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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tuesday Night Wine Tasting


Ruby Tuesday
Naramata Bench, Penticton BC
Viognier, 2009
$20
I know, I know...it's been over a week since I last posted.  Sometimes life has a way of telling you to think about other things for the time being.  Last night, 3 of my classmates and myself, got together for what will now be (I think) a monthly get together for tasting.  And let me tell you, with the events from the previous week, this tasting was a welcome reprieve!

To make up for lost time, hang on to your hats as I post about all of the wines we tasted last night!  And let's get this out right at the start:  this was blind, and my percentage of picking the right wine was only 25% (sigh).  That's alright!  Onward to more tastings and developing the palate!

Now, I think MOST of us don't know much about the Viognier grape.  I mean, have YOU ever heard of it?  It certainly doesn't spend much time in the limelight like the Chardonnay, or the Sauvignon Blanc grape, but once you've tried it...I guarantee you will reach for it on the shelf time and again.  This grape has it's origins in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, but there are some great bottles of this stuff coming out in the New World.  And this wine above, is a good Canadian Viognier with the typical flavours of peaches, apricots, violets, and even a touch of honey.  It is great with any spicy Thai dish, and in fact, I served a Washington State Viognier with salad rolls dipped in peanut sauce.  Nice pairing to be sure.  Just don't break out any cheese...this is one wine that cheese just does NOT go well with, especially any of those creamier cheeses like goat, brie or Camembert!

Oh and by the way?  This was the wine I guessed correctly! Must've been all those red shoes on the label....

Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Okanagan Valley, 2009
Pinot Gris
$17.50
On to wine number 2, the second of three Canadian wines that were tasted.  This was the wine I brought to the table...never had it before, but guessed it wrong!  Ha ha!!  I found this one to be lacking as I've tasted better Pinot Gris's before.

So, did you know that that Pinot Gris grape was kind of an accident?  It is actually a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.  "Pinot", meaning "pine cone", because that's what the clusters look like, and "Gris" is French for "gray", the colour ...because the grapes tend to be a pinkish, bluish gray.  How's that for a colour description!  Ha ha!!  Our friends in Italy would call it "Pinot Grigio".

It had apricot on the nose, along with tinges of minerality. There was something else there that I just couldn't pinpoint, and I kept coming back to it a few times just so I could get it. About the 5th time around, I got it:  cheese.  Not the stinky kind, but just a clean, creamy cheese.  I've never gotten that in a wine before! It was a clean wine with medium acidity.  It just didn't grab me though.  First of all, I didn't guess it, and second of all, it just didn't stand out, or make me want to buy it again.  Perhaps you have tried it, and you like it!  Fantastic!  After all..it IS Canadian! :)

St. Hubertus Estate Winery
Okanagan Valley, BC
2010 Chasselas
$20-$25

On to our third Canadian wine...so if you haven't heard of Viognier, then I bet you haven't heard of Chasselas either eh? Other than our fine host, the rest of us hadn't either.  Where did this mysterious grape come from?  Not to mention, how do you pronounce it?  Chhhzzhhhhh.....that's what Harjeet said...just kind of run all the syllables together!  Actually, it's pronounced SHUS-la and it's a varietal said to have originated in Switzerland, and widely grown there.  Obviously, it's growing elsewhere too, since this is a Canadian wine!

There's not a lot there with this wine.  A bit of pear and lemon zest at the end, but that's about it.  It DID, however, taste very good with the goat cheese.  And, according to the label, it is the quintessential "fondue" wine..cheese fondue that is! Hmm...maybe I'll give that a try!

Highfield Wineries
Marlborough, New Zealand
2010 Sauvignon Blanc
$25
Last, but certainly not least, the Sauvignon Blanc. This was the token New Zealander in the mix.  And guess what?  I didn't guess this one right either.  If we would've had the reveal later, perhaps I would have.  Every time I went back to this wine, I got something new from it.

When we first started, I got mango, lychee and honey on the nose.  The second and third time, I started smelling herbal and vegetal notes.  About the 4th go-round, I was getting green peppers.  It was at the first whiff, those fruit flavours, that led me to believe it was the Pinot Gris.  And when I tasted, I was waiting for that wall of acidity to hit me...but it didn't.  To me, it only had a medium acidity, which, if it's a Sauvignon Blanc, that acidity should knock you over.  One big party in your mouth!  And again, I was getting those lychee, lemon-y flavours, but as I went back to it, I got the fresh cut grass and the green pepper.  Not so much the green pepper, but the fresh cut grass is certainly indicative of a Sauvignon Blanc. 

