Archive for February, 2015

Vancouver Wine Festival 2015 – Four Wineries No One Has Told You About

February 25, 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I am excited to be going to the Vancouver International Wine Festival tomorrow night. But in reading the lead up to the Festival in the past week, it has struck me – yet again – that some of the best wineries are not being promoted.

Why? Well, that would be a blog of it’s own…

But given the short time frame, let’s focus on four wineries – and their wines – you may not have heard about, but certainly shouldn’t miss out on.

Let’s start with BC, my home province. Incredibly, La Frenz Winery – which wine dweebs like me know is the best overall winery not just in the province, but in Canada as well – has seen nary a peep of promotion.

If there is one winery you need to go to, it is La Frenz. According to the info, they are pouring four wines – 3 whites and 1 red. All are worth trying, but if you are limited for time the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may be the best of its kind ever made in BC (it has won numerous awards) and the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay will make you think of Beringer’s Private Reserve for half the price. And the red? Well, if you want a Cali/Burgundy Pinot Noir cross, try the 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve – it is stunning, and a real bargain at $32.

Next up is one from Australia, the featured country this year. And I am still shaking my head that d’Arenberg hasn’t received any press, as – wine for wine – they are my favourite producer in Australia (and have been for many years). They are pouring two of their best wines as well! The first – the Galvo Garage – is a Bordeaux blend that tastes the way Bordeaux should. The fruit is super ripe, but not jammy, with just the right amount of wood and herbs. Nice young, it ages easily for 8 – 10 years. And their best wine is the Dead Arm Shiraz. More Syrah than Shiraz, it is classic black peppery, cherries, licorice and earth – tannic when young, but oh, so beautiful after 8 years or so.

The third winery to look for is Zenato, from Italy. Zenato specializes in Amarone and Valpolicella, both of which can be acquired tastes, although real red wine lovers will definitely appreciate them. The Amarone is high alcohol, almost overripe, and just amazing. The Valpolicella is made from dried grapes and has that nutty flavor to it…again, a beautiful wine.

Last winery? Giesen from New Zealand. They specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both of which are amazing. Even the regular bottles are extremely ripe, but the Reserves (called “The Brothers”) can be mindblowing. All are being poured this week.

So there you go…four wineries that haven’t been promoted, that you may not have heard of. But if you go taste their wines, you will not be disappointed.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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BARBARESCO…THE “OTHER” PIEDMONT WINE

February 18, 2015

Now don’t get me wrong…I love Barolo. In fact, it is in my top five red wines, both because of the flavour profile, lack of oak, and the fact that it can age almost forever.

But it has never been cheap and, in the past few years…well, it has kind of gotten ridiculous! Most of the average wines are in the $70 range…the better wines $100+ and the really prestigious ones way more than that. It is to the point where I start to look at a $50 Barolo as a “good value” (and a very hard one to find at that).

Which brings me to Barbaresco.

Same grape (Nebbiolo), same flavour profile (dried cherries, earth, some herbs), and a better than average development period (8 – 10 years, although I have had 15 and 20 year wines that are gorgeous).

Not only that, Barbarescos can be less tannic when young, and you don’t need to wait as long to try your first bottle. With Barolo – from a good producer/vintage – I am really hesitant to try drinking the wine before it is 10 years old.

But Barbarescos can be nice at 8 years old, even 6.

Not that they can’t age as well! I had a 2005 Prunotto a few weeks back that was stunning, but still far from being fully mature. And some of the Riserva wines from Produttori del Barbaresco that I have had (Asili, Ovello, Ovello, Rabaja and Montestefano) have been amazing at both 15 and 20 years of age.

As for price?

Well, Barbaresco isn’t cheap either. But it can be $10 – $20 a bottle less than similar quality Barolos. The last vintages of the Riserva wines referenced above, for example, were $59 (for wines rated 93 – 95 by Robert Parker). And the “bargain” regular wine is still about $42 and – year in, year out – is rated 90 points or more. I have been drinking it since the 1986 vintage.

So if you like Nebbiolo-based wines (or Italian wines in general) and are looking for some reliable ones to put in your cellar for 8 – 15+ years, take a look at Barbaresco. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

“What’s a great red wine to take to a guys “foodie” dinner party featuring steak?”

February 11, 2015

A friend of mine asked me this question yesterday and, in developing an answer, it occurred to me the question would be a great blog topic. That’s because in order to get to the answer, I had to sift through a few important wine issues.

The first one to deal with was the fact this was not only a dinner party, but a “foodie” dinner party. From that, I took it that the participants are knowledgeable about at least about their food (and probably about their wine). That means whatever wines I recommended had to work with the food

And it was also a “guys” dinner party. So – at the risk of stereotyping – and assumed there would be a bit of competition going on here. So the wine not only had to be good, it had to be well known and probably not cheap. So probably no bargains wanted.

