Andrea Pollock on Wine

 Articles
Winter 2010 / 2011

In This Section:

Building Your at Home Cellar

Choosing Any Bottle at the Spur of the Moment

Living it up on Vegas Wines

Warming Up With Red Over the Winter

A Perfect Time of Year for Sparkling

Wines of the New Year

Careful, Your Oak is Showing

Making Your Own Wines

 

Building Your at Home Cellar
   originally published October 27th, The Northern View


Several months ago I wrote about creating your own cellar at home; choosing a location that is dark, dry and cool.  If this was something of interest to you, or something you started, I just wanted to give you the heads up that this is a great time to start filing your cellar with wines to lie down and store in both the short and long term.

Its wine making season; the picking, pressing and fermenting is already underway at the vineyards.  It’s also the time of year where wineries will give great deals on older wines that they want to blow out in order to create room for the coming 2010 vintage of wines.  Over the next few weeks there should be some really great specials offered through the B.C. Liquor Stores and independent wine stores throughout the province.  So for anyone looking to start a small cellar at home it is a great time to buy them now and save them for later.

When you start doing the math, a $2 or $3 discount means that for the $200 budget I have to spend I could end up with 14 bottles and not just 12.  This is the way that I cellar wines; I find a few great deals each season and I really stock up.  If you are cellaring wines you already know, buy a few of them, these are going to be your go to bottles when you have company or a weekend dinner in.  I purchase a couple of wines to test out; a bottle each of a few wines I would like to try out that I can buy more of later; these are the wines I choose from everyday.  And I also lay down a couple of favourites that I might see go on sale – the wines I really enjoy that I believe have at least some ageing potential.  You have to take advantage of the deals when you see them. 

This week I have chosen two wines that are great cellaring candidates and show exceptional value; if you can buy these at a discount you are laughing.  Both these wines should show well for the next two years and are both lovely wines to pair with food.

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 lying down.  I like this wine!  95/100  (October 1, 2010)  $14.99  BC Liquor Stores

Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2008 – 12.9% alc/vol [VQA Okanagan Valley]

A beautiful flowery nose with the smell of sweet orange, over ripe bananas, wild flower petals and honey.  There is a bit of crispness to start followed by some delicate sweetness and sugars.  The classic spice of the gewürztraminer is found in the first crisp bite of this wine, like a sprinkling of black pepper complimented with tart peach flavours.  A truly excellent wine.  95/100  (October 10, 2010)  $16.99 BC Liquor Stores


Choosing Any Bottle at the Spur of the Moment
   originally published November 10th, The Northern View


So I have this rapid wine chilling machine at my house.  It is a very indulgent invention designed to lower the temperature of a wine and its bottle as fast as molecularly possible.  This little device (that looks like an ice bucket) can take a room temperature bottle of white wine and get it to a perfect serving temperature of four degrees in less than seven minutes.  This little miracle machine is employed often at my home.  Better wine faster – oh yeah! – I’m interested.  Even using your best freezer and ice cubes techniques you can’t reproduce this kind of quality.

It makes me rather excited, only because it really expands my hosting repertoire.  I often enjoy it when my guests can head into my cellar and select a wine that will suit them.  Of course I am there to help guide them in their choice and find a varietal and wine style that suits their mood; but if a friend selects a white wine, we don’t have to wait forty minutes or more to start enjoying it.  The seven minute chill time is just long enough to chill the wine and make a small snack to enjoy with it.

The rapid wine chiller probably isn’t an invention that strikes many people as necessary, and truly it isn’t.  I mean people have been enjoying wine for a very long time with a couple simple tools like glasses and an opener.  But just like the way that boys love their toys, wine lovers enjoy quirky inventions like this.  You can compare it to someone who loves cars and from time to time tinkers with it and pimps it out – it might not be necessary or even practical, but it sure is fun!

