Saturday, May 29, 2010

Throw the wine geeks out! (or, summer is for pink wines)

Real Men Drink Rosé is the the title of the latest post on Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant's Inspiring Thirst blog. Yes, indeed they do; especially the dry, minerally charged rosés (the opposite of tutti-fruity) imported by this iconic Berkeley importer.

Even us ragtag, everyday-is-a-bad-hair day winos can think pink without our bumhood being challenged. Blue skies and beating suns this time each year always make me think of a long departed, newspaper cartoonist friend of mine named Harry Lyons, who could always be counted on for an encouraging word; and not just during the countless hours we shared at a certain dark bar we frequented some years ago in Hawai`i.

Harry penned a series of articles called The Vagabond Gourmet for the same restaurant industry publication (long defunct) I wrote for; and my all-time favorite was one he called "Wine Bums" – about the scourge of the “Gallic dandies” who once dominated the sommelier profession in the sixties and seventies:

Not very long ago, a guy whose only felony was craving red wines with his fish course was made to feel like a buffoon and pariah. Wine stewards would turn in their keys before they’d serve the dreaded, bastard rosé wine. And to bring you wine “on the rocks?” It is to laugh. In short, diners whose tastes in wines and service requirements differed from the dreary norm were considered on the same social level as the bleary, bearded hobo with feet wrapped in newspaper and cigar stub on a toothpick, cooking his beans in a can over a fire while swilling Muscatel from a jug in a pager bag… bums!

And yes, the late, great Harry Lyons that I knew in the eighties brazenly drank all his wine on the rocks (Burgundy, Chablis or Vin Rosé, he never discriminated), which even I wouldn’t dare in those days. Despite his calling himself a “wine bum,” we both knew that in reality he was more of a connoisseur than so-called connoisseurs. Like a true connoisseur, he consumed his wine with knowing relish, rather than with self-conscious superficiality.

I like to think we’ve evolved far beyond those dark, old days of “fine dining” and “continental cuisine,” when sommeliers (like me) wore velvet bows, cummerbunds, chains and ashtrays over their frilly tuxedo shirts, and when much of what was called service entailed “teaching” customers the proper ways to enjoy food or wine (or as Harry often put it, “the hoary old matches that originated in Europe”), but oft-times I wonder... especially in this day and age of 100 point scores, and the obsessive prattle of wine geeks and collectors, unknowingly (or so it seems to me) fueled by lifestyle magazines and journalists determined to pigeonhole wine into neat, little quality categorizations suitable for Consumer Reports. Shut up and drink your wine!

Where have all the wine bums gone?

Harry Lyons was ahead of his time, but he probably wouldn’t have given a hoot about all this anyway. He'd just order up another round for all, asking for another side of rocks for his jug wine rosé!


Summery pink wines taste great by themselves, and are even better with food – from hobo style weenies on toothpicks, to endless Babette-like feasts among babbling foodies. The following are my favorites, which I suggest with one caveat: never, never buy a bottle that is over two years old. For pink wines, dry or sweet, it’s always the-fresher-the-better…

SoloRosa (California) – Now here’s an idea whose time has come: a North Coast brand specializing in exactly one wine – a bone dry rosé. And no, it’s not a “Rhône Ranger” or anything gimmicky like that, but rather a serious winery, sourcing Sangiovese, Merlot and occasionally some syrah from the Russian River and Napa Valleys that are grown for the express purpose of producing the finest, juiciest pink wine possible. The good news is that it’s been a winner – avoiding the rough, burnt out, annoyingly overripe taste of many North Coast rosés of the past. Instead, SoloRosa is consistently rich and refined, neither light-weight nor heavy, with creamy, barrel fermented textures underlying usually an intense mélange of raspberry, cranberry and strawberry fruitiness, with just enough citrus-like crispness to keep things honest.

One of the easiest things in the world for good dry pink is salmon – cast iron or charcoal grill charred, simply brushed with butter, or lavished in ponzu marinades or even sweetened soy glazes. But despite its dryness, SoloRosa’s fruit qualities are luscious enough to balance almost any chili spiced meat, red or white, as well tearfully hot dishes like Jamaican jerks, Cajun blackened or chili specked Thai shrimp, or pork coated in Szechuan spices. This is one wine that can be put to work; which, of course, is what SoloRosa has been about since its noble inception.

Bokisch, Lodi Rosada
(California) - Produced from garnacha (a.k.a. grenache), which tends to express more of a strawberry fruitiness; and Bokisch's is as fresh as they come. In the best Southern French and Spanish tradition, this a completely dry style of rosé, exuding a bell ringing varietal fruitiness with cranberry/pomegranate-like zip, its body full yet fluid on the palate. Naturally Hispanophile grower/vintners Markus and Liz Bokisch would suggest Spanish style tapas, although the wine is great sitting on patio table by its lonesome. I've enjoyed the Bokisch with marinated shrimp and fresh chopped chile spiced guacamole in one of those restaurants where they mix the avocado in an oversized stone mortar at the table for you. Given my Hawaiian island inclinations, I also think this would be dynamite with simple fried little fish (like anchovy and sardines) and rice seasoned with everything from Japanese furikake (chopped seaweed and sesame seed seasonings) to pickled ginger, umé (sweet-sour plum), soy, and sesame seeds.

Rosé di Regaleali
(Sicily) - The world owes Italian wine importer Leonardo LoCascio a debt of gratitude for discovering this perennial winner and bringing it to America. Made from indigenous Sicilian grapes, this is always a completely dry rosy colored wine, and its juicy, fleshy, mouth-watering flavors allow it to cross all kinds of food barriers. Red barbecued chicken is a no-brainer; so is meatloaf in an herby, mushroomy or tomato-laced gravy, or anything pink like salmon or half-rare tuna

Robert Sinskey, Carneros Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
(Napa Valley, California - Although very little of this precious fluid is made each year, I was pleased to discover (during a meeting with Rob Sinskey last year) that this full fledged Biodynamic© winery is determined to keep this wine in its portfolio. Especially since this is this is as refined as a pink wine gets, yet always more exuberant than the occasional sightings of Marsannay rosés (also made from pinot noir) coming out of Burgundy each year. Speaking of which, whenever you find a recent vintage of French rosé from Marsannay, Chinon (made from cabernet franc) or Cassis (primarily from grenache), praise the lord and buy the bottle; and I would spend more time talking about such delicacies if their supply in the U.S. were more consistent. Typically, the Sinskey vin gris is very pale in color, bone dry, lithe, delicate, and bursting with fragrant, red fruit with rose hip tea-like suggestions: not something you have to think twice about with summer pastas in fresh herbed marinara or cold shrimp with sweet-spicy cocktail sauces; and although it's not exactly everyday (unless you live in Plan du Castellet like Mr. Lynch), some duck confit, cornichons and olive oil drizzled rockette would be nice.

Charles Melton, Barossa Valley Rosé of Virginia (Australia) - My first taste of this seriously bone dry and full structured pink wine was in one of L.A. star chef Joachim Splichal’s restaurants – matched with foie gras with rhubarb and strawberries! With fireworks, drums, and entire symphonies going off in my head, the wine’s luscious, cherry-bright fruitiness made this powerful dish even richer and more decadent. How many rosés can do that? Every year Charles Melton’s grenache based Rosé of Virginia is as rich and full as a pink wine gets. Therefore I suspect that it could do just as well with grilled fish with chutney, squab with figs, duck with plum sauce, or any other dish that combines meats and natural fruits.

