Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Barrel Tasting In Burgundy

Côte de Beaune, Burgundy
To fully appreciate the diversity of the terroir of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy one must see it with the naked eye. To feel the soils under your feet, and to appreciate the varying degrees of sun exposure along the Côte, I highly recommend a vineyard walk or run as an excellent way to further understand the intricacies of these famous slopes.

Then there’s the romantic and picturesque town of Beaune. Start one’s day at one of the many town squares with a perfectly crafted pain au chocolat and a café or two, as you witness the town wake up. Breakfast is followed by strolling through the narrow cobblestone roads, picking fresh cheeses, baguettes and local produce for your afternoon picnic, and eventually settling into a cozy chair outside one of the many wine bars to taste wines by the glass as you watch the Beaune world go by. Beaune, FranceIn the evening, descend into one of the dozens of ‘cellar’ restaurants that could double as barrel rooms to undoubtedly enjoy fine wines and gourmet food from the region: foie gras, escargots, coq au vin and boeuf bourgignon cooked a la bourgignonne in Burgundian wine.

Maison Louis Jadot:

Louis Jadot, BurgundyVisiting Louis Jadot was a fantastic experience. We received a very warm and intimate welcome from one of the prominent producers of this region. Jadot has the power of the qi. The winery is in the shape of an octagon, at the heart of which a small platform is perched six feet off the ground under a domed skylight. During long harvest days this is the spot where workers come to re-energize.

Louis Jadot produces an astounding 125 wines, of which we were fortunate to taste 19 from some of the top sites such as Puligny Montrachet, Meursault, Chassagne Montrachet, Gevrey-Chambertain. In their damp and cool expansive cellars, it was an excellent exercise recognizing the sometimes subtle nuances of these appellations.

Domaine Comte Senard:

Domaine Comte Senard, BurgundyThere is no better welcome to a Domaine than that from a Grand Cru Chardonnay-eating Golden Retriever. Domaine Comte Senard, located in Aloxe-Corton, is set high up on the Côte with its Grand Cru sites enclosed by an ancient stone clos. They produce the only red Grande Cru in the Côte de Beaune. Comte Senard owns the oldest cellars in Burgundy which they discovered during an expansion, and in their good fortune unearthed intact bottles from the region – what a coup.

Alex Gambal:

Alex Gambal Visit in BeauneIn contrast, we capped off our Domaine tours with a visit with Alex Gambal, a modern day Texan making modern wines in Burgundy. Who would have thought this was possible? With the Napoleonic Code of land inheritance, farmers rule this region. Alex Gambal has gracefully managed to penetrate the traditional political landscape. He shared some of his tales of trials and tribulations of doing business here where verbal contracts are only as good as the Texan pony he rode in on.

Rosé Season Is Open

Antibes avec Rosé

If you live in a cool climate like I do, at long last: ‘tis the season for rosé. Morning dog walks are warm and fragrant, the afternoon sun heats your skin and backyard barbequing is well underway. It’s time for a little pink juice on that sun-drenched patio.

If this is any indication: a few weeks ago I was pouring for Loire winemaker Bernard Chereau – Chereau Carré, one of the top domaines of the Nantais, at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and out of the flight of five spectacular wines (four of which were his well known and liked Muscadet wines), the ladies all flocked to the one rosé – in droves. And it’s not reflective of that whole “pink-is-for-girls” thing. The ladies definitely get it: rosé rocks and pink is still in. It’s summer in a glass. Who better to look to than the French? Rosé wine sales surpassed white wine sales in France, circa 2007.

Before getting to my short list of the wines you need to pick up and enjoy this summer, what makes a rosé a rosé? The wine gets its colour from the amount of time the red grape skins are left in contact with the juice after the grapes have been crushed. It’s up to the discretion of the winemaker as to the style of wine and the length of time this contact occurs, which helps determine the colour of rosé wine – anything from pale orange, to copper, to pink salmon, to almost red and purple. Getting a little more technical, rosé is also made as a by-product of red wine fermentation when the pink juice is removed at an early stage and fermented separately, known as saignée. Rosé wines are made with just about any red grape variety, the most common being Grenache and Cinsaut.

There still seems to be a massive misconception that rosé wines are sweet (think the once-popular Cali White Zin “blush wine”, off-dry to sweet). But the most enjoyed, and historically like the original rosé wines produced in the Loire Valley, are in fact bone dry – and bright, fresh and delicious!

To kick this list off, I did a little ‘homework’ myself and tasted a fine selection of rosés of various styles. I think you’ll find a few here that fit your taste buds as well as your budget. While we can enjoy rosé at any given time of the year, I think we can all agree that it’s the hot sun and outdoor dining that somehow make these wines taste that much better. It’s scandalous to make a list of a mere five rosés – there are plenty more, but these are here to get you started and inspired to enjoy some summer sipping.

