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"

WINE - Portugal

Recently I was privileged to take part in a small trade and media tasting of Portuguese wines at the Blue Water cafe in Vancouver. It was an informative event and great to try a series of Portuguese reds and white paired up with a west coast twist on Portuguese food.

In a nutshell - Portugal has 11 geographical wine regions and 29 designation of origin "denominacoes de origem" of high quality wines with approximately 500,000 acres of vine under cultivation. What makes Portugal fascinating is its preponderance of indigenous varietals that are extremely interesting if you're sick and tired of Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, or Chardonnay. Canada is the sixth largest importer of Portuguese wine and expect to see many more hit the store shelves in the near future.

Tasting notes - February 2nd 7pm

Quinta do Ameal Escolha Loureiro 2004 Vinho Verde $34.99
Yellow green with refreshing lime, flower blossoms, and subtle oak aromas. Medium-bodied, lush, and rich, not your usual Vinho Verde, with rich floral and citrus flavours. Well-balanced and good complexity. Perfect pairing with sushi or prawns. 100% Loureiro. Six months ageing & fermentation in French hogsheads.

Quinta do Vallado Reserva White 2006 Douro $20.99
Straw green with oatmeal and mineral aromas. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, subtle nutty oatmeal, mineral, and vanilla notes. Good value and a perfect foil for smoked cod, salmon, or sablefish. 30% Rabigato, 35% Goveio, 22.5% Viosinho, & 12.5% Arinto. 10 months in French oak.

Alianca Quinta da Garrida 2005 Dao $17.99
Ruby red with good depth and rustic herb and olive aromas. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, and flavours of spice, pepper, liquorice, and tomato leaf. Good pairing with braised meats. Blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro. 12 months in French and American oak.

Tentacao 2005 Terras do Sado $26.95
Ruby red with spice and crushed pepper aromas. Light to medium-bodied with spice, briar, and cherry notes. Rustic styled. Nice with cheese and chaoucuterie. Made from Castelao (Periquita)

Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional 2005 Douro $78.50
The Rolls Royce of Douro varietals this 100%Touriga Nacional is dense ruby purple in colour with classic TN aromas of violets and orange with layers of spice, mineral, and blackcurrant. On the palate it is full-bodied, chewy with tannins for 5-8 years, and complex flavours of violets, citrus, vanilla, cigar box, and pepper. Amazing bottle in a new world style. Great on its own or with nice cut of lamb. Star of the tasting and worth the money hands down. 18 months in Frenck oak.

Quinta do Vale Dona Maria 2005 Douro Valley $49.99
A blend of 41 varietals! Ruby red with savoury herbaceous aromas. Medium to full-bodied with chewy tannins 3-5 years ageing potential, and flavours of black cherry, briar, damson plum,and savoury herbs. Aged in 70% new and 30% 1 year old French oak

Azul 2006 Bairrada $15.99
Ruby red with rustic herby and berry leaf aromas. Medium to full-bodied, good concentration of fruit, and flavours of ripe berry, spice, and tomato leaf. Good value and ideal with stews or braised meats. A blend of Baga, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional.

Esporao Reserva 2006 Alentejo $14.99
Ruby red with lovely tobacco leaf and cigar box aromas. Medium-bodied, lush, new world styled, with exotic spice, blackberry, and blackcurrant notes. Excellent value! Made from Trinadera, Aragones, and Cabernet Sauvignon. American oak ageing for 1 year.

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva Estremadura 2004 $42.99
Ruby red with floral and black fruits. Medium-bodied, some tannins but soft and lush, with spice, plum, and oak vanillin, and hints of cointreau, violets, and briary earthy hints. 64% Touriga Nacional and 36% Tinta Roriz.

