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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Aged to Perfection.

Not all wines are created equal...I suppose that's a pretty obvious statement.  But those with an experienced palate can start to tell the difference between a $20 wine and a $60 wine, or in some cases, a $100 wine. Or, from an aged wine vs. a young wine.  Anytime I get a chance to taste an aged wine, I take note and pay attention.

And not all country's wines are created equal either.  Old world wine (wines from France, Italy, Spain and Germany) tend to have deeper, earthier, more "aged" flavours, than a New world wine. (Wines from Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, and South Africa).  That being said, I had the opportunity to try (& pour) a LOT of Italian wines this past Friday.  As a volunteer at this event, I had a chance to go around and try as many of the wines as I wanted, then take my turn at one of the tables actually pouring some of this wine.  What a great way to try different wines and find those that appeal to your personal tastes, and to your food pairing endeavours!  And guess what?  There were wines there that I liked, some not so much, and some that I REALLY liked. Apparently, my tastes are getting more expensive, as one of my all time favourite wines was an Amarone worth $200!  But that's another story...for another posting...

As volunteers, we all received a bottle of wine for helping out that evening. The hosts, Barb & Susan from WineQuest (who put on this event, donating all wines from their personal portfolio) also gave their volunteers the "heels". These are the bottles that were opened for the tasting, but that have some left in the bottle at the end of the night.  And the bottles that I got?  Well, let's just say..I was pretty excited, and a hint of jealousy was expressed by my buddy James, who was standing right beside me...

Not about this wine, but this one WAS good!  And the idea here is to compare young and old.  Most of the wines that "age" are reds.  Most aged whites you hear about, come from Germany, or France's Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. This 2011Santa Maria La Palma "Blu" is made on the island of Sardinia from 100% Vermentino. This grape loves the sea and craves the Mediterranean heat.  This wine was fresh and fruity.  Lots of apples, crisp acidity, and hints of mineralty!  The beauty of this wine, was I never got to taste this in the evening, so was pleasantly surprised to have been able to take this home to enjoy! A young wine, but enjoyable right now! And for $20 retail, totally affordable.



"Brick-ish" colour of red wine is indicative of age.
As red wines age, they become lighter.  As white
wines age, they become darker.  This almost looks
like Coca-Cola in my glass!  Aged to perfection! 

Wow...THIS was the wine that caused the jealousy...As you can see, this is an "aged" wine.  It IS afterall, 14 years old...Early in the evening, I was told that this wine was drinking "beautifully". What does that tell me?  It tells me that it was the right time to open it, but it also had some life left on it.  This is a $100 wine that was "not available for purchase". To have been given this bottle to take home, I felt extremely blessed.

Barbaresco is located in the Piedmont region in Northwestern Italy.  It is sometimes said to be the "queen" next to the "king", which is Barolo (region).  Both regions grow the Nebbiolo grape, and both are well known for producing oustanding wines.  I poured myself a glass of this last night to finish off the bottle, and I made it last about 3 hours.  Even in my glass, the wine continued to evolve.  The tannins were silky, and I could still detect some fruit up front, so from both, tells me that it could be aged even longer.  Still a lot of raspberries, cherries, but mushrooms too.  The Nebbiolo grape is naturally very tannic, so it's aging potential is HUGE. And it's been around since the 1st century AD, so I trust it.  I'm telling you, it did NOT disappoint.  I know I've already said it, but I was blessed to receive this wine, and now, blessed to talk about it....

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Viva Italia!

I had the opportunity to try some distinctive varietals the other night with my wine peeps.  As Italy has over 800 different grape varietals, you're bound to taste something you've never tasted before.  Enter the Lacrima Di Morro D'Alba. Every one of us in that room was astounded by this wine. D'arci couldn't stop smelling it, and James...well let's just say...his comment couldn't have come from anyone else BUT James!  (And I wouldn't want to misquote him, so I choose not to repeat it... :)
From Marotti Campi in the province of  Ancona in Marche, Italy, this grape is rarely found outside the town of Morro D'Alba.  So literally, this is the Lacrima grape FROM Morro D'Alba. Lacrima means "tear" in Italian.  It's name was either derived from it's "teardrop" shape or alternatively, it's thin skin that allows tear-like drops of juice to drip from the grape.

And I... have never had anything like this.  First of all, I also couldn't keep my nose out of the glass!  Distinctive notes of violets, rosewater and green cardamom.  For me, all blending into...wait for it...Chanel No.5!  What??  Thank goodness it didn't TASTE like Chanel No.5, although what was in my nose, was very much on the palate! The rosewater, violets and spice continued!

At 38 bucks, you better know this is what you want!  And pairings?  With such a complex grape/wine, I believe simple is better.  The key is to have either your wine shine, or your food shine.  This wine is worth shining, so keep your food simple like a beef or pork tenderloin with good old salt and pepper!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Oh! Wine from Canada?

I recently returned from the library.  I went to pick up a wine book I had on order.  No, I may not be in school anymore, but I still love to read and learn more about this thing called wine....

And while I was leaving the library, I became entranced with the number of fallen leaves.  Not because they had fallen off the tree, but because they were maple leaves.  It didn't matter the size or the colour, it was the symmetry of the leaf itself, and the fact that every time I see one, I see the country where I was born, raised, and live my life.  That's Canada, and that same maple leaf is on our flag.

Canada is a bit behind as far as making wine.  We are a cold continental climate after all.  Not overly conducive to growing grapes and making wine.  There are a few pockets in this vast country though that make some outstanding wine. 

Even though we've been producing for over 200 years, it wasn't the Vitis vinifera that was being planted.  Other native species like the Vitis labrusa and Vitus riparia were being used, along with various hybrids. This didn't seem to be what worked for Canadians.

Later, there came a demand for sweet, fortified wines, followed by a shift to drier, low alcohol table wines. At the same time, there were significant improvements in wine-making technology; including access to better grape varieties and disease-resistant clones, and systematic research into viticulture. It was found that Vitis vinifera could indeed be successfully grown in Canada.

Now that you've had your history lesson, let me tell you this:  I wish, I wish, I wish...that Canadian wines were more affordable.  I think we are one of the few countries who pays a LOT of money for wine from their own back yard.  Of course, there are factors involved in WHY we pay so much, but I won't get into that in this posting.

If I lived in Spain or Italy, or even Chile and Argentina, I can guarantee you, I'd be drinking some fantastic wines for prices lower than dirt.  That being said, there are more than a few Canadian wines I recommend to people when they come to buy.  And they're not opposed to spending $30 (or more).  Considering that some fabulous wines from Spain run about $15-$17, I wonder why they choose to spend that much.  I think it's because they've been to that back yard...they've taken the time to visit the vineyards in the Okanagan Valley (or perhaps the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario).  They've taken the time to taste them, to savour them, and to bring a little piece (or a bottle :)) back with them.

