Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rose…cold, dry and cheap…and in a box!

July 11, 2019

Okay, its summer…or supposed to be (still waiting on the weather)…but it is definitely Rose season!

And let’s keep it simple with Rose…it should be cold, dry and cheap…and you can even buy it in a box!

Let’s back track a bit…I just got back from Europe, and even though it was a June vacation, there was still lots of Rose available in restaurants in Belgium, Holland and Denmark! Only a couple of euros a glass in restaurants, and in the supermarkets? How about the same price…for a bottle!

Meanwhile, back in my home town…all these beautiful looking bottles of French Rose for over $25 and $30 a bottle, plus tax? And our local wines are still in the $18 – $20 range.

Sorry, but no way!

Fortunately, I have found the solution…or two solutions!

There are two 1 litre bottles available for $12.99…one from the south of France (Cotes Mas) and one from Chile (Cono Sur). Both are crisp and dry!

Even better? A box! La Vieille Ferme, a great value French producer, makes a 3 litre 2018 vintage Rose for $33.00!

I just bought a box, put it in the fridge…and it is great! Just like being in the south of France (although still twice the cost).

So don’t give in to the expensive wines! Buy Rose, but buy it dry and cheap!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

 

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Pacific Northwest Wine Tasting Surprises!

May 9, 2019

Just finished #dish2009 tasting by the BC Hospitality Foundation and – once again – lots of surprises!

The wines were from Washington State, Oregon and California, and there was a pretty broad representation – over two dozen wineries and close to 100 wines. I decided to focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and ‘big’ reds, as I only had about 90 minutes.

The Chardonnays were mostly what I call the ‘Cali’ style – fermented/aged in oak, with at least some degree of malolactic fermentation. That resulted in nice golden colours, lots of lovely buttery/vanilla citrus fruit. Only one completely unoaked wine, but a few a mix of stainless steel and oak. My favourites were from Deloach (2016 Russian River Valley), Ponzi (2015 Reserve), Ferrari-Carano (2016 Sonoma) and Walt Wines (2016 Sonoma Coast).

Pinot Noirs were next and they were my first surprise – and a good one! Sometimes North American Pinot can go off the rails in two ways – too much ripe fruit, making it taste like candy, or too much of trying to be Burgundy (which means not enough fruit and more wood/herbs).

But almost all of these wines were in the middle – lots of ripe fruit but very sophisticated indeed! And there were some truly stunning – if expensive – wines! Oregon Producer Ponzi had their ‘15 Reserve and it was dark but full of ripe, dark cherries and ripe tannins. My tweet said ‘a world class wine’, and it was! Only slightly behind was the ‘16 Russian River Valley by Paul Hobbes and the 2016 Sonoma Coast from Walt Wines – both were beautiful, rich, young wines with lots of life ahead of them. Finally, the 2017 Russian River Valley from Deloach was also very nice. A general observation was the wines from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma were the best, confirming its Pinot rep!

On to the ‘big’ reds from California, and my other surprise – and not a good one!

I tasted about a dozen Cabs, Cab blends and Zin/Syrah/Petit Syrahs and found – tannin. Super tannin, so much my cheeks were sucked in! And I couldn’t find the fruit!

What a disappointment! Similar to many wineries in BC, these seemed to going for Bordeaux style instead of taking advantage of the regional strength – ripe fruit! I will never forget my first Cali Cab wines in the mid ‘80s – they were stunning for their ripe black currant fruit. Even the Reserves were ripe and could be drunk young.

But not these ones! Maybe they will become smooth and elegant, but they will never be fruity. Too bad!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

NEW ZEALAND WINE – IT’S MORE THAN SAUVIGNON BLANC

May 3, 2019

I had chance this week to attend New Zealand Wine’s “Pure Discovery” tasting in Vancouver and came away both impressed and with some different views on that country’s wine!

I always try to avoid bringing in pre-conceived ideas to wine tastings, so with this one the key word was Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand has been famous for it for years, including from popular producers like Oyster Bay, Kim Crawford and Babich. Now, I like SB, but wanted to know if there was more to New Zealand!

