A Gastronomical Journey Through the “Garden of France” with Insight Vacations

Do you love French food and have time to go on a foodie journey in the Loire Valley this fall?  If so, you may want to consider signing up for this guided trip.  I came across it and it looks fabulous.  I’ve toured the Loire Valley on my own before, and loved the food and wine.  I’d love to take this trip myself.

~~~

TORONTO – May 28, 2015 – Insight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com), the leader in premium and luxury escorted journeys, has introduced The Loire Valley (www.insightvacations.com/ca/special-offers/expert-hosted-collection/the-loire-valley) – a limited one-time departure that leads guests on a 13-day magical journey of food, wine and history through the villages and vineyards of the famed region. Designed to satisfy even the most discerning of food connoisseurs, The Loire Valley has been curated by Barbara Barde, an Insight Vacations Tour Director, and private certified sommelier Tom LeRoy.

Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

“We are excited to launch our newest special interest trip in our Expert Hosted Collection, catered specifically to foodies and wine aficionados,” said Cris David, president, Insight Vacations Canada. “Insight Vacations is renowned for creating lasting experiences and memories with our guests, and with the help of Barbara Barde and Tom LeRoy, The Loire Valley culinary odyssey will offer our travellers an experience their palates will not soon forget.”

Departing September 26, 2015, this exclusive gastronomical adventure begins in Paris, one of the great culinary capitals of the world. Synonymous with wine production dating back to the 1st century, the region offers guests an incomparable cultural landscape of great beauty comprised of ancient towns and family owned vineyards. Guests will eat and drink their way through the “Garden of France”, all the while experiencing the Loire Valley through the eyes of a true gastronome with the help of local experts.

Each Insight Vacations escorted journey offers unique Signature Experiences where guests discover more than just the highlights other travel experiences provide. Travellers are introduced to local guides who immerse them in regional culture and unlock doors for them they simply cannot arrange on their own. Signature Experiences found on The Loire Valley include the following:

– Visit to the Maison Louis de Grenelle, the last remaining family-owned property of the major Saumur sparkling producers, where guests will learn the art of sustainable viticulture while 12 metres beneath the cobblestone streets of this historic town.

– Discover the fascinating secret world of mushrooms at the Musée du Champignon in the village of St. Hilaure, touring the underground cave exhibiting the many cultivation methods of the species indigenous to the region.

– Dine at the Cathédrales de la Saulaie, a 19th century subterranean restaurant located in a cathedral-sized Troglodyte cave specializing in local Pays de la Loire dishes.way to Chinon, learn the art of perfecting the balance of tradition and modernity in wine-making at the family-owned Frederic Mobileau Vigneron winery, known for offering multi-faceted wines from the Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil, Saumur and Anjou appellations, whilst visiting the 2,000 hectares of the Couly-Duthier winery.

– At Sancerre, guests will sample the stunning varietals of this region long revered for specializing in 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc wines while sampling sumptuous goat cheese at Chèveries de Chamons.

“Food and wine have long been passions of mine and I am proud to be personally hosting The Loire Valley. I have handpicked each experience to reflect my love of French gastronomy and look forward to welcoming guests to the ‘Garden of France’,” says Barbara Barde, Insight Vacations Tour Director.

Click on the following link to watch Barbara Barde explaining the Loire Valley itinerary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0O2E54xk0g

“It is an honour to be hosting with Barbara on this trip,” adds Tom LeRoy, wine sommelier. “I can think of no better way to share my passion for wine than to be the personal sommelier to guests on this special curated experience.”

To book this escorted journey or for more information, please visit www.insightvacations.com, contact Insight’s Sale Centre at 1-800-387-8490 or speak with your local travel agent.

About Barbara Barde

Barbara is an award winning television producer, with over 600 titles to her credit. She began appreciating and collecting wine almost 20 years ago and is known for her impressive cellar. She is also a “foodie”, always on the lookout for an amazing recipe, new ingredients, or a restaurant that no one has heard of. Barbara is also a passionate traveler and has spent the last several summers leading tours with Insight Vacations and other companies. She will be the Tour Director.

About Tom LeRoy

Wine Sommelier Tom LeRoy is a criminal lawyer in Toronto who began collecting and appreciating wine fifteen years ago. A true aficionado of wine, he has recently obtained a wine specialist certificate from George Brown College and was also certified as a Wine Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Tom is also a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.

About Insight Vacations

For more than 35 years, Insight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com) has been designing the world’s finest escorted travel itineraries. Insight offers 113 journeys to more countries across Europe than any other operator and provides the same legendary service across North America, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Morocco, Egypt and Israel.

