Passionate Pairings During Vancouver International Wine Festival

New Zealand flag

New Zealand flag

Kia Ora!  Do you love Pinot Noirs and bracing Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand?  Thinking of buying some event tickets for the Vancouver International Wine Festival at the end of Feb/ start of March?  Think about the Passionate Pairings at the Boathouse in Kitsilano.  I’ve attended the last two years.  Great seafood, paired with great New Zealand wine.  Here is some details from the Boathouse.  Enjoy!

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mud house sauvignon blanc and pinot noir

mud house sauvignon blanc and pinot noir

PASSIONATE PAIRINGS – Vancouver International Wine Festival Eventback by popular demand – Saturday, March 2nd

It’s the ultimate wine and food experience! NZ Wine Growers challenged seven passionate Boathouse chefs to prepare seven inspired dishes to pair with sensational wines from seven New Zealand wineries. Take in the spectacular views of English Bay at The Boathouse at Kits Beach and meet one-on-one with New Zealand winery principals and Boathouse chefs at this popular culinary grazing event. Your challenge is to choose your own favourite Passionate Pairing!
Ticket limit is 8.  $69 per person

BUY TICKETS – MORE INFO

Food and Wine in Balance – Interesting Knowledge

Jerry Comfort from Beringer Winery

We all have been taught that white wines go with fish and red wines go with meat (red meat especially) and never the two shall cross.  But my recent Food and Wine in Balance seminar at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival tore down that pairing barrier.  So you can enjoy a California Cabernet Sauvignon with a steamed fillet of sole.  Really!

Our speaker with Mr. Jerry Comfort, the head/executive sommelier at Beringer Winery in California.  He brought with us the following wines to taste with our food samples:

  • Beringer White Zinfandel 2010
  • Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010
  • Beringer Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2006
  • Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

The Food & Wine Balance Rules

First the dominant taste in your dish will change all wines in the same way but to a different degree.  For example, sweetness in your dish will make all wines taste sour (or less sweet).   Your goal is to find a dish that doesn’t change the flavour of the wine too much, as to impair the pairing.

Beringer flight of wines

Second, sweet food can make wine taste sour.  I know I just mentioned it, but previously as an example of the first rule. How does sweetness make wine taste sour?  The sweet food makes our tongue’s tastebuds used to the sweet taste so that we don’t taste the sweetness in the wine.  If you want to taste the sweetness of a wine with a sweet dish, e.g. a dessert, then the wine must be sweeter than the dish.

Third, sourness in a dish makes wine softer, less acidic tasting.  As an example of these last two rules, we tasted the Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 with a sweet slice of apple and with a sour wedge of lemon. The Sauvignon Blanc became extremely sour tasting after eating the apple, while the wine became very soft, and you could even taste sweetness from the wine after trying the wine with the lemon.  On it’s own this wine had passion fruit and grapefruit aromas.  High acidity with tropical fruit and vanilla flavours.

Food for wine pairing

Fourth, sweet wines can also make red wines taste more bitter.  Toasted barrels used in red wines leave bitterness on your tongue.  We tested this rule by trying a Beringer Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2006 with some apple and some lemon.  The apple made the Pinot Noir bitter tasting, while the lemon made the Pinot Noir taste soft.  As Jerry, our instructor stated, “Sour food is our friend”. The Pinot Noir on its own had nice violets aroma.  Cinnamon, cloves, soft and round on the palate.  We tried the same test to the Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.  It tasted very dry, tannic and bitter with the apple, yet was quite soft on the palate with the the lemon.

How can sweetness in food make wines both sour and/or bitter?  Well these flavours in the wine were already there.  Sweetness makes these characteristics in the wine even stronger.

Fifth, salt blocks bitterness and acidity.  So salt can soften tannins in red wines, along with lemon.  From this, it would make sense that if you have a dish with low or no salt, that you should pair it with a wine that has little or no oak.  If you can’t eat salt due to health concerns, use acidity to tame those tannins.

As a test of this salt and acidity balancing out bitterness, we had a steamed piece of white fish that we each added lemon and salt.  We then ate a piece of this seasoned fish and a sip of the Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The pairing worked wonderfully.  Everything was in balance.

