B EE R VS W INE | D O WE N E E D CO OK B O O KS ?
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FEBRUARY/ MARCH 2011
korean airlines included
EAT, DRINK, LIVE ST ÉMILION
GOING BACK TO CALI NAPA TO SONOMA
RETSINA REALLY? 160+
/ 20// ole
by brenda macmillan Bull fights and steak while in Spain.
22// street fight
by Carolyn Evans-hammond All out war between beer and wine. Winner: food.
25// how sweet
by rick vansickle
Delve into the sweet wines of Bordeaux.
28// Eat, Drink, Live: St Ă‰milion
by rosemary mantini Visit the heart of the Old World. First in a series.
32// book to cook by duncan holmes
Do we really need cookbooks?
by matthew Sullivan Can cognac escape its rapped past?
40// going back to
by evan saviolidis A breakdown of the Napa and Sonama AVAs.
44// quite the pair by michael volpatt
Sonoma: the wine pairing paradise.
48// Strong by tod stewart
For the love of Amarone.
4 // February/March 2011
//Ă la carte 7// Contributors 8// from the editor 11// Conversations Letters to the editor.
13// Simple Living Michael Volpatt
14// Umami Joanne Will
17// Anything but
18// Bon Vivant Peter Rockwell
47// Pours gilles bois
51// must try michael pinkus
52// Da vine
//notes 54// the food notes
An appetizing selection of food-friendly faves.
55// Bouquet Garni
58// The Buying Guide
Top wines from around the world scored.
66// final word Tony Aspler
Argentina // p. 59 Australia // p. 59 Canada // p. 59-61 CHILE // p. 61 France // p. 61-63 Germany // p. 63 israel // p. 63
Italy // p. 63 New Zealand // p. 63-64 portugal // p. 64 Spain // p. 64 united states // p. 65 beer // p. 65 rum // p. 65 scotch // p. 65
The Total Wine Experience
Opim on cd
+ more on tidingsmag.com
Features Nancy Johnson shows you 5 new ways to love bacon.
Kitchen Essentials As a serious professional writer committed to learning as much as she can about wine, Brenda McMillan drinks the stuff every day. Also an aficionado of travel, food and other Bohemian pursuits, she often leaves the country in the name of research. Her adventures show up like wine thieves in cellars in Canadian and American publications. Find her, glass in hand, at Ms.Ink@mac.com.
Learn how horseradish can improve your health and your cooking.
Q&A Edible members of the lily family? Find out all about them here.
Videos Watch as Tidings interviews Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s Alex Belson (Italy), Hanzell’s Michael McNeill (California) and Lopez de Heredia’s Maria-Jose Lopez de Heredia (Spain).
blogs For your weekly food and wine fix, visit our Best You Never Had and Kitchen Mama blogs.
Rosemary Mantini has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with travel. She’s sure that eating up any food or drink the locals create is the best way to experience a culture (although she draws the line at insects).
Bestselling wine book author Carolyn Evans Hammond is internationally-recognised for her witty and light approach to the topic. Her latest book, Good Better Best Wines ranks the most popular wines in North America and soared to #1 bestselling wine book in Canada. Carolyn earned her degree as a sommelier from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in the UK, has lived in London, Paris, Chicago, Vancouver and California, and now resides in Toronto. www.wine-tribune.com
Plus! More original recipes; a daily serving of food and drink news and views; culinary tips, tricks and techniques.
Next Month In Tidings 7th annual Next big thing issue flights of pinot: From germany to italy to niagara A revival of Beaujolias Attack of the wine clones
Tony Aspler, a member of the Order of Canada, has been writing about wine since 1975. He has authored 16 books on wine and food. Tony co-founded the charitable foundation Grapes for Humanity. Tony’s book Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book is now available in stores.
a taste of chai A mash of new grapes ... And So Much More
//from the editors February March 11 Issue # 293
putting down roots
by tod stewart
In the corporate world it’s referred to as “exercising your core competencies.” In plain English it’s called, “doing what you do best.” In plain Latin it might be “esto quod es.” In any case, it’s also about discovering what you can really do well. Now, most of us don’t exactly pop out of the womb instilled with the innate desire to become a neurosurgeon. We have to follow an often twisty road, visiting numerous interesting, enjoyable and sometimes downright unpleasant places before we decide where we ought to put down roots. However, once a person decides to become a winemaker, new paths present themselves. While a doctor may decide to become a specialist rather than a GP, a winemaker might ultimately focus on a specific style or grape variety, often after crafting a range of products that span the vinous gamut. Sometimes the process works in reverse, as in the case of Bonny Doon Vineyards’ Randall Grahm who set out to create the ultimate California Pinot Noir, only to realize that his nature, and what mother nature had to offer, were incompatible with this dream. Admittedly, it’s probably easier for Old World winemakers to find their niche. If you decide to make wine in Bordeaux, you don’t really have to worry too much about what grapes you are going to harvest and the type of wine you are going to make. History, tradition and the law to a large extent dictate your direction. In the New World it’s a bit trickier (or a lot freer, depending on your personal level of optimism). Winemakers in Ontario, for example, are still trying to figure out which grapes are best suited to the region’s marginal climate, and which style of wine will ultimately become synonymous with, say, Niagara. And this is some 50 years after the first commercial vinifera wines were created. While a few wineries made early decisions as to what they would aim to excel at (Le Clos Jordanne’s focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay exclusively comes to mind), others are still on that journey to find out what it is they do best. 2011 will no doubt prove to be a landmark year for Tidings, replete with challenges and victories. However, we will continue to do what we do best — bring you interesting and informative wine and food news in an entertaining and easy-to-understand format. And, as always, we invite you to ride shotgun as we travel towards our 300th issue.
8 // February/March 2011
Aldo Parise firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing Editors
Gurvinder Bhatia, Tod Stewart Contributing food Editor
Nancy Johnson Contributing Lifestyle Editor
Rosemary Mantini Columnists
Tony Aspler, Peter Rockwell, Michael Volpatt, Joanne Will, Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Michael Pinkus, Gilles Bois Contributors
Matthew Sullivan, Carolyn Evans-Hammond, Sean Wood, Harry Hertscheg, Duncan Holmes, Rick Vansickle, Evan Saviolidis, Brenda MacMillan Tasters
Tony Aspler, Evan Saviolidis, Gilles Bois, Harry Hertscheg, Sean Wood, Jonathan Smithe and Gurvinder Bhatia COPY DESK
Lee Springer, Jennifer Croll web editor
Rosemary Mantini Creative by Paris Associates Art Direction
Aldo Parise Production
Jack Boyd, ww+Labs, cmyk design, studio karibü Illustrations & Photography
Matt Delay, Francesco Gallé, Push/Stop Studio, august photography Cover Design
kraft on cd
heart and stroke foundation on cd
Kylix Media CFO
Lucy Rodrigues Circulation
Marilyn Barter email@example.com Advertising Representation Dovetail Communications
I am sure someone else has told you as well, but Trish Gomez, in her letter to the Editor in your Conversations page, said she tried to brew tea at 70˚F, as suggested in the article Liquid Jade in the November issue of Tidings. My copy of the article actually said 70˚C. Shannon Purves-Smith, email
Nancy Johnson’s story of her Italian relatives urging her to put her diet off till “domani” made me laugh out loud. Hospitality and great food make the world go round, so dig in! For the Brisket of Beef, I didn’t have chili sauce, so I used tomato sauce with about a teaspoon of hot pepper flakes instead. The beef was delicious.
Now in our 38 th year
Laura Fenwick, Kelowna
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... I was immediately transported back in time to my childhood when I would eat honey from the comb ...
When I read Tod Stewart’s Honeydrippers, I was immediately transported back in time to my childhood when I would eat honey from the comb. I loved the heady liquid sweetness and chewing the beeswax like gum. Greg Purmal, email
There’s an old joke in the restaurant business: How do you make a million dollars? Start off with six million! It appears to ring true in Rosemary Mantini’s article, The Dirty Truth About Winemaking. It’s one thing to dream about owning a winery, but the dreams never include the real sweat and passion that it takes. I’m so glad that these intrepid individuals are willing to do the work, so that the rest of us can reap the benefits. Geraldine Nakitsas, email
Material chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and fit. Please e-mail your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
bolla wine on cd
by michael volpatt
//flair to be different On a cold evening there is nothing better than a homestyle pot roast. The savoury goodness of this dish always reminds me of sitting around the kitchen table with my entire family. My mother makes a mean pot roast, but her style has more of an Italian flair to it. She dresses her version up with lots of garlic and shallots instead of the traditional sweet onions. She is also a fan of using fresh rosemary and thyme in her dish. This meal can be served with polenta, mashed potatoes or over wide egg noodles. One important thing to keep in mind: do not use an expensive cut of meat for this. A bottom round of beef is perfect and will cook so that the meat is falling apart when you serve the dish. This is what you want. Many people cook their pot roast on the stovetop. I opt for more even cooking in the oven. Better yet, if you have a convection oven use that instead. Here is what you will need:
1 bottom round of beef (4 lb) Extra virgin olive oil 5 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces 5 stalks of celery chopped into bite-sized pieces 8-10 shallots, peeled and chopped in half 5 cloves of garlic 5 stalks of each of fresh thyme and rosemary 1 small can of beef broth 1 large can of San Marzano diced tomatoes 1 cup of red wine (preferably a Syrah or Cabernet) 3 tbsp unbleached flour 2 cloves of garlic, handful of parsley and 1 tsp lemon zest
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F. 2. Cover the bottom of the Dutch oven with extra virgin olive
oil. Over medium heat brown the beef on all sides. Once each side is brown and crispy remove the beef and pour off some of the grease. 3. Place back on the stove and deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of the wine. Let cook down, add in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and place the carrots, celery and shallots into the Dutch oven. 4. Sauté for about 5 to 8 minutes, smash the 5 cloves of garlic with a chef’s knife and add into the pot. Let cook until fragrant. 5. Now remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from their stalks and add into the pot with the can of beef broth, tomatoes and wine. 6. Place into the oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is fork tender. Remove from the oven and transfer 1 cup of the liquid into a small pot. 7. Add in the flour and whisk until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until the broth thickens. If the broth does not thicken repeat the process with the flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until it is as thick as you want it to be. …… The Italian twist asks for … you guessed it, something Italian. A Barolo or Barbaresco is ideal.
by Joanne Will
//nose to nose
If you’ve never been nose to nose with a water buffalo, you’ll have to take my word that these magnificent creatures, with their shaggy hair, long eyelashes and sweet round eyes, mean you no harm. “The only way they could hurt you is by loving you to death,” says Darrel Archer, who, along with his wife Anthea and son Richard, operates Canada’s first water buffalo dairy in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The Archers milk the buffalo every day, which is a fulltime job for the three of them. “When they’re being milked, they love having their faces and necks rubbed and scratched. They close their eyes in complete ecstasy,” says Darrel. The dense, creamy buffalo milk is sent to the Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay, where Master Cheese Maker Paul Sutter oversees its transition (including hand-stretching) into porcelain-white mounds of buffalo mozzarella. Natural Pastures has been producing Mozzarella di Bufala Fairburn for four years, and has already garnered a handful of awards — including third place at the British Empire Cheese Show. The water buffalo dairy is at Fairburn Farm, which was purchased by Darrel Archer’s parents in 1954 (one year later, they formed the Vancouver Island Organic Co-operative — the first in Canada). Darrel and Anthea took over the farm in 1978. In the farm’s 120-year history, no chemical pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones or antibiotics have ever been used. The Archers have raised sheep and cattle in the past. It was their search for an animal that would thrive on local
14 // February/March 2011
vegetation and yield a unique product that led them to import Canada’s first herd of water buffalo from Bulgaria in 2000. These are river buffalo, originally bred in Asia for milk production, and are very different from North American buffalo, which are actually bison. Buffalo mozzarella is a popular summer cheese, but as Darrel Archer says, “it tastes just as good in winter.” Thankfully, Natural Pastures produces it year-round. “Natural Pastures told us we could never send them too much milk,” says Darrel. The cheese can be served at room temperature in salads, such as Caprese. It’s also an excellent melting cheese — in grilled sandwiches, pizza, and lasagna, or stacked with grilled vegetables and baked in the oven. This April, the Archers’ daughter Maryann, along with her husband, will re-open the doors of the 19th century farmhouse, and operate Fairburn Farmstay and Guesthouse. Bed and breakfast will be offered, as well as packed lunches. The Archers want visitors to explore the Cowichan Valley area, and their 130-acre property of forest, farmland, creek and walking trails. “With the farm stay, we want to encourage people to come and participate and enjoy the farm itself — and get a feel for getting back to the land,” says Anthea. …… Natural Pastures Mozzarella di Bufala Fairburn can be found at select stores across Canada — check www.naturalpastures.com for a location near you. For more information on the Fairburn Farmstay and Guesthouse, go to www.fairburnfarm.bc.ca.
L I F E ’ S F UL L O F TOUGH DEC ISIO N S. “ W H AT ’ S F O R DIN N ER? ” S H OU L D N ’ T B E O N E O F THEM.
campbells soup on cd
F O R S T R E S S - F R E E M E A L I D E A S V I S I T C O O KW I T H CA M P B E L L S . CA EASY CHICKEN BROCCOLI DIVAN WITH FUSILLI
Prep: 10 min
3 cups 2 cups 1 can
1. Arrange broccoli and chicken in 1 1/2 qt (1.5 L) baking dish. Pour in mixture of soup and milk. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with mixture of bread crumbs and margarine. 2. Bake at 425°F (220°C) until heated through – about 25 minutes. 3. Cook fusilli according to package directions, omitting salt, and serve immediately with divan.
/ cup / cup 2 tbsp 1 tsp
hot cooked broccoli florets cubed, cooked, skinless chicken breast (10 oz/284 mL) CAMPBELL’S® Condensed Low Fat Cream of Broccoli Soup 1% milk shredded light Cheddar cheese dry bread crumbs margarine or butter, melted
uncooked tri-coloured fusilli
M’m! M’m! Good! © 2009 Campbell Company of Canada
Cook Time: 25 min
Per Serving: 480 calories, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat, 70mg cholesterol, 590mg sodium, 62g carbohydrate, 5g dietary fibre, 39g protein, 20% DV calcium
bonterra on cd 2008
WINE ENTHUSIAST May 2008
W E U S E O R G A N I C G R A P E S. B E C AU S E T H E L E S S W E A D D, T H E M O R E YO U TA S T E .
In 1987, Bonterra was founded on the philosophy that farming organically produces the purest, most flavorful grapes. Our award-winning wines are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Allowing us to capture the natural intensity of the organic grapes, so you experience the true nature of wine.
E V E R Y T H I N G I N B A L A N C E • D R I N K R E S P O N S I B LY • B O N T E R R A . C O M • F I N D U S © 2010 BONTERRA VINEYARDS, MENDOCINO CO.,CA * NIELSEN US FOOD 7/24/10
anything but Martinis
by sheila swerling-puritt
I’m just back from Europe and the fashionable new base for cocktails is — are you ready? — Grappa! Yes, the Italian firewater originally consumed by vineyardists to help them face the elements while they went out to prune their vines in the cold months. Today’s refined grappas mix beautifully and make an excellent alternative to Cognac as a digestif. Grappa is a spirit distilled from pomace, the skins and grape pips left over from fermenting wine. (The French call this marc.) Travelling distillers and industrial outfits can produce such spirits anywhere, but this is often cheap grappa best used as portable central heating for peasants in Northern Italy or poured into a breakfast espresso to make a caffè corretto. At higher quality levels, some grappas are unaged and are water-white and carry a wet tea leaf note, the telltale aroma you can sniff out in all styles. In recent years a number of wood-aged versions have appeared in the market. The youngest are yellow and acquire only subtle wood notes. Longer-aged versions are red-brown and distinctly vanilla scented. Contrary to popular belief, grappa’s alcoholic content is a fairly familiar 40 to 45 per cent. Over the last two decades a small clutch of producers have crafted premium grappas, some made from a single grape variety, and often packaged in beautiful bottles. Nonino, Poli, and Alexander are well known for their work at the highest level. Sandro Bottega, owner and master distiller of Alexander Grappa and the Bottega line of grappa-based liqueurs is perhaps one of the most enigmatic and gregarious people I’ve ever met. His distillery is 100 per cent eco-friendly. Sandro also owns a factory in Venice where his award-winning hand blown glass bottle designs are made. He’s written a book en-
+ Visit tidingsmag.com/drinks/ for more drink recipes
titled Spirit of Life that details the history of grappa and offers up a wide array of recipes from around the world, for both food and cocktails. Here are some grappa-based cocktails to get you warmed up and into the spirit of entertaining.
Alex Winter 1 1/2 oz Grappa Alexander 3/4 oz Orange juice 1/4 oz Strawberry syrup 2 drops of lemon juice Mix all the ingredients together in a shaker with ice cubes. Shake well for a few seconds. Then pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
1 single espresso 2 ice cubes 1 tsp simple syrup 2 oz grappa Mix all the ingredients into the shaker and shake well. Pour into a highball glass.
PASSION FLOWER 3/4 oz grappa 3/4 oz Cointreau 3/4 oz Blue Curaçao 1/4 oz lemon juice
Pour the ingredients into a shaker. Add ice and shake well. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Pineapple spear.
by peter rockwell
//sexy & underrated
With Valentine’s Day coming up what do you think is the sexiest wine I can buy? For me that would be anything poured by Kim Kardashian: Red, white, windshield wiper fluid … whatever. But I digress. When it comes to sexy liquid, nothing trumps sweet except maybe something with bubbles. Dessert-style wines are a mystery for most. Often way too cloying for palates raised on bone dry whites, sticky wines tend to be the last thing modern drinkers think about buying. Plus they tend to be pretty expensive if you’re going for a top drawer French Sauterne or fancy-pants Icewine from our neck of the vineyard. The good news for you romantics out there is that many New World countries (think Chile, Australia, Argentina and South Africa) have climates that allow grapes to rot on the vines with less risk. That translates to a cheaper price, by the way. If the fear of buying into a large bottle of the stuff is holding you back, then the even better news is that most new millennium dessert wines come in half bottles. That means that a lovey-dovey couple can easily down the contents without worrying about having to call me to come finish what they can’t. If I haven’t made a strong enough case for the sweet side then go sparkling. Short of an expensive glass of sugary juice nothing oozes sex appeal better than a flute of bubbly. If your wallet can’t reach the upper echelon that is true French champagne (which starts at around $60 for a decent non-vintage version) there’s a sea of terrific sparklers being made everywhere from Spain all the way to Nova Scotia. Attempts at holiday colour coding aside, rosé sparkling wines are a highly underrated style that offer more berry fruit and, I think, work even better with food than the ever versatile non-rosé type of nose-tickling tipple. Now if Kim would just follow me on Twitter …
18 // February/March 2011
What do you think is the most underrated wine producing country? I’d be happy to rattle off a laundry list of countries that you all should be paying much more attention to, but according to my palate the most underrated country in the ever-congested world of wine is … wait for it … Portugal. Clinging to the side of Spain like Charlie Sheen to an exotic dancer, Portugal gets the short end of the Iberian Peninsula thanks to the popularity of its next-door neighbour’s liquid output. Granted, it also suffers from its own success just a tad. Being so famous for its rich, sweet Port wines the average consumer has trouble seeing past the fortification profile — thinking every bottle of Portuguese vino is boozy and heavy-handed with limited versatility when it comes to food pairing and all season drinking. While many Portuguese table reds are made with the same grapes as Port they’re certainly not fortified and can easily stand their ground against their formidable European competition. Indigenous grapes like Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa and Bastardo (always love mentioning that one) are for the most part unique to Portugal with only Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo) really showing off its personality in other countries. Typically ripe and medium-to-full-bodied with some of the plum characteristics of Port wines mixed with plenty of rustic charm; Portuguese reds offer big flavours for still reasonable prices. The country’s temperate climate means white wine consumption is an all year affair. Though local fruit like Antao Vaz, Malvasia Fina and Verdelho get squeezed into many of Portugal’s finer wines, Alvarinho — the grape of Vinho Verde — is arguably the most famous. The lightly effervescent wine of the same name made in the northern province of Minho is a classic easy-drinker that’s perfect for summer quaffing here in North America. Will 2011 be the year that Portuguese table wines break into the mainstream? I hope so because Portugal is the most interesting “undiscovered country” on the map and its wines are sitting right under your nose.