Insight guests enjoy The Art of Touring in Style with business-class legroom aboard customized luxury coaches, intimate groups of just 40 travellers and the services of an experienced Tour Director who acts as ‘travelling concierge.’ Each expertly planned itinerary includes a range of Signature Events for a unique and authentic look into the history and culture of each destination. Throughout their trip, guests will stay in handpicked hotels that are centrally or scenically located and have the perfect balance of guided and independent exploration.

For more information, visit us at http://www.insightvacations.com, on social media at http://www.facebook.com/InsightVacations, http://twitter.com/InsightVacation, and join the conversation using the hashtag #InsightMoments.

About TreadRight

Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. To date, TreadRight has supported more than 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. The Foundation’s guiding principle is to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities. Foundation priorities are set by the Steering Committee, which includes sustainability leaders like Céline Cousteau and Costas Christ.

TreadRight’s past project partners include WWF, Conservation International and The National Trust in the UK. Current initiatives include sponsoring the National Geographic Society’s inaugural “World Legacy Awards,” and inspiring wildlife advocates like Terri Irwin.

To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at treadright.org.

 

Argentina Wine Awards 2014: Who Were the Winners?

The Trophy award winners

The Trophy award winners

Mendoza, February 25, 2014 – On Friday, February 21 at Bodega Escorihuela Gascón the winners of the Argentina Wine Awards 2014 were announced to a large crowd of over 250 wine owners, winemakers, provincial government authorities, wine industry executives, members of the judging panel and journalists.  The competition is organized by Wines of Argentina under the coordination of the Argentine Wine Corporation (COVIAR).

  • 12 international and 6 Argentine judges tasted more than 650 samples.
  • Trophies were announced for the 20 categories, which in turn were divided into 5 price ranges each.
  • 150 wineries, with a total of 650 samples, participated in the 8th edition of the Argentina Wine Awards, a competition that seeks to reward both the quality and the advancement of the Argentine wine industry.
  • 4 Regional Trophies, 12 Trophies, 58 gold medals, 256 silver medals and 276 bronze medals were awarded at the competition.

In the Malbec category, the Trophies went to:

TROPHY

Category: malbec

       >13.00 <19.99

Es Vino Reserve Malbec 2012Es Vino Wines
TROPHY

Category: malbec

       >20.00 >29.99

Alta Vista Terroir Selection Malbec 2011La Casa del Rey SA- Alta Vista
TROPHY

Category: malbec

       >30.00 <49.99

Vineyard Selection Malbec 2012Riccitelli Wines
TROPHY

Category: malbec

       >50.00

Republica del Malbec – Blend de Terroirs 2012Riccitelli Wines

In the sparkling wines category, the Trophy winners were:

Category: sparkling mt       >13.00 <19.99

Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2007

Familia Zuccardi

In the case of Cabernet Franc, the Trophies went to:

Category: cabernet franc       >20.00 <29.99 Numina Cabernet Franc 2011

Bodegas Salentein SA

Category: cabernet franc       >50.00

Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2010

Andeluna Cellars Srl

On the last day of the AWA, an interesting 2-part seminar was held. During the first part of the seminar, 6 international judges presented to the audience “heavyweight”wines which are successful in other markets not only because of their sales volume but also because of their wineries’ sustainability over time.

During the 2nd part, the same 6 international judges spoke about their markets and gave their feedback on the regional Argentine market focusing on the tasted wines.  This seminar, held every year in the framework of the AWA, fosters the exchange of views in the world of wine.

“The AWA 2014 winners, a sampling of the best of Argentine wine, will be representing Wines of Argentina throughout the year around the world.  This 8th edition has been particularly important due to the presence of highly regarded judges, the quality of the participating wines and the feedback given during the seminar,” said Alberto Arizu, President of Wines of Argentina.

