Thursday, July 10, 2014

the simply sensational Summerhill sparkling blanc-de-noirs

IMG_6007Champagne: beverage of the ultra-elite, the glittering nectar that deities of real estate and rap music use to wash away their troubles. Most highly regarded region for the production of said effervescent treat.
For now.
Winemakers the world over are starting to challenge the “Goliath of Bubbly”: Spain has their dry Cava, Italy the floralMuscato and stonefruit Prosecco and, more recently, the New World has also joined the fray. Meet Eric von Krosigk,über winemaker atSummerhill Pyramid Winery. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Eric for years and call him friend, having sat on panel-discussions with him as well as sharing meals and family time together. Knowing Eric has developed my appreciation for the intricate art that is winemaking and the arduous labor that is vineyard management.
Eric von Krosigk, winemaker
Eric von Krosigk, winemaker
It is these two skills, along with a myriad of other tools that a winemaker gathers over years upon decades of dedication, which can result in true understanding of the land. And it is only through this fundamental empathy with their soil, their vines, that winemakers can ever hope to craft truly expressive wines; wines that speak emphatically and passionately about where they come from.
Or, so I’ve been told by those who know far more then I do.
And so when Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill( , sent me a few of the new releases from the winery, it was with no small amount of zeal that I started digging into the box. Like my 3-year old at Christmas: paper flew, cardboard tore, and the treasure that had been locked within was soon perched on the kitchen counter gleaming in the summer sunlight.
And, of course, it was the sparkling wine that first caught my eye… This is the sparkling producer that has my attention these days; their recent accomplishments nothing short of tremendous:
“Sparkling Wine of the Year” 2014 All Canadian Wine Championships
Gold Medal, Top 10 Sparkling Wines of competition - 2013 Effervescents du Monde
Gold Medal – 2012 World Wine Awards, Chicago, Illinois
“Best International Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine” – IWSC, London, England, December 2009
Serious wine-making. And yet not so serious that these fine folks can’t crack a smile more often then not; their love for the land directing the course of business. This is the heartbeat of bio-dynamic viticulture in the Okanagan and, as such, the Cipes family treat their terroir like the living, breathing organism it truly is… fields are doted over, natural ecosystems restored, and bio-diversity has been recovered. To some people this is the most progressive style of farming or viticulture that we know of. Others, myself included, refer to this instead as ancestral farming for, coming from a lineage of Irish farmers, this is in fact what my grandparents taught me in their garden and through the stalls of our local Farmer’s Market many decades ago.
Call it what you want “the proof is in the pudding” and from the moment I opened this bottle of Blanc de Noirs I knew I was in for a treat:

2008 Summerhill Blanc de NoirsIMG_5839

100% organic Pinot Noir, hand-made


$35 approx.
… almond/Macadamia nut dusty mineral driven aromas make the mouth water and are followed quickly by notes of baked Golden Delicious apples, ripe Anjou pear and alluring cherry blossoms in springtime. The mousse is world-class; fine pearled bubbles carrying flavors that mimic the fruit of the bouquet brilliantly yet driving home that utterly Burgundian sense of precise minerality. Exemplary balance, this is a wine that shines with craftsmanship… truly a food wine, it will find it home as easily with the Boursin and fresh basil thin-crust pizza I made my girls for lunch as it did with the recipe that follows – but was an utter delight to savor on its own, needing nothing more then a great vista as company. Excellent structure and long length on the palate, this threat to French Greatness will age gracefully for years and, based on previous wines from this producer, with stunning results. Enjoy 2014-2020+
My daughter, age 2, with Ezra's daughter at the winery
My daughter, age 2, with Ezra’s daughter at the winery. #Inspiration
This wine inspired me.
I followed in the footsteps of yesteryear, and went grocery shopping just for dinner that night: no massive Costco shop, no bulk section, no “buy 5 and get the 6th free”. I went looking for what was best right then, for dinner that night. Lucky for me, I have champions of  #Fresh #Local #Seasonal at my butcher

