Some Canadian Wines to Try on Canada Day

Canada flagCanada Day is around the corner.  With your day off, I hope you will have a chance to celbrate our country with family and friends.  If you are having a get together, here are a few Canadian wines that you may want to try.  I’ve tasted these wines since January this year, so you should be able to find them in your favourite BC Liquor store or wine shop.  Enjoy!

Spierhead Pinot Gris 2013 (BC $19.90)

I tried their 2012 last year and noted how much I enjoyed it, with it’s range of flavours from citrus to tropical fruit to apples.  It won a Gold Medal at Okanagan Wine Festival – 2013 B.C. Wine Awards and other awards as well.  Their 2013 was pale to medium lemon with a tint of green in the glass.  On the nose I picked up Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples, together with melons and a hint of vanilla.  With some airing, lemon and grapefuit aromas also became apparent.  It’s dry with medium plus acidity, with an acidic prickle that dances on your tongue.  Medium plus body, round mouth feel, some creamy lees, a hint of honey, and stone fruits, pears, lemons and Red Delicious apple flavours.  Again with a bit of air, I also picked up lychee.  Quite a mouthful of flavours.  Mouth watering finish.  This wine really tastes like fresh fruit to me.  A very nice example of BC Pinot Gris.  With halibut season underway, I would love to try this wine with a griled halibut steak, nugget potatoes, and salad.

Le Vieux Pin Petit Sigma Blanc 2012 ($17)

Why Petit?  Petit wines from France are the second labels of famous wineries.  In some vintages a winery may determine that some grapes did not reach the quality needed for their top tier wine, so the grapes go into their second tier wine.  An example of this second tier is Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux.  This Petit wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Erhenfelser.  The wine had waxy, lemony, and grapefruit aromas with a hint of flowers.  It was dry with medium plus acidity and some viscosity in the mouth.  I picked up some light tropical fruit that was underlain with full citrus flavours, particularly lemon, but also a hint of lime.  There was also some pear and apple in the background.  Steely on the palate.  Peppery and mouth watering on the finish with some grapefruit rind flavour.  A good wine for your summer, in a screw cap, so meant to be enjoyed now.

Painted Rock Syrah 2011

Very nice nose. A mix of black cherry and very ripe raspberry, with some vanilla in the back. Medium plus body, dry with bright purple fruit, cassis and blueberry flavours, together with vanilla. Silky tannins from start to end leaving you with a soft finish and mouth watering acidity.  Across the tongue you get a salty minerality which was quite interesting to me.  I also did pick up some leafiness on the finish.  A very enjoyable wine.

Bartier Scholefield Red 2011

My last wine, the B.S Red 2011 is a blend of mostly Merlot, with lesser amounts of Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Gamay Noir. This wine was noticeably dark to opaque ruby in the glass. Lots of sweet, purple fruit aromas, along with raspberries, plums, vanilla and a hint of chocolate.  Quite enjoyable to nose.  Wow, lots of layers of juicy fruits on the palate.  Ripe raspberries, red cherries, red and black fruit, and plums.  I also picked up vanilla, sweet spices, and milk chocolate flavours.  This wine has medium body and is soft and silky, coating your mouth.  The juicy fruit flavours were dragging my tastebuds all over the place.  The tannins were not too strong, but there was enough to support the fruit.  On my second day of tasting I noted aromas of violets, and a hint of blueberries on the palate.  An outstanding wine expressing an exuberance of youth in my opinion.  I might try this with some bbq’d baby back ribs.

Remembering Rememberance Day on November 11

Rows of headstones in a soldiers cemetery in France

This past summer, I visited WWI and WWII memorial sites in France and Belgium.  It was a very moving experience to read about the trials that each soldier went through on a daily basis.  Living in the trenches, above and below ground, was not very pleasant.  Seeing the display of gas masks that soldiers used to protect themselves from mustard and other gasses was very haunting.  And seeing the rows and rows of headstones in all the graves, and thinking about everything they gave up for us.  Visiting them was the least I could do. I will be at a cenotaph this Friday as well, remembering those brave souls.

I wrote a few articles about the memorials as I travelled in France and Belgium and I thought I’d repost the links to them here for you to read.