Occasionally I am in the company of someone who might make me feel guilty or shake their head at me for having spent money on something deemed ‘so unnecessary’ (like for instance my parents).  In these circumstances I feel compelled to defend my favourite hobbies and justify them with arguments that have some solid footing.  So if you are planning on picking one of these up for yourself one day but might need the approval of a partner or parent, the wine chiller is a very affordable alternative to say a temperature controlled wine fridge for storing your whites – those could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

This week I have chosen two wines that show very nice value.  They both have lovely flavour and aroma profiles that you will probably enjoy if you like to have wines that are powerful in the glass.

Spier Chenin Blanc 2009 – 13.5% alc/vol [South Africa]

Orange blossom and honeysuckle dance around on this fresh nose.  A very nice taste with a bit of crisp acidity to start.  There are gentle herb and grapefruit flavours, a better match for a rich dish – avoid trying this with a heavily dressed salad.  88/100  (August 20, 2010)  $13.95 BC Liquor Stores

Fuzion Chenin / Torrontes 2009 – 13% alc/vol [Argentina]

A mild nose with a bit of lime and some florals.  The mouth has a very light taste, clean citrus fruits with a rind flavour.  A very easy to drink style that pairs well with citrusy cream sauces or sautéed onions and peppers.  91/100  (September 1, 2010)  $8.99 BC Liquor Stores

 

Living it up on Vegas Wines
   originally published November 24th, The Northern View


I officially became a fan of Walmart, at least the Walmarts of the United States anyways.  I recently went on a trip to Las Vegas, and in the afternoon on the way to play golf my dad, he wanted to make a pit stop to get some beer at the local Walmart.  I’m sure that my faced cringed at the suggestion, but then my dad assured that I would want to come inside because they also sold wine.  That was all he had to say, I obviously had to check it out.

All I can tell you is that it was a fabulous experience; two isles of some really great wines cheaper than I had ever seen them before.  $16 for Francis Coppola diamond series, $12 for Greg Norman wines, these are two labels you can’t find in Canada for under $45.  There were whole cases of wine for sale for under $35, that’s 12 bottles!  I can’t even make my own wine for that price.  $4 Yellowtail, $5 Kendell Jackson, $9 Gnarly Head; the deals just go on and on.  Now that they are playing to my weakness it’s a somewhat unfair fight.  Good thing I don’t live further South, I would be trying to smuggle stuff back all the time.  It’s also probably a good thing that I don’t live in the states – I would have to triple the size of my wine cellar and start figuring out how to get my hands on a new liver.

While I was in Vegas I made a point to indulge quite a bit in California wines.  I spoiled myself each night I was out and every afternoon with a different wine from a different vineyard, in some attempt to take in the local flavour.  There is a group of very spoiled consumers in Vegas who have fabulous wines to taste for very, very reasonable prices.  I also saw quite a large selection of Californian wines available; some big names but also lots of smaller producers too.

This week I am featuring a couple of wines that I tasted on my trip, the ones I remember most fondly.  Both were very nice red wines with some great cellar ability and ageing potential.

Clos de Bois Merlot 2007 – 13.5% alc/vol [North Coast, California]

A bit of smoke, a hint of sweet vanilla and some black cherries.  A dry palate of charred oak, ripe berries and a bit of smoke on the finish.  A medium to light body.  The best part of this wine was the company I shared it with.  86/100  (September 23, 2010)  $42 Las Vegas

Greg Norman Shiraz 2006 – 14.5% alc/vol [Limestone Coast, Australia]

A rich smell of plums and earth with a hint of licorice in the background.  Flavours of smoke and berries shine through.  A small amount of tannin to this wine that is very nicely balanced with the fruit and acidity. 93/100  (September 29, 2010)  $12.90 Las Vegas Walmart

 

Warming Up With Red Over the Winter
   originally published December 8th, The Northern View

On the cold crisp days of fall and winter I find myself craving a glass of rich red wine.  I am a seasonal eater – salads in the summer, soups in the winter, always trying to eat the freshest fruits and vegetables in season.  When it comes to my wines I also have some seasonal tendencies that seem to fall in line with the weather.  As the weather cools off I am much more interested in drinking red wine than white.  I don’t want a cold glass of chardonnay – I want a warming glass of heavy cabernet sauvignon, maybe even served with some strong cheeses or antipasto.