In the end, it's come down to this:  folks love their Canadian wine, and they choose to spend the money and buy it because it's from Canada.

Here are some of my favourite Canadian wines:

Grey Monk Pinot Gris - fresh and fruity with balanced acidity
Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir - easy drinking and soft tannins
Burrowing Owl Syrah - beautiful and full bodied with lots of black fruit and pepper
Black Hills Summit Reserve - Bordeaux blend made in the style of French Bordeaux
Therapy Vineyards Pink Freud Roset - clever labelling; fresh strawberries!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Art of Blind Tasting

Lately, I've been learning the art of blind tasting.  In preparation for my exam in 2 weeks, I'm doing as much as I can so as to train my senses to pick which varietal I'm seeing, smelling and tasting.  It's not easy.  A few weeks ago, we had a blind tasting in class.  Sure, you get points for describing what you see, smell and taste.  And you could pass with only that!  But there's something about being able to "Name that Grape".  Like a good game show, you only win if you guess it successfully.  On that particular day, with one wine, you either get 0 or 100.  I got 100.  Last week, we tried again with four wines.  I'm sorry to say that I only got a mere 25%.  Only one correct guess out of four.  But, I'm ok with that, because now I know attributes of those grapes even better than I did BEFORE that tasting.

On my last day off, I went in search of cheap, single varietals to test myself with.  When you're blind tasting to help yourself study, getting $50 bottles of wine is really not a good idea.  Get some wines between $8-$15 and you're good to go!  Try to get a sampling from various countries as well, as each country's terroir and climate plays into the scents and flavours of the wines.

The idea of blind tasting is so one would not be prejudiced in choosing one country's wine over anothers. This came into play during the famous Paris Tasting of 1976.  As seen in the movie Bottleshock, I learned how the Old World met the New World in this battle of reds and whites from France, vs. reds and whites from the New World.  Specifically, the United States.  Many aficionados, wine scholars and sommeliers thought nothing could beat the beauty and prestige of their French wines.  So as not to prejudice them in choosing their own country's wines, they did the tastings blind.  Meaning, they had no idea what was in their glasses.  It was either French wine or American wine.  Based on their senses, they had to rate these wines in different categories, giving points for each.  Lo and behold, to the surprise of an entire country, these small time, up and coming vineyards from Napa Valley, USA, won overall for both reds and whites. It's been a battle ever since.

And blind tasting, becomes increasingly important for the Wine Student to master.

On Friday, my husband gave me my own blind tasting here at home.  I scored 100%.  Again, with four wines, I was able to indentify all four.  I asked him to repeat this exercise for me this evening as well, using the existing wines, and perhaps adding some others.  He completely fooled me, pouring two of the same wines.  So really, I didn't have seven varietals, as the picture shows.  Rather, I had only FIVE different varietals, with doubles being given to me!  And I should've trusted my senses.  But, I didn't, and failed miserably, only to get three right of the seven poured.  Did I get the same varietal for the doubles?  No, I didn't.  In my mind, I thought they were the same.  But how COULD they be? I doubted myself, and I shouldn't have.

What's my point in all this?  It's an art.  An art I have yet to master.  But I'm getting there.  And for anyone out there struggling with blind tasting, don't worry!  You're not alone!  It IS difficult, but the more you do it, the better you will become at identifying varietals. 

I'll try again in a couple of days....

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Finding a Passion

I'm a Rider fan.  Yes, I'm one of those crazy people you see with all the green and white paraphenalia in the form of clothing, household items, and in general..."swag". I've been a fan since I was nine years old.  Through thick and thin, good times and bad, even living in another province, I am STILL... a fan.  This is a Canadian Football Team that in its 100+ years has only won 4 Grey Cups.  Now, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.  The details are not the point, it's about the love of the game. And, it's about passion.

Why am I telling you this on a wine blog? Because I love this team.  I love watching them play football.  Admittedly, sometimes it's painful.  But, like many others who are fans, we are passionate about this small time team in a small time league called the CFL.  As much passion as I have for this team, I also have passion for wine and learning about wine.

I am almost at the end of Level 2 of the International Sommelier Guild.  And If I complete all sections, I will be granted the title of Certified Wine Steward.  First, let me get there.  And once I do, I'll let you know what's in store next!  I also recently picked up a part time gig at a Fine Wine store.  Nothing like stocking and perusing the shelves to get even more knowledge on the subject! And as tough as it is some days..I love it. And...it's increasing my passion.

With my first cheque, I chose a country, and with a budget of $40-$45, this is what I got:

Red - 2009 Altos de La Hoya- Olivares, Seville, SPAIN
Jumilla DOC
100% Monastrell

Rose - 2011 Olivares, Seville, SPAIN
Jumilla DOC
70% Monastrell/30% Syrah

White - 2010 Herederos del Marques de Riscal
Rueda DO, SPAIN
100% Verdejo

Monastrell (known as Mouvedre in France) is most well known for being in blends, such as the "GSM" that has been made popular in Australia, and the Chateauneuf-de-pape appellation in the Rhone valley. Here in the Jumilla region, it grows well with hot days and cool nights to give it the ripe berry flavours, yet keep some of the acidity in the grapes.  My husband and I tasted this last night, and it was outstanding!  Very impressed with this grape in a great value wine of $15!  Lots of sweet, spicy flavours all blended together with a nice balance of acidity and tannin.  I haven't tasted the Roset yet, but I expect it to have notes of strawberries in it, along with that spice from the Monastrell grape.  And because it's also from the Jumilla region, I expect it to be stunning as well.  The white, from the Rueda region in Spain is made from 100% Verdejo, where the grapes are harvested at night in September, when the temperature is 10-15C as opposed to the daytime temperatures of 28-30C. Again, I have not tasted this, but after it's chilled, I expect a beautiful wine with lots of crisp acidity, stony and herbaceous flavours. Maybe even some floral accents as well.

All I can say is, I was completely excited to find these three fine wines for under $45.  That's right, for $44 and change, I think I got some great value, and THAT my friends..is SO exciting, and ignites my passion even further!  If you are reading this, I say thank you, because when I see stats that you are reading my posts, I know my passion is real...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

This Business Called Wine...

"Wait a minute", I hear you say.  "Is she really here writing a blog?  And where are the photos?" I've been writing several posts in my mind, but unfortunately, I've been unable to get them on paper...until now.  I'm on vacation.  Yes, a break from not one, but two jobs,  a few family stressors and school. Next week I don't have class, so I've used this window of opportunity to get away with my husband and kids.  