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Illustration: Matt Delay/Shinypliers.com
Grey goose on cd o n d i s c e r n i n g ta s t e
OYSTERS B e s t o r d e r e d i n m o n t h s that contain the letter â€˜Râ€™ and always best when local,
bracingly fresh and shared with the table. Sauces and garnish are a matter of personal preference but are best used sparingly. When accompanied by an icy shot, straight up, oysters are a wildly delicious way to satisfy the cocktail hour.
Ole Steering clear of bullfights in Spain is as tricky as side-stepping doggy doo-doo on Paris streets. With bullrings in every city, the fights are as much a part of life in Spain as hockey is in Canada (don’t get me started on comparisons). I immersed myself in Andalusian culture by watching a bullfight, then wolfing down beefy tapas while quaffing companionable wines. To all three, I say, “Ole!”
The bullring was a few kilometres north of Seville at 5000-acre Lora Sangrán Ranch (also called Dehesa La Calera), where bulls are raised expressly for fighting. I toured the ranch, then watched the fight with owner Joaquín Sangrán, whose family has been in the bovine business for generations. Blond bullfighter Juan Pedro Garcia wore boots, high-waisted pants with suspenders, and a crisp baby-pink shirt that looked like it had never seen sweat, let alone blood. His yellow and fuchsia cape was casually draped over one arm, like he was going to a Halloween party and not facing possible injury, pain or (worse), disgrace in the ring. Calerito (his bullfighter name) was only 10 years old, but he strutted like a seasoned professional. Even though the so-called bull was a two-year-old cow, I was instantly nervous for Calerito, as she was big enough to do damage. And had horns. And looked seriously vexed.
20 // February/March 2011
There was a hush as the cow entered the bullring. Calerito was at the ready, his chest puffed, his cape undulating seductively to catch the attention of the animal. She dashed forward, head down to gore the cape with her horns, but it moved effortlessly away, leading her in a semi-circle around the boy. Olé! The livid cow charged again and again, but the boy fluidly deflected her advances every time. He had a very macho attitude, and at one point even turned his back on the cow to spit on the ground. His show of bravado earned him an extra olé! The fight ended when it was determined that the cow was aggressive enough to stay on the farm. She could look forward to happy years of raising babies and grazing outdoors. Tired and thirsty, but still irate, she left the ring unharmed to join her friends. At any given time there are about 600 cattle on the ranch, with 400 males and 200
+ For a classic recipe from Seville visit www.tidingsmag.com/mavericks/
by Brenda MacMillan
females. At the age of two, all animals are tested in the bullring to see if they are aggressive enough. Feisty females are kept for breeding and combative males are kept for the bullring. Passive ones become tapas. I asked Joaquín Sangrán if the animals were really attracted to red. “Bulls are colour-blind. What attracts them is the movement of the cape. The red is for the people.” He could have also been referring to the Spanish wine, an excellent match to beefy dishes.
At many Jerez and Seville bars and restaurants, it is surprising, but not unusual, to be served red wine directly from the refrigerator. I suppose that in the summer when temperatures hit 45˚C, cold red wine is refreshing, but in September’s more pleasant weather, I warmed every glass in my hands before drinking. Fortunately, dining in Andalusia is measured in hours, and not minutes. photos: ROBERT LOPEZ
In sherry-centric Jerez, I noshed al fresco at Meson Reino de Leon, a little resto with tables that spilled into a narrow side street teaming with diners, amblers and families. I started with Fino and tapas, then moved on to chef-recommended grilled beef tenderloin topped with a slab of foie gras, accompanied by a bottle of 2006 Bodegas Beronia Crianza, a popular wine from Rioja. Mostly Tempranillo with touches of Garnacha and Graciano, its acidity balanced the richness of the dish wonderfully. Although the body was a little light for the meat, it suited the warmth of the evening and the leisurely dining pace. While wines from Rioja are plentiful in Andalusian restaurants, red wines from Cataluña are rare. I was introduced to one at La Azotea, my favourite supper spot in Seville. A hidden treasure with an open kitchen, it is always packed as it has very few tables, a small bar, excellent
food and unusual wines, most of which are served by the glass (about €3.30 for a generous pour). I had a Cataluñian wine there one night with braised ox (buey) medallions that tasted like macho beef. Coddled in olive oil until they melted, the accompanying potatoes were a rich sidekick for the saucy meat, and a close amigo of the mysterious 2005 Reverse 6 from Winery Arts. A blend of Tempranillo and Merlot from old vines of low production, it promised black currants on the nose, delivered fruit, silky tannins and a good acidity, then ended a bit abruptly. It suited the evening’s fare very well, but I would have liked a longer finish. On another occasion at La Azotea, I ordered their mini hamburguesa tapa, which, as it turned out, was seared on the outside but thoroughly bloody inside. Although I deigned to court E. coli, my fellow eater fearlessly gobbled the burger down in two bites and declared it excellent. As compensation, I devoured the crisp, thin frites on the safe side of the plate and half of his foie gras. Although I chose the glass of Cellar de Capçanes 2008 Mas Donis Barrica as a match for the burger, it also performed admirably with the fries and foie. A well-crafted blend of Garnacha and Syrah from Montsant, it first caught my nose with berries, chocolate and wild flowers, then followed with more of the same combined with sweet oak and fresh acidity. I was sorry to see the bottom of my glass, so ordered another, along with a zesty cheese dish. When in Spain ... I loved the tapas, vino and weather in Andalusia, but beyond that, I also enjoyed dining late at night under a star-strewn canopy in plazas teeming with babies, grannies, lovers and busy waiters. There is a unique style to life in Spain ... a joyous one. Even bullfights have happy endings. Olé! •
STREET by Carolyn Evans-Hammond
In France, kissing a personâ€™s cheeks three times is lower brow than two pecks. And so it is with beer and wine; when it comes to the pecking order of beverages, beer is to wine as the National Enquirer is to The New Yorker. 22 // February/March 2011
Wings, hamburgers, nachos, ballpark hotdogs, and cheap cheddar call for beer — any beer — while well-hung tenderloin, wild mushroom tart, slide-down-your-throat raw oysters, and white truffle shavings sprinkled on a bed of angel hair pasta all say wine. And not just any wine, but specific styles of wine. Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Puligny-Montrachet. Krug. Sassicaia, perhaps. Or at least, that’s the public perception. But a powerful undercurrent of countercultural verve is swelling within foodie circles. And at the root of it all is enthusiasm for serious suds. “Beer and food dinners are huge in the US, and they are building momentum here in Canada too,” says Troy Burtch, a beer blogger and a director of Taps: The Beer Magazine. “Toronto Beer Week and Vancouver Craft Beer Week both premiered this year, during which there were lots of great food and beer pairing events.” Troy and a broadening clutch of other beer enthusiasts who don’t resemble Norm off Cheers are arguing beer can be every bit as exciting as wine as a fine food accompaniment – once you get to know the styles available. And learn to follow certain rules. But why the age-old stigma toward beer? “Beer is a peasant drink. It was made by pretty much everyone way back when. Anyone with extra grain could brew the stuff. You didn’t need much,” says Joel Manning, brewmaster at Mill Street Brewery in Toronto. Beer is probably the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, brewed since 9500 BCE when cereal was first farmed. In the simplest sense, brewing beer involves taking grain — usually malted barley, but wheat, maize, and rice work too — mashing it with hot water to convert the starches to sugar, then draining the sweet liquid off, flavouring it with hops or other ingredients, and letting yeasts (wild or cultured) convert the sugar to alcohol. Voilà. Beer. And to this day, prices still reflect beer’s humble beginnings. While top wines fetch thousands of dollars per bottle, the most expensive beers in the world sell for hundreds. If you want to talk specifics, the highest-priced wine to date went under hammer at Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong last November when three bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild 1869 went for $236,138 each. Meanwhile, the most expensive beer in the world sold last summer for $800 per bottle. Granted, most beer doesn’t appreciate with age like wine does. Instead, it just rots. But still, new vintages of top wines sell for far more than top-tier fresh brew. Supporting beer’s lowbrow image is the fact that $800 beer seems more like a bad party joke than a status symbol or connoisseur’s dream. The 12 limited edition bottles, called “The
End of History,” were made by Scotland’s BrewDog brewery. Each bottle was packaged inside a dead animal — apparently road kill preserved by a taxidermist. Nice. The beer is 55 per cent alcohol and the lot sold out within a day of going on the market. Personally, I would rather spend the money on a few bottles of 1996 Bollinger.
Nevertheless, there’s no shortage of people trying to ratchet up beer’s image. Several months ago, I went to an event called “The Street Fight” in Toronto, which pitted beer against wine with gourmet fare. I was on the judging panel with one other sommelier, two beer pros, and a classical music expert (no idea). In one corner was Mill Street brewmaster Joel, with 25 years of brewing experience and numerous awards under his belt. In the other was seasoned sommelier Peter Bodnar-Rod representing 13th Street Wines — one of the better wineries in Ontario. The challenge: Who could come up with better matches for a series of courses? One of the first plates was a mini Oktoberfest sausage on a pretzel bun with grainy mustard and braised sauerkraut. Of course, it worked best with the beer, which was a clean, fresh Mill Street Pilsner. Didn’t work at all with the 13th Street Cuvée 13 Rosé 2007 for about 20 reasons that begin and end with flavour. What did pair fabulously with wine was the crab cake with double smoked bacon, ripe avocado and arugula drizzled with a citrus aioli. It lifted the 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2009 to dizzying heights, while the wine cut the richness of the dish beautifully. In short, what happened was that one-plus-oneequals-three thing. Then beer won another round when the crab cake with green papaya salad and Thai curry sauce was served with Mill Street’s Lemon Tea Beer. The experience was like witnessing John and Yoko’s famous “bed-in” for the first time. A bit obvious perhaps, but sensually refreshing nonetheless — and fleetingly riveting. Then came the pan-roasted Angus beef tenderloin topped with a brûlée of pungently aromatic double cream brie and cooked spinach on the side. I thought all joy was lost when it was washed down with Mill Street Oktoberfestbier. Meanwhile, other judges argued the caramelized flavours of the beer reflected those of the dish for a perfect pairing. I obviously disagreed. The drink was far too dilute for the dish. I wanted something more exciting with this course. Enter 13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2009. Instant oomph. Instant guttural glory. Instant memory of reds from the Côte d’Or. Which is not surprising, given this Canadian wine was
made by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Colas, who earned his stripes in Northern Burgundy. He was head winemaker at Domaine Laroche, a large producer in Chablis, crafting internationally award-winning wines for a decade at that esteemed estate. And having sampled some red wines in barrel with him this summer in the Niagara region, this writer is convinced Monsieur Colas is taking Ontario wines up a notch. But back to the dish. The strong flavours of the beef and cheese wound beautifully around the classic barnyard funk and sassy sophistication of the Pinot Noir. It walked that razor edge between disgusting and divine — as all great foods do. Mesmerizing match. I couldn’t believe the judges missed that. But then again, not everyone likes sea urchin either. To some degree, gastronomy — like sex appeal — comes down to personal taste. The evening also drove home the fact that beer and wine are not comparable. Beer is far more dilute than wine, it is generally sweet and bitter in varying degrees, and it’s effervescent. “Sweetness in beer is washed away by saliva, while bitterness in beer plateaus on the palate after about a pint. So you don’t know how the brewmaster intends the beer to taste until that point,” explains Manning. That’s not a big help for beer tasting, is it? And it makes the drink a moving target as a food accompaniment.
Meanwhile, wine is an entirely different animal. You can taste the winemaker’s intent in a single swirl, sip and spit. And as a beverage, it’s more potent ounce per ounce, it has sharper acidity, only reds display bitterness, it’s more often dry than sweet, and bubbles aren’t the norm. The only similarity between the beverages is that they can each be fine food partners if you put some thought into what
you’re doing. And the most important guideline to remember is to match the weight of the beverage with that of the dish. Lighter beer styles, specifically lagers, pilsners and wheat beers, tend to pair well with lighter fare such as salads, fish and seafood. They’re also great with spicy fare for the guzzlefactor. Steam Whistle Pilsner from Steam Whistle Brewery in Ontario is a great light beer for food. It yields a clean, crisp taste, subtle notes of hops and bread dough, and lively palatecleansing effervescence. Fuller-bodied beers, such as ale and bock beer, work nicely with heavier fare such as pork schnitzel and mashed potatoes, sausages, or even duck. I like the Hermannator Ice Bock from Vancouver Island Brewery for its richness, warmth and roasted malt notes layered with hints of molasses and prune. And more robust styles of beer such as porter and stout usually fare best with roasted and grilled meats — the hallmark notes of chocolate, caramel, coffee and toasted grains in these brews stand up well to caramelized juices and grill marks. That said, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Guinness, that dry Irish stout with the thick, creamy head is actually a great match for oysters. And porter — such as Longboat Double Chocolate Porter from Phillips Brewing Co. in BC — is a classic accompaniment for chocolate. This whole food and beer pairing game works the same way as food and wine matching. Lighter-bodied wines such as Champagne, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Grigio pair nicely with mildflavoured foods. Mid-weights like wooded Chardonnay, Merlot and Chianti work nicely with slightly heavier fare such as fried foods, pastas and pizzas. And heavyweights such as Amarone, Shiraz, and Zinfandel are best with full-throttle cheeses and firelicked foods off the barbecue. •
Moving to specifics, I’ll leave you with some classic beer and wine matches. Food
Caesar salad Pale Ale Wooded Chardonnay Roast turkey Bock Pinot Noir Dark chocolate Porter Port Grilled rib-eye steak English Bitter Cabernet Sauvignon Pepperoni pizza Pilsner Chianti Oysters Stout Champagne Spicy pork sausages Brown ale Carmenere Grilled shrimp Wheat beer Vouvray Barbecued ribs Dopplebock or “double” bock Zinfandel Curry Lager Viognier Cheesecake Fruit beer Gewürztraminer
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by Rick VanSickle
It’s a gorgeous view looking down toward the Garonne River on a hot summer’s stroll through the hilly clay and limestone vineyards of Loupiac. The walk is slow-going in the 35˚C heat, but worth every step as we pass perfectly planted rows of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and the odd remnant of an ancient fortress toppled centuries ago. Farming families tend happily to the vines without a care in the world as we pass by. Dogs run ahead, barking and herding our group as we make our way to Château Clos Jean for lunch and an exploration of the glorious sweet wines of Bordeaux. Loupiac, along with the other 10 sweet wine appellations of Bordeaux, has for centuries yielded some of the world’s most unique and profound wines. The region’s superiority has been relatively unchallenged, and producers have not had to change much in the way these deliciously sweet wines are made and sold. This sweet white wine region is located 30 kilometers to the south of Bordeaux, along the banks of the Garonne
River. On the left bank the appellations of Graves and Cerons form a gently rolling plain continuing into the gravelly areas in Sauternes and Barsac. The other lessknown appellations, including Loupiac, form the rest of the region on the right bank of the Garonne. All the grapes for the wines are hand picked and sorted only when the development of noble rot, or botrytis cinerea, has set in. This fungus is the secret ingredient in these sweet wines, what sets them apart from other sweet wines in the world. So, one might wonder why the wines produced here since the 13th century have fallen on such hard times. The sweet white wines of Bordeaux are under attack. Competition from other sweet wine producers in the world (including Canada), declining interest from domestic consumers, and a new generation of young drinkers who would rather pound back vodka-spiked coolers than sip fine wine, especially sweet fine wine, has forced unprecedented action on both sides of the Garonne.
The elegant and rich wines of the more famous appellations of Sauternes and Barsac are less affected than the other nine appellations. However, they have all united as one cohesive marketing unit under the banner Sweet Bordeaux, to return the “gold and honey” wines to the popularity they once enjoyed. Millions of dollars are being spent to bring attention to these wines that pair so well with a variety of foods, are unique in the world, and can be enjoyed not only with dessert, but on their own, as with any white wine. Lionel Bord, proprietor at Château Clos Jean, greets us warmly as we gather inside the cool confines of his charming yet rustic winery tasting room. He and his family have been making wine in the hills by the Garonne River for five generations. They farm over 45 hectares of Semillon and Sauvignon for two different labels — Clos Jean, and the top cuvee called Sublime (in the best vintages). “We try for richness,” he tells us. “But keep our identity with freshness.” His wines are exquisite, some of the best value
The honey sweet wines of Bordeaux are defined by their vineyard conditions. Here are some facts: »» Sweet white wines from Bordeaux are made when noble rot occurs naturally on the grapes. Noble rot is also known as botrytis cinerea, a moisture or grey fungus covering the grape that concentrates the sugars and gives the wines their distinct sweetness. »» Because of the botrytis, all grapes in all appellations are hand picked and hand sorted, an expensive process. There also looms the danger of botrytis failing to occur in any given vintage. When this happens, which is rare, the crop is turned into dry white wine. »» The grapes permitted for these wines include Sémillon (up to 80 per cent), Sauvignon Blanc (up to 20 per cent) and Muscadelle. »» Because these wines are high in acid and sugar content, they can be long-lived, up to 35 years for most wines and, for the best wines, over 100 years. »» The 11 appellations permitted in producing these wines include: Cadillac, Loupiac, Sainte Croix du Mont, Cerons, Barsac, Sauternes, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux Blancs, Cotes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire, Graves Superieur, Sainte Foy Bordeaux, and Bordeaux Superieures.
94 Château Raymond Lafon, Sauternes 2005 ($72)
An unclassified wine, but considered by many to be among the great sweet wines of the world, which delivers exquisite quality vintage to vintage. A superb, aromatic nose of exotic fruits, roasted nuts and spice. It has a fresh feel on the palate but maintains an elegant note through an array of dried honeyed fruit and balanced sweetness. Pair with fish or beef tartare, raspberries and wild strawberries or peach flan.
88 Château Clos Jean, Loupiac 2007 ($15) One of the great bargains in the appellation, with a fresh nose of white flowers, quince and ginger. It’s fleshy on the palate, but still maintains balance with dried fruits and honey notes. Pair with duck or blue cheeses.
85 Château Jean Fonthenille, Loupiac 2008 ($12)
A lighter, value wine that shows tropical fruits, wild honey, quince and apricot on the nose. Decent acidity on the palate. Would pair nicely with candied fruits or poached peaches in honey.