So, for whites, I went Chardonnay hunting – and I was surprised for sure! I tasted about ten wines and came away with one common theme regarding the style. It was French – not Californian – but also the Chablis-style of French Burgundy. That meant not as much vanilla/butter/hazelnut on the nose (which usually comes from oak) and more fresh, crisp citrus fruit (from making and aging the wines in stainless steel instead of oak barrels). Even those producers that did say they used oak usually relied on previously used barrels to limit the influence. If you enjoy this style of Chardonnay, I would highly recommend New Zealand, especially from producers like Kumeu River Estate (a particular favourite of mine), Greywacke, Villa Maria and Sacred Hill. While none of the wines were cheap – ranging from $22 – $50+ – they are certainly cost-competitive compared to Chablis from France.

I went to Pinot Noirs next, as they have become the “go to” red wines for New Zealand. I really didn’t know what to expect, so was surprised to once again feel like I was in a Burgundy tasting! Medium red in colour, lean red cherry fruit, a mix of herbs and wood, and fine to medium tannins – that was a fairly consistent description of most of the wines. You would certainly never mistake them for fruit-forward, vanilla laced California wines, that is for sure! It would be interesting to see how they aged, which is something I have had mixed results with for Burgundy as there is not a lot of obvious fruit when they are young, and many can therefore dry out over the years. Leading producers at the tasting included Craggy Range, Luna Estate, Mud House and Sacred Hill.

Last but least I had to look for some Syrah, of course…and I found a couple of beauties! Te Awanga had two – an entry level for about $22 and a reserve for about $28, and they were lovely! 100% Syrah, slightly riper than the northern Rhone (but not jammy or oaky at all), I really liked them! And the best wine of the tasting – as well as the most expensive – was the Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah. It had some Viognier in it, and was a young Cote Rotie look alike. Although at $110, it was out of my snack bracket!

So “big picture” takeaways? There is a lot going on with New Zealand wine, well beyond Sauvignon Blanc and the big-name producers. Go check out some Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and – if you can find it – Syrah. You won’t be disappointed!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Rose Season is Back!

April 24, 2019

Sunny weather is slowly coming back to the Lower Mainland of BC, and that means its time to think about Rose again!

I went to a spring Rose release event today and tasted some great wines…but first, a bit of a Rose primer for those note familiar with the wine and its different styles.

First off, the wine – Rose is made from red grapes that the vintners leave the skins on for a while. The longer the skins stay on, the deeper the colour, and vice versa. That colour, by the way, can vary from just barely pink to almost red.

Style of Rose is even more important, and there are four basic styles – three dry and one sweet. First, the sweet, and only two words needed – white Zinfandel. Not good, like bubble gum…don’t go there.

Other three all have their merits. Popular today is the very fruity, sometimes off-dry version. Made in BC and California, it can be very refreshing – and dangerous, it goes down easy – on a hot summer day on the patio!

Classic Rose is bone dry, crisp…and cheap! In the south of France, it is drunk in the summer extremely cold, and is super refreshing. And cheap? Often in restaurants it is included in the meal! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good…I love that style!

Last but not least, Roses that age. Not for everyone – both because of the style and the cost, which can be in the $30+++ range – it can still be very nice. Tavel from Tavel makes some great ones, as do producers in Bandol. But more like a red wine than a Rose – big body and finish, can age for years.

Now back to the tasting today…all “spec” wines, all dry, but a great mix of producers from different countries.

A new producer – and my favourite today – was Laurent Miquel from the south of France. They had three wines, ranging in price from $10.99 – $18.99, and all were pure, fresh, fruity and bone dry. Interestingly, the cheapest – Vendages Nocturnes Classic 2017 – was my favourite, even though it is a year old!

There were also a couple from Italy that I liked. ’07 Villa Marchesi Trevenzie ($11.49) and Rivera Rose Castel Del Monte DOC 2017 ($12.99) were both very good and great values – light pink, dry and great, crisp finish.

Finally, a couple of sparkling Roses to round out my favourite wines. A Cava from Spain was no surprise – NV Giro Ribot was deep pink, fresh and fruity with small bubbles – and a good deal for $18.49.

But a wine from the United Kingdom? Coates & Seely Hampshire Sparkling Brut is expensive at $51.99, but very similar in style to real Champagne.

If you see these wines, definitely check them out. And if not – go cheap and dry, and keep it cold!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

 

 

OKANAGAN FALLS SPRING RELEASES

March 27, 2019

Well, its that special time of year again…no, not Christmas, or even back to school…It is Spring, which means the wineries are starting to offer tastings of their new releases!