Today I want to tell you something serious.  When I tell folks what I'm studying in school, I often get laughed at.  They wonder how tasting wine can possibly be serious...or, how can tasting a particular wine be a learning experience?  When most people have a glass of wine, do they think about much more than what the colour is in their glass, or whether or not they may be getting a slight buzz?  For the majority, I doubt it. This business of wine is much more difficult and more complicated than one might think.

But how many of you know what the difference is between a Chardonnay from Chablis versus a Chardonnay from Cote de Beaune?  Did you know that they are both from the region of Burgundy?  Did you know that one District uses oak, but the other doesn't?  What about Beaujolias?  Does anyone know what that means when you are drinking that?  How about a Sancerre, or a Chateaux Margaux....how about a Chateaux Petrus or a Romanee-Conti?  Anyone, anyone?

There's this business of types of soils, grape varietals, appelations, wine laws, wine styles, levels of sweetness or dryness, levels of acidity and tannin, fortified wines, Ripasso and Amarone, Left Bank and Right Bank, Pouilly Fume vs. Pouilly-Fuisse, Qualitatswein, Spatlese, Auslese, Kabinett...I could keep going, but I don't want to overwhelm you.

Yes, overwhelming.  Didn't think it possible did you? Well, if YOU think it's overwhelming, this is what I feel on an almost weekly basis, as more knowledge gets added to the bank that is already overflowing.

But, I'm here to tell you that I won't give up.  I will continue to learn and understand this business called wine.  Mostly for myself, and a potential career change, but also for you.  I hope I can continue to pass along what I've learned to you. My motto of "drink what you like", has not changed.  My goal is to just continue to make suggestions...I wouldn't want you to purchase a wine you don't like :)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Black, black and more black...

Looking at my blog photo, you can probably tell my hair colour is black.  As I sit penning this blog post, there is currently black dye in my hair to keep it that way - black.  That being said, I thought to myself: "why not sip a glass of Mr. Black's Little Book while you wait for your hair to work its magic?"

I had the opportunity to taste this wine at an open house held at my local wine store.  Yes, the same local wine store that I frequent quite often for both tastings and purchasing.  Of course, the whole reason why I wanted to try it because it was an Australian Shiraz.  Yes, I am a "New World" wine girl, and I'm not afraid to say it out loud!  And I am particularly fond of Shiraz...GOOD Shiraz.  First of all, the wine looks black, the label is black, and the name of the wine has the word black in it.  I was further intrigued by the description on the back of the bottle.  You can see it in the photo here, but if you can't read it, let me help you out:




"They say 'don't judge a book by its cover', so open a bottle of Mr. Black's Little Book and pour over his formulae, mixtures and little secrets"

Ooo...that DOES sound intriguing doesn't it?!  I'm not gonna lie:  this wine has some bite to it.  At 15.2% alcohol, that's no surprise.  And the Australians are allowed to...ahem...downgrade the alcohol level, so it's likely even higher!  Don't let that scare you though!  There are some nice chocolate notes on the nose, along with some black fruits, and that ever so subtle hint of eucalyptus.  Lots more black fruits, and black pepper in my mouth.  And it's a 2008, only four years old, also from the Barossa Valley, so I bet it would age a little longer.  Just sayin'... 



But wait a minute...is there a recurring theme of black here?  Funny you should ask. The winemaker is Mr. Robert Black, and he also has another great wine out there:  Mr. Black.s Concoction.  A blend of 4% Viognier, and 96% Shiraz.  Another curious, bold wine that offers lots of black.

So what is the little secret inside this wine?  Well...try it for yourself and maybe you'll find out. And at 20 bucks a bottle, it's not too much to try it a few times to figure it out.


Monday, 4 June 2012

SW United States - a small sampling..

Renwood Winery
2009 Petite Sirah
Shenandoah Valley, California
$28
Hey folks, sorry for the crappy picture...sometimes the camera on the phone is outstanding, other times, any little shadow or bizarre lighting seems to just create a lot of havoc!  At any rate, I'm not here to talk of photography!   (sorry Carmie...I'll leave all the good shots to you! ;) ) I'm here to talk about this incredible Petite Sirah that I had the pleasure of tasting a couple of weeks back.

May's theme for our class tasting was Southwest United States..so basically California!  Yup!  All wines brought for the evening were from California.  We decided since the weather was getting warmer, we'd talk about warmer climes!  Originally, the thought was to taste patio wines, and to actually SIP them on the patio...well, the weather wasn't THAT nice!  We had six wines this evening, and I usually talk about them all.  Not this time. I will showcase only one.  I WILL say, that James and I uncorked and sniffed out our first faulty wine.  Poor Jen...her night to host, and her wine was corked.  Needless to say, she wasn't impressed!  At least she can return it right?  I digress...tonight is not the time to talk of faulty wine...

Today we talk GOOD wine! And this was an outstanding wine!!  So what IS this Petite Sirah? Well, we know that the French call it Syrah, and the Aussies dub it Shiraz...any relation?  Well, the short answer is no. 

First of all, you can see that they are spelled differently.  You may actually see it called Durif  on the bottle, named after its founder Francois Durif.  And it's given the adjective Petite because it refers to the size of the berries, which are tightly packed clusters with large leaves.  The highest quality Petite Sirah's seem to be found in California and Australia.  And I would agree...this one was very good.  And interestingly enough (& also unfortunately) rumour has it that Renwood wineries will no longer be producing Petite Sirah. So disappointing...this wine was by far, the best wine of the night.  Lots of black fruits, but even some fennel (herb) and violet overtones on the nose.  We all found this to be a well balanced glass of wine.  Tannins weren't too harsh, and balanced nicely with a little acidity and not too high of a level of alcohol (13.5%).  Again, lots of black fruits, and oodles of chocolate!  In fact, Jen had the coup d'etat..."Glosette Raisins in a glass".  Keep in mind that we opened it immediately upon arriving, and tasted it last in our round of tastings. (Meaning it sat for about an hour before we got to it?)  As time went by, it just kept opening up and getting more and more stunning...those "Glosette Raisins" didn't appear right away...they "developed" in the glass, and just got more pronounced as the night went on.  What a fantastic description for anyone who loves chocolate and raisins!  Outstanding!

Pairings?  Well, we had the various array of cheeses, but in my book?  A nice thick piece of chocolate cake...yum!

All this to say...if you're looking for something a little different, give this a try!  You won't be disappointed! 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Oh Canada!

Hello?  Anyone out there? I hope my faithful readers haven't given up on me...  It seems I get on a roll with  posts, then all of a sudden, three weeks go by, and I haven't written a stitch..

