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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Come & Discover the Wines of Austria

In terms of visibility, the Austrian wine industry has – unfortunately – taken something of a back seat to its neighbour to the east – Germany. However, the western end of Austria is becoming known for producing amazing white wines, intriguing red wines and delectable sweet wines. On Wednesday, April 22nd at the Rosehill Venue Lounge, forty-four wineries gathered together to present the best that Austria has to offer – and it was delicious. There were three outstanding white wines that day – a Sauvignon Blanc, a Morillon (think Chardonnay) and a white blend containing Morillon, Weibburgunder (think Pinot Gris) and Grauburgunder (also similar to Pinot Gris). Followed by two amazing wines and three phenomenal sweet wines, this day was a day to remember. Come and check out what awaits you from Austria.

Weingut Sattlerhof
Sauvignon Steirische Klassik STK 2007
According to regulations set out by the Styrian Terroir and Classic Wine Estates, this wine cannot be released until after March 1st. This particular wine rests on its lees from harvest until that point and, as a result, has a very unique aroma and palate to it. Most people cannot pick out Yellow Capcisum and sugar peas but these are the primary aromas found in this particular wine. The palate is lively and cheery – it is very fruit forward and extremely pleasant to drink. There is a lovely, lingering finish which actually makes this wine rather dangerous – like you cannot get enough of it.

Weingut Sattlerhof
Morillon Steirische Klassik STK 2006
This wine has a particular regulation on release dates as the previous Sauvignon Blanc and, if you have not heard of this particular grape before, it is the Austrian equivalent to Chardonnay. It has a very fruit forward aroma – banana, honey dew melon, rhubarb and a good kick of spice. There is a slight hint of creaminess that is added to the palate along with the aromas previously mentioned. There is a good, lingering finish on this wine as well making it incredibly satisfying and easy drinking.

Durnburg Wine Estate
Ortolan Cuvee Prestige Prime Wine 2007
According to the winery’s website, the name “Cuvee Prestige” was named after a rare bird which inspired Beethoven to write his Symphony No 5 and whose call still frequently resounds in the vineyards of Falkenstein. The aromas of this blend of Chardonnay, Weibburgunder and Grauburgunder carry a lot of flint (or gun smoke) notes along with fruit and mineral. It is an interesting combination – not one that we would normally see but it suits this wine to a “T”. The fact that this wine spent some time on its lees in 500 litre oak casks shows as the flavours have great complexity to them leading to an incredible elegance and a long finish.

Weingut Gernot und Heike Heinrich
Blaufrankisch 2007
This wine is an amazing combination of flavours and aromas – it is a POWERHOUSE!
The predominant aromas are herbal, spice, grilled vegetal and then a lot of berry and other fruit characteristics. A similar mixture can be found in the flavours and it just seems to go on forever and ever. It would be interesting to try this with heavy red meats – like steaks or roasts – but this could just as easily pair well with chicken, turkey or pork.

Weingut Nigl
Eichberg Barrique 2006
Made from the Zweigelt grape, this wine is intriguing from beginning to the medium finish. The colour on this wine is amazing – dark rubies with a garnet rim…just lovely. Smoke, cherries & plums are the predominant aromas and the palate is full of a variety of spices and fruit. Good firm tannins, a hearty structure and a medium finish round this wine out nicely.

Weingut Josef Andert
Neusidlersee Gelber Muskateller Beerenauslese 2007
This region of Austria – the Neusidlersee – is known for producing amazing sweet wines and this one is definitely one of the most interesting sweet wines I have had in a while. Made from Gelber Muskateller – which is Yellow Muscat in English – this wine, despite its young age is already showing amazing complexity and balance. It spent some time aging in barriques which has added a nice complexity to the wine but what intrigued me the most is the slight hint of banana I get in the mid palate.

Weingut Josef Andert
Neusidlersee Gewurztraminer Trockenbeerenauslese 2008
This wine looked like sunshine in a glass – it’s a shade of yellow that you do not normally see and it is just beautiful to look at. The aromas are a combination of honey and fig but with a slight hint of creaminess to come – most likely attributed to the time this wine spent in oak barrels. The honey and figs translated onto the palate where grapefruit joined the party and there was a hint of creaminess like the nose suggested there would be. All in all, a really lovely wine and given that it is only a year old and has just as much complexity as a 10 year old Ontario Icewine at half the price, this wine is definitely a great value for anyone who likes to have a good supply of sweet wines on hand in their collection.