I also try some more unconventional pairings just to have my red wine fix – this means enjoying some red with a light broth soup, alfredo pasta or white fish, foods I would usually pair with white wines.  What else are you supposed to do when there are things to be used up in the fridge and a really inviting red wine that is just sitting there waiting to be tasted?  For the most part however, the winter makes me crave the stick to your ribs food with gravies and sauces.  I also crave a lot more chocolate in the winter compared to the citrus and gelatos I prefer in the summer.

I try to focus more on tasting Canadian wines, and other new world wines in single varietals or interesting blends.  You can find some very nice Cabernet Franc wines from Canada that show great green pepper, black pepper and cranberry characteristics.  Cabernet Francs on their own can be nicely paired with gamey meats or duck.  There are also some very nice Canadian Cabernet Sauvignons that are a perfect match for chocolates and beef roasts.  Canadian Pinot Noirs tend to be a little lighter due to the northern climate, but these pair very nicely with pheasant and the classic Christmas turkey dinner.

My notes this week focus on two Canadian wines that you might be considering while choosing wines for family dinners or holiday gifting.  You can also see additional wine reviews at www.andreapollock.com.

Prospect Winery Fats Johnson Pinot Noir 2007 – 13.0% alc/vol [B.C.]

Black cherries and fields of peppers, nice earthy notes.  Flavours of licorice, rhubarb, strawberry and black pepper.  A beautiful bbq wine and pairing for poultry or turkey.  83/100  (August 22, 2010)  $19.99 BC Liquor Stores

Fairview Cellars “The B.O.S.” Cabernet Merlot 2006 – 13.9% alc/vol [Oliver, B.C.]

This has a hot nose that leaves a spicy tingle; dominated with aromas of green peppers and smoked oak.  There are tight fruits on the palate.  I feel like this wine has slightly passed its peak – if you have these in the cellar start drinking.  72/100  (September 30, 2010)  $25 Belmont Liquor Store

 


A Perfect Time of Year for Sparkling
   originally published December 22nd, The Northern View


With New Year’s Eve just around the corner it is the perfect time to pick up some sparkling wine for over the holidays and to help ring in the New Year.  Sparklers are a great holiday party cocktail all around because they are so versatile when it comes to pairing them with food.  Bubbly wines will clear the palate and refresh the mouth with every sip – it makes it easy to try a collection of flavours and foods without them overpowering one another.

It can sometimes be a bit of a mystery when trying to figure out if a sparkling wine has been made in either a dry or a sweet style.  Sweet style sparkling is a great match for spicy dishes like hot curries or Asian cuisine.  Dry sparklers are wonderful with fresh fruits, cheeses and oysters, but they also pair well most foods.  So how do you know what style you are going to get when you choose something at the store?  Most dry style sparkling wines will carry the name ‘Brut’ on the bottle – this is an indication that it has very little residual sugar and will have a dry finish.  If a bottle is characterized as ‘Extra Brut’ it will have even less sugar and a drier finish.

Other terms on sparkling wine bottles such as ‘Cuvee’ or ‘Charmat’ describe the wine making style and production method that was used to produce the wine.  Sometimes wines are described as being made in the champagne method.  The Champagne region of France is the only source of real Champagne in the entire world, but champagne method wines are wines produced in other places around the world using similar wine making techniques. 

Regardless of where the sparkling wines are coming from, there is a huge variety in the style and flavours that can be found.  Sparkling wines can be made from any grape variety and will show many similar elements in the character (taste and smell) to their table wine bottles.  This week I chose two sparkling wines that are interesting and unique, maybe something that you would enjoy with family and friends over the holidays.