My daughters and I went to visit my parents in Langley, BC over the Easter break. While there, I got the chance to visit a couple of wineries.  One, a tiny 2 person operation, with a small building in which the wine was made. It was very deceiving as it didn't even look like a winery!  All the wines are produced in Langley, BC with grapes sourced from the Okanagan Valley.  In the meantime, they were terracing slopes out back to plant their own set of grapes.  Blackwood Lane Winery was full of character, and the front end manager, Kimberley, was lovely. I fully expected to pay for my tasting, but was treated for free, when she found out I was in the "bizz"! Lucky me, and lucky for my daddy, who happened to be my chauffeur for the day, so he got to participate as well! A nice time of bonding for father and daughter!

 
The view out back at Blackwood Lane
Winery - Langley, BC. The site of the
winemaking! A stunning view!
  
My dad and I at Blackwood Lane
Winery - April 7, 2012. I was very
happy to have him with me!




 








 
2007 Merlot
Blackwood Lane Winery
Langley, BC, Canada
$34

 I had this wine sitting in my rack for a whole month after I visited this winery!  It had to be opened for others to enjoy it!  I couldn't just open it for me!  At $34, this Merlot was not to be trifled with.  And I would never be able to get  this wine here at home. I tasted some quality wines at Blackwood, but this was by far my favourite.  Lots of chocolate, spice and leather on the nose, with hints of cinnamon and black cherry on the palate. Beautiful finish with that perfect blending of acidity and tannin!  It was tasted with some blue cheese bread, which paired well!  If you are in south Langley, and have the time, stop in!  It's very tiny, so you might miss it if you blink ;) But trust me...you won't want to blink...it will be worth your time!






Domaine De Chaberton Winery
Langley, BC, Canada
What I loved about this winery, is it's truly "All Canadian".  All grown, harvested and bottled in Langley, BC.  A bistro on site that is a very popular lunch destination, this winery had people coming in and out while I was there.  I arrived a little too early to take the tour, but I wasn't worried, knowing I'd be back this summer to see more of the "fruit set" on the vines.  Maybe even see that "Veraison" which is where the grapes actually ripen, turning from little green berries to actual reddish/purple grapes (of course the colour will depend on the varietal!)


   
2010 Bacchus
Domaine de Chaberton
Fraser Valley, VQA
British Columbia, Canada
$13.99
 
Anyway, I digress...Now is the time to be thinking about enjoying some delicious patio wines.  It's almost summer after all, and this one would fit the bill! Lots of delicious summer fruits like peaches, pears and pineapples! Yum!  If you like the fruity whites, you'll love this wine! Very clean and fresh with medium acidity, so it's not too tart in the mouth.  Stunning really!  And the Bacchus grape?  Alright, hang on to your hats for this one: Created in 1933 by a German viticulturist, it's a Silvaner/Reisling crossed with a Muller-Thurgau, which is already a cross!  So...maybe it's a mutant?  Haha!  The Bacchus grape is usually lower in acidity (which I mentioned), and has even been described as "exuberant".  Are you curious?  At $13.99 a bottle, you really can't go wrong by giving this wine a try.  But guess what?  Not easily found in Alberta.  (You BC folks should be able to find it not problem) So if you're going to the lower mainland this summer, stop in about noon to have some lunch at the Bacchus Bistro. Take the 2 pm wine tour, then take some time after that to browse their vast selection of wines in the shop, and sample some in the tasting room!  Sounds like a great idea doesn't it?  I'm going in August, and I'm going to do it all! 




Domaine De Chaberton Estate Winery
1064 216 St., Langley, BC V2Z 1R3
604-530-1736
http://www.domainedechaberton.com/

Thursday, 3 May 2012

More to Celebrate...

I feel like it's been forever since I posted...and I guess it has, since we are into May! With life being so busy recently, I feel like I'm neglecting the wine! 

So you know I'm kind of into wines these days that conjure up good memories, evoke thoughts of wonderful time spent with loved ones.  This posting is no different. For those of you that follow this blog and are on facebook, you might remember the "anniversary wine".  This particular wine is special because it was purchased by my wonderful husband for me last year after I tried it at a wine tasting.  I promptly informed him that I would lay it down for the year, and open it on our 20th anniversary, which we celebrated just this past March.

What's really funny, is that my friend Isabel will laugh when she reads this post!  Because she KNOWS I don't like Tempranillo!  And what is this wine?  100% Tempranillo!


Sierra Cantabria Colleccion Privada
la Rioja, Spain
2000

Enter the Sierra Cantabria...starting to turn a bit brickish because of its age.  Remember I said in an earlier post, that as red wines age, they become lighter in colour.  With this bottle being 12 years old, expect that brickish colour.  Lots on the nose here: tobacco, leather and even some black fruit and chocolate left.  Younger wines tend to feature more of the fruity aromas we usually experience rather than the mature bouquets of leather, smoke and tobacco. On the palate, not too acidic, and not too tannic. Lots of mushrooms, and still that hint of black fruit.  And as you can see by the photo, we served up goat cheese, Camembert, smoked turkey, salami and Babybel cheese.  What I loved about these pairings, was that I didn't plan them.  Not that all those cheeses worked, but it sure was a lot of fun, which for me, is further proof that wine is not pretentious, and I don't need to go to great depths to find that perfect pairing! I have always said: "drink what you like".  I don't necessarily like Tempranillo, but the bottle itself was opened as part of a celebration.  And just because I don't like the grape, it doesn't mean I won't keep trying it over and over and over again.  Someday, I might like the taste of mushrooms, and barnyard, and forest floor in my wine, instead of the fruity, vanilla-y fresh flavours I appreciate so much more now! Right Isabel? ;)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Kenneth Volk - Southern California

This morning, I set to work on my latest post.  After tonight's tasting though, I got all hot and bothered to blog about these wines!  We tasted five wines (which took an hour and a half by the way..) and I'd like to share two with you!  There was a rep from Kenneth Volk Wineries, who has worked with this particular company for 25 years...hence the reason this tasting was an hour and a half...he had a lot of information to share! This vineyard is located in Santa Barbara's Santa Maria valley in Southern California.  Hey, I've been to Santa Barbara!  I was however, only 20 and 21 years old at the time.  Looking at vineyards and wineries was the furthest thing from my mind, nor did I even know of their existence! Anyway, all that to say...I really enjoyed these wines, and would never have tried them otherwise. Oh..and next time I'm in Santa Barbara?  I'll be paying a visit to this winery.


