Thursday, November 6, 2014

Country Walks - Fort Langley

One of the things I miss about the UK is the access to the countryside, good walks, and a warm pub for a pint and meal. It was a pleasure to visit Fort Langley and walk the Fort-to-Fort Trail last week and re-kindle the charm of the countryside.  An hour car trip away, or in my case ninety minutes on public transportation involving the Skytrain and two buses made for a leisurely morning commute. 

The Fort-to-Fort Trail links the original Hudson Bay Company location within the Derby Reach Regional Park to its current historic location in Fort Langley. The walk is a splendid mix of thicket, river views, marshes, and subtle grassy knolls along with an interesting history involving the HBC, its fur trading route, Anglo-American tensions, and the birthplace of British Columbia and of its original residents the Stó:lō “river” people. An interesting heritage apple tree selfguided tour is well worth part of the walk with trees planted by the HBC back in 1827.

This walk is easy and gentle from the current starting point at the historic Fort through the town Centre and along the Bedford channel with its views of Brae Island on your right. The trail deviates a bit along Allard Crescent home to gentlemen/hobby farmers. Walking this stretch is like a scene from Top Gear – expect to see lambos, Land Rovers, and Astons purr by the large gated estates. From here you meander through Derby Reach Regional Park and experience a bit of a change in grade about 14% over the course of the 4.6 km walk. Give yourself two hours to walk in both directions returning to Fort Langley town Centre for a bite and pint.

Saturday November 22nd is Christmas Tree Lighting night a jolly good  reason to pop out to the country for dinner, a stiff drink, and another Christmassy walk. 

Bites and Drinks
Hand food : Say Cheese
Pub Grub: Fort Pub (Parallel 49 beer on tap)
Fork and Knife Dining: Lamplighter (reservations recommended)
Beverages: Republika Coffee Roasters (great roasters using organic/fairtrade beans)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Must! 2014 BC Vintage

This year is looking like a stellar vintage for many winegrowers in the Okanagan. A warm summer has lead to reports of excellent phenolic ripeness and great natural acidity. BUY BC!

This week I attended a rather unique tasting lead by Master of Wine Rhys Pender for the British Columbia Wine Institute. The tasting included 2014 musts, the intermediate bridge between grape juice and wine, along with examples of 2012 and 2013 vintages that are a BCLDB focus promotion for the month of October.  Along with my colleagues it was a rare treat to taste musts for Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, and Cabernet as well as surmise their finished fate.

Rhys Pender, winemaker and owner of Little Farm Winery, as well as an MW; lead the seminar on winemaking basics in the Okanagan and discussion of the flights of wine. He stated an interesting and overlooked fact  that Canada has one of the few iconic wine styles that represent a country “Ice Wine”.  Rhys also discussed Canada as a “cool climate” wine country despite having extremely warm and cool microclimates throughout the Okanagan, The Islands, and Fraser Valley. Time for a re-think of BC’s regions and classifications?

What I found fascinating was the tasting of the musts and freshly picked grapes. They were in various stages of change from juice to partial fermentation, cloudy, and full of organic matter.

Pinot Gris must | Cloudy and grapefruit/orange juice mix in colour. Aromatic but not noticeably Pinot Gris in flavour and aroma.

Gewurztraminer must | Less cloudy than Pinot Gris, pink grapefruit juice colour. Subtle lychee aromas and flavours. Noticeable varietal flavour profile.

Merlot must | vivid purple black colour with flavours and aromas of plum, blueberry, and cocoa. Sweet and full of particulate matter.

Cabernet Sauvignon must | violet purple colour with aromas of cassis and red berries. Lighter than the merlot must.

Throughout October, the BCLDB is promoting British Columbia wines, here are my notes on the ten I tasted being featured in various retail locations.

My Ratings | * = poor ***** = outstanding 

Nk’Mip Pinot Blanc 2013 $15.95
Pale green with green apple and pear aromas. Light-bodied with apple, pear, and subtle mineral notes. ***

Sandhill Hidden Terrace Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $18.99
Straw green with herby gooseberry leaf aromas. Medium-bodied with good concentration and acidity. A herby leafy style of SB. ****

Gehringer Brothers Estate Pinot Gris 2013 $14.99
Straw green with glade fruit, apple, and grapefruit notes. Medium-bodied and crisp with ripe apple and grapefruit pith flavours. ***

Lake Breeze Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 $19
Yellow green with Alsace style aromas (restrained grapefruit). Medium-bodied, dry, bigger and richer than the Gehringer. Lots of apple and grapefruit and a mineral laced finish. ****

Gray Monk Estate Winery Gewürztraminer 2013 $16.99
Straw green with lychee and subtle rose aromas. Medium-bodied, relatively dry, with ginger and subtle lychee notes.