The iconic Kermit Lynch (Berkeley, 2009)

Château de Trinquevedel, Tavel Rosé
(Rhône Valley, France) - Imported by Kermit Lynch, this is the richest French rosé I know; firmly dry, yet effusively fruity, giving deep, full, lip smacking flavors just hinting at wet stones and green leafy herbs. Wines like this easily handle grilled chicken, roast turkey, squab, pigeon, and any game bird, especially with generous sides of squash and root vegetables.

Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé
(Provence, France) - Also associated with Kermit Lynch, and produced by the Peyraud family, who has inspired legions of American gastronomes like Richard Olney and Alice Waters. Yet this is pink wine, not the stuff of royalty. What you will always find in Domaine Tempier’s rosé is something remarkably fresh, flowing, bone dry yet forwardly fruity – the essence of miniature sweet strawberries rolling across the tongue – finishing with a soft, stony smoothness. If you think ”Provence” when you pop a Tempier – ravioli and ragout, salt cod (or brandade) and anchovy, pesto and aioli, ratatouille and bouillabaisse, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, etc. – you really can’t go wrong. In a pinch, Château de Pibarnon also makes an excellent Bandol Rosé – even dryer and firmer than the Domaine Tempier’s, but no less soulful.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A monthly quiz about Austria and its wines. With great prizes!

Dear wine lover,

A new wine quiz is available @ .
Go show how much you know about Austria and its wines!

This special quiz is being offered to you by the European Wine Bloggers Conference that will take place in Vienna later this year (October 22-24).
Haven't you heard about this event yet? Go to
and sign up while you still can. Places are limited!

What makes this quiz special? We're giving prizes every month to the 5 best players!
Whoever gets on the top of the scores of the month will win the great book "Genesis Vines Grapes Wine" - - offered by Wines From Austria.
2nd to 5th places will get a brand new TheWineHub t-shirt with the quote "Small People Talk About Things, Average People Talk About Ideas And Great People Talk About Wine."
A random player (independent of the score) also gets a t-shirt!
Then, in October during the EWBC, the highest score of the October quiz (to be played "live" in Vienna) will get our best prize ever... Apple's new Ipad!!

If you are new to the quiz, it's a multiple choice questionnaire that displays a mix of levels of difficulty, so wine lovers at different stages of expertise can enjoy it.

Scoring System - This is how the scoring system works:
4 questions “beginner” = 125 points each - 4 questions “intermediate” = 100 points each - 2 questions “advanced” = 50 points each - Total = 1,000 points

All the Austrian quizzes are revised by Wines From Austria. If you want to know more about them...

Enjoy the game!

TheWineHub Team

GBP International, LLC –

Wednesday, May 26, 2010



Mr. Duboeuf describes the vintage as " Complex, generous dark fruit aromas with hints of kirsch, hearty,full-bodied, fleshy and structured on the palate, with a smooth finish".

The 2009 BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES will retail for $9.99 on the shelf and will be available later in the year. The wines are presently being introduced to the trade.

Thanks to WJ Deutsch, the distributor of Beaujolais-Villages, I was given a Sneak Preview. A sample bottle of the 2009 Beaujolais-Villages arrived at my door unannounced (Thank You M.Young Communications) .
The chemist, in me, said that it was time to examine the contents of the bottle and see if George Duboeuf's statements that this is "THE VINTAGE OF A LIFETIME" is accurate. Mr. Duboeuf also refers to the vintage as 'THE VINTAGE OF THE SUN', due to last year's superb weather.

BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES is the name of a group of 38 villages that comprise the winemaking areas that produce this 'Superior' wine.

'Superior' refers to greater complexity in bouquet, higher concentration and deeper flavor.


A.O.C. Status was given in April, 1950.

The single varietal used is 100% GAMAY.

The 38 vineyard's altitude ranges from 800 to 1500 feet.

15,000 acres are utilized for this vintage.

The soil is granite with occasional sand.

The vines are harvested manually, whole bunches, unstemmed.

Alcohol level is 12.5%.

Residual Sugar is 1.5g/750ml.


There is a marked RICHNESS and FULLNESS that makes this wine stand apart from Beaujolais-Villages of the past. Possibly the outstanding bouquet of strawberry and black currant tantalize the nose, combined with the velvety, soft-tannins and concentrated fruit flavors that overpower your palate.


The wine is a magnet for various foods, especially pasta, pizza, chicken breast and hors d' oeuvres.

The 2009 BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES will be known as a true 'CLASSIC' wine for centuries to come.


Next week, I will join George Duboeuf in New York to taste "THE VINTAGE OF A LIFETIME".
I can't wait to "TASTE THE SUN"


Brought to you by...

Chateau des Moriers - Miss Vicky Wine Fleurie 2007 
This Fleurie is fresh, elegant, fun and sexy. You will love its feminine features and gourmand flavors of ripe cherry and red currant.  Soft and crispy in the mouth, it is also a bouquet of flowers to give you a breath of spring.  It would be a perfect accompaniment with summer dishes or on its own.  This wine goes very well with poultry, soups, lightly spiced dishes, goat cheese or Camembert.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Last year I attended my first 'TOAST of THE TOWN', sponsored by the Wine Enthusiast.


For $99 you can Sample food from over 30 of New York's Finest Restaurants and Sample
500 (Yes, I said FIVE HUNDRED) wines and various spirits.

Tickets can be purchased online at: www.wineenthusiast/toast

You will Sample wines from the following vineyards:














The RESTAURANTS that are participating in this event are:







ACADEMIA di VINO and many more......

The Event will be a SPECTACULAR Evening of WINE, SPIRITS and MUSIC (Yes, Live Music) PAIRED with Culinary Creations fron New York's TOP RESTAURANTS....

BUY your tickets NOW!!!


Friday, May 21, 2010


After NINE Generations, you would think GUY SAGET Vineyards would know how to make Premium Loire Valley White Wines. Well, they do!!

I had the opportunity to sample wines produced by the SAGET Brothers, Jean-Louis and Christian. The brothers, who grew up on the vineyard explore the best expression of Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. All of the wines sampled resemble the terroir of the Loire Valley. They are all very ALIVE!

100% Sauvignon Blanc 12.5% Alcohol
Dry white wine Pale straw color Lemon Citrus
Flowery fruit flavors Minerality Acidity

100% Sauvignon Blanc 12.5% Alcohol
Bright Gold color Fresh Exotic fruit aroma Peach Melon Apricot
Melon finish Very food friendly Drink young

100% Sauvignon Blanc 12.5% Alcohol
Aroma is fruity Lively Blackcurrent overtones
Complex Acidity Minerality Long finish

100% Melon de Bourgogne 12% Alcohol
Golden straw color Floral and flowery nose
Acidic Minerality Pear Peach Grapefruit Floral flavor

The GUY SAGET wines are priced between $11 to $29 and are available at many
wine shops throughout the country. This was my first introduction to the world of GUY SAGET wines and certainly not my last!!


