Fabulous Food Sunny Wines and Jazzy Music at the Mediterranean Mingle

Mediterranean Mingle food and wine

Mediterranean Mingle food and wine

The Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France is known for it’s sunny climate, seafood and relaxed lifestyle.  The Mediterranean Mingle let us all relax a bit after many days of wine tasting during the Vancouver International Wine Festival.  For lunch we had a wide array of hot and cold appetizers, along with desserts:

  • Fresh Asparagus Salad, Tarragon Mimosa Foam
  • Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Pepper, Chevre, and Pine Nuts
  • Tapenade Croque-Monsieur
  • Tourte a la Brandade
  • Mediterranean Mussel Brasucade au Noilly Prat
  • Saucisse de Toulouse, White Bean Stew
  • Aigo-Boulido “Sip” Poached Quail Egg
  • Ratatouille Languedocienne, Rosemary Bread
  • Beef Boules de Picolat, Picholine Olives and Cepes
  • Butternut Squash Ravioli, Duck Confit, Wild Mushrooms, Edamame
  • Roasted Cod on Fennel, Yellow Potatoes, Black Olives
  • Lemon Almond Creme Catalane
  • Walnut Orange Cake, Yoghurt Wildflower Honey “Pot de Creme”
  • Wedge of Canadian Oka Cheese, Fig and Olive Crisps

To pair up with these dishes we had wines from 11 different wineries:

  • Domaine Paul Mas
  • Gerard Bertrand
  • M. Chapoutier – Domaine Bila Haut
  • Sieur d’Arques
  • Chateau d’Angles
  • Chateau de Jau
  • Francois Lurton – Mas Janeil
  • Francois Lurton
  • Abbaye Sylva Plana
  • Les Vignobles de Constance & du Terrassous
  • Domaine de Babio

One thing I enjoyed about this event was the booklet provided to us contained a page for each wine and the suggested food pairing.  So for example, you may sample a Cremant from Domaine Paul Mas, and try to pairings of Fresh Asparagus Salad or the Tourte a la Brandade.

For sparkling wines, I thought the Gerard Bretrand Cremant de Limoux 2011 was a fun wine to drink.   Dry, high acidity, citrus flavour with small, creamy bubble.  This bubble paired nicely with the Fresh Asparagus Salad.

Domaine Bila Haut Les Vignes de Bila Haut White 2012

Domaine Bila Haut Les Vignes de Bila Haut White 2012

A couple of white wines that I enjoyed:

  • M. Chapoutier – Domaine Bila Haut, Les Vignes de Bila Haut, White, 2012. This is a blend of of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeu.  Medium stone fruit nose.  Round with bright acidity.  Ripe melon and citrus, with a hint of sweet spice and some minerality.  Overall I would say that this wine would be very versatile when pairing with different dishes. (Pair with the Tourte a la Brandade.)
  • Chateau d’Angles, Languedoc La Clape, Grand Vin, White, 2009. Another blend; this time of Bourboulenc (40%), Grenache (20%), Roussanne (20%), and Marsanne (20%).  Sea salt, and ripe tropical fruit nose.  Medium plus body, medium mouth feel.  Soft and round, and very flavourful.  Ripe tropical fruit with a bit of spice on the finish. (Pair with the Roasted Cod on Fennel, Yellow Potatoes, Black Olives.)

A few red wines that caught my attention:

  • Francois Lurton, Fitou, Chateau des Erles, Red, 2004. This blend consists of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.  Ripe purple fruit and vanilla aromas.  Violet flowers followed by ripe dark fruit and candied cherries.  Full body and dry on the palate. (Pair with the Beef Boules de Picolat, Picholine Olives and Cepes.)
  • Abbaye Sylva Plana, Faugeres, Le Songe de l’Abbe, Red, 2011. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsaut or Carignan (I’m not sure for this vintage) make this red blend.  Nice aromas of ripe raspberries, cassis, and dark fruit.  Full body, round with medium tannins and acidity.  Nutmeg, minerality and dark cherry flavours.  Very much a New World, fruit forward style wine. (Pair with the Butternut Squash Ravioli, Duck Confit, Wild Mushrooms, Edamame.)
Les Vignobles de Constance du Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambre Terrassous heritage 1974