Chateau de Chenonceau

On part of my trip I visited the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France.  This famous castle spans the Cher River. During WWII, one side was on the allied side and the other on the German occupied territory.  The owners of the castle would help the French underground send people across from one side to the other, risking the castle.  I had read that the German soldiers had guns aimed at the castle and if the word was given, the castle would have been destroyed.  I’m glad the order was never given.  If you have a chance to visit the Loire Valley, visit Chenonceau castle.  It is very beautiful.  Maybe you would like to raise a glass of Loire Valley wine, a Vouvray or other Chenin Blanc on November 11 and toast our fallen soldiers, and those people who helped them, and those that survived.  Lest we forget.

In Flanders Fields

A field of poppies in Belgium

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Juno Beach and the Canadian Experience in WWII

Earlier on my European trip I visited the Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge WWI memorial sites.  It was quite an eye opening experience of trench warfare.

The main WWII war site for Canada was at Juno Beach in Normandy.  This was a water-based assault on fortified German positions.  The Germans had concrete bunkers approximately 200m apart along the beach, plus numerous obstacles placed in the water to make it hard for the allies boats to land, plus difficult for the soldiers to make it to the shore.

Seeing the beach now, you can only see a few bunkers, which are slowly sinking into the beach sand to be forgotten. I was reminded of the the poor weather that the soldiers went through on D-Day.  June 5, 1944 was the original date but the weather was too poor to sail across, so June 6 was selected.  It was also a poor weather day, as it was when I stood on the beach looking up and down the beach.  A sudden downpour of rain and high wind drenched you quickly, then cleared just as fast.

WWII pyramid obstacles

Our tour guide showed us some of the concrete obstacles placed in the low tide area of Juno beach.  They looked like pyramids with no interior, just the edges, and placed on top, a landmine.  As the tide would rise, any allied ship coming into shore could hit a landmine and sink.  At low tide, the boats would land further out, and then when the allies ran to shore, they would have no shelter from the crossfire of German machine guns from the adjacent bunkers.  These pyramid barriers, being hollow, did not provide any hiding place for the allies.  They had to keep running to shore.  They could not stop until they died, were captured, they destroyed a bunker, or captured the German soldiers.

Getting through the water to the shore was hazardous too for our Canadian soldiers who had several pounds of gear on their back.  The water was churning and as they jumped out of the boat, the gear could bog them down and drown.  Those who made it, had to be lucky to not be hit by the machine gun cross fire… I am amazed that we were successful. And I am immensely grateful!

Canada Juno Beach WWII Memorial. Notice the Inukshuk?

Beside Juno Beach is a war memorial that has been put together originally by Canadian veterans from WWII.  They collect donations from around the world to build and maintain this memorial.  They do not want us to forget the war.  There is an ongoing donation program.  For EURO 200, you can get a “brick” with your name on it, to show your support for the memorial. 

I appreciated being greeted by a Canadian University student on his & her summer holidays getting experience and learning more about Canada’s contribution to WWII. The memorial building is sheathed in titanium which shines in the sun, and can withstand the wind, rain, and salt water that thrashes against the Normandy coast.  Inside you learn about how Canada joined the war, things we did both at home, and in the UK.  But equally as interesting is part of the site is built to let people know “who are Canadians”.  As such, there is a room with vignettes of different people across Canada, from First Nations people, Ukrainians, Chilean, Spanish, etc and how they integrate into Canadian society.  So maybe people will learn that we are more than lumberjacks living in a snow-covered country. 

If you have a chance to travel to Normandy, take time to visit Juno Beach and the memorial site, and learn about our past, before it sinks into the sands of time.  Lest we forget.

Here is a link for more info about D-Day.

A link to my WWI memorial visit.

Appreciating Our WWI War Memorials in Europe

I never really understood trench warfare in WWI until I actually was able to go in the trenches. Beyond what you see of trenches open to the sky, there were also elaborate underground tunnels on both the Allies and the German side. I found this out on my visit to Passchendaele, Belgium and the Vimy Ridge National Historical Site of Canada Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France.

Passchendaele is a small European city with surrounding agricultural fields. Lots of potatoes growing in the fields. But when I stood at the Canadian government memorial in the rain, and saw the fields, I could still imagine the troops, the bombs and the quagmire that was Passchendaele.