Monday, May 17, 2010


On Thursday evening,May 20th, The Roosevelt Hotel (Madison at 45th Street) will be home to New York's LARGEST Single MALT SCOTCH and WHISKY tasting. The event is co-hosted by the Robb Report and The Single Malt Scotch and Whisky Society.

Tickets are $120 for Society members or a $135 for non-members.

For Membership in this Esclusive Society, visit or call 1-800-990-1991 to learn the advantages of membership.

The Single Malt and Whisky Extravaganza takes place in 13 cities throughout America. The Spring 2010 Tour ends in NYC and is a must for any serious single malt scotch and whisky enthusiast.

The Extravagana was and is the first tasting that offers both the Novice and Discerning enthusiast the opportunity to taste over 100 prestigious varieties of single malt scotch and whiskies. Scotlands Single Malts and Whiskies will be sampled, along with Single Malts from Ireland and Japan.

The Objective of the evening is to promote the Appreciation and discerning consumption of the Finest Whisky in the World. The scotch and whisky pourers will educate you with their knowledge and understanding of those whiskies they pour.

Included in the entrance fee will be a buffet, a souviner tasting glass, premium cigars, raffle prizes and a copy of the latest Robb Report.

Prior to the tasting, a Whisky Extravaganza Symposium will take place at 5:30pm. The Whisky Panel will answer any and all of your questions. Alan Shayne, President of SMWSA will present Opening Remarks.

The tasting takes place from 6:30-9pm.

Visit to purchase tickets, before the event is SOLD OUT!!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Chenin Blanc Champions

Chenin Blanc Champions at the South African Wine Show

Andre Shearer, Cape Classics

Ken Forrester, Ken Forrester Wines

Sean Grifiths, Kanu

“When we talk about Chenin Blanc, South Africa is the natural default”

Ken Forrester

There are absolutely astonishing Chenin Blanc wines coming out of South Africa today. Wines with an amazing fruit, wines that will please consumers and, very important to mention as well, these are wines that have an exceptional value.

Chenin Blanc has a long history in South Africa. The Dutch brought it from the Loire Valley in as early as 1655. It is been in the Cape region for over 350 years now.

With this extensive history and abundance of sunshine, it offers a bridge between the new and the old world.

It is the largest cultivar in South Africa with about 19,000 ha. In today’s numbers, it represents about 18% of all the plantings (112,000 ha total). That translates to the largest plantings of Chenin Blanc of the world.

Many different styles of Chenin Blanc wines are produced. From light un-wooded, fresh and fruity wines; then rich and ripe and wooded wines; to the most rich, opulent and delicious dessert wines.

Here are some of the reasons why:

· South Africa has a variety of different clones of Chenin Blanc.

· Incredible diversity of the Cape. You can plant on the flats or on the slopes of the numerous mountains of the region.

· South Africa has the oldest soils with vineyards of the world. Not only slightly older than the soils from the other continents, but 180 million older than any other soil of the planet!

· The vineyards with plantings of Chenin Blanc have a high percentage of older vines. These old vines yield a little less grapes and, hence, are capable of producing better wines.

· The cold ocean winds (“The Cape Doctor”) have a huge influence on the vineyards, cooling down what would be otherwise a much warmer region.

Here is the list of the wines tasted and respective retail prices, notes and comments:

1. Raats Family Wines “Original” Chenin Blanc 2009 W.O. Coastal Region

Approx. retail in the US: $13.00

Light pale yellow color. Very clean palate. Fresh and fruity with some minerality. Very good acidity to balance the ripe fruit flavors. It is good to drink now and should pair really well with shellfish or with some spicy wine dishes.

The wine is made from grapes grown in two different sites. One (where about 60% of the grapes come from), where the vines are grown in decomposed sandstone, giving the wine very ripe fruit flavors; the other (where about 40% of the grapes come from), where they are grown in decomposed dolomite granite, which is very rich in chalk and gives citrus, lime and minerality to the wines. After fermentation, the wines are blended together to give the full spectrum of the Chenin Blanc flavors to the wine.

2. Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009 W.O. Western Cape

Approx. retail in the US: $14.00

Light pale yellow color. Very fruity with some light oak notes on the palate. This wine has a good potential for aging well for years to come.

10% of the wine is fermented in wood with natural yeasts (about 30 % of the wine is fermented with wild yeasts).

Closure: screw cap.

3. DeMorgenzon Chenin Blanc 2008 W.O. Stellenbosch

Approx. retail in the US: $29.00

Golden yellow color. Rich and ripe, oak influenced style. Very intense palate and a full mouthfeel. Nuts and ripe fruit blended together to deliver a rather complex wine.

The wine comes from 40 year-old bush vines. It’s aged in French oak (small barrels, 60% new) for about 8 months.

4. Rudera Chenin Blanc 2008 W.O. Stellenbosch

Approx. retail in the US: $15.00

Golden yellow color. Very ripe fruit that delivers a rich and soft palate. Lots of nuts and a woody character that is well balanced with the ripe fruit. Great capacity to age beautifully. At only US$15, it was by far the best value of the tasting!

This wine is produced from old vines that are planted on northwest facing slopes.

5. Forrester Meinert Chenin (FMC) Chenin Blanc 2007 W.O. Stellenbosch

Approx. retail in the US: $65.00

Golden yellow color. Very rich and complex with great potential to age.

Best food pairing: grilled scallops with some zesty oranges on the side.

This wine is produced from old bush vines in dry land (no irrigation). These vines yield approximately 35 to 40 hectoliters per hectare. 6 different wines are made out of this one vineyard and then these wines, after spending 12 months in French oak barrels, are blended together and bottled as one single wine. Wine spectator gave this wine the highest rate of all South African wines.

6. De Trafford Straw Wine 2004 W.O. Stellenbosch

Approx. retail in the US: $47.00

Dark golden yellow. A “Sherry-like nose. Rich and nutty on the palate and a extremely long finish. Concentrated, unctuous nectar!

“(This wine is) an entire summer in a sip” – Ken Forrester

Produced from grapes that were dried on the shade of the oak trees of the farm until they become raisin-like grapes. The very concentrated wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 22 months.


To learn more about South Africa and its wines, please visit our website:

Top 10 players of our weekly wine quiz - April Edition

Congratulations to Rodolphe Boulanger and to the other top 9 players of the weekly wine quiz.
Great job!

1st - BOULANGER RODOLPHE - 4500pts

2nd - SHIPWAY MARK - 4225pts

3rd KINNAN DON - 4050pts

4th - GOODMAN RICHARD - 4050pts

5th - COCHARD MARK - 4025pts

6th - MALAGRIFA PAUL - 3925pts

7th - WELLS EVAN - 3900pts

8th - MARSH KYLE - 3650pts

9th - TEICHERT TOM - 3625pts

10th - GOUTTENOIRE PIERRE - 3500pts

To play our quizzes, please go to and click on "Test you Knowledge"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Syrah, Syrah, Syrahs at Hospice du Rhône (and in Santa Barbara)

When we talk about “Rhône” grapes, we usually mean more than syrah; but also grenache, mourvèdre, viognier, roussanne, marsanne, and some sixteen other varieties, as well as blends of such, associated with the vast expanse of Southern France, from the Riviera to the Bay of Biscay (in this sense, these aren’t nearly so much Rhône Valley grapes as they are Southern French grapes).

