Posts Tagged ‘chianti’

A “Wine” Road Trip!

May 18, 2017

Coming to you tonight from Revelstoke, BC on our way to Okotoks, Alberta for the 65th Wedding Anniversary of my father-in-law’s sister. Going for the right reason – taking my aging father-in-law – but also an opportunity for a “wine road trip” to Calgary (about 45 minutes north)!

As self proclaimed “cow-town” you wouldn’t think that Calgary is a great wine city, but you would be wrong! When the government privatized the liquor industry a couple of decades ago, they created a true open market, where the same wine can be a different price in two different places.

And with lots of oil money, the wine selection – and the private stores that sell it – exploded!

Twenty years ago, the price difference was so significant (compared to my home province), that the savings paid for the cost of a return flight from Vancouver and a rental car!

Alas, post-911 you can’t bring wine on board anymore, so that ended. But we are driving…and the almost empty trunk literally beckons for wine!

It looks like there are still at least a dozen high quality wine stores to look at during my one free day…and while I won’t be able to get to all of them, even a selection will be worth it from the look on their websites.

I’m looking for my “cellar retirement wines” – Southern Rhones (Chateauneuf, Gigondas, Vacqueyras), Northern Rhones (Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, Cote Rotie and St. Joseph), Piedmont wines (Barolo and Barberesco) and Tuscan treasures (Brunello’s and high end Chianti Riservas). Plus, maybe a smattering of Washington and Cali Syrah and Grenache.

What actual wines to buy? My rules are simple:
• be rated over 90 points by Parker;
• at least a decade of aging potential (meaning I drink them when I retire in my early 60s); and
• be a maximum of $60 a bottle

Also, I won’t forget to stop at Costco (which sells wine in Alberta) and the Real Canadian Superstore Liquor Store. The latter is hit and miss, but the prices can be ridiculously low – including on special Cognacs (up to $50 less than in BC).

So think of me on Saturday morning – the stores open at 10 am, and I will be there. Watch for my tweets…and next week’s blog for my purchases!

SB

http://www.sbwineblog.com

My Italian Holiday

September 7, 2016

Well, I’m back after a summer break, almost a month of which was spent in Italy! So, for the first blog back, a few musings on Italian wine…in Italy!

1. Wine is cheaper in Italy

No doubt about it – Italian wine is cheaper in Italy! Whether a glass of cold Rose at a restaurant (2 – 3 euros!) or a very nice Brunello or Barbaresco (either in a restaurant or a store), the price is definitely right! And it wasn’t just the currency difference, particularly in restaurants. They just seem to have a different attitude — and tax system — in Italy for their own wine.

2. Very good to great wine is cheaper as well!

I was amazed to be drinking Brunellos, Barbarescos and Vino Nobiles for 40 and 50 euros…wines that would cost well over $100 in Canadian restaurants!

3. Italian restaurants have wine figured out

It wasn’t just the price in restaurants. It was the selection — lots of Brunello in Montalcino, Vino Nobile in Montepulciano, Barolo/Barbaresco in Piedmont. And the wine by the glass selection was often incredible! Some restaurants offered all the wines by the glass!

4. “Regular” wines are often better than the Riservas in Tuscany

I tasted regular Brunellos and Vino Nobiles vs their Riserva versions and almost always liked the former best. It seemed like “Riserva” mean more oak (as well as more $$$), and that meant more tannin as well.

5. You have to reserve in advance at wineries

This was a surprise! Having been to many wine areas in North America — where you mostly just “walk in”, I was disappointed that you had to almost always reserve in advance to go to wineries all through Italy. It wasn’t hard to do (even with not speaking Italian), and they treated you well, but you also had to pay (staring at about 10 euros and up). So beware if you go!

6. Don’t expect to just “follow the signs” to get to wineries!

Another big difference from California, Oregon and here in BC was signage. Or, the lack of it! It was hard to find many wineries in both Tuscany and Piedmont, even for our GPS. So don’t expect to just follow the signs!

7. There are some amazing restaurants in “wine towns”!

While we ate very well in major cities like Florence and Siena, some of our best meals were in places like the village of Barbaresco (Restaurant Antica). I know it sounds so logical, but they have figured it out there – great wine all around, so why not add great, unpretentious, fairly priced food as well? Amazing!

8. Try the local wines even if you haven’t heard of them

We went to Cortona, as my wife wanted to see the place where “Under the Tuscan Sun” was written. We went for lunch, and I noticed wines from Cortona on the list…a Merlot and an Syrah. We tried by the glass, and I was blown away, especially by the Syrah. So take the chance!

9. Even in the heat of summer, you can drink “big” red wine.

Many of the restaurants didn’t have air conditioning or we were eating outside. But I was amazed how a glass and/or bottle of Brunello or Vino Nobile was still great even in 35 degree weather.

10. Wine and food, food and wine.

The food and the wine just went so well together…I was so impressed. You must go and try it!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Learnings from the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 9, 2016

A week late, but here are 5 things I learned from this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival:

1. The VIWF remains one of the best wine events anywhere

Year in, year out, regardless of the feature country/grape, the VIWF is outstanding and can compete with any festival in the world. It gets great producers, and they actually pour some of their best wines, which this year mean lots of Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos and Chianti Classico Riservas!

2. Young Barolo doesn’t have to be tannic

What a nice surprise! I love Barolo, but find it hard to taste/evaluate young…after 10+ years it is amazing, but young…except this year! I tasted a number of 2010’s and 2011’s that were really ripe…still with tannin, but way fruitier than usual. A much more enjoyable experience!

3. My favourite producers continue to be…my favourite producers!

Call it bias if you want, but it was great to see that some of my favourite producers once again made some of my favourite wines! Case in point? Averill Creek and their Pinot Noir…Andy continues to make unbelievably good wine on Vancouver Island, a gorgeous cross between Cali and Burgundy. The same goes for Famille Perrin and their Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. Yes, it is expensive at about $90. But simply stunning, and having been drinking this wine since the 1981 vintage, I can tell you it is almost guaranteed to produce an orgasmic experience after 10 – 15+ years.

4. Its nice when expectations are exceeded

Argentina hasn’t been a big focus of mine for a while when it comes to fine wine, with too many producers using too much oak in their red wines (particularly their Malbecs). But Decero and Colome had beautiful wines, including a 100% Cabernet Franc that was as good as I have had in many years.

5. Its too bad when low expectations are met

Have to say it…sorry…but when I saw Mission Hill had some new single vineyard wines with fancy names (and price tags), I bet myself they wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Tasted them and…no surprise, I was right!

There you go…short but sweet for a rainy Wednesday night!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What Wines to Bring to Dinner Parties?

March 25, 2015

Here is a dilemma for all of us. You are invited to friends for dinner and say you will bring wine.

But what do you bring?

Well, before I answer that, you need to answer a couple of other questions first!

First off…how close are you? This is the most important question because if you are close friends, you may already know what they like or – more importantly – if they are “wine dweebs” or not (more on that below). If it is more casual, it can be less of an issue (although you never want to bring bad wine, of course!).

Second – are they wine dweebs? If not, see above. But if they are, you face a bigger challenge. Do you try to bring something that impresses them? Or something that you know they like (because you have had it there before)? I would go with the latter…many people say they don’t like to bring wine to our place because they know I am a wine dweeb and may judge them. But if they know what I like – Rhone wines, for example – they can’t go wrong, no matter how much they spend on the bottle.

The third question may seem a bit esoteric, but it is important if you are a wine dweeb like me. And it is – do you expect the wine you bring to be drunk that evening?

For me, this is often the toughest question! I have lots of great wine in my cellar, and I love the chance to share it with friends, even casual friends. But what can drive me crazy is bringing a wine that I was looking forward to tasting, only to have the friends say “wow, thanks!” and then put it away for use later.

I deal with this question in two ways. If they are close friends, I will actually ask what to bring! I couch it around “what is for dinner? What will go best?” That way, I find out right up front whether it will be drunk or not. If I don’t know them that well, I tend to shy away from really good wine – or mature wine – as I don’t know when it may be drunk.

Having answered these questions, then, back to the first one…what do you bring?

Well, I have a couple of safe bets for “casual” friends. For reds, try an un-oaked Argentine Malbec or Cotes du Rhone. They are almost always fruity but a little complex, not full of wood (from the oak) and you can find lots of choices in the $15 – $20 range. And for whites, try Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or B.C. They are fruity (but not too ripe), have just a bit of oak, and there are a fair number in the same price range as the reds above.

For special friends that you know well? Well, if you have a cellar, that is the time to bring something that is mature. A Chateauneuf du Pape or Chianti Classico Riserva that is 8 – 10 years old, for example. If they are really good friends, try a Barolo or Barbaresco that is 10 – 15 years old. If you don’t have a cellar, go for a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi, Beringer, Caymus…there are lots of big names that have wines in the $40 – $50 range, and the great thing is they drink well on release, so you don’t have to worry about tannins.

And for special whites? Chablis Premier Cru is a great choice, or Alsatian Rielsing or Gewurztraminer. These can be from your cellar (if you are lucky enough to have them) or right off the shelf, as they also drink well young and can be found in the $40 range. Cali Chardonnay is another great idea as long as you know they like oaky, buttery Chardonnays.

So the next time you are asked to bring wine to dinner, think about these simple rules. Follow them, and you can’t go wrong!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

A Quick Guide to the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 27, 2013

Hard to believe it is that time again, but the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival is on this week! With 176 wineries pouring over 600 wines, it can be a pretty intimidating evening of tasting, to be sure. So here is a quick guide to some of my recommended wineries and wines.

California

California was the only winery represented at the initial festivals, and it is great to see them back as the feature wine area! While prices have soared in the past years, the quality – and ripeness – of many wines continue to be very high. Here are five wineries to visit:

1) Antica Napa Valley – a venture by the Antinori family of Italy, this relatively new winery is producing fabulous Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays
2) Joseph Phelps – one of the most reputable and established wineries in California, Phelps is justifiable famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines, especially its Insignia blend
3) Paul Hobbs – another relatively new winery, but Paul Hobbs has been growing grapes/consulting for cult producers for years. Try his Cabernets, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs
4) Ridge Vineyards – one of my favourite wineries, led by legend Paul Draper. A Zinfandel specialist – check out their Lytton Springs and Geyserville bottlings – Ridge also makes very nice Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
5) Wagner Family of Wine – the new name for the winery that makes Caymus (among other wines), and go to taste the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignons. Year in, year out, they represent all that is great about California Cabernet – super ripe black currant fruit, just enough wood, and the structure to age well!

Argentina

Not as many wineries as in past years, but still a few that make really nice Malbec (the signature grape of Argentina). If you only go to one winery, visit Catena Zapata, which makes rich, ripe Malbecs in all price ranges, as well as some nice Cabernets and Chardonnays.

Australia

Disappointing to see so few Australian producers this year; not sure why (they are among my favourites). Of those attending, I would recommend visiting Gemtree Vineyards (nicely valued Shiraz), Inland Trading Company (they own Turkey Flat Vineyards, which can make great old-vine Shiraz) and Yalumbia, which makes the full range of wines (I particularly like their Grenaches).

British Columbia

By comparison, I was very happy to see so many BC wineries attending, including some of my favourites. That includes Averill Creek from Vancouver Island (Andy Johnson makes amazing Pinot Noir in Duncan), Blue Mountain (not sure if they will have their Reserve Pinot Noir, but it is one of the two best made in BC; also try their Gamay and Sparkling Wine), and NkMip Cellars (a First Nations winery making very good Pinot Noir and Syrah).

France

I am also disappointed by the low number of French wineries this year! Even so, there are a couple of very good ones from the Rhone Valley – Chateau de la Gardine and Les Halos de Jupiter (both of which make very nice Chateauneuf du Pape). And, of course, the Perrin Family, which makes perhaps my favourite wine – Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape – as well as great Gigondas, Cotes du Rhones Villages and others.

Italy

Italy has also sent a smaller than usual roster of wineries (am I sensing a trend here?). Worth checking out, however, are the Chianti Riservas from the likes of Antinori (as well as their Tignanello if they have it), Fontodi, Ruffino and Rocca della Macie.

Portugal

Finally, a great way to end the evening is with some Port! Three of the “biggies” are there – Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft – so it will be interesting to see if they bring any of their vintage wines.

So have a great time at the festival! My final advice, as is the case every year, is two-fold – spit if you can (to avoid getting drunk) and get out of the way once you’ve tasted (to avoid causing a line-up).

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

PS I will once again be “tweeting” my Festival experience, so feel free to follow me at @sbwinepage.