The more I tasted this wine, the more I appreciated it and enjoyed it. This will definitely be a Sauvignon Blanc that will be on my "patio wine" list for summer 2012.  Drink them young, as these grapes are not particularly known for their ageing qualities. Will you give it a try?

Monday, 16 January 2012

2009 1884 Reservado Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina
Price:  approx $17?
13.7% alcohol
OK..let's get a couple of things straight....I do not open a bottle of wine every single night!  I have started taking pictures of every single bottle of wine I get the opportunity to taste, and then eventually  I will blog about it.  This wine however, I DID open tonight.  For several reasons:  it's really cold here now..in fact, you could say that winter has indeed arrived!  As we speak, I am in my fuzzy pyjamas trying to NOT think about the cold weather outside. Opening a bottle of wine to "warm up" is never a bad thing!  Secondly, I was informed early today that I would become an auntie again.  Since I started this particular post, I received the news that I now have another niece!  If that's not reason to open a bottle of wine, I don't know what is!  I raise my glass to you my brother!  Congratulations!

I'm not sure if I was hoarding it, or I was supposed to just wait for a special occasion such as the occasion of this evening!   Whatever the reason, it was worth it...this wine was fantastic!  I'm not sure if it's because I'm just partial to Malbec or what...after all, it was one of two wines I identified in a blind tasting! :P  A bright garnet red colour with hints of mocha, black fruits, cigar box and forest floor on the nose.  In my mouth I tasted black cherry, coffee, and it had medium tannins and medium acidity.  At 13.7% alcohol, it was off-dry...not too sweet, and not too dry either.  It tasted wonderful on its own, and also excellent with the pork tenderloin stir fry I prepared this evening.  Surprising?  Yes!  Even to me|!!



Pork stir fry with broccoli florets,
carrots, onions and red peppers.
Served with penne pasta in a pad thai sauce!


Friday, 13 January 2012


Kim Crawford- Marlborough, N. Zealand
2011 Sauvignon Blanc
$16.99 - Superstore
Now I know what some of you are thinking...ugh...Kim Crawford!!  Truth be told, I knew NOTHING about this wine until my first class of Wine Fundamentals.  Since this was our first class, we were going to be tasting different varietals (types of grapes).  Some of my classmates HAD tried this wine though, and there were conflicting comments in the room.  "Oh, I LOVE Kim Crawford!" That was exclaimed by my class mate Erin who sat next to me.  D'arci behind me absolutely loves this particular grape, so she was excited.  Brian, who sat behind me, didn't like her wines at all, and made it known! Since that time, I've purchased this Sauvignon Blanc a few times.  For me, it's kind of a "go to" wine...one that is good both on its own, or with food.  Typically, I do not drink white wine in the winter, but in order to taste different varietals, it's important to be tasting both white and red, no matter what the season. 

Because it's a Sauvignon Blanc, it will tend to be high in acidity - that's the mouthwatering sensation you get when it crosses your palate.  No exception here.  Upon pouring this wine, immediately my nostrils filled with lemongrass, mango and other tropical fruits.  Beautiful.  And the flavours on the palate are not much different.  Grassy, and fruit-cocktail-ish with just a hint of sweetness.  And of course, it should be chilled! And because this was the wine I opened to taste, I wanted to see if I could pair it.  On my plate was chicken, cheese/potato perogies and asparagus with feta cheese. (I added sour cream and bacon bits to my perogies before I at them). If you are looking to cut the acidity in a Sauvignon Blanc, then go for the perogies with sour cream and the asparagus with the feta!  These two cut into the acidity and smoothed it out, and the asparagus turned the lemongrass flavours into more of a sweet grass!  The chicken...not so much.  If I would've had it in a cream sauce, then maybe.  To bring out the acidity, I would've had some spicy chicken.  Fish would probably work also!


As I've said:  I'm not an expert!  I am learning this thing called wine/pairing right along with you!  Try some different combos and tell me what you find!  I'd love to hear from you!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Yalumba Family Wineries - 2009 Shiraz Viognier
South Australia
$15.29 - Superstore


Well...now THIS was an interesting wine! As I was shopping for wines for our dinner last Saturday, I don't necessarily always pick up wines to serve that night.  If I have the time, I'll take it to browse the aisles and try to find something I've never tried before.  So here I was looking at this wine thinking:  "this is a red grape (shiraz) and a white grape (viognier) blended together.  Is that legal?!?"  I didn't know if it was a red wine, a white wine...or somewhere in the middle! I held it up to the light, but the bottle was giving nothing away! And maybe, just maybe...that's why I bought it.  I was so caught up by the "weirdness" of it.

