Sunday, October 25, 2009

Legends of the Fall: Squash Meets Malts

Autumn nights, hearty beers, and fall cuisine can only mean one thing; the return of small batch pumpkin ale production. This year I only had the opportunity to taste three Pumpkin based ales; two bottled and one draught.

Although we may look at pumpkin ale as a novelty it no doubt placed a principle role in beer production during the first influx of pilgrims and colonists to the new world with their lack of malt and barley production and future prohibitive cost of importing these beer making essentials from the old world. Modern pumpkin ale production as we know and taste it has been limited to the last two and half decades. Pumpkin ale? For me it falls into two distinct families: fresh pumpkin tasting (roasted or fresh pumpkin) or pumpkin pie tasting (emphasis on the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

Steamwork's Brewing (British Columbia) Draught, The Great Pumpkin Ale, falls into the pumpkin pie school of beer profiles. Although tamer than past batches this beer is Amber coloured with little lacing. It is full-bodied, lightly carbonated, and loaded with sweet cinnamon, clove, all spice, and hints of ginger. For me one pint is enough.

The Brooklyn Brewing (New York) Post Road Pumpkin Ale (bottle) was tasted at Pourhouse. This ale was more of a bridge style between the fresh pumpkin family and pumpkin pie family of production. It is orange-amber colour, medium-bodied, more carbonated than the Steamwork's ale and had noticeable lacing and carbonated head. Aromas were leaning towards fresh pumpkin with overtones of cinnamon and nutmeg. On the palate the Post Road was drier and lighter in texture with more biscuit and malt than pumpkin flavours.

My favourite pumpkin ale this year based on the small selection I tried has to be the Vancouver Island Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale (bottle) from Philips Brewing. This amber gold coloured ale had a beautiful fresh pumpkin aroma, refreshing carbonation and nice lacing. It is medium-bodied and has perfectly balanced flavours with fresh cut pumpkin, all spice, and cinnamon. By far the best of the three this year. The Steamwork's Great Pumpkin Ale is ideally suited to drink solo with its inherent sweetness but could marry to pumpkin pie, maple glazed yams, honey glazed carrots, or white meat poulty. The Post Road will nicely pair with yam fries or pumpkin ale battered fish and chips. Phillip's Crooked Tooth Ale with its superb balance would make a good all round autumnal food beer - try with a squash risotto, maple glazed wild BC salmon, or candied beets.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pourhouse Vancouver | Chef's Table Dinner

Helen and I celebrated or 11th anniversary with dinner at the Chef's Table at Gastown's newest gastronomic hot spot Pourhouse. Our six course dinner took place in the kitchen, with it's heat, bursts of flame, the possibility of Chef Gordon Ramsay outbursts, the din of equipment, and the clatter and ting of plates and glassware, and watching the well honed brigade not only prepare our food but a full house of diners. Chef Chris Irving and Partner/Mixologist Jay Jones looked after us through our three and a half hours of cocktails, wine and food. Our amuse to start was a well constructed twist on the
classic Champagne cocktail. Mr. Jones' version was made from Moet et Chandon Brut, 5 year old Torres brandy, and peach bitters. 1st course was a selection of BC oysters (Kumamoto and Royal Miyage) with a red wine mignonette and fresh horseradish paired with a Last Word Cocktail (Tanqueray gin, Chartreuse, fresh lime, and Maraschino cherry liqueur). The sea saltiness of the oysters paired well with the herbal notes of the gin and Chartruese. 2nd course was a charcuterie/cheese plate from Fuel Restaurant's "The Cure" paired with the wonderful Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2007 from Martinborough in New Zealand. This Pinot had a lovely texture and classic Pinot Noir notes of rhubarb, red cherry, spice, subtle oak, and hints of autumnal wood smoke and mushroomy earthiness. 3rd course was a beautifully flavoured leek and potato soup with smoked cod flakes. Mr. Jones paired this lusciously flavoured soup with the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008 from Australia. This fuller bodied version of the regular Viognier was richly textured and complexly layered with notes of apricot, honeysuckle, Mandarin orange, white peach, and a hint of sweet spice. For a rest between dishes Jay prepared a 1917 Aviation Cocktail (Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon, creme de voilette, and Maraschino Cherry liquor) a nice refreshing cocktail. 4th course crispy boneless turkey wing with braised celery, chorizo and cornmeal cake - this was paired with Jay's creative take on a Bloody Mary a.k.a "Brave Bull" (Maker's Mark Bourbon, tomato juice, turkey jus reduction, spice and Maldon sea salt).
Our main 5th course was a traditional lobster roll with creamed corn and Saratoga chips. This rich course was balanced by a refreshing Pike IPA Beer Float wth apple juice, Aztec chocolate bitters and a Donnafugata Nero d'Avola float. Our final course, Maker's Mark Bananas Foster with house made vanilla ice cream and sweet dough cookie was made by Chef Irving with lots of heat and flame in the kitchen. We brought along from our cellar a bottle of Chateau Rayne Vigneaux Sauternes 1er Cru from our wedding year 1998 which Jay kindly opened. The Sauternes was medium-bodied and full of apricot, pineapple, honey, subtle botrytis, and decent sugar and acidity - not overly rich or sweet but no complaints on the wine - it travelled with us through three countries back in 2006. Although we have eaten at Pourhouse several times since it's opening - the experience of the Chef's Table is not to be missed. The table seats four comfortable or six cosily. Service by Jay and Chris was nothing short of stellar. Sitting at the chef's table is an insight into front and back of house operations and if you enjoy watching cooking shows this is the real thing. Pourhouse is a beautiful looking restaurant with an emphasis on American comfort food and I detect a slight English influence (no doubt from Chef Irving's UK kitchen stints). The room is a luscious blend of rich woods, re-claimed architectural and industrial elements, and art deco influences. Cocktails are classic or a twist on classics with a short "There's" and "Ours" list all served in the "proper" glassware. Wine list bridges the new and old world with just under ten wines by the glass. Jay's love of draught shows with some great beer from Pike and Brooklyn and other interesting local and imports for your session drinking at the wood.
162 Water St Vancouver
(604) 568-7022