A short drive from the memorial is a museum commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele. At this Battle there were more than just Canadian troops, so you get to learn about what all the allied forces went through here. In the basement is a recreation of the underground tunnels that stretched for miles. These tunnels were muddy and dark. Soldiers stayed in them for a few days before going up to fight, and while underground had no washrooms or other sanitation. It must have been hell below as well as above ground. Walking through these tunnels you really feel for the soldiers. In the main floors of the museum is a a display of war artifacts. One that stopped me cold was the poison gas display and all the different types of gas masks. After reading about the different gases that were developed and how they would kill soldiers, it made me wonder how cruel people can be. Lest we forget…

The other WWI memorial I visited was the Vimy Ridge National Historical Site of CanadaThis memorial is strictly about the Canadian experience at Vimy Ridge and has been designed by the Canadian government.  It is nice because Canadian University students are working there for their summer jobs before going back to work on their History or Human Geography degrees.  Also a rainy day, it helped put me in the mindset of the soldiers who would have been fighting in similar weather conditions.  How cold they must have been, I thought, as I had my layers of clothing, hat and umbrella.  There were both trenches and tunnels at Vimy Ridge, and sometimes very close to the German trenches and tunnels.  Sometimes no more than 50 m apart.  You needed to be quiet underground so that the Germans could not tell where your tunnel is located. Within the tunnels were rail lines made of wood to carry the soil away from tunneling as well as to bring troops and supplies.  The use of wooden rail lines served many purposes: to prevent a spark which could ignite ammunition, to hide the soil that had been dug in the tunnels, and to keep the noise of rail movement down to prevent the Germans from knowing where and when we were moving… So complicated and so cautious we had to be.

Above ground, even now Vimy, Passchendaele, and other WWI areas in Europe are dangerous, with farmers digging up unexploded bombs, which sometimes do explode, killing the farmer.  At Vimy as we walked the visitor centre area, there were roped off areas around the trenches, where there could still be bombs.  The grass was neatly cut and one person from my tour asked about how the grass was cut.  Our tour guide mentioned that they have a herd of sheep that are allowed into these areas to eat the grass.  Tread lightly!

One of the highlights of the visit is to see the Vimy Memorial of white carved stone in the middle of a well manicured field, thanks to the sheep.  As with Passchendaele, it was a rainy day at the Memorial.  As I sat in my rental car, wondering when I will brave enough to go into the deluge, the clouds broke and the sun started to shine.  As I stood outside walking to the memorial, it was wet and shone like a pearl.  The memorial is huge and has the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France and whose final resting place was then unknown.  The memorial is of twin white pillars, one with the Canadian maple leaves and the other the fleurs-de-flys of France to represent the sacrifices of both countries. At the top are figures presenting Peace and Justice and below then are the figures representing Truth and Knowledge.  At the base is a representation of a young dying soldier, the Spirit of Sacrifice and the Torch Bearer.  Seeing how these figures tower above you and reading the names of the soldiers, and remembering the talk by the interpreter about the war, really made you feel for the soldiers’ losses, and made me really proud to be a Canadian.  I hope the pictures I have included of Vimy instill that feeling in you too.

If you ever get a chance to travel to France or Belgium, I highly recommend visiting one of our war memorials, to make the past more tangible, and to hopefully learn so we have a better future.

More information about the Battle of Passchendaele. More information about the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Canadian Culinary Federation Culinaire Canadienne Chef’s Conference Is Almost Here!

Have you heard that Vancouver is hosting a national chef’s conference, June 12-15? That is next week! There are opportunities for the public to attend some of these events, and sample the fantastic food created by these chefs.

The Canadian Culinary Federation (CCF) was founded in 1963 and incorporated in Ottawa as a non-profit association in 1972. Since its inception, the federation has enjoyed a deep and long-standing tradition as Canada’s true representation of the professional chef and cook. Further details about the conference, please visit the conference website.

Some Events You Can Attend:

  • Canadian National Chefs (CCFCC) Competitions Dinner presented by Unilever Food Solutions 6/10/11 4:30PM – 7:30PM
  • Global Chefs (WACS) Challenge Dinner 6/11/11 5PM – 8:30PM
  • WACS Hans Bueschkens Chefs Challenge Lunch 6/12/11 12:30PM – 4PM
  • Tastes of CCFCC Canada – Opening Reception 6/12/11 5PM – 10PM
  • Breakfast with Chef Rob Feenie 6/13/11 7AM – 9AM (Very cool)
  • CCFCC Seminar Day Pass, Monday June 13 6/13/11 9:30AM – 7/4/11 5PM
  • Lunch with Chef Dana Reinhardt and Karen Barnaby featuring a panel on Women in the Industry 6/13/11 12PM – 2:30PM
  • Aboriginal Potlatch Supper 6/13/11 6PM – 10PM

and much more!  You can buy tickets for these and other events at this web link.

