyebrow about now, as I am not always the biggest fan of fruit wines. In general I find that there is poor production quality and value, with lacklustre performance from the product. Not so the case with Sleeping Giant. True, not everything they carry is to my taste, but it is all made with craftsmanship, caring and genuine attention to detail. Pay heed.

2010 Bartlet Pear
  • nose: rich pear notes (obviously) with gala and spartan apple, moderate+ in intensity with floral honey notes & a backbone of acidity
  • palate: moderate- acids tasting of pears and crabapples, long finish with the same pear/honey/floral notes found in the nose
  • moderate+ body, almost Chardonnay like... good structure
  • PAIRS WITH: try it with a simple smoked chicken sandwich, or a roast turkey dinner... the orchard fruit qualities will play off poultry quite well
Apricot (all wines are 2010)
  • nose: moderate++ intense with overripe apricots, almonds and a muscat-like quality florality which is sublime
  • palate: full- acids balance the sweetness, moderate structure, moderate-body. Palate was less intense then the nose, and lacked the structure I was hoping for, but the thin, acidic finish makes this a natural for pairing with cheeses
  • PAIRS WITH: raclette! fondue! baked brie with cranberry and caramelized Walla-Walla onions! Anything that focuses on cheese with balance the acids and play on the fruit.

  • nose: moderate- intense notes of blackberries and black currants
  • palate: moderate- acids, moderate body, moderate+ structure; was pleasantly surprised by the long finish and the palate mimicking the nose perfectly. Underspoken, this serves well on its own.
  • PAIRS WITH: I think this would make a brilliant martini with some Shramm Vodka ( ) or alternatively, I would use it in my sauces for red meat, game, and free-range poultry
Strawberry Rhubarb
  • nose: fully intense perfume of sweet strawberry, a bouquet of roses, and even the rhubarb comes through which I find amazing
  • palate: incredibly well balanced moderate acids, palate mimicks nose with a touch of lemon zest at the end
  • PAIRS WITH: of course this will pair admirably with summer salads utilizing seafood; prawns and crab especially, but I'm looking forward to making white Sangria with this next year and dazzling my neighbours!
  • nose: fully intense nose of black and red raspberries in all their glory, and a ton of sugar/honey
  • palate: moderate to moderate- acids, moderate- to light bodied, moderate- structure... I thought from the nose that I wouldn't be able to drink this due to all the sugars, but it was incredibly light and refreshing
  • PAIRS WITH: I would once again use this for summer martinis, summer salads (with poultry or ham), and yes - white or red Sangria
  • nose: full- intense Christmas bouquet of baking: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice
  • palate: moderate+ acids, moderate+ body, moderate+ structure... this wine had baked apple pie flavors that went on forever! Roast pears came through as well.
  • PAIRS WITH: I was truly impressed with the delicate balancing of the sugars- truly this could be served almost anytime... from turkey dinner at Thanksgiving to baked cheese canapes at Christmas to coq-au-vin (a bit of a stretch, but serve it with roast squash & it will work) to a smoked chicken and brie panini
  • this is the only wine that the winemakers have doubled their production every year for three years (*and sold out by August 01st)
     I hope you've learnt a little today! It really is a wonderful place to visit, and if their wines weren't enough - they make luscious ice-cream (not gelato) and a whole host of fruit preserves which are more then a little sinful. Give Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery an hour of your time the next time you're driving through Summerland, BC.