List of Trophy winners – AWA 2014:    

TROPHIES AWA 2014

SPARKLING – méthode traditionelle

TROPHY

Category: sparkling mt

       >13.00 <19.99

Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2007Familia Zuccardi

TORRONTÉS

TROPHY

Category: torrontés

       >13.00 <19.99

Colomé Torrontés 2013

Bodega Colomé

CABERNET FRANC

TROPHY

Category: cabernet franc

       >20.00 <29.99

Numina Cabernet Franc 2011

Bodegas Salentein SATROPHY

Category: cabernet franc

       >50.00

Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2010

Andeluna Cellars Srl

CABERNET SAUVIGNON
TROPHY Category: cabernet sauvignon

       >30.00 <49.99

Bramare Lujan de Cuyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Viña Cobos SA

MALBEC

TROPHY Category: malbec

       >13.00 <19.99Es Vino Reserve Malbec 2012

Es Vino WinesTROPHYCategory: malbec

       >20.00 >29.99Alta Vista Terroir Selection Malbec 2011

La Casa del Rey SA- Alta VistaTROPHYCategory: malbec

       >30.00 <49.99

Vineyard Selection Malbec 2012

Riccitelli Wines

TROPHYCategory: malbec

       >50.00

Republica del Malbec – Blend de Terroirs 2012

Riccitelli Wines

RED BLENDS
TROPHY Category: red blend

       >13.00 <19.99Paz Blend 2012

Finca Las Moras

TROPHYCategory: red blend

       >30.00 <49.99Field Blend 2011

Zorzal Wines

TROPHYCategory: red blend

       >50.00

Decero Amano, Remolinos Vineyard 2011

Finca Decero

For the 1st time, there was presentation of a special Trophy for each of Argentina’s main regions – the North, San Juan, Mendoza and Patagonia – with the aim of bestowing an even stronger federal quality on the event and bringing in wineries from all over the country.

The winners of this new category were:

North Valleys – Serie Fincas Notables Malbec 2011, Bodega El Esteco 

San Juan Valleys – Paz Blend 2012, Finca Las Moras

Mendoza Valleys – Lindaflor Malbec 2009, Monteviejo

Patagonian Valleys – Fin Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010, Bodega del Fin Del Mundo

 # # #

About the Argentina Wine Awards

The 8th edition of the AWA took place in Mendoza from February 16 to 21, 2014. This year, the emphasis was placed on working with experienced, world-renowned wine figures from each market, in order to strengthen Argentina’s positioning in such markets as well as to promote the quality of Argentine wines and the variety of the country’s styles and terroirs through these knowledgeable experts. In this way, Wines of Argentina continues to work for the development of the image of Argentine wine on the global stage.

 About Wines of Argentina

Wines of Argentina is the organization responsible for promoting the brand VINO ARGENTINO around the world. Since 1993, WofA has promoted the image of local wines abroad, in addition to guiding the export strategy of Argentine wineries through careful study and analysis of the changes taking place in consumer markets. Its aim is to contribute to the consolidation of Argentina as one of the main wine exporting countries in the world and to the global success of the Argentine wine industry by enhancing its positive image in the wine trade, among opinion leaders and consumers.

 About the Argentine Wine Corporation (COVIAR): 

The Argentine Wine Corporation manages and articulates the activities required in order to achieve the goals stated in the 2020 Strategic Wine Plan, taking up the challenge of transforming the wine sector and strategically boosting its strengths and opportunities in the global market of wine, concentrated grape juice, raisins, and table grapes. The Strategic Plan has been designed to add value to the industry by the organization and integration of all the stakeholders along the chain, with a view to producing higher quality wines, and achieving greater consistency across all segments and products. www.coviar.com.ar Facebook: Argentine Wine Corporation (COVIAR)  Twitter: @Coviar1

Enjoying Blasted Church – Sip + Savour

Image Courtesy Fairmont Herons Restaurant

Wine and cheese.  Always an enjoyable time when paired together.  Today I looked forward to going to Herons Restaurant in Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in downtown Vancouver to try a flight of wines from Blasted Church winery and a pairing of cheeses from The Farm House Natural Cheeses and cheese from the Kootenays and from Salt Spring Island. You too can enjoy Sip + Savour because it takes place daily from 2pm to 5pm (excluding Sundays) at a cost of just $35.95.

Mark Wendenburg with a bottle of Blasted Church wine

Walking into Herons, I looked for an empty wine glass and a table with some wines to taste.  With my luck, the table I picked had the new wine maker from Blasted Church, Mr. Mark Wendenburg, pouring wine. Mark Wendenburg left Sumac Ridge Winery after working with them for18 years. Mark was a born and raised Penticton, and has travelled around the world, getting trained in Germany, and then making wines in New Zealand and Australia before settling back in the Okanagan. Mark is a very friendly person and I enjoyed speaking with him for a long time about wine making style, terroir, and more.

White Wines

The white wines I tasted were all fresh and fruit forward. Perfect for the summer, which I am told should arrive soon!

Pinot Gris 2010 ($19.99). I was told by Mark that their Pinot Gris always has a bit of Viognier blended in. This vintage had 8% added to the Pinot Gris. Pale lemon in colour.  Light peach and apple aromas.  High acidity but still round mouth feel. Medium body.  Flavours of ripe tropical fruits.