Schloss Gobelsburg
Gruner Veltliner Eiswein 2007
This is unique – none of the Icewine made in Ontario is made with a Gruner Veltliner grape so to be able to try this is an absolute treat. The aromas are mostly stone fruit (like peaches and apricots) with just a hint of melon. There is just a slight kick of spice at the front of the palate but what makes this wine absolutely amazing is that it is only two years old and shows the complexity of a 10 year old Icewine from Ontario.

Some of these wines are available for purchase through importers already but some of them are currently seeking representation. The wines from Schloss Gobelsburg and Weingut Gernot und Heike Heinrich are available through the Andrews Group at (416) 686-3235. The wines from Weingut Nigl are available through Le Sommelier Inc at http://www.lesommelier.com. The other wineries will hopefully have representation

Friday, April 24, 2009

All Hail the Great Wines of Ontario

For the past six years, the Ontario Wine Society has held an event that encompasses the largest number of VQA wines under one roof and they call it the Wonderful Wine Fair. As the Media Rep for the Toronto chapter of the Ontario Wine Society, I am responsible for attending the event, taking pictures and writing it up for the next newsletter. Now, as a walk around wine tasting with hundreds of possible wines in the room to try, this event is probably one of the more difficult events to write up. This year I took a slightly different approach to the article and decided to do a wine and food pairing article giving our members, plus anyone else who reads the newsletter, an opportunity to try some great dishes that pair with great Ontario wine. Unfortunately, the newsletter is rather limiting because it would have been quite easy to pair every wine I tasted with a great dish. Wanting to take it further has inspired me to create this blog entry in the hopes of bringing a wider variety of options to the table. So, take a look over them, try some of the dishes, try some different wine pairings if you like and let me know what you think.

I am sure that a lot of us tend to eat lighter during the summer months and so, with that in mind, here is a recipe designed to go with the Calamus Estate Winery 2007 Half Penny Rose:

Spicy Crab Cakes

1 lb Crabmeat
¾ cup Breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp Cream
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Egg
¼ cup Chopped Parsley
1/8 cup Chopped Red Onion
½ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp White Pepper
¼ tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Mix by hand and mold into cakes. Sauté in oil until golden and serve with garlic aioli and chopped basil.

Let’s move on to a nice, refreshing, crisp white wine – say the Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery 2007 Gewurztraminer. Amazing aromas and a very pleasant, slightly spicy palate made this a very pleasant pairing with the spicy Quesadilla’s the staff at the Faculty Club was passing around that evening but how about we try a different combination. I heard a couple of people saying that evening, and it is something I often hear on Twitter as well, that they always put Chardonnay’s with salmon dishes. How about we mix it up a little and put this delicious Honey Hoisin BBQ Salmon dish with a spicy Gewurztraminer? Here’s the recipe – let me know what you think:

Honey Hoisin BBQ Salmon

6 Salmon fillets

Marinade for Salmon:
Mix together the following:

1 tbsp. Fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp. Roasted garlic, pureed
1 tsp. Cracked black pepper
2 tsp. Sesame oil
2 tbsp. Rice vinegar
1 tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

Honey Hoisin BBQ Glaze:
Mix together the following:

½ cup Honey
½ cup Hoisin sauce
2 Green onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Rice vinegar
1 tsp. Cracked black pepper
2 tsp. Sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Rub the marinade all over salmon and marinate for 2 hours. Preheat grill to medium high. Place marinated salmon skin side down on grill and cook for 5-6 minutes until skin is crisp and easy to lift from grill. Turn fillets over and baste liberally with Honey Hoisin BBQ glaze. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes for medium doneness. Turn fillets over and baste meat liberally with the glaze before removing from the grill.

My favourite wine of the evening was found at the Sauvignon Blanc table – Pillitteri Estates Winery 2007 Sauvignon Blanc absolutely hit the spot…even after having drunk a couple of red wines to throw my palate off. Normally, a Sauvignon Blanc would be paired with a seafood recipe but I have one recipe that I love to pair with Sauvignon Blanc that I would love to share:

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts

2 lbs Fingerling potatoes or red skin baby potatoes
1 small Red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 Italian mild green pepper, cubanelle, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium Yellow skinned onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves Garlic, cracked away from skin
1 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and pepper
2 cups Shredded Parmesan
4 6 to 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Plum Roma tomatoes or small, vine ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
15-20 leaves Fresh basil, pile leaves, roll then thinly slice -- chiffonade

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Cut fingerling potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on thickness of fingerlings -- thin, small fingerlings may also be left hole, larger potatoes should be quartered to speed cooking process. If you are using small red potatoes, halve or quarter them in the same way.

