Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oxtail Stew and 3 Old Spaniards

With the cooler Autumn weather arriving I've been using the slow cooker and sous  vide to create some hearty wintery dishes. This week Helen and I cooked an eight hour oxtail stew inspired by Spain's Rabo de Toro paired with three old vine Spanish reds. For the stew the addition of  dark chocolate adds a lot of  richness and wine complimenting ability. The basic recipe including liberties we took based on in house ingredients for two was:

1 lb oxtails (browned on the grill)
10 pearl onions
1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely diced
1 small Spanish onion, diced
1 medium carrot peeled and diced
1/2  red bell pepper, diced
1 celery stalk,  diced
2  diced tomatoes
3 small white potatoes (halved)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1.5 oz  70% dark chocolate (microplaned)
1 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine (used 1/3 of each reds to make a cup)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook in a slow cooker on HIGH for 6 hours and SIMMER for two or more.

I went with an Spanish Old Vine budget theme for the wine pairings to include the 2007 Bodegas Olivares Alto de la Hoya Jumilla, Bodegas Castano La Casona 2008 Old Vine Monastrell Yelca and the Le Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garancha 2007 all easly available in the BC marketplace.

2007 Bodegas Olivares Alto de la Hoya Jumilla $16.99
Old Vine Monastrell 98%

Dark purple colour with aromas of smoke, hay (floral) , spice, and dark berries. Medium-bodied to full-bodied with soft tannins for 2-3 years cellaring potential with flavours of mulberry, blackberry, blueberry, and black cherry. Subtle notes of hay and mineral in the mid palate and a long berry and savoury hay/earthy and liquorice finish. Well balanced with decent acidity and alcohol levels.

Bodgeas Castano La Casona 2008 Old Vine Monastrell Yecla $9.50
40 – 60 year old vine Monastrell
Ruby purple with black pepper and blueberry aromas. Medium to full-bodied with lush plum, blueberry, and savoury almost meaty hints on the nose. Medium to full-bodied with lush texture and flavours of ripe berry (carbonic maceration?) layered by hints of game, fresh black pepper,cherry, and a bit of dark chocolate.

Le Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha Navarra 2007 $13.99
 Old Vine  (vines between 60- 100 years old) 55% Tempranillo  and 45% garnacha

Ruby purple colour with aromas of maraschino cherry and plum.  Medium-bodied with red plum, chocolate, and fruit compote notes finishing with some rustic chewy tannins - good food wine.

All three wines worked well with the hearty and rustic stew. Like your dinner guests, the Bodegas Olivares  is a classy great value wine on its own or with the oxtail. The La Castona with its pepper, meaty, and  chocolate notes was the perfect foodie friend pairing and best overal pair with the oxtail; while Red Guitar is like your sexy hipster friend which everyone enjoyed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Iberico Ham: The New Pig On The Block

Today was a perfect rainy day in Vancouver to drop by Cafe Barcelona to taste a variety of hams with Antonio Padilla and his wife of Iberico Spain featuring the products of Embutidos Y Jamones Fermin.  Antonio is the BC distributor of  Iberian ham products. Iberian Bellota has only been available in Western Canada for the last year. If you were lucky you’d find it on the charcuterie plates at Salt, Judas Goat, and les amis du Fromage; hopefully that will change sooner rather than later for Vancouver foodies. It is still easier to find Kobe beef or Iranian caviar here than this exquisite Spanish meat.

