Fall 2011

In This Section:

Rotating And Managing Wines In Your Cellar

It's Hard To Let Those Good Wines Go

Bloody Wines That Will Be A Halloween Treat

Ready To Get Scruffy?  It's Almost Movember

Leveling The Playing Field For Canadian Wines

An Italian Feast To Warm Up With

Wines That Heat Up From The Inside Out

Rotating And Managing Wines In Your Cellar
   originally published September 14th, 2011, The Northern View

Once in a while it’s a good idea to take stock of the wines sitting in your cellar.  I recently added 150 bottles to my collection and while I was making room I saw it as a good opportunity to look through my wines and set aside a section to be thought of as ‘on deck’ wines.

I try to consume my wines at their peak, or at least, what I believe that to be.  With a large inventory of wines sitting around the house I need to make sure I don’t forget any in the shuffle.  So, my on deck bin is usually the first place I look when picking a wine for my meal.  The on deck bin is my collection of wines from the cellar that I think are ready to drink.  Because I look to these wines first each time I go into the cellar, I see them often and it’s a good reminder of wines that I need to make a meal for.

I also have amidst my collection some wines (particular vintages) that I have purchased by the case.  Periodically I throw one of these into my tasting circle; a nice little check to see how the whole lot is ageing.  Personally, I keep a diary of my wines, with tasting notes and dates for all the wines I drink and in particular my cellar collections.  It’s saved and backed up on my computer (how geeky is that)?  For a more low tech solution, you can keep a small notepad next to your special saves in the cellar – keep track of the dates you consumed the wines from your collection, make notes about the wines colour, aroma and flavour profile.  You can compare these over time and witness first hand how your wines are developing and ageing in your collection.

This week I have chosen two wines that you might want to pick up in quantity and track in your cellar over their next few great years!:

Reserve Pampas Del Sur Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – 14% alc/vol [Argentina]

A nice spicy nose of plums and black pepper – there is also a hint of cigarette smoke.  Flavours are fruity with some red berries, watermelon candy and some dry beach wood.  A very nice value wine that would do well with cellaring.  88/100 $13.98 [BC Liquor Stores] (February 24th, 2011)

Palo Alto Reserva 2008 – 13.5% alc/vol [D.O. Maule Valley, Chile]

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah.  A bit of a squirrely nose that has heat, red licorice, pepper and cranberry scents.  After a while there is also a noticeable menthol element that spills out of this wine.  A dry, gritty texture that really plays with your palate.  Earth and oak flavours are the most obvious – this wine has great ageing potential and may show more fruit characteristics after some time laying down.  I like this wine!  95/100  (October 1, 2010)  $14.99  BC Liquor Stores

It's Hard To Let Those Good Wines Go
   originally published September 28th, 2011, The Northern View

It’s hard to let those good wines go!  Coming to the end of several vintages and old favourite in my own collection, I have this choked up feeling about letting them go.  I couldn’t possibly open the last bottle of an old cellar gem to be served with just any meal.  The same goes for those expensive bottles that have been sitting in the cellar ageing for years – I want to serve them with a special meal, have friends over, show it off and I really want to treat it well.

I better get used to it.  I ear-marked a couple of cellar collections that should be consumed this year because I feel that they are peaking and won’t benefit from additional cellar time.  It means saying goodbye to a bunch of wines that I have saved for nearly a decade or more.  The challenge will be bringing myself to that point of opening them before they lose their beauty forever.

I have been saving a special collectors series of wines that is from a small property in Ontario.  The wines are made from the same one acre plot of grapes each year.  I plan to show these at a special dinner and do a vertical tasting of the wines.  A vertical tasting means that you try the same wine from different vintages side by side.  The Hillebrand series that I have saved up goes from 2002 to 2006.  It is interesting to try wines in this way because it really gives you a chance to see the variation of vintages from year to year.  You can also go back to see what the weather would have been like from year to year, and it’s a nice learning experience for your taste buds.

Since it isn’t easy to find vertical series of wines available for sale, this week I chose a couple of great vintage wines that you might want to start saving.  Grab a bottle this year, save it, and grab the next couple of vintages of the same wine over the next few years.  It will take some dedication, patience and will power, but it will be well worth it.  Cheers!