Kenneth Volk
2010 Jaybird Chardonnay
Santa Maria Valley, California USA
$28.49
Fine Wines by Liquor Select

Kenneth Volk
2009 Negrette
San Benito County, California USA
$26.49
Fine Wines by Liquor Select

 This was truly a really great Chardonnay!  Before I had ANY information at all, the first thing I got on the nose was bananas.  I've never smelled bananas in a wine before, but there's always a first for everything!  There was also pineapples and peaches, but then when I tasted it, I got this overwhelming taste of oak!  But guess what?  This Chardonnay is UN-oaked.  Thus the name of the wine - Jaybird.  You know the term...Naked as a Jaybird?  Well, this wine is "naked".  Not aged in oak barrels like the traditional Chardonnay, which would then impart that "oakey" taste.  Rather, aged in stainless steel on the lees (the dead yeast cells that are formed after the fermentation process).  And because it's aged on the lees, it would tend to have that creaminess, and emulate tastes of oak as well. That's why my brain said Oak. Along with that, I also got tastes of olives and even a hint of honey. I wouldn't have guessed it was at 14.8% alcohol, because it seemed very light bodied in my mouth.  Lovely.  I WILL return to purchase this wine.



First of all, what is the Negrette grape?  Has anyone ever heard of this grape? Wow, I had no idea what this was!  Certainly intriguing stories behind this grape!  Of course, it came from France, and anything that comes from there has GOT to have a story!  Originally found in the Southwest of France; 40-50 km NW of Toulouse, this grape is similar to the Pinot Noir grape. Very black, small bunches, thin-skinned grapes.  But, unlike the Pinot grapes, these are even tinier and so fragile, that Kenneth Volk puts tissue paper between each layer of grapes when pressing!  So finicky are they, that the French coined them the "little black bitches"!  The folks at Kenneth Volk vineyards though prefer to call it an "heirloom varietal" and an "under appreciated rarity".  Much better description though don't you think?!?  Lots of smoke, mushrooms and forest floor on the nose, and super huge amounts of basil and oregano on the palate.  Really well rounded, with not too much tannin.  I enjoyed this wine...perhaps because it was different, but also because it reminded me, in many ways, of that elusive Pinot Noir with beautiful aromas and tastes that I'm trying to find....all for under 30 bucks.  Perhaps I've even found it, in this tiny little black grape.



Friday, 13 April 2012

Bienvenido a South America!! - Part 2

It's Friday the 13th, and what better way to kick it off than with a wine blog?  As promised, here we are back in South America for part 2 of this post!  Sometimes all the wines mentioned in a post can be kind of overwhelming!  Thus the reason for splitting it up!

Can't have South American wines without having at least ONE Argentinian Malbec.  I have to say I was disappointed with the Malbec.  Especially when I looked forward to it so much.  Malbec is one of my favourite grapes to be sure. The Luigi Bosca from Argentina was featured here.  And I know those of you reading this, and are Malbec fans, would know this wine!  Sadly, we all rated this wine as "invisible".  There was just nothing there that we could really grab onto and like.  A bit of "meat" on the nose, but that was about it.  Maybe it was because it was the 2008?  Or perhaps we had a bad wine..there was no cork to blame, as it was a screwtop wine. In my ever so humble opinion, save it for your cooking wine! And because of my disappointment...I didn't take a picture!

2009 Casa Silva
Gran Reserva Carmenere
Colchugua Valley, Chili
$26


 This one was a star!  There was James kicking it up a few notches with the Gran Reserva again!  Gran Reserva in S. America is just a name.  It really means nothing like it does in Spain with the time spent in oak, and in the bottle.

Lots of different aromas.  Green pepper, cigar tobacco, coffee, and dark chocolate.  This off dry, low tannic wine had a really silky finish, and would be great with some grilled meats! I'm kind of a big Carmenere fan, so I really did enjoy this one! 

 
 


2007 Pisano RPF
Tannat
Uruguay
$26

Has anyone else ever heard of this grape?  The Tannat grape?  Before this evening's tasting, I had not.  It is a very black grape and said to be the "national grape of Uruguay". My friend Harjeet brought this one, and because he is an executive chef, wines are becoming best friends to some of his food dishes.  If he brought this and recommended it, chances are I would enjoy it as well.  I speak for no one else in my group, but this was likely my favourite of the evening!  Lovely scents of creme brulee, butterscotch and caramel with hints of toasted coconut.  Very warm in my mouth with some burned popcorn flavours (not a bad thing in this case), but also hints of blackberry fruit.  Slightly mouthwatering and high tannins.  This one lasted for quite some time in my mouth.  A definite to put on your list of "wines to try"!




My friends(and former classmates from Level 1, enjoying the tastes of the wines!  Thanks to D'arci, Daniel, Jennifer, James and Harjeet for always being up to the task!

 





Monday, 9 April 2012

Bienvenido a South America!!- Part 1

Hang on to your hats folks!  It's about to be another marathon post!  Tasting nights with my classmates allows us to taste several different wines, and seriously cuts down the cost because we are all bringing one to share with everyone else.  And the best part is, the host gets to keep all the leftovers!  Sweet!  What's different about this post though, is that for all the newbies, I'm going to break it down into two posts, so your brains don't get all mixed up!


Michel Torino- Argentina
2011 Torrontes
$16 - Vinomania
 First up:  our only white of the night!  I would best describe this wine as a zippy-lounge-chair-patio wine.  We ALL loved it!  I'd never had the Torrontes grape before.  In fact, I'd never even heard of it!  And when I told the girl at the wine store that I needed a white from South America, this is what she offered me. What a beautiful wine for $16!  Nice aromas of peaches, white blossom and lime peel, and tangy tastes of peaches, pineapples, citrus, and other tropical fruits in my mouth.  As the night progressed, (i.e. 2 1/2 hours later) the citrus flavours really rounded out leaving me with much less sharpness.  Either way, poured right out of the bottle chilled, or even a little warmer to cut into that sharpness, this was a fantastic wine!  Tasted great with the spicy spinach dip that Daniel brought as well as the jalapeno cheese served by D'arci.


Casilleo Del Diablo, Chile
Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$15
Sottana Reserva, Argentina
Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Mendoza Region
$25
 There were 2 Cabernet Sauvignons on the table, one from Argentina and one from Chile.  We decided to taste them side by side, the same grape from 2 different countries.  It would likely have been a better exercise had these 2 wines been from the same vintage.  However, it was useful to takes them like this, going back and forth.  At first I didn't really like either of them...AT ALL. But after the requisite swirling, sniffing and sipping, I definately started leaning toward the Chilean.  Lots of really nice aromas here: bacon, smoke, coffee, caramel...and later...chocolate!  By going back and forth from one to the other, we were able to pick up aromas that we never picked up at first sniff.  Also at first, it didn't seem to "stick".  What I mean by that, is it didn't stay around in my mouth.  However, this was one of those wines that the longer it sits, the better it tastes.  And as always, most of these wines would taste WAY better with food!

Lots of earthiness, and some "sticky tar" in the Sottano Reserva.  I really tried to get more, and I really wanted to, considering that this wine was $10 more than the other.  But...that's all I got, bringing me back to the FIRST Cabernet Sauvignon (the Casillero del Diablo) and loving it even more!