Les Vignobles de Constance du Terrassous Rivesaltes Ambre Terrassous heritage 1974

And of course for dessert, I enjoyed:

  • Chateau de Jau, Muscat de Rivesaltes, 2011. Orangy nose, big legs.  Medium minus body, and medium acidity.  Orange, leads to apples and sweet spice on the palate, together with a hint of pine needles, and ends with stone fruit. (Pair with the Lemon Almond Creme Catalane.)
  • Les Vignobles de Constance & du Terrassous, Rivesaltes Ambre, Terrassous heritage 1974.  As the name connotes, it is amber colour in the glass. Nice butterscotch and orange aromas in the glass.  Full body, round with higher acidity that clears up the palate.  Marmalade, nuttiness, honey and butterscotch flavours.  Long length. (Pair with the Walnut Orange Cake, Yoghurt Wildflower Honey “Pot de Creme”.)

Enjoy the pictures below of the event and think about trying the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon.  There was also a live jazz band playing fantastic music, but I did not get their name.  You can hear and see a snippet of this band if you check my VINE video.

Live music at the Mediterranean Mingle

Live music at the Mediterranean Mingle

Abbaye Sylva Plana, Faugeres, Le Songe de l'Abbe, Red, 2011

Abbaye Sylva Plana, Faugeres, Le Songe de l’Abbe, Red, 2011

Saucisse de Toulouse with White Bean Stew

Saucisse de Toulouse with White Bean Stew

Chateau des Erles Fitou 2004

Chateau des Erles Fitou 2004

Lemon Almond Creme Catalane

Lemon Almond Creme Catalane

Good Gracious Grenache at the Vancouver Playhouse Int’l Wine Fest

When most people purchase red wine, they probably think of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Pinot Noir. I’m sure that Grenache is probably not on the top of your list, but should be.  During last year’s first International Grenache Day, this grape was given the moniker, “the girl next door“.  She is always around and a nice person but you don’t notice her, until you are smitten one day.

A little bit about the grenache grape, before reviewing the wines we tasted at Good Gracious Grenache, during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fetival.  The grape is originally from Spain, where it is known as “garnacha“. It likes heat, accumulates lots of sugar and can make wines, high in alcohol.  It can have aromas and flavours of raspberries, grilled herbs, black olives, mocha, tobacco, and butterscotch.  Quite a range of aromas and flavours.  Grenache, as it is known in France, is important in Northern and Eastern Spain where it is blended with tempranillo.  Garnacha provides the fruit, while tempranillo provides the backbone of the blend.

Our moderators, Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris had us taste wines from Spain, France, Australia and California. Our wines:

  • Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. ($14.99)
  • Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. ($12.99)
  • Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. ($26.99)
  • Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. ($48.99)
  • Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. ($25.00)
  • Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. ($26.99)
  • Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. ($55.00)
  • 2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. ($47.00)
  • Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, California 2004. (no price available)
  • Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009. ($24.99)
  • Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006. (no price available)
  • Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008. (no price available)
  • Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. (no price available)

Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. This is a rose wine to start of the event.  Light pink in colour. Strawberry nose.  Light body, off dry, with strawberry flavour.  Low tannins with good acidity.

Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. This wine is from the Languedoc region of France, which has been known in the past as a wine lake, but is now being known for better quality wines. Paul Mas represents a new, younger breed of winemakers.  This wine was deep purple in the glass with legs on the glass, indicating it’s higher alcohol content coming from this warm region of France.  Slight raspberry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins, with raspberries and cherries.  Short in length though.

Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. Vacqueyras is a small region in the Rhone.  Vanilla, Purple fruit and olives on the nose. Higher level of acidity with firm tannins. Quite dry with dark cherry flavour. Medium plus length.  This is a good food wine.

Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also a region within the Rhone, but has a different expression than Vacqueyras.  C-du-P is usually a blend of up to 13 different grape varieties, but grenache is usually the major component of the wine. Dull garnet in the glass.  Light strawberry, cherry, and olive aromas.  Medium minus body. Light cherry flavour and a bit warm on the tongue.

Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. This wine is deep purple coloured.  Dark fruit, slight leather and vanilla aromas.  Good fruit flavours of dark cherries.

Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. This is an area to the south of Rioja.  It is a very arid climate.  This wine was very deep purple in colour.  Saddle and slight smokiness on the nose.  Quite juicy and fruity cherry flavours.  Medium body, tannins and length.  I enjoyed this wine.

Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. This wine comes from a high altitude vineyard in Castilla y Leon, surrounded by mountains. Dark cherry and oak nose. Medium body, round mouth feel, with ripe cherry flavours.  It has very dry tannins and finish.  Needs food if you drink it now, or leave it to age 3-4 years and try again.

2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. Quite aromatic in the glass with oak and menthol. Juicy dark fruit aromas along with some leather and licorice.   Dry firm tannins and long length.  A very high quality wine, but needs some aging in your cellar.

Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, Sonoma, California 2004. This wine was brought in specifically for this tasting.  It was not available in the big tasting room, or for purchase in the festival liquor store. Grenache is not widely planted in California so it is a treat to see how the grape thrives there. This wine had vanilla and dark fruit aromas.  Dry up front, with medium body.  Savory and dark fruit flavours.

Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.  A blend.  This blend had the least amount of Grenache in it. Olives and savory aromas in the glass. Medium body, with dark fruit and olive flavours.  Soft mouthfeel with low tannins.

Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006.  Darker garnet in colour. Light vanilla, oak, cherry and raspberries on the nose.  Light fruity, raspberry flavours with a bit of spice.  Medium body.  A nice wine.

Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008.  If you like Port, you will like Banyuls.  Banyuls is a sweet fortified wine. This one is 90% grenache and 10% mourvedre. Opaque purple in colour.  Sweet ripe dark fruit nose with some citrus notes. Lighter bodied, sweet, with dark fruit and spice flavours. Try this wine with chocolate.

Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. Another sweet fortified wine. Light, salmony coloured.  Bright aromatics with raspberry and caramel.  Medium sweetness, with strawberry and spice flavour.  Medium length.

Some Alternative Grenache Wines

Most of the wines were in an “Old World” style, with firm tannins, olives and herbs.  I have tried other, more bright raspberry fruit wines made from the grenache grape.  Here are a few wines I recommend to try:

d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia $21.99 – This wine is light garnet in colour.  Smoke and raspberry on the nose. Petrol, cassis, raspberry flavours.  Low tannins. Very refreshing.

Dusted Valley Grenache, Columbia Valley, WA 2009. This is such a wonderful wine.  Just the right balance of fruit, tannins, and acidity.  The wine was medium garnet in colour.  Cherry, vanilla and smoky aromas.  Raspberry, cherry, and vanilla on the palate.  Medium bodied with a raspberry finish.

Airfield Estates Winery Mustang 2008, Washington  (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre.   This wine was medium purple in colour.  Quite a complex nose, with aromas of cassis, vanilla, and cherry. Medium body with soft tannins.  Red cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and butterscotch flavours.  Medium length.

Brotte Vacqueyras “Bouvencourt” 2006, France $28.99. This is a Grenache / Syrah blend. Medium garnet with a bit of bricking. Caramel, and cherry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins. Caramel, apple, raspberry and cherry flavours.

Gemtree Vineyards Cadenizia 2008, Australia. This biodynamic wine is a blend of Grenache, Tempranillo, and Shiraz. Medium garnet. Nice nose with butterscotch, cherry and vanilla. Lots of cassis flavour with black cherry and spiciness. Firm yet fine tannins.


Celebrating Mardi Gras Food with Wine!

Mardi Gras is coming up on March 8. What food and wine will you be serving? I took a trip to New Orleans, the Big Easy, just before Hurricane Katrina. It was an amazing food experience. Lots of rich and delicious food.