Fresita – 8%alc/vol [Chile]

A very strawberry nose with candy elements.  A nice wine to sip with a touch of sweetness and great clean berry flavours.  A fun wine to have with spicy meals or also over the holidays with a variety of hors d’oeuvres.  80/100 (November 7, 2010)

Martini Rose Sparkling – 9.5% alc/vol [Italy]

A dry smell with some fresh peaches.  A lasting effervescence with small bubbles that bring the flavours of tart raspberries and cranberry juice.  There is a bit of sweetness, a nice compliment for spicy Asian cuisine.  84/100 (August 13, 2010)  $12.49 (BC Liquor Stores)

 

Wines of the New Year
   originally published January 12th, The Northern View

It won’t be long now before the shelves of the local wine merchant shops will start to fill with 2010 vintages.  We will be seeing Beaujolais and young white wines emerge first and before long some reds, probably grape blends that will compensate for the lack of depth that young reds may have.

You have to be a little bit careful when buying very young wines – more careful if you are buying reds than if you are buying whites.  The harvest season for grapes is in the fall – typically August to November (for the most part).  Wines need time to ferment, get bottled and then rest before being sold.  Red wines take a little longer than whites, as the tannins need time to mellow and integrate into the wine.  All wines should ideally rest for a short period after being bottled and before being consumed – this is because of the phenomenon known as bottle shock.  It is theorized that the bottling process of wine can severely disrupt its chemical structure and balance.  It is interesting because after the wine is given time to rest and adjust to the shock of being bottled, it will re-harmonize and come back together to its once great self.  This isn’t all wines, or at least it isn’t detectable in all wines after bottling, but it can take place.

Not all wines will show a vintage year on the date, but those that do will guarantee you that all the grape juice contained in the bottle is harvested for production in the vintage year stated.  Wines without a vintage can be blends of grape juice or completed wines from different years; this is especially common in sparkling wines made in the Champagne method.  In a classic Champagne, the dosage (small amount of wine added to the bottle just before it is corked and sealed) comes from an older bottle of Champagne that has been stored by the winery.

There aren’t many 2010 vintages to be found yet, but I have tasted one gem that will be great as a young white wine over the next year.  The other wine this week is a red that should show very nicely for the first half of this new year – start dipping into the cellar if you have this red stored.

Douglas Green The Beach House 2010 – 12.5% alc/vol [Western Cape, South Africa]

A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes; a full nose with scents of bright tulips and green grass alongside popping fruits of pineapple and honeydew melon.  A slightly sweet start on the palate with a clean lemon juice finish.  Lovely all on its own or with poached whitefish.  Showing very well for such a young vintage – this is a good value.  94/100  (December 7, 2010)  $10.99 [BC Liquor Stores]

Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – 14% alc/vol [Australia]

A very nice berry forward nose with smells of strap leather, raspberry juice and spiced blueberry jam.  Great flavour that shows a bit of sweet pepper puree with some red berry juice and stale coffee.  92/100  (December 1, 2010)

Careful Your Oak Is Showing
   originally published January 26th, The Northern View
 

Oak is one of those discerning elements of wine, whether it has it, whether it doesn’t.  Oak imparts certain characteristics and aromas into the chemistry of the wine.  Oak is much more than just a brewing vessel, it leaves its mark.  Wines that spend time in oak will have different aromas and flavours than wines made in stainless steel.  The oaking gives wine a buttery feel in the mouth, making rounder wines that can really cover your whole palate.  They can inject flavours and aromas of wood, smoke, vanilla and chocolate.  Wines that are made without the presence of oak tend to be a crisper style, with a higher acidity.  The flavours and aromas that spring out of stainless steel made wines tend to be more elemental and fruity, like flint and citrus notes.

Sometimes a winemaker is looking for a crisp acidic style but also oak characteristics and flavourings – two wine styles can be blended together, ideally showcasing the best aspects of each separately made wine.  The grape juice can be separated at the beginning, wine made in different in vessels and then blended back together to add contrasting elements. 