Antonio Padilla of Iberico Spain
 A small group of restaurateurs and media gathered to taste four Iberico products from Antonio’s portfolio with a glass of accompanying Vina Albali. Antonio offered samples of his Salchichon Iberico sausage – a slicing sausage reminiscent of salami in appearance seasoned with salt and pepper and a with a silky melt in the mouth texture and subtle sweetness. The Chorizo Iberico Extra, minced loin and fat with pimento and garlic, was mildly spicy with sweet nutty undertones and a smooth texture. The Lomo Iberico de Bellota, an air-cured loin marinated with salt and pimento, was very lean, rich and with a subtle smoky nutty taste; while the Iberico Bellota was a stunner with its melt in your mouth texture, savoury yet sweet flavour and lingering mid palate to finish nuttiness. Expensive but  a little goes along way.
So what makes this ham so special? Regular Iberian ham is aged a minimum of two years much longer than most ham we purchase at supermarkets or deli's. The Iberico Bellota is aged a minimum of 24 to 36 months,  sometimes over four years, and has its provenance in its production. These hams are produced from free range Pata Negra (black hoof) pigs that feast on tree fallen acorns, gorging on up to ten kilo's per day until they double in weight before off to the slaughter. The curing process takes a minimum of two years during which time the  antioxidant quality of the acorns changes saturated fat into mono-unsaturated fats  with higher levels of oleic acid than olive oil. So eat more Spanish ham, wine, and olive oil!

 If at home or the restaurant; some Iberian ham and drink pairings I would recommend are the Estrella Damm inedit, a Spanish beer,  with Salchichon Iberico sausage - a nice balance of wheat--lager beer that balances the sweetness of the sausage. A good quality Cava  will partner well with the Chorizo Iberico  Extra   balancing out the fattiness and nutty flavours.  Lomo Iberico de Bellota will pair exquisitey with a well crafted Cidra (dry cider) or with a selecton of cheeses try a Gran Reserva Rioja to complement the smokey/nutty notes with the aged flavours of the wine. The Iberico Bellota is a must with another Spanish superstar - Sherry;  try a fresh dry Fino with the montagna y mer "mountain  and sea combination" of saltiness, sweetness, and complexity. How fitting the noblest ham in the world is with Sherry - a classic combination that must be tried.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

Altitude, Latitude, & Cool Climates

With the 32nd annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wines Festival just around the corner, April 1th to 25th, I had the opportunity to attend a media preview of two of the regional theme partners ~ Argentina and New Zealand and taste over 70 wines from both nations.

Wine Festival Regional Theme Highlights

250 wines from Argentina and New Zealand
36 Argentinean wineries
40 New Zealand wineries

Argentina Wine Facts
225,000 ha vineyards, 7 regions
Malbec – Iconic varietal
Torrontes – native varietal to watch

New Zealand Wine Facts
31,000 ha vineyards, 10 regions
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – Iconic varietal
Central Otago Pinot Noir – varietal to watch

At the preview tasting hosted by the Shore Club I was extremely impressed by Argentina’s aromatic whites from the native Torrontes varietal (think Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Viognier) and not surprised by the quality and complexity of many of her Malbecs. Argentina maybe the hot blooded land of the Tango and Paso Dobo but a combination of latitude and high altitude “cool macro and micro climates” the vineyards create wines of excellent ripe fruit forward style but balanced by crisp acidity. While working your way through the tasting room in April look out for the Luigi Bosa Finca La Linda Torrontes 2009 – one of my preview favourites. Straw green with intense lychee like aromas of rose and flowers. Medium-bodied, richly textured with crisp balancing acidity, and complex flavours of nutmeg, peach, lychee, and ripe pear. Excellent value!

An iconic Malbec to try will be the Graffigna Reserve Malbec 2006; aged 12 months in equal amounts of French and American it is Ruby red in colour with aromas of cedar, chocolate and plum. On the palate it is full-bodied, lush, and loaded with lovely flavours of black plum, chocolate, and warm exotic spice (cinnamon and clove).
Outside of the world’s fascination with Malbec some great blends are being conceived. The Masi Tupungato Corbec 2007 is such a beast. 70% Corvina (Veneto Italy varietal) and 30% Malbec under going appassimento for 22 days along with 18 months in medium toasted French barrique. This dense ruby-red coloured blend has complex aromas of ripe sweet mulberry and blueberry and on its full-bodied and round palate notes of cherry kirsch, chocolate, and subtle leafy herbs dominate. Tasty and fascinating. Also search out the Vina Cobos Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon Lujan de Cuyo 2007 this 100% hand harvested Cabernet Sauvignon is wild yeast fermented and aged 18 months in a combination of American and French oak (37% new). It is ruby red in colour with complex aromas of milk chocolate and cedar resin. Full-bodied with some lush tannins, and flavours of cherry, cedar, and pipe tobacco.