89 Château La Rame, SainteCroix-du-Mont 2005 ($30)
Often called the Yquem of the appellation, La Rame delivers a powerful sweet wine with a nose of orange marmalade, almond, spice, flowers and even vanilla/honey notes. This is a rich, fat and complex wine with a distinct nutty finish. Pair with fig tart, Roquefort cheese or Ricotta ravioli.
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86 Château La Caussade, SainteCroix-du-Mont 2007 ($22) Another good value sweet wine with ripe pear, apricot, melon and wild flower honey on the nose. A touch more finesse on the palate than the Loupiac, with round flavours and medium acidity. This is the second wine from La Rame. Pair with chicken and morels or rhubarb tart.
92 Château d’Arche, Sauternes 1998 ($40)
A grand cru Sauternes with a nutty, spicy, vanilla nose. The quince, sweet citrus, pineapple, roasted almonds and wild honey notes all come together perfectly in this aged and balanced sweet wine. Pair with foie gras, duck filet or Gorgonzola cheese.
91 Château Sigalas Raboud, Sauternes 2006 ($58)
A premier cru wine that shows power on the nose with intense citrus-orange, bitter almond and a full fruit attack. It’s thick, rich and powerful on the palate with honey-citrus, pear-apple, butterscotch-almond and intriguing spices on a long finish. Pair with Serrano ham, smoked fish or fennel confit.
89 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes 2005 ($40)
A nose of wild honey, quince and tropical fruits. It’s full-bodied and unctuous on the palate, with ginger spice to go with concentrated, highly extracted canned pears, tropical and citrus fruits in a fresh, balanced style. Pair with oysters in sabayon sauce, truffles, or chicken with stuffed apples.
91 Château Roumieu, Sauternes 2003 ($30)
One of the attractions of the sweet wines of Bordeaux is the way they age so beautifully. This 2003 shows exotic spice notes on the nose with dried and candied fruit. On the palate the honey, peach and lanolin is joined by dried apricot and clove spices. Fantastic wine. Pair with roasted guinea fowl with mushrooms, crème brulée or dark chocolate. These are château prices for 750 ml bottles, converted from Euros into approximate dollar values.
Jerome Cosson from Château D’arche
sweet wines in Bordeaux. They are rich, textured, honey sweet, and loaded with tropical, apple and peach fruits. Each wine we tasted had a nice beam of acidity to balance off the sweetness. Bord is certainly aware of the “crisis” threatening his livelihood, but has no intention of ever giving up what he loves doing or changing how he does it. “We have low yields. It’s very difficult to do, for not a lot of money and lots of risk,” Bord tells us as we taste through his wines. “You have to be mad.” As if to illustrate the historic importance of the wines made in the sweet Bordeaux region, he pulls out a “special” bottle of 1943 Clos Jean, and serves it with a selection of French macaroons and fruit, which taste brilliant with the wine. The bottle was well past its glory years, but still showed lovely kirsch, candied fruits and brandy-honey notes.
Our exploration of sweet Bordeaux took us next to the other side of the Garonne River, to the Graves appellation to the small commune of Pujols-surCiron. We were guests for the evening at Château Saint Robert, a grand estate that dates back to 1686, surrounded by pastoral vineyards and sweeping big-sky vistas. Close to the boundary of Barsac, this chateau is part of a collection of estates in four regions — including Bastor-Lamontagne (Sauternes), Chateau Beauregard (Pomerol) and Chateau Pavillon Bel-Air
(Lalande de Pomerol) — that are managed by Michel Garat and his team. We had been invited to stay, tour, and, finally, enjoy a feast expertly matched to the sweet wines of Bordeaux. To illustrate the wider appeal of sweet wines, Garat brought in a chef, George Gotrand, to demonstrate the diversity of these wines with different foods. We were invited to the kitchen as Gotrand whipped up some quick and delicious pairings as a warmup to the main event. We started with chicken wings seared with soya, sesame oil and a touch of ginger paired with a 2005 Château Margoton from the Cadillac appellation. The sweet, fleshy fruits from the wine played wonderfully with the spice of the wings.
Other quick and simple dishes that worked well with the sweet wines included seared scallops with dried apricot and green peppercorns, sardines with pepper spread and lemon zest, and a local delicacy, lamprey eel warmed up right from the jar. Our main meal featured a lovely goat cheese-crusted, freshly-caught cod with a sauce of ginger, sweet wine, cream and shallots served with Château CherchyDesqueyroux 2007 from the Graves Superieures appellation. A brilliant pairing of sweet dried apricot and peach fruit played off the goat cheese and ginger. We capped off the extravaganza with a cold melon soup with ginger, cardamom and lemon-lime juice and a fabulous wildflower honey ball served with a Château Bastor-Lamontagne 2004 Sauternes. The wild honey in the concoction matched perfectly with the sweet acacia honey notes of the wine and the quince, peach and marzipan flavours. The sweet wines of Bordeaux are easily matched to an array of foods. Some pairings to consider include smoked fish, duck cooked any way, lobster, goat cheese, Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, veal sweetbread, rabbit, tuna, grilled fish, mild curry dishes, fish risotto, pork tenderloin, beef tartare, peach flan, red fruit salad and raspberries or strawberries. A great way to end our trip. •
Château Sigalas Raboud’s Marie Antoinette Sigalas
by Rosemary Mantini
The present-day city of Saint Émilion sits in the heart of the Bordeaux wine region and is completely surrounded by vineyards. Emmanuelle Bou-
vet, Communications and Relations-Presse for the city, sets the scene: “Coming from the west, [you] will discover … a true ocean of vines … mansions and groves. The winding roads will take you to slopes and terraces from which you can see the silver ribbon [that is] the Dordogne River. This is how the main features of the Saint Émilion terroir are revealed ….”
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In the 8th century, one lonely monk named Émilion left his family behind in Breton so he could wander through the forests and pray. He finally set down roots about 35 kilometres east of the city of Bordeaux in the Ascumbas forest, which once entirely covered what would become the city of Saint Émilion. There, he found a cozy cave to inhabit, and other monks eventually came to settle around him. Émilion may have found a particularly pastoral spot to lay his sleeping bag, but the monks who followed him just couldn’t rest. They took the vineyards the Romans had planted and turned winemaking into a commercial venture. And the nuns, well… they created culinary masterpieces.
::::eat::::::::::::: Wine, wine, wine … that’s what Saint Émilion is known for, right? Of course it is. But, what you may not know is that this little city consisting of only 27.1 square meters is world famous for its food, too. Made according to the same philosophy as its wine, traditional dishes are all about what’s available locally. Duck, beef, salmon, pork, mushrooms and a host of other foods are grown so close to Saint Émilion that even 20 kilometres away is no longer considered local. Other yummy eats worth trying are roast lamb, wood pigeon drizzled with red wine sauce and served with garlic croutons, and, of course, steak grilled over vine-prunings. Saint Émilion is probably most known for its macarons (macaroons). These scrumptious little cookies are made with ground almonds, egg whites and sugar. In 1620, the Ursuline nuns, having recently arrived in the village, unpacked their suitcases and set about baking goodies from their secret stash
where to eat in saint émilion
of recipes. The original macaroon recipe was passed down from generation to generation of nuns until the early 20th century. At that point, the recipe was given to Madame Grandet who featured the cookie in her newly opened Blanchet Bakery, which still exists at 9, rue Guadet. The recipe remains the same as that which the nuns used, and Blanchet Bakery continues the tradition of hand selecting, roasting and grinding the almonds on site. Although the macaroons can be found in practically every bakery across France, only the ones made at Blanchet can be called “Saint Émilion Macarons.” The 2008 Petit Futé Guide for the Gironde Region claims, "It is almost impossible not to be tempted by these small macaroons that somehow manage to be soft and crunchy at the same time.” Although the original recipe remains the property of Blanchet Bakery, there are a number of very good variations to be found. Here’s one adapted from Stéphane Reynaud’s French Feasts.
> L’Envers du Décor > Logis de la Cadène
> Bistrot Le Clocher > L’Huitrier Pie
“Restaurant Amelia Canta — We picked this place because it was convenient, on the main place in Saint Émilion, and we happened to be there at lunchtime. It was quite touristy,
but that’s Saint Émilion. The food was better than expected. For the starter, I had a savoury tarte tatin with some sort of root vegetable, and my husband had a very good vegetable soup. For mains, I had an egg dish that was rich and tasty, and my husband had a sausage with mustard sauce …” (Chowhound member)
macarons Makes 30
1 ¾ cups icing sugar 1 ¼ cups ground almonds ½ cup egg whites
1. Mix together sugar and ground almonds; sift into a bowl. 2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and
carefully incorporate the sugar-almond mixture with a rubber spatula.
3. Pipe or spoon dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let dry approximately 10 minutes.
4. Bake in a preheated 300°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. tidingsmag.com
French sovereigns called it “a privileged wine.” To the English monarchs it was the “King of Wines.” Jancis Robinson, British wine authority, describes Saint Émilion as “an important red wine district in Bordeaux producing more wine that any other right bank appellation.” How is it that a vine-growing area covering only 5300 hectares can have such an awesome reputation? The answer lies in that evocative word — terroir. The vineyards of Saint Émilion are rooted in incredibly diverse landscapes, from limestone to gravelly soils to sun-drenched slopes. The region’s three grape varieties, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, are transformed into both elegant and powerful wines, depending on where they’re grown. In such a small vine-growing area there are, in fact, hundreds of châteaux with vineyards typically no larger than
three hectares. It’s the epitome of local artisanship. In Bouvet’s words, “There is no wine of Saint Émilion. There are, in fact, many.” With 67.5 per cent of the landscape dedicated solely to vineyards, it’s no wonder that, in 1996, UNESCO wrote that St Émilion is “a remarkable example of a centuries-old viticultural region which has remained intact and continues to produce wine.” By 1954, the city had organized itself into two Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (A.O.C.) — Grand Cru Classé and Premier Grand Cru Classé. Unlike any other classification system, the Saint Émilion ranking hinges on the quality of the wine. Every 10 years, châteaux re-submit their products for evaluation. Wines must demonstrate a particular level of excellence in order to be listed under either heading.
Try a horizontal tasting. Line up a few bottles that come from different châteaux, but that were produced in the same vintage. Sampling a selection of wine from each part of Saint Émilion will help you develop an appreciation for how the diversity of the landscape can contribute to structure, aroma and taste.
premier grand cru classé > Château Bélaire 2006 ($85) > Château Figeac 2006 ($129) > Château Magdelaine 2006 ($82)
grand cru classé > Château Canon-La-Gaffelière
2006 ($115) We wandered around the town, which was full > Château La Serre 2006 ($52) of tourists, and found a restaurant at noon > Château Coutet 2006 ($42) to avoid the rush. Logis de la Cadène has an outdoor area with vine-covered pergola; but we lunched inside. Deborah had steak and I had lamb chops — three of them on a skewer … At three o’clock the group
is scheduled to arrive at Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, but we’re late because our bus is too large for the road and the next shortest route is under construction. Stephan von Neipperg takes us into the vineyard. From here we can see Ausone, Bélair and Magdelaine as well as the ugly building of the local co-operative. Stephan tells us that the director of the co-operative is a decent fellow who is prepared to turn off the lights at night if Canon-La-Gaffelière is entertaining guests. Stephan is passionate about organic growing. ‘If you have no life in the earth,’ he says, ‘you have no life in the wine.’” – Tony Aspler
> The châteaux of Saint Émilion produce about 36 million bottles of red wine a year. > Most châteaux are family-run. > St Émilion was the first wine-producing area in the world listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. > It is the oldest wine-producing area in the region of Bordeaux. > St Émilion vine growers have their own patron saint — Saint Valéry > Baraganne (vineyard leeks) are a delicacy that grows naturally in between the vine rows.
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what to see
> Europe’s largest monolithic church > 70 hectares of underground caves carved out of limestone > The Spring Festival (judgment of the new wine), which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in June > City tours just for kids > The expansive cellars of each château
> Au Logis Des Remparts > Hostellerie de Plaisance > Grand Barrail Château-Hotel-Spa Visit the Saint Émilion tourist office at www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com for details on how to plan your trip.
What must it be like to live in an open-air mu- dotting the village sell items handcrafted by the seum? Everywhere you turn are monuments and locals. At night, stroll the streets by lamplight, > Pack good walking shoes! relics. Except for updated conveniences, this is which gives this medieval city an ethereal look. Steep cobblestone streets a city that hasn’t seen a building boom since the While most tourists vacation in the summer, wreak havoc on high heels. 12th and 13th centuries. Yet, being surrounded by Bouvet suggests that the best times to visit may > Take a sweater even if you’re the weight of history seems to be as magical for actually be in March, April and October when visiting in the height of the locals as it is for the one million or so visitors the temperatures are a bit cooler. While you’re summer. Those underground who pass through the city each year. Bouvet is there, stop in at the Tourist Office at Place Crécaves can dip to 13°C. quick to say that, other than great wine and food, neaux to find out when tours of the city, its at> If you’re traveling by car, keep the locals are very proud of that historical and tractions and surrounding countryside are held. in mind that any vehicle wider architectural heritage. From a tourist’s perspec- Better yet, become a student for a few hours at than two meters isn’t allowed tive, history can be expensive. You might find the wine school housed within the Saint Émilion within the city limits. that dining on that exquisite rack of lamb leaves House of Wines shop. a painful dent in your wallet. But, it won’t last; the beauty surrounding you will no doubt It’s a make it all worthwhile. marvellous village, definitely within the top 20 of the most beautiful villages in France. Once you’ve had your fill of Saint Émilion’s culinary de- Well-maintained, superb lanes that intersect the village, gorgeous ramparts, lots of history … lights, take time to do some The view from Saint Émilion across the vineyards and the rest of the region is spectacular. shopping. The many boutiques It’s really worth the effort of getting there.” (Linternaute.com member)
“I live in Libourne, which is about six kilometres away from Saint Émilion.
In a corner of our house, in a space that we affectionately call the “home office” — legitimized by an aging Mac, casually strewn paper clips, a non-functioning To Do list, and a seven-slot power bar full of battery chargers — there is a shelf full of recipe books. Not including the encyclopedic Larousse Gastronomique, Alain Ducasse’s monumental Le Grande Livre, The Joy of Cooking, the complete Time-Life Good Cooks series, and my own three-ring binder of accumulated keepers, the collection east to west measures just under six feet. I know that sounds ridiculous — some of the books won’t even get a respectful glance — but by the time this story is published, I will have added more. We of the foodie persuasion love books about food and what we might do with it. Which is why we are thrilled to own the likes of a 1915 Mrs Beeton; M.F.K. Fisher’s Long Ago in France; a 1919 collection of St Francis Hotel Chef Victor Hirtzler’s recipes of San Francisco; a 1925 Fanny Farmer catering compendium; and a copy of Are You Hungry Tonight?, the pork-chops-and-cornmeal-mush recipes of the King himself. Face it. For some of us, accumulating cookbooks is an addiction, and no matter how many we have on our shelves, we’re always ready to buy or be gifted more. Which makes people like Barbara-Jo McIntosh, who founded Books to Cooks in Vancouver 13 years ago, very happy, because people like me keep coming and coming again to her store. A widely-honoured food professional with experience as a restaurateur,
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author, and supporter of the Canadian West Coast culinary scene, Barbara-Jo says that while those of us who like cooking could do quite well with nought more than Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, we keep buying books because more than anything, they make us happy. But what about those giant food books that are heavy with pictures and intimidating words? “Even if you’re just looking at pretty pictures, you’re learning something,” says Barbara-Jo. “They educate us. Not just about cooking, but about the ingredients of cooking, about cultures. Food is the beginning of understanding a culture.” “For instance,” she continues, “I recently learned more about espelette pepper, grown in the Pyrenees, and very popular with chefs.” Now, along with mountains of books and some carefully chosen culinary items, she stocks a proprietary seasoning that combines espelette, maldon salt and thyme. Little treasures like this have made her Books to Cooks an always-active destination for the food world. And biggies like Bittman, Bourdain, Ramsay, LaGasse and others have also dropped by for book launchings and cooking demos. She recommends Bittman’s great book because he keeps things simple, and people are encouraged to work with his recipes knowing that he too — not formally trained — had to figure things out as he went along. “Yes, we could live with one good cookbook, but a nice collection begins to investigate more about the world of food — helps to satiate our appetite for the
palate to explore something new.” And we treasure our collections. “You read a novel once or twice, and pass it on, or whatever. You only loan a cookbook if you’re prepared to let it go. Because you won’t get it back.” With the endless resources of the web — Google came up with almost a billion recipe sources in a mere .10 seconds — and the fandangling that flows between Facebook friends and compounds exponentially into other social networking, it would hardly seem necessary to ever actually own a cookbook. But hard copy, our need to open a book and break its spine; or hold it open with a rolling pin and over time smear its favoured pages with flour, soya sauce, spilled milk, cookie dough or whatever, still seems to be a sensual extra that technology can never deliver. All of this cookbook hoarding may be satisfying in a King Midas kind of way. But Barbara-Jo’s observations notwithstanding, the sad thing is that too often our books really do remain on shelves and coffee
tables — not in the kitchen where they should be — helpful and often-used guides to the new culinary adventures they were written to inspire. We open them, smell the ink, check out the gorgeous pictures, and gasp at the good things we humans should be cooking. Then we say: “Must try this some day,” and return to our favorites, the very few books and recipes that we have lived with and loved, those we have committed to human hard-drive memory. These are the good ones, simply presented. Recipes that express themselves in cups, teaspoons, pinches, smidgins and dashes. Recipes that direct us to cream the butter and sugar, to preheat our ovens not to gas marks, but to well rounded and familiar Fahrenheit. To season to taste. Recipes that came from mom or Auntie Pearl — hand written on scraps of paper, the secrets that made them what they are carefully tucked along the margins. We use them often, and carefully archived, they will one day be welcomed by a new generation.
Spot prawns, sablefish, octopus, geoducks, sea urchins and fresh sardines may not yet be mainstream seafood in many parts of the land, but with about 40 other varieties that have been identified as sustainable, they are featured in the Ocean Wise Cookbook (Whitecap), a grand collection of 139 recipes that were gathered and edited by Vancouver writer Jane Mundy and released in the fall. From the collection, we’ve gone super simple, choosing Chef Michael Smith’s grilled wild salmon burgers — which are always better on a barbie. If barbecuing must wait for another season, by all means use your cast iron pan.
500 g skinless wild salmon fillets, cubed ½ cup cilantro ¼ cup minced red onion 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (peeled) 2 tsp soy sauce 4 hamburger buns Your favourite hamburger toppings
1. Preheat your barbecue to its highest setting. Place the
salmon, cilantro, red onion, ginger and soy sauce in a food processor and pulse until everything just comes together in a coarse mixture. Do not purée it; a rough chop is all it needs. Form the mixture into 4 large patties — it will seem loose, but as it cooks, it will firm up. Carefully place the patties on the grill and sear them until they are cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. 2. Cut 4 warmed or toasted hamburger buns in half. Slide each burger onto a bun and serve them alongside the toppings. …… Potential pairings? Creemore Springs Premium Lager, Rosehall Run Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard (Ont.) or Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley, BC)
I must confess to having been a paté freak ever since the days in the early 70’s when I would sit in Thursdays — that was the name of the bar — in Montréal with a loaf of it, a jar of small, sweet gherkins and a red, probably plum, sauce. Whether or not there was bread, I can’t remember. But it was a coarse paté; you could see the lumps and taste masses of herbs and tons of garlic. You don’t forget things like that, especially in the first 12 or so hours! This recipe calls on several others, but ended up being mostly my own.
pound of chicken livers
(I use frozen and just before they thaw, cut them up like red ice cubes. It’s less yucky than having a great glob of fresh!)