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alois Lageder - Alpine Meets Mediterranean

I recently had the opportunity to taste eight wines from Alois Lageder, the foremost Alto Adige producer, at an on-trade event at L’Altro Buca in Vancouver. The tasting and presentation was lead by director of sales Urs Vetter and organised by local wine agent blue note . The Alto Adige is a viticultural region of extremes; small - about the size of Chablis, a meso climate of cool alpine air and Mediterranean warmth (one of the five warmest regions in Italy) and a huge diurnal temperature drop due to a thermal inversion between 200 to 1200 metres in the wine growing valley. It's alluvial and scree deposited soils add complexity (Dolomitic limestone, gravel, and sandstone prevail) along with state of the art and forward thinking wine making under the fifty plus vintage by winemaker Luis von Dellemann create an iconic wine style that represents the Alto Adige.

Riff 2008 Pinot Grigio (IGT Venetzia)
Straw green with fresh pear and green apple aromas. Medium-bodied with good concentration, well balanced acidity and refreshing pear, mineral, and green apple flavours. Perfect with shellfish, trout, or cerviche.

Classic Pinot Bianco 2007
Straw yellow with a flinty and lanolin aroma. Medium-bodied, concentrated, and layered with apple, mineral, and subtle peach and alpine flower finish. Pair up with caprese salad, grilled asparagus, creamy mushroom pasta.

Benefizium Porer Pinot Grigio 2008
Single Vineyard Grigio (20-40 year old vines, chalky soils) with 80% stainless steel fermentation and ageing with 20% Allier oak ageing. Straw green with flinty, ripe pear, and peach aromas. Medium to full-bodied, concentration and crisp with ripe fruit salad notes - think a bowl of apple, pear, peach and fresh grapes. This one would be great with poultry, fleshy seafood, and charcuterie.

Beta-delta Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 2008
Certified Bioydynamic 50% each varietal. Straw green with mineral and tree fruit aromas. Medium-bodied with ripe Chardonnay fruit (pear, spice, Macintosh apple) and subtle sur lie notes. Perfect with salmon, scallops, or simple chicken dishes.

Classic Gewurztraminer 2008
Straw yellow with strong rose and subtle lychee aromas. Medium-bodied, dry and concentrated, with rose, spice, and subtle lychee flavours. Long finish of rose. Perfect pairing with pate, mild creamy blue cheese, and the mild curry.