There are different types of oak barrels available for making wine.  American oak is more porous, with larger wood pores that give more surface contact with the wine compared to French oak which is less porous wood and is a gentler oak on the wine.  This solitary element of the actual barrel can take identical juice and transform it in surprisingly different ways.  It is also common to char the inside of the wine barrel – actually firing the barrel and toasting the wood on the inside – leaving a much different product to touch the wine and infuse flavour.  Charred barrels bring out more pronounced flavours of smoke and chocolate as well as other unique flavours like bacon that can develop from the process.

There are many people who avoid oak in their wines; but with knowledge comes appreciation, and as people learn that oak can leave a small impression or a large one, it becomes easier to be appetized by and digest the subtle stamp that oak leaves on wine.

 

Flaio Primitivo 2007 – 13.5% alc/vol [Salento, Italy]

Nice jammy fruits with prominent smells of bacon, rhubarb, green peppers and blueberry juice; a bit of anise also shows in the heat of the nose.  Rich fruit flavours with raspberries and some clean smoky flavours of charred oak and grilled berries.  Very easy drinking and easily paired with tomato based dishes.  90/100  $12.94 [BC Liquor Stores] (October 22, 2010)

Andrew Peller Signature Series Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 – 12.5% ac/vol [VQA Niagara Peninsula]

Very impressed by the fruitiness on the nose of such an old wine.  A nice colour in the glass, suggesting that this wine is about to be enjoyed at its peak.  Peppermint and sharp black cherries are the most pronounced.  A rich dry palate with a texture of fine grain sand.  The tastes of old oak with some tangy berries.  I would love to have this with a beef wellington.  85/100  (October 9, 2010)

Making Your Own Wines
   originally published February 9th, The Northern View
 

I started making my own wines a few years ago.  I was introduced to it by a few friends who bottled a few batches of wine every year and made the most delicious mulled wine.  Since then I have been mostly impressed with homemade bottles that I have tasted.

Wines that you brew yourself are great for the second or third bottle of the night wines.  Hosting a dinner party or even a kind of casual dinner at home usually means opening a bottle or two of wine; sometimes after the food is finished the wine sipping still continues – after a few glasses of wine anyone’s discerning palate becomes a little tired and a little tipsy, good wine gets wasted at this point.  There is not much benefit to opening up a bottle of full retail vino when your palate is too sloshed to appreciate it.  Homemade wine is great in this circumstance – it is affordable and less complex than commercially produced wines; making them easy drinking and simple.  It also doesn’t make you feel like you’re wasting $30 on a wine that no one will notice.

Locally the U-Brew is a great place to educate yourself about making your own wine.  There are very affordable wine kits and equipment that you can purchase to get yourself started.  You can also brew your own wines right in the store – they look after the process for you, and have everything you need to do the bottling.  The quality of the juice in available wine kits is very high and usually a combination of Canadian and international grapes.  You can also look to secure yourself some real grapes to press on your own or even buy juice from a regional winery if you want to dabble in your own home. 

This week I have chosen a few wines that were introduced at a U-Brew wine dinner here in town.  These wines were chosen to mimic the flavour and style of limited edition batches that will be available for sale later this year.

Gruner Veltliner – Grooner Niederoesterrich 2008 – 12% alc/vol [Austria]

Crisp acidity that leads into a dry style wine with a tart lemon finish.  Mild scents of pear and some green herbs are also present.  Competes nicely with buttery dishes and mild spices.  A nice minerality alongside the light flavours.  89/100  $16.99 [Austria] (October 22, 2010)

Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz/Viognier 2008 – 14.5% alc/vol [McLaren Vale, Australia]

A lovely nose of black pepper, turned earth and strawberries – a nice perfumey nose that also shows hints of violets.  Nice fruit forward flavours, a bit of heat, raspberries, strawberries and some peppermint flavours.  A deep rich colour with a medium body.  83/100  $18.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (October 23, 2010)

 

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