Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wines for Christmas and through the Festive Season

Wine List for Christmas 2012
Found at Seafair LDB in Richmond (and most LDB stores in Metro Vancouver)
Wines in Brackets may be only at Signature LDB Stores (Like Ironwood or Cambie & 41st or Thurlow) or VQA BC Wine Stores (like Sips at Ironwood in Richmond or Dunbar & 41st)

  1. Sparkling/Champagne
Cristalino Cava $13, Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay $25, Segura Viudas Cava $16,  Louis Roeder $63 Excellent French Champagne

  1. BC
Road 13 Stemwinder White $15, Rockpile $25 delicious blend of reds, Hester Creek Merlot/Cab $19, Hester Creek Character White $20, Hester Creek Character Red $20, (Church & State Syrah $30, Church & State Meritage $25), Church & State Chardonnay $25). (The View Pinotage $20 and Red Shoe Red $16) Quails Gate Chardonnay $18
Any Prospect Winery white or red $12 - $20.

  1. Argentina
Norton Privada $23, (Norton Reserve Malbec $20)
  1. Chile
Marques Casa Concha Chardonnay $20, Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon $20, The Junta $15, Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir Reserve $18, (Escudo Rojo $16),( Concha y Toro Trio Merlot, Carmenere, Cabernet $16)

  1. Australia:
Peter Leyman Layers $17, Clancy’s Legendary Red $20, Little Yering Pinot Noir $16, Heartland Shiraz $23, Wakefield Riesling $20, Killikanoon Killerman’s Run $25, Razor’s Edge Shiraz and Grenache-Shiraz (both $15)

  1. New Zealand,
Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc $16, Mapmaker Sauvignon Blanc $20, The Ned Sauvignon Blanc $15, (Stoneleigh Chardonnay $16), The Dr.’s Riesling off-dry $20, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc $20

  1. South Africa:
The Grinder Pinotage, $15, The Wolftrap $16, KWV Tawny Port $12,

  1. Spain:
Laya $14, (Faustino V 2005 Rioja $25)

  1. France
Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay Reserve $20, Chateau La Gorce 2009 Red Bordeaux,

  1. California: Rodney Strong Chardonnay$22 and Chalk Hill Chardonnay $26, Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon $22,
  2. Italy:
Farnesse Primitivo $10, Nipozanno Chianti Rufina Reserva 2008, $23, Masi Campiofiorin $20

  1. Portugal
 Tio Pepe Fino Sherry very dry $20, Alvear Montilla Fino dry $15






Monday, October 15, 2012

Eleven Wines for Autumn

I had my Introduction to Wine Appreciation for Burnaby Continuing Education at the beginning of this month (October).  Here are my notes on what we uncorked and unscrewed.


Dr. L (Loosen) Sparkling Riesling, Mosel Germany
12%                 $18.99

For over a decade I have enjoyed serving the still version of this Riesling and in the past year or so, the sparkling edition has graced our shelves. It is a Sekt, which is what the Germans call a sparkling wine which is made by a different process than Champagne and is thus more budget friendly.  Apples and peach on the nose and palate with a sweetness of 2/10 to balance the crisp acidity, and ending on a long citrus finish.  Light, elegant, but flavourful.  A wunderbar apertif for the holiday season just around the corner and perfect for roast pork, bbq rib dishes, baked ham, duck and turkey!

Stoneboat 2011 Chorus (six grapes in the blend), Okanagan VQA BC 11.5%              $17.99

From Oliver comes this off-dry Germanic white made from six grapes including the aromatic peaches and apricots of Kerner, Schoenburger, and Muller Thurgau with some orange Viognier, against the mineral background of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc all singing in harmony. We have lots of fruit for you. I prefer their drier Pinot Gris.one of the best of the Okanagan with lots of minerality to balance the fruit. Yum.  

The Ned 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand   13%                 $15.99

Mention New Zealand and I automatically think of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Ned is an affordable SB at $16 and delivers the gooseberry and guava fruitiness complemented by green beans and grassiness we expect from the vineyards of Marlborough down in the cool South Island.  And there is plenty of bracing acidity to f curried mussels into a delectable duo of flavour flavour. Also beaut with goat cheese.  Try the ones from Salt Spring, Kelowna, and Agassiz.


Chateau de la Roulerie 2010 Chenin Blanc, Loire France   13%                 $21.99

From an off-dry white such as Chorus, we go to bone dry Chateau de la Roulerie.  The Loire valley is famous for their Sauvignon Blancs, their Chevre Cheese, and their Chenin Blanc.  This Chateau region of France produces a wide range of styles of Chenin Blanc, from driest of dry (like the de la Roulerie, to sweet and sparkling wines of class.  It has a regal golden colour, unlike most two year old whites that are often straw coloured.  This is an elegant and flavourful wine of quince, good acid, and pedigee. Enjoy with prawns in a curry sauce.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Chardonnay, Washington State     14%                 $19.99

If you drive north of Seattle on your way back to BC, its well worth a sidetrip to Woodinville and Chateau Ste. Michelle.  A French Chateau nestled in a park like setting in the Pacific Northwest lwhere in the summer you can purchase wine and picnic goodies and enjoy the lay of the land, and also attend outdoor concerts on the estate where Paul Simon and Joan Baez just to mention a few have played.  And did I mention how delicious Chateau Ste. Michelle wines are? This Chard is a delicious combo of apples, vanilla, toasted hazelnut, with the oak pleasantly balanced with the the fruit and the crisp acidity.  A leaner style of Chardonnay that Pacific Northwest wineries usually make, but with plenty of personality, just more restrained than the overly oaked versions you can still get from California and Australia. I would love some lobster with that, if you don't mind!