New Zealand home of Sauvignon Blanc and increasingly great cool climate Pinot Noir is a nice antipodean bridge to Argentina at this year’s wine festival. A Sauvignon Blanc that caught my attention included the unusual Mt. Riley Savee 2008 Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. This 100% Marlbourough Sauvignon Blanc under goes traditional bottle fermentation to produce a supercharged fizzy SB. It is pale straw in colour with decent sized bubbles and pungent aromas of passion fruit, capsicum, and wild black currants. The bubbly is medium-bodied and crisp with gooseberry, nectarine, and typical but subdued capsicum hints. A tasty match for steamed Chinese seafood or Japanese uni. At the preview tasting I had opportunity to taste flights of Pinot Noir from the 06 through 08 vintages. The 07 vintage showed very well. Seek out the 2007 Gibbston Highgate Soultaker Central Otago Pinot Noir, a cold soaked and French oak aged Pinot with complex Burgundian aspirations but full-bodied with smoke, earth, wild aromatic herbs, and cherry like flavours. Beautifully crafted PN. Also try the Spy Valley Marlborough Envoy Pinot Noir 2007 with its wild yeast fermentation and 18 months of French barrique ageing was a dynamite drop with layers of earth, forest wood smoke, and Burgundian styling wrapped around its full-bodied structure and style. Look for Spy Valley on the tasting room floor! Away from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir check out the Bordeaux blends from the North island. The Paritua “Red” 2007 Hawkes Bay Cabernet-Merlot was a great find. This four varietal blend, mainly Cabernet ~ Merlot, and a 99 barrique run is ruby red in colour with new oak and cedar resin aromas. On the palate it is full-bodied with lush round tannins (3-5 years ageing potential) and lovely flavours of blackcurrant leaf, olive, ripe cherry, spice, and intriguing herbal notes.

Enjoy the wine festival this year! 1700 wines, 197 wineries, 61 events, 7 days and 25,000 wine lovers

Details and tickets at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fenadegas A9 Portugal Wine Tasting

I recently had the pleasure of re-exploring the wines of Portugal at a trade tasting in Vancouver featuring the wines of Fenadegas Adegas Cooperativas De Portugal also known as A9. This cooperative represents 27 wineries, 15,000 producers, and approximately 20% of all Portuguese production including a staggering 70% of all Moscatel production. A9 controls 22,000 ha of vineyards and exports 13 million bottles of wines annually with wines from all 8 mainland wine regions. Far from mediocrity; this cooperative has some wonderful and well priced wines highlighting the indigenous varietals of Portugal with a modern twist.

Portugal Highlights
575 miles long – 138 miles wide
500,000 acres of vineyards
200 varietals
Low yields of 5 gallons/acre
Wine Classifications: Vinho de Mesa, Vinho Regional, VDPQRD
Varietal to watch: Touriga Nacional

The trade event started with a luncheon created by Chef Dino Renaerts of the Met Hotel paired with six wines from A9.

Bacalhau with potatoes and soft poached egg

Vercoope Via Latina Alvarinho 2008 Vinho Verde
Pale green with lime and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, crisp, and complex with flavours of green apple, lime and mineral. Reminiscent of a Clare Valley Riesling

Herb crusted baked clams with fennel butter

Adega Cooperativa de Almerm Planicle White 2009 Tejo
Straw green colour with lovely aromas of banana and glace fruits. Full-bodied, rich and lush in texture with glace pear, guava, pineapple, and banana notes. Reminds me of a well made Marsanne-Roussane.

Sea scallops with lobster essence

Adega Pegoes Select Harvest White 2009 – Peninsula de Setubal
Straw green with subtle tropical and coconut aromas. Full-bodied and lush with coconut, tropical fruit, spice, and some malo undertones.

Cozido, chourico & salt pork stew

Caves Vale do Rodo Cabeca de Burro Reserve Red 2007 – Dao
Ruby red with cedar, resin, and earthy agave aromas. Medium-bodied with some tannins and juicy warm fruit notes of plum, strawberry, and cedar.