First one was today, from Okanagan Falls. Fourteen wineries and a total of 56 wines…not all new releases, but some very interesting wines indeed, and many that I can recommend.

For those not familiar with Okanagan Falls, it is the area northwards along the East Bench of Skaha Lake and across the water to Kalenden. From there, it is south over rolling hills above Vaseux Lake. Beautiful country, to be sure…and home to some very good wines!

I started with the new white wines. Among the most impressive for me was the 2013 Rousanne/ Marsanne/Viognier from Pentage Winery. At almost 6 years old, this hardly qualifies as a “new release”, but it was beautiful and still tasted very young. Dry and quite full bodied – as is usually the case with white Rhone wines – with crisp citrus flavours.

The other white wine I really enjoyed was the 2018 Albarino from Stag’s Hollow. This varietal – from Spain – is rare for BC, but showed great freshness, with dry citrus fruit and no oak at all. Great for summer sipping!

There weren’t as many new Rose’s as I would have thought, but I did find a couple I liked. The 2017 Nelly’s Rose from See Ya Later was one of them, and though now almost two years old, it still had fresh strawberry fruit and was just a touch off dry. Even better was the 2018 Syrah Rose from Stag’s Hollow. It was light pink and bone dry, crisp and refreshing – definitely a summer patio wine.

As for reds, the best were – no surprise – Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir from Nighthawk Vineyard was very nice – done in concrete vats, so no excessive oak to cover up the ripe, earthy red cherry fruit. Even better was the 2016 Pinot Noir Stag’s Hollow Vineyard from Stag’s Hollow. This was a beautiful, full-bodied wine with earthy cherries that have just a touch of vanilla and ripe tannins – at least 2 – 3 years aging here.

Finally, Syrah, my favourite varietal from BC! First a surprise – 2016 from Blasted Church, who I did not know made one. It is classic northern Rhone style, with peppery, earthy back cherries and no oak. Gorgeous for drinking now. The other one that really stood out was from Pentage – the 2014. It is two years older but a bigger wine, with the same flavour profile but still fine tannins, suggesting a few years in the cellar wouldn’t hurt.

Those are the highlights, then, at least for me. Lots to choose from this spring from Okanagan Falls!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

 

2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 21, 2019

That time again…the Vancouver International Wine Festival!

So much to do, so many wines to taste…160 wineries from 16 countries pouring 1450 wines…and California is the feature wine region.

With so many options, here are some suggestions on wineries – and wines – to check out.

California

Being the “feature” region usually means having the most wineries/wines, and this year is no different! While there are some new names to check out, I would go with some of the long term stars of the region. Wagner Family of Wine, for example…don’t know for sure, but will Caymus be there? If so, their Cabernet Sauvignons are legendary! And how about Ridge Vineyards? Zinfandel put them on the map…look for both the Lytton Springs and Geyserville blends, two of my favourite wines. Last but not least, Beringer…another Cabernet Sauvignon legend, although don’t ignore their Merlots and Reserve Chardonnay!

Canada

Wines from across Canada are once again at the festival, but stick with BC for the best! Burrowing Owl’s Syrah is consistently among the best in the province, for example. Church and State makes another great Syrah, as well as solid Pinot Noirs and Bordeaux blends. Finally, Nk Mip Vineyards, a First Nations winery from Oliver, makes outstanding Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay in the Qwam Qwmt series.

Australia

Not a big selection this year to choose from, but check out Vasse Felix/Yalumba. The Yalumba Signature is a super-ripe Bordeaux-blend that can last for decades.

France

Even fewer French wines this year, unfortunately, but nice to see Chateau Pesquie from the Cotes du Ventoux. They make outstanding reds, including the Quintessence.

Italy

Last but not least, Italy…and more than a few choices this year! Want Chianti? Check out the wines of Antinori, one of my favourite producers. Brunello di Montalcino? How about Altesino, a great producer. And if you love Barolo, it is hard to beat the wines of Marchesi di Barolo.

So there you go…if you just taste the wines from the wineries above, that will give you at least 20 – 25…which is a great start!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

 

So much to do, so many wines to taste…160 wineries from 16 countries pouring 1450 wines…and California is the feature wine region.