Well...with part one at its conclusion...stay tuned for Part 2!  I promise you won't have to wait long...


Saturday, 31 March 2012

Celebration Wines

Gray Monk Pinot Gris
Okanagan Valley
British Columbia, Canada
Lately, I've been pondering the idea of "celebratory wine".  Or, some sort of wine that evokes feelings of remembrance, most often of a wonderful occasion or time in life.  Because our sense of smell is our greatest form of remembrance, it's only reasonable that a bottle of wine would do this.  After all, one of the most important aspects in the tasting exercise is the aroma itself.  Getting all those smells in your memory before the wine is tasted.

I have a few such wines.  One I even posted about. Now granted, it wasn't meant to be initially, but I will always remember the 1884 Reservado Malbec because it was poured and enjoyed on the night of my niece's birth.

This particular wine reminds me of friendship.  This couple is one of the most dynamic, loving people you could ever have the pleasure to meet and interact with. I remember exactly where I was when this wine was served to me.  Danny is one of the most fun loving people I know.  A collector of friends, and a lover of life, he knows nothing of the word selfishness and is constantly sharing what he has with other people. His wife Marita is one of my best friends.  A beautiful, soulful woman who is also just as giving.  In fact, those of us that were in the room at the time, I consider some of the most important people in my life.

Now, this was a few years ago, so I'm not sure if we were tasting the '08 or the '09.  Doesn't much matter.  All I know was that this particular wine was also the catalyst to me really starting to appreciate wine.  This wine was fruity, crispy and vibrant - much like the spring day that we were viewing out the window. And if my memory serves me, beautiful aromas of  green apples, pears, grapefruit and maybe even a hint of honey.  A wonderful tasting wine too, easily drunk on its own, crisp and refreshing.

I have a favourite wine store I like to visit.  They always have this wine in stock, and even if I'm not buying it, I always go to the Canadian wine section, find this wine, pick up the bottle, and just....remember.  I think it's awesome to have wines like this, and I hope to "collect" many more celebratory wines throughout my lifetime.  What about you?  Any wines out there that evoke a lot of great memories for you?  Would love to hear about it...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Art of Tasting

I've had some comments from folks wondering what this whole tasting thing is about.  Rather than focus on a particular wine for this post, I thought I'd get into the science of it a little.  Now I know that some of you out there don't really care..."just give me a glass of wine," you say!  Well, that's the point I guess!  To truly enjoy the wine in your glass, you must enjoy what you are tasting!

I'm going to make it really simple.  I'll get a bit more technical later on in this post.  For now, the 4 basic steps to tasting are:

Sight
Smell
Sample
Spit (or, if you REALLY like it...Swallow!)

All start with the letter "S" for easy recall! (I'm really trying to keep it simple!)
1.  Sight.   When the wine is poured in your glass, you want to look at it.  What colour is it?  How intense is that colour?  Are there bubbles or sediment present? Is it clear, or is it cloudy?  Tilt the glass away from you to get a sense of the color in the centre of glass vs. the colour at the rim. What is the colour of the wine touching the glass?  Is it darker, or lighter than the colour in the core? And just as an FYI...the colour of the wine may be an early indicator of its age.  As red wines age, they become lighter.  As white wines age, they become darker.

2.  Smell.  To smell the wine, first give it a swirl.  The swirling will release the oxygen and all the aromas of the wine.  This is probably the most important step of the process.  One can come back to the wine and smell new things that were not there at first.  And don't just take a cursory sniff!  Stick your nose right in the glass!  And don't do it just once, do it several times!  Swirl, smell, swirl, smell....you get the idea!  And this just in:  each of your nostrils smell things differently, so try plugging one, taking a sniff, then plugging the other and taking a sniff.  Do you smell anything different?  And here's another little factoid:  aroma is usually associated with a young wine, often more of the fruit is evident.  Bouquet is usually associated with more mature wines.  That is, smells that have developed over time.  These might include adjectives such as 'earthy' or 'woody' or perhaps even 'herbaceous'.

You have often heard me describe a wine with "on the nose", which means "what I smelled was..."

3.  Sample (Sip or Taste). You will see my reference to "on the palate" here, which essentially means, "what am I tasting."  This is where some will slurp, suck and roll the wine in the mouth.  Seems crude and unusual, but it does serve a purpose!  The intention is to get the wine to touch all the tastebuds in your mouth.  Sweetness at the front, bitterness at the back, sourness at the sides, and saltiness at the upper rear.  Not that there is much use for the 'saltiness' in wine, it's just another tidbit of information I just KNOW you were all waiting to learn about!  By letting the wine take a complete tour in our mouths, only then can we get a true sense of the various elements in the wine.  This is also when we we will experience "acidity", which is the mouthwatering effect wine has on us, and "tannins", which is the astringency, or "drying out" we might feel coat our mouths and teeth.

All wine contains alcohol.  Some more than others.  That being said, the amount of alcohol might also determine the body that wine will have in your mouth.  We will almost always experience the alcohol towards the back of the mouth as a 'hot' or 'burning' sensation.  Is it a light wine or full bodied wine? Can it be drunk on its own, or does it need food?
Finally, we want to judge the finish of the wine.  Everyone loves something that lasts!  Like that savoury piece of steak that melts in your mouth, such is the finish of a good wine.  Is it short or long?  Does is disappear into the mist immediately after you swallow it, or does the taste linger in your mouth long after you swallow it?

4.  Spit.  Now, I'm sure you noticed that I just asked if you swallowed your taste of wine!  A professional taster will often have to sample over 100 wines in a day.  In order not to become completely plastered with no opinion at all, (they would ALL be REALLY good wines at this point!) it is important that the wine be spit out, wait for the flavours to go or stay, then write, or recall any comments you have on the wine. Don't be afraid to sip and spit  more than once!





Finally, let's talk about the balance of the wine.  In the whole tasting proess, we have talked about what it looks like, what it smells like, what it tastes like; how much acidity, tannins and alcohol are present.  In the ideal wine, all of these parts combine flawlessly together to create a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.  It's like the symphony:  all the pieces of the orchestra go together perfectly.  One doesn't outshine the other.  They just blend together to create this beautiful melody.  Intricate harmonies overlapping each other, yet sounding as one in our ears.  So it is with that perfect bottle of wine.  It is this balance that measures the overall quality of a wine, its potential longevity, as well as potential food pairings at the dinner table.

If you've been reading my blogs on a regular basis, remember what I said in my very first blog:  drink what you like. What the wine SAYS it smells or tastes like, may not be what YOU smell or taste.  Always be true to yourself in what you smell or taste!  There is no right or wrong answer!  Clever marketing should never be the one to tell you WHAT is in that wine!  Trust your senses!  YOU are your own best critic when it comes to which wine you will like at dinner, on your patio, or what might sit in your cellar for a few years!