Blasted Church Pinot Gris on ice

Chardonnay Musque 2010 ($17.99). The Chardonnay Musque grape is a unique clone of Chardonnay that was pioneered in the Niagara Peninsula by Château des Charmes’ founder Paul Bosc. It has the Muscat character, which is very aromatic and an aroma of oranges.  This wine was pale lemon in colour. Very aromatic of oranges and flowers. Medium body, dry and medium acidity.  Juicy fruits of lemon and tropical fruit on the palate, also a bit of vanilla.  A nice long, dry finish.

Mixed Blessings 2010 ($17.99). This is the third vintage of this wine, and each vintage is made of a unique blend of white grapes. This vintage was made with Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  Nice aromatic nose. Green and stone fruits.  Off dry with a slight green, herbal flavour.  Light body with medium acidity and light spice to finish. Nice.

Gewurztraminer 2010 ($16.99). Pale lemon in the glass. Flowers and lychee greet your nose. High acidity with flowers,lychee and bonbon flavours.  Light body and has a nice balance of roundness with acidity in your mouth. Another nice wine!

Hatfield’s Fuse 2010 ($17.99). This is a blend of white grapes including Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Light lychee and herbal nose.  Round mouth feel with a nice balance of acidity.  Juicy fruit gum flavour.

Rose and Red Wines

Blasted Church has a wide range of reds from rose and lighter bodied Pinot Noir, up to a full bodied Bordeaux Blend.

Rose 2010 ($17.99). This rose is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Usually I expect a single varietal, like Pinot Noir or Merlot, so I was very interested to taste this rose. Very pale cherry colour. Nice strawberry aromas.  Raspberry leaf, strawberry, and capsicum flavours.  High acidity and spicy on your palate. Light body and long length.  This wine packs a punch with 14.9% alcohol, so beware as you sip this one on the patio.

Pinot Noir 2009 ($24.99). I am a Pinot Noir fan and I think that the Okanagan produces some nice Pinot Noir wines. This wine was a bit Burgundian in style. Pale cherry colour, with a smoky, earthy nose.  Between a light and medium body with more smokiness and earthiness on the palate, along with cherries.  Low tannins with medium acidity. Dry with medium length.

Blasted Church Cabernet Merlot and blue cheese

Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ($25.99). Deep garnet in colour. Ripe, dark fruit, vanilla, capsicum and pencil lead aromas. Medium body round and soft in your mouth with juicy ripe fruits, cherries and vanilla. Also a bit on spiciness on the finish.  Long length.  This wine tastes sweet, but it is just the juiciness of the fruit. Nice.

Nothing Sacred 2008 ($39.99). I’m not sure why the name, but the label shows a dead goat with it’s legs up in the air! This is a premium Bordeaux blend comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Each parcel of fruit was processed and vinified separately.  After vinification, the wines went into their finest oak barrels and aged separately until a final blend was determined. Deep garnet in the glass. Ripe dark fruit, vanilla and dark chocolate nose. Full body with cassis, plums, and opulent vanilla flavours.  Dry with medium tannins and soft acid.  Try this wine with a steak on your barbeque this long weekend.

Artisan Cheese

To pair with several of Blasted Church’s wines were artisan cheese by The Farm House Natural Cheeses, plus an Alpindon cheese from the Kootenay’s and a  “Beddis Blue” from Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Salt Spring Island.

Alpindon cheese with Blasted Church Pinot Gris

The Alpindon cheese was paired with the Pinot Gris. This is a hard cheese, slightly creamy and salty, with a bit of crunchiness to it. A bit of pungency but still quite mild for most people. It went nicely with the pinot gris.

I checked up on this cheese via the Internet and found that it is made by the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company in Creston, BC. They describe the Alpindon cheese as “a firm cheese carefully modeled after French Beaufort d’Alpage. Following centuries old tradition this cheese is hand-rubbed and made only with milk from summer pastures. It exhibits a smooth nut flavour, a complex finish, a rich golden interior and a dark textured rind. Additional aging concentrates its flavours, deepens its complexity, and increases the sweet crystals that develop throughout the body of the cheese.”

Variety of Cheeses from Farm House Natural Cheeses

The Farm House Natural Cheeses‘ Farm House cheddar was paired with the Chardonnnay Musque. This cheddar felt medium aged to me with some nice nuttiness, a bit of cheddar sharpness, and low in salt. It is hard for a cheddar not to pair nicely with any wine, and this one matched well. A drop of sweet chutney was added to the cheese so you had some sweet, sharp, nutty, and salty flavours to go with the Chardonnay Musque. I spoke with I believe Debra Amrein-Boyes, who is one of only twelve people in western Canada and the US who has been inducted into the prestigious French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon“.  I was very interested to hear how they made one of their blue cheeses, and her description of their camembert cheese.  They are located in Agassiz, BC, so I hope to make a pilgrimage to their Fromagerie before the summer is out, see her contented cows and try more of her fabulous cheeses.

