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 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Catch me if you can? 4 Grapes, 3 Regions, 1 BC

At a recent British Columbia VQA wine education seminar; the tasting component involved a blind tasting of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah/Shiraz from the well known ancestral homes of the varieties along with a BC wine added for comparison. After twenty  five years of wine and restaurant trade experience you'd think my palate could easily identify the usual suspects. I made some mistakes; but walked away from the tasting realising that British Columbia in the last two decades has become a very interesting and emerging world wine region. A place to watch!

Here are my handwritten notes and my educated guesses; some are correct and some wrong. You'll never stop learning. 


Pewsley Vale 2012 Eden Valley Riesling $23.99
Pale yellow, lime cordial aromas, medium-bodied, crisp acidity, lots of lime, mineral finish.  GUESS| AUSTRALIA ****þ

Tantalus 2013 Riesling $22.90
Straw yellow, sweet floral and ripe apple aromas, off-dry, elegant styling, fruit and apple flavours GUESS| BC **(*)þ

Gruen 2102 Riesling Mosel Germany $18.49
Straw green, honeyed aromas with a hint of petrol, medium-bodied, off-dry, some lushness, ripe green apple and hint of honey. GUESS| GERMANY ***þ


Meyer Family Vineyards 2012 McLean Creek Okanagan Falls $30
Straw green, lots of toasted (new) oak, medium- to full-bodied, lots of charred oak vanillins and toast, some malo, melon, pineapple, smoke, good acidity. GUESS| AUSTRALIA ****ý

Domaine de Chalet 2012 Puilly Fuisse France $36
Straw green, restrained nose of mineral and wet rock, medium-bodied, crisp, elegant, great length, mineral, fern, subtle earth. GUESS| CHABLIS (lighter vintage, entry level) ****þ

Schug 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $30.49
Straw yellow, ripe melon and banana aromas, medium-bodied, some malo notes, lush, lots of tropical. GUESS| BCý


Stoneboat 2011 Pinot Noir Oliver BC $24.90
Brick red, dried currant and floral notes, medium-bodied, good acidity, flavours of earth, wood smoke, and soya GUESS| Central Otago New Zealand ****ý

Akarua 2013 Pinot Noir Central Otago New Zealand $26.99
Cherry red, medium to full-bodied, richer than first PN, flavours of black fruits, dried cranberry, silky textured GUESS| BC ****ý

Jean Claude Boisset 2011 Pinot Noir Burgundy $24.99
Cherry red, warm spice aromas, medium-bodied, complex, pencil lead, mineral, red fruits. GUESS: FRANCE ****þ


Chapel Hill 2011 Parson’s Nose Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia $19.99
Ruby purple (dense), aromas of menthol, meat, and cassis, full-bodied, youthful, solid tannins, loads of ripe back fruits, menthol, and pepper. GUESS| AUSTRALIA ****þ

Brunel de la Gardine 2011 Crozes Hermitage Rhone Valley France $29.99
Ruby red, aromas of rustic earth (hint of bret), medium-bodied, cherry, blackberry, herbal notes. GUESS| BC or FRANCE? **(*)þ

Painted Rock 2011 Syrah Okanagan Valley BC $39.99

Ruby red with ripe fruit (blackberry) and herbal aromas. Medium to full-bodied, rich and complex, flavours of juicy blackberries, smoke, tea, vanilla, and sage and bergamot GUESS| WASHINGTON or AUSTRALIA ****ý

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cicerone VS Sommelier 2014

Cicerone Don Farion, Chef Vianello, Sommelier Michaela Morris
What came first, beer or wine? Beer references date back to at least 3100 BC along wine  production dating back further to 6000 BC.  Both glorious man made beverages still with us today. It has only been in the last decade that the two have competed head on as the best beverage to pair with food. 

One of the great games for a sommelier is the pairing of wine and food. We think in terms of complementing or contrasting flavours, textures, creativity, and regionality when trying to create the best pairing experience for the dining guest. The equally passionate Cicerone (beer sommelier) strives for the same success using a lower alcohol carbonated beverage. Both camps are trained professionals, Somm’s can train through the International Sommelier Guild, WSET, and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Cicerones have the Cicerone Certification Program,  the Prud'homme Beer Certification, Siebel Institute of Technology, and World Brewing Academy in Germany, and the  Beer Academy Accredited Sommelier program based in the UK. Like the Sommelier training programmes, the cicerone/beer sommelier programs, despite being relatively young in origin focus on levels of training with detailed syllabus and accreditation levels. The US based Cicerone Master Cicerone program has only had seven graduates with an annual pass rate similar to that of the WSET Master of Wine programme since its inception since 2007.

This year’s face off during Vancouver Craft Beer Week  was with Sommelier Michaela Morris of House Wine and Cicerone Don Farion of Bomber Brewing/ BierCraft Restaurants paired with the creative food of Chef Alessandro Vianello at the Fairmont Pacific’s ARC. This was cicerone Don Farion's second win over a sommelier.

1st Course| Vinho Verde vs Flemish Red
Pacific Octopus Carpaccio with kelp and rhubarb beads

2012 Quinta do Ameal 11.5%
Loureiro Vinho Verde DOC Portugal
Straw green with aromas of lime and green tree fruits. Medium-bodied, zesty acidity, nicely structured with a rich mid palate and flavours of  lime, pear, a hint of melon, faint vanilla, and some herby complexity.