Next time you sit down to enjoy your next glass of wine, try this exercise, and then tell me about it!  I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Pinot Noir Mission

I'm on a mission....

I've never been a Pinot Noir fan.  I don't know why.  Maybe it was the name, or the preconceived notion that it was pretentious.  Or maybe...just maybe, it was the taste.  I've learned quite a bit about this grape that is so difficult to grow, and I've gained more respect for this thin skinned grape. My mission is this:  Find a great drinking Pinot Noir for under 25 bucks....which so far, has YET to happen!  Any Pinot Noir worth its salt is gonna cost you...somewhere between $65-$80 for sure. (at least that's what I have found...)

The Burgundy region of France is considered the creme de la creme of the Pinot Noir world.  And now, Oregon is holding their own with this grape and is becoming the Burgundy of the United States.  A bold statement to be sure, but Oregon has proved that they can grow this grape, and I can attest to this.  I've tasted some pretty outstanding Oregon Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley.  And they weren't under 25 bucks either...

Quail's Gate Winery
Okanagan Valley, BC
2010 Pinot Noir,
$20.99- Costco
My latest Pinot Noir tasting came in the form of a Canadian from the Okanagan Valley. Quail's Gate Winery to be exact, which, according to the website, is one of the leading producers of Pinot Noir in Canada.  This is their "flagship wine", believing that this region (in Canada) is the most ideally suited to growing the grape. The description of their wine is really quite enticing. "...we ensure that our wines exhibit rich complex fruit flavours that are reminiscent of classic Burgundy wines while showcasing the added elegance of New World wine making techniques. Made to be elegant with grace and finesse, this wine is made for wine lovers who desire a sophisticated style of Pinot Noir."  And I paid $21 for this wine!  How excited am I?

Visually, this wine looked great!  Garnet in colour with a watery edge, I expected an easy drinking wine to be sure. Oh, by the way, Pinot Noirs are one of those nice wines that you don't need to pair with food necessarily, they can be fantastic on their own, if they are good!  That is what I mean by an "easy drinking wine".  However, the classic pairings for this fine grape include West Coast salmon and grilled lamb with rosemary.

On the nose, I got some of that Pinot Noir fruit such as blueberries and strawberries, but I also got the classic "deli" smells of the French oak that it is aged in for up to 11 months.  Wonderful tastes of blueberries, acai berries, and cassis with soft, medium tannins. I thought this wine was just "ok", not outstanding or stellar.  Lyndsey, my husband didn't like it at all!   This was the 2008 vintage, which according the website, can be aged nicely. And since it was opened in 2012, it WAS aged a bit, although probably not as much as it could've been.  I'll know for next time and buy two bottles!

Maybe when I go visit my parents at Easter on the west coast, I'll insist on the salmon...shouldn't be too difficult to get there! And I just may have to splurge on a bottle of Pinot Noir.  I am after all, on a mission...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cheers to the Malbec!


Alamos Malbec 2010
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$8.99  Costco Wholesale
 Ahh..the long awaited Malbec...I've drunk a lot of Malbecs in my life, and I have to say this one was most enjoyable! Although grown widely around the world, it is perhaps most well known and 25,000 hectares worth of growth, in the Argentinian region of Mendoza.  The grape was first introduced into the region in the mid 19th century, when the then governor ordered cuttings to be brought over from France.  Those cuttings that were planted produced the country's first Malbecs. Since then, Argentina has clearly usurped the French in the production of this varietal.

The Alamos Malbec (from the Catena Family Winery) is from the Mendoza region mentioned above, from a vineyard of the Uco Valley. It is the Wine of the Andes, the label paying homage to the mountains for which it is grown.  The bright sunshine during the day and the cool nights make for a balanced wine.  It's aged for 6-9 months in both French and American oak, so there may also be hints of oak either on the nose or the palate. (I didn't get a lot myself).

This is an absolutely beautiful shade of violet with lots of cherries, blackberries, and even an herbaceous hint (basil maybe?) on the nose.  The black fruits continued in my mouth with a hint of chocolate on the finish. The tannins were smooth (at 13.5% alcohol, I wouldn't expect them to knock my socks off), the acidity was medium, making it well rounded in my mouth. And really, isn't that what you want in a wine?

And look at the price!  For the price of this wine, the quality is astounding!  Might be a good idea to have a few of these on hand for when you might have unexpected guests.  I see they also have a roset Malbec.  For those turkey loving roset wine fans, might be worth a try.  At least you know your purchase won't break the bank!  And who wouldn't want to drink a wine from a region as beautiful as this? :)

http://www.alamoswines.com/


Mendoza Region
Argentina


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Tuesday Night Wine Tasting - Spain

Ok folks...

I know some of you are requesting certain varietals for me to blog about.  First of all, I actually have to taste those specific varietals, and secondly, I need to purchase them!  The good news is, my Malbec friend will have her fill next month when my classmates and I focus on wines from South America, specifically Chili and Argentina...lots of Malbecs there!  Not to mention that I just bought a Malbec today:  blog will be forthcoming...

But for now, let's look at Spain..a bit of an undervalued country from my perspective.  They consistently make excellent quality wines, for a fraction of the price of French wines, yet as Rodney Dangerfield would eloquently put it, "they get no respect!"

Although we tasted six wines this evening, I am only going to talk about four of them.

Let's start with the Cava:  a sparkling wine that used to be called Spanish champagne, but under French law, only those wines produced in the region of Champagne are allowed to be referred to as Champagne.  Still produced using the traditional method (that is a blog in and of itself..perhaps when I profile an actual French Champagne, I will discuss further) these sparklings have excellent flavour, have varying levels of dryness, and have long finishes. This particular one had a mouthful of green apple and lime, was refreshing and clean on the palate, and stayed in my mouth for that long finish!  Well priced too!  Look here for more information on this gorgeous Cava!
Vina Esmerelda Torres 2006
Cataluyna, Spain
$15
Let's move onto the white of the evening.  A blend of Moscatel (85%) and Gewurtztraminer (15%) this wine certainly had a unique flavour.  It smelled of petrol and flint, and tasted that way too, with that "unctuous" feeling in my mouth.  A short finish, it left me feeling that I'd missed something.   Bring in the 7-layer dip. Now we had something going! Full of cheese, and sour cream, re-fried beans and guacamole, my friend and I agreed that food was necessary to bring out the flavour of this wine, and we found ourselves both pouring another serving into our glasses!