For Mardi Gras, there are some well loved dishes.  I was thinking to tell you about some of them, and then offer some wine pairing suggestions.  And maybe get invited to a few Mardi Gras parties!

What are some Mardi Gras dishes?

Courtesy Epicurious.com

  • Oysters Bienville
  • Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
  • Gumbo

The Oysters Bienville dish on the half shell cooked with butter and egg and of course oysters is quite a rich dish.  A riesling or maybe an unoaked chardonnay may pair nicely with this.  For a riesling maybe try a Tantalus Vineyards Riesling from the Okanagan, BC or a Pikes Traditionale Clare Valley Riesling from Australia. For unoaked chardonnay, you could pick a La Chablisienne Chablis from France or Township 7 unoaked chardonnay from Okanagan, BC.

The Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya will be a spicy dish with a tomato based sauce.  A wine with good fruit and low tannins would pair well.  Maybe a grenache or a zinfandel.  On the grenache side, I really like the Sorrento Dry Grown Grenache 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia.  I just tried it last month and it is wonderful, lots of red fruit flavours.  Nice raspberry and toffee on the nose and on the palate. If you prefer a garnacha from Spain, try the Las Rocas Garnacha. For a zinfandel Kenwood Vineyards Yulupa Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 or Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2006.

What is gumbo?  Gumbo is a roux-based stew made with andouille sausage, cubes of beef, crab and shrimp. Again this will be spicy.  A New World pinot noir could match well.  From last years Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fair, I can recommend the Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2007 and the Woollaston Estates Tussock Nelson Pinot Noir 2007. My wine reviews for these 2 wines are here.  If you want a BC Pinot Noir, try the Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir?  One of my reliable pinots in BC!

In case you don’t have a recipe for these dishes, I’ve added the links for you.

Oysters Bienville


Enjoy these dishes from the Big Easy and these wines from around the world!

MyWinePal visits Mistral French Bistro

It was a beautiful day on Saturday, so I decided to have lunch at Mistral French Bistro in Kitsilano. I’d never been there before but have heard that the food is very good. I checked through their website to see that they have 4 Fixed Price menus for lunch. All around the $20 mark, that includes appetizer, main course and dessert. A very good deal in my opinion.

So my selection was the “Provence” lunch ($20). My selections for my lunch were:

Appetizer: Assortment of traditional Provencal appetizers – Mediterranean black olive spread with croutons, Puree of creamed Cod, Anchovy and garlic dipping sauce with crisp celery

Main: Braised lamb shoulder stew with olives Nicoise and seasonal vegetables, house French Fries

Dessert: Dark Chocolate mousse

To the appetizer and Main course, I enjoyed a glass of L’ORANGERAIE Rose 2009. This wine is from Vin de Pays d’Oc, France and is a mixture of 60% Cinsault, 20% Grenache, 20% Syrah. The wine had nice light cherry flavour, nice acidity, and low tannins. This rose went very nice with the Provencal appetizers and balanced the heaviness of the stew.

The appetizers were quite nice. In particular I enjoyed the black olive spread (tapenade) together with the radish. The saltiness of the tapenade and the pepperiness of the radish cancelled each other out, letting more fully enjoy the olive flavour and the crunchiness of the radish.

The braised lamb shoulder stew was quite amazing. Many different flavours merged together. The stew sauce had the herbes de Provence. There were fresh baby carrots and beans as well and turnip that exploded with flavour. The vegetables still had a nice amount of crispness to them and provided nice texture to the lamb.

The chocolate mousse for dessert was fantastic. I enjoyed it with a cup of coffee. A truly enjoyable lunch.

To check out their other fixed price menus, you can click on this link to the Mistral French Bistro. Enjoy!

Liquid Art Fine Wines – 20th Anniversary tasting

Today I was invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Liquid Art Fine Wines in Vancouver. Liquid Art Fine Wines is an importer of premium wines from around the world. They are specialists in sourcing some of the world’s finest and most sought-after wines. You can find their wines in restaurants in Vancouver as well as you can purchase the wines from them if you are an avid collector of hard to get wines.