Next issue – the food! By steak, I assumed it wasn’t just chuck or sirloin and would be cooked on the barbecue. The potential cuts actually didn’t matter as much – T-bone, striploin, New York, Porterhouse, Ribeye – as it would be the barbecuing that would add much of the flavour. Grilling adds that wonderful charred flavour to meat, which can be powerful and overwhelm a more delicate read wine. A minor consideration was also if they were going to sauce the steak i.e. bbq sauce before, béarnaise after. Either way, those are some rich flavours that have to be accounted for in the wine selection.

The last issue was the word “great”. I needed not just any red wine, but a “great” red wine.

Now, that could mean a number of things, of course. “Great” tasting, “great” reputation, “great” rating…or some combination of all three. I doubt it meant “great” price i.e. cheap, given the other factors above. So, we are probably looking at $50+ in order to be in the game!

The toughest issue here, actually, is the “great tasting” one. It would be relatively easy to find a “big red wine” from Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscan, or even Spain. But if it is too young – and therefore too tannic – that might be a problem, even if those tannins are somewhat softened by the steak itself. Chances are the guests are going to start with a glass before eating the steak, and if all they get is a mouth of wood and lip-searing tannin, that’s not going to work.

So, with all that to consider…can you guess my recommendation(s)?

There were two, both from California.

The first was Cabernet Sauvignon from a “name” producer in a good, recent year. The style of Cali Cabs should be perfect for steak – big enough to take on the barbecue and any sauces, but also ripe enough even on release to enjoy on their own. And some of the “name” wineries make enough wine to have it available. I specifically recommended Caymus (the 40th Anniversary Vintage is very highly rated, although pricey at $72) as the wine that would be the best name. For about $30 less, I also recommended the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet – not as big, but same style.

The other option was old vine Zinfandel. Again, big enough to take on the barbecue (it is actually my “go to” barbecue wine), nice on release, and available from some big name producers. Ridge Vineyards is my top pick, either the Lytton Spring, Geyserville (both $55 up her) or the Three Valleys (at $40). All are Zin blends, which adds even a little more complexity to the wine.

There you go…no over to my friend to see what he chooses…and how it works out!

SB

PS If you have a wine question you think would make a good blog topic, let me know!

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT KIND OF WINE TO BRING TO A RESTAURANT

February 4, 2015

We had “Dine Out” Vancouver up here the last couple of weeks, and took advantage of it by going to Cibo Trattoria for dinner. It is a nice Italian restaurant, and the meal was very good.

So was the wine – because I brought my own, from my cellar! A 2005 Barbaresco by Prunotto that was in fabulous shape. And with corkage only $25, I saved myself a whack of money (good, but young, Barbarescos were over $100 on the wine list!).

That got me to thinking…what is the best kind of wine to bring to a restaurant?

Well, I think there are two kinds of answers – one if you have a wine cellar, and one if you don’t (but want to bring a bottle anyway to save money, celebrate, etc).

Let’s start with the second one first. How do you decide what – or, in fact, if – to bring if you don’t have a wine cellar?

Well, first step is look at the wine list for the restaurant on line, and check out not just the prices of the bottles, but of the wines by the glass as well. At most nice restaurants, the bottles of wine usually start at $40…and given there is at least 100% markup, that means you are getting a $15 – $20 wine for that price. As for wines by the glass, well, unfortunately $12 and up is pretty standard (for a 4 ounce pour). Finally, call and ask what the corkage charge is – it can range from $15 to $35.

Then, do the math!

For cheaper wine, it may not make sense i.e. if you want to bring a $15 wine, you are probably not going to save any money. And, frankly, it is kind of an insult to the restaurant! But if you want to bring something special to celebrate…that may be different! A $40 or $50 bottle, plus corkage, I still about $65 – $75. Not cheap, but probably less than on the list (if you can find it there at all).

And you get to choose a wine you (hopefully) know about and like! Pick a wine – probably red so you don’t have to worry about keeping it cold – that drinks well young. Good prospects are California Cabernets or Australian Shiraz…for $50 you can find some amazing wines out there!

If you have a cellar, the decision should be a no brainer! Any wine you bring will probably be more mature than what is on the wine list, and way cheaper, even with the corkage fee, for a couple of reasons.

First, very few restaurants have aged wine on their list. For mostly cost reasons (i.e. avoiding the overhead of keeping wines without selling them), they put the most recent vintages on the list and hope people will buy them, even if they are not really drinking all that well.

And they do have older vintages, you will pay for it! Take a look at some older Bordeaux for example…$200+ is pretty standard for anything more than 5 – 10 years old! I expect that is what my Barbaresco would have cost if it had been on the list at Cibo.

Also, don’t worry about your wine needing decanting! They will do it for you as part of the corkage fee. All you have to care about there is getting it to the restaurant without shaking it up too much.

One last piece of advice…if you do bring a wine, feel free to offer a taste to the waiter/sommelier. They are wine lovers and often appreciate the opportunity to taste a great wine.

So there you go…a long answer to a short question about what kind of wine to bring to a restaurant!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com