Rodenbach Classic Flanders Red Ale 5.2% Belgium medium-bodied with sour berry, plum, fig, and subtle balsamic notes. Lightly carbonated.

On paper the Vinho Verde should have won based on regionality. Portuguese whites shine with  abundant Atlantic seafood. In reality the Rodenbach paired better with the salinity of the dish and the wildcard the rhubarb beads. The flavours of rhubarb were a perfect complement to the beer's sourness. Beer Wins.

2nd Course Riesling Vs German Hefeweizen
Smoked Potato Peroganeni with House Made Lardo, Saurkraut, and Crème Fraiche

2010 Chapoutier Schieferkopf  Lieu-Dit Fels Riesling Alsace AC, France 14%
Yellow gold colour with aromas of ripe lime, apple and a hint of petrol. Medium-bodied, bone dry, lots of concentration, citrus, mineral, apple, and petrol flavours. Complex.

Maisel’s Weiss Hefeweizen 5.4%Germany
Cloudy unfiltered old gold. Medium to full-bodied with typical “hefe” notes of banana, spice (clove), and grapefruit. Good amount of carbonation.

This dish was a good pairing for both the beer and wine. The carbonation level along with fruit and spice flavours of the beer were great with the smoked potato and creme fraiche. The body, structure, and concentration of flavours of the Riesling paired with all the elements of this richly textured dish. Wine Wins.

3rd Course Frappato vs American Porter
Salt Baked Heirloom Carrot with Ferro salad, cumin, dill, micro cilantro, with cocoa nib soil and Sherry Vinaigrette

2011 Valle dell’Acate “Il Frappato” Vittoria Frappato DOC Italy 13%
Cherry red colour. Intriguing aromas of red cherry liquorice, herbs, and minerals. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, good acidity, and flavours of cherry, raspberry, dried mint, flowers, and a touch of dried orange. Served slightly chilled - brilliant.

 Deschutes Black Butte Porter American Porter 5.2% Oregon
Very dark mahogany colour. Aromas of cocoa, coffee, and roasted malts. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture and flavours of roasted oats, chocolate, coffee, and some charred spice notes. Lightly carbonated.

Another on paper, win for wine, although this dish paired better with the Black Butte Porter. The wine with its refreshing acidity and racy red fruit and herby  flavours paired well with the spices and earthiness of the farro; but lost out to the overtly chocolatey nutty notes in the cocoa nib soil. The porter mirrored flavour for flavour with the soil, Sherry nuttiness, and the earthy notes of the farro. This dish was very close to pick a winner. Beer Wins

4th Course Cabernet Sauvignon Vs Bier de Garde
Lamb Short Loin & Corned Lamb’s Tongue with Sweetbreads, Peas, Mint, and Lamb Dressing

2009 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 14%
Opaque and inky. Aromas of mint, menthol, and cassis. Full-bodied, excellent balance of acidity and tannins. European styled with complex notes of blackcurrant, leafy wild berries, cedar, and warm spices.

The Commons Biere de Garde Farmhouse Ale Saison  5.4% California
Light amber colour with aromas of Normandy apple, herbs, and a hint of hops. Medium-bodied, good carbonation, and flavours of earth, herbs, malt, pepper, and restrained hops.

Lamb and Cabernet a perfect match! The savoury herb notes of the minted peas was a perfect balance for the flavours and and aromas of the Australian Cabernet. The restrained styling of the wine, reminiscent of a richer vintage Bordeaux, paired extremely well. The sweetbreads were not an ideal wine pairing, the tannins of the wine enhanced the offal like flavours of the ingredient. 

Cicerone Don Farion mentioned the challenge of matching greens with beers, this saison however was a wonderful pairing, to the mint and peas with its complementing earth and subtle herb flavours. The sweetbreads faired better with the beer by balancing the earthy flavour profile. A tough personal call; but the wine was a better overall match. Wine Wins.

5th Course Moscato vs Strawberry Beer
Strawberry Shortcake with white chocolate blanket, pink peppercorns, roasted strawberry, and sorbet

2012 Massolino Moscato d’asti DOCG Italy 5%
Straw yellow with aromas of orange and apricot sorbet. Light-bodied, elegantly sweet with balanced acidity and some petillance.  Flavours of orange, nectarine, and a hint of savoury herb and green tea.

Friuli  Belgian White with Strawberry. 4.1%
Light red amber colour. Aromas of strawberry shortcake. Light-bodied and very sweet with strawberry, orange, and a hint of coriander. Good carbonation.

Another tough pairing with both the wine and beer working well with the dessert. The tart strawberry sorbet was brilliant with the lovely acidity and petillance of the Moscato. The very reasonable priced beer won hands down with the complementing flavours and sugar level. Beer Wins

Final Score by 48 Diners|  Beer 26, Wine 22   

It was interesting that neither the cicerone or sommelier paired anything local with the food matches. As a Sommelier, I would have also looked further afield for wine matches, based on the menu. BC wine is still a challenge based on price point and value. Possibly next year's competition could incorporate a local craft beer and wine into one of the dishes  or consider even one blind beer and wine pairing to enhance the challenge? Overall a great night that proves both a glass and a pint make good friends over food.