1 2 ½ ½
cup shelled pistachios eggs pound ground, lean veal cup cream ½ cup brandy 2 tbsp sherry 2 tbsp port 2 cloves finely chopped garlic Fresh-grated nutmeg 1 package of side bacon Sprigs of fresh thyme 1 tbsp gelatin 1 cup water 1 cup stock
1. Chop the livers (with a knife) into small pieces. Coarsely chop the pistachios. Place livers into a large bowl, add the beaten eggs, the veal, the cream and all other ingredients except the bacon, bay leaves, thyme, gelatin mix, water and stock. Stir, then leave covered to marinate in the refrigerator overnight. 2. Line loaf tins — or terrines if you have them — with the bacon to form what will be the terrine’s covering. Ladle in the mixture to almost fill the containers and cover the tops with more bacon, and some fresh thyme. 3. Cover with foil and place the containers in a water bath in a pre-heated 425˚F oven. After an hour, top up with water and remove the foil cover. 4. Bake for another 45 minutes then remove from oven to cool. Sprinkle the gelatin onto ¼ cup warm water and stir to dissolve. 5. Add ¼ cup boiling water and stir again. Top up with more water to make a cup of liquid. Mix with the cup of stock and pour over the terrines to fill them. 6. Leave to set in the fridge overnight. 7. To remove the terrines, dip them for 10 or so seconds in warm water then turn them out onto a garnished plate. …… Serve with small, sweet gherkins, plum sauce or some exotic fruit jam and French bread. With a nice cold white wine, of course!
34 // February/March 2011
with roquefort and red pepper butter Serves 1 to 2 people
As well as running Vancouver’s best food bookstore — see above — Barbara-Jo McIntosh has extended her talent into books of her own. Her latest, Cooking for Me and Sometimes You, describes in words and recipes a month spent in Paris, where she soaked up the city, and not only made some great meals, but added to a store of Parisienne memories. I carried it with me on a visit to Europe in the fall. Her frontispiece map led me along Avenue Bosquet to La Grande Épicerie — www.lagrandeepicerie.fr — where I drooled for hours on the best food Paris has to offer. Including rib-eye steaks.
the butter 1
large red pepper lb Roquefort cheese
To prepare the Roquefort and red pepper butter, heat oven to 400˚F. Cut 1 large red pepper in half, remove seeds, and place on baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Peel the charred skin off the pepper and cut into chunks. Place in a food processor with ¼ pound of butter (cut into 4 pieces) and ¼ pound crumbled Roquefort cheese. Mix until smooth. Remove the mixture from the processor and place on a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Form into a log, wrap and freeze until needed.
the steak Rib eye steak 1 tsp espelette salt
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil Black pepper
To prepare the steak, place a fry pan over medium-high heat. Heat 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil to a gentle bubble. Rub 1 tsp espelette salt — see above — and a grind of black pepper onto both sides of the steak and add to the hot pan. Sear the first side for about 1 minute or until the meat releases its grip and refuses to stick to the pan. Flip the steak and sear the second side for about 30 seconds. Place the pan with the steak into a pre-heated 400˚F oven and roast for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the steak’s thickness and desired doneness. When the meat is done, remove steak from the pan to a plate. Cut a round of the prepared butter, about ½-inch thick, and place on top of the hot meat. …… Barbara-Jo enjoyed her steak with steamed green beans and toasted almonds. (I would have searched for a Beaujolais at La Grande).
Friends and family tell me that more often than not, their recipe books are mostly idea books — libraries to browse in times of need. That said, sometimes available ingredients suggest what they may become, and no books are required. As with this meal, that began with a frozen breast of chicken.
1 1 6 1 1 1 1 1 1
boneless breast of chicken tbsp curry powder shallots red pepper yellow pepper head of cauliflower cup frozen peas 400 ml can coconut milk cup basmati rice
3. Add a little more oil to the pan, and briefly
1. Slice the breast into one-inch cubes. In an oiled, pre-heated pan, brown the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and the curry powder. Tumble the chicken into a casserole dish. 2. Skin and slice the shallots; cut the peppers in half lengthways, remove the seeds and slice into strips. Cut the cauliflower into small florets.
stir-fry the shallots, peppers, cauliflower and peas with a pinch or two of salt. 4. Tumble the vegetables in with the chicken pieces and mix together. Deglaze the pan with the coconut milk and pour over the chicken and vegetables. 5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F, place the lid on the casserole dish and bake for an hour. Check taste and consistency. If necessary, add chicken stock or cream. …… To serve, top the cooked rice with the curry. Garnish with finely-chopped parsley, and a good chutney on the side. Papadums? Those too. And to drink? Try something new from a local micro-brewery.
Very rich, but as with most rich dishes, also very delicious! Like wrapping yourself in a duvée in front of a fire on a cold day. It’s been in my binder of faves for years.
⅓ cup long grain rice (wash and soak 1
5 1 2 2 2
in cold water for two hours) cup milk tsp salt cups half and half cream cup sugar tbsp soaked raisins tbsp slivered almonds tbsp chopped pistachios tsp ground cardamom tbsp rose water
1. Drain the rice and leave in the
saucepan. Add the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cover. 2. Simmer for 5 minutes, lifting the lid occasionally to stir. 3. Uncover, add the salt and pour in the half and half. Increase the heat to medium and bring slowly to near boiling, stirring occasionally.
36 // February/March 2011
4. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring from time to time to prevent burning and until the mixture thickens. (This will take about an hour. Do something else while this is happening!) 5. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook, stirring fairly steadily until the mixture has the consistency of thick custard and drops slowly from the spoon. (At this stage the rice will have almost completely disintegrated.) 6. Stir in the raisins, almonds, pistachios and cardamom. Blend everything well and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the rose water and spoon the pudding into a serving dish. 7. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. You may wish to decorate the top with some slivered almonds. I usually grate on some nutmeg or cinnamon. …… Grand Marnier works. And surely it’s time for another? •
by matthew sullivan
The “etiquette” (or label) on a bottle of cognac
is an arcane document.
Even understanding how old your cognac is requires some cryptography. According to the officials in Cognac, V.S. stands for Very Special, and means that the youngest eau-de-vie blended into the bottle is at least two years old. The next step is V.S.O.P., or Very Superior Old Pale; the youngest of these is four years old, although most are much older than that. Finally, there is X.O., which, in defiance of good spelling, stands for Extra Old and guarantees six years. Some cognac houses buck at these Anglicizations and instead call their X.O. “Napoléon.” Referring to L’Empereur is a patriotic gesture, but I’m not sure how the uninitiated are supposed to understand this as an aging designation. If you find this system too fussy, then I have good news for you. There’s a new term on the market: O.G. It stands for Original Gangster, and it’s the name of a new brandy released with the assistance of rapper Ice-T. The producer, Aiko Importers, says that it is a rich spirit with notes of fruit and vanilla, but I find this hard to believe. I don’t think Ice-T does anything with a hint of vanilla. Of course, at the time of writing, O.G. is still an unofficial designation, but can formal regulation by France’s Ministère de l’Agriculture et la Pêche be far behind? After all, this brand is legit, and it needs to be protected from posers. Cognac is itself a brand, but it is one of great antiquity, not unlike Champagne or the Rolling Stones. Cognac is simply the name given to brandy that’s made by traditional methods in the Cognac region of France. Brandy is a spirit made from distilled wine, but it differs from other grape liquors like grappa because it is matured in oak. This barrel influence is especially vital in cognac because its principal grape is Ugni Blanc, a variety with mild flavours, low alcohol and high acidity.
The preponderance of Ugni Blanc gives cognac more refinement than most other brandies (such as the rustic Armagnac), but it doesn’t have much punch on its own, so the extended oak aging adds layers of complexity. For every year that the cognac sleeps in the barrel, different flavours coalesce, with fresh and floral aromas darkening to spice and fig. To create a well-rounded palate, a cellar master will blend together various batches (called eau-de-vie); the oldest ones are generally reserved for V.S.O.P.s and X.O.s. The terroir of Cognac is celebrated for its elegance. The territory is sub-divided into six crus, arranged almost concentrically with the best regions nestled inside the others like Russian dolls. Although most cognacs are blends, some particularly fine bottles attempt to capture the terroir of specific crus. The best cru is Grande Champagne (no relation to the sparkling wine), which is renowned for finesse and longevity. Next comes Petite Champagne, whose character is similar to its big brother, and the Borderies, which impart floral and spicy notes. The bottom three crus are collectively known as les bois: they produce a fruity cognac that ages quickly in the barrel and thus finds employment making youthful Very Specials.
Cognac, of course, is more than just a regional brandy: it is an emblem of wealth and good taste. But as the nature of wealth changes, so does Cognac. For example, in the early 1990s, over half of the world’s supply of cognac flowed into Asia, and especially into the fabulously wealthy bellies of Tokyo and Taiwan. It was prized precisely because it was expensive — according to the Wall Street Journal, the average bottle price in Asia was three times more than in North America. However, when the markets of the East cratered in the late 1990s, so did cognac sales. The next few years were a grim time for these winemakers — until a new saviour appeared out of the gloom: the Original Gangstas. In 2001, Busta Rhymes threw open the door to cognac’s future with the hit rap single “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II.” The accompanying music video featured Mr. T pouring out servings
s.o.g The territory is sub-divided into six crus, arranged almost concentrically with the best regions nestled inside the others like Russian dolls. L’Essence de Courvoisier ($3200)
This is less of a brandy and more of a thought experiment: Can painstaking blending of ancient eau-de-vie create a cognac that is so smooth that it tastes like a kiss? I suppose so. L’Essence has no brandy burn – just silky nuances of sandalwood, nuts, brioche and ginger. Because of its age, the fruit is retiring. From beginning to end it is dry, delicate and gentle.
Hennessy X.O. ($231.15)
of cognac like a trucker dispensing ketchup on a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a difficult image to get out of one’s head. But more than fine art, it was priceless publicity: the greatest gift that the cognac house of Courvoisier has received since the Red Coats caught Napoleon smuggling some barrels of Courvoisier with him into exile. Today over half of the cognac sold in the United States goes into the African American community. “It is true, when Monsieur Busta Rhymes featured Courvoisier in his video, with the many attractive ladies, our sales jumped by 40 per cent,” Pierre Szersnovicz, a director at Courvoisier, told me at a recent tasting. “It’s a huge market.” But this new market is changing the way Cognac is made and sold. For instance, you can now buy cognacs that are specially designed for mixing into cocktails, such as Hennessey Black V.S. ($74.95) and Courvoisier Exclusif V.S.O.P. ($69.95). These bottles are crafted to have the kind of strong, fruity flavours that can survive immolation in a can of Red Bull. However, they lack the finesse that makes cognac the digestif par excellence. Cognac’s urban refurbishment comes with some intriguing side-effects. The rap star Snoop Dogg has an endorsement deal with Landy Cognac, and Ludacris has released his own brand. Dr. Dre is also introducing his own line of cognac with the appetizing name “Aftermath.” He’s aiming to release it simultane-
38 // February/March 2011
This is a rich and dark style of cognac, with a chewy nose. As a finely made X.O. should, it displays superb integration and structure; the taste of figs laced with cinnamon, anise and peppermint. It is complex rather than elegant, although the finish is as persistent as a standing ovation.
Gaston de Lagrange X.O. ($99.95) Gaston de Lagrange’s X.O. from Grande Champagne is fascinating and idiosyncratic. It presents smoky and medicinal notes on both the nose and the palate. This is a powerful and spicy cognac, full of dried fruits and a fine lattice of crème brûlée. The focus is superb.
Remy Martin V.S.O.P. ($89.95) This is a fine light brandy made under the “Fine Champagne” designation (meaning that it is a balanced blend of the two best cognac subregions, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne). In this bottle, youth is charming. The subtle flavours of the Champagnes are fresh and lively, featuring apples and apricot sweetened by a touch of honey.
ously with his latest album, Detox. (Take that, 12-step program!) Of course, all is not sunshine and roses in this brave new world. The venerable cognac maker Rémy Martin had to cashier its spokesman, the musician T.I., when he was arrested for drug possession. He had just left prison. He was still on probation. He was also fired by his other client, AXE Body Spray. Will the trashy side of the hip-hop lifestyle tarnish cognac’s image? There’s no sign of it yet. In fact, cognac seems poised to recapture its place as the tipple of choice for those who would rule the world. I recently sensed the true end of the Great Recession when I was invited to taste Courvoisier’s new flagship, L’Essence de Courvoisier ($3200). It’s a blend of about 100 rare eau-de-vie, many dating back to the early 20th century. As one of the most expensive cognacs ever made, it’s not the sort of product that gets released in a shaky economy. On the other hand, only 50 bottles were assigned to Canada. 2000 bottles, on the other hand, are going to China, and the oligarchs of Russia are another major customer. These new markets are driving up the price of cognac everywhere, especially the most expensive bottles. It’s uncertain to say how cognac will change to meet their particular tastes – but one thing is certain. There is new wealth in the world, and it’s thirsty. •
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There is something comforting about the familiar, whether it is your mother’s home cooking, a classic Rolling Stones album or a Lindsay Lohan mess. Well, maybe the last is a stretch. What I am saying is that the memorable is never forgotten. In regards to California, much ballyhoo has been made of the emerging AVAs (appellations) of the Central Coast, i.e., Santa Barbara, Lodi and Paso Robles, in the past decade. But what of the regions that started it all, Napa and Sonoma? Without these historic locales, there would not be a California wine history. So, with this in mind, it is time to get back to the basics, and to look again at the different AVAs and what they do best.
Contrary to popular opinion, California’s fine wine history started in Sonoma County, not Napa, with the arrival of Hungarian nobleman Agoston Haraszthy. In 1857, he bought a small vineyard and christened it Buena Vista Vineyards, establishing California’s first premium winery. More importantly, in 1861, when he visited Europe’s famous growing regions, he collected over 10,000 cuttings
40 // February/March 2011
of 350 different varieties, and then transplanted them to Sonoma’s rich soil. He also published a variety of reports and books about his wine growing activities. His tireless work brought the state of California worldwide fame, and earned him the moniker “The Father of the California Wine Industry.” Today, Sonoma County’s 350 wineries grow 66 different varietals on over 62,000 acres, producing six per cent of California’s yearly production. The moderating factor here is the 100 kilometres of cool Pacific coastline. The air currents and fog reach many of the AVAs via three routes, and this meteorological fact explains why Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two most frequently planted grapes throughout the county.
major sonoma avas
Alexander Valley: Sonoma’s warmest AVA is inland, away from the Pacific Influence. In this 20-mile-long by 2-mile-wide
By evan Saviolidis
region, Cabernet Sauvignon is King. Planted on the hillsides and mountain ridges, plump/ripe wines are the norm, with a definite cocoa quality. Valley floors give way to tropical fruit Chardonnays and rich Merlots. Sauvignon Blanc, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese have also shown promise here. Chalk Hill: There is no chalk at all present; rather, it is volcanic soil. Elegant and mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays are this region’s calling cards. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have an herbaceous edge. (Los) Carneros: This AVA crosses over into Napa, so wines are produced on both sides of the border. The area north of San Francisco Bay is, essentially, a cool climate, and received its AVA status in 1987. The proximity of the fog and Pacific’s influence have created an area that is noted for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and consequently, this is the hub of California sparkling wine activity. But, as you head into the northwestern portion (Sonoma),
the climate becomes markedly warmer, and ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot becomes easier. Dry Creek Valley: This AVA abuts Alexander to the west. As the name denotes, it a region of low rainfall, averaging eight inches during the growing season. The first plantings were by French immigrants. The Italians soon followed, bringing Zinfandel. America’s grape thrives on the infertile red volcanic soils, making for small concentrated bunches. Today, both Zin and Cab Sauv are neck-and-neck in terms of plantings and quality. For white wines, check out Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Northern Sonoma: This multiappellation AVA, encompassing most of Sonoma County, except for Carneros and Sonoma Valley, is for blending. It was petitioned by Gallo, as this winery wanted a more prestigious appellation (instead of basic Sonoma) for blending their huge tracts of land all over the county. Rockpile: This AVA was created in 2002. The original plantings were by Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Its full-bodied Zinfandels are its hallmark. Russian River Valley: RRV occupies one sixth of the entire acreage planted in Sonoma County. The cool fog is responsible for the significant daily temperature shift. With nighttime temperatures dropping as much as 35˚F to 40˚F from daytime highs, this area is ideal for the star varietal, Pinot Noir. All things being equal, some superb Zinfandel and Cab are sourced from hillside plantings. Chardonnay is very good too. The Green Valley AVA, which is located in the southwestern portion of RRV, is one of the main access points of Pacific influence into upper Sonoma County: Read: very cool climate. Sonoma Coast: The largest region within the county is also the coolest and wettest. Despite this, it has become the rising star. Why? The long hang times required to mature the fruit gives extra dimension and fruit to the crisp and elegant Chardonnays and dark cherryladen Pinots.
In appearance, Napa has carved out its reputation on traditional French grapes (Chard/Cab) as opposed to the more “fuzzy” multi grapes of Sonoma. That being said, diversification has arrived. As a general rule, it is warmer than Sonoma, as the fog tends to be relegated to the southern portion of the county. Napa’s godfather was the Russian immigrant, via France, André Tchelistcheff. When hired as chief winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards in 1938, he started the modern wine movement in the County, introducing the concepts of French barriques, cold fermentations, frost machines and malolactic fermentation. He is also credited with defining the style of Cali wines, notably Cabernet Sauvignon. His efforts earned him the title of “Dean of American winemakers,” and countless winemakers, including Louis Martini and Robert Mondavi, referred to him as “maestro.” Speaking of Mondavi, his winery was the first to be built in the Valley, post Prohibition. He was also one of the early proponents of varietal labeling, and became California’s Wine Ambassador until his death in 2008.
Beringer Chardonnay Private Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Napa Valley ($44.95) Sourced from Yountville fruit, this full-bodied white kicks up the concentration, ripeness and oak over the regular Napa Valley bottling. This rich offering churns out cream, banana, apple, fig and pineapple. In the mouth there is a creamy texture, with good acid and a spice-tinged finale.
Beringer Chardonnay 2008, Napa Valley ($24.95) Beringer’s Napa Chardonnay is a value-priced offering (in California terms). Mid weight, the aromas of banana, tropical fruit, lemon and Fuji apple mesh together with subtle oak notes of caramel, vanilla and spice. Its finish is lengthy and refreshing.
Laurie Hook at Beringer
Napa is also home to two wines that beat the French in the infamous 1976 tasting, Château Montelena Chardonnay and Stag Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. If you have seen the movie Bottle Shock, you know the story.
major napa avas
89 >> SonomaCutrer Pinot Noir
2007, Russian River Valley ($49.95)
This mid-weight Pinot opens up with dark cherries, raspberries, flowers, vanilla and cocoa on the nose. Spice, herbs, raspberries and smoke come together on the taste buds. There is a lengthy finish, supple tannins and a touch of heat. It is ready to drink now.
Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches 2008, Sonoma Coast ($24.95) A cool climate bouquet of apples, minerals, hay and cinnamon meshes together with flavours of lemon, banana and caramel. It is elegantly styled, with fresh acid and a touch of creaminess.
42 // February/March 2011
Howell Mountain: On the eastern side of Napa, in the Vaca mountains, vineyards are planted between 1400 and 2200 feet above sea level. The soil is volcanic, and some of the finest Merlots and Cabernets I have ever tasted have come from this AVA. Mount Veeder: Located on the western cool Mayacamas mountain range, many vineyards are on 30-degree slopes. Stylistically, the reds are powerful and structured with firm tannins. Cab is King! Napa Valley: This designation is generally used when blending fruit from different AVAs within the valley. Otherwise, producers use this on the label instead of listing a specific AVA within. Oakville: Oakville is Napa’s heartland. The soil is sand and gravel and the climate is neither too warm nor too cold. These conditions are perfect for the ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Rutherford: Tchelistcheff said, “It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet.” Although other AVAs successfully grow the varietal, Rutherford is considered one of the premier Cab-producing regions of Napa. Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mount Ridge: Both are very simi-
lar to Mount Veeder in that the styles of the wines, namely the Cabernets, are firm, powerful and full of blackcurrant fruit, minerals and herbal/mint qualities. Stags Leap District: This appellation was the first to achieve AVA status based on the terroir characteristics of its soil — namely, clay, loam and volcanic sediment. Elegant and perfumed reds and whites are the norm.
89 >> Etude Chardonnay Estate 2009, Carneros ($49.95) This wine epitomizes the modern style of Cali Chardonnay. It is one in which elegance and subtle oak have supplanted the two-by-four oily style of yesteryear. Sourced from the cool Carneros region, there is definition and freshness beneath the apple, spice, vanilla, honey, minerals and yellow plums. The lengthy finish is perfectly suited for grilled salmon in a butter sauce.
La Crema Pinot Noir 2008, Sonoma Coast ($29.95) Here is a smooth and easy Pinot, which possesses a medium ruby colour. Cherries, spice, herbs, and vanilla are all constructed on fresh tannins and soft tannins. And it has a very good length.
<<88>> MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Sonoma Coast ($19.95)
Here is a straight Pinot that is fruity, friendly and ready to go. The cocoa/coffee aromas from the oak influence mesh together with boysenberries, black cherries, flowers, earth and spice. It is flavourful, fruity and has fine length. The price is also very right.
Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley ($94.95)
Sourced from a sloped vineyard on Howell Mountain, this wine is a full-bodied beauty with loads of crème de cassis, black cherries, blackberries, mint, graphite and toast. There are loads of sweet fruit and flesh on the mid palate as well as a substantial amount of tannin underneath. It will drink well until 2025.
91 >> Château St Jean Cinq Cépages 2007, Sonoma County ($89.95) Sourced from many different AVAs within Sonoma, this Meritage is the flagship red wine of this winery. Cassis, boysenberry, cocoa, spice, vanilla and cocoa come together on the nose of this young wine. There is excellent length as well as a medium plus body. Drink it over the next 7 years to take advantage of its exuberance.
91 >> Stags Leap Winery Petite Syrah 2007, Napa Valley ($50) Even though the wine is labelled Napa Valley, the grapes are sourced from the home vineyard in the Stags Leap AVA. This is a powerful offering with a dark nose of plums, cassis, cherries, violets and spice. Gutsy, to say the least, the wine has at least 15 years ahead of it thanks to the pronounced tannins. Meat is needed, lots of meat, to tame this baby.
92 >> Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley ($79.95)
89 >> Philip Togni
Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley ($59.95)
This, the second label of Togni, is very much approachable as no press wine was used to make this wine. All the grapes for this wine were sourced from Spring Mountain. The telltale herbal/ cedar aromas of the higher elevation fruit combine with raspberries, cassis, cherries and liquorice. Now to 2015.
>> Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($44.95)
A sleek, yet powerful, purple/black coloured offering, its nose is still quite youthful and a tad closed, but cassis, vanilla, cocoa, tobacco and spice are all present on the nose and palate. Full-bodied, the tannins grip the finale, ensuring a long life ahead for this beauty. Enjoy it from 2011 to 2023.
Made from old vines, some which date back to 1913, this full-bore wine offers huge amounts of black raspberries, blackberries and berry fruit jam in the glass. Throw in some spice, tobacco and vanilla and you have a perfect wine for a winter pot roast or braised lamb shanks.
>> Rodney Strong Symmetry 2007, Alexander Valley ($50)
tom Klein and Rick Sayre from Rodney Strong
The 2007 Symmetry is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 3% Merlot and 1% each of Franc and Petit Verdot. Aromas of After Eight mints, blackberries, violets, cinnamon and raspberries are constructed on a full-bodied frame. The jammy texture is laced with dark fruits, raspberries and spice. Great persistency and structure will allow the wine to age for a decade. •
Quite Pair the by Michael Volpatt
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Finding wine in Sonoma County is an easy enough venture, and finding great food in a region renowned for its fresh produce and sustainably produced meats is similarly facile. But finding vineyards that pair wine and food can actually present a challenge. While researching this piece, I was surprised to learn that the wineries that pair wine with food as an alternative to their tasting menu do not heavily market this offering outside of their four walls. So I set out to find the best of the best. These are the “not to be missed” places to visit if you want the best wine and food pairing experience.
www.marimarestate.com Price: $35 for tapas and wine pairing Phone: 707.823.4365 Address: 400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, CA Reservations Required: No What Not To Miss: A chat with Marimar Torres. Her story of emigrating from Spain to Sonoma County is an amazing one. After Marimar Torres, daughter of the largest single-family owned wine producer in Spain, emigrated to the United States, she hoped to learn about the wine industry on her own terms and ultimately create amazing wines from the grapes she would grow in the Western Sonoma enclave she now calls home. Fast-forward more than 20 years to 2010. Marimar has not only accomplished that goal of producing great wines, but she has also published four cookbooks, which memorialize many of the recipes she learned while living in Spain. Fortunately for us, she takes a number of these recipes and pairs them with the wines she creates. As you sit amongst the colourful gardens with sweeping views of the vineyards, Marimar and her team serve up four traditional Spanish tapas dishes paired with three Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs. The cost is $35, and during the course of the meal the wine flows freely. The current menu includes a quiche-like zucchini cake, sautéed shrimp with red peppers and garlic sauce, paired with three different Chardonnays. The meal continues with a cabbage dumpling stuffed with pork, chorizo, pine nuts and raisins, and figs stuffed with chocolate and nuts in a chocolate sauce. These dishes were paired with two amazing Pinot Noirs. The best part is that all of the recipes for the items served come from Marimar’s books The Catalan Country Kitchen and The Spanish Table.
Mayo Family Winery
www.mayofamilywinery.com Price: $35 for seven courses paired with wines Phone: 707.833.5504 Address: 9200 HWY 12, Kenwood, CA Reservations Required: Reservations are recommended
What Not To Miss: A visit to the other Mayo Family tasting room to experience more of their great wines. Situated along Highway 12, about 20 minutes from the town of Sonoma, sits the reserve room for Mayo Family Winery. Mayo Family was one of the first (and still one of the very few) Sonoma County wineries to offer a food and wine pairing, and it’s one you do not want to miss. The majority of the 25 different wines that Mayo produces are single vineyard and small batch. The family believes strongly in terroir. They focus on creating single vineyard wines, which allow a person to really taste everything about the land where they were produced. For example, grapes grown along the northern coast of Sonoma will have a much different flavour profile than those produced further inland. This is because of the temperature in each of these regions. The northern coast is cooler and has much more fog, while it is drier and hotter inland. While the atmosphere in the Mayo Family Reserve Room is unassuming, the food that executive chef Max Porter-Elliot serves up is absolutely amazing. For $35, you receive seven courses that are paired with seven tastings. Although the menu changes often, if you are lucky you will have the chance to sample the Brillat-Savarin Chevre, Parmesan and Ripe Seasonal Fruit paired with a Viognier. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation, and when paired with cheese (also high in lactic acid), you get a burst in your mouth, what many call a “flavour explosion.” Another favourite dish was the creative and delicious dessert of Blueberry Creme Fraiche and Basil With Blue Pepper Crack. Blue Pepper Crack, you ask? It may not be on the menu when you get there, but talk to the pasty chef, Khambay, and I am sure she will be happy to explain.
www.jwine.com Price: $60 for three courses (with multiple items in each course, and dessert, too) Phone: 707.431.5430 Address: 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA Reservations Required: Yes What Not To Miss: Do your best to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the winemaking facility. Having heard a lot about the food and wine pairing experience at J, I had to head over and give it a try, and at $60 per flight I walked away very impressed. The first course consisted of corn chowder with smoked pancetta paired with a generous pour of their Russian River Valley
2007 Chardonnay. It was amazingly velvety, and coupled nicely with the creamy-textured wine. A few other favourites included the grass fed local lamb sliders served on a pretzel roll with an IPA beer battered onion ring on the side, paired with Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. J is known for its sparkling, and we enjoyed a nice glass of Russian River Valley Brut Rosé as well as a glass of vintage brut with a cheese and meat pairing. The long leisurely experience was highlighted by the incredibly attentive team that served up the dishes, but don’t bank on trying the dishes mentioned above. They change the menu seasonally, but I guarantee quality and great flavours likely follow with each menu change.
www.duttonestate.com Price: $20 per couple Phone: 707.829.4673 Address: 8757 Green Valley Road, Sebastopol, CA Reservations Required: No What Not To Miss: The free food and wine pairing that happens on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month. There is something to be said for simplicity, and that is what food and wine pairing is all about at Dutton Estate. There is also something to be said for people who absolutely love food and love pairing great wines with food, and that is what Executive Chef Cynthia Newcomb is all about. Cynthia has a simple style. She pairs Dutton wines with cheese and meat, and usually one other dish. In this case, it was supposed to be her salmon mousse, but unfortunately for me the menu was just about to change and she was out of that pairing. What Dutton lacked in the missing dish, Cynthia made up for with her insightful and almost scientific explanations of why certain foods were paired with the wines she was pouring. I half suspected that Cynthia was spending time with me because of this article, but the more she spoke the more I realized that she likely does this with anyone who engages her in a conversation about food. Her presentation may not match up to the likes of J, but the experience is something special. She invited me back for the free pairing that takes place on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, after hours between 4 and 6. Luckily for me, I was available and made it just in time to try her deep-fried creamy macaroni and cheese paired with … you guessed it, a buttery Chardonnay.
www.lynmarestate.com Price: Prices depend on the pairing you choose. Log on to the site to learn more. Phone: 707.829.3374 Address: 3909 Frei Rd, Sebastopol, CA Reservations Required: Yes What Not To Miss: A tour of the gardens where a lot of the food on the menu comes from.
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Many vintners in Sonoma love the land their grapes come from, and Lynmar Estate is no exception. As a matter of fact, Lynmar is its own ecosystem. Its owners keep bees, grow veggies, have a chicken coop, are in the process of making balsamic vinegar … You could live off of the land at Lynmar and feed yourself very well. It is no surprise, then, that the land is a key component of the Lynmar brand. The founders of Lynmar, Lynn Fritz and Anisya Fritz, are also the founders of the Fritz Institute, a non-profit dedicated to working in partnership with governments, nonprofit organizations and corporations around the world to facilitate rapid and effective disaster response and recovery. In the spirit of giving back to the land that feeds us, they created Lynmar Estate not only to produce exceptional wine, but also delicious food. The winery has a number of different pairing experiences, and each is priced depending on the amount of food and wine that comes with the pairing. The day I visited the winery, I got to try the “Cooking Light” Food and Wine Pairings. The menu relies on recipes that the winery’s executive chef, Sandra Simile, developed for Cooking Light Magazine. The cost of this tasting was pretty high compared to the others ($125), but they balance the cost with copious amounts of food and wine, incredible service and an outstanding facility. Of the courses that we tried, my absolute favourite was the risotto with squash and pancetta. The risotto was surprisingly light and delicate, and so it called for a light and delicate Pinot Noir, which balanced the dish with the perfect amount of acidity. Honestly, I could have licked the plate, the risotto was so good. While the winery has a number of varying food and wine pairing experiences, this is one I would not miss. Give yourself two to three hours and request a tour of gardens and vineyards that are really the lifeblood behind this great winery. •
If your belly is full and you still want to taste great wine try… Lambert Bridge Winery www.lambertbridge.com Graton Ridge Cellars www.gratonridge.com Thomas George Estates www.thomasgeorgeestates.com Porter Creek www.portercreekvineyards.com When you are ready to rest your weary head, reserve a room
in Guerneville, which is close to the Redwoods, the coast, and is right on the Russian River. Here are a few great places to choose from: Boon Hotel and Spa www.boonhotels.com West Sonoma Inn www.westsonomainn.com Applewood Inn www.applewoodinn.com Fern Grove Cottages www.ferngrove.com
by Gilles Bois
//auction fever Napa Valley is the heart of California wine country, making the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the US. It is small in area, about one-eighth the size of Bordeaux, and represents only four per cent of the wine made in California, but no less than 20 per cent in value. Its vineyard is broken up amongst approximately 450 wineries, largely family-owned, the majority of them producing less than 5,000 cases annually. With such low volumes, rarity is the rule and demand often exceeds supply. Auctioning is therefore a logical and profitable way of selling. The charity auction held each year in June may be the highlight of Napa’s social life, but it’s not the only one in town. There is also February’s Premiere Napa Valley, when wineries offer a single lot of the best of their best. These wines are always exceptional, first for the astonishingly small quantity that is made, between five and 20 cases for each wine. They are either the prototypes of what the future style of a producer could evolve into, a small step away from tradition or a big one into exploration, or simply the pinnacle of a winemaker’s savoir-faire. Each lot is sold to a unique bidder, usually a restaurateur or a wine merchant, who can then offer true exclusivity to his or her clients. The auction is a creation of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a non-profit organization, which also promotes sustainable agricultural practices and vows to protect the environment and curb urban expansion. Barrel samples of some of the wines to be auctioned this year were presented to the specialized media recently. Here’s what some of them tasted like.
96 Oakville Ranch Vineyards Robert’s Blend 2007, Oakville
Deep ruby colour, purple rim. Blackberry and blueberry jump out of the glass, followed by a touch of spices and a floral nuance. Very full-bodied, tons of fruit, massive without being heavy, as it retains some freshness. Finishes on ripe fruity notes.
95 Signorello Estate Big Rock Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa
93 Grgich Hills Estate Petit Verdot 2003, Napa
Full ruby to the rim. Anise hits you first, followed by red and black fruits, a floral nuance turns into a more animal-oriented aroma after a few minutes, a sign of its age. In the mouth, it’s “a hand of steel in a silk glove” (a tight, firm tannic structure wrapped in velvety fruit/oak extract). Imposing finish.
92 Silverado Vineyards Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Stag’s Leap District
Full ruby tint with a purple rim. Floral notes dominate the otherwise nicely fruity nose. Oak is so well integrated, it almost vanishes. This is very elegant. Silky yet fully intense on the palate, its generous fruit is irresistible. Quite different style — simply wow!
Ruby-purple. Nose is discreet, but shows a fine, soft fruity aroma with subdued oak. Gorgeous fruity taste, not a powerful wine, emphasis is on finesse and balance. Tannins are barely firm, almost supple. A hint of soft spices appears in the middle palate. The finale is moderately long but perfectly balanced. Only 5 cases made.
94 Merryvale Vineyards Schlatter Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, St Helena
91 Cliff Lede Vineyards Wild Roxanne Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Stag’s Leap District
Deep ruby. Beautiful fruity nose of sweet black berries, luxurious oak, some dry earth and eucalyptus notes. Ripe, concentrated, the tight tannic structure feels barely rough. Very long, tight finish. Huge potential. 5 cases made.
Deep ruby. Its nose of black fruits, pepper, seductive floral notes and a touch of mild tobacco show both finesse and freshness. Tight on the palate, the thick tannins have a soft, round feel. Well balanced from start to finish. 5 cases made. •
stro by Tod Stewart
Canadians, apparently, are in love. The object of their collective swooning is rich, dark, noble, powerful yet gentle, and (of course) Italian. And it’s not, thankfully, Silvio Berlusconi. In fact, it’s not even a man or woman (or a luxury sports car), but a wine. Yup, Canadians’ amore is for Amarone. “Truly, this unique and exotic wine could have been made especially for Canadians: it’s rich and full-bodied (excellent in cold weather), but also unique, noble and elegant,” enthuses Sandro Boscaini, President and Owner of Masi Agricola and introduced to me by Tidings’ own Tony Aspler as “the Godfather of Amarone.” He’s also the president of the recently(ish)-formed “Famiglie dell’Amarone d’Arte” (Amarone Families), a group whose mission is to uphold the quality and status of this iconic wine. “Amarone is strong, like a New World wine,” Boscaini continues, “and backed with European culture, just like Canadians themselves.” Okay, the metaphor might be getting just a bit stretched, but there’s no denying Canadians have embraced this wine as their own. In fact, more Amarone is exported to Canada than any other market
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in the world. Considering that 70 per cent of all Amarone is shipped abroad, Canada is basically Italy’s sister country as far as the producers of this iconic red wine are concerned. Amici d’Amarone, as it were. But before we get too warm and fuzzy about the state of things, it should be pointed out that not all those making Amarone are completely content with what’s been going on back home. In fact, members of the Amarone Families are worried that Amarone, as we’ve come to know it, is in peril. We’ll get to that. First, however, we should familiarize ourselves (or familiarize those who are not already smitten) with the wine itself in order to best understand what’s got the producers in question so riled. Amarone represents the top link in the Venetian red wine food chain. “The range starts with the simple and agreeable Valpolicella for everyday drinking,” Boscaini explains. “Then it goes on to the more structured Valpolicella Classico Superiore for slightly longer ageing followed by the more sophisticated, fullerbodied Ripasso before finally culminating in Amarone, a gentle giant characterized by a unique combination of tradition and innovation. Last but not least comes Re-
cioto, a red dessert wine of great charm that has almost been forgotten.” Material published by Masi notes that “archaeological evidence exists which shows that Amarone and its related sweet wine, Recioto, have been produced in the Valpolicella region since Roman times (2000 years ago). The names of the wines refer to both the type of wine and its production techniques.”
And it’s probably the production method for Amarone (and the sweet Recioto) with which fans of this wine are most familiar. Technically referred to as appassimento, it involves harvesting naturally ripe, healthy grapes and subjecting them to a drying regime that serves to concentrate sugar, glycerol, colour and aromatic compounds. Once harvested, the grapes are dried using a variety of methods from traditional hanging of clusters, to bamboo racks, to wooden boxes. The temperature and humidity of the drying rooms are now typically fully or partially controlled (Masi employs a system called the Natural Appassimento Super Assisted — NASA) and the grapes, by law, must undergo appassimento after harvest until at least December 15th.
ong Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006 ($89)
Forward and intense with smoky black cherry, mineral and exotic spice notes bolstered by a whiff of port and fruitcake nuances. Rich, moderately tannic and chock full of dark berry fruit. The finish is warm, peppery and long.