Vogelmaier Moscato Giallo 2008
My favourite white on the tasting! Single Vineyard. Straw green with fresh grapey and peach sorbet aromas. Medium-bodied, rich and ripe, and full of delicious fresh sweet grape, peach, pear, and apricot. Well balanced, complex, and very tasty. Pair this one with a sushi rolls, Thai yellow curry, and BC spot prawns.

Lagrein Rosato 2008
Cherry copper colour with savoury and vegetal (tobacco) aromas. Medium-bodied, dry, with flavours of strawberry, hay, savoury herbs, tobacco, and subtle spice. Almost a Rhone Mourvedre in flavour. According to Urs this is the perfect all rounder to curry! any heat!

Krafuss Pinot Noir 2005 Estate Wine
Cherry red colour with a complex nose of earth, smoke, and oaky cedar resin (12 months in French oak - Allier, Nevers, and Vosges 1/3rd new). Medium-bodied with strawberry leaf, cherry, red currant, and added oak complexity with nice cedar notes in the finish.

Lindenberg Lagrein 2004 Estate Wine
Lagrein = Syrah possibly? Dense ruby purple colour with lovely chocolate, violet, and spice aromas. Full-bodied with some tannin (4-6 years ageing?) and concentrated structure wit flavours of dark chocolate, black currant leaf, and layers of spice. Almost a cross between the Rhone and Bordeaux! Perfect pairing with braised meats, stews, venison, or lamb.
Overall I found the aromatic whites the strong points from Alois Lageder and the tasting of the lagrein Rosato and Estate Lndenberg Lagrein where eye openers on the region and the varietal.
The Alto Adige looks amazingly beautiful and through a quirk of nature - climate and soils along with Germanic efficiency make this region one to watch.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sauvignon and Tomatoes

One of my favourite seasonal wine and food pairings is Sauvignon Blanc and tomatoes. This week after a short visit to the Main Street Farmer's Market in Vancouver I picked up a several heirloom ( heritage) tomatoes from Klipper Organic Farms Although there can be challenges pairing tomatoes with their high acidity and inherent sweetness with wine I find one of the most memorable matches to be with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The punchy fruit forward style, zest acidity, and herbal-tropical fruit flavour profile of these antipodean wines plays well with the acidity of tomatoes and they share a common bond of herbal-fruit overtones of two vine grown fruits. I decided to open two 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon's from Allan Scott and Spy Valley.

To pair up the wines I made a deconstructed Insalata Caprese salad with Black Zebra, Mandarin Cross, and Texas Star tomatoes, some local Mozzarella di Bufala from Vancouver Island, fresh basil from my balcony planter, and an amazing Crete olive oil from Terra Creta The combination of flavours and textures worked well with both wines. The Mozzarella with its rich creaminess balanced the acidity in both the wine and tomatoes. The Crete olive oil with its Spanish like richness but slightly Tuscan peppiness played well with the ingredients on the plate and added some extra dimension to the wine and food pairing.

Allan Scott 2007 Marlborough 20.99 CDN$
Light gold with vibrant aromas of guava, mineral, and subtle grassy-herbal notes. Medium-bodied, crisp, well-balanced with a nice texture, and flavours of passion fruit, subtle capsicum, and a grapefruit lemony finish. Good value.

Spy Valley 2007 Marlborough $ unknown
A jet setting UK friend dropped this one off for me. Pale straw colour with complex aromas of passion fruit, gooseberry, melon, and an almost Loire like minerality. Medium to full-bodied, powerful and intense flavours of gooseberry, passion fruit, and ripe melon. A bigger more complex style than the Allan Scott. Beautifully made.

Both wines worked extremely well with the salad but the head's up goes to the Spy Valley for added complexity with the dish. While the heirloom tomato season lasts get to your local farmer's markets and take advantage of real and flavourful tomatoes. In Vancouver you can find information on all local markets at:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

South Africa: Shiraz and Syrah June 11 2009

I had a great morning wine tasting and early luncheon featuring a focus on South African Shiraz and Syrah lead by award winning winemaker Marc Kent today at the Diva at the Met. The tasting of two South African whites and nine reds was an eye opener to the quality coming out of SA .

Winemaker Marc Kent commented on the meteoric rise of red varietals especially Shiraz/Syrah in the last two decades. From 1990 to 1998 red production has risen from 18% to 48% and Shiraz from 1% of total production to just over 18%. Marc mentioned the long history of South Africa as the nine largest wine producer globally and the oldest of the new world wine regions. In his opinion Shiraz is the future varietal for SA.