Wild Goose Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2013 $18.50
Straw green with a very perfumey driven nose (sweet spices and rose). Medium-bodied, drier than Gray Monk, with good concentration and flavours of spice, fresh ginger, and lychee.  ****

Hester Creek Estate Winery Select Barrels Merlot 2012 $18.95
Ruby red with herbal aromas and a touch of cedar. Medium-bodied, easy to drink, with notes of plum, cocoa, spice, and a hint of dill. **(*)

Mooncurser Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012 $20.90
Youthful ruby purple colour with new oak/cedar aromas. Medium to full-bodied with cassis, blueberry, subtle vanilla and a blackcurranty finish. ****

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $16.99
Ruby purple with aromas of herb and blackberry. Medium-bodied, easy to drink style, and flavours of herb, chocolate, and cassis. **(*)

Time Estate The Girls Vivacious Rose 2013 $19.99

Coppery pink with wild strawberry and raspberry aromas. Light-bodied with a soft mid palate and clean crisp finish. Easy to drink rose with strawberry dominate notes *** 100% of this wine sales goes to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - BC/Yukon Region (CBCF)

Looking for more information on the wines of British Columbia? Click here for the BC Wine Institute website. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bodegas Valduero – Rising Star of Ribera del Duero

The mention of Ribera conjures thoughts of Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera, Abadia Retuera, Hacienda Monasterio, and Bodegas Alión to Spanish wine fans. Not bad for a region, that thirty years ago, was a infant that now challenges Rioja for Spain’s greatest region. Conceived in 1982 with a handful of winemakers, Ribera now has in excess of 18.000 ha of vines, and over two hundred recognised wineries.

What makes Ribera unique? A combination of three factors; terroir – similar to the Douro with complex mixes of limestone, marl and chalk, a dramatic microclimate with a short and hot growing season along with diurnal temperature variations from 10 to 35 degrees, and a focus on a single grape - Tempranillo  known locally as Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais.

Bodegas Valduero, founded in 1984, is the child of Gregorio Garcia and his winemaking daughter Yolanda. The property consists of two hundred hectares surrounding the village of Gumiel de Mercado. 

Wines and lunch at Cinara with wine service by Sommelier Terry Threlfall who did a great job with serving all the wines at the perfect temperature.  

Albillo Blanco 2012 $27.99
This rare white varietal is only allowed to be grown at Valduero and Vega Sicilia. Just 2% of all planting are Albillio. Average vine age is twelve years.

Yellow gold with aromas of mineral, citrus, and a hint of herbs. Medium-bodied with a rich leesy texture, great acidity, and flavours of flowers, glace fruit, grapefruit, and a hint of beeswax and mineral. ****

Rosado 2012 $19.99
A blend of 60% Tempranillo (35 to 40 year old vines) and 40% Albillo using the saignee method. 

Paired with spring salmon, sunflower seeds, rye berries, herbs, and citrus vinaigrette - Albillo was the best match.

Medium deep rose colouration with aromas of strawberry leaf. Medium-bodied, dry, refreshing acidity, and back to front wild strawberry and pepper notes.***(*)

2009 Crianza $44.99
100% Tempranillo, 15 months of oak ageing, 1 year of bottle ageing

Ruby red with aromas of herbs, tobacco, and dark black fruits. Medium to full-bodied, good concentration and integrated tannins. Complex flavours of oolong tea, vanilla, leather, and exotic spice. ****

2010 Crianza $44.99
Ruby purple with aromas of blackcurrant, spice, and leather. Full-bodied, youthful, good concentration and structure. Lots of tea, herb, spice, and leather notes. ****

Paired with duck terrine, balsamic roasted radicchio, pine nuts and lentils - 2010 vintage the best match.

Reserva 2007  $59.99
Selected vineyard sites with vines between 15 and 25 years old. 30  months of oak ageing and 18 months of bottle ageing.

Youthful ruby purple with complex aromas of kirsch, mint, and tobacco. Medium to full-bodied, elegantly styled, and loaded with complex notes of spice, blackberry, menthol, cured tobacco, and red berries. ****(*)

2010 Unacepa $59.99
100% Tempranillo from 55 year old vines. 18 months of oak ageing with 1 year of bottle ageing. ****

Ruby red with cedar, strawberry leaf, and tobacco aromas. Full-bodied and complex with Asian spice, cedar, cherry, briar, and tea notes.

Paired with lamb shoulder, dried olives, potatoes, and red peppers - best match Reserva 2007.
Gran Reserva 2004 $169.99
100% Tempranillo from 50 to 75 year old vines. 48 months of oak ageing ( 6 species) and 40 months bottle ageing.

Dense ruby purple with aromas of soy, leather, cigar,  and smoke. Full-bodied and concentrated with youthful tannins and complex flavours of cherry, black currant, and cedar. ****(*)

2001 Gran Reserva sold out

Ruby purple with a hint of mahogany. Aromas of soy, lead pencil, leather and blackberry. Full-bodied and concentrated, deceptively youthful with ribena, lead pencil, black fruits, herbs, tea, and exotic spice notes. *****
Paired with quince, Port marinated beets, and aged sheep cheese - best match 2001 

Valduero wines are worth seeking out. They offer complexity and good value compared to many Ribera del Duero wines currently available in the BC market.

The wines of Bodegas Valduero are available in selected BCLDB stores, private retailers, and through Direct Wines