See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2007
A warm, summery, jammy nose with sweet cherries and raspberries.  Fruit forward flavours of blackberries and star anise that finishes with smooth, tiny tannins.  A nice herbaceous aftertaste.  Lovely when paired with rare roasts, dark chocolate or sharp cheeses.  90/100 (September 21, 2011)

Barahonda Tinto Barrica 2007
A bit of a squirrely nose to start – reminiscent of the Marechal Foch grape of Atlantic Canada.  A layered nose with a gamey hit to start, followed by wild boysenberry, menthol and licorice.  Nice fruity flavours with a mixture of berries and mild tannins that cleanse the palate and leave an oaked earth finish.  Lots of sediment in this wine – good for decanting.  87/100 (August 21, 2011)

Bloody Wines That Will Be A Halloween Treat
   originally published October 12th, 2011, The Northern View

Red wines are perfect if you are looking to find something that will help you get into that spooky Halloween spirit and theme.  Red wine soaked lips also look pretty ferocious with a vampire costume.  If you are out choosing some wines to serve at your Halloween party think about red wines that will appear thick and heavy in the glass, something with that slightly blue hue that is reminiscent of blood.  To get that bloody effect, look for rich Australian Shiraz or California Zinfandel; want to find something Canadian?  Why not get an Ontario Baco Noir.

Many, many years ago the Mediterranean winemaking countries would fine their wines with pigs or cows blood.  It is still very possible to find wines made like this today, although the use of blood as a fining agent is prohibited by some countries like the United States and France.  Today most wines are fined using bentonite; a silica clay that can remove suspended materials in the wine giving it a better appearance.  Eggs and milk have also been used as fining agents in old world winemaking.

To fine a wine using blood, it would be poured onto the top of a large vat of wine.  Imagine you had a cup filled partway to the top with olive oil; if you were to add water to that glass, the water would sink to the bottom and the oil would rise to the top.  The pigs blood would do much the same thing to the wine and would also catch a bunch of the impurities and filter them out of the wine.  The suspended particles being filtered out by the blood can come from many things including the grape skins, the barrel and even the spent yeast cells.  The result is a wine that is cosmetically improved and ready to be siphoned off the top.

My selections this week are wines that will taste good, but also be the perfect Halloween showcase wines to give you that rich, bloody effect at your table.

Kitfox Vineyards Foxy Red Blend 2005 – 13.5% alc/vol [California]
A pretty red colour invited you in to take a whiff filled with heavy red berry fruit, a little anise and some nice warm fruity pepper.  Nice flavours that start off with some pleasant and gentle berry fruit, followed but dry, peppery tannins.  83/100 (July 18th, 2011)

Bird in Hand – Two in the Bush Merlot Cabernet – 14% alc/vol [Australia]
Nice, raosty bbq notes on the nose with blackberries and cool menthol.  Very smooth flavours that leave a dry finish.  A mouth full of warm berries, anise and mild oak.  86/100 (Sep. 20, 2011)

Ready To Get Scruffy?  It's Almost Movember
   originally published October 26th, 2011, The Northern View

So it’s nearly that time of year again, get yourselves ready for ‘Movember’.  Movember is a cute combination of the words moustache and November and it’s all about growing those moustaches to raise money for cancer.  While it may not be an activity that ladies can participate in directly, there are lots of ways to support Movember enthusiasts.  Get out there and help your best guy mate raise some cash for cancer, or head out to the local wine shop and pick up a bottle of red wine to give as a gift to a man working on his stache.

Since a big part of Movember is about raising awareness for cancer and cancer prevention, it’s a perfect time to enjoy some red wine and benefit from its cancer fighting properties.  Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound that is found in red wines and actually comes from the skin of the grape.  Red wines are made by letting the grape skins sit with the grape juice and leach a bunch of goodness into the future wine; one of these things that makes its’ way in is a little organic specialist called resveratrol.  Resveratrol has properties as both an immune system booster and an antioxidant.  The resveratrol compound is part of the plants natural defence system and helps to keep the plant healthy while absorbing large amounts of UV radiation from the sun and dissolved chemicals in ground water.  It seems that these benefits can be had by us as well by consuming modest amounts of red wine. 