The last cheese paired was the  “Beddis Blue” from Moonstruck Organic Cheese onSalt Spring Island. Very creamy with a mild bite. A drop of honey made by bees kept on the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, was added to this blue cheese.  It was a very interesting flavour combination.  I’ve never mixed honey and blue cheese, but it works and paired nicely with the fruitiness and acidity in the Cabernet Merlot blend.

If you are a fan of bees and honey, the Fairmont Waterfront hotel does offer their guests a guided Herb Garden & Honeybee Tour. Also if you are a chocolate fan, try the hotel’s honey truffles, the “Bee’s Knees”. The truffles, created in partnership with British Columbia’s legendary chocolatier, Rogers’ Chocolates, are offered in milk and dark chocolate and feature flavour notes of butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon.

Have a great summer, enjoying some wine and cheese on your patio!

Some Loire Valley Wines Sans Review

As I passed through different towns in the Loire there would be one or more caves (places to taste wine). I would stop at some to try the wines for the area, but would not have my notebook at the ready, so no notes. The photos below are of the wines that I did try, but did not make any notes.

The wines will be primarily from the Chenin Blanc grape for the white wines, and the Cabernet Franc grape for the red. There may be a few wines that are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cot, or Gamay, which are also grown in the Loire Valley.

See if you have maybe tried these wines in your travels, or you have seen these wines in your local wine shop. Let me know if you have. I still have some mental impressions of each wine, so email or comment about a wine, and I’ll reply. Enjoy!

I also threw in a French word in the title.  Did you figure out it’s meaning?

Cave des Producteurs De Chanceny Brut Excellence Vouvray 2008

 

Cave des Producteurs La Javeline Vouvray 2009

Cave des Producteurs Vouvray Petillant Brut

Domaine de la Gabilliere, Sancerre Rouge, Pierre Sordais Chinon Tradition 2009

Domaine de la Grande Foucaudiere Touraine Sauvignon 2010

Domaine de la Prevole Touraine Amboise Cuvee de la Prevole 2008

Domaine Frissant Touraine Amboise Chenin

Lulu Island Winery Spring 2011 Wine Release Party

April 9 and 10, 2011 was the Spring Wine Release Party at Lulu Island Winery, located in Richmond, BC. This was not a release of all their new vintages .There were three fruit wines released, one of which is a brand new fruit wine for me. The three fruit wines I tasted were:

  • Raspberry 2008 ($15.95)
  • Cranberry 2007 ($16.95)
  • Passion Fruit 2006 ($18.95)

The raspberries and cranberries are sourced locally. The raspberries coming from Abbotsford and the cranberries from Richmond. I haven’t seen any passion fruit trees growing locally, and found out the fruit for this wine came from Taiwan in pulp format.

All three fruit wines have sweetness between 2 and 4, so you would think you would be tasting quite sweet libations, but you would be wrong. These three wines have nice tart acidity that balances out the sugar.

The Raspberry 2008 is deep garnet in colour with aromas of juicy raspberries and floweriness. Dry mouthfeel with sour raspberry flavour. This was a nice pairing with some ripe strawberries at the tasting.

The Cranberry 2007 had red cherry and cranberry aromas. Sour red cherry and cranberry flavour. Medium length. Also good with the strawberries.

The Passion Fruit 2006 had a very intriguing aromas and flavours. This wine had a beautiful golden colour in the glass.  How do you describe passion fruit aroma and flavour to someone that has not grown up with this fruit?  My initial stab at a description was honey, peach and ripe topical fruit.  The wine also had a dried raisin flavour to it too.  Very dry with medium body.  Lots of pucker power with this wine.  Good crisp acidity.

While I was there, I thought I’d try two of the red wines which I had before.  The Lulu Island Cabernet Franc 2009 ($24.95) was deep garnet in colour.  Slight cedar on the nose along with red cherries.  On the palate it was soft in the mouth with ripe red cherries, vanilla and cedar flavours.  Low tannins and medium length.  A very enjoyable wine.

The Lulu Island Meritage 2009 ($31.95) is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.  It had a dark fruit nose.  Quite round mouthfeel. Cherries, raspberries and vanilla on the palate.  Soft tannins with some spice on the finish.  Another nice wine.

Lulu Island’s current vintages of Merlot 2009, Pinot Noir 2009, and Blueberry wines are SOLD OUT.  Their Late Harvest Merlot stock is low.  Take a weekend trip to Lulu Island Winery.  They are in Richmond so not too far to go for Vancouverites.  Be a tourist in your own city.  Enjoy!

Bordeaux 2007 Release Preview. What to Expect?