Cover a large cookie sheet with foil. Place potatoes on cookie sheet. Combine with peppers and onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Coat the potatoes, peppers and onions with extra-virgin olive oil just enough to coat vegetables in a thin layer, 2 to 3 tablespoons. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place potatoes in the oven and roast 20 to 22 minutes, until potatoes are just tender and peppers and onions are crisp at edges. Toss mixture with tongs, turning the potatoes after 15 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a serving dish and peel the foil off the cookie sheet and discard for super-quick clean up!

While potatoes cook, prepare chicken. Roll out a 2-foot piece of waxed paper or foil near the stove top. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat -- your pan must be very hot when the chicken is added. Pile the shredded cheese on the work surface created with the waxed paper or foil. Season your chicken breasts with black pepper but no salt; the cheese will add enough salt to the taste of the dish. Press the breasts firmly into the cheese. Coat both sides of breasts with as much cheese as possible. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet, 1 turn of the pan. Set breasts into the skillet and cook 7 minutes on each side, until cheese forms an even, golden casing around the tender chicken breasts.

While chicken cooks, combine chopped tomatoes with basil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to your taste.
Drain off any excess oil from chicken as you remove it from the skillet. Top chicken with big spoonfuls of raw sauce and serve with potatoes, peppers and onions.

So, now onto the red wines – there are three that deserve highlighting…a Pinot Noir, a very interesting Nebbiolo and a hearty Cabernet Merlot blend. The Pinot Noir came from Lake Erie North Shore – from Colio Estate Wines – and is a part of the renowned 2007 vintage. One sip of this wine and you know that the 2007 vintage in Ontario is all that it is cracked up to be. Normally, and it is the safe way of doing it, red wine gets paired with red meat – but I have never been one for playing it safe and when it comes to pairing red wine, I will always break down the barriers and try some white meat dishes. For the Colio Estate CEV 2007 Pinot Noir, I am taking cue from the fact that it asks for a quarter cup of red wine in the sauce and suggesting my Chicken in Cherry Sauce instead of a red meat dish.

Chicken in Cherry Sauce

3 tbsp. Margarine
4 Large chicken breasts, halved
Salt
Pepper

Cherry sauce:

3 tbsp. Butter
1 cup Chopped onion
1 Garlic clove, minced
½ cup Chopped celery
1 cup Grated carrot
¼ cup All purpose flour
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
Cloves
2 tsp. Beef bouillon powder
1 cup Water
¼ cup Red wine
14 oz. Canned cherries with juice, halve & discard pits
2-4 tbsp. Chopped walnuts

Melt margarine in frying pan. Add chicken breasts. Brown well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender. Remove to another container to keep hot.
Cherry sauce: Melt butter in frying pan. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Sauté until soft.
Mix in flour, salt, pepper, cloves and bouillon powder. Add water and wine. Stir until it boils and thickens. Add pitted cherries and juice. Return to a boil.
Remove skin from chicken breast. Pull meat from bone keeping in one piece. To serve, chicken breasts may be left in 1 piece or cut into slices. Lay slices, overlapping, on 1 side of plate. Spoon sauce over top.
Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve remainder of sauce in separate bowl. Makes 8 servings.

Now on to the Nebbiolo – a grape varietal that is not commonly planted in Ontario but that is producing interesting results. For a wine like this you want something hearty because the wine has a wide variety of flavours and aromas and a medium big mouthfeel. You could put this wine with a rather fancy steak or roast dinner but I thought we would keep it simpler today and try it with a burger.