Santa Barbara's Los Alamos Valley at sunset

But at the 2010 Hospice du Rhône (HdR) in Paso Robles this past April 30/May 1 (the 18th annual, if you’re counting), it did seem to be all about syrah for this simple reason: damned, these wines are good. Staggeringly, lawdy mama good. But how good? Which is to say, how good have California grown syrahs become, because those are the wines that dominate the yearly Hospice du Rhône (I wish there was more French, American Northwest and Australian representation at the HdR each year, but that’s the way it is).

It just so happened that one of the seminars featured at the 2010 HdR was about The Next Generation of Côte-Rôtie producers, and was centered around the wines produced by Domaine Michel & Stéphane Ogier. Now, you have to remember that when you talk about the “latest” things happening in nearly any wine region these days, it usually is a story about vignerons taking things backwards: returning to more natural, minimalist, less manipulative grape growing and vinification practices; recalling, perhaps, the work done two to six generations ago – with, of course, the benefit of hindsight, or the latest technical knowledge, at the disposal of the present day generation.

We may dig Côte-Rôties that are less redolent of new oak (in fact, aged strictly in oversized, old, neutral flavored wood rather than new Bordeaux or Burgundy barrels), with their flavors extracted by, say, gentle foot treading in small open vats rather than through continuous pumping over in big, temperature controlled stainless steel tanks; yet we certainly don’t want to see the oxidized, vinegary or Brettanomyces infected (i.e. dead-animal smelly) styles of wine that has plagued French wines of generations past.

That said, Ogier’s Côte-Rôties certainly were eye opening. The 2007 Domaine Ogier Lancement Côte-Rôtie, culled from family’s Côte Blonde plantings, had a beautifully sweet perfume of raspberry, orange peel, and smoky incense – the spices coming totally from the grape, not barrels – and were velvety rich, zippy, effortlessly poised, and tightly woven with rock solid tannin without being heavy, rough or fat. Ogier allowed that judicious pre-fermentation cold soaking in years like ’07 helps heighten the syrah expression; yet the Lancement remains finesseful, rather feminine – i.e. true to the terroir of the famed “blonde” slope.

Coming from their miniscule plot (.32 hectares) in the darker, clay/schistous terrain of Côte Brune (the “brunette”), the 2007 Domaine Ogier La Belle Hélène Côte-Rôtie posed the deeper, darker, earthier side of the syrah grape – damson plum and blackberry with a little less spiced perfume,, but little bit more of that scrubby, meaty sauvage – with a stony fullness, while still landing with every bit as much grace and finesse as the Lancement on the palate. It was interesting to note that Stéphane Ogier related spending time in Burgundy, and being influenced by the pains Burgundians take to retain transparency of grape and terroir in their wines, because you could certainly taste it here in the Hélène.

The significance? For three days just prior to HdR, I spent quality time with 38 sommeliers from around the country, touring through Santa Barbara as part of Sommelier Journal magazine’s annual Terroir Experience. We tasted tons of pinot noir and chardonnay, of course, but also some incredible syrah, grenache, and other Rhône style blends, red and white, now coming from this region. Naturally, the question came up during our tastings and discussions: since Santa Barbara grown syrahs are so good, do they now compare with the syrah based reds of the Northern Rhône Valley?

The answer to that question depends upon what you mean by “compare.” If you mean “better” in terms of grace, finesse, or transparency of grape and terroir, I have to say that nothing beats a Côte-Rôtie by Ogier, or a Cornas by Thierry Allemand, an Hermitage by M. Chapoutier, a Saint-Joseph by Philippe Faury, a Crozes-Hermitage by Alain Graillot, or any of those classic wines made by those French bastards lucky enough to be sitting on golden real estate.

If you talk about sheer variety of styles of syrah based reds – big wines, small wines, oaky wines, unoaked wines, earthy wines, pure fruit bomb wines, cheap wines, ridiculously expensive wines, etc. – then I have to say the Americans now give the French a run for their money in all areas except, perhaps, stratospheric price points. For Pete’s sake, if you’re looking for high quality wine from a .32 hectare parcel, you have to expect to shell out $200. Whereas, even the best American syrah producers haven’t quite attained that matrix of quality/quantity/demand/stupid-98+point-scores yet. But don’t hold your breath, because those cult wine collectors never really go away (they’re always on the look-out for ways of ruining things for us actual wine drinkers).

But when you talk about syrahs of “monumental” size, “hedonistic” fruit, or “opulent” intensity – to borrow the verbiage common to some of our more oft-quoted critics (who always sound like they’re talking about Big Mac or Cinnabon attacks rather than wine) – then I have to say that American grown syrahs now reign triumphant. Yeah, yeah, now it’s me who is sounding like this is some kind of contest; yet I have to say: from what I’ve been tasting lately, up and down the coast from Yakima and Walla Walla to Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Umpqua Valleys straight on down through Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara’s Los Alamos and Ballard Canyon, American grown syrahs take a backseat to none in terms of the wham-bam-who’s-your-daddy personality of the grape.

Let’s put this in further perspective: Takero Kobayashi. TK was the little guy who showed up for Nathan’s annual July 4 hot dog eating contest at around 130 pounds, putting away 50 to 60 of those wieners to win it six times in a row. Obviously, it was never the size but the artistry, the finesse, that did it for Takero san. Same for Côte-Rôtie: obviously, the French never have to pick it at 15% potential alcohol for their wines to achieve opulent, even hedonistic proportions. 13% always seem to do just fine, whereas West Coast syrahs need to be closer to 15% to reach those heights. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to even compare French vs. American grown syrahs.

Yet American syrahs can indeed be monumental. It has reached the point where it is possible to talk about American and French grown syrahs in the same way that we do other classic grapes: the fact that the best California chardonnays are now made in California, whereas the best Burgundian style chardonnays are now in Burgundy, France… and the same thing for cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, and now syrah… it’s all good, depending upon the place. Comprenez-vous?

Enough of that – what did I like best during my most recent travels? These are my favorites in order of personal preference, as I sit today (05/12/2010), which will probably change a little by next week, indubitably more next month, and most certainly a lot by next year (another reason why I don’t do scores: they imply a permanence that simply doesn’t exist in the real world of wine appreciation). Re:

2007 Paul Lato, Cinematique Syrah; Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
– Lately Paul Lato (the bastard!) has been ruining my life by forcing me to rethink the parameters of what this grape can do in the New World. Last year I was inspired by the Rogue Valley syrahs crafted by Ken Wright under his Tyrus Evan label because of the thickly hewn yet svelte, lingonberry and scrubby spice perfumes of his wines, epitomizing the grape as much as the consistent quality of the modest slew of similarly endowed syrahs that have recently emerged from Southern Oregon. But Mr. Lato’s syrahs seem to take things one step further. You want spice? You get that in spades and multiplicity (anise/fennel/cracked pepper/roasting coffee) in the ’07 Cinematique. Looking for varietal intensity? The luscious plum, violet and fraise liqueur-like perfumes are also here – something you can smell practically with your eyelids when you get close to the glass. Seeking transparency (nirvana for terroir lovers)? What do you call the rock-like structure, the velvet texture punctuated by racy acidity, and tight underpinnings of seamlessly rolled tannin – qualities common to this and other wines coming specifically from the Larner Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon? If this is not part and parcel of the moderate climate and confluence of sandy, gravelly, limestone rich soils of these hillside plantings, I don’t know from Adam. Whatever the case, Mr. Lato’s syrahs ain’t no hollaback girls – they’re just the shit.