Today the Cambie Street BC Liquor Store had a pre-release showing of six red Bordeaux wines from the 2007 vintage. As expected, the tasting area was packed full of people wanting to get a taste of what to expect with the BCLDB releases all their 2007 Bordeaux inventory on September 25, 2010.

The 2007 vintage I was told at this tasting was a cool year. So do not expect, big, full-bodied reds. Expect a leaner, lighter style. Also expect the blend to change, as it does every year. Cabernet Sauvignon loves heat, while Merlot does very well with cooler temperatures, so for this cooler vintage, expect to see a greater percentage of Merlot in the blends.

The first three wines I tasted were:
Chateau Belle Vue, Haut-Medoc AOC 2007
– Chateau Puy Blanquet, St Emilion Grand Cru AOC 2007
– Chateau Sainte Colombe, Côtes de Castillon AOC 2007

The Chateau Belle Vue is a 70% Merlot / 20% Cabernet Franc / 10% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Deep garnet in the glass. A very nice colour. Quite smoky aromas, along with black berries and cherries. Firm tannins with bright cherry fruit and a medium length. Good to drink now.

I do like the wines from the St. Emilion region and was looking forward to trying the Chateau Puy Blanquet . It was light garnet in colour with aromas of red cherries and a bit of vanilla. Soft mouthfeel with red cherries flavours. The tannins built as you kept the wine in your mouth longer. Thin body and short length. I was hoping for more.

Chateau Sainte Colombe is a blend of 70% Merlot / 20% Cabernet Franc / 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium garnet colour. Closed nose, but I was able to pull out some capsicum, vanilla and cherries. On the palate, it was quite round, with cassis, red cherries and oak flavours. Medium tannins and medium length. Not bad. Maybe with a bit of time exposed to the air, the nose would have opened up more.

The next three wines I would rank at a higher level of wine making. These wines are more structured with more length and interesting flavours and aromas. The three wines are:

Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux AOC 2007
– Chateau de Gironville, Haut-Medoc AOC 2007
– Chateau Moulin Haut-Laroque, Fronsac AOC 2007

The Alter Ego de Palmer, is the second label for the well-regarded Chateau Palmer winery. This wine was a blend of 60% Merlot / 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was deep purple coloured in the glass. Meaty, dark cherry, cassis, and vanilla aromas. Full bodied, with ripe cherries, vanilla, and medium fine tanning. It had a very nice cherry finish and a long length. Overall my favorite of all six wines, but comes with a $59 price tag. Clearly not the most expensive of the upcoming Bordeaux releases (which can be easily $600+), but I think would be a special occasion wine for many people.

The Chateau de Gironville is a blend of 45% Merlot / 45% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple in the glass (courtesy of the Petit Verdot). A very aromatic nose. Lots of coffee of black cherry. On the palate you get firm tannins, with black cherry, coffee, and vanilla flavours. Full body with long length. I personally purchased a bottle of this wine. A nice price point at $22.99.

The final wine was the Chateau Moulin Haut-Laroque. Opaque purple/garnet in the glass. It had a chemical / woody nose that I did not particularly enjoy. Medium body, with cassis and cherry flavours. Round mouthfeel but an astringent finish. Maybe this wine needs a few years to evolve in the bottle?

I’d advise those of you going to buy the 2007 red Bordeaux’s to do some research online to find out what other professional reviewers have said about the wines. Do not forget that there will also be white Bordeaux being released. With the cooler temperature of the 2007 growing season, this gives the semillon and sauvignon blanc grapes plenty of time to mature on the vine and to keep their fresh fruitiness and good acidity. It also I am told was very good for Sauternes. Be sure to line up early at the Cambie St specialty wine store on September 25, 2010! Enjoy.

BC Merlot for Summer Sips

We are well into summer now. With a scorching weekend and upcoming week, I thought it would be time to cover BC Merlot, which can be quite ripe and juicy, and pair up nicely with outdoor BBQs.

Merlot is one of the main components in a Bordeaux blend, with the other two major varieties being Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. I’ve covered Cabernet Sauvignon in a previous summer sips blog, so please read that one as well as this blog article. Cabernet Sauvignon is more structured with higher tannins and usually less juicy fruit flavours. Merlot, when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, adds that juicy, fruit, round mouth component. But Merlot is also wonderful on it’s own.

Merlot typically shows blackberry, plum and berry fruit flavours.  If very ripe, Merlot may have fruitcake flavours.  It is generally lower in tannins, making it a versatile wine to enjoy with various foods.  Oak aging adds additional complexity to the wine.  If you like cheese, try some Merlot with brie or medium cheddar.