Brigaldara Case Vecie Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 ($49) Dried fruit on the nose hinting at sultana raisin with underlying sandalwood and leather. Spicy, mildly earthy blackberry fruit on the palate with rich chocolate and coffee undertones leading to a dark plum, mineral-tinged finish.
Masi Casal dei Ronchi Serego Alighieri Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2006 ($49)
This technique is not unique to Amarone, or Recioto, and has been adopted to produce a range of dried grape wines in Italy and in many different countries (see “Concentrate,” Tidings, October, 2010). And this doesn’t bother the members of the Amarone Families one bit. Amarone’s popularity has also brought with it an influx of producers angling to get a piece of the action. Yet even this doesn’t faze people like Sabrina Tedeschi of Agricola Tedeschi or Pierangelo Tommasi from Agricola Tommasi, both “family” members. “In the last 10 years about 30 wineries were founded in Valpolicella, but we are not worried about that,” admits Tedeschi. Tommasi echoes the sentiment. “The number of producers has increased in the past few years,” he concedes, “but this is not what has caused the significant increase in production. In fact, most of these ‘new’ Amarone producers used to be just vintners or farmers who picked their own grapes and sold to bigger wine companies, but they have decided to launch their own brands with the new generations involved.” What does worry them, and what led to the formation of the Amarone Families in the first place, is the trend of large co-
The precursor to dry Amarone, sweet Recioto is becoming more difficult to find. But the search is typically worth the effort. Masi’s Recioto delivers in-yourface aromas of raisin pie, baked black plums, dried violets and subtle leathery elements. Medium-sweet with ripe, port-like fruit, mild tannins and a bare hint of cherry liqueur, it is impeccably balanced and sweet without being cloying.
Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 ($39.95)
Earth, leather and sweet cherry are the initial aromatic impressions, followed by hints of violet, liquorice and blueberry. Powerful with a chewy black fruit core and a sustained, cherry-tinged, silky end note.
Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 2006 ($79)
Complex and powerful with an intriguing blend of leather, spice, blueberry, tar and wild herbs. Concentrated and rich with mouth-filling layers of sweet/ spicy wild cherry. It boasts a multidimensional, very long finish with smooth, sweet tannins.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006 ($49.95)
Classically styled with a slightly rustic, earthy element given some lift by tinges of anise, truffle and sultana raisin. Moderately tannic with dense layers of sweet dried berries combined with hints of mocha and green tea. Lingering fruitcake notes gradually fade on the extended finish.
Tommasi Vigneto Ca’Florian Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998 ($89)
Proving the age-worthiness of well-made Amarone, this single-vineyard offering has a typical run of less than 10,000 bottles. Forward and very ripe, it shows sandalwood, black cherry jam, dried flower petal and suggestions of new leather. Concentrated cassis flavours with a dollop of flint and mocha hang on the palate seemingly forever.
Antonietta, Sabrina, Lorenzo, Bruna and Riccardo Tedeschi
operatives to harvest fruit from areas not, in the eyes of the members, particularly well-suited for high-quality wine. When push comes to shove, it’s the hillside vineyards versus those in the valleys. “A few big players have increased their volumes significantly and are starting to source grapes from vineyards down in the valleys instead of focusing only on the vineyards up in the hills,” says Tommasi. Tedeschi puts a slightly sharper point on this idea. “The right way is to avoid any selection from flat vineyards and concentrate on the hillside vineyards.”
But Amarone is, after all a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wine with production methods and geographic boundaries strictly controlled. So long as everyone is following the rules there should be no issues, right? Not according to the Famiglia. For its members, the situation is far more complex than simply following the rules, and it involves the uniquely European notion of “territory” (the French terroir being the most familiar expression) and the problem with adhering to the “minimum” requirements of the DOCG. More cynical observers (certainly not me) might opine that it’s simply about what everything seems to end up being about — namely, filthy lucre. In fact, when you read the press release issued upon the formation of the Amarone
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Families on June 30th, 2009, you might be inclined to think that keeping prices jacked is the group’s sole motivation. “Our wine must remain expensive and rare,” trumpeted Boscaini. “Today a bottle of Amarone can be found at 10 to 12 euros, while an Amarone from Valpolicella worthy of this name can’t cost less than 25.” The release (which admittedly seems to have lost — or perhaps gained — a fair amount in translation) flings around terms like “deep crisis,” “trade down” and “reckless actions,” and leads you to believe that the days of “authentic” Amarone are all but over. However, when you cut through the rather alarmist rhetoric, you do start to see the issues the Amarone Families have with DOCG regulations and current territorial boundaries. “The grandeur of this wine isn’t made up of a simple adoption of a certain oenological technique, but in the capacity to express a territory and history.” In fact, it took some “15 years of battles between producers,” according to Carlo Boscaini of Agricola Carlo Boscaini, for Amarone and Recioto to elevate from DOC to DOCG status in 2009. The reason for the arguments, according to Tedeschi, was primarily due to disputes over territorial limits. “Few producers wanted to limit the DOCG to the classic, historic area,” she explains. “Other producers wanted the Valpolicella DOCG to be recognized everywhere. The best result for the image
of our product and our territory would be to limit the zone of the DOCG only in the hills, but this was another battle between producers that would have further delayed the arrival of the DOCG.” It should therefore come as no surprise that, as welcome as DOCG status was to the Famiglie dell’Amarone d’Arte, it does not, in their collective opinion, go far enough to ensure tradition and quality are upheld. “Let’s be clear right at the start that all Amarone on the market conforms to regulations, and is therefore legally entitled to be called Amarone,” Boscaini asserts. “But there are various reasons why mere respect for the law does not contribute to considerations of quality. This is quite normal in other aspects of life, of course; respect for the law doesn’t make a man either a saint or a gentleman!” He goes on to explain that, historically, the hillside vineyards were the only ones that would be considered for Amarone. According to Boscaini, it was “inconceivable that Amarone should be produced from grapes grown anywhere else but in the best hillside vineyard locations.” In response, the Families adopted their own set of standards that adhere to the DOCG’s but up the ante a notch or two: an alcohol minimum level of 15 per cent (as opposed to the DOCG’s 14 per cent); a minimum of 30 months’ aging from the first of December of the harvest year (DOGC stipulates 24 months); a voluntary declassification of Amarone in poor vintages. Whatever they are doing, the results speak for themselves. In a recent tasting I noticed a brighter level of fruit with more complexity and elegance and less overt “raisin” or “fruitcake” notes in practically all the wines I tried. Many also sported an assertive, spicy note giving them more of an impression of being “table wines” rather than just post dinner “meditation” wines. “The phrase ‘gentle giant’ sums up the wine,” Boscaini concludes. “Complex and powerful with a long history, but at the same time well-balanced, elegant and refined, as befits a really noble wine.” Or, in the somewhat more romantic words of Tommasi, “Amarone for love, love for Amarone.” •
by Michael Pinkus
//more than a wax ...
When I say Brazil a few things probably come to mind: heat, rainforests and wax, but at no time does your mind wander down the road to a glass of wine. In fact I doubt it even makes the top 25 of things you think about coming from Brazil. But Brazil is the fifth largest wine producer in the southern hemisphere, beaten out by Argentina, Australia, South Africa and Chile. So why don’t we see much in the way of Brazilian wine? Currently, according to the folks at Wines of Brazil, there are eight Brazilian wines in Canada (one in Ontario and seven in Quebec), which begs the question: why does this large wine producing country have so little in the Canadian marketplace? That’s because until 1994, Brazil was a “closed country.” According to some visiting Brazilian wine principals, there were very few wineries to speak of then; even though their history of crushing grapes dates back to 1875 with the arrival of Italian immigrants, a distinction they share with most of the New World.
Miolo Quinta do Sieval Castas Portuguesas 2006, Serra Gaucha A three grape blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Afrecheto — all Portuguese varieties — red berries, liquorice, plum and gentle spice, sweet fruit opening leads to a dry, irresistible finish.
More head-scratching can be done over why many have not heard of Brazil as a wine producing nation when its largest region, Serra Gaucha, is itself responsible for 90 per cent of Brazil’s production, and currently boasts about 738 wineries (up from 439 in 2001). Surprisingly, only two per cent of the 3.5 million hectolitres of wine Brazil produces is exported, and its current major export markets are Germany, the UK, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. As you can plainly see, North America is not even on their radar, but that is something they are trying to change.
Since the wine may be coming to a liquor store near you, it might be interesting to learn a little something about the biggest country in South America. Consider this your Brazilian primer …
The country is a red drinker’s paradise, with 75 per cent of production based on red grapes. The most planted reds are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the white leader is Chardonnay. It’s not surprising to learn, then, that Brazilians are aiming to be known for Merlot and — here’s a bit of a surprise — sparkling wine, though they do it exceptionally well. But Brazil, much like any other New World wine nation, also prides itself on growing whatever it can. At a recent Toronto tasting I tried wines made from Portuguese varieties, some blended with Tannat and some with grapes you rarely hear about, like Marselan (a cross of Cabernet and Grenache found in Southern France). There are six main regions, five of which are located in the southern part of the country; only the region known as Vale do Sao Francisco is anywhere near the equator. In fact Sao Francisco is the biggest tropical vineyard in the world and is in the enviable position of having two harvests a year (every 120 days, with an induced rest of 30 to 60 days). Unlike last time I had the opportunity to try Brazilian wines, some two to three years ago, many of this year’s offerings were really very enjoyable. That’s due to the better vintages they’ve had in the past few years, and their evolving winemaking practices. Price might end up being an issue. Not many wines would be considered a real bargain, but with time and opportunity I think Brazil will come into the market and then realize that lower prices will help garner the country a market share.
Cave Geisse Sparkling Nature 2008, Serra Gaucha A traditional sparkling with 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, fresh and lively with McIntosh apple and really good acidity. **** ½
Dom Candido Geracao Marselan 2007, Serra Gaucha
The nose is nothing to write home about but the palate more than makes up for it, vanilla and blackberry with silky smooth tannins and incredibly good length. **** ½
Salton NV Sparkling Brut Reserva Ouro, Serra Gaucha Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling make up this fizz ... it’s fresh with lovely fruit character most notably pears and peaches. **** …… Prices to be determined. •
by gurvinder Bhatia
Crostini di Fegato
Vineyards and olive groves atop rolling hills, Michelangelo’s perfectly proportioned statue of David, the incomprehensible frenzy of the Paleo horse race in Siena’s Campo, and Pisa’s leaning (now fortunately in control) tower. Think of Italy and these, among other, numerous examples of the immense beauty and passion that lie beneath the Tuscan sun immediately come to mind. Each of Italy’s 20 regions possesses its own unique beauty, history, culture, food and wine, but Tuscany has become the country’s most globally recognized. Food and wine are an integral part of its identity. Tuscan wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and globally sought-after Super-Tuscans have brought international attention while the region’s simple but incredibly flavourful cuisine has captivated even the most unadventurous palates. Inevitably, any wine trip to Italia must morph into a food trip as well. Such was the case with my expedition to taste the new releases of the cornerstones of the Tuscan wine industry: Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino. While we focused on tasting over 700 wines in five days, our hosts ensured that we were schooled on traditional cuisine as well. Tuscan cuisine is simple; with each dish incorporating a few great quality ingredients such as olive oil, rosemary, sage, beans, bread, vegetables, wild boar (cinghiale), duck (anatra), rabbit (lepre), and beef from the local Chianina cow. One of the most memorable dishes I have ever had was years ago at a small restaurant in Siena: Pillowy soft gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce, olive oil and sage. So simple, yet so flavourful. My recent trip re-introduced me to the traditional dishes that form the foundation of the Tuscan table.
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Chicken livers are most often cooked with capers, anchovies and sage and spread on top of lightly toasted pieces of bread drizzled with a little olive oil. These are wonderfully tasty stuzzichini (small bites) to start your meal with a glass of cellar-temperature Chianti such as the Triacca Chianti Classico ‘Bello Stento’ DOCG 2008 ($24.99) with its lovely morello cherry flavours, hints of earth and wonderful fresh acidity on the finish. Chiantis from Col d’Orcia, Fonterutoli, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, and Frescobaldi are also worth seeking out.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
A large Porterhouse steak cut from the region’s Chianina breed of cattle. Generally the steak is one to one-and-a-half inches thick, seared and crisp on the outside and rare in the middle. Simply seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, the bistecca is frequently ordered by the 100g and shared. A great wine pairing would be the region’s flagship wine, Brunello di Montalcino, from great producers such as Donatella Cinelli Colombini 2004 ($68, or $85 for the Riserva) with its crushed berries, meaty, blackberry, wild cherry, elegant yet full-bodied, and multilayered character; or Brunellos from Gianni Brunelli, Col
d’Orcia, Frescobaldi, and Uccelliera. Also a no-brainer wine pairing would be the region’s internationally collected and highly sought after Super-Tuscans such as Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia DOC 2007 ($235) with its dark colour, complex aromas and flavours and seamless, muscular and velvety tannins. You also could not go wrong with Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Tua Rita Redigaffi, Brancaia Ilatraia, or Capezzana Ghiaie Della Furba.
Bread salad whose ingredients can vary depending on what’s in the pantry, but generally would involve a few days old bread, fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Eggs, tuna, other vegetables, garlic, and several other ingredients can also be added. Once the elements are combined, the salad is left to sit for a short time to allow the bread to absorb all the flavours. A great match is the floral, elegant, apple and peach fruit flavoured Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Teruzzi & Puthod or Giovanno Panizzi (both $19.99).
The name means “reboiled” and this bread, bean and vegetable soup really does taste better the next day. Every Tuscan seems to have his own version
of this traditional peasant dish, but most will include stale bread, broth, beans, leafy greens, and a mixture of vegetables (generally whatever is in the pantry). Serve at room temperature drizzled with some great quality extra virgin olive oil. When you think of comfort foods, this is one of the world’s best.
Pappardelle alla Cinghiale
Pappardelle (a broad, flat pasta) is often mixed with the ragu of local critters. Wild boar (cinghiale) makes a rich, flavourful sauce with a tremendous depth of flavour. Duck and hare are also common. A perfect wine choice would be the full plum and cherry flavoured Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC 2007 ($28.99) which is a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon or Col d’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2007 ($37) with its liquorice, berry and mineral aromas and silky tannins.
A fruitcake containing dried and candied fruit, honey, nuts and spices. Made by the Sienese since Medieval times. A natural pairing with the rich, apricot, honey, and nutty flavoured Tuscan dessert wine Vin Santo. The best examples are the Capezzana Vin Santo Riserva DOC 2000 ($42/375 ml) and Avignonesi. •
//the food notes 90 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2008, Okanagan ($33) Cab Franc could well be a signature grape for the southern Okanagan. Fragrant violet aromas lure while ripe black fruit flavours impress. Polished tannins elegantly frame the rich, fullbodied palate. Spicy dried herbs resonate on the long, warm finish. Pair with pork tenderloin and roasted root vegetables. (HH)
87 Little Yering Pinot Noir 2008, Yarra Valley, Australia ($14.95)
Tawny ruby in colour with a high-toned nose of cranberries and raspberries; the fruit is sweet, balanced by lively tangerine acidity. It’s a versatile food wine that you could drink with grilled salmon or roast duck. (TA)
87 Joie PTG 2008, Okanagan ($30) This “Passetoutgrain” of Pinot Noir (60%) and Gamay (40%) creates a lively juxtaposition of savoury and fruity. Earthy sassafras and high-toned raspberry aromas are followed by flavours of rich black cherry with mushroom and dried thyme. Minerality and a smoky bacon note suggest charcuterie is in order. (HH)
88 Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Stewart Family Reserve 2008, Okanagan ($40)
Sourced from 45-year-old Marechal Foch vines, this Okanagan heritage varietal delivers character and complexity. Lifted floral, baking spice and black fruit aromas lead to mouth-filling black plum and mocha flavours. The plush tannins and warm, chocolaty finish makes it a pleasing post-dinner sipper. (HH)
88 Les Jamalles Viognier 2009, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France ($13.99)
Displays lightly aromatic peach, floral and tropical fruit scents, with supple peach flavours, zesty acidity and an appetizingly dry, fruity finish. A flexible match for flavourful seafood, white meats and Mediterranean-style vegetarian dishes. (SW)
88 Concilio Braide Teroldego Rotaliano 2008, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy ($13.95)
One of the best examples of this grape variety I’ve tasted. It’s dense purple in colour with a minerally cherry nose with creamy oak. Medium-bodied, it has a rustic black cherry flavour with lively acidity. Works well with hearty winter casseroles. (TA)
89 Otuwhero Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19)
Fresh herbal, lemony aromas join whiffs of lime zest. Succulent acidity sets up the rich gooseberry mid-palate, accompanied by hints of ripe peach and guava. Clean, citrus finish clears path for refreshing minerality. Very elegantly structured, so pairs well with a wide range of fish fillets. (HH)
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Bouquet Garni by nancy johnson
//dreams come true
On a sunny spring day many years ago when I was just 14 years old, I walked up the street to the library and checked out a book about dreams. On my way home, with the book in my arms, I met a boy named Ron. He was lean and lanky and by the look of his too-short trousers had probably just gone through a growth spurt. I liked the way his dark brown hair fell over his forehead and I was mesmerized by his beautiful brown eyes, which were wide-set and fringed with long thick lashes. He was 15 years old and, in my estimation, very mature. I fell in love with him on the spot. That night, I carefully wrote this entry in my diary: “I am in love with Ron.” He was the first real love of my life. Up to that point I had enjoyed a one-sided romance with Paul McCartney and, occasionally, John Lennon. But an imaginary romance with a Beatle simply couldn’t compare to my real love, my true love, my teen love Ron. As spring gave way to summer, the romance grew. On our first real date, Ron walked the mile from his home to mine, while I waited breathlessly for him on the front porch. He took both of my hands and gently kissed them. Then he tucked my arm into his and gallantly escorted me back up the street to the local movie theatre. Coincidentally, my father decided that he, too, felt like a walk to the movies. He enlisted my younger brother Dennis in his scheme and the two of them followed us, with my father muttering under his breath while Ron and I did our best to ignore him. Back then, romance moved at a slower pace than it does today. And so it was nearly August before Ron finally kissed me, although he had already professed his undying love for me countless times. I stood on the step to our porch and turned to say goodnight. For a moment, we looked into each other’s eyes.
Then he took both of my hands and bent his head towards me. He smelled wonderful — spicy and lemony and clean. His lips touched mine, achingly tender. It was the sweetest kiss of my life. It was the very first kiss of my life. And then my dad appeared in the doorway and told Ron to go home. The spell was broken. By September the romance was over. Ron had moved on and I never knew why. I was heartbroken and filled two diaries with my teenage angst. To add to my torment, Ron and I hung around with the same crowd and I couldn’t avoid seeing him. Eventually we made our peace. And of course other boys came along to heal my broken heart. One of the last passages in my diary about Ron involved a dream I’d had: “Ron was holding me, kissing me and telling me that he loved me…I only wish dreams really did come true…” After high school, Ron and I lost touch. It was many years later that we ran into each other at a party. We were all grown up by then, both married to other people and raising our families. Still my heart gave a little flip when I saw him. I remember thinking how sweet it was that I had never forgotten my first love, my first kiss, my Ron. The years went by and they were good ones for both of us. And then tragically, Ron’s beautiful wife passed away. A year later, my husband died. Our mothers happen to belong to the same seniors group. Even though Ron and I hadn’t seen each other in years, he sent a message to me through his mom, who gave the message to my mom, which in turn got the entire seniors group all aflutter. His message was this: “Tell Nancy I will always be there for her.” Ron and I began emailing each other. And then, when the time was right, we went on a date.