I enjoyed sparkling wines, white and red wines from around the world today. A very nice Champagne from France was the Varnier-Fanniere Brut Grand Cru NV ($71.90). This champagne had a nice bready nose. Very fine bubble, with green apple, oak and citrus flavour. The fine bubble, I learned from my trip to France last year comes from the Chardonnay grape. This champagne is 100% chardonnay from different vintages blended together. It is aged in bottle for 3 years. It is not heavy and I’d enjoy it as an aperitif with some light canapes.

If red wine is more your style, staying in France, maybe you would enjoy their Domaine de la Mordoree “La Dame Rousse” Lirac Rouge AC 2006 ($30.90)? This a blend of 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. Hand harvested. This was a very intriguing wine. It has a brooding character. Deep garnet in colour, with a sweet dark cherry nose. Full dark cherry flavour. Medium tannins and medium length.

Outside of France, you may enjoy the Roccolo Grassi Valpolicella Superiore DOC 2004 Italy ($57.90). Valpolicella is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina and Corvinone. This wine had a very smoky nose with cherries. On the palate there was that smokiness again, with sausage and cherry and nice amount of spice. Long length. Wonderful.

There are many more wines of great quality at Liquid Art Fine Wines. I will be posting my tasting notes for the other wines that tried this evening on www.MyWinePal.com. You may want to visit Liquid Art Fine Wines’ online inventory.


Celebrate Australia!

G’Day Mate and Happy Australia Day! On Saturday I was invited to the Celebrate Australia wine tasting, which was held in downtown Vancouver. 43 wineries were present, along with lots of food, and music. Each of the wineries offered 3-5 wines, so there were about 200 wines to sample this evening. I didn’t make it through all of the wines, but found some very nice wines.

Australian wines over 10 years ago were in the sub $20 category and were predominantly full bodied, full fruited red wines. Now countries like Chile and Argentina are filling that price range. Australia is now into the $20 and up category, and rightly so, as they have some premium wine makers and wine regions.

Western Australia, particularly around Margaret River, are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines. More Old World in style and restrained, compared to the rest of Australia and the other New World countries. The Barossa Valley and Coonawarra are still producing big cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, but there tends to be more structure than in the past. The Yarra Valley is becoming more well known around the world for their cool climate pinot noir and chardonnay.

So you are probably hoping for a few wine picks from me, and here they are:

Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon 2007, $26.99. If you have never tried Semillon (a white varietal), you have to try this one. It has a citrusy, apple, tarry nose. Excellent acidity with citrus/lime flavours.

d’Arenberg The Custodian McLaren Vale Grenache 2005, $24.99. Wonderful toffee, tar, raspberry and strawberry fruit with sweet, ripe tannins.

Heggies Eden Valley Chardonnay 2006, $27.99. This wine has nice acidity and minerality. Don’t look for an overly oaked, buttery chardonnay here.


A new wine and cheese experience

Every region of France has it’s own unique cheese. In Burgundy, one of those cheeses is the Epoisses de Bourgogne. This cheese has a cream cheese type texture and an orangey, wrinkled rind. The rind is washed with the marc de Bourgogne as it ripens. Marc is the left over juices after squeezing out the fermented grape skins and then distilling these juices. The cheese was semi-firm with a woody / nutty aroma. The aroma was not as strong as the previous cheeses. It had a cottage cheese flavour, with nutty flavoured rind, and a hint of saltiness. Quite nice.

The wine I paired with it was from the Rhone valley. It was the Chateau de Beaulieu, La Chatelaine, 2007, Cotes de Rhone. The blend was 60% grenache, and the remainder unknown amounts of Syrah, Cinsault, Mouvedre and Carignan. This wine was the Medaille de Bronze award from the Concours des Grands Vins de France 2008. It was a deep purple colour in the glass. There were intense aromas of meat, pepper, red and black fruits. The red and black fruit flavours continued on the palette. It was very peppery and had a long finish. Very full bodied, low tannins and good acidity. The fruit and black pepper flavours of the wine complemented the creaminess and nuttiness of the cheese. It was a great pairing. Salut!