2007 Samsara, Syrah; Melville Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills – By Chad Melville of Santa Barbara’s Melville label wines: an even livelier, zestier style of syrah, yet absolutely brimming with sweetly perfumed, floral/violet, black and blueberry fruit with undertones of smoked sausage meats and ground pepper (why do good syrahs always come across like whole meals?). On the palate, the feel is suitably thick with tannin and popping, saturating, smoky-spicy fruit, cased in round, fleshy viscosity. This wine gives credence to the thinking just beginning to be spoken out loud these days: that the slightly warmer (middle and eastern), shallow, porous hillsides of Sta. Rita Hills are probably more suitable to syrah rather than to the pinot noir and chardonnay that currently dominating those slopes. What’s the sense, when you think about it, of always having to de-alcoholize pinot noir when picking them at peak ripeness in an AVA like Sta. Rita Hills? While 12%-13% alcohol reds are the norm in the Northern Rhône Valley, syrah is a beefy enough grape to taste perfectly well proportioned at 14%-15% alcohol, which is typical of the U.S. and South Australia. The only drawback, of course, is the considerably weaker market demand for syrah relative to pinot noir – right now, no one’s going to pull out pinot noir in order to plant syrah. Someone definitely needs to make a movie (Vertical rather than Sideways, with sleazy girls – or biker/chick-or-mama/winemakers – rather than guys, who you always expect to be sleazy anyway).

2008 Jaffurs, Syrah; Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
– A meaty, viscous experience, four squared and hard-packed muscularity at the shoulders, yet bulging in the middle with plummy, mulberry-juicy, wild strawberry and violet laced fruit. According to Mr. Jaffurs – who works with enough fruit throughout Santa Barbara County to know the differences – the sand-over-limestone soil of vineyards like this, along Ballard Canyon Rd. in the center of Santa Ynez Valley, yields syrahs of Rhône-like spice and perfume “with seemingly little effort.” With, of course, more of a “New World” sense of power. Taking a page from new/old generation Rhône producers, Jaffurs utilizes partial foot stomping (in this wine, 43%) of whole clusters and an unfined/unfiltered regime to ramp up the intensity without sacrificing elegance (i.e. roundness and proportion).

2007 Jaffurs, Syrah; Verna’s Vineyard, Santa Barbara – Farmed by the Melville family in Los Alamos – an unofficially recognized sub-region of Santa Barbara sandwiched between Santa Maria Valley to the north and Santa Ynez Valley to the south, characterized by a moderate climate (slightly cooler than Ballard Canyon, but a tad warmer than Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley) and well drained hills of dusty sand and rocky loam. The ’07 Verna’s is a black velvet, purplish monster of a syrah – a little bigger (15.8% alc.) than most of what you find from nearby Ballard Canyon -- brimming with powerful, sweetly aromatic flavors more suggestive of scrubby herbs (reminiscent of Southern French garrigue), pungent tapenade, caramelized meats and crushed peppercorns than of the plain fruitiness found in most syrahs.

The Buffalo Hill at Rockpile Vineyard

2006 JC,
Buffalo Hill Syrah; Rockpile Vineyard, Rockpile – Gloriously perfumed, dramatically unfolding wine from Sonoma County’s Rockpile AVA, a region located north and west of Dry Creek Valley, and defined by 800-2100 ft. elevations (this vineyard located at the highest points). Vivid purplish red pigmentation and nose of violets, cracked pepper, dark roast coffee and blackberry liqueur; feeling thick and full, yet compact with muscled, fine grained tannins and acidity giving well defined edges. The peppery spiced fruit is augmented by sweet oak, extending long and energetically on the palate; the high toned qualities exhilarating the senses.

2007 Jaffurs, Syrah; Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
– More muscled masses of red and violet perfumes – spraying peppery spice hither and yon – piled upon a concentrated, black fruit base, with mouthwatering, juicy flavors charging through the thick, supple tannin built into the wine’s bedrocked structure.

2007 Stolpman,
Angeli Syrah; Santa Ynez Valley - Super-sweet in spice, not fruitiness, with the violet scented qualities tinged by resiny kitchen herbs, lavender, roasted game meats and whole bushes of prickly wild berries, lashed across a burly, strapping, Samsonite frame; the tannins substantial, yet round and toothsome in a rare meaty sort of way.

2007 Jonata,
La Sangre de Jonata Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley – Aromatic suggestion of sprigs of rosemary with garrigue-like scrubbiness as well as cracked pepper spices; those qualities packed into this wine’s thick, dense, palate gripping, violet/flowery fruit concentration, yet finishing with a sleek, meticulously polished veneer.

2007 McPrice Meyers, Syrah; Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
(3% co-fermented viognier) – Staggeringly deep, dark, violet and smoky spice inundated syrah concentration; yet amazingly compact, balanced, even lithe on the palate, despite a tangible feel of enormousness.

2008 Stolpman
Originals Syrah; Santa Ynez Valley – Borrowing an analogy from Bob Lindquist (in an attempt to explain the unexplainable), this wine makes you think of Shaquille O’Neal rumbling through one of his patented spins: burly yet balletic, going wild with unexpected fruit sensations. Whatever – here the syrah qualities are chiseled yet luscious, delectably deep, evolving on the palate with every sip.

Bien Nacido Vineyards

2008 Paul Lato,
Il Padrino Syrah; Bien Nacido Vineyards, Santa Maria Valley – Riper, flowery, cassis-like fruit sweetened further by pungent, smoky oak, mingling with peppery, ginger root spices and just a smidgen of black olive-like herbiness; immense feel on the palate, but mostly from the sheer concentration of smoky, spicy, earthy fruit rather than from alcohol or tannin; the wine rounding out towards the finish with a silky flourish.

2007 Jaffurs, Syrah; Thompson Vineyard, Santa Barbara – Another Los Alamos sourced wine, shooting out peppery spice from a moderately full, compacted core, portraying as much stony minerality as sweet, preserve-like berryishness; dense and muscular on the palate, the flavors sweetly spiced and scrubby.

2007 Rusack, Syrah; Santa Ynez Valley
– A saturated, generously compelling, velvet lined black box of a syrah emanating boysenberry, bitter chocolate and smoky French roast coffee spices, seeping through a thick core of tannin.

2007 Harrison Clarke, Cuvée Charlotte Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley – This hillside Ballard Canyon growth is rooted in limestone rich shards of chalk and porous sand; no doubt, lending the pure, ringing, flowery syrah qualities in the nose; on the palate, the wine turns thick and wild, with a black chocolate consistency, and flavors of concentrated dark berries, sweet anise and rolling, tumbling stones.

2007 JC, Haley’s Reserve Syrah; Rockpile Vineyard, Rockpile – Even thicker, denser than JC’s Buffalo Hill cuvée, with a little less baby fat in the middle. Otherwise, similar profile: floral, black liqueur-like nose, with smoky, peppery highlights and a touch of roasting meat; thickly textured, deeply extracted fruit qualities beefed up by muscular tannin and zesty edges, underlain by perceptively solid oak flavors.