If you are interested in joining the Movember movement you can register and get more information at .  This week I chose a couple of red wines that are going to show up to the party with lots of tannin and that great goodness called resveratrol. 

Barahonda Tinto Barrica 2007 – 14% alc/vol
A bit of a squirrely nose to start – reminiscent of the Marechal Foch of Atlantic Canada.  A layered nose with a gamey hit upfront followed by wild boysenberry, menthol and liquorice.  Nice fruity flavours with a mixture of berries and mild tannins that cleanse the palate and leave an oaked earth finish.  Lots of sediment in this wine, would be a wise choice to decant and allow to breathe a bit before serving.  87/100 (August 21, 2011)

Truchard Syrah 2007 – 14.3% alc/vol [Napa Valley, California]
Rich, jammy fruits spill out of this wine with a nose of ripe strawberries and peppery cooked blueberries.  The flavours on this wine have hot elements that show up alongside woody cherries.  The fruit characteristics are slightly muted with dusty notes.  A great deal of sediment coming from this wine – a perfect candidate for decanting.  84/100 (August 6, 2011)

Leveling the Playing Field for Canadian Wines
   originally published November 9th, 2011, The Northern View

One of the things I hear from American tourists travelling through Canada, are curious questions about how expensive all the wines seem to be up here.  I have to admit that after taking a few trips to the states over the years I am rather jealous of the sheer glut of beautiful wines that are available at very cheap prices.  Two buck chuck isn’t just a cute way of describing inexpensive wines in the United States – you can actually find wine that sells for $2 per bottle!  For us as Canadians, we know this just doesn’t happen.  The comparisons that I hear about are major California based brands that sell for $4 a bottle in the United States, but show up on Canadian liquor store shelves for $13.  Why is there such a difference?

In large part the liquor and wine sales in Canada are controlled by a very small group of people.  Imagine for a second that we allowed wine agents to import wines from California, mark them up slightly and sell them in liquor stores across Canada at competitive prices like $6 per bottle.  How on earth would we ever sell home grown Canadian wines that can barely be produced for that price?  Make no mistake – wine is a big business like many others, there are lobbyists, policy makers, people on the take and a young industry that is trying to grow and gain credibility. 

In order to protect the interests of Canadian wine producers, it is a much better idea to price imported wines from other countries competitively on their taste profile rather than strictly their import price.  Unfortunately for the Canadian consumer there is little comfort in this knowledge, except that you are helping to support a young industry with strong growth potential and eventual economies of scale.  As Canadian wines get better and better, we will actually see the value of import wines increase as well because they will remain competitively priced with a high product quality.

While we may not be getting these wines at the smoking deals that they see in the U.S., these are some great California wines that you can pick up and still count on for great value.

Fish Eye Chardonnay 2008 – 13% alc/vol [California]
A refreshing nose that pops with mandarin orange, pineapple flesh and potted flowers.  The wine has a brightness when it hits the tongue matched with a smooth, full flavour of oaky citrus and toasted corn.  Enjoyable by itself or would be an elegant touch to many meals – try this with a nice roasted chicken or for lunch with a turkey BLT.  91/100 $9.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (April 22, 2011)

Flip Flop Pinot Grigio 2010 – 13% alc/vol [California]
A nose of melon, spring air and long grass.  A bright sting of sharp acid starts off this wine, followed by strong citrus flavours of lemon and orange zest with a nice little bit of chalkiness.  87/100 (August 7, 2011)

 An Italian Feast To Warm Up With
   originally published November 23rd, 2011, The Northern View

Crisp air, where you can see your breath, the smell of wood burning fires and the thought of a big, wonderful, stick to your ribs dinner of my dad’s spaghetti and meatballs or my moms manicotti.  I love Italian themed feasts, and I have no problem finding a place in my hollow leg to put all those leftovers too.  After a big day out spending lots of energy, I always look forward to a healthy Italian feast that delivers all the carbs, veggies and protein that I am looking for.  These days I am usually rocking some homemade pizzas and some of those spaghetti and meatballs like my dad used to make, in order to get my Italian fix.