Grilled lamb chops with fig jus

UDACA Red 2004 – Dao
Ruby red with typical fig Dao aromas. Medium to full-bodied with soft grained tannins, ripe fruit, and lush figgy notes and texture.

Spanish Cheese with quince & toasted nuts

Caves Santa Marta Vintage Port 2004 Douro
Dense purple and youthful colour and orange and fruitcake aromas. Medium-bodied and elegant style Port with sweet blackberry, spice, mulberry, and fruit cake flavours. A tasty feminine styled Port.

On the trade room floor tasting it became oblivious that A9 really shines with its single varietal Vinho Verde, Touriga Nacional (UDCA),Tawny Ports (Caves Santa Marta) and the red and white wines from Pegoes on the Setubal peninsula. Portugal proves that indigenousity, creativity, and value are the hallmarks and provenance for this region in an ever more homogenised wine world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LOST in Wine

The final season and hopefully answers to every one's questions will be resolved in season 6. My plan of attack, take Tuesday's off and open a bottle of wine, to accompany the series. Looking at the complicated, convoluted, and mind numbing characteristics of the main characters I've paired them up with a wine to help with the sensory overload. Show details at ABC

Richard Alpert, leader of the Others and seemingly ageless time traveller

Try a great Bordeaux with some bottle age or a mature Chateau Musar or Rioja Gran Reserva. These wines seem fitting for a complex and long lived character.

Kate Austen Bouncing between the country boy Saywer and city professional Jack

A Primativo suits Kate acting as a bridge between the new and old world.

Juliet Burke a complex character playing a fertility doctor and a mechanic through time travel. Played both sides with the Others and survivors.

A classy Australian Riesling from the Clare or Eden Valley with its complex layered flavours, zesty acidity, and refreshing lime cordial notes.

Daniel Faraday an Oxford intellectual killed by his mother while travelling through time and space.

Choose a vintage Champagne for its complexity

Desmond David Hume The one character who actually had a wine scene involving wine production and retail. This seafaring Scot has a knack for sailing and not losing his cool pressing buttons every 108 minutes. The Royal Scots Regiment conjures thoughts of a peaty iodine scented whiskey but for wine try a complex white.

Caymus Conundrum.... a puzzle and a great multi -grape Californian blend.

Sayid Jarrah A former republican Guard with a spot for stiff drinks and a complex character both working for Ben then trying kill him as a child in a time travel segment

Try a complex Pinot Noir from the Burgundy or Central Otago in South Island of New Zealand

Sun-Hwa Kwon The rich daughter of a magnate with Korean mob ties. She gets pregnant on the Island and suffers with the knowledge of unsuccessful pregnancies on the island.

A complex and confident Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with its intense aromas and flavours.

James Sawyer A confidence man with a lot of anti-social behaviour throughout most of the show.

Try a big new world red, not necessarily complex, something Australian like Yellow Tail or Wolf Blass.

Frank Lapidus The pilot originally scheduled to fly Oceanic 815 but flys Flight 316 in the future. Easy going character who seems indifferent to crashing on the Island.

Try a soft uncomplicated red such as Beaujolais

Benjamin Linus The manipulative leader of the Others and John Locke's murderer.

I'd recommend a Fino Sherry. Under appreciated, complex to make, and a refreshing change to the norm.

John Locke A man of faith and the new chosen leader of the Others. Killed by Ben in the 5th season and now apparently resurrected but with the soul of Jacob's rival.

Try a rose - preferably dry and from a Southern French varietal. Another wine style like Sherry that needs a boast of faith with consumers.

Hugo Hurley Reyes Winning the lottery brought nothing but bad luck. What’s in his guitar case? and what’s up with the winning lotto numbers?

Hugo's love of junk food means a big fruit forward, oak aged and malo influenced Chardonnay, from Australia or the USA. What else pairs well with popcorn?

Jack Shephard A neurosurgeon, leader of the survivor’s, and suicidal character.

Try a complex dessert wine like Sauternes or Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos. Something with ripe fruit and botrytis.

Miles Straume A spiritualist who is able to read the thoughts of the recently departed and son of Dr. Pierre Chang.