Grahams Vintage Port 2003 Douro $78.35
Ruby purple with youthful aromas of orange, flowers, blackberry,and fruit cake hints. Full-bodied, sweet, and full of grippy tannins, fruit cake, spice, tar, chocolate, mocha and blackberry notes. Nice now but better in 10-15 years.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

DRINKS - Fentimans Sodas

I can safely say that other than the occasional rum and coke or dark and stormy I rarely drink sodas; that has changed since I came across these wonderfully wickedly packaged sodas from the UK at Urban fare in the Shangri-La complex. You can only think of endless possibilities with the drinks cabinet marriage and friends fascination with the apothecary packaging. Fentimans botanically brewed sodas are artisan produced in Newcaste Upon Tyne, based on an original 1905 recipe, when Thomas Fentiman on a handshake started his firm producing ginger beer. The concept of small batch 7 day brewing of herbs, botanicals, sugar, and yeast has not changed much in the last century other than for some pasteurisation (keeps the government happy). These sodas are completely natural and you may find a fine sediment in the occasional bottle hence the words of the wise imprinted on the label "up end before pouring" I picked up a four pack of Curiosity Cola and Dandelion & Burdock but according to the company website there is a strong ginger beer, shandy, and lemonade also available.I did see the latter two at Urban Fare. Not cheap at $3.75 per 275ml bottle but tasty indeed. These sodas are mildly carbonated, not overly sweet, and complexly flavoured. Adult fizzy drinks your children will not drink! I'm imagining these at our summer picnics, mixed with gin, and contemplating re-reading Wind in the Willows with the image of the rats running amok in Toad Hall with bottles of Fentimans in hand.

WINE - Voga Sparkling Pinot Grigio

Veneto Design - Vancouver Desire
I recently tasted this Italian Sparkling Pinot Grigio and thought what a great concept for the trendy and wine savvy Vancouver market. We've got a slick looking package, Voss Water in design, made from a BC favourite varietal - Pinot Grigio a.k.a. Pinot Gris, and its sparkling therefore food friendly. This Pinot Grigio is sourced from vineyards in both the Veneto and the Trentino and under goes a seven month Charmat (tank method) fermentation process. The packaging and marketing makes it uber trendy in our youthful and vibrant winemarket and it is actually very tasty. It gets my thumbs up this month.

My notes from February 7th 2009.

Straw green with lots of effervescence and surprisingly small bubbles and decent mousse. Lovely aromas of fruit salad, pear, green tree fruit, and subtle mineral notes. On the palate it is crisp and refreshing, light-bodied, with lots of green apple, pear, and ripe fruit overtones with a subtle hint of yeastiness. Great bubble for the West Coast - think salmon benedicts, sushi, or Vancouver Island goat cheese. Non vintage, 12% ABV, and $22.99 CDN in our BCLDB shops.

The closure is an interesting concept; with a large translucent screw cap covering a traditional cork and cage. If I was a product designer or packaging manager I would have opted for a resealable cap. Think bubble closure but in a screw cap. I have a great constitution for drinking; but I find it hard to drink a whole bottle of bubble solo unless watching the Oxford/Cambridge race, RBS 6 Nations, or Wimbledon. A resealable bottle would also be great for restaurant and wine bar sellability by the glass.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

ESSENTIAL KIT Moleskine City Notes

I'm no Van Gogh, Matisse, or Hemingway; but falling into the marketing ploy of Moleskine note books I do indeed write a lot more now than I did on scraps of paper. I've been hooked on Moleskine note books for taking wine and food notes, jotting down phone numbers and addresses in style, and creating mind map sketches on the fly. In the last three years with a lot more international travel I've become an advocate for the Moleskine city notebooks. I use my London, Barcelona, and Hong Kong city notes whenever traveling to those cities. These 9 by 14 cm (3.5 x 5.5 inches) moleskine (oil clothed cardboard) notebooks with elasticised closure have 228 pages, three different coloured ribbon place markers, along with 44 pages of coloured street and transit maps. There are 12 tabbed sections: "Food: Places, legends, recipes", "Drinks: Bars, wineries, stories", "Sleep: Places, dreams, adventures", "People: Names, faces, encounters", "Info: shopping, art", and "Books, movies, music." along with 6 custom tabs to suit your lifestyle. City notes are great for preserving trip memories i.e. favourite bars, restaurants, hotels, sights, people, and shopping; along with detailed maps for the main downtown zones with the all important aphabetically listed street index. Twelve translucent sticky and re-positionable tracing sheets for retracing your favourite city walk abouts are lifesavers especially in cities like Barcelona. There's space for your travel itinerary planning and an accordion pocket in the rear to hold stamps, local lottery tickets and business cards. There are also 32 removal perforated squares for trading notes or phone numbers and 76 blanc pages for notes and sketches.
City notes are currently available for: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beijing , Berlin, Brussels, Boston ,Chicago, Copenhagen, Dublin, Florence, Frankfurt, Hamburg , Hong Kong, Kyoto, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Miami, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, Munich, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Saint Petersburg, Seattle, Stockholm, Tokyo, Toronto, Turin, Vancouver, Venice, Vienna, Washington, D.C., and Zurich
Moleskin city notes are for sale at Country Furniture on South Granville Street for more details of city notebooks see the official Moleskine website:

WNE - Torres Moscato Oro

If you're looking for a dessert wine to pair up with a mild blue cheese, fruit tart, or winter pudding give the Torres Moscatel Oro a try. This non-vintage "vino dulce natural" or "vin doux naturel" is blend of two Muscat varietals Moscatel de Grano Menudo (Muscat de Frontignac) and Moscatel de Alejandria (Muscat de Alexandria).

Torres Moscato Oro $20cdn
Light amber colour with aromas of malty Assam tea and raisins. Medium to full-bodied , rich and creamy textured, with flavours of tea, barley sugar, bergamot, light golden syrup and a long finish of floral honey and marmalade.
Tasted January 28th 2009 Two Chefs & A Table Torres Dinner

WINE - Zinfandel a 6 bottle review

Here are my brief tasting notes from a Zinfandel tasting that I hosted on January 27th 2009 . The tasting revolved around California with a brief look outside the USA to Italy (the ancestral home of Zin a.k.a. Primitivo) and Australia - proving Zin does well outside of its iconic American home. All wines were purchased at the BCLDB except for the Gravity Hills and Kangarilla Road and are priced in Canadian dollars. The Rodney Strong, Ravenswood, and Tamas Estate showed their true cooler climate Zin characteristics with more restrained red fruit elements where as the Gravity Hills and A. Mano showed the effects of warmer climate fruit notes of ripe black fruits and exotic spice and pepper notes. The Kangarilla Road exhibited many of the elements of its cooler climate Sonoma brethren but had atypical floral aroma.

Rodney Strong Sonoma 2 Knotty Vines 2006 $23.99
Medium to full-bodied with briar, raspberry, red cherry and soft tannins with a finish of spice,cherry and vanilla.14.8% ABV 10 months in oak (71% American; 29% French) 99% Zin, 1% Petite Sirah

Ravenswood Sonoma Old Vine 2005 $29.99
Full-bodied with chewy tannins and concentrated flavours of cedar, raspberry, spice. Restrained cedar and resin notes on nose and palate from new wood. 14.5% ABV 24 months French oak (34% new) 95% Zin, 4% Carignane, 1% field blend My personal favourite!

Tamas Estate Livermore 2005 $17.99
Medium-bodied, lush and soft texture, and flavours of savoury herb, plum, soy, and briary red fruits. 14.5% ABV 8 months in neutral oak varietal % not known

A. Mano Primitivo 206 Puglia Italy $17.99
Medium-bodied some tannic backbone with flavours of ripe berries, spice, and a layer of black pepper from start to finish.
13.5% ABV 70-100 year old vines, 100% stainless steel fermentation and ageing

Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Paso Robles 2005 $19.99
Medium-bodied with lots of briary raspberry and plum with a hint of mineral and spice in the finish. 13.5% ABV no varietal make up or wine making information available

Kangarilla Road Black St.John McLaren Vale 2005 Australia $29.99 Lovely but unusual perfumey aromas. Full-bodied with chewy concentrated tannins and flavours of briar, raspberry, cedar, and Violet and rose hints in the long finish.
30 year old vines, 1 year in French oak