We also tried adding some salt and lemon to grilled steak and eating this seasoned steak with a Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010.  The Chardonnay on it’s own had vanilla, less and tropical fruit aromas.  Round with medium acid, vanilla (from oak) and tropical fruit flavours. The steak did not overpower the Chardonnay.

Sixth, spice (such as black pepper) does not affect sweetness or fruitiness in wine, but does taste spicer with red wines.  We tried some cheese with a black pepper rind with the Beringer California White Zinfandel.  This off-dry wine did not make the pepperiness go away, you just tasted the sweetness in the wine, which then wore off and the pepperiness reappeared.  This cheese with black pepper tasted more spicy with the Cabernet Sauvignon.

How do you deal with spiciness? Again through the proper addition of acidity and salt balanced out the spicy food so that they had less effect on the wine’s flavours, so the wine tasted good.  Adding some lemon juice and salt to the pepper rind cheese made a very nice pairing with the Cab.

Take Away from this Seminar

My take away from this seminar is that you really can enjoy more than one type of wine with a dish, as long a the dish has an appropriate salt & acid balance.  This is important, if you are having a party for example, and you have some people that prefer red wines while others prefer white wines.  Through the proper balancing of the food’s flavours, you can make a dish that both types of wines lovers will love even more.

If you have food with low salt, you may choose a high acid wine, or a wine with low oak. A dish that is very salty would do better with a fortified or a dessert wine (think salty cheese and port).

Overall I thought that this was a really different food & wine pairing event, and one which I would like to try on my own now.  Enjoy!

Enjoying the Northern Icon, Southern Gem, Concha y Toro Dinner

Northern Gem Southern Icon - Concha y Toro at Blue Water Cafe

Northern Gem Southern Icon - Concha y Toro at Blue Water Cafe

The largest and most well-known winery from Chile in my opinion is Viña Concha y Toro.  This winery has been recognized by many wine publications and has 15 awards as “Winery of the Year” in Wine & Spirits.  They are also acknowledged as “Second most powerful wine brand in the world” according to The Power 100 survey by Intangible business.  Concha y Toro does not rest on their past, but still strives to produce wines of extraordinary expression of contemporary Chile. One iconic wine in particular is particularly nurtured each vintage, “Don Melchor“, led by top wine maker, Enrique Tirado, to produce this wine.  With great anticipation, as part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, I arrived at the door of the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown to sample the carefully crafted and paired coastal cuisine of Executive Chef Frank Pabst with Concha y Toro’s wines.

Leading the tasting is Isabel Guilisasti Gana, the Marketing Director Origin Wines for Concha y Toro and wine maker Tamara Baeremaecker.

Concha y Toro Chardonnay Carmenere and Don Melchor bottles

The Guilisasti family has a long history in Chile and in the wine trade.  Isabel Guilisasti joined Concha y Toro in 2000.  As marketing manager, she is responsible for Concha y Toro’s ultra premium and super premium brands.Tamara joined Concha y Toro in 1998 after receiving her degree in oenology from the Universidad Catolica de Chile. She has worked on many of their premium-brand wines and in 2006 became part of the Don Melchor wine making team.

Our private tasting room at the Blue Water Cafe was laid out as two long table, with each person getting a name card for their particular seat.  It was quite interesting.  Some of the people I sat with were other media, but I also sat with people who were there as they love Chilean wine and Blue Water Cafe.  I had fun chatting with everyone around me.

Our Dinner

Scallop prawn and oyster with Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009

Our first pairing:

  • Pan seared scallop with fennel basil slaw and kumquat ginger puree, Grilled prawn with garlic and rosemary, mango salsa and avocado, and Smoked Stellar Bayer oyster in brick leaf with white onion grape soubise and toasted hazelnuts. These 3 seafood morsels was paired with Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009 from the Limari Valley.

I thought the pairing of each seafood, with their own unique flavours and textures, all paired very well with the Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was medium lemon in colour.  A very fruity tropical fruit nose with some vanilla too. Medium plus body with high acidity leaving a prickle on your tongue, but it still had some roundness to it. Full of tropical fruit flavours with vanilla on the finish.  The higher acidity from the wine comes from the cooler coastal Limari Valley.