  1. Domaine des Huards, Cheverny, Val do Loire 2009
    $19.00 @ Marquis Wines
    This wine has everything you’d expect and want in an easy patio-sipper on a sunny afternoon, as the cliché goes. It’s light, refreshing, crisp, and acid to please with a healthy blast of citrus and subtle raspberry. Have it on its own or knock back a few grilled clams with a squeeze of lemon.
  2. Provenquiere Rose “Cuvee P” 2008
    $15.00 @ Marquis Wines
    Enter this classic southern French rosé filled with citrus, red berries, sweet spice and floral aroma. Enjoy this easy-drinker with a citrus summer salad, a soft-rind mild brie or, as the region would dictate, bouillabaisse.
  3. Frias Family Vineyards Rosé, Napa
    $30.00 @ Kitsilano Wine Cellar
    This wine is two things: really fun to drink and definitely an acquired taste. I say this because it’s almost sherry-like, but don’t let that dissuade you if you’re not a sherry fan. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc, with characteristics that are quite complex and well balanced. I wouldn’t call it “refreshing” as the label touts, as it’s a little hot on the alcohol, but it has a good dose of fruit – black cherry and watermelon predominantly – with some earthy sweet spice and a kick of a pleasant tartness at the end. It demands to be eaten with an olive tapenade, bruscetta or oily fish.
  4. Domaine de la Mordorée, Tavel AOC 2008
    $40.00 @ Liberty Wine Merchants
    Perhaps one of the more popular rosé wine appellations of the world, and one of the finest, is Tavel in the south of the Rhone Valley in France, where all wines made here must be rosé. This is truly a beautiful wine: dry, crisp acidity, rich and spicy;  a bold blend of Grenache and Cinsaut. It’s a little pricey, but definitely worth it – a mouth-melter.
  5. Vina Tondonia, Vinos Fino de Rioja, Lopez de Heredia 1993
    $42.00 @ Kitsilano Wine Cellar
    This is going out on a bit of a limb, and it’s more expensive than your average “patio-sipper” rosé, however, if you want to try something totally radical, this is it. For starters, there is nothing pink about it – it’s a beautiful, rich orange. The style is slightly oxidized with nutty caramel, a little oak, some minerality and a touch of zesty orange. You simply must taste this wine.

I’m always looking for the next best rosé, so let’s hear your picks.

Thanks to John at Marquis Wines and Kirk at Kitsilano Wine Cellar for your recommendations.

A Week of Western Wines

The past week in Vancouver saw both California and Naramata winemakers on a brief stop to present and promote their latest stars. It’s tough to make your way around a jam-packed hotel ballroom and get to know all that’s there, alas, I managed to narrow in on a few wines definitely worth mentioning. Tough days, indeed, tasting all these wines…

First up, the 30th Annual Canadian Tour of the California Wine Fair, put on by the California Wines in Canada association. This is a great event to hit each time it swings through town, usually each spring and again in the fall. You get to taste some stunning wines, a lot of which are not yet available in BC and some of which are on the very pricey side, so it’s great to be able to indulge while meeting some of the wines’ masterful makers.

The best tactic in my opinion at such an event is to have a tactic. There is no hope you can taste everything. I am heading down to the Russian River area in northern Sonoma County in May so I tried to zone in on a few wineries I could follow up with a visit.

If I listed and described all the wines I tasted or the winemakers or agents I met and enjoyed some time with, we’d be here all day, plus there is no way any one person can retain a wine overload list in a blog post, so here’s just one from Cali to put to memory:

Alexander Valley Vineyards:
Before getting to the wines, lovely people. Just lovely. I had a great time tasting and learning about some of the wines and the winemaking with John Wetzel, one of the family partners of the Wetzel Family Estate. What a difference it makes when you can taste the wines with one of the key players of the business. I’m very much looking forward to making a visit to their tasting room down south, which is nicely situated in the heart of the their winery, and getting into those infamous caves!
Known For: Sin Zinfandel. Check out their clever marketing on the “Wicked Weekend: 3-Pack of Zins” – Temptation, Sin and Redemption: crowd-pleasing zins.
Must Try: Gewurz! This is a grape not typically grown in this region but these guys have a beautiful crisp and spicy Gewurztraminer, sourcing the grapes from the Mendocino’s Potter Valley. The fruit is there, the spice, florals and minerality – a well balanced wine. They nailed it.

Vancouver was the first stop on this month-long tour as it makes its way across the country, ending in St. John’s and Halifax in mid May. Check out the full schedule and details on the calwine site.

And onto BC and the Naramata Bench…

Being from Vancouver, I am more and more familiar with the wines (and the faces!) of the infamous Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, BC’s interior wine region. There have been some awesome wines that have come out of this region: Tantalus Riesling being one of my top favourites; Poplar Grove’s Pinot Gris is a big crowd-pleaser as well. It was doable to try everything in the room, but I have a small list of favourites that I’d recommend you get your hands on.

Winner of the Day: Van Westen Vineyards 2008 Viognier

Pretty stunning. This wine has the fruit right there to match the acidity and the viscosity is what you would expect from a viognier. There were only 120 cases produced, so good luck finding it, but keep an eye on this producer for this varietal. They knock it out of the park.

And better yet, I heard you can sit around their kitchen table and taste it with them when you pay them a visit – now that is personal treatment!

Also Enjoyed:
Township 7 Rosé – one of the few who succeeded in producing a typical southern French style rosé. You could polish this one off in one sitting quite easily on a hot summer day.
Therapy Vineyards 2009 Freudian Sip Proprietary blend ($19) – again, suited for patio time. The same could be said for their 2008 Pink Freud ($20). Chill these two crisp wines, sit back and soak in the sun!

I guess those last few picks means it’s that time of year again… next post: rosé all the way!