 

With so many options, here are some suggestions on wineries – and wines – to check out.

 

California

 

Being the “feature” region usually means having the most wineries/wines, and this year is no different! While there are some new names to check out, I would go with some of the long term stars of the region. Wagner Family of Wine, for example…don’t know for sure, but will Caymus be there? If so, their Cabernet Sauvignons are legendary! And how about Ridge Vineyards? Zinfandel put them on the map…and look for both the Lytton Springs and Geyserville blends, two of my favourite wines. Last but not least, Beringer…another Cabernet Sauvignon legend, although don’t ignore their Merlots and Reserve Chardonnay!

 

Canada

 

Wines from across Canada are once again at the festival, but stick with BC for the best! Burrowing Owl’s Syrah is consistently among the best in the province, for example. Church and State makes another great Syrah, as well as solid Pinot Noirs and Bordeaux blends. Finally, Nk Mip Vineyards, a First Nations winery from Oliver, makes outstanding Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay in the Qwam Qwmt series.

 

Australia

 

Not a big selection this year to choose from, but echek out Vasse Felix/Yalumba. The Yalumba Signature is a super-ripe Bordeaux-blend that can last for decades.

 

France

 

Even fewer French wines this year, unfortunately, but nice to see Chateau Pesquie from the Cotes du Ventoux. They make outstanding reds, including the Quintessence.

 

Italy

 

Last but not least, Italy…and more than a few choices this year! Want Tuscany? Check out the wines of Antinori, one of my favourite producers. Brunello di Montalcino? How about Altesino? And if you love Barolo, it is hard to beat the wines of Marchesi di Barolo.

 

So there you go…if you just taste the wines from the wineries above, that will give you at least 20 – 25…which is a great start!

 

SB

 

www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT IS THE “BEST” WINE?

October 18, 2018

I get the question a lot, and I’m sure we have all heard it – what’s the best wine? Seems simple…but its not…and the answer really goes to what wine is all about!

At the most basic, “best” is a relative term, whether in business, sports or wine. And that’s because it all depends on what you, the individual, value the most.

Wine is a great example. We just went through the annual Bordeaux release. Regardless of the quality of the vintage, there are some of the world’s most famous wineries involved, names that are legends – Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Petrus…but does that make them the best, or making the best wine?

This is an easy example for me, because – deep breath – I don’t like Bordeaux. So my answer would be “no”.

But the reason I don’t like it is actually the answer to the definition of “best”…I don’t like the Bordeaux style of wine. Herbaceous, woody, super tannic…and not a lot of fruit (at least in the cheaper wines, as I have never been able to afford the wines I mentioned above).

So for me, I would say the best wines come from the Cotes du Rhone – north or south, made from Grenache and Syrah – or the Piedmonte in Italy (Barolos and Barbaresco). The mix of ripe fruit and underlying herbs, lack of oak/wood, ageability…that is the recipe for “best” for me.

When I started getting into wine over 35 years ago, a wine educator said “the best wine is the wine you like the best”. That seemed simplistic to me at the time, but the more wine I have tasted and drunk over the years, the more I believe he was right.

So the next time someone asks you “what is the best wine”, answer it with another question…”what wine do you like the best”?

Because that’s the answer!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

What to do with wine you bring to – or receive at – dinner parties

September 20, 2018

We had some family and friends over for dinner last weekend, and they brought wine! That is nice, obviously, but especially for me as a wine dweeb because a lot of people seem too intimidated to do that.

I ended up serving all the wine that was brought – which wasn’t what I would normally do — and that made me think the topic might be good for a blog.

When receiving wine from guests, I think there are a couple of options. If you already have wine planned for the evening, you of course don’t have to open the guest’s wine. Unless they ask you to – which is what happened to us on the weekend (as they had been to a new winery and wanted us to taste the wines).

Another reason to open it is just to help make sure you have enough for the dinner party! Depending on the number of guests, it can get a bit crazy – and expensive – to be providing all the wine.

The main reason not to open a wine is if it is for your cellar/to keep. How do you know that? Well, your guest may tell you…or you may be able to figure it out yourself (I previously was given a 2014 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon…it would have been nice at dinner, but will be even better in about 10 years!).

And if you bring wine…what should you expect from the hosts? That’s actually the tougher question for me.