Manium Bierzo Crianza 2007
Mencia
Bierzo, Spain

So, you might be wondering...what grape is this?  It's 100% Mencia...which to be honest, I've never heard of before this tasting.  And it's a Crianza.  In Spain, there are "categories" of the quality of wine, based on how long it's aged even before it hits the shelves in your local liquor store. It's starts with Crianza; aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.  Next is Reserva, aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak.  And finally (but most definately NOT least) the Gran Reserva typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years ageing, 18 months in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. And with that, a greater price tag as well!  That being said, you can still find some great tasting Crianza wines out there.  On this one, my immediate reaction to the nose was a "deli counter".  My classmates and I seemed to all put this one to our noses at the same time.  All of us exclaiming with an "oh!"  As soon as I mentioned "deli counter", they all agreed!  Scents of salami, proscuitto and bacon assaulted our noses.  On the palate, this wine had medium acidity and had the tast of plums and cranberries.  Quite different from the nose to be sure!  At 14.5% acohol, one can expect quite a bit of tannins, which indeed there was, but not to the point where it made it difficult to drink on its own.
1996 Prado Enea
Gran Reserva Muga Rioja
100% Tempranillo
Spain
This was to be the wine of the evening.  At $67 a bottle for what my friend James paid for it, we left it until last.  And to be honest...I expected more.  But that's just me. Let's just think about this for a minute:  This wine is 16 years old...older than my daughter!  The color indicates that, as it is beginning to turn a little brickish from age.  Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. The wines are ruby red in colour, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb.  This is what I'm supposed to smell.  What I DID smell was silage, forest floor, and mushrooms.  All typical for an older wine, but I wanted to be blown away by this wine, and I just wasn't.  But (and if you're reading this James - I'm sorry...) I didn't get all those wonderful aromas and tastes.  Maybe we should've had this one first...Hmmm...the things I'm learning...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mt. Boucherie Family Estate Winery

Mt. Boucherie- Estate Collection
2010 Pinot Gris
Okanagan Valley, BC CANADA
I think this is the first Canadian wine I've blogged about.  Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of opportunity, but this seemed like the time to actually get it out on "paper", so to speak.  Funny story:  An email arrived at my work for wine at "discounted prices".  Apparently, some of the labels on these wines were not quite right, perhaps a bit crooked? (personally, I couldn't tell...can you?) so they were being sold at a discount.  A co-worker of mine has family involved in this estate winery, so she had the opportunity to offer these wines at discount prices.   I chose four from the list and here is my review on one of them!

I've had opportunity to try many Pinot gris, (from other countries) but quite frankly, none of them seem to really impress me.  The Canadians seem to have gotten it right because of all the Pinot gris wines I've tried, I like this country's wines the best.  Now, I 'm not biased...just because I'm a Canadian!  It just seems to be that way.  Or....maybe it's just my palate?!

The history of Pinot gris is actually quite fascinating.  Did you know that it was a grape found by accident? It is actually a mutation of the Pinot noir grape.  Pinot noir grapes are a dark purplish-blue, whereas the Pinot gris grapes are more of a pinkish-blue-gray, hence the name Gris (which means "grey" in French).
Researchers determined that Pinot gris has a remarkably similar DNA profile to Pinot noir and that the colour difference is derived from a genetic mutation that occurred centuries ago. The leaves and the vines of both grapes are so similar that the coloration is the only aspect that differentiates the two.  Sometimes, you may see this in the stores as Pinot Grigio, the name for the grape in Italy.


Pinot Noir

Pinot Gris


 

 













I really enjoyed this wine!  It was light and fruity; not overly acidic, with lots of baked pear on the nose. When I tasted, I continued to get all that pear in my mouth along with a hint of spice.  Think a pear pie with cinnamon!  How could anyone not like that? It drank well on its own, but it was also stellar with my baked salmon with dill sauce, accompanied by penne pasta and sauteed green beans. 

As I said earlier, I've enjoyed the Canadian Pinot gris' I have tasted.  If you have a chance, pick up ANY of the Okanagan Valley Pinot gris, and give them a try! I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Chateauneuf-du-pape

Chateuneuf-du-Pape
Rhone Valley
Non-Vintage
$32.99-Costco
The complicated, sophisticated, chic, merveilleux French wine....

In case you haven't noticed, this is the first French wine I've blogged about.  Truth be told, they scare me to death!  A good French wine aficionado talks about Bordeaux and Burgundy, Beaujolais and Chablis. Although that is not wrong, for someone who is choosing wines based on varietal (i.e. type of grape) it can be very confusing.  For me, it still is!

So before I get into the wine of the hour, let me just explain what I was referring to above:  Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais and Chablis, are actually regions of France.  And in these particular regions, only certain grapes can be grown.  For those of us that are looking for varietal (like myself), this information is important in my decision to buy.

I will be brief:

Bordeaux = Cabernet Sauvignon (also Merlot and Cabernet France, sometimes all three blended together.
Burgundy = Pinot Noir
Beaujolais = Gamay
Chablis = Chardonnay (Chablis is actually located within Burgundy)

And now, I'm going to mix it up a little bit more!  Chateauneuf-du-pape is actually in the Rhone Valley, which is known for two major grape varietals: Grenache and Syrah.   However, there can be up to 13 different grape varietals used in the making of Chateauneuf-du-pape!  The more expensive ones will have a greater percentage of the varietals mentioned above, whereas the cheaper versions will have more of the lesser known grapes. In my mind, this particular bottle is towards the higher end, as the percentages of the grapes used are as follows:  80% Grenache, 7% Syrah, 7% Mouvedre, 6% Cinsault.  I bought it at Costco, so I know I paid significantly less.

Chateuneuf-du-pape means "New castle of the Pope". So named for the palace in the Rhone city of Avignon, in which Pope Clement V (first French pope) resided in the 14th century.  You might also notice that there is no vintage listed.  I was most curious about this, and according to my research, this particular bottle is a blend of the the best "cuvees" from different vintages -grapes harvested in different years.

Hopefully, I haven't bored you with the trivia!  Onto the tasting notes!!

Garnet in colour, on the nose, I got some mushrooms and dried strawberries....which seems a bit opposing.  Mushrooms indicate more of an aged wine, yet strawberries indicate aromas of a younger wine.  My husband agreed.  This WAS a nice wine.  When we tasted, we got all kinds of things!  Mushrooms, spice, dried fruit, wood and venison.  It had nice acidity and the tannins didn't knock you out.  Well rounded with a smooth finish.  We didn't pair it with anything either, so we probably didn't get the full benefit of this wine.

Bottom line:  French wines STILL intimidate me.  I am deep into learning about labeling, so choosing a wine that is right, for not only what I want to pair it with, but also within my budget, is extremely important...I want to get it right.

And just for fun....A friend of mine did a GREAT version of the pronunciation of this wine!  I cannot, however, attach it, so this is the next best thing. This is not HOW you say Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but it sure tickles the funny bone! Chateauneuf-du-pape