The Ultimate Burger

Yields 4

Balsamic Glazed Onions

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Large red onions, peeled, halved & cut into ½ inch slices
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Portobello Mushrooms

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
6 oz Portobello Mushrooms, sliced ½ inch thick
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled & finely chopped

Burger

2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 lb Ground beef, formed into 8 oz patties
Salt & Pepper, to taste
6 1 ½ oz slices Brie Cheese
6 Poppy seed Egg buns, split & toasted
2 Ripe tomatoes, sliced
6 Small handfuls fresh Arugula
Garlic mayonnaise

Directions:

Balsamic Glazed Onions

In a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat melt olive oil and butter. When hot add the onions, season and toss to coat the onions with the oil. Cooks the onions until they begin to soften. Raise the heat to high and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir until the balsamic has reduced and coated the onions. Pour the onions into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate. The onions can be refrigerated up to a week and are a delicious condiment in sandwiches or pasta dishes.

Portobello Mushrooms

In a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat melt olive oil and butter. When hot add the portobello mushrooms and season. Brown the mushrooms on one side and then on the other side. Just before removing from the pan add the garlic to the mushrooms and sauté for several minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. The mushrooms can be done several days in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Burger

Add 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil to two heavy bottomed sauté pans. Heat the oil over medium high heat and when hot add the beef patties, three per pan. Season the burgers and cook until well browned on one side. Flip the burger over and continue to cook on the other side until the desired doneness is reached – eight to twelve minutes total.

Just before serving lay some of the mushroom slices on each of the burgers and top with the brie cheese. Turn the heat on underneath the pan and cover with a lid for several minutes to melt the Brie. Lay some of the balsamic onions on the bottom of the bun and top with the tomato slices. Garnish the top of the bun with some garlic mayonnaise. Add the burger to the bun, top with arugula and serve.

Now, our final wine of the evening is the Vineland Estate Winery’s 2005 Cabernet Merlot Reserve. Now, this wine is a powerhouse – fruit, jam, a little bit of vegetal in the aromas and flavours. It is meant for big meat and it fits perfectly with the Cocoa-Crusted Tenderloin with Stilton Crumble recipe I have.

Cocoa-Crusted Tenderloin with Stilton Crumble

2 ½ lbs Beef Tenderloin roast
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp Coarsely ground pepper
2 tbsp Cocoa, sifted if lumpy
2 tbsp Smoked sweet Paprika
1 ¼ tsp Salt
2 oz Stilton cheese, crumbled

Rub entire surface of roast with olive oil. Combine next five ingredients and rub over roast. Prepare grill for indirect medium-high heat with a drip pan. Cook for 30 minutes, then rotate roast 180 degrees. Cook for about 30 minutes until internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare or until roast reaches desired doneness. Cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut roast into ½ inch thick slices and then sprinkle with Stilton cheese. Serves 8.

So, after all of this, I hope you have some great ideas for summer cooking and grilling as well as some great wines to pair it with. If you try any of these recipes with different wines and like the combination, feel free to post back here what wine it was and what you thought. I’m sure we would all love to try a different combination given the

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discover the Wines of Portugal

Several times a year the wineries of Portugal come to Toronto – some of the events are large and some of them are small. On Tuesday, April 14th, trade people in Toronto were treated to a medium sized tasting made up of producers who, for the most part, were looking for representation in the area. Now, what this means is that while you may have a hard time getting your hands on most of these wines right now, once they have representation, they have some really amazing prices on their wines so that they can enter into our market relatively easy.

This particular tasting was host to nine wineries, approximately seventy different whites, roses, reds and Ports to sample. Here are some of my favourites:

Adega Cooperativa de Favaios
Foral da Vila DOC 2007 White
Just an amazing floral, fruity nose on this wine followed by an incredible balance of flavours on the palate. Although, traditionally, Rose’s are the summer sippers of choice, this one is a very pleasant change and may quickly become a favourite.

Uniao das Adegas Cooperativasda Regiao dos Vinhos Verdes, UCRL
Terras de Gelgueiras Espadeiro 2007 Rose
There is a nice little hit of effervescence floating up through the glass which makes this a very “pretty” wine to look at. Although the nose does become very faint when it is over chilled (which is why you will want this wine a little less cool than you would normally have a Rose), the flavours in the glass more than make up for it. Although I would not normally associate a cheese flavour with a Rose wine since it tends to be more fruit than anything else, this particular wine has a distinctive smoked Gouda flavour that is unmistakable.
They were passing around crostini with Mozzarella and Basil at the tasting that matched perfectly with this wine so it stands to reason that this wine will pair perfectly with a Margherita Pizza.