2008 Justin, Focus; Paso Robles (4% Grenache): Black-purplish, riper, sweeter toned style than that of Santa Barbara, yet not without muscle under the outward layers of fat; nose of jammy fruit, steeped with anise and Chinese five-spice; big, thick, seriously rich yet balanced, buoyant on the palate, exuding explosive, heaping sensations of the spicy, jammy sensations signaled in the nose.

Beckmen Vineyards' Steve Beckmen with Stolpman's Sashi Moorman

2007 Beckmen,
Block Six Syrah; Purisima Mountain, Santa Ynez Valley – The style here is full yet round, pliant, although there are generous scoops of concentrated, chocolaty, almost dried berry/raisinette qualities in the nose and flavor; the tannins sturdy yet well rounded.

2008 Davis Family, Syrah; Russian River Valley – We are also beginning to see that in other fairly cool climate zones where pinot noir predominates (i.e. Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Sonoma Coast), perfectly rich, solid, well ripened syrahs can also be grown. Here, the nose is sweet, raspberry/framboise-like, with the violet varietal notes; the flavors are a little fat, or chubby, in the mouth, yet bright and vivid, hoisted by sturdy tannin and moderated oak. The main thing is the syrah definition, which this wine screams, despite the loosely woven structuring.

2007 Epoch Estate, Authenticity; Paso Robles (88% syrah; 12% mourvèdre) – One of the newer, promising Paso Robles based Rhône specialists; vivid black/purplish color, and nose of ripe cherry/strawberry with sweet, liqueur-like concentration; fat fruit qualities gushing over a full alcohol/tannin structure, making up in exuberance and satin texturing for what it might lack in subtlety.


JOIN WLIW-Channel 21's "CELEBRATE AUSTRIA" Fundraiser on Tuesday, May 18th from Seven to Nine in the evening. The Event takes place at the AUSTRIAN CULTURAL FORUM, located at 11 East 52nd Street (NYC).

Tickets can be reserved by calling 1-800-767-2121 or visit
Tickets are $100 per person or $175 for two. (tax-deductable).

Experience Austrian Culture at it's height through AUSTRIA'S Finest FOOD and WINE.



Chef KURT GUTENBRUNNER of KG-NY Restaurant Group, will feature authentic dishes, such as Paltschinken, a Smoked Trout Crepe , prior to an elaborate VTENNESE dessert selection, known as Viennese Hour.

Prior to the wine and food tasting, travel and wine expert, Mr.FRED PLOTKIN, will lead a wine and food tasting for the VIP's, while discussing his most recent travels to Austria. Chef KURT GUTTENBRUNNER will discuss Austrian food,as he serves canapes.

RESERVE May 18th for this EXCLUSIVE Event!!

If you are unable to visit AUSTRIA, Let AUSTRIA COME TO YOU!!



The Setting: The MODERN Restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


The Host; JOHN CASELLA, Managing Director for Casella Wines (Yellow Tail)
and DOUG FROST, MS,MW, Wine Consultant and Writer

The RESULTS: Eight wines were tasted and anayzed by Twenty wine geeks, including wine journalists.

The wines tasted for the Two Flights included:
++First Flight++

D'Arenberg, The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia $60

Marquis Philip Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia $13

Archetype Shiraz 2007, Baroussa, Australia $15

Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz 2008, Southeastern Australia $11

++Second flight++

Mollydooker Maitre'd Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, South Australia $24

Layer Cake Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $14

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet sauvignon 2007, South Australia $16

Yellow Tail reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Southeastern Australia $11

We did not vote on the wines, but, discussed the wines with DOUG FROST leading the discusssion. What we realized was that the YELLOW TAIL RESERVE wines that we sampled,
drank like much larger wines at elevated prices.
I am a BELIEVER, quickly converted from a non-taster, non-believer.

Try a bottle of Yellow Tail Reserve,as I did and you will be pleasently suprised.
Better yet, have a BLIND wine tasting Party. Have each person bring a bottle of wine
and taste them, as we did, along with the Yellow Tail Reserve.

The Results may CONVERT you!!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


"THE GREAT SOUTH AFRICAN WINE SHOW" takes place this evening at the TRIBECA ROOFTOP, 2 Desbrosses Street in NYC.

From 6-8:30pm, you can discover the variety of wines South Africa has to offer. There will be over 600 wines to sample, from 135 wineries, using 20 varietals from 10 different regions. Plus, South African inspired dishes will be served to complement the wines. The cost: $55.

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

This event is presented by Wines of South Africa and the James Beard Foundation GREENS, which wil receive a portion of the proceeds from tonight's event.

NTSIKI BIYELA, Stellekaya's legendary winemaker will be present to discuss her rise to fame and to share Stellekaya's collection of red wines that typify the Stellenbosch terroir. Stellekaya is a boutique wine producer that is situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands. The cellar, located in Stellenbosch, houses Stellekaya's noble red varietals. Stellekaya means 'home of the stars'.

Ntsiki Biyela is one of the wineries noted winemakers. Ntsiki is South Africa's 'First Female African Winemaker', having earned her degree in oenology from the University of Stellenbosch. She received a full scholarship.

Ntsiki wanted to study chemical engineering, but her mentor, Jabulani Ntshangase, encouraged her to opt for viticulture. Ntsiki graduated in 2003 and joined Stellekaya in 2004, as a junior winemaker. Her first vintage, the 2004 Cape Cross, won a Gold medal at the Michaelangelo Awards. It was the first Gold Medal won by an African Female Winemaker.

Ntsiki overcame modest beginnings to become South Africa's First African Female Winemaker.
Her story is inspiring and was coveerd by ABC's 'Good Morning' and CNN news.

Tonight you will have a chance to sample her wines and coverse with this wine legend.
I hope to see you there!


Thursday, May 6, 2010


We all know that YELLOW TAIL has dominated retail sales in North America for several years.
Most of us are not fans of the wine, but, regardless, agree that YELLOW TAIL has been good for the industry.

YELLOW TAIL has created many opportunities in the wine world for SALES. And that is POSITIVE.


Why would I write about YELLOW TAIL?
The answer is easy.


The Invitation goes on to say, " John Casella has created one of the most Successful wine brands in modern history, and the meteoric rise of his brand, YELLOW TAIL, helped to fuel Australia's rise to dominance in the world marketplace. Now Australia, as a brand is struggling, but, YELLOW TAIL, as a brand, continues to dominate. WHAT'S UP??

What do the Top Palates in Winedom really know about John Casella and YELLOW TAIL?

John has remained one of the industry's few stalwarts, and while other big names have left growers in the lurch ( to put it charitably), John has expanded his grower contracts, quietly supporting vineyard owners, and now sourcing fruit from some of the top vineyards in Australia for his YELLOW TAIL RESERVE wines.

Do his Reseves do justice to the fruit from some of Australia's most coveted vineyards? Well, that's up to you to decide. Doug Frost MS, MW and John Casella ask for your attendance at a BLIND tasting to learn more about Casella's actions in support of his challenged industry colleagues.

And to TASTE TELLOW TAIL RESERVE against a suprising field of highly regarded, international wines.

BLIND, of course!!


Fourteen other critics plus myself will decide YELLOW TAIL RESERVE'S' FATE!!
And the RESULTS are.........