Here are my tasting notes. Chef and Sommelier Dino Renaerts prepared a tasty wine paired lunch to show off the aromatic and savoury flavour elements of the red wines.

Graham Beck Brut $24.99 CDN
Straw yellow with fine mousse and subtle yeast and green apple aromas. Light-bodied, green apple, subtle minerality notes in the soft middle with a crisp dry finish.

Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $14.99 CDN
Straw green with subtle green bean and melon aromas. Light-bodied and round with notes of melon, apple, and a hint of mineral. Crisp finish. A delicate non aggressive SB style.

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap 2008 $14.99 CDN
Ruby with good depth of colour and aromas of raisin and cassis. Medium-bodied with a lush smooth texture and flavours of spice, blackberry, black cherry, and hints of raisin. Good value.

Excelsior Paddock Shiraz 2006 $15.99 CDN
Ruby with ripe spice aromas. Medium-bodied, subtle tannins and ripe blackberry, raisin, and spice notes.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2007 $17.99 CDN
Ruby purple with cedar aromas. Medium-bodied with some chewy tannins, decent concentration of flavour, and notes reminiscent of spice, pepper, and cherry. Rhone styled.

Glen Carlou Syrah 2005 $29.73 CDN
Ruby purple with exotic spice aromas. Full-bodied and complex with Australian fruit forward styling and flavours of warm sweet spice, vanilla, and ripe cassis.

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block 2007 $45.00 CDN
Ruby purple and aromas of plum, spice, and coffee. Full-bodied , chewy, and concentrated with plum, orange pekoe tea, roasted coffee, chocolate and blueberry flavours. Languedoc in style.

Robertson Constitution Road Shiraz 2005 $39.99 CDN
Ruby colour with tea and warm spice aromas. Medium to full-bodied with a lush texture and complex notes of leather, tea, and spice.

Mulderbosch Shiraz 2004 $34.99
Ruby purple with roasted earth, savoury herb, and a pronounced white pepper aroma. Full-bodied, chewy tannins, and flavours of white pepper, spice, meat, and vanilla. Rhone styled

Thelema Mountain Shiraz 204 $34.99 CDN
Ruby purple with a complex nose of sweet spice and savoury meatiness. Full-bodied with ripe blackberry, chocolate orange, spice, cassis, and cedar. Elegant and complex.

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2005 $69.99
Ruby with cedar aromas. Full-bodied, lush, and concentrated with pepper, spice, cassis, and blueberry flavours. Complex and layered with a Rhone style bent.
South African Lunch - Chef Dino Renaerts
  • Goat cheese croquette with tomato chutney
  • Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc
  • Tomato foam and pea puree
  • Graham Beck Brut
  • Spiced beef slider
  • Porcupine Ridge Syrah
  • Brasied beef & mushroom wellington
  • Glen Carlou Syrah
  • Duck confit & lentils
  • Boekenhoutskloof The WolfTrap
  • Seared flank steak cube with port glazed shallot jam
  • Boekenhoutsloof The Chocolate Block
  • Valrhona chocolate pudding
  • Boekenhoutsloof Syrah

Monday, April 13, 2009

WINE - Badia a Coltibuono

Last month I had the privilege to taste seven wines from this illustrious estate. Badia a Coltibuono has a 1000 year history of Tuscan wine production and today a 900+ ha estate comprising of 70 ha of vines and 18 ha of olive oil production. The estate's style is a bridge between the new and classic Chianti wines styles. Forward thinking in viticulture/viniculture but with a 150 year one family, Stucchi Prinetti , devotion to Sangiovese. The Sangiovese grape accounts for more than 80% of the family's estate plantings.

Detailed information on the wines and estate itself are available at: prices are in Canadian dollars and most wines are not available in the BC market at this time.


Cancelli Rosso Toscano IGT 2007 approx $21
Ruby red with aromas of red Cherry and black pepper.
Light-bodied and soft with lush ripe fruit and notes of pepper and earth. Easy drinking red
. 70% Sangiovese and 30% Syrah.