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When Ron arrived at my door, a retired art teacher, his dark hair now white, my heart did that little flip again. And when, many dates later, he kissed me, there was his wonderful smell — spicy and lemony and clean — and his tender lips and his gentle hands holding mine. We fell in love all over again, more than 40 years after our first kiss. And now I know: Sometimes dreams really do come true.
Valentine’s Day Duck Breast with Orange Sauce Don’t be afraid of duck breast. It’s quite easy to prepare and leaner than most people think. And it makes dinner seem extra special. This recipe calls for slow searing, and much of the fat is drained off midway through cooking. Duck has a natural affinity for orange sauce, although you could serve the duck with a favourite chutney instead. Duck is safe to eat while still pink and should be cooked no more than medium-rare.
boneless duck breasts
1. Score the skin on each duck breast several times, taking care not to cut through the flesh. Season with salt and pepper. 2. Heat a skillet over high heat. Place duck skin side down in pan, lower heat and cover. Cook 10 minutes. Remove breasts, carefully pour off fat. Return breasts to pan, skin side up. Cook about another 10 minutes or until medium rare.
Grand Marnier Orange Sauce Serves 2
This sweet delicious sauce is just as good without the Grand Marnier if you don’t happen to have it on hand. You can also try it with Triple Sec, Cointreau, sherry or dry white wine.
1 2 2 1 1 1
cup orange juice tbsp Grand Marnier tbsp brown sugar tbsp honey tbsp orange zest tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
1. Combine orange juice, Grand Marnier, brown sugar, honey, and orange zest in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. 2. Add cornstarch mixture and cook, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. If mixture becomes too thick, add a bit more orange juice. Serve with duck. …… Pair with a Beaujolais or a Pinot Gris.
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Bacon & Lobster Alfredo Serves 2 with leftovers
I created this dish by accident. I was making an Alfredo sauce when I decided to add some leftover bacon. Just as I threw the bacon into the pot, Ron called. His car battery had died and he was stranded. I placed the Alfredo sauce in the fridge and left to help Ron. When we returned together, the bacon had steeped beautifully, giving the sauce a well-rounded smoky flavour. It was so good I knew I had to take it up another notch. I thawed some cooked lobster meat under running water and threw it into the pot. This dish is so fattening and expensive to make, it’s best served only on special occasions like Valentine’s Day.
lb butter cups heavy cream strips bacon, cooked, drained and chopped 1/2 lb cooked lobster tail meat, diced 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded Spinach fettuccine, cooked 2 6
1. In a medium pot, melt butter with heavy cream. Add cooked bacon. Set
pot in refrigerator and let steep one hour. 2. Place pot over medium heat. Add lobster meat. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook 2 minutes longer or until lobster is heated through. Add pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve over cooked spinach fettuccine. …… This dish is lovely paired with a Côtes du Ventoux rosé.
Spice-Rubbed Rib-Eye Roast Serves 6
If Valentine’s Day includes guests, this elegant dish will impress and will yield enough leftovers for roast beef sandwiches the next day.
1 2 2 1 1
boneless rib-eye roast (3 tbsp olive oil cloves garlic, minced tsp dried thyme tsp salt tsp pepper
1/2 to 4 pounds)
1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. 2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub mixture over roast. Place roast fat side up in a roasting pan. 3. Roast 15 to 20 minutes per pound or until instant thermometer reads 135˚F for medium rare. Let roast rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices. …… When a hearty beef dish is served, I can’t resist opening a bottle of my all-time favourite Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Pear with Brie and Mustard Fruits Serves 2
This is a quick first course using the Italian specialty Mustard Fruits (or Mostardo) which you can find at many Italian and upscale grocery stores. If you can’t find Mostardo, serve the pear and Brie without it. The mellow flavours are quite good on their own.
1 2 2
ripe Bosc pear chunks Brie spoonfuls Mostardo (cut up larger fruits)
1. Halve and core the pear. Place the pear in
the microwave and cook for 1 minute or until slightly softened. 2. Place a piece of Brie in the hollow of each pear half. Microwave about 30 more seconds or until Brie is slightly melted. Top each with a spoonful of Mostardo. …… Serve with a late harvest Riesling.
Roasted Halibut with Tomatoes and Pimentón Serves 4
For some reason, I developed a taste for fish with tomatoes, a combination that had never appealed to me before. On my way home from work, I picked up halibut fillets and a lemon and used items that I already had on hand to come up with this recipe. It’s a fine, easy oven meal that tastes like it comes from a fancy seafood restaurant, especially with the addition of Spanish sweet smoked paprika, pimentón.
4 halibut fillets 2 shallots, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tbsp olive oil 1 cup white wine 1 tbsp anchovy paste 1 can stewed tomatoes 1 bay leaf Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 tsp pimentón 1 tsp lemon peel Arborio rice, cooked
1. Preheat oven to 325˚F. 2. In a large oven-proof skillet, sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil.
Deglaze pan with white wine, reducing wine to about 1/2 cup. 3. Stir in anchovy paste and tomatoes. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Place halibut fillets on top of tomatoes. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and pimentón. Sprinkle with lemon peel. 4. Roast for 30 minutes or until halibut is cooked through and tomato mixture is bubbly. Serve with Arborio rice. …… Serve with a sparkling Spanish Brut Cava. •
//the notes 90 Trapiche Single Vineyard Viña Fausto Orellana de Escobar 2007, La Consulta, San Carlos, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina ($42.65) Nose is surprisingly austere. Astringent notes somewhat mask the scents of plum, cherry and a whiff of clove. More inviting character emerges on the palate with richly rounded flavours of black cherry and dark chocolate. A concentrated, forceful wine leaning more towards power than finesse. Needs cellaring. (SW)
91 Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2007, Twenty Mile Bench ($50)
This wine is sublime … an absolutely sublime stickie! Honey drenched peaches, applesauce, pear purée and lime cordial are built on a full-bodied frame. Even though there are 280 grams of sugar, the wine is not cloying, as the elevated acid gives it lift and definition. (ES)
92 Benjamin Bridge Brut Réserve 2004, Nova Scotia ($74.79) This is the exciting result of a bold decade-long project. Made in the manner of top Vintage Champagne with the classic encépagement. Fewer than 1,000 bottles have been produced. Refined, somewhat austere on the nose, displaying restrained fruit with mineral and bready overtones. There is good weight on the palate, simultaneously expansive and austere in the classic Champagne mode. Subtle citrus fruit character is enhanced by fine mousse, dynamic acidity and delightfully creamy texture. (SW)
90 Château Grand Moulin Terres rouges 2006, Corbières, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($22) Dark ruby, purplish rim. Spicy nose of cinnamon, ripe red fruits, a hint of anise. Soft attack, supple and generous fruit. Velvety middle palate, long finish. Great to drink now and good for 5 to 7 years in the cellar. (GBQc)
90 Renwood Zinfandel ‘Jack Rabbit Flat’ 2008, Amador, California, United States ($62) Bright, vibrant and intense aromas of spice, a smoky meatiness, and hints of tobacco with flavours of wild berries, and white pepper that linger through the firm finish. Rich and intense, pair with ribs, game, or steak au poivre. (GB)
91 Antinori Castello della Sala Bramito del Cervo Chardonnay 2008, Umbria, Italy ($21.95) A beautifully made wine with rich flavours of apple, caramel and lemon, dressed lightly in oak. Full on the palate and seamless. Worth every penny of its price. (TA)
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Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiaque Cocoa and Vanilla Stout, Quebec ($19.99/6 pack) One of Canada’s new leading breweries is producing some of the best-balanced and uniquely flavoured beers on the market. Black with aromas and flavours of vanilla, dark chocolate, bourbon and roasted malt, this surprisingly wellbalanced beer is mildly hoppy, but the cocoa brings a touch of bitterness. Very smooth and approachable, yet lots of character. Brewed with organic fair-trade cocoa. (GB)
Tidings uses the 100-point scale 95-100 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90-94. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85-89 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80-84. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75-79. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 & under. . . . . . . . . . .
exceptional excellent very good good acceptable below average
* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . available through wine clubs green. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . white & rosé wines red. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . red wines
the commentaries in order to get an idea of whether the wine might appeal to your taste. The prices listed are suggested retail prices and may vary from province to province. Since a large number of these wines can be purchased across Canada, check with your local liquor board, or its website, for availability. Our tasters are Tony Aspler (ON), Sean Wood (NS, NB), Gilles Bois (QC), Evan Saviolidis (ON), Harry Hertscheg (BC), Gurvinder Bhatia (AB) and Jonathan Smithe (ON). Argentina // p. 59; Australia // p. 59; Canada // p. 59-61; CHILE // p. 61; France // p. 61-63; Germany // p. 63;
Each wine is judged on its own merits, in its respective category. Readers should open their palates to compare the relationship between quality and price. We’d also ask you to carefully study
israel // p. 63;Italy // p. 63; New Zealand // p. 63-64; spain // p. 64; United States // p. 65; Beer // p. 65;
the notes\\ /Argentina /
89 Catena Alamos Chardonnay 2009, Medoza Valley ($13.95)
Great value here. The Catena family in Argentina’s Mendoza Valley have been making wine for 100 years. Their Alamos line is very affordable and very good quality. Oily, apple nose with a whiff of oak, it’s ripe and spicy with pineapple and melon flavours, full in the mouth with balancing acidity. (TA)
90 Trapiche Single Vineyard Viña Domingo F. Sarmiento 2007, La Consulta, San Carlos, Valle de Uco,
The nose displays great finesse with fine fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a light touch of vanillin. Plum and dark cherry flavours are wrapped in a still developing velvety, full-bodied texture with a deft touch of oak on the finish. Heavy dry tannins need time to soften. Best in another 5 to 7 years. (SW)
89 Trapiche Single Vineyard Viña Adolfo Ahumada Villa Bastias 2007, Tupungato, Mendoza ($42.65)
The attractively perfumed bouquet reveals fine red fruit accented with cinnamon, clove and subtle vanillin. On
+ A searchable listing of our tasting notes is at tidingsmag.com/notes/
Rum // p. 65; Scotch // p. 65
the palate, assertive dark plummy flavours, with still somewhat aggressive acidity and youthful dry tannins need time to fully integrate. Give it 5 to 7 years. (SW)
/Australia / 89 Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Western Australia ($17)
Robert Oatley used to own Rosemount Estate and in 2006 he established his new winery in Mudgee. The fruit for this wine comes from the cool-climate region of Pemberton in Western Australia, which gives it a lot of zestiness. Flavours of green
plum, green pea and cut grass dance on the palate. (TA)
/Canada / 91 Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2008, Okanagan ($30)
Sourced from 30-year-old estate vines, this age worthy, iconic Okanagan dry Riesling delivers impact now. An impressive attack of citrus, green apple and petrol on the nose. Mouth-puckering white grapefruit acidity accompanies tingling ginger, mineral and lime zest flavours that linger long. Its development will fascinate and reward over the next 10 years. (HH)
87 Falernia Carmenère 2007, Elqui Valley, Chile ($12.99) Enticing scents of ripe berry, with green herbal and spicy overtones shift to vibrant dark fruit flavours with some black cherry character supported by supple tannins and appetizing acidity. Finely balanced. (SW)
90 Inniskillin Pinot Gris Legacy Series 2009, Niagara ($34.95) Bruce Nicholson has hit the mark with his third release of a Legacy wine. This time around, the wine chosen to bear the name is a Pinot Gris from the excellent white wine vintage of 2009. Light yellow colour with a peach tint, this aromatic offering reveals layers of smoke, honey, lanolin, peach, cinnamon, baked apple and cream. The 14% alcohol is held beautifully in check by flavours of peach, orange, apple, mango and cream. The length just carries on and there is just a hint of sweetness also. Only 130 cases were made of this wine. It is one of Niagara’s best renditions of this varietal to date. (ES)
91 Benjamin Bridge Blanc de Noirs 2004, Nova Scotia ($119.79)
100% Pinot Noir. Elegantly fragrant, delicately fruity bouquet, a hint of floral lift and yeasty brioche. In the mouth, generous fine fruit is wrapped in a rounded, creamy texture with some citrus notes. Stony mineral and lively acidity provide good structure, agreeably softened by warm fruit and creamy mouth feel. Under 300 bottles were produced. (SW)
90 Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Robert’s Block Riesling 2009, Twenty Mile Bench ($21)
‘SAS,’ as I like to call her, has crafted her finest Riesling to date. From 14-year-old vines, this bottle delivers bergamot, citrus, peach, lime and minerals on the nose. In the mouth, honey, apples and grapefruit are thrown into the mix. It is a touch off-dry with an exuberant acid that
gives definition and carries the length. Drink it now until 2016. (ES)
90 Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2009, Twenty Mile Bench ($21.95)
Wowser! Yet another great Riesling from Tawse. This beauty is all about lime, minerals, pineapple, apples and hints of honeyed yellow plums. Its medium body does convey some residual sugar, but the racy acidity gives it the feel of a dry wine. With its long finale, the wine will easily stand up to any shellfish you throw its way. (ES)
90 13th Street Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Niagara ($34.95)
This medium-bodied beauty offers aromas of tropical fruit, gooseberries, melon, tangerines, and herbs. There is concentration and length, with perfect balancing acidity. It will show best with food, so pair it with a
60 // February/March 2011
freshwater fish, such as pickerel in a herb/butter sauce or fresh goat cheese wrapped in chives. (ES)
89 Jackson Triggs Silver Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Niagara ($17.95)
This beauty is a dead ringer for a kiwi version, but at a more affordable price. An intense nose of passion fruit, gooseberries, herbs, coconut, grapefruit and fruit salad leads into a palate with depth and zippy acidity. It finishes long, with a mineral note combining with the fruit. Don’t be shy; buy a couple of bottles! (ES)
89 Cattail Creek Collaboration Riesling Clone 49 2009, Four Mile Creek ($25) Collaboration is a new premium line of wines from Cattail. In 2009, four different bottlings of Riesling were created. Made from an Alsatian clone, it is super expressive in form with
bergamot, pineapple, lime zest, honey, peach and smoky minerals. The mid palate shows weight and solid persistence, as well as lofty acidity. Only 32 cases were made. (ES)
88 Cattail Creek Collaboration Riesling Clone 21 Old Vines, Four Mile Creek ($25)
Made from a German clone, the Riesling vines were first planted in 1974. Aromas of minerals, citrus, petrol and apple meet up with spice and grapefruit on the dry palate. 34 cases were produced. (ES)
88 Cattail Creek Collaboration White Blend, Four Mile Creek ($25)
This blend of 43% Sauvignon Blanc and equal parts of Gewürz and Riesling gains points for aromatics. Peach, flowers, bubble gum, citrus and honey are emulated on the palate. There is very good length and it is ready to go. (ES)
88 Black Hills Viognier 2009, Okanagan ($30)
Impressive first release unveils intensity, richness and power, but well balanced by sleek acidity and integrated oak. Opens with fragrant peach and lemon blossom aromas followed by orange oil and pineapple flavours. The finish persists with biscuit and spice. Matches the oiliness of sablefish well. (HH)
88 Haywire Pinot Gris ‘Clone 52 Switchback Vineyard’ 2009, Okanagan ($38)
A new project from marketing guru Christine Coletta. With the number of respected wine experts involved, this wine had better be good ... and it is. Bright, clean and zesty with refreshing citrus and pear aromas and flavours, a classic Okanagan savoury quality, finishing with a soft, yet lifted acidity. Very young in so many ways, both the winery and the wine, but shows loads of elegance and potential. The inaugural vintage is good, but future vintages should be even better. (GB)
87 Inniskillin Dry Riesling 2009, Ontario ($12.45)
The wine is very pale in colour with a lifted floral, grapefruit nose; it’s fresh and lively on the palate with an engaging honeyed note to offset the zesty grapefruit flavour. Serve it with pork loin or onion tart. (TA)
90 Jackson-Triggs Niagara Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2007, Niagara ($29.95)
This is the best version of this
wine to date, having benefited from the wonderful growing conditions of 2007. The bouquet soars with chocolatecovered coffee bean, cassis, coconut, violets, black pepper and leather. The same is found on the mid weight palate with notes of raspberries and smoke added in for good measure. There is excellent length and it is ready to drink now or until 2015. (ES)
89 Pillitteri Exclamation Series Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007, Niagara-on-theLake ($38)
Exclamation is Pillitteri’s new premium tier and will only be produced in the best vintages. Each wine is packaged in a different and unique bottle with a metallic label. Marc Bradshaw’s wine is indeed worthy of praise. It is a medium-plus bodied offering with a complex personality of cassis, raspberries, mint/ herbs, cocoa, vanilla and nutmeg. Tannins are ripe, but not overpowering, making for immediate accessibility. It should age well over the next 5 years. (ES)
89 13th Street Winery Essence Pinot Noir 2009, Niagara ($44.95) When Jean Pierre Colas joined 13th Street in 2009, he wished to create a new premium line of wines. Much discussion led to the birth of ‘Essence.’ The wines that will have that name will only be made in the best of years. This wine, the inaugural Pinot Noir, is a delicate offering with a savoury profile of herbs and spice that meld together with cherries, cocoa and
roses. The mid palate dips a little, but the finish carries the fruit. It is ready to drink. (ES)
88 Burrowing Owl Syrah 2008, Okanagan ($35)
Bold aromas lead the charge: floral, spice, meat, cocoa, black fruits. The full-bodied, well-structured palate provides complex savoury, fruity and spicy flavours. The toasted spice finish lingers with ground coffee and clove. Poised for a rich lamb stew. (HH)
88 Cattail Creek Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007, Four Mile Creek ($35)
The medium cherry colour heralds cassis, vanilla, peppermint and spice. Plum, cherries and flowers add more complexity in the mouth. The medium body works well with its smooth texture. (ES)
88 Cattail Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007, Four Mile Creek ($35) The profile of cassis, herbs, vanilla and cocoa are supported on a bed of supple tannins and fresh acid. Its good depth enhances the duration of flavour. (ES)
87 Ravine Vineyard Redcoat 2009, Niagara ($19.95)
This Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend is your quintessential trattoria food wine, aka pasta, pizza and antipasto. Light-to-mediumbodied, the dark cherry colour with bright ruby rim ushers in aromas of raspberries, cassis, herbs, vanilla and cocoa. Tannins are soft, acid is fresh, and the palate emulates the nose. (ES)
/Chile / 88 Falernia Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Elqui Valley ($12.99)
From Chile’s most northerly wine estate, this bargainpriced Sauvignon displays classic varietal fresh green herbal, floral and mineral notes with luscious green and citrus fruit flavours plus creamy complexity from ageing on the lees. Punches way above its class. (SW)
86 Montgras Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Colchagua Valley ($13.79)