I have come to judge it by the person I am bringing it to. If I know they are a fellow wine dweeb, I will ask in advance – do you want it for dinner or can I bring you something for your cellar?

If I don’t know them, I usually bring something that is good value but which I have had before. That way I won’t be disappointed if the don’t open it, and I know they will like it when they do!

I learned that approach after a couple of years of bringing a wine from my cellar that I wanted to try…and then not getting a chance to taste it!

Bottom line on bringing wine is always bring something you would be happy to drink yourself!

I hope all this helps!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Wine Tastings and Wine Dinners – a Few Tips

September 13, 2018

Fall is a great time for many reasons, and wine is one of them! A return to red wines is a must, as is the hearty food that shows them off so well.

It can also mean more wine events, including tastings and wine dinners. I had the good fortunate to attend one of both this week and found a few “bugaboos” at each I thought I would share…they might increase you enjoyment at such events (and limit how much you annoy others!).

Wine Tastings

Select your wine and move on

This has to be my biggest pet peeve! People ask for a one from the rep and then just stand there, either tasting it or talking to the rep, while the line waits behind them! The unwritten rule – maybe it should be written – is get your wine, ask a quick question, and then move on so others can taste.

Spit don’t drink

If you are planning to taste more than a couple of wines, I strongly advise you to spit. Some people think its gross, but it isn’t – in fact, winemakers see it as as sign of respect. And its easy to do. If you don’t, you could end up getting drunk or worse (i.e. getting sick or falling down on someone…).

White then red…not back and forth

At most tastings, the red wine are young, which can mean at least some are tannic. That tends to coat the palate, making it harder to taste other wines. It can also make it almost impossible to taste more delicate white wines.

So have a plan…white before red works well. Same as with sweet wines, by the way…save them till the end or it could ruin any dry wines you go back on.

Wine Dinners

I won’t get into basic social niceties here…although they can definitely play a role (especially the more you drink!). But here are a couple of wine suggestions.

Drink the wines in order

There is a reason the wines are paired the way they are – they are supposed to go with certain dishes, and also not upstage the wines to come. If you jump around, it often impacts your enjoyment of both the food and the wine.

You don’t have to finish all the wine

If you are having 5 or 6 courses, the quantity of wine can add up quickly! So don’t feel like you have to finish each glass…it can end up making you tipsy before you get to the end of the meal!

Save a little in each glass to taste later

Depending on the wines, its also interesting to come back and taste them later. Young wines, in particular, soften up with exposure to air, and can end up tasting remarkable different – and better – after even 30 minutes sitting there!

So there you go…a few tips to help you through Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

Reflections on Summer 2018

September 6, 2018

Well, I’m back…both from summer and from spring (judging from the last time I wrote a blog!).

Lets start out with some reflections from the summer of 2018!

  1. Rose is good, but it needs to be cheap – we were fortunate enough to spend some time in France in June, and while it wasn’t stinking hot yet, it was hot enough that Rose was the wine of choice! And that was fine, since it was available for cheap – like 3 – 4 euros a bottle in the store! So when we got back and I couldn’t find it for less than about $15 a bottle plus tax…ouch!

2. Rhone style whites are better than I remember – Over the years, I have been off Rhone white wines. My memory was a lot of acidic, resiny wines. But in the south of France I tasted some super fresh blends, and found that when I got home they were the same!

3. You can still drink red wine  in the heat – Also in France, I was tasting big reds – Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas – and even though the temperature was in the 80’s, I had no problem at all, including with having them at lunch and dinner!

4. Pinot Noir and Syrah are the best BC reds – I also got up to the Okanagan this summer, and tasted at some of my favourite wineries (as well as some new ones). And it confirmed what I already knew – Syrah and Pinot Noir are the best red wines in BC! Minimal oak, lots of fruit, great ageability! Oh, and by the way – La Frenz is still the best winery in BC by a country mile!

5. Wine prices are still too high at home – Last but not least – surprise – is that wine prices at home are still way to high. I was able to buy some Gigondas in Gigondas that was rated 95+ points for 14 euros…wine that when I can get it here is over $40 a bottle! That is crazy…if I lived in France, my cellar would be crazy good for half the price!

Here comes fall…stay tuned for more!

SB

 

http://www.sbwinesite.com