The scallop was very fresh, seared lightly on the outside and tasted very nice with the citrusy flavour of the kumquat and the fennel flavour of the slaw.  The latin-spiced, grilled prawn with the mango salsa and avocado were nicely complemented by the tropical fruit flavours of the Chardonnay.

White sturgeon with Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2009

Our second pairing:

  • Farmed white Sechelt sturgeon with beluga lentils and Berkshire pork cheeks with a mild Madras curry tomato sauce. This was paired with the Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere Peumo vineyard 2009 from the Rapel Valley.

The Carmenere was deep ruby in the glass with a bright rim. Dark fruit, vanilla and very slight capsicum aromas. Very ripe plums, quite spicy with black pepper on the palate. Round and full bodied up front and then lightens up mid-palate.

The sturgeon was soft with fine texture.  The lentils added an earthiness to the dish and the light curry tied the two elements together.  The curry flavour also made a red berry flavour come out of the Carmenere.  Another great pairing.

Bison Churrasco with Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Our third pairing:

  • Marinated bison flat iron steak, grilled and served with cassava root gnocchi, sauteed salsify, eggplant caviar with oregano, and chimichurri sauce.  Our pairing was the Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Puente Alto-Maipo Valley.

This was the youngest Don Melchor in our mini-vertical that Concha y Toro provided to us.  Don Melchor, Chile’s first ultra-premium wine is the only one with 21 vintages to its credit that are prize winning and known by wine critic around the world.  Don Melchor is produced from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape from the Puente Alto vineyard in the Alto Maipo Valley near Santiago.  2008 was a cooler vintage for this wine and it was more restrained than the 2007 vintage.  The 2008 Don Melchor was opaque ruby.  Light red cherries, some stemminess and cassis aromas.   Full body.  Very spicy mid palate with ripe plums and cherry flavours.  Dry with some minerality.  As this wine breathed in the glass the cassis flavour became more prominent. Still a young, tight wine, but one that you could enjoy now, or in another 10 or 20 years.

The Bison Churrasco was a wow dish for me.  It was soft, medium rare.  The Chimichurri sauce with olive oil, parsley, cilantro, salt, and garlic flavours really enhanced the bison flavour.  Red wine loves protein and this held true for the Don Melchor and the bison.  In addition the chimichurri sauce I think helped to tone down the spiciness of the wine.

Wagyu beef shortrib with Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and 1995

Our fourth pairing:

  • Wagyu beef shortrib braised with merken spice and espresso, sauteed portobello mushroom whipped potatoes, green beans, and braising juices reduced with tamarind. To this we had 2 Don Melchor wines.  A 2007 and a 1995 vintage.

The Don Melchor 2007 came from a warmer vintage than the 2008 vintage and you could smell and taste the more opulence of this wine.  It had lots of plum, vanilla and capsicum on the nose.  Very silky mouthfeel.  Peppery round and dry on the palate, with black cherries cassis and oak flavours, and vanilla on the finish.  A very nice wine.

The Don Melchor 1995 is now 17 years old.  You would expect the colour and fruit flavours to have diminished, which they have to some extent.  The wine has changed to a medium plus garnet colour with very slight bricking on the rim. The aromas are more complex with capsicum, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Soft, medium body in your mouth.  Pencil leads and dark fruit flavour with higher acidity.  A very balanced, complex wine.

If you have never had Wagyu beef, you should try it.  It is so soft and so buttery rich.  The shortrib was cooked to perfection wit the beef falling apart easily.  I think the Wagyu beef with the big braised flavours with the espresso needed a full bodied wine, and the 2007 Don Melchor fit the bill.  The fruit from this wine paired with the strong flavours of the beef.  The 1995 Don Melchor to me is not as fruity, with more complex aromas and flavours.  It was not quite as good to me with the Wagyu beef, but I would have loved a plate of cheeses to try with it and savour them both together.