Checking with the www.everythingwine.ca website, I located the following BC Merlots in the $15-$25 range:

8th Generation Merlot 750ml Merlot $23.99
Bounty Cellars Merlot 04 750ml Merlot $23.99
Cedar Creek Estate Selection Merlot 750ml Merlot $20.99
Cedar Creek Merlot 750ml Merlot $19.99
Copper Moon Moonlight Harvest Merlot 1.5L Merlot $17.29
Crowsnest Vineyards Barcello Canyon Merlot 750ml Merlot $22.99
Fairmont Mission Hill Select Merlot 750 mL Merlot $15.99
Gray Monk Merlot 750 mL Merlot $17.99
Hawthorne Mtn Merlot 750 mL Merlot $16.99
Hester Creek Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot 750 mL Merlot $20.99
Hillside Estate Merlot 750 mL Merlot $23.99
Inniskillin Merlot 750 mL Merlot $16.99
J-Triggs Proprietors Select Merlot 1.5L Merlot $17.99
J-Triggs Ps White Merlot 1.5L Merlot $16.99
Kettle Valley Merlot 375ml Merlot $15.99
Little Straw Merlot 750ml Merlot $20.99
Mission Hill 2000 Reserve Merlot 750 mL Merlot $25.00
Mission Hill 2001 Reserve Merlot 750 mL Merlot $18.99
Mission Hill 2004 Reserve Merlot 750 mL Merlot $24.99
Mission Hill Five Vineyards Merlot 750 mL Merlot $17.99
Mission Ridge Merlot 1.5L Merlot $17.99
Monster Merlot 750 ml Merlot $23.99
Monster Vineyards Merlot 2007 750 ml Merlot $24.99
Monster Vineyards Merlot 2008 750 ml Merlot $24.99
Nk’Mip Cellars Merlot 750ml Merlot $19.99
Noble Ridge Winery Stony Knoll Merlot 750 mL Merlot $16.99
Painted Turtle Merlot 1.5L Merlot $16.99
Paradise Ranch 2003 Late Harvest Merlot 375 ml Merlot $16.99
Peller Priv Reserve Merlot 750ml Merlot $19.99
Peller Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot 1.5L Merlot $16.49
Perseus Winery & Vineyards Synergy Merlot 750 mL Merlot $22.99
Quails’ Gate Merlot 750ml Merlot $24.99
Red Rooster Chardonnay 750 mL Merlot $16.99
Red Rooster Merlot 750 mL Merlot $18.99
Road 13 VIneyards Honest John’s Red 750 mL Merlot $21.99
Road 13 Vineyards Honest John’s Red 750 mL Merlot $18.99
Road 13 Vineyards Merlot 750 mL Merlot $23.99
Sandhill Merlot 750ml Merlot $19.99
Saturna Island Merlot 750 mL Merlot $24.99
Saturna Winery Vintner’s Select Merlot 750ml Merlot $21.99
Soaring Eagle Merlot Rose 750ml Merlot $22.99
Sonora Ranch Merlot 1.5 L Merlot $15.99
Stag’s Hollow Merlot 750 ml Merlot $24.99
Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyard Merlot 750ml Merlot $19.99
Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Merlot 750ml Merlot $15.99
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Merlot 750 mL Merlot $19.99
Tinhorn Creek Vineyrads Oldfield’s Collection Merlot 750ml Merlot $24.99
Township 7 Merlot 750ml Merlot $24.99
Young & Wyse Merlot 750mL Merlot $24.99

Merlot is a popular grape in the BC Okanagan, according to the last factsheet put out by the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.  Some BC Merlot that I’ve enjoyed:

Lulu Island Winery Merlot 2008: Deep purple colour. Oak, vanilla, black plum aromas. Medium body, smooth, plum and cherry fruit flavours.  Medium tannins.
Stonehill Estate Winery Merlot 2006: Earthy,herbal and dark fruit aromas.  Plums and spice on the palate.  Soft tannins.
Poplar Grove Merlot 2005: Double Gold @ Canadian Wine Awards. Light garnet in colour. Cherry, cassis and leather nose.  Big cherry flavour with some vanilla.  Medium tannin and length.
Township 7 Merlot 2006: Medium garnet colour. Plum, black cherry, capsicum and vanilla on the nose.  Medium body with cherry and light milk chocolate flavour. ( I really like this one.  Tried it last July 2010.)
Neck of the Woods Merlot 2006: Medium garnet.  Red cherry, cloves and vanilla aromas.  Medium body.  Full cherry flavour with vanilla and slight spice.  Firm tannins.

Hope you get a chance to get outdoors these next few days and enjoy the summer before it’s gone. And enjoy it with a bottle of Merlot. Cheers.