A big, concentrated wine showing a mélange of dark fruits with the usually over assertive Chilean blackcurrant pleasingly toned down. Finishes with rounded chocolate, sweet spice and firm dry tannins. (SW)
/France / 90 Domaine de Bellivière Les Rosiers 2005, Jasnières, Loire Valley ($27.15)
Dark yellow. Striking nose of honey and exotic fruits, minerally. In a slightly oxidized style, it feels mellow and half-dry on the palate, but the finish is sharp, fresh and very long. Quite original from a little known appellation that uses the same grape (Chenin Blanc) as Vouvray. (GBQc)
89 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2009, Loire Valley ($25.10)
Bright, pale yellow. Delicate, slightly herbaceous nose of fresh citrus. Sharp on the
//the notes 91 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah 2008, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($35)
A classic Bordeaux blend that opens up with attractively perfumed ripe red fruits and suggestions of green herb, cinnamon and clove. In the mouth, rounded sweetly ripe berry and plum, fine dry tannins, a splash of smooth milk chocolate lead into a dry, slightly astringent finish. (SW)
The warm, low-fertile, free-draining Gimblett Gravels sub-region is a hot spot for Syrah. The fragrant blueberry and garam masala spice nose sets up meaty, black fruit flavours. Delicious juicy texture, well-integrated tannins and a generous spicy finish make you beg for more. Pair with grilled fare. (HH)
palate, quite intense taste of grapefruit, it turns a little fatty in the finish. Medium length. Drink now. (GBQc)
88 Domaine des Lauriers Prestige 2009, Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc Appellation Protégeé ($15.99)
This Languedoc classic reveals a rather complex array of sensations on the nose, including floral perfume, grapefruit, orange and tropical fruit. On the palate, the focus narrows to ripe citrus and tropical fruit, with clean refreshing acidity and a light touch of mineral. (SW)
88 Balland-Chapuis Montagnes Blanches 2009, Coteaux du Giennois AC ($19.99)
Sometimes likened to Sancerre, this lesser known Loire appellation represents very good value. A little shy on the nose but displays elegantly perfumed floral and green fruit, opening the way
for supple green fruit flavours in an attractively creamy texture with wellmodulated acidity and a light touch of mineral. (SW)
87 Laroche Chardonnay de la Chevalière 2009, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon ($13.95)
Pale yellow. The nose is shy, has citrus notes with a little mineral component. A few very small CO2 bubbles appear in the glass. Soft and round on the palate, its taste is pleasant. There is a nice acid tang in the finish. Drink now. (GBQc)
86 Guigal Côtes du Rhone 2009, Rhone Valley ($17.40)
Pale yellow. Clean nose of white peach, pear and apricot with a subtle mineral touch. Nicely balanced, its fruity taste has medium weight on the tongue. Drink now. Chicken vol-au-vent would be a great match. (GBQc)
62 // February/March 2011
88 Yarden Mount Herman Galilee Red 2009, Golan Heights, Israel ($19.42)
91 François Lurton Mas Janiel 2005, Maury, Roussillon ($18.95/500 ml)
Maury is a “vin doux naturel” made from old Grenache vines. Bright purple. Irresistible, seductive nose of red and black fruits with anise and liquorice. Voluptuous and warm on the palate, it is semi-sweet, thick but not syrupy. Tannins feel a little dry beneath the sweetness. Excellent on its own or with blue cheese or freshly cracked nuts. (GBQc)
90 Remoissenet Père & Fils Chambolle-Musigny 2007, Burgundy ($59.95) Deep ruby in colour with a spicy, raspberry nose and a touch of oak. Sweet raspberry flavour on the palate, medium-bodied with a silky mouthfeel; firmly structured, well balanced with good length. (TA)
89 Jean-Marc Burgaud Régnié Vallières 2009, Beaujolais, ($17.20) Ruby-purple. Fresh nose of
ripe red fruits (raspberry), pepper and oak notes. Nice volume in the mouth, refreshing fruity taste, almost tender tannins. Turns a bit firm in the moderately long finish. Drink within a year with charcuterie. (GBQc)
89 Château Val d’Orbieu Cuvée Mythique Réserve 2007, Languedoc-Roussillon ($18.70) Ruby colour. Small red and black fruits, kirsch. Quite concentrated and tight but ripe fruity taste. Good grip from the tannins, not too much oak, overall well balanced. Made each year from selected lots from the co-op members, this is a reliable name at a good price. (GBQc)
89 Pierre-Marie Chermette Brouilly Pierreux 2009, Beaujolais, Burgundy ($21.75)
Bright ruby/purple. Fresh yet ripe nose of red berries, raspberry and cherry with a
hint of oak. Delicious fruity taste, the soft tannins are polished by the oak, and the finish is velvety. Delicious to drink now with sausage, hamburger or all-dressed pizza. (GBQc)
88 Château Le Peyrat 2006, Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux ($14.95) This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small percentage of Cabernet Franc is worth cellaring for a year or two. The wine has that characteristic cedar, red berry and vanilla oak nose. The flavour is dry with well-extracted fruit and gripping tannins. When you get around to opening it, give it an hour or two in the decanter and serve it with leg of lamb. (TA)
83 Les Jamalles Mourvèdre 2009, Vin de Pays d’Oc ($13.99) Somewhat jammy ripe red berry and spice on the nose, with warm climate fruit and mocha character in the mouth, balanced by appropriate acidity and solid tannic grip. (SW)
/Germany / 89 Studert-Prüm Riesling Auslese 2007, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel ($34)
Pale yellow with green reflections. Conifer and resin dominate the mineral nose. Delicate acidity in the semi-dry attack. Nice freshness on the tongue with a delicate fruity flavour. Finish is light and tasty, very long. Good aging potential. (GBQc)
88 Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2009, Mosel ($13.95)
A good Riesling from the Mosel region should be light and minerally, with flavours of lime, honey and white flowers. And that’s what you get in spades with this wine — very pale in colour with a clean honeyed grapefruit flavour that dances on the palate. There’s a sweetness to the wine that’s balanced with racy acidity. (TA)
/Israel / 87 Yarden Mount Herman Galilee White 2009, Golan Heights ($19.36)
This blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a little Semillon shows pleasant, delicately scented green and tropical fruit with a light floral overtone. Generous lemon citrus flavour leads on the palate with lightly gritty mineral and honeyed, fruity and floral notes lingering on the finish. (SW)
/Italy / 89 Alfonso Boeri Ribota Moscato d’Asti 2009, Piedmont ($17.95)
Very pale in colour with a green tint. An attractive nose of sweet orange blossom and honey. Very light on the palate (only 5% alcohol) with honey and melon flavours. Very easy drinking. (TA)
93 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2007, Bolgheri ($184.95) Not as opulent as some previous vintages but this
brooding beauty offers savoury and floral notes on the nose, opening on the palate to an elegant and seamless cornucopia of flavours: currants, cherries, plums, roasted herbs and spices with a thread of minerality. Hold for five years (TA)
90 Ricossa Barbera D’Asti, Piedmont ($16.95)
Barbera wines from Piedmont are usually quite light in style but in the hands of the Pietro Rinaldi winery, Barbera becomes an awesomely big wine. This is a dense purplecoloured wine with an intense bouquet of black fruits and vanilla oak; rich and spicy on the palate, it really fills the mouth with oodles of juicy fruit. You won’t taste another Barbera d’Asti like it. (TA)
89 Antinori Villa Antinori 2006, IGT Toscana ($23.95)
Ruby purple. Red fruits dominate on the nose with a trace of reduction (an unpleasant odour that goes away after a while and not a defect). Full-bodied, the tannins have a little astringent bite but the fruit is abundant. The finish is quite firm. Carafe it 1 to 2 hours to drink it now or wait up to 5 years. (GBQc)
87 Il Brecciarolo 2007, Rosso Piceno DOC ($13.79)
A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes that over delivers for the price. There is plenty of ripe dark cherry and plum fruit, solid structure and good overall weight and balance. A hearty, thoroughly enjoyable wine. (SW)
86 Feudi di San Marzano Negroamaro 2008, Puglia ($11.95)
This is a wine that belongs on one of those outdoor Italian tables served in glasses that could hold toothbrushes. It’s hearty and rustic, full-bodied with a sweet plum and black cherry flavour with a floral note. (TA)
/New / Zealand 92 Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay 2007, Hawke’s Bay ($50) This iconic Chardonnay has a richly textured, elegantly constructed, weighty mid-palate characteristic of Hawke’s Bay Chards. Complex aromas of lemon and stone fruit. Layers of melon and pear flavour. Long, smooth, mineral-noted, citrus peel finish. Gains character with age; will be at its peak at 6 years past vintage, but will drink well up to 10 years. (HH)
90 Yealands Riesling 2009, Awatere Valley, Marlborough ($22)
Bursts with citrus and green apple on the nose. Delightfully nervy citrus flavour. Refreshing, mineral finish. Great balance with an agreeable 11.5% alcohol level. An insightful surprise to capture a glimpse of the future of wine in a glass. Irresistibly pleasurable at any time. (HH)
88 Wither Hills Pinot Gris 2009, Wairau Valley, Marlborough ($19)
Partial French oak fermentation imparts a round mouth-
//the notes feel flecked with spicy notes. Fragrant aromas highlight orange blossom and honeysuckle. Quince and melon engage the intense mid-palate, bookended by sweet peach upfront and candied pear/ginger on the finish. Ideal with a cheese and fruit platter. (HH)
92 Paritua Red 2007, Hawke’s Bay ($36)
This blend of handpicked Cab Sauv (54%), Merlot (32%), Cab Franc (9%) and Malbec (5%) brings out a Bordeaux-like nose, style and elegance. Hawke’s Bay warmth also comes through on its concentration, structure and dark fruit character. Loads of black fruit flavour, with lingering cedar and black olive. Drink until 2017. (HH)
90 Borthwick Vineyard Paper Road Pinot Noir 2008, Wairarapa ($24.95)
Deep ruby colour with a nose of red berries, rhubarb and wet earth. Medium-bodied with good fruit expression. A very stylish Pinot with great balance. (TA)
89 Saint Clair Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough ($20.70) Light ruby. Spicy/fruity nose, light and crisp. The palate has a nice, light, sweet fruit taste followed by a slightly bitter fruit stone aftertaste lifted by the acidity. Drink now with vegetable dishes, salmon or chicken. (GBQc)
89 Two Paddocks Picnic Pinot Noir 2008, Central Otago ($27)
Lives up to its “picnic” moniker in its imminently quaffable and utterly delicious style. Has the easy-drinking characteristics of ripe, rich and refreshing, but also the Central Otago triggers of tangy herbs, spicy fruit and fruit peel finish. Did I mention this would be suitable for a picnic? (HH)
89 Schubert Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Wairarapa ($32.75) Pale ruby. Red fruits and spices (cinnamon) on the nose. Very supple and quite fresh, nice spicy taste and intensely fruity finish, a touch warm. Drink now. (GBQc)
89 Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago ($45)
Characteristic Central Otago aromas of dried herbs and red berry fruit come right off the bat. Well-defined and taut cranberry flavours ensure food friendliness, while complexity arises in its layers of dark fruits, leather, spice, savouriness and dark chocolate. Satisfying, warm finish. Pair with rabbit stew. (HH)
88 Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago ($25)
Chard Farm winery’s second label makes light of the rabbits running amok in the Gibbston and Cromwell sub-regions where the fruit is sourced. Dried thyme and bright red berries tease the nose while the palate delivers lean, fresh and vibrant flavours. Nice minerality on the finish. Serve with lamb burgers. (HH)
/Spain / 89 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2008, Rioja ($15.95)
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64 // February/March 2011
most exciting young winemakers in Spain. This is a rich Tempranillo wine with a nose of blackberries, blackcurrants and pencil lead with a floral note. (TA)
88 Dominio de Aranleon Blès Crianza 2007, Valencia ($14.70) Full ruby. Ripe red fruits, smoke and a hint of barnyard on the nose. Nice medium body, good fruity taste, balanced and overall quite tight on the palate. Good buy. (GBQc)
86 Lago de Valdoneje Mencia 2009, Bierzo DO ($15.99)
The Bierzo appellation is gaining attention for the potential of the native red Mencia and white Godello varieties. This one is almost black in the glass, with dark ripe but broodingly intense fruit on the nose, backed up by hints of fig, clove and cinnamon. Powerfully concentrated ripe blackberry, dark plum, firm tannic grip and lots of weight in the mouth, finishing with a splash of dark chocolate, offsetting tannic dryness and a touch of alcoholic heat. (SW)
/United / States 87 Beringer Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Napa Valley ($21.95) Pale straw yellow in colour, this wine provides a subtle perfume of grapefruit, herbs and citrus. In the mouth, guava adds more depth. There is fresh acid and very good length. (ES)
92 Beringer Merlot Bancroft Howell Mountain 2005, Napa Valley ($69.95)
This wine is a sexy winner! Full-bodied, the bouquet of plums, dark cherries, cocoa, earth and coffee also unfurl on the rich, glycerine-laden palate. With no harsh edges and superb length, this wine will age gracefully over the next 5 to 8 years. Make sure to grab a couple of bottles for the cellar. (ES)
91 Renwood Zinfandel ‘Jack Rabbit Flat’ 2001, Amador, California ($62) Beautifully aged showing aromas of rich dried cherry, wild berries, earth, and spice with a silky, elegant texture with multi-layered
flavours of mature berries and plums. The perfect example of a well-aged Zin, still possesses character and elegance. Don’t decant and drink now, it probably has two more years before heading downhill. (GB)
earth, mint and mineral with bold flavours of blackberries, blueberries and black currant with spice and vanilla and a dark fruit jamminess. A great match with roasted meats and ribs. (GB)
90 Hendry Primitivo ‘Block 24’ 2007, Napa, California ($55)
Loads of intense and bold aromas and flavours of plum and cherry jam with chocolate and spice, a rich, refined palate, layers of complexity and a controlled brashness. Braised veal cheeks or beef short ribs would be ideal. (GB)
89 Kenwood Jack London Merlot 2006, Sonoma ($24.95)
Ruby/garnet. Red fruits and green pepper on the rather shy nose. Firm and full in the mouth, its compact body shows a 5 to 7 years aging potential. Will improve and become more complex if you’re patient. (GBQc)
89 Hendry Zinfandel ‘Block 28’, 2006, Napa California ($55)
Aromas of spice, wild berry,
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Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, New York ($21.99/6 pack)
Pitch-black colour with chocolate malt aromas and hints of coffee. On the palate, starts off with a little sweetness then hints of chocolate malt followed with a slight very pleasant bitterness, finishing with more hints of sweetness. Very pleasant, smooth, and drinkable with great balance between sweet and bitter. (GB)
Dogfishhead 60 Minute IPA, Delaware ($22.99/6 pack)
Continuously hopped — more than 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil — this is a deliciously hoppy India Pale Ale that is powerful but balanced with a lot of citrusy hop character. Lots of character, but not overwhelmingly bitter from the hops, this will appeal to both the beer enthusiasts as well as those used to more conventional brews. (GB)
/Rum / Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Saint Croix 40%, Virgin Islands ($25.99) Complex aromas of molasses, dark coffee and chocolate,
with overtones of spice and dried citrus peel yield to dark, creamy chocolate flavours with a warming touch of fiery alcohol. Attractive spicy, coffee/chocolate finish. (SW)
Cruzan Original Single Barrel Rum, Saint Croix 40%, Virgin Islands ($36.99)
Aged in Single American white oak barrel, this refined spirit has a powerful, somewhat austere but complex nose. Subtle cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla spiciness plays a sub-theme to powerful, richly spirity, oaky and dried citrus fruit flavours on the palate. Natural rum sweet character leads into charry, dry oak and warm alcohol on the finish. Great on its own or with a semi-sweet chocolate dessert. (SW)
/Scotch / The Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finish, Isle of Arran ($85)
Copper colour with a nose of pear, honey, chocolate, nuts and butterscotch followed by flavours of dark chocolate, cherries, apricots and toffee finishing with elegance and concentration. (GB)
The Arran Malt Sauternes Cask Finish, Isle of Arran ($85)
Golden in colour with aromas of honeysuckle and marzipan with hints of banana, flowers and a rich nuttiness. The palate is rich and honeyed with spice, salt, vanilla and notes of toasted oak. (GB)
by tony aspler
What Vegemite is to the Aussies, retsina is to the Greeks. Over generations their palates have become acculturated to the taste of resin in their wine. As early as 2700 BC, Greek wine merchants were using the gum of pine trees to seal the porous clay amphorae in which they stored and transported their wines. The resinous flavour infused itself into the wine or, to non-believers, contaminated it. For the uninitiated the taste descriptor could be an anagram of the name (retsina: nastier); but it is still the most popular wine in Greece, accounting for some 30 per cent of white wine production there. According to Perikles Drakos, the Export Director of Tsantali wines, Greeks drink more white wine than they do red (“It’s rare to see anyone ordering red wine from May to September”) and retsina is the most popular white (“Your friends will say, ‘let’s go out for retsina’”). They will even mix retsina with Coca Cola, says Drakos, to make a popular drink called Toumbo Libre. While retsina might be the Greeks’ wine of choice it was not readily available in the President Hotel where I stayed in Athens recently. Nor was it on the wine list in a typical country restaurant called Sofos in the town of Nemea, the birthplace of Hercules. Yet it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that retsina would have been the first wine experience for consumers in the ancient world since Greek traders shipped their amphorae, protected from oxidation by sap from the Aleppo pine, throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. From the third century AD, the Romans shipped their wines in barrels, making amphorae obsolete but the market was so accustomed to the flavour that pine resin was added during the wine’s fermenting process. In his book, Wine Myths and Reality, Benjamin Lewin MW cites a first century tribe called the Allobroges who lived in the southern Rhône between Vienne and Marseille. They made a wine called pomatum (meaning pitch). “It took its name from the use of resin to seal the containers, and may have been somewhat comparable to Greek retsina,” writes Lewin. The tourism boom in Greece in the 1960s created a new international market for retsina. No self-respecting Greek restaurant around the world would be without one on its wine
66 // February/March 2011
list. But that era was the time of bulk wine producers in Greece who used resin to cover the flaws in their white wines. Mercifully, over the years the concentration of pine resin has been dropping. In the late eighteenth century it was as high as seven point five per cent. In early twentieth century, according to Konstantinos Lazaridis, in The Wines of Greece, “ … up to the 1960s, most retsina contained about five per cent resin. During the 1960s commercial and bottled retsina [was] usually made with much lower resin addition of one or two per cent.” The major grapes used in the production of retsina are Savatiano and Roditis although other white varieties can be used, such as Assyrtiko. There is also a rosé usually made from the Xynomavro grape. On a previous trip to Greece in 2009, I tasted wines made by what are considered the two best retsina producers in the country: Kechri The Pine’s Tear 2008, made from cask-fermented Assyrtiko with Roditis and Savatiano — very delicate and grapey with resiny and clove notes. Then Kechri Xynomavro Rosé 2008, which is also delicious. But be warned: these wines are food-specific. They are not for sipping on the patio unless you have plates of Greek mezze to accompany them. You really do need to taste retsina alongside the cuisine of the country or region (which is axiomatic for all wines). The key is olive oil and garlic. So drink your retsina, nicely chilled, with hummus, dolmades, tzatziki, scordalia, taramosalata, feta, olives, pita … Bring it on. •
illustration: FRancesco Gallé, www.francescogalle.com
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