RS Chianti Classico 2006 $23.95
Cherry red colour and aromas of cherry and herbs. Medium-bodied with soft tannins and good acidity and lush red cherry, plum, pepper, and savoury herb flavours. Multi-grower blend with approximately three months inf French Allier oak.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2006 approx $36
Ruby red with aromas of cherry, tobacco, and violets. Medium-bodied, good concentration and chewy tannins and flavours of cherry, leather, earth. Good complexity. Organic

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 approx. $70
Cherry red with a complex nose of smoke, mineral, cherry, and flowers.
Full-bodied, chewy tannins, complex and layered with spice, vanilla, tea, and leather.
90% Sangiovese, 24 months in French & Austrian oak.

Cultus Boni Chianti Classico 2004 approx. $47
Ruby red with good depth and amazing fresh liquorice aromas with hints of cedar and chocolate. Full-bodied, lush, and round, chewy tannins and flavours of
liquorice, chocolate, cherry, and tea. 80% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot.

Sangioveto 2004 IGT approx. $80
Ruby purple with aromas of violets, spice, red currant aromas. Full-bodied, rich, but with soft tannins and flavours of tobacco, chocolate, violets, and cherry. Not super complex compared to other vintages.
Organic, 100% Sangiovese, 12 months French oak, 25% new.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2003 375ml $41.99
Amber gold with honeyed nut aromas. Full-bodied and concentrated with sweet barley sugar, dried apricot, and honeyed nut flavours
. 50% Trebbiano, 50% Malvasia, 4 years mixed cask/oak ageing.

BEER - Rogue Craft Brewery 3 Beers

I've always been an advocate of fine wine and also of great craft and micro brewed beers. This Easter weekend's cooking was delayed by a trying a series of three beers from Oregon's Rogue Brewery. This Newport brewery was established in 1988 by three partners with the premise of making fine microbrewery beers that are made for "food and beer pairing" using no pasturisation, no preservatives and all natural ingredients. Being PNW Pacific Northwest based Rogue also has the benefit of using locally sourced malts and hops. Their 'Pacman" proprietary "wild yeast" gives the beers a distinct flavour and body profile. All beer were tasted from 650ml (22 US ounce) bottles.

Juniper Pale Ale
Malts: Northwest Harrington, Crystal, Triumph, Maier Munich & C-15. Hops: Styrian Golding & Amarillo. Straw gold colour with light carbonation and little lacing. Aromas of subtle flowers and malts. On the palate is its medium-bodied, smooth, some bitterness, very mild almost non-existent juniper flavours. My least favourite of the flight but have been brought up with juniper encrusted and sauced game dishes and summer G&T's the lack of a "British" palate of intense juniper gives it a slightly lower thumbs up. Still enjoyable and good beer with venison sausages, white bird meats, and trout.

Yellow Snow IPA
Malts: Two Row Pale, Cara Foam & Melanoiden.
Hops: Amarillo. Yellow gold colour with good carbonation and lacing. Complex nose of citrusy hops, pine, and apple. Medium-bodied, dry, and crisp with typical IPA flavours, not too bitter, but refreshing with lemon, grapefruit, and subtle pepper flavours. Try this one with a tandoori, grilled fish and white meats, and spicy BBQ sausages.

Chipolte Ale
Malts: Harrington, Klages & Maier Munich.
Hops: Cascade and Willamette. One of my Rogue favourites! Golden mahogany colour with malty, pepper, and subtle smokey aromas. Medium-bodied, creamy textured with nice balance of hops, malt, and chipolte. Intriguing to drink, the lovely smokey peppery notes, kick in about 5-8 seconds after swallowing. Try this one with BBQ red meats, bison burgers with blue cheese, Tex-Mex cuisine, and for a real but very tasty shocker! dark chocolate.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Socks may have been around for the last five hundred years or so but they have undergone another minor Renaissance amongst international designers. I have always had a soft spot for stripey shirts, old school and regimental ties, and a renewed passion in well made and designed socks. I've purchased over the last several months socks from Corgi, Paul Smith, Duchamp, Pantherella , and Holt Renfrews own in house brand. Other than when wearing boater's, sandals, or sports related footwear I'm always wearing a good well constructed pair of socks whether made from wool, cashmere, or cotton. I'm not a big fan of plain colours and like my choice in shirts and ties I like bright, colourful, and bold colours and patterns. Proper dress may dictate the blending of pants, socks, and shoes or a colour match between shirt and sock, but being more of a clothes dandy I go for the reverse. All of my recent purchases have been either from Holt Renfrew in Vancouver or from the UK. Corgi socks are definitely old school with a heavy emphasis on stripes and school/sport colours. They have been manufactured since 1893 in Western Wales. Paul Smith has gone with the "English" theme of contrasting heel and toe as well as making some beautiful floral patterns. Paul Smith socks are Brit designed and manufactured in Italy. Duchamp of London well known for their powerfully patterned ties and shirts also produces some lovely bold and funky socks. Pantherella socks although abit more conservative are well made socks that have been manufactured in Leicester since 1937 using a high proportion of luxury materials such as cashmere. A small selection of Pantherella and Duchamp are sold at Vancouver's Holt Renfrew. Paul Smith and Corgi can be purchased on line at leading men's retailers.