To be honest, I was a bit dumbfounded by this wine.  Do I chill it?  Do I leave it at room temp?  I did both.  I chilled it, took it out, poured an ounce, tasted it, then left it.  I'll tell you...it wasn't very good!  It wasn't a rich red like those good Cabs out there, and it had that signature watery edge like a lot of whites do.  But on my nose!  I got stewed prunes, pickle juice and green beans!  Where was the crushed raspberries, violets and Turkish delight that was promised to me on the bottle?  I wasn't sure I wanted to put it in my mouth!  But, in keeping with "tasting", I did... Let me sum up my tasting in a single phrase:  wet dog. For a wine coming from Australia's oldest family owned winery, I expected more.

I re-visited later that evening with some melba toast crackers.  It somewhat redeemed itself at room temperature, although, it still had mushrooms and wet leaves on my palate.  Tannins and acidity were both low.

I wasn't about to give up on this wine, so I tasted it this evening...with my food. Farmers sausage, and penne with dill sauce.  So that's where all that fruit was hiding!  No more wet dog!  Just raspberries and blueberries with a dash of cinnamon! Yes, it was very complementary with my food, and thoroughly enjoyable.  Finish was smoothe and long. After all that, I did find some redeeming qualities and I would purchase it again. REALLY!!

Monday, 9 January 2012


Sean Minor 4 Bears 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Sonoma County, California
$23.99 - Vinomania

This is definately one of those seaside, poolside, lakeside, summerside kinda wines.  But that is not to say that it cannot be enjoyed all year round!  After all, you are reading this post in January! That must mean it was tasted in January!  Actually, truth be told, I first tried this wine in November after our work decorating party.  The branch was painted in all it's Christmas festive glory, and because I "knew so much about wine" (haha...) I was sent to Vinomania...three doors down from where we were.  I walked in at five minutes before closing, so didn't have a lot of time to browse...I was helped immediately, and when asked what I was looking for, my response was, "something friendly and easy drinking". I didn't have the budget, nor the food available for any big heavy Bordeaux or Burgundy.  I was handed this bottle, and off I went.  I didn't expect something so good...High acidity (because it's a Sauvignon Blanc), so completely mouth-smacking.  My mouth was doin' a little dance after tasting this wine!  Notes of melon, pineapple and mango on the nose, and fresh cut grass, and fruit cocktail-ish on my palate.  Very light and refreshing indeed!  Now you can understand why it would best be enjoyed in summer, yet good at this time of year too...I didn't eat it with anything....it was stunning all on its own!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

On the advice of a few people in my life, I have decided to start this blog...really, more so random thoughts on....wine!

Now, I don't claim to be an expert on wine, in fact, I'm far from one.  I am learning, and probably will continue to learn abut the subject until the day I die.  What I hope to accomplish here, is share my findings on wines that I have personally tried.  I will tell you what I see, smell, taste, how much it cost me, and what foods I tried it with and whether or not I think it pairs well.  Whether or not you have a glass by the fireside, the poolside, the seaside or the wayside, I hope I can impart some sort of spark to go out and buy one or two of these!   After that, the choice is up to you whether or not you want to keep that wine on a list of "keepers".   Bottom line, drink what you like!

If you are reading or following this blog and you have a wine you want to share, please do so!  Or, if you have comments on what I have posted (i.e, you went out and tried it, and either loved it or hated it) I want to know!  Tell me your thoughts!

Now....let's start on the wine...
Francis Ford Coppola - 2009 Black Label Claret
California
$22.59 - Superstore

I bought this wine because we had tasted one in class when we were doing Cabernet Sauvignons....the "king" of grapes.  This particular wine has a small blending of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec in it as well.  It's called a "Claret:, which was a term originally coined by the British to describe Cabernet based wines.  It is described as "alluring and sophisticated"...hmm...really?  For me, and those here who were tasting with me...it was tight...I let it sit, I decanted it, I aerated it...there just wasn't much there.  I got some black cherry and black coffee.  Other than that, not much else.  The conclusion?  Leave it in your cellar for a few years, THEN bring it out! The gold cage on the outside is nice though.....