Pair up with a South African Chenin Blanc. Dry, crisp, and complex

Charles Widmore A wealthy industrialist and former leader of the Others in the 1950's.

A boutique or garage Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Meritage would pair well.

Jacob A complex ageless character that has touched all of the survivors and the Others throughout the timeline.

A complex white Burgundy with 5-8 years ageing. Layers of mineral, honey, and nutty undertones needed for this one.

Vincent The yellow Labrador retriever that time shifts with various survivor’s and looks somewhat like his “owner”? - Jacob...clutching straws with that one!

Fresh water; maybe a Voss on the final episode
Enjoy the final season of this intriguing show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Wines, A Beer, & a Slow Cooker

With the arrival of winter thoughts spring to mind of braised meats, soups, and stews. We seriously thought of a home sous vide machine this year; but with our small loft kitchen footprint, a $500 price tag, and need for extra equipment such as a vacuum sealer we opted for a modern version of a slow cooker. We picked up a Cuisinart PSC-650C, a programmable slick stainless steel unit with a capacity of 6.5 quarts (7.1 litres) for just over $100 CDN it is ideal for two but has the flexibility to cook for half a dozen. Over the last fortnight I've adjusted a few recipes to cook for two. Immediately after Christmas we decided Boxing Day needed to involve seafood. Cioppino and bouillabaisse came to mind and this recipe is a bridge between the two with some local west coast liberties thrown in. Wine of choice for this recipe was old world and a dry white from Bordeaux. I picked the dry white wine from the Grand Cru Sauternes Producer Chateau Guiraud to pair with the seafood stew. The wine produced from 40 year old hand harvested Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from a 15 ha parcel of the 100 ha of vineyard spends close to nine months in barrique. The structure & acidity in this wine pairs extremely well with the tomato acidity in the broth while the tropical flavour profile bridges the herbal saffron notes and the richness of the Semillon blends and balances with the texture of the halibut and salmon. All round a perfect match balancing texture and flavours.

G. de Chateau Guiraud 2007. Pale straw green colour with intense aromas of passion fruit, lime, and lemon.It is full-bodied,concentrated, and well balanced with crisp acidity and very complex flavours mirroring the nose along with guava, gooseberry, and spice, and lime leaf. $31.99 CDN

Our 2nd meal in the slow cooker revolved around Redbro chicken in a classic Coq au Vin paired with a declassified Chauteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Pegau Plan Pegau Lot 2007. This non vintage wine is made from a field blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and a Merlot sourced from the edges of CNP Plan Pegau Lot 2007 Laurence Feraud Ruby red with aromas of briar, game, and wood smoke. Medium to full-bodied with a rich mouth feel, tannins for 3-4 years ageing, and complex flavours of pepper, blackcurrant, autumnal wood smoke, gout de garrigue, and subtle leathery game notes. Good length and balance. $27 at The wine was a perfect pair with the coq au vin with the gout de garrigue flavours of the wine bridging the fresh thyme, pepper,and and bacon notes. The structure balanced the texture of the chicken and mushrooms and the tannin cut down the influences of the tomato and the lardons.

Helen picked up a bottle of Spanish beer for Christmas, the Estrella Damm and Ferran Adria colloboration "Estrella Damm Inedit" which is according to the marketing a beer designed to pair with difficult foods i.e. asparagus, artichokes, citrus fruits, and vinegars as well as with fatty proteins like salmon, tuna, and cheese. The beer itself is a blend of a lager and a wheat ale. The wheat element contains, like many wheat beers, coriander and orange. This beer was paired up with a slow cooked Thai green curry with some wild BC salmon. Estrella Damm Inedit Cloudy yellow gold with a fine light head and some lacing. Aromas of orange, mild banana, and wheat. Light to medium-bodied with a light carbonation and flavours of white peach, subtle pineapple, orange, and wheat. Nice balance of malts and hops. 4.8% abv $5.97 CDN 750ml The beer was a great foil to the spice and heat of the green curry and the mild tropical flavour profile was an excellent compliment to the lime, coconut milk, and baby corn.