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!

More Wineries to Check at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival #VPIWF

As I mentioned in my earlier blog article, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, has a PDF brochure now available. It  has a listing of all the wineries attending this year. I started to point out some wineries to visit at the International Festival tasting, but needed this second article to finish off the list.  I already covered Spain, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, and BC.  Although I may not mention each winery listed, I still suggest trying them as you may find a wine you love.

Wines from Germany

Germany is well-known for their rieslings.  In their Qualitätswein mit Prädikat rating system. You have:

  • Kabinett
  • Spätlese
  • Auslese
  • Beerenauslese
  • Trockenbeerenauslese and
  • Eiswein

With increasing level of sweetness.  But don’t forget that Germany also produces wines from Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir,  Scheurebe, Bacchus, and Gewürztraminer (and more). Bürgerspital Estate would be one winery to try as they do have a wide range of varietal wines to try.  It is also amazing to consider how steep the slopes are where they grow their grapes; check out the picture I included from their website. Schloss Schonborn is another premium winery, has a wide range, and a sparkling wine.

Wines from Italy

In Italy, the first in the list is Antinori.  This is a large, well-known, and regarded winery, that has it’s winery in Italy, but also wineries in California and Washington state.  Their innovations played a large part in the “Super-Tuscan” revolution of the 1970s. They are well-known for their launch of Tignanello, a barrique-aged wine from the Tignanello vineyard that contained not only Sangiovese, but also Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which meant that it was ineligible for the Chianti Classico appellation.  This wine, plus Sassicaia from another Tuscan winery, helped to bring about the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification in Italy. Needless to say, if they are pouring Tignanello, you should try it.

Accordini Igino is from the Veneto region (NorthEast) of Italy, famous for Valpolicella and Amarone. If you have never tried an Amarone, you should be in for a treat.  Amarone is a rich, dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. The drying process concentrates the remaining sugars and flavors in the grapes to produce a full-bodied wine with lots of flavour. Consider an Amarone for a special dinner.

Beni di Batasiolo is from the Piedmont (NorthWest) corner of Italy.  Beni di Batasiolo is quite well-known for their off-dry Moscato d’Asti, but they do have a wide range of red and white wines.  On the red side, we may be treated to a Barolo, Barbaresco, or Barbera d’Alba.

Ca’ del Bosco is a winery from the Lombardi region of Italy. They are a relatively new winery, who is on the leading edge of the exciting new wave of Italian wine producers, making top-quality sparkling and still wines.  I checked their website and they do have quite a range of sparkling wines, that I am looking forward to tasting.

Wines from New Zealand

New Zealand and BC are quite similar.  We both have been producing wines from the noble grapes starting the 1970s.  We are both also cool-climate wine producers, and I think make some very nice Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Astrolabe, Giesen Wine Estate, Man O’War Vineyards, Mud House Wines, and Sacred Hill Wines are wineries that you may not have heard of, but they all are very good producers.  Try Astrolabe‘s Sauvignon Blanc . I can recommend the Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008. When I tried it last year it had a range of smoky, cherry, and leafy aromas. Wild flavours on your palate with cherry, oak and strawberry flavours.  Also try Mud House’s Pinot Gris.  I also recommend trying the Giesen “The Brothers” Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008. Again from a past tasting, it had lots of herbal and gooseberry aroma. Bracing acidity with green flavours.

In August 2010, I was able to meet with Man O’ War winemaker, Mr. Duncan McTavish. At that time I recommended his Man O’ War Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 and his red blend made with Merlot / Cabernet / Franc / Malbec 2008.  The winery also has a premium level of wines called their Black label wines.  They are named after great battleships or classes of battleships.  Hopefully Duncan will be bringing his  Valhalla Chardonnay, Dreadnought Syrah, and Ironclad Bordeaux blend. Read my MyWinePal Meets Man O’ War article here.

Wines from Portugal

The G7 Wines of Portugal group visited Vancouver a few months ago, introducing us to the still white and red wines of Portugal, and of course their wonderful port.  Aveleda has a variety of labels: Casal Garcia, Aveleda Fonte, Quinta da Aveleda, Aveleda Alvarinho, Charamba, Follies and Adega Velha. You may be most familiar with their Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, “green wine”.  Vinho Verde, comes both as a red and a white wine, but I think only white wines have reached BC.  Vinho Verde is a very refreshing and versatile white wine that has a bit of effervescence to it. Try it with some seafood. They also have a Follies line of wines. I was fortunate to taste their Follies Cabernet Sauvignon / Touriga Nacional (30/70%) 2008 (~$16). It was one of my favorite wines from the G7 tasting. Violets, black fruit, spice and mint aromas. Full bodied. Good fruit / tannins balance. Purple fruit flavour with a dry tannic finish.