  1. Stoneboat 2009 Duet, Okanagan VQA BC
13.6%              $19.99

  1. Razor’s Edge 2008 Shiraz-Grenache, McLaren Vale South Australia
14.5%              $14.99

8. Tatty Road 2012 Shiraz, South Australia
13.5%              $14.99

9. Morse Code 1010 Padthaway Shiraz, South Australia
$14.5%            $13.99

      10. Concha y Toro 2011 Trio (three varieties), Chile
14%                 $14.99

      11. Oro Osborne Pedro Ximenez (sweet sherry), Jerez Spain
15%                 $15.99





Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Bubbly to Celebrate the End of Summer

Even if we no longer are a student, the end of August with its golden haze and cooler nights signals the end of  summer and the return to our Fall routines.  While we still have a week or so before September, its a good time to toast our fleeting summer with some bubbly. And while I would love to uncork some real French Champagne, being semi-retired means I look for more economical sparklers like our Cristalino Brut Jaume Serra. This is a Spanish Cava which means it is fermented with bubbles right in the bottle, just like Champagne. Plus, it is made from a strain of yeast from Champagne. And its a treat to taste and enjoy, just like Champagne.  But its only $12.99, not $60 or more!!!  

What's not to like?  Pop the cork (don't point it anyone) and your nose will delight in the bouquet of stone and tree fruit along with a toastiness found in most Cavas and Champagnes.  Swirl it in your mouth for a few moments to savour the sweet summer taste of peaches, nectarines, green apples. There is lots of flavour and complexity for a wine at this price. 

You can enjoy it on the patio by itself with tapas.  I often like to pour half a glass of Cava with half a glass of red wine to make a Sparkling red.  Or you can make a Kir Royale by adding about an ounce of French Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) to a glass of Cava.  Or you can make a Spanish Bellini by adding some fresh peach juice to a glass of Cava.  Make sure the bottle is in the fridge for a couple of hours as you want it chilled.  If you want the tiny beads of bubbles to last a long time, store tall flute glasses in the freezer for 15 minutes before pouring the wine.

Wine & Spirits rated the Cristalino Brut Cava 88 points out of 100, which is an A grade.  It also rated the Jaume Serra winery Value Brand of the Year for the past three years.  Its relatively new on the market in BC but its a bargain, even for Spanish Cavas, and a real favourite of mine.

Cristalino Brut Cava from Jaume Serra.  $12.99, 11.5%, available in most LDB stores.
A Bubbly to Celebrate the End of Summer
Dry Sparkling Wine Highly Recommended

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Might Fine Fino!

As the summer continues to occasionally feel as hot as Spain, I have an urge to chill some dry Spanish sherry, make some gazpacho, and eat some tapas.  Sherries, to be called sherries, must come from Spain, down in the south-west corner, in the region known as Jerez.  Sherry is an Anglicization of the name, Jerez.  And while Sherries are relatively inexpensive considering the quality, their neighbour next door, in the region known as Montilla, makes them even cheaper.  While the quality is not quite as high as the wines from Jerez, the Montilla fortified wines are still worth trying and delicous in their own right!

Last weekend, I chilled an Alvear Fino Montilla.  This is a bone dry sherry....fino, Spanish for finest,  the driest and palest of the fortified wines in Spain.  Most Spaniards drink this type rather than the sweeter dessert wines,because  fino is so versatile with food, the Spanish love to eat and drink, and the British old ladies need the dessert sherries.   Served chilled, the Alvear is meant to be enjoyed with the tapas appetizers, bite sized snacks with serrano ham, manchego cheese, garlic prawns, stuffed olives, marinated red pimentos, tinned tuna...in other words with a real variety of food.

The Alvear has a bouquet of the salty ocean, along with hints of toasted almonds. The flavour is complex, dry fruit, nuts, green olives.  When I sip the fino along with the chilled gazpacho soup, the flavour takes on more of the stuffed green olive personality...its wonderful how a wine will develop a new flavour profile when eaten with food.  There is the tanginess that one gets when you dive into the ocean after a hot day at the beach and a savoury finish that lasts till sunset!