Spring is Here...So Bring Out The Barbecue

There is this unmistakable feeling in the air, the temperatures are rising every day, and we have probably seen more than a few robins hopping around our yards. Personally, I cannot wait until the thermostat reaches the high teens because that is when the sandals will come out and the winter boots will go away…and I know that all of the guys in my life cannot wait to set the barbecue up and grill that first hamburger, steak or rack of ribs.

The natural instinct when it comes to barbecued foods is to pair it with beer or hard liquor and those are great but have you ever thought about giving it a try with a glass of wine? Well, let’s start with what your favourite food is to put on a barbecue – are you a ribs person, steak, seafood, fish or do you like to go towards the more exotic? When I asked the question “What food are you looking forward to putting on the barbecue this summer?” on Twitter a couple of weeks ago I got a wide variety of responses – lamb chops, salmon, chicken and veggie kabobs, gourmet burgers, ribs, pork chops, steaks and foil wrapped fish were tops on the list.

So, what wine would you pair with any of these food dishes? A lot of that decision depends on what you are doing to the food before and while it is on the grill. Here are a few of my favourite food examples and wines you may want to try out with them…

Lamb Chops with Lemon, Olive Oil & Rosemary:

Lamb in itself can be a rather rich meat so you do not need a large cut to fill you up. To keep this dish light and tasty, marinating it with Lemon, olive oil and Rosemary for a couple of hours makes this a great alternative to red sauces. The lemon in the marinade also makes it easy to pair with crisp, fresh white wines and for my personal preference, the lemony tang in the palate of Rosehall Run Vineyards 2007 Sullyzwicker VQA is a perfect match for this dish. Sullyzwicker is a blend of three white wine grapes – Ehrenfelser, Riesling and Muscat Ottonel – with slight residual sweetness that comes in at 10.8% alcohol per volume and a price of $16.95 that you simply cannot beat. The wine itself has flavours of mango and a variety of citrus fruits and you can feel it lingering for quite a while.

Pork Chops and Peaches and Pinot:

This recommendation came from one of my wine friends on Twitter and it was such a natural fit that I decided to run with it. The Pinot in the title refers to Pinot Noir and even though some people may question pairing a red wine with white meat like Pork, it is the lightness of Pinot Noir that makes it a perfect choice for white meat and peaches. There are a few Ontario wineries that focus primarily on Pinot Noir and when it came to pairing it with peaches, my choice came down to Flat Rock Cellars 2008 Pinot Noir. Although peach is not a common component to the flavour profile of a Pinot Noir – and it is not in this wines flavour profile either – the fruity flavours of cherries and herbs do compliment the flavours we will be adding to the pork chops. Flat Rock Cellars bottles all of their wines under screwcap so this wine stays light and fresh with good acidity and great balance with a medium finish allowing it to linger slightly while you enjoy your barbecued pork chops. At only $20.15 a bottle, be sure to pick up some of this wine as you will make a lot of use of it over the months to come.

Grilled Salmon with Lemon & Dill:

There is nothing better – to me, at least – than a salmon fillet on the barbecue and the classic combination of lemon and dill makes it one of the simplest and most satisfying meals one can enjoy on a hot summer night. When having a meal that is this light feeling, you would not want to overpower it with anything heavy in your wine glass so the key was to find something light but that would also compliment the lemon and dill flavours that you are grilling the salmon with. After going through many excellent possibilities amongst the Ontario wineries, the one that seemed to jump out as the clear choice is Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery’s Cuvee Catherine Brut. The initial flavours may not seem to lend itself to that light and crisp description I gave before but if you wait, just ten seconds or so, the very detectable taste of lemon will come shining through and pair perfectly with the lemon and dill you are using on the salmon. By the way, pair this with some salad greens and a light vinaigrette dressing for the perfect meal.

Striploin Steak with Hawaiian Alae Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper:

If you are a red meat lover, you know there is nothing better than a steak hot off the barbecue. Normally I will marinate a steak for several hours in a combination of red wine and herbs before slapping it on a hot grill but a friend of mine suggested trying the combination of Hawaiian Alae Sea Salt and cracked Black Pepper to change things up a bit and I have to say it is a wonderful combination. As I said, I normally marinate a steak in red wine and herbs so whatever wine I use in the marinade is the wine that will end up in my glass. By doing it with sea salt and black pepper, I had free reign over what wine to choose but when I tried Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery 2008 Baco Noir, my search was over. Here is the review I did on the wine just a couple of weeks ago – you will quickly see why it was the perfect choice for a hearty steak dinner.

“Blacker than SIN – that’s the only way to describe the colour – and the aromas and flavours are equally sinful. Abundant blackberry followed by a hint of bing cherry, blueberry and raspberry on the nose – talk about a fruit bomb. The texture is silky and slightly chewy with that familiar blackberry coming through, good acidity in the mid palate, slight blueberry, a very faint hit of mint and slight pepper on the finish. This would be great with duck, steak, game meats, roasts – anything you would put a Zinfandel or a Shiraz with would work with this wine.”

At $20.20 a bottle, this wine is reasonably priced and a great value. It can only be ordered through the winery and this is still a winery with a small production level as they have only been open for two years so I would make a phone call to the winery or visit them quickly to get your hands on this wine.

Chicken & Veggie Kabobs:

This is one of my favourite things to cook on a barbecue. A couple of kabobs filled with chicken, red onion, sweet peppers, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, add a nice garden salad to the plate and a glass of wine – this is great for a weeknight dinner in the middle of the summer. Just a touch of seasoning on the kabobs and a light vinaigrette dressing on the salad and you have the perfect opportunity to pair this food with a wide variety of wines. How about a nice, dry Rose wine in your glass? You wouldn’t want a sickly sweet Blush wine but Ontario makes some great European style Rose wines that have a kick of spice, lots of fruity flavours and bone dry acidity. Take a look at Thirteenth Street Winery and you find a Cabernet Rose made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that would compliment this meal perfectly. The flavours are mostly berry fruit, red pepper and spice but there is an interesting little hint of anise in the finish that makes you stand up and take notice of this wine. If Strawberries are still in season when you try this meal, slice up a few to put into your salad to make an even more seamless pairing than what already naturally exists between the kabobs and the wine. Only $16.20 a bottle, contact the winery to get your hands on this summer sipper.

Gourmet Burgers:

It is a bit of a treat but nothing beats a good, homemade burger topped with your favourite toppings. There are so many options on what to put in and on top of your burger these days that it would be impossible to pair everything with it but here are a few suggestions on what to put on your food and what to put in your glass.

My best friend’s suggestion for her favourite burger was ground sirloin topped with chopped portabello mushrooms, red onions and crumbled blue cheese. For burger toppings like this, you want a wine that is not overpowering but that is still hearty enough to stand up to the power that mushrooms, onions and blue cheese invariably bring. To compliment this burger, after much deliberation, I chose Colio Estate Wines 2006 Merlot VQA. The aromas of this wine are black fruit, blueberries and a hint of chocolate, which continue on to the palate where there is a distinctive earthy component joining them. It is that earthy component which makes it a perfect pairing for mushrooms and, hence, for this burger.