Cooperativa Agricola Santo Isidro de Pegoes
Adega de Pegoes Trincadeira 2007
This is one of those wines that sneaks up on you. On the nose, there is very little to this but when you take your first taste beware because you could end up with whiplash. Mark, who tasted this wine alongside me, said “it goes from 0-60 in 3 seconds.” If you want a fabulous food pairing with this here are two words for you – MINI BURGERS!

Soadegas – Sociedade Comercial de Vinhos, LDA
Mirante 2007 Red
Everything about this wine was amazing – the colour, the aromas, the flavours. The colour was this raspberry red shade with a purple hue…unlike anything I had seen before. The aromas were a wonderful combination of berry fruit and floral while the flavours were smooth, silky, perfectly balanced and a continuation of the aromas. Without a doubt, this was the best table wine I had that day.

Caves Santa Marta Vinhos e Derivados, CRL
Porto 10 Anos
Very pleasant Port overall – aromas of raisins & currants, flavours of the same with a hit of spice at the end. Definitely a great way to finish off an evening.

Caves Santa Marta Vinhos e Derivados, CRL
Porto LBV 2000
Slightly sweeter than the 10 year old Port above but very similar flavours. The extra time on the vines contributes to the extra sweetness – similar to how a Late Harvest wine from Ontario is slightly sweeter than a table wine.

Caves Santa Marta Vinhos e Derivados, CRL
Porto Vintage 2004
To be a Vintage port, the grapes used in it have to be picked in a year that Portugal’s governing body on wines designates as a Vintage year – 2004 was such a year. Although this is the youngest wine on the table, it is showing much more complexity and intrigue than any of its older counterparts so imagine how this is going to taste 10, 20 and 30 years down the road. If you are looking for a good food pairing for this, the restaurant was serving a goat cheese and olive crostini that went very well with it but anything with goat cheese and black olives will work.

Caves Vale do Rodo, CRL
Porto Vintage 2004
As I mentioned with the previous wine, Portugal’s governing body on wines designated 2004 as a Vintage year. This particular wine epitomizes exactly why 2004 was designated such a year. It has an amazing purple ruby colour going on with it and the aromas have this really intriguing mix of cooked fruit but with just a kick of citrus…well, mostly lemon but I think I caught a hint of orange as well just before I took a sip of it. The aromas continue on to the flavours making it seamless and this particular Port had a long, lingering, smooth, delectable finish. Definitely a perfect way to end the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunny California is Calling…but it’s in Toronto

Every year, a large number of California wineries make their way up to Canada and tour the country presenting their wines for both trade professionals and wine lovers alike to try. At the beginning of April, the California Wine Tour arrives in Toronto at the Fairmont Royal York and fills the room to capacity while GTAers sample the largest selection of California wines under one roof. The wineries come from as far north as Mendocino County, which is north of Sonoma Valley to as far south as Santa Barbara County in the Central Coast region.

Twelve different wine regions are represented – Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Los Carneros, Lodi, San Fran Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Amador – and the sheer number of wines makes it impossible to try all of them…to even try one eighth of them. So, how do you go about finding that amazing wine that you can picture having with friends and family at your next party? It is not always easy, and it is a little bit daunting when you see the size of this event but IT IS POSSIBLE. If I learned one thing this year at this event is that you need to keep an open mind – my favourite wines of the day came from a winery that, in the past, I had always considered to be silly, laughable, and – essentially – not worth the waste of time. Boy was I ever wrong! With an event this size, you tend to need to do a little bit of research prior to arriving and have a divide and conquer approach once you get through the doors. The California Wine Institute makes the research part very easy to accomplish – more than a month before the event, a list is available on the website announcing which wineries are participating so you have a general idea of who will be attending. A lot of the same wineries return from year to year so when you find a winery you like, it is always a good idea to return the following year to see what they have available in their current releases. When we got to the event, my colleague and I grabbed a tasting book and quickly flipped through the pages to mark off the wineries we wanted to visit. Once that was done we decided to start randomly selecting wineries that we had not already visited in the hopes of finding something really incredible.