Alvear Fino Montilla, Spain, Mighty Fine Fino, Dry Fortified White
Spain, $14.99, 14%, Highly Recommended





Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Perfectly Priced Pinot

If you are a fan of spring and of great value, then New Harbour Pinot Noir might be your 'cup of tea', if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor.  Like spring, this medium bodied red is fresh, full of life and flavour.  You can sip it on the patio while you are barbecuing, it will go with so many BBQ foods: ribs, chicken, lamb, burgers, salmon, tuna. Besides being versatile, it is also  fruity and savory in character which will make it seem like its right from your garden and orchard.  Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to transplant, but Marlborough in New Zealand is one place it does well.  There is a meatiness or umami, the savoury flavour.  Cherries, cranberries, earthiness (the terroir) with smokey and oaky elements are in there as well. The fruit is almost sweet in the mouth but it finishes with a dryness you expect from reds. There is the refreshing acidity of Pinot Noir (that's what makes it a great food wine, there. Not too much tannins (Pinots have thin skins) so you can expect a smooth velvety mouth feel instead of pucker power.  


And did I mention its only $15.95?  Pinot Noirs are usually much higher priced, you can easily spend $20+ and much more so this is definitely worth a try. For me, its worth many tries.


New Harbour 2009 Pinot Noir, , Marlborough, New Zealand, $15.99 13.5%
Medium Bodied Red, Perfectly Priced Pinot, Highly Recommended

Monday, April 23, 2012

Luscious and Latin!

I have discovered my favourite Malbec. Like most Malbecs, this one originates in Mendoza, Argentina, the largest wine-producing region in this red wine country.  Made from 30 year old vines, this is one heck of a complex wine for $20!  The bouquet has layers of scents, from dark fruit, leather, and cocoa, to a little of Castro's Cuban cigar and cedar box. You will be tempted to endlessly swirl the glass and sniff in rapture as you discover the depth of the nose....every sniff reveals a new dimension to the bouquet.  But of course, the proof is in the pudding, I mean palate. Savour the ripe black and red fruit, with leather, violets, cloves, and licorice.  A multi-layered complex extravaganza with enough tannin to give a good mouth feel, but soft enough to enjoy right now. After all, it is now four years old.


If you're used to the more fruity simpler and inexpensive Malbecs, try this one that is a winner and reminds me of aged European reds.  It was the favourite wine in my recent Burnaby South American wine class the other month..Enjoy with some Moroccan lamb sausages or meatballs that Herringer's Meats in Steveston prepares.  


Bodegas Norton 2008 Malbec Reserva, $19.99, 14.5%, Mendoza Argentina
Medium-bodied complex Red. Luscious and Latin!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two great reads for wine lovers!

Once in a while there is a wine book that comes along that rings true to the wine lover. The writer is passionate about wine, and usually wine and food, and conveys his or her passion and makes the reader even more passionate about the enchanting subject of wine in all its glory!  Such a book was The Heartbreak Grape: A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marq de Villiers, published in 1993.  This non-fiction book is bound to appeal to anyone who fell in love with the movie, Sideways or is fond of Pinot Noir.  Titled the Heartbreak Grape because Pinot Noir is fickle and difficult to grow, and makes the winery owner and winemaker shed a few tears when it doesn't meet their high standards. Even in the traditional region where fine Burgundies are made, they only make really good ones three times out of every decade.  Furthermore, Pinot Noir  does not transplant very well. Unlike Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, there are only a few regions where remarkable Pinots are produced, Oregon being one. Written by Canadian author, de Villeirs, this little gem of a book recounts the story of Josh Jensen, who went to Burgundy to train to make Pinot Noir in the traditional way. Jensen then went to California and looked for a site  that had the same type of soil as Burgundy  where Pinot Noir thrives: limestone. Jensen built his winery Calera, planted his vines, grew his grapes, and made wine with love and by instinct rather than by sophisticated technology. Along the way you learn about grape-growing, wine-making, and the ups and downs of trying to tame a diva of a grape.






But I digress.  I really want to share with you my latest favourite read, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy,  by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008.  No I don't think Sergio is Phil's brother...maybe cousin.  Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and immigrated to New York in the 70's with his family. He originally trained to be a chef but ended up in the wine importing business in New York City. From there, he and his brother traveled regularly to the various regions of Italy (the famous northern region of Piedmont, the sweeping estates of Tuscany, the lush fields of Campania, the chilly hills of Friuli, etc.) to taste and buy wine, encountering  traditional wine makers, biodynamic fanatics, as well as modern technocrats. And in addition to learning about Italian wine, you learn lots about family, Italy, food, passion, and life. Like Marq de Villiers, Sergio Esposito is a skilled writer who not only can write about wine in an engaging way, he can spread his passion and joie de vie with you.  He is so contagious!  This, like the Heartbreak Grape, is a Must Read for anyone who sort of likes wine and more.  I found it in my local (Richmond, BC) library. Frances Mayer salutes the author by writing, "Esposito's glass is always half-full, when not filled to the brim, and always with something beautifully red and swirling and passionate, as re his words in this wine-adventure, story-memoir, deep-rooted; and the wines--perfect on the tongue, with a long finish." Not only is Esposito a great wine-lover and epicurean, he is a great story-teller. He makes you wish you were in the wine business and Italian! 
Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy,  by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008.  A full-bodied book with lots of complexity and a delicious finish!
$17.50 paperback.