You can see me at the Aboriginal Potlach Supper on Monday and Dragon Feast of the Century Luncheon in Richmond on Tuesday. The Potlach supper includes food and wine pairings.  I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll be blogging about it before then and during the event.  Enjoy!

Le Mondial du Pinot Noir – 2009

Le Mondial du Pinot Noir is a yearly competition strictly for the Pinot Noir varietal. 2009 was the 12th year of the competition. The competition is held and hosted by Switzerland. Wineries from around the world are invited to compete.

I did not know that Switzerland produced many Pinot Noir wines, but I guess this is in part to these wines not reaching British Columbia. The Pinot Noirs of western Switzerland and Neuchatel, I have read are of good quality.

This past year the Mondial du Pinot Noir set a new record for participation, with 1,144 wines being tasted. Switzerland, being the host country, offered 60% of the Pinot Noir wines for tasting. Germany was represented by 140 wines and France with more than 100. Other countries participating also included Hungary, Austria, Australia, Argentina – for a total of 24 countries. 50 judges from Canada, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Luxemburg, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Spain, Greece and Lebanon tasted and graded the wines. The event was organized in accordance with regulations set down by the Paris-based governmental body the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The big winners, taking the Grande Médaille d’Or, are a Spanish Pinot Noir from the cellar Cortijo Los Aguillares in Ronda and a Valais Pinot Gris from Cave de la Madeleine (André Fontannaz in Vétroz). Of the 95 Or (gold) medals, 30 were awarded to wineries outside of Switzerland with 17 medals to Germany. I was amazed to read that a Spanish Pinot Noir won the Grande Medaille d’Or as you typically don’t think of Spain as a powerhouse for Pinot Noir. I now have a wine on my “to find and try” list for 2010!

Before going into more of the prizes, how did Canada do? We did win two prizes:
Arrowleaf Cellars, Arrowleaf Solstice Pinot Noir 2007 won a Bronze Medal,
Mission Hill Family Estate, Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 also won a
Bronze Medal.
Congratulations to Arrowleaf Cellars and Mission Hill Family Estate!

Some of the major prizes awarded are as follows:
World Champion of Pinot Noir Producers
Offered by the Fondation l’Homme et le Vin, Chamoson
Urs Pircher
Eglisau Zürich

Univerre Pro Uva prize, Sierre
Weingut Thomas Marugg
Blauburgunder Barrique 2007, Fläsch, Grisons (Blauburgunder is a German word for Pinot Noir.)

Millésimes Anciens (older vintages) prize
Offered by Nestlé Waters
Schlossgut Hohenbeilstein, Beilstein, Allemagne
Spätburgunder Auslese Trocken 2003, Württemberg (Spatburgunder also is a German word for Pinot Noir.)

Bourgogne Aujourd’hui prize
Décerné par la revue Bourgogne Aujourd’hui

Domaine de la Vougeraie
Nuits-Saint-Georges, France

Domaine Anne Parent
Pommard, France

Vinofed prize
Given by the Fédération Mondiale des Grands Concours Internationaux de Vins et de Spiritueux
Weingut Kuhnle, Weinstadt, Allemagne
Pinot Noir Barrique 2006, Qualitätswein Württemberg

Découverte (discovery) prize
Given by la Ville de Sierre
André Fontannaz, Cave la Madeleine, Vétroz, Valais
Malvoisie flétrie sur souche 2008, AOC Valais

A new prize was offered for 2009 at the Mondial du Pinot Noir called the “Producers of Pinot Noir World Champion“. For this special category the judges test three consecutive vintages, all more recent than 1995, which the producer has selected. The inaugural winner of this award was Urs Pircher from Eglisau Zürich.

If you are planning on being in Switzerland on August 20-22, 2010, maybe drop in on the 13th Le Mondial du Pinot Noir?

(Mondail is French for World if you were wondering). Enjoy!