Quinta do Crasto is well-known for their ports here, and will hopefully show us their range of still red wines. There are a few of their red wines currently available through the BCLDB, but there are many more to show. Their single varietal Touriga Nacional and their Touriga Roriz should be interesting to taste.  These are two of the indigenous grapes to Portugal that go into the blend for port. The most expensive ports are primarily made from Touriga Nacional. It has aromas and flavours of violets, blueberries, black fruits, and spice. A grape that produces a very full-bodied wine. Touriga Roriz is the most widely grown grape in Portugal.  It has cherry, jam, blackberry and spice on the nose. The grape has high tannins, and can age for a long time. Quinta do Vale Dona Maria is another producer of both port and still red wines to check out at the festival. Symington, Fonseca Guimaraens and Taylor Fladgate are famous port producers.  You should visit all of them, but maybe wait toward the end of your tasting session as these ports could overpower your palate for white and red still wines.

Wines from South Africa

South African wines are a bit of Old World and New World style put together.  People tend to have strong feelings about South African wines, either for or against.  Many of their wines are in my opinion built for drinking together with food.  We are lucky to have some premium South African producers at the Festival.  Boekenhoutskloof produces some great red wines from entry level to premium.  On the entry level they have The Wolf Trap, which is a blend containing syrah, mourvedre, and viognier. You get spice, structure, and perfume from these three grapes respectively.  On the premium, hopefully we will have a chance to try their Boekenhoutskloof Collection Syrah.  On the label you will notice 7 deck chairs, which I was told represents each one of the winery principals. It is quite a process to produce this wine which is fermented with native yeasts.  Here is the description from BHK’s website:

“In 2008 the fruit was harvested over an one week period starting on February 25st. The complexity of this wine also benefits from the diversity in grape maturity from the different picks. The fruit is kept in the cold room overnight before it gets sorted and crushed into concrete fermenter. A small percentage of whole bunches were put into the bottom of the tank of some batches to get a slight effect of carbonic maceration. After 4 days of cold soaking, the fermentation starts by only using native yeasts. The primary fermentation is done within two and a half weeks with the temperature that peaks at around 29°C. During the fermentation the wine gets a delestage 2 – 3 times per day. Pigeage was never done on this Syrah. It also received a postfermentation maceration for another week before being pressed to 2nd filled barrels to undergo MLF. After 18 months in barrel the wine gets a light egg-white fining and racking before its final 9 months in oak.”

Graham Beck Wines produce a wide range of wines, from sparkling to dessert to white, rose, and red wine.  Graham Beck also has a social conscience and opened the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Centre near Madeba in Robertson. Part of an extensive and innovative social development program, the centre aims to facilitate skills development for the long term upliftment of the farming community in the Breede River Valley.  They also are supporters of the environment. You can read about Graham Beck’s Biodiversity drive here. I have enjoyed their Game Reserve Shiraz, Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, and their Méthode Cap Classique Brut NV sparkling wine in the past.  Glen Carlou‘s Syrah and Chardonnay has won many awards from around the world.  Their Syrah 2004 was awarded John Platter’s Wine of the Year in 2006.  Their wine is reasonably priced, is a general listing in the BCLDB, and in my opinion a great deal.

Wines from the USA

There are plenty of wonderful wines from the USA. From Oregon there is the solid King Estate.  They are well known for their excellent Pinot Noir, but I also really like them for their Pinot Gris.  For Washington State, you will want to try Columbia Crest.  The Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, was Wine Spectator’s No. 1 Wine in the World for 2009. Also I’ve tried their H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and really enjoyed it (Horse Heaven Hills = H3).   There are several California wineries to choose from.  If you like big, jammy Zinfandels, I would expect to see the wide range that are produced by RavenswoodCaymus Winery and Clos Du Val are two cult level wineries for Sauvignon Blanc. Another good producer of Cabernet Sauvignon at a lower price point is Louis M MartiniRodney Strong (both their white and red wines are excellent), Robert Mondavi, and Stag’s Leap are also excellent producers of wine.  Give them each a try.

I could keep going on about all these wineries, but I think I’ll stop with this.  If you have any favorite wineries, please let me know, and go out and enjoy the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival!!!