There are so many great Italian wines to choose from on store shelves.  One of the reasons you may want to select an Italian wine to pair with an Italian themed meal is the natural tendency of wines to mimic elements of their terroir.  A traditional spice and flavour profile of Italian dishes has intrinsic Italian wine flavour appeal.  Things you usually won’t find in traditional Italian red wines are big, overpowering jammy fruit flavours, or tons of smoke.  Most Italian red wines deliver the more subtle elements of balanced oak and fruit that also showcase lots of earthy and herbaceous elements.

Since so many Italian dishes see a big part of their flavour profile come from fresh herbs, the herby hints that show themselves in Italian wines are very well matched.  The more delicate fruit flavours that are also present in Italian wines can stand up well to the robust tomato sauce flavours that make their way into lots of Italian dishes.

Below are a few reviews of some very approachable Italian wines that are widely available.  These wines are quite affordable and will be a good match to rich Italian cooking and all its fresh flavours.

Giacondi Sangiovese Merlot Rubicon 2009 – 12.5% alc/vol [Italy]
Some heat, mild fruits and anise on the nose.  A dry earthy flavour with untamed oak (not necessarily a compliment).  An alternative for a real deal seeker fed up with super fruit and sweetness.  87/100 $9.49 [BC Liquor Stores] (March 27th, 2011)

Farnese Sangiovese 2009 – 12.5% alc/vol [Italy]
A warm earthy scent followed by barbequed meats and strawberry.  Initially this wine starts off a little sweet but quickly switches to a dry palate cleanser with mild tannins.  The flavour profile is rather flat with a single note of toasted wood chips.  83/100 (April 26, 2011)

 Wines That Heat Up From The Inside Out
   originally published December 7th, 2011, The Northern View

The first official day of winter is fast approaching.  As a bit of that seasonal chill sets in it’s especially nice to sit down and share a bottle of wine that will warm you up from the inside out.   I find that red wines are much more prone to providing this effect.  There are some red wines that show the characteristics of menthol and eucalyptus.  This menthalyptus effect is much like that deep, cleansing and medicinal feel of a breath of Vicks Vapo Rub.  As the wine is swallowed, the menthol and eucalyptus notes in the wine warm the esophagus and give that instant soothing heat in your body.  Minty, herbaceous undertones tend to resonate in your throat and nasal passage, which really help to open the sinuses and air passageways in the body.

Alcohol also provides a short term increase in body temperature and blood flow – this certainly helps to ramp up those warming effects from your glass of wine.  Alcohol increases blood flow to the skin and will give that feeling of flushness, even causing you to perspire.  Now these effects are only in the short term, because as the blood flow is redirected to your skin, it actually leaves your muscles and organs – lowering your overall body temperature.  If you are enjoying a few drinks indoors, what you will notice are the nice, hot qualities of these types of wines that will warm you up.  However you really should be careful if you have alcohol while enjoying outdoor activities, because your core temperature will drop – this coupled with diminished cognitive functioning can lead to poor decision making ... and ultimately hypothermia, just be careful.

A great place to start looking for some of these warming qualities in a wine is to peruse through Australian Shiraz and Californian Cabernet Sauvignons.  Both these warm climate reds manage to build those great warm flavours of menthol and eucalyptus while still providing nice fruit elements.  Occasionally the fruit in these wines shows off more cooked fruit characteristics that are also very nice this time of year – mulled wine cider anyone?

Yellowtail Shiraz 2009 – 13.5% alc/vol [South Eastern Australia]
Eucalyptus and a big nose of fresh deli sandwiches – very tasty smells altogether.  Nice dry flavours with a backbone of fruit that doesn’t overpower with too much sweetness.  A nice vintage and example of the brand.  88/100 $12.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (April 3rd, 2011)

Strut Red Over Heels 2007 – 14.2% alc/vol [VQA Okanagan Valley]
A warm, spicey nose that offers whiffs of cherry coke, cool menthol and red candy licorice.  The flavours are nice with some pepper, a bit of sweet juice and a small amount of tannin that leaves a little bit of dryness on the palate.  87/100 (August 18, 2011)


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