Mark’s table of choice was actually two wineries in one – Dierberg Family of Wines and Silverado Vineyards – and what a find that was. There were two Sauvignon Blancs on the table, a Chardonnay to die for and a Syrah to finish it off. The 2006 Star Lane Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc was everything you can expect from a typical Sauvignon Blanc. It had an excellent balance of fruit and acidity with flavours of mandarin orange, lemon and grapefruit making it mouthwateringly delicious. The second Sauvignon Blanc – from Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley – was a year younger (from the 2007 vintage) and was at the same price point as the first Sauvignon Blanc…around $20 Cdn. There is a lesson to be learnt here – a year can contribute to a lot of changes in the finished product in the bottle and that is never more apparent than with these two wines. The 2007 Silverado Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was overflowing with aromas of grass, flint and citrus while the palate carried the citrus flavours to the max – honeyed grapefruit, slight hints of fig and melon with a very noticeable presence of Thai lemongrass to round it out. I happened to visit California in 2007 for research on a book I was writing and while I will never forget that 2007 is proclaimed to be the Vintage of the decade in Ontario, the same can easily be said for California.

Now, on to the amazing Chardonnay that was on the table. There was a time, not all that long ago, when Chardonnay from California equated to a heavily oaked, not very interesting, single flavoured wine. Thankfully, times are changing and California Chardonnay’s no longer taste like you are “licking the inside of an oak barrel”. The Star Lane Vineyards 2006 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay was amazing from start to finish. The aromas of this wine are unmistakably fruity – mango, grapefruit and lemongrass are immediately identifiable when you take your first sniff. The flavours continue along the same line with a lot of citrus – mostly lemon – with just a slight hint of cream and hazelnuts. This wine has such amazing balance of the different flavours that the $32 price tag is well worth every penny of it.

As we were finishing up the last wine on the table – the Dierberg Vineyard 2006 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah – we got our tip for our next table, which I will get to in just a moment. The Syrah was almost a contradiction of terms – it was smooth and silky in one taste but then strong and forceful in the next. Almost like yin and yang battling it out for the optimum balance – but in a glass this time. The predominant aroma of grilled meat epitomizes why this powerhouse red always pairs well with steaks and your Mom’s Roast Beef. Adding to the grilled meat aroma was a variety of berry, smoke and herbs. These aromas continued on to the flavours making it a seamless transition in what we are tasting but the struggle between yin and yang on the palate is what made this wine indescribably amazing.

So, what was that tip of our next table to try – it was Bonny Doon Vineyards. For as long as I can remember, Bonny Doon Vineyards had this perception of California jug wine and a very odd website. Well, some people may still call that website odd - my descriptor would be intriguing and maybe a little wacky – but the perception of California jug wine could not be further from the truth. The specific recommendation for this table was their Malvasia Bianca – which is a typical aromatic white wine. Most of the “aromatic whites” produced in Ontario wineries are either Rieslings or Gewurztraminers so it is very refreshing to try an aromatic white wine that is not available in Ontario’s vineyards. Malvasia Bianca is a great combination of floral, melon and citrus notes all combined into one and this one was one of the best wines of the day. The other great wine – and this was Mark’s favourite of the afternoon – was 2004 Le Cigare Volant. You will not find the combination of grapes used in this wine anywhere in Ontario – but they are the combination that makes up the famed Chateauneuf du Pape wines from France. This particular wine was a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault and the aromas were very fruit forward – a wonderful combination of black cherry and raspberry with just a hint of licorice to make it interesting. The flavours are a perfect continuation of the aromas – berry and cherry that continued on to show black raspberry and an herbal backbone. It was silky smooth, and was the perfect balance of flavours, tannins and acidity. This would be great with a wide variety of grilled meats and you could even try a salmon fillet with it if you want

Friday, April 17, 2009

Organic wine & food matching: Quivira "Wine Creek" Zinfandel & cheeses-to-die-for

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.

Eating and Drinking Green Makes Sense

So now we that we have choices between organic and non-organic foods, eco-friendly and non-eco stiletto heels, hybrid and non-hybrid cars, etc., why aren’t most of us making the choice to drink green as well?

I suspect that, on an intellectual level, many of us figure that since wine is an alcoholic drink made from grapes, the organic-ness of a bottle is neither here nor there. The truth is far from that.

If you’ve visited vineyards in California or France, for instance, and looked at an organic vineyard that happens to be next to a non-organic vineyard, the differences are quite visible. Compared to organic vineyards, non-organic or “conventional” vineyards always look lifeless, practically dead: all you see is dirt between the rows, since any growth apart from vines is usually zapped with herbicides. In organic vineyards, you see not only wild grasses, brush and trees in and around the vines, and cover crops of herbs, beans and flowers planted between the rows, but also a landscape that is literally abuzz with activity – ladybugs, bees, wasps and spiders hopping between the leaves, birds all aflutter, and even squirrels and field mice (hence the owl huts normally found around sustainable vineyards) scuttling about.