GERMANY ITALY
Balthasar Ress Antinori
Bürgerspital Estate Azienda Vitivinicola
Deinhard Accordini Igino
Henkell Badia a Coltibuono
Schloss Reinhartshausen Bastianich / La Mozza
Schloss Schonborn Beni di Batasiolo
St. Urbans-Hof Fontanafredda
Mionetto
Pasqua
GREECE Rocca Delle Macìe
Boutari Tenuta Sant’Antonio
Santa Margherita /
Ca’ del Bosco
ISRAEL Tedeschi
Galil Mountain Winery /
Yarden
NEW ZEALAND
PORTUGAL Astrolabe
Aveleda Giesen Wine Estate
Blandy’s Madeira Kim Crawford Wines
Fonseca Guimaraens Man O’War Vineyards
Quinta do Crasto Mud House Wines
Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Oyster Bay Wines
Sogrape Vinhos Sacred Hill Wines
Symington – Dow’s Port Stoneleigh
Symington – Graham’s Port
Taylor Fladgate / Croft
USA
CALIFORNIA
SOUTH AFRICA Bonterra Vineyards
Boekenhoutskloof Caymus Winery
Durbanville Hills Clos Du Val
Graham Beck Wines Delicato Family Vineyards
KWV Wines Francis Ford Coppola
Presents LLC
Nederburg
Glen Carlou
J. Lohr Vineyards
& Wines
Louis M Martini
Miner Family Vineyards
OREGON Quady Winery
King Estate Ravenswood Winery
Ridge Vineyards
Robert Mondavi Winery
WASHINGTON Rodney Strong Vineyards
Columbia Crest Signorello Estate /
Hedges Family Estates / Edge Winery / Fuse Wines
Snoqualmie Vineyards Stags’ Leap
Trefethen Family
Vineyards
Truchard Vineyards
Wente Vineyards

Here is the download link for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival brochure.  Enjoy!

Boekenhoutskloof

Small wineries in Kelowna

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} catch(err) {}Everyone visits the big wineries in Kelowna, like Mission Hill and Quail’s Gate, but there are other small wineries worth a visit. This past week I had the pleasure of visiting:
Rollingdale Winery
Kalala Organic Estate Winery
Camelot Vineyards Estate Winery

Rollingdale Winery is located in Westbank very near to the other big wineries in the area. Rollingdale is certified organic, which I think is getting to be more common in the Okanagan. There was a wide range of wines to taste, from whites to reds to dessert wines. This winery started in 2004, with most of the vineyard area in Okanagan Falls and a few acres around the winery in Westbank. An interesting white was their 2007 Chardonnay / Semillon. This is a wild ferment. Vanilla on the nose. Very tart with green apple flavours. Would be good chilled with shellfish. Their red selection was quite large, with the winery making a 2007 “La Droite” and a 2006/07 “La Gauche” wine following the blends that are used in the Right and Left banks in Bordeaux. The “La Droite” was primary Merlot, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. This wine was deep purple in the glass. Sweet cherry / plum nose. Round mouth feel, cherry flavour and firm but not overpowering tannins. For those with a sweet tooth a nice wine was the 2007 Pinot Noir Icewine. Pear coloured. Apple, pear, and burnt matches aroma and flavours. Good acidity to balance the sweetness.

Another certified organic winery I visited on this trip was Kalala Organic Estate Winery, also located in Westbank. I was impressed with all the wines they let me try. As it is now officially summer, I welcomed the Pinot Noir Rose 2007. This wine is light salmon / orangy in colour. Strawberry and cranberry nose. Strawberry flavour with good acidity. A great choice for a patio sipper. An unusual wine that I tried (and bought a few bottles) was their Kalala Cuvee Noir 2007. What made it unusual? The 3 varietals that they used to make this wine: Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch, and Michurinetz. I’ve tried two of the 3 varietals before, but not all 3, and not all 3 blended together! This wine was a deep, bright purple colour. Red fruit, plummy nose. Sweet candy, red fruit, ripe cherry flavours with low tannins. This wine should hold up to full bodied grilled meats. The prices for Kalala’s wines are also excellent. The Cuvee is $14.95 and the Rose is $17.95. Only their Zweigelt icewine broke the $20 mark with a price of $75. They want to keep the prices reasonable to show people that organic wines need not be expensive and can be quite tasty. The Zweigelt icewine 2006 if you are curious, had honey, orange, butterscotch aromas and flavours.

The last winery I visited was Camelot Vineyards Estate Winery. I do not know if this is an organic winery, but I do know that it just opened to the public 2 weeks ago. They produce both red and white wines, but at the moment, only their white wines are bottled and ready for tasting. The reds I saw were still in barrels (both French and American oak) waiting for bottling next year I believe. The 2 whites I tried were a Pinot Gris and a Gewurztraminer. I enjoyed the Gewurztraimer. It was light bodied, with lychee and spice aromas and flavours. I have tasted many very nice Gewurztraimers from the Okanagan the last few years. If you have not had a chance to try a BC Gewurztraimer, you should give it a try.