Now, for myself, I love a good bacon cheeseburger with a spicy cheese, like Black River Cheeses Hot Pepper Mozzarella. With cheese that has a kick you need a wine that has an equal amount of kick to make the pairing seamless. Since we do not have anyone making a Red Zinfandel here in Ontario (yet), our next choice falls to Shiraz and, in this province, a good spicy can always be found at Creekside Estate Wines. Creekside Estate Wines specializes in Shiraz so there are a few to choose from but for a spicy bacon cheeseburger, I recommend their 2007 Broken Press Shiraz. In Australia, where one of their winemakers hails from, and in the Northern Rhone area of France, it is quite common to add a small amount of Viognier, which is a white grape, into Shiraz. The result is a slightly floral, perfumy component to the berry fruit and spice elements common in Shiraz that seem to develop and linger endlessly. The price on this wine is $39.95 a bottle and is available at the winery or online through their website. By the way, if you happen to have any cranberry relish kicking around, adding a touch of this to the burger will really enhance the food and wine pairing – give it a try.

So far we have stuck with meat dishes but the barbecue can be a great place for vegetarians as well. How about a veggie burger piled high with hot peppers – what wine would you want to serve with that? Well, since we already have a spicy red for our last burger, and this burger is made up of veggies, which a red wine may overpower, how about we try out the spiciest wine in the white wine forum – Gewurztraminer. As soon as Gewurztraminer was decided on I knew exactly where to go for the perfect wine – Prince Edward County! With our steak we went to Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery and that is where we find ourselves again because their Gewurztraminer is one of the best I have tried in a long time – an opinion some other wine writers share with me given the amount of press this wine is receiving. Check out the review their 2009 Gewurztraminer recently received:

“There’s something captivating about a wine that is the colour of gold – it has almost the same appeal as a deep ruby red wine – and this wine definitely holds you captive as you look at it in the glass. It takes a bit of swirl for the aromas to come through but when they do you are hit with the unmistakable lychee and rose aromas so commonly associated with true Alsatian Gewurztraminers. The lychee and rose continue on to the palate where they are joined with a major hit of spice, perfect acidity and amazing balance. My first instinct is to want to pair this with Thai food because it is such a classic pairing but – on second thought – Blackened Salmon with rice and asparagus would be just as great.”

As with their Baco Noir, the Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery 2009 Gewurztraminer is available through the winery, at a great price of $22.20 per bottle. Call or email the winery today to place your order or visit them on the weekends – daily hours will begin in mid May but if you want to get your hands on this wine, I’d get some now before it disappears.

Sole packed in a foil packet w/ Veggies:

When it comes to grilled fish, there are so many options. There is the all traditional Salmon but, for a change, why not try Sole, wrapped in aluminum foil packets with a combination of carrots, celery, red onion, lemon, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper? The key with this dish is to make the wine light and crisp…the same way the veggies and other flavours are and, although there are many possible wines to choose from, my choice for this dish is the Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery 2008 Lepp Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Peninsula Ridge specializes in Sauvignon Blanc with their white wines and they have a few specific vineyard Sauvignon Blanc’s to choose from but the Lepp Vineyards wine for the 2008 vintage had more of the flavours and aromas that are in the meal than any of the others. Aromas of “yellow apple, hay and watermelon with a touch of fresh cedar. The palate is nice and crisp, medium weight with flavours of white grapefruit and mineral.” It is the flavours of citrus and mineral which compliment the fish best while the aromas are simply a pleasant beginning to an enjoyable meal. Available directly at the winery or online at the price of $18.95.

Baby Back Ribs:

When it comes right down to it, ribs can actually be one of the most difficult meats to pair wine with. Ribs on their own, before they start marinating or have any rubs on them, essentially, have no distinct flavour to them. What you put on the ribs – in terms of rubs or sauces or both – is where the flavours come from and since there are so many available options out there, it is difficult to give an exact pairing. Now, before we go any further, I have to tell you that, when it comes to ribs, this is not exactly my area of expertise. My father was very anti-pork in our house (he got sick off of the stuff when he was young) so ribs was not something we ever really had growing up. Thankfully, that is no longer the case but I still wanted an experts advice for this section so I went to our local expert – Darryl Koster at Buster Rhinos BBQ. If any of you are on Twitter, you can follow him @BusterRhinosBBQ or check out his website: Darryl explained to me that there are a lot of factors when it comes to the ribs – if you put a rub, what spices you use, what sauces you use, precooking, grilling, smoking, indirect heat or direct heat (which Darryl does not recommend). Now, in my house, when we do cook ribs, the ribs are precooked in the oven and then added to the grill later on when the sauce is added. While cooking in the oven, there is only a rub, the temperature is low and they cook for as long as possible without allowing them to dry out. You can go even lower than 325F and cook them for longer than two hours but, when precooking, that seems to be the norm amongst the people I spoke to. For myself, in terms of a rub, I like to keep it simple – salt, pepper, some Paprika for colour and fresh Thyme or Rosemary. Once the ribs are precooked, there are a bunch of sauces I like to choose from, depending on who is eating the ribs and even what the day feels like. Here are three possibilities on rib sauces that I like:

Beer Berry BBQ Sauce

2 bottles Beer (your favourite - ale works best)
1 pint Blueberries
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup Hot Sauce
2 tbsp Barbecue Sauce (your favourite)

You can completely adjust the heat level on this sauce – I know, ¼ cup of hot sauce sounds a bit much to me too – by reducing the amount of hot sauce. Personally, I use something closer to five or six dashes of hot sauce rather than ¼ cup.

Cherry Zinfandel Sauce

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 tbsp Garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups Red Zinfandel wine
1 cup Ketchup
2/3 cup Dried cherries
3 tbsp Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp Brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp Ginger, chopped
1 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Anise seed
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
3 tbsp Lemon juice

Now, when it comes to wines to pair with this, these can be difficult but only if you want to make it difficult. Both of these sauces have major fruit components so you want a wine that has a lot of fruity characteristics to it. With the second sauce, the easy choice is to use the same wine that you put in the sauce and, in all probability, that is what I would do. Since there are no wineries in Ontario that make a Red Zinfandel wine, we need to look to California to find a great pairing. Luckily, the LCBO has a little more than fifty Red Zinfandel’s to choose from at a variety of prices. Here are just a few that are my favourites:

7 Deadly Zins 2007 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2007
Michael David Vineyards Cline Cellars
Vintages #59311 Vintages #719211
$24.95 each $17.95 each

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfadel
Ravenswood Winery
Vintages #606632
$17.95 each

However, in keeping with the trend in this article, let’s find an Ontario red wine that will match well with the berry flavours of the sauces. Berry fruit and cherries are two common flavours in most Gamay Noir wines but there is a tendency to make Gamay really light in structure and mouthfeel so you need one that has a little more oomph than a typical Gamay. In Ontario, there is one wine that epitomizes that description – Chateau des Charmes St David’s Bench Gamay Droit. Any vintage of this wine will do but the combination of berry fruit and cherries, with a kick of tart cranberries and this slight hit of earthiness gives it the perfect structure to hold up to something as strong as the sauces we are putting on our ribs. This wine is available through the winery itself but also at your local LCBO at a price of $16.95 per bottle. Now, if you are one who prefers to cook your ribs completely on the grill, just follow the same principles and try these wines out with them.

Here’s hoping that you find some great wines to pair with what goes on your grill. It doesn’t always have to be beer and hard liquor when you set up the barbecue – there are many great Ontario wines that can pair with your grilling favourites. Happy grilling and happy wine pairing…cheers.

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