Friday, February 27, 2009

WINE - Barbera, Barbaresco, and Barolo

A few short notes from the recent BB&B tasting I held for the WaaZuBee Cafe Wine Club on February 24th. I took the group of twenty three on a short excursion through the land of 'tar and roses" tasting two Barbera's and three Nebbiolo based wines. The focus of the tasting was to taste the differences between a generic producers of both varietals through to a small artisan estate growers. I touched on the differences between Barbaresco (1 year wood ageing, minimum 12.5% abv) and Barolo (2 years wood ageing and minimum 13% abv) along with the differences in flavour and style between the classic "tradionalist" and "modernist" producers. As well as looked at the history, geology, and geography of Piedmont and of both Barbera (Italy's 3rd most prominent work horse grape) and quirky nature of Nebbiolo ( various clones, mutations, long slow growing period), difficult growing nature i.e. susceptibility to vine diseases, and its near Burgundian cult following for "cru" single vineyard and commune wines.

Ricossa Barbera d'Asti 2006
Ruby red with typical text book aromas of red cherry and subtle blueberry notes. Light to medium-bodied with a lush textured balanced by good acidity and decent length of flavour (blueberry, red cherry, and pepper). Decent value 15.97 CDN$

Renata Fenocchio Barbera d'Alba 2006
Ruby purple with good depth of colour. Black cherry and minerally earth aromas. Full-bodied and concentrated with spice, black cherry, damson plum, and a sour cherry and vanilla note in the long finish. Nice balance of ripe fruit and acidity. A classy organic artisanal Barbera. 35.00 CDN$

Fontanafredda Barbaresco 2004
Cherry red with subtle tarry aromas. Full-bodied with some chewy tannins and flavours veering from violets to cedar, mineral and lead pencil. Needs another 2 or 3 years to round out. 34.95 CDN$

Fontanafreeda Barolo 2004
Cherry red with aromas of tobacco leaf, fruit leather, and subtle tar. Full-bodied with chewy tannins, and more complex flavours than the sister Barbaresco, with cedar, red plum, black cherry, and dried floral notes. 2-3 years ageing will bring out additional complexity. 38.65 CDN$

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Barolo Bussia 2004
Cherry red colour with hints of mahogany and fresh laid tar aromas - classic. Full-bodied, chewy, and complex with layers of dried rose, prune, fig, violets, black cherry, black plum, and tar. Complex Bussia cru styling made in the "elegant" school of thought. Drinking nicely now but easily can handle the cellar until 2014 to 2016. 61.99 CDN$

Sunday, February 22, 2009

WINE - Curiously Different BC

Over the last fortnight or so I've been drinking several somewhat curious and limited production BC wine varietals. Three that stuck my fancy have been the Hillside Pinotage, Twisted Tree Tempranillo, and the Summerhill Rose Ice Wine Dosage Sparkling.

Cipes Ice Wine Dosage Sparkling NV $44.95
Small persistent bubbles and good mousse and lovely cherry copper colour. Aromas of raspberry and baked apples. On the palate this BC bubble is medium-bodied with ripe berry notes of strawberry, cherry, and ripe Pinot Noir fruit. The crisp acidity balances the slightly sweet honeyed undertones of the ice wine dosage. Try this one with BBQ duck or Asian inspired dishes with a sweet element. Made from organic grapes.