Hester Creek wine tasting

Last evening I was selected with a few other bloggers to sit down with Rob Summers, the wine maker from Hester Creek Estate Winery, in downtown Vancouver. Rob comes originally from the Niagara region in Ontario working for larger wineries, and has moved to the Oliver area in BC in 2006, to work for the boutique winery, Hester Creek. It sounds like he really enjoys all the hands-on work and the wonderfully dry Okanagan climate. Hester Creek is one of the oldest wineries in BC.

Hester Creek Estate winery, besides having 95 acres of vineyards for producing wine, also has 6 villas for visitors. I’d say one of the most famous visitors from last year staying at a villa, is the renowned wine writer, Jancis Robinson. The villas and new winery buildings opened up last year, so if you have seen the winery from August 2009 or older, you haven’t seen their latest and greatest operation.

We went through 3 white and 3 red wines. The first white was the Pinot Blanc 2008. This is Hester Creek’s best selling white, along with their Pinot Gris. The Pinot Blanc was pale lemon colour with a slight green tinge. Light aromas on the nose. Some spice, some apple, some honey. Light in body with a light apple flavour and medium acidity. An easy sipper. The next white was their Semillon Chardonnay 2008. This is a 50/50 blend. This wine had some lemon, some sweetness, some waxiness and greenness on the nose. Medium body with slight roundness in the mouth. Apple and lemon flavours. The final white of the evening was their Trebbiano 2008. Trebbiano is the second most planted grape in the world, and is used in the production of cognac. It is known for it’s high level of acidity. This one had light green apple and floweriness on the nose. Light body, with almond and apple flavours, and good acidity. The acidity made it a nice pairing with some of the hard cheeses they had for us to nibble with the wines.

On the red side, we tried their Merlot 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2008, and the Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006. The first two wines were not overly extracted in colour, giving them lightness in body. The Merlot 2008 had a very wild nose, with sausage, smoke, plum and cherries. I quite enjoyed nosing this wine. On the palate it had medium tannins, with plum and cherry flavours and a slightly oaky finish. The Cabernet / Merlot 2008 is their best selling red. This wine is light garnet in colour, not an overpowering nose. Red fruits with a bit of sausage aromas. On the palate there were cherry flavours with light tannins. The final red wine of the night, and my favourite, was the Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006. Cabernet Franc doesn’t get the limelight that Cabernet Sauvignon gets, but if it is made well, is an exceptionally nice wine to drink. This wine being reserve level was deeper garnet in colour. Vanilla and cedar on the nose. Firm tannins, with a round mouthfeel. Red cherry flavours, with medium length and cherry finish.

Again, thanks to Rob Summers for leading us through this tasting. If you are out in the Okanagan, drive down to the “Golden Mile” in Oliver and visit the Hester Creek winery. I did record the tasting, and will be posting it on www.MyWinePal.com hopefully soon. Enjoy!

Back from Oregon

My blog has been quiet over the last week. That’s because I was out in Oregon trying pinot noir and pinot gris primarily. The coast where i was staying was really wet and cold. Not good grape growing area, but as soon as you move inland a bit, say around McMinnville, the weather warms up nicely. I was able to try wines from the $11 – $85 range, and both ends of the range were excellent. On the main page of www.mywinepal.com i will be providing reviews for the wines that I really enjoyed, but for the moment, to whet your appetite, here are a few recommendations:

Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir, 2006. This wine is produced by the winemaker barrel sampling and picking the best barrels to blend. This wine was medium garnet. Violet and plum aromas. Violets, ginger, cloves, and vanilla flavour. US$42

Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2006. 2006 was a hot year in Oregon so all wineries have very ripe fruit and a larger volume of wine produced. This wine was light garnet in colour. Spicy, strawberry, smoky, vanilla and cherry aromas. Spicy, light oak, with a cherry finish. US$38

Redhawk Vineyard and Winery Redhawk Red. This is a popular table wine for this winery. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine was dark garnet in colour. Plum, currant and dark fruit aromas. Sweet black fruits, soft tannins and long length on the palate. US$11 (an unbelievable price)

Enjoy!

Speaking at the SWWS

Wow, last night was fun. I spoke at the South World Wine Society’s “Planning a New Zealand Vacation” wine tasting. I shared the floor with a travel agent who gave the tour info about New Zealand. Now I really want to travel to New Zealand. It looks very beautiful.

For me last evening, I took the attendees through 9 wines, 4 were white and the rest were red. It was quite interesting. Two of the whites were sauvignon blanc, and very good examples of the “green” type flavours you can get with this grape. The first wine had a lot of gooseberry aroma and flavour and the other lots of asparagus.

On the red side, we were able to try a 9 year old bottle (2000 vintage) of Matiriki Quintology. It’s a Bordeaux blend, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% merlot, then smaller amounts of syrah, malbec and cabernet franc.

I will make a full tasting report on the www.southworldwine.com website but it probably will take me a week.