If the vineyard happens to be cultivated in the even more biodiverse, holistic style called Biodynamic® – which requires at least 10% of a vineyard property to be devoted to forest, wetland, grassland, or as “insectories,” plus integration of active farm life – you’re also likely to see chickens scampering between the vines, sheep or goats munching on grass, and cattle (valued for their compost enriching manure) lowing nearby.

There is more than a world, but a universe of difference between an organic and non-organic vineyard. Between a vineyard cultivated with natural compost, monitored by beneficial insects and animals, and sprayed with teas made from herbs, compared to a vineyard hooked intravaneously to liquid fertilizer drips, zapped with herbicides, and sprayed constantly with insecticides. I know wine contains anesthesizing alcohol, but gee whiz: where would you prefer the grapes going into your wine to come from?

Quivira “Wine Creek Ranch” Zinfandel & cheeses-to-die-for

I’m recommending today’s Organic Wine Match of the Day – the 2006 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Wine Creek Ranch Zinfandel (about $34) – not only because it is 100% Biodynamic® grown and produced, but also because it’s one of the greatest Zinfandels I’ve ever tasted (and I came of Zin drinking age in 1976).

For those of you just getting a handle on biodynamics: Demeter USA actually certifies vineyards and wineries in two separate categories: “Wines Made with Biodynamic® Grapes,” and what they call “Biodynamic® Wine.” Quivira’s Wine Creek Ranch Zinfandel qualifies for the latter because not only is it grown biodynamically, it is also vinified with the highest natural standards: primarily defined by use of natural (rather than cultured) yeasts, zero additives (like sugar, tannin and acid “adjustments,” and bacteria to start malolactic fermentation), and restricted use of sulfites at bottling (for dry wines, less than 100 parts per million).

But the most important thing, however, is always how a Biodynamic® Wine tastes, and Quivira’s is an ultimate Sonoma style Zinfandel: thick as pudding, plump as a Christmas goose, and absolutely teeming with lively, concentrated, nostril tingling raspberry fruit, flooding the palate with an amazingly lithe, velvety texture despite a munificence of tannin and typical big Z alcohol (15.5%). Kudos to Quivira winemaker Steven Canter (pictured right).

Although I normally don’t hesitate to throw the Polish dogs, onion studded burgers or sweet/spicy marinated ribs on the grill when I bring up the bottles of Zin from the bottom floor, an epic bottling like the Wine Creek Ranch almost makes you want to save it for the end of a good meal, when you can show special friends and family how even a wham-bam-thank-you-m’am can shine with some well chosen cheeses.

My first choice? Have you ever had a white truffle specked Boschetto al Tartufo with a perfect Zin? Then you haven’t lived. The springy, sumptuous texture of this blend of sheep and cow milk cheese fills in the grains between a big, tannin laden Zin like the Wine Creek Ranch; while the pungent truffle, which overwhelms almost all other wines, adds complexing notes to the wine’s raspberry liqueur-like aromas.

Second and third choices: also from Italy, a Chili Pepper Pecorino’s subtle spice and grassy sheep’s milk edge brings out the peppery varietal spice almost lost in the lusciousness of a Zinfandel like the Wine Creek Ranch; while the deep, caramelized, well aged Goudas, like the Beemster 18 Year Old or Beemster XO, are some of the few cheeses in the world with the strength to carry a big Zin, and with enough natural sweet, crystal textured qualities to underscore the wine’s penetrating fruitiness.

What the heck, why don’t you go for all three of them, and throw in a fun blue veined cheese (one favorite: Holland’s Moulin Bleu) to complete the spread. Ah, life… ah Zinfandel!