Twisted Tree Tempranillo 2007 $27.90
Deep cherry red with aromas of strawberry leaf, green tobacco, and subtle leathery notes. Medium-bodied and rounder than a Spanish Tempranillo with flavours of strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, and hints of cherry. Nice pairing with herbed lamb chops or curiously with Schezuan peppercorn chocolate truffles. French barrique aged and the inaugural vintage of this varietal from Twisted Tree. 13.9% abv

Hillside Estate Pinotage 2007 $24.99

Ruby red colour with typical and appealing Pinotage aromas of bacon fat and smoke. Medium-bodied, lushly textured, and complexly layered with flavours of raspberry, autumnal smoke, earth, spice, and mixed wild blackberries. This one will give South African a run for its flavour complexity. 100% American oak ageing for 8 and 1/2 months.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

KITCHEN GEAR - Nespresso Aeroccino Milk Frother

For my birthday I received the Nespresso Aeroccino Automatic Milk Frother to accompany the Essenza single serve espresso machine I purchased late last year. This unit is a simple and easy method to produce frothy heated milk and foam for lattes and cappuccinos. The Aeroccino + has a stainless steel outer body and Teflon coated frothing and heating chamber with a capacity of 6 oz along with two attachments for steamed milk and frothed milk. The unit draws about 550 watts , is 3 1/2" x 5 3/4" high, and has a very small small footprint. It has no moving parts other than a magnetically driven frothing wheel - so virtually silent. The run cycle for hot foamed milk is approximately 50 seconds with heating milk to 165 degrees. I'd prefer my milk a little hotter; but the ratio of hot milk and froth is perfect for a latte or cappuccino. This model the Aeroccino + allows for both hot and cold beverages to be made. A simple two second push of the only button puts the unit into a cold frothing mode. A nice touch is the red or blue led back light button to let you know if you are heating milk and automatic shut-off. User friendly right out of the box, easy to clean, and a nice companion to the Nespresso machine line. Approximately $120 CDN

Monday, February 9, 2009

BOUTIQUE HOTELS - Lord Howe Island

Capella Lodge Lord Howe Island Australia

2 hours flying time and 600km East by Dash 8's from Sydney is the World Heritage Site: Lord Howe Island - home to over 130 species of birds, 500 species of fish, and 90 different corals. The island is not a resort island; visitor numbers are strictly limited to 400 and it is one of the cleanest places on earth with no air or sea pollution or litter. Lord Howe is easily walkable it is 11km long and 2.8 km wide. Neds Beach, a popular favourite, was voted Australia's cleanest beach. No camping is allowed and all accommodation is run by the local population and must be pre-confirmed before booking a flight to the Island. Accommodation runs from self catering cottages, B&B's, guest houses, and a of couple boutique luxury lodges. During our stay we opted for a three night stay at the luxury Capella Lodge isolated from the rest of the island with its amazing twin peak views of the 6.4 million year old Mount Lidgbird (777 m) and Mount Gower (875 m) on the southern end of the island. The nine suites have magificent views of the Mountains, lush Kentia palms or aquamarine ocean and reefs.The contemporary suites are a luxurious refuge with light timber floors, white shutters, marine fixtures and a sophisticated beach house feel. The suites have king size beds with a selection of pillows along with a CD player, TV ( 3 channels), DVD player - there is a large library of DVD's in the bar , telephone and room bar. En suites offer a bath and rain shower and premium Australian toiletries. Beach towels, bathrobes and knack sacks are provided as is daily housekeeping and evening turn down service. Capella has guest space for just twenty so you're on a first name basis with staff the first night. There are a total of nine rooms, one suitable for children, and you are offered a gourmet breakfast and three course dinner each day of your stay.

If you dietary issues you must let the lodge know in due course - you are after all 600km out in the ocean! Lunch can be a prepared picnic or you can opt to cook your own lunch on one of the many BBQ's around the island. The restaurant and bar have a great selection of cocktails, wines, and beers. Late night need for a drink - the bar is on an honour system. The lodge offers complimentary wifi, mountain bikes, a motorised golf cart, snorkeling equipment, and kayaks to all guests. You cannot use a mobile phone on the island - there is no service.

There is also a delightful spa with a wide range of services available. Food during our stay was a Modern Australian - a mixture of Australian, Asian, and European. Highlights of the island including feeding King fish at Neds Beach, hiking up Mount Gower, and seeing the elusive and flightless woodhen. Rates vary from $590 AUS per person per night to $1230 AUS during high season.

Lord Howe Island - "One of the 100 places to visit before you die"