Kalamansi honey cheese cake with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Our fifth (and last) pairing:

  • Kalamansi honey cheese cake with papaya and strawberry salsa.  Paired with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the Maule Valley.

The Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was pear skin in colour.  Honey and peach aromas.  Medium body with honey, spice, peaches, apples and flowers flavours. Medium sweetness.  I think this wine paired nicely with the Kalamansi citrus from the cheese cake and the peachy fruit from the wine.

Blue Water Cafe and Don Melchor

If you have never been to Blue Water Cafe, I hope this review of the food and wine pairing convinces you to enjoy a lunch or dinner with them.  Executive Chef Frank Pabst is recognized for his creative flair and his dedication towards responsible seafood practices.  He has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Germany and France.  In 2010 he was recognized by Vancouver Magazine as “Chef of the Year” and inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.  Quite an achievement.

Here is a web link if you would like to find more information about Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor wine,

I really enjoyed this dinner.  All the food and wine were paired wonderfully by the Blue Water Cafe.  I look forward to the next time I sit down and enjoy dinner with friends there.

More Winery Picks at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Fest 2012

las perdices Reserva Bonarda 2008

Day 2 is over for me at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. I spent a portion of my time finishing off some Chilean wineries (and interviewing a few wine makers) but the majority of the time was trying the other wineries’ wines at the Festival. If you are attending tomorrow’s tasting, here are some wines that you may want to try. Tasting notes will follow after the Festival is over.

  • Bodega Catena Zapata Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Argentina
  • Amalaya Gran Corta 2010, Argentina
  • Finca Flichman Expresiones Malbec / Cabenet Sauvignon 2009, Argentina
  • O. Fournier Alfa Crux Malbec 2008, Argentina
  • Las Perdices Reserva Bonarda 2008, Argentina (I really like this wine.  Try it if you can!)
  • El Porvenir de Los Andes Laborum Torrontes 2011, Argentina
  • El Porvenir de Los Andes Laborum Malbec 2011, Argentina
  • Delas Freres Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 2009, France
  • Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-pape Cuvee Barberini 2005, France
  • Damilano Nebbiolo d’Alba 2009, Italy
  • Damilano Barolo “Lecinquevigne” DOCG 2006, Italy
  • Quinta dos Roques Quinta do Correio red wine 2009, Portugal (very interesting indigenous grapes used)
  • Quinta dos Roques Red 2009, Portugal
  • Quinta dos Roques Reserva 2007, Portugal
  • Lammershoek Winery Pinotage 2007, South Africa
  • J. Lohr Vineyards Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, California
  • Trefethen Family Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, California
  • Zaca Mesa Winery Syrah 2009, California
  • Iber Wine, Casa Jus Antiguos Vinedos Tempranillo 2006, Spain
  • Domecq Bodegas Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2003, Spain

Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

There are many more wines and wineries that I did not have a chance to try.  Australia, Canada, and New Zealand were not able to get my attention, but there are many good wines from there too.  I hope you enjoy some of my latest wine picks!

There are also a few more Chilean wines for the list that I tried today:

  • Vina Caliterra Cenit 2008
  • Carmen Gold Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
  • Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2008
  • Miguel Torres Santa Digna Fair Trade Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Miguel Torres Conde de Superunda 2005
  • Vina San Pedro Cabo de Hornos 2007

Enjoy!  I also love to hear what you liked at the Festival.  Leave a comment please with your favourites.

A Few Quick Chilean Wines from Thursday’s Vancouver Playhouse Wine Fest

Andrés Ilabaca from Santa Rita winery

Today, Thursday, is the first day of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, International Festival Tasting room. I decided to spend most of my time tasting Chilean wines as Chile is the theme country, so there will be many wines brought in specially for this event. Besides tasting I also had a chance to chat with some of the winery principals like Andrés Ilabaca from Vina Santa Rita.

If you are going out to the Tasting Room on Friday or Saturday night, here are a few quick picks:

  • Canepa Reserva Privada Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Concha y Toro Gravas del Maipo Syrah 2008
  • Emiliana Vineyards Novas Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Emiliana VineyardsWinemaker’s Selection Chardonnay / Viognier / Marsanne