Monday, April 13, 2009

MARCH WINE MADNESS


MARCH WINE MADNESS T Edwards Style
Saturday, April 11, 2009

T EDWARDS MARCH WINE TASTING MADNESS
T EDWARDS, wine importers and distributors have done it again. Tom Byrnes and his knowledgeable sales staff created a very special Trade 'Wine Tasting' event that centered around MARCH MADNESS and the final game...North Carolina versus Michigan State.The all day tasting started at eleven in the morning and finished when the game was over, well past eleven at night. The tasting took place in T Edwards office space that is devoted to fun. This annex office has foosball, electric guitars and a drum set, a full kitchen and an amazing large flatscreen tv mounted on a soundproof wall.Over 175 wines were self-poured from four wine stations...one for whites and sparkling, the second for rose's and the third and fourth for reds.There were many standouts in this wonderful display of value wines that should be found or asked for at your favorite retail store. The wines I liked were numerous, but, I 'll name a few worth trying. For Prosecco, try La Colture Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut DOC 'Fagher', a true crowd pleaser. For whites try a buttery, toasty California Chardonnay, 2005 Three Saints Santa Maria. And reds, the pleasing 2007 D. Bosler Pinot Noir.T Edwards, like Lauber Imports (who, also had a March madness tasting from 10pm to 1am several weeks earlier) have taken MARCH MADNESS to new heights in the wine world for professionals.I now have more reason to look forward to next year's MARCH MADNESS than ever before.
Posted by PHILIP.KAMPE@TheWineHub.com at 5:14 AM 0 comments
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

An Afternoon of Aussie Shiraz

Mr Riggs 2006 Shiraz “The Gaffer”
$23.95 (Cdn) per 750mL
**** (4 stars out of 5)


Very pleasant aromas – most fruit; not overly intense. Black fruit & spice predominate the palate; blueberry on the finish. Good firm tannins make this wine ready to drink now but it would be very interesting to see it in 1-2 years.

Mr Riggs 2006 Shiraz
$55.00 (Cdn) per 750mL
**** (4 ½ stars out of 5)


One of the two darkest table wines of today’s tasting. Similar aromas to “The Gaffer” but deeper and more complex with the addition of tar, leather and a slight hint of cocoa once it has had an opportunity to open up. There was a very large, silky mouthfeel to this wine with flavours of black fruit, spice and more blueberry. Although this wine would definitely benefit from aging, it is tasting great right now so you might have a hard time being patient and letting this one age.

Mr Riggs 2007 “Coonawarra” Cabernet Sauvignon
$22.95 (Cdn) per 750mL
*** (3 ½ stars out of 5)


The only reason why this wine is scoring so low is because it does need some time – give it 3-4 years and it has the potential to be an amazing Cab. If you are drinking it now, decant this for a couple of hours to let the wine really open up and you will be treated to a vegetal, herbal nose that continues on to the palate. It has a very big mouthfeel (like any truly great Cab should) and you can detect the oak influences at the moment but the tannins are smooth and it will benefit from aging.

Penny’s Hill 2007 Shiraz “Red Dot”
$30.00 (Cdn) per 750mL
**** (4 ½ stars out of 5)


This was the second table wine that was extremely dark in today’s tasting. Predominant fruit nose with just a slight (and I do mean slight) hint of cooked fruit. This wine has the potential to have one of those huge, over the top, mouthfeels – it’s almost there now. There are lots of black fruit flavours to it but it is not quite overpowering on that front either. Definitely falls into the category of can drink now but if you can, age it for 2-3 years.

Penny’s Hill 2004 Fortified Shiraz
$37.95 (Cdn) per 500mL
**** (4 ½ stars out of 5)


This wine is unfiltered so don’t be surprised if you see some sediment in the bottom of your glass when you have finished every sweet, delectable drop. When it comes to dessert wines from Australia, the wineries tend to make Port style wines as opposed to Icewines, Late Harvests, Sauternes, etc. This particular wine was made using 100% Shiraz grapes and is so dark that “blacker than sin” is the only way to describe the colour. It is thick, inky and coats the glass and your throat the whole way down. Hopefully the smell of prune juice on the nose won’t put you off trying a taste of this heavenly decadence that has a slight hint of spice at the back. Personally, I would love this with nothing more than Michael Potter’s Chocolate Souffle.

In Ontario, Penny’s Hill and Mr Riggs Wines are available through:

John Hanna & Sons
http://winetrader.ca/index.php

In the United States, they can be found through:

Epicurean Wines
http://www.epicureanwines.com/Epicurean%20Wines.swf

In Europe, please check the Penny’s Hill and Mr Riggs websites for specific information:

http://www.pennyshill.com.au/purchase/
http://www.mrriggs.com.au/international.htm