Double-smoked Swiss Farmer’s sausage roast local chicken,

wild rice and quinoa pilaf, BC chèvre finished leeks,

fireweed honey and seasalt glazed carrots

this may be the easiest chicken recipe, ever:
2 pieces double-smoked Swiss Farmer sausage, thinly sliced
1.5 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in always has more flavor) or about 6-7 pieces
1 Tbsp dry Italian herbs
1. saute the sausage in a pan on the stove; medium heat only as you want to draw out the fat or render
2. pat the chicken dry with paper towel, dust with dry herbs
3. saute on medium skin side down until the skin turns golden brown
4. turn over in the pan and place in the oven, 300F for 12 minutes+ or internal temp read 165F
rich creamy goodness, this is almost a condiment for the protein!
2 leeks, julienne (about 3 full cups)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup chevre (goat’s cheese; can sub Boursin as well)
1 Tbsp butter
*sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. wilt the leeks in the butter on medium or medium low heat; the key is to cook them gently and not brown them
2. when the leeks start to soften, add the milk and continue to cook on medium until the milk is almost evaporated (takes about 30-40 minutes)
3. add the goat’s cheese, stir to smoothness, season to taste
Simple food really, but rich concentrated flavors: the cheese balances the poultry, the clean carrot balances the richness of the smoked sausage and all the meal needed was the crisp, vibrant sparkling wine to pull everything into focus. This meal was a breeze as well, taking only about 10 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to cook: total time from start to finish was just under an hour.
Eating well, and drinking well, doesn’t have to be complicated but it does take effort. In this Golden Age of wine, when there are more choices then ever before, it’s difficult even for people who work in the wine industry to keep on top of it all. My suggestion, humbly, is not to choose wines at all:
Choose wineries you respect.IMG_5836
Choose winemakers you admire.
I don’t love everything that my local butcher does; sometimes I think they over-season the marinated chicken or make the Thai chili jerky too spicy… but I respect them and I know that by supporting them with my purchasing power I am enabling a company people I admire. And I’m doing something good because of how they work with the land, the environment, their community. And I love the food!
Why would choosing wine be any different?
Many thanks to Hopcott’s meats where I purchased the fresh sausage and locally sourced chicken ( to Ezra Cipes at Summerhill Pyramid Winery  ( for the generous sample bottles.
As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes
on premium distillates and cigars:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trump Winery 2014 release, Charlottesville, Virginia

Eric Trump in the vineyards
Eric Trump in the vineyards
Imagine my surprise when Donald Trump's son sends me a half case of wine. No - not the start of a joke, a true story...
On the other side of the continent there's a 30-something fellow by the name of Eric and he's the new owner of Trump winery in Charlottesville, Virginia (formerly Kluge winery estates). He also happens to be Donald Trump's son and a force to be reckoned with in the real estate market and now the wine industry as recognized by his "Rising Star" award at the Wine Enthusiast 2013 Wine Star Awards ( )
Eric has a talent for sniffing out great deals; he's grown the Trump interest in  golf resorts from 3 to 11 total properties in a decade and is actively working on more deals. It looks like that talent covers finding undervalued wineries as well since the company took over the winery for a fraction of its true value. When socialite Patricia Kluge put the mansion, for instance, on the market in 2009 is was for the jaw-dropping price of $100 million dollars.
The Trumps picked it up for about $6.5 million.
Gives the word "trump" a heck of a lot of context, doesn't it?
But does all of this money acumen translate at all to wine? You know me; I eschew corporate greatness when it comes to wine as I feel, in almost all circumstances, it is the diametric opposite to greatness in the grape. Grapes/wine crave a personal touch. Vines are like any living thing and crave light, food and love... a daunting list for most Big Business.
exemplary Trump sparkling blanc-de-blanc
exemplary Trump sparkling blanc-de-blanc
And yet now I sit and eat my humble pie for Eric Trump is presiding over billions of dollars of real estate and still manages to provide exactly what his vines require. Take special note of the team he has assembled: Katell Griaud who oversees the still wine program with an impressive two, yes two, master's degrees in winemaking from prestigious Universite de Bordeaux and Jonathan Wheeler who has been with the estate since 2006 and oversees the stunning sparkling selection. Jonathan has honed his skills throughout Marlborough, Monterey, Sonoma and the Finger Lakes but it is his complete empathy with this site that is perhaps his greatest strength.
But enough about the Trumps, what about the wines? Truly the sparkling wine was the star for me, and I'm no easy sell. These are not only brilliantly crafted but also incredibly (for the vine age) articulate expressions of their terroir. I am well impressed and the highest praise I can give is that I understand, now, how it is that they beat the formidable Gloria Ferrer in two American blind tastings last year and why Wine Enthusiast bestowed upon them the highest rating ever given to a Virginia still or sparkling wine.
Please enjoy the reviews and check the sparkling wine section for my "How-To" recipe on creating a Provençal meal that is simply sinful with the Blanc-de-Blanc or the sparkling rosé!

2013 Rosé

90 points, Excellent Value

blend of 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc
vine age: 8 years
production: 605 cases
... keen mineral precision, well-concentrated savory berry and wild scrub-brush tones; this wine is exemplary in its execution. Enough acid to make the lips pucker a smidge with enough ripeness to the fruit to allow the senses to perceive residual sugar, of which there is none. Truly  crafted for the heat of summer, this wine is both refreshing and substantial. I cracked it open on a muggy, steamy July evening towards the end of dinner and needed nothing more than good company as the pairing. If I had to pair it with food I would choose Parmegiano-Reggiano risotto with seared venison flank steak and sweet pea emulsion... a novel pairing for rosé to be certain, yet the acid in the wine will love the creamy texture rice, the bright red berry tones is perfect for venison and the peas will bring out the light notes of herb/undergrowth that the young vines are struggling to express.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc2013 Trump Sauv Blanc virginia

89 points, Very Good Value

vine age: 7 years
production: 950 cases
... a lean wine, this drinks more like Sancerre then New Zealand: all minerality with hints of lemon zest and the background of little summer flowers. Vine age certainly comes into play here, with the secondary and tertiary aromas/flavors being very juvenile at present but speaking with the promise for greatness. This is a natural for anyone who loves fresh fish: pike or pickerel from the Prairies, shark from either coast, halibut for those with a budget or cod for those without... the fresher the better and just a dab of butter to season. Be wary though: this wine needs to be served chilled; anything above 16C/60F and the acids will present themselves as being unbalanced.

2013 Chardonnay

89+ points, Very Good Value

vine age: 8 years
production: 2350 cases
... reminding me of Petite Chablis, this is New World crafts(wo)manship to be certain. Brilliantly articulate, it expresses clean minerality, warm straw, ripe lemon zest and subtle savory herb nuances on the nose. On the palate the lean yet balanced acid offers that same expressions and is lacking only in vine age to further the concentration. Absolutely perfect for grilled/roast chicken this made me think of a Provençal dish I made just the other day: Meaux mustard, roasted garlic and fresh dill grilled chicken. Grilled baguette. Salad of bitter greens, grilled sweet peppers, steamed green beans, olives, capers and tomato. It was a simple meal but the intensity of the flavors was washed clean, and complimented, by the utter freshness and piercing minerality of this lovely Chardonnay
IMG_5986As much as Provençe is a place, to me it is even more importantly a state of mind: freshlocalseasonal. Lucky for me, living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I have a growing season that almost stretches year round. Here I was in June with a bounty of fresh veggies and as I had a mate in France I decided to bring some of that ideology to my own picnic table.
Local lettuces, ripe tomatoes, fresh sweet peppers and peppery little radishes... the only thing not local here was the olives. This salad is Niçoise-styled, meaning that to a traditionalist it may not fit all the criteria but contains many of the key ingredients. What I like to do is treat each of those ingredients separately to enhance their natural flavors:
...steam the new potatoes, toss with great olive oil
...grill the sweet peppers, just salt and pepper
...marinate the tomatoes in vinegar and fresh herbs for 10 minutes
...steam the green beans and drizzle with balsamic reduction
IMG_5988But one of the true keys is in that Lyonnaise marinade that is brilliant with poultry but also works a charm on pan-seared oysters: roasted garlic, Meaux mustard, olive oil, cracked pepper and fresh herbs *(can be dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme). I let the chicken marinate like that for the entire afternoon then grill it until the skin is "cracklin' crisp" and the internal temperature is 180F which took me about 15-20 minutes for bone-in thighs on my 400F gas barbeque.
Grilled chicken, fresh baguette, Niçoise salad and a couple of bottles of beautiful wine. What else could one want? But yes - I did have the company of my beautiful family as well, and so, I had it all.

2009 Sparkling Rosé

90+ points, Excellent Value

blend: 92% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Noir
vine age: 8 years
production: 2000 cases
... 100% estate fruit and it shows; this is an incredibly concentrated and nuanced wine for such a young vineyard. The aromas are rich with tones of red currant, cranberry, raspberry and that ever-present Trump Winery tight/lean/focused minerality. Mouth-watering vivid currant acid is enriched by a creamy, persistent mousse and the synergy of fruit just ripe enough to give the impression of sweetness. Delightfully dry though, this is the perfect foil for prawns, king crab, grilled scallops and most anything from the sea. Consider this your new sushi wine!

2008 Sparkling Blanc-de-Blanc

91+ points, Excellent Value

vine age: 7 years
production: 8,000 cases
... Delighted by this consummately professional methode Traditionale sparkling Chardonnay: classic creamy fine mousse, concentrated mineral aromas blending in harmony with straw/nougat/almond and Anjou pear tones. The brisk palate captures concise minerality again yet carries a richness from ripe fruit that brings dry acid to brilliant balance. A gem; exceptional value! I served this with the 2013 Chardonnay for our Provençal themed meal and it truly over-delivered on quality!

2012 Meritage

88 points

vine age: 8 years
blend: 45% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
production: 2,758 cases
... heavily spiced red fruit tones leap from the glass in this ultra-traditional Bordeaux styled blend; cinnamon stewed plums, red currant jelly, raspberry tart... simply massive aromas with a sugary background that is not altogether unpleasant. The medium+ red currant acid presents itself as well integrated and the medium+ fine tannin give credible weight to the wine. To me, the fruit is a tad too ripe and overpowers the gentle secondary aromas/flavors that are emerging: wild herbs, sous-bois or undergrowth are hidden behind those bold fruit tones and more than a hint of alcohol though it is a (relatively) modest 13.8%. Enjoy now, and slightly chilled (not over 18C/70F), as this young wine will not develop appreciably in bottle. For the Bordeaux enthusiasts in the audience this is, to me, more like Haut-Medoc without the pencil shavings/graphite mineral edge. A fine effort from a young vineyard.

Many thanks to Hopcott’s meats where I purchased the excellent locally sourced chicken (  and to Kerry Woolard at Trump Winery for the generous sample bottles.
As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes
on premium distillates and cigars:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine