Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

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

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye Summer Wine…but Hello Fall!

September 2, 2015

Mixed emotions tonight, as the calendar has turned along with the weather…summer is gone, and with it the summer wine!

What did I enjoy most this summer from a wine perspective? Well, it was hot here in BC…very hot. So that mean a lot of Roses and white wines.

Interestingly, we didn’t find as many Roses that really jumped out at us. Quails Gate was its usually solid self…as was Joie (although a bit pricey). Chaberton’s Valley Pink might now be the best of the BC Roses, and we drank a bunch of that.

Still, nothing replaced the La Frenz (which Jeff and Niva don’t make anymore) or the style that Township 7 used to make. Ah, well…

Whites, however, were great this summer! Howling Bluff again lead the way, both with their Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and their straight Sauvignon Blanc. Both super pure, no wood, luscious grapefruit. La Frenz’s new whites were also great – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling. And Chardonnay from Quinta Ferreira – a beautiful Cali style.

We even snuck in some Pinot Noirs when the temp went down a bit. Both new ones (like Kalala, Nk Mip and Averill Creek) and older versions from the cellar (Blue Mountain Reserve, Kettle Valley Reserve and Hayman).

Pinot Noir will stick around for the fall and winter, of course, but I now look forward to bigger red wines as the weather cools!

Back to the Rhone Valley for Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and even good old Cotes du Rhone. Australia – for Shiraz, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and blenew – and Italy, as I have some older Barolos, Barbarescos and Brunellos in my cellar that are ready to drink. How about some Rioja? I have a bunch of ‘85s ready to go. And Syrah? Well, back to BC…Nichol and Marichel wines are aging nicely in my cellar. And don’t forget Cabernet-based wines, mostly from California and Washington, although a few from BC and Australia as well.

Finally, Port…the real vintage stuff from Portugal, as well as similar style wines from d’Arenberg in Australia and La Frenz here at home.

Hmm…I am getting thirsty already…bring on the rain, and break out the decanter!

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…
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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

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