Posts Tagged ‘Rose’

Summer Wine Musings

July 19, 2017

Back from holidays in Eastern Canada, so a few holiday wine musings (in no particular order):

Rose

We love it in summer! I’ve written in the past how I like a touch of sweetness in Rose, but we had a number of bone dry Provence versions while away, and they were outstanding in the heat!

Red wine in Summer

Most people stay away from reds in the summer, especially the ‘big ones’.  But we had some great, full bodies reds in restaurants! Chateauneuf, Languedoc, Brunello…they were amazing in an air conditioned environment. And they were great with some of the French food in Montreal and Quebec City.

Restaurant Wine

On average, the wine lists were just okay…not a broad selection, pretty expensive and the wine by the glass was pretty pedestrian. So I brought my own most of the time!

But at the Gypsy Tea Room in St. John’s, Newfoundland – what a list! Quality and price. They had the ’05 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde by Guigal for $120…a 95 pt wine for cheaper (by half) than what you could by the ’14 in BC stores. Had to buy it…and it was stunning!

Riesling

What a great go to wine, even on the plane! Is it a touch sweet sometimes – yes. But refreshing, nice acidity, never worse than good!

Wine Across Canada

Finally, it was interesting to compare wine – selection, price, stores. In general, I was quite impressed with prices, as they were lower on average than in BC, even in the government stores. Selection was both different and surprising – not as many Chateauneufs and Barolos, for example, but the selection of Languedec and other South of France wines was very impressive! And hats off to the Vintages Store in Ottawa – downstairs from the regular store, and had more fine wine than I have seen anywhere in BC!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Whither Vancouver Island Wine?

August 26, 2015

Time to report back on our brief trip to Vancouver Island last week, which featured a half day touring some wineries.

The good news? The best wineries are making amazing wine. But some of the rest is only “middling’ at best”.

Let’s start with the best, and that is Averill Creek! Andy Johnson has been making tremendous Pinot Noir for years now at his Mt. Prevost winery, and the 2011 is no exception. In a word – stunning! Purple, spicy/earthy black cherries, silky tannins…at least 3 – 5 years of life in it.

The rest of his wines are nothing to sneeze at either! Their Cab/Foche – “Foch Eh?” – is super ripe, and meant to be served chilled. A good bargain. For whites, the Pinot Gris is a very nice oak-aged wine, the Gewurztraminer one of the few dry versions I have tasted, and the sparkling fresh and pure. And the ’14 Somenos Rose is summer in a bottle!

Next up in quality is Rocky Creek. Such a small place off the highway – literally, you will miss it if you don’t look for it – but it is worth finding! For reds, it is Pinot Noir again…not as big or age worthy as Averill Creek, but the 2013 is very pure…I bought a couple to see how it develops. Next best is their sparkle – Catherine’s Sparkle, after the daughter. Clean, crisp, Cava style – nice wine! They also make a true “Gris” wine – a white that stays on its skins to add colour. Almost orange, the ’13 is bone dry but very flavourful. And the Roberts Rose (after their son)? Nothing to sneeze at!

Third on the list is Zanatta Winery. A bit hard to find (literally in the forest), it specializes in sparkling wine. While you can’t taste them in the tasting room, they do flights at the Bistro – and it is well worth it! No longer vintage wines, the three versions are still aged on their lees and very complex…and at about $25, represent ridiculous values in this kind of wine. And don’t miss the bistro for some nice food!

Finally, Blue Grouse…stunning new winery, but this Pinot Noir producer only makes 120 cases of their flagship wine, so not available to taste. I bought some anyway based on past experience, but it would have been nice to try there! The rest of the wines were middling’ at best.

That was all the time we had on the Sunday (aside form an attempt at Venturi-Schulze, which was cut short by a loud mouth braggart behind the tasting bar who I couldn’t but put up with; had to leave – what a jerk).

So quantity of wineries – not so sure, as I didn’t get to all of them.

But quality of a few? Very high…nice to see, and bodes well for the future!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW TO STILL DRINK RED WINE WHEN IT IS STINKIN’ HOT OUT!

July 29, 2015

Okay, the heat is coming back up here…it has already been an amazing summer for weather, so hot for us, which is not the norm for sure!

But one drawback…while I have enjoyed the bevy (always wanted to use that word) of white and rose wines, the reds I truly love have been few and far between.

But I have had some…which got me to thinking about the title of this blog!

So how do you still drink red wine when it is stinking hot out?

Well, a couple of ideas that have worked for me this summer (and in the past).

First off, pick young, fruity and un-oaked wines. Gamay is one example (or Beaujolais in France), or a light Pinot Noir, a Barbera from Italy, or even a Marechal Foch (if you are from my home province of BC). With no wood or tannin, they just go down easier than bigger wines.

Another idea is to take the wines above…and chill them a bit! Now I’m not a fan of cold red wine, so don’t go that far. But in very hot weather, the term “room temperature” is kind of out of whack. So throw one of those wines in the fridge for 15 minutes (or put in an ice bucket). Then take it out, open it and set it on the table. The fruit should really shine through, and it will seem more refreshing in the heat.

How about trying your red wines later in the evening? This applies mostly to dinner parties, although anyone can try it. Once the sun goes down (and the temperature with it), it becomes more comfortable to drink red wines (along with a number other things).

Finally, take the above advice and try it with mature wine! With the tannins gone and the wine smoothed out, you don’t get the “kick” that can come from a big, young red wine. We tried that with a 15 year old Chateauneuf du Pape the other night and the result was amazing!

So when it is hot – and you still want to try to drink red wine – try some of the ideas above. They won’t replace cool whites and roses, but may give you an enjoyable break!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST ROSE FOR YOU!

July 3, 2015

It has been hot for a while up here in BC, unseasonably hot for us. What that means from a wine perspective is lots of Rose…so a good time to blog about it!

So who do you choose the best Rose, which for my purposes means “the one you like the best”?

First off, what is Rose? It is simply a wine made from red grapes that the winemaker has left the skins on for a while…the longer they are on, the deeper the colour (and fuller the body).

Next, it is important to remember there are three general different kinds of Roses. The first category – which are generally to be avoided – are the “White Zinfandels” from California. While the right colour, they tend to be sickly sweet with not a lot of wine character. Cheap – for a reason – you should stay away from them unless you have a real sweet tooth when it comes to wine!

At the other end of the Rose spectrum (as well as the most popular) are the bone dry versions. They are most associated with the south of France, but are now made anywhere it is hot (like Spain, South America) or where people might buy them (just about everywhere else). These range in colour from a very light pink to a deep salmon colour, are very fruity on the nose, but very crisp on the finish, with no sugar. They are stunning in the heat, and pair amazingly well with food because some of them can be quite full-bodied.

That leaves the wines in the middle! They tend to have a touch of residual sugar to them (what is called “off dry”), in which the fruit on the nose carries through to the mouth. I have had some beauties from my home province, exploding with ripe grapefruit and strawberries…they can be incredibly refreshing and easy to drink on a very hot day (sometimes too easy to drink on the deck…in the sun…).

So that is style…very important…and you need to figure out which style you like and then stick with that. How will you know?

Well, the description on the back can help (“crisp” and “bone dry” are key words, as are “residual sugar/sweetness for the middle style). Another general way is by country, or at least some countries. If the Rose is from the south of France, it is just about guaranteed to be bone dry. I don’t think I have ever had a sweeter version from that country. Spain is almost as reliable. For other countries, though, you have to check a bit more on the label, or try to taste first.

Finally, though, there is the issue of cost. Rose was developed to be a cheap wine to drink in the hot summer/early fall months. And it still is in most of the south of France and Spain, so cheap that a pichet of Rose is often thrown in at no cost with prix fixe meals. Less than $10 a bottle is the price to shoot for “on the continent”…over here, under $20!

Some producers, however – like Tavel – make more expensive versions that cost over $10 more, and even claim that they age well. There are even celebrity bottlings (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did one with Thomas Perrin). I have tried some, and they are okay but, for me, kind of defeat the purpose.

Rose – either bone dry or with touch of sweetness – should be quaffed with simple food in the summer time. Fruity, refreshing, it is a compliment to the season, not a wine to spend lots of time thinking about.
Buy, chill, drink up, repeat…that is what Rose is all about!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

LESSONS FROM A SUMMER WINE PARTY

August 6, 2014

Okay, after pontificating last week about “how to have a summer wine party”, I now need to report back on some serious lessons learned.

Trust me…if you heed these, you will avoid a whole bunch of pain (physical and emotional).

First off, try not to hold your party when it is stinking hot out! I had (while it was still light out…more on that later) only white, rose and sparkling wines to serve (as per my blog recommendations), but it was almost impossible to keep them all cold enough. Regardless, people still drank them, mostly because everyone was parched from the heat! I’m not sure they showed their best as a result, although everyone sure loved them.

Lesson number two is don’t serve too much food (again, when it is hot out). Our party was a pot luck, with us providing the protein and everyone else salads. Given the heat, the salads went like crazy…and we were left with lots of tandoori chicken and sausage. Fortunately, we like both, because we ate them as leftovers for two days. And since it was still hot, that meant no cooking…hey, maybe this is a positive thing!

The third lesson is be careful if kids are attending! Much wine was consumed by the adults, and while nobody was falling down drunk, everyone was pretty happy, to say the least. For the younger teenagers (13/14), they just ignored us and played in the yard or watched movies. But the 16 year olds were quite fascinated – and embarrassed – so much so that they used their smart phones to film their parents singing and dancing! I am sure some of us will be embarrassed by those videos some day on important occasions!

The fourth lesson is don’t hold the party too close to your wine cellar (if you have one). We were outside, and the cellar is just inside the basement door…as the evening progressed, it became way too easy to pop into the cellar for Port, Sauternes, etc…They were great, but it added to the overall state of many of the parents…
.
Fifth, if you are going to hold the wine party outside – and your neighbours are around – give them a heads up (or invite them). We ended up singing rock and roll songs till about midnight, which didn’t go over too well with neighbours on one side.

Finally, my one wine lesson of the night. After having enough (more than enough?) to drink, resist the temptation to go to the cellar for “that last bottle”! In my case it was the 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Sixtine Cuvee de Vatican. A great wine I am sure…but I can’t even remember what it tasted like!

So there you go…it was a great evening, and we will definitely do it again. But a few lessons to help manage “the day after the night before”!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

“HOT” SUMMER WINES

July 31, 2014

We are heading into the BC day long weekend up here in British Columbia, so I thought it appropriate to blog on holiday wine dinners (particularly since we are having folks over on both Saturday and Sunday nights!) and, in particular, “hot” summer wines.

It has been hot here – very hot for the Lower Mainland of BC – so all we have really been drinking is white and Rose. And, given that heat remains in the forecast for the weekend, that will be the focus of my recommendations.

So let’s start with Roses, shall we?

Without getting into specific wines, it really comes down to two options (assuming you throw out the sickly sweet White Zinfandels) – bone dry, or slightly off dry. Personally, I like both, although the hotter it gets, the more I favour the slightly off dry versions. Same if you are going to have spicy food, and we are planning BBQ tandoori chicken, so that applies to us.

Either way, however, you have lots of options. The south of France is famous for dry Roses, of course, although some of them are getting quite pricy (well over $25!). Personally, I don’t think Rose should be more than $20, and I certainly found lots of those in our last trip to France. You can also look for dry Roses from many other countries, including Spain and Argentina.

For the off dry Roses, you need to be a bit more careful (so you don’t end up with something too sweet). My “go to” place is actually our home province, which produces a number of wines rated “1” in sweetness.

And what about white wines?

Well, the options are virtually endless, although once again the hotter it gets, the more I find that a touch of sweetness actually makes things better. Think Riesling and Gewurztraminer here, which also match well with spicy or bbq food. Alsace and Germany are the most famous locations for these wines, although many of those can be too sweet. So also look to California, Washington, Australia (for Riesling) and – again – my home province of BC.

Other whites worth looking at are those that finish crisp and dry – Viognier, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and even Pinot Gris. B.C., California, Washington State, and Oregon are good places to go for these wines. You can try France but white Bordeaux (Sauvignon/Semillon blends) and Condrieu (for Viognier) get real expensive, real quick.

The only white wines I tend to stay away from in the heat are wooded Chardonnays. While I love them, their richness can be a bit much sometimes when the thermometer gets red!

Speaking of “red”, what if you need to serve a red wine in the heat?

Well, I would go for something you can actually chill a bit, which means Gamay. The classic is Beaujolais, but that is getting expensive as well. So look to the new world (BC and California) for other cheaper options. Put in an ice bucket for 15 minutes before serving and then take out. There will still be structure from the red grapes – and nice berry fruit – but it will be refreshing when cooler!

So there you go – some suggestions for “hot” wines to celebrate any summer holiday!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Rose – Sweet, Dry…or Both?

April 30, 2014

Okay, the sun is out, it feels like summer, and I saw the first wine column on Rose today. So that means I need to do my annual blog as well!

The subject – as always – is whether Rose should be dry or sweet. But, for me, this isn’t an “either/or” question. Instead, if the wine is made well, the answer is – both!

But first a quick reminder about what Rose is. Almost always, Rose starts as a red wine and is made by leaving the skins on for just a little while. The contact with the skins provides the colour, which can range from a light salmon to a deep pink colour. As well, because the wine is made from red grapes, it tends to have more body and flavour than most white wines.

Now, back to the issue – sweet or dry.

The main problem with sweet Rose is its legacy. Most people growing up have, unfortunately, tried bad sweet red wine. White Zinfandel, Mateus, Baby Duck – there are lots of other examples. Sickly sweet to the point of almost being cloying, it is hard to drink more than a glass (if that). And that is what many people think of when they hear the word Rose.

At the opposite end or the spectrum – particularly for people who have been to the south of France – is dry Rose. The same colour as its sweet cousin, but a very different animal once you taste it! Dry, sometimes very dry, with far less fruit, although no wood to speak off.

In between is the off-dry version which – interestingly – is increasingly being made, and made well, in British Columbia. Once again, the same colours, but explosively fruity on the nose and in the mouth, and very balanced in the mouth, but finishing just a touch off dry. On a hot summer afternoon, there are few things that are better.

So which is the right choice?

Well, I certainly agree that the sickly sweet versions are to be avoided at all costs. So we have no arguments there.

The dry ones? Well, when we were in the south of France a number of years ago, that was all we drank, and we loved them. It was summer, so very hot, and they are incredibly refreshing! As well, with no sweetness, but lots of body, they go great with a wide range of food, from seafood to cassoulet and duck confit.

The problem, though, can be the cost. Dry Rose has become trendy, which means that some of the “name brands” are getting very pricey, even approaching – and exceeding – the $40 mark! Tavel is one that has always been up there, but recently Brad Pitt and Anjolina Jolie also made one that was a bit less than that. It was good, but not worth the extra bucks.

In my view, Rose is like Beaujolais – it should be simple, easy to drink, and less (hopefully far less) than $20. In France, there are lots of examples of that for far less. In fact, it is often thrown in as part of dinner in many restaurants!
As for the off-dry versions, I love the best of them – in the summer. In BC, La Frenz makes the best one (for around $18) – it is bursting with ripe grapefruit! Quails Gate makes another, as does Chaberton in Langley, both of which are a few bucks cheaper. Sitting on the deck, with or without food – there are few things better!

So the answer, then, is dry and sweet, or at least off dry. Summer is short enough, so why not enjoy both?

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

IT’S HOT – BRING ON THE ROSE!

July 3, 2013

With the weather in most parts of B.C. in the 30C range this week – and projected to stay that way for the next while – there can be no better topic for my blog than Rosé! Ever since we went to France in the summer of 2006, we have been enamored by this pink wine, and can’t wait for the warmth of the sun to give us an excuse to start drinking it.

But beware, Rosé! There are three general kinds, and not all of them are to everyone’s liking!

The first kind, which just about everyone agrees should be avoided, is the super-sweet kind. Often labeled “white zinfandel”, it bears little resemblance to the other two kinds (and to wine at all, for that matter). While it is light pink, it is also sickly sweet and should be avoided at all costs.

The other two kinds, however, are much more enjoyable. One is bone dry – in the true Provence style – and the other just a touch sweet on the finish, which in the heat can be incredibly refreshing.

But let me first digress – what is Rosé, anyway? Well, put simply, it starts off as a red wine, but the skins are only allowed to stay on for brief period at the beginning of the fermentation process. That’s what gives it the pink colour; the longer you leave on the skins, the deeper the shade of pink.

Rosés have been a tradition in the south of France for hundreds of years, usually for drinking during the hot summer months. Bigger and more flavourful than white wines, they can stand being chilled almost completely while still retaining their flavor. In addition to being incredibly refreshing in the heat – and fairly cheap, less than $10 in France and often thrown in with the meal in restaurants – they also go well with all kinds of foods.

They can also be made from just about any kind of red grape! The Rhone grapes are the most popular in France (Grenache mostly, although Syrah, Cinsault and others as well), but in North and South America I have also seen then made from just about everything – Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc), Pinot Noir, Merlot and even Malbec. Some red grapes tend to work better than others, and the riper the better, but you have your choice.

In terms of styles, the bone dry one features fresh, ripe berries – usually strawberries – that are crisp, surprisingly full bodied and, as per its definition, bone dry. They are great with food and just seem to go with the heat.

The other version is just slightly sweet on the finish and, I have to admit, it is a guilty pleasure in our household. Made well, it can be bursting with pink grapefruit, strawberries and raspberries, and incredibly refreshing. In fact, there may be nothing better than a bottle on the deck or patio on a hot day!

What about recommendations?

Well, for the dry versions, look for the youngest available and keep it cheap. That means 2012 for France, and definitely no more than $20. There are specialty bottles from producers like Tavel and others that go for more than that but, for me, that defeats the purpose of what Rosé should be all about. If you stick to the youngest available and under $20, it is hard to go wrong with wines from Provence or the Cotes du Rhone.

For the slightly sweeter versions, B.C. actually leads the way! The best, year in, year out, is from La Frenz (now there is a surprise if you read this blog on a regular basis!). It has been made from Syrah in the past and is, literally, an explosion of pink grapefruit – truly amazing! And it is under $20. The only problems are it is only available at the winery and isn’t released until mid-July – so we have to consume as much as possible in the remaining six weeks of summer!

Another option, released earlier and cheaper, is from Quail’s Gate. At $15.95, it is almost as good as La Frenz and there is lots of it (as it is widely available in our government liquor stores). You can check it out now!

If you haven’t had the Rosé experience in the summer yet, you really should try it. There is nothing better in the summer!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

MOTHER’S DAY WINES

May 10, 2013

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and while my Mom passed away long ago, I think about her every day…and the wines she might want to have with a special brunch, lunch or dinner! So here are a few for your consideration – bubbles, pink, white and red!

Bubbles

It’s hard to go wrong with sparkling wine for any meal on Mother’s Day (even breakfast, if you mix in a little fruit juice!). For those on a budget, my “go to” wine remains the Segura Viudas Non Vintage Brut. This classic Spanish cava is full of crisp, green apples while still completely dry. And it is a bargain at about $16. For a BC version, the best remains Blue Mountain’s Non Vintage Brut or Brut Rose. At $24.95 (available from the winery or private stores), it is a step in quality but has the same cava aromas and flavours. Finally, if you want real Champagne, you can’t go wrong with Bollinger, the favourite wine of James Bond! Although expensive (even the Non Vintage Brut is $70 – $80), that yeasty, toasty style just exudes “special occasion”.

Pink

Rose is another good option for Mom, especially if the weather is already warm. There are two general kinds, and I prefer the ones with a little residual sugar (that leaves them just a touch off dry). The best in BC is from La Frenz – it is usually full of super ripe strawberries and red grapefruit, about as good a patio experience as you can find. Another option, more widely available, is from Quail’s Gate, which is not quite as fruity but made in the same style. Chill until very cold and then serve on the deck all day long!

White

The white wine I remember my Mom liking was a Premier Cru Meursault from Burgundy (on the rare occasions I could afford to serve it!). A couple of more reasonable – and available – options, though, come from California and B.C. One of the benchmarks for Cali-style Chardonnay (meaning vanilla/butter covered citrus, luscious mouth feel and medium body) is Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay. Not cheap – at $45 – $50 – it is still worth it, an incredibly indulgent wine that is great on its own or with rich sauces. From BC, the recent Reserve Chardonnays from La Frenz are also made in this style (at $32), as are those from Cassini Cellars ($29) and Nk’Mip (the Qwam Qmpt for $30).

Red

For red, a couple of options. I’m not sure if my Mom liked Pinot Noir (she preferred bigger red wines), but it is always a popular option. I would stay away from Burgundy because of cost and quality variability, and go to BC instead. Kettle Valley (Hayman and Reserve) and Blue Mountain (Reserve) make the best in BC – they are full of red and black cherries, spice and earth. While not cheap (at $35 – $40) or widely available (the winery or private wine stores), they are definitely special occasion wines.

The other option – which I know my Mom liked – was Zinfandel, and not the pink kind! Go for the best if you are going to serve this super ripe wine full of blackberry jam and herbs, which means Ridge Vineyards in California. My two favourites are the Lytton Springs and Geyserville, both of which are predominantly Zinfandel and about $50 a bottle. You won’t need more than a glass or two, as they tend to be higher in alcohol, but are a great drinking experience.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all out there!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

NARAMATA BENCH WINERIES LOOK STRONG AGAIN THIS YEAR

May 3, 2013

I went to the annual Naramata Bench Spring Release last week (for trade and media folks) and was once again impressed with many of the wineries and their offerings. The best 2012 white wines are fully ripe and gorgeous; the 2012 Roses also ripe; and the 2010 reds released last year are progressing really well. Here are the highlights from my tasting notes:

1. La Frenz

As I tweeted at the end of the tasting, La Frenz is King of the Hill again, and it wasn’t even close, really. The 2012 versions of their regular whites – Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Viognier – are once again stunning in both ripeness and value ($19 – $22), making them the best in BC. A 2011 Reserve Chardonnay was also spectacular – “like a baby Beringer Private Preserve” – was what my notes said. And a new wine – a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend – was a bang on copy of a French white Graves!

For reds, the new vintages won’t be released till summer, but the 2010s were in beautiful shape, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon (vanilla covered black currants), Merlot (black plums and vanilla) and Reserve Pinot Noir (a beautiful cross between Cali and Burgundy).

2. Kettle Valley

No 2010 Hayman Vineyard Pinot Noir to taste (no surprise, as they don’t make enough), but the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir released a few months ago is amazing! Super complex red cherries and spice, ripe but not candied or jammy, and a bit of tannin to boot. It drinks fine now, but seems capable of 4 – 6 years aging.

3. Howling Bluff

Great showing for the 2012 whites here! The regular Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon is gorgeously ripe, full bodied and dry, and still under $20. And two new wines – a Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc – in the same style, but even less expensive. Well done! The 2010 Pinot Noir was really tight, but it was just bottled. I have enjoyed the 2008 and 2009 vintages of this wine, so expect it will open up and compete with those.

4. Hillside

The new Muscat Ottonel was beautiful – so many different kinds of fruit on the nose, big body, but bone dry finish. The 2012 Rose was also gorgeous, with ripe cranberries and just off dry. Finally, last year’s Syrah (the 2009) continues to progress with classic Rhone flavours of peppery black cherries.

5. Miscellaneous

I liked the 2012 Roses from Monster and Therapy, which were full of ripe cranberries. The new Chardonnays from Poplar Grove and Laughing Stock were also nice, made in that buttery Cali style. And Van Westen’s 2011 Viognier was full bodied and complex, very Rhone in style.

Overall, another great tasting! Congratulations to the Naramata Bench Wineries Association for putting it on and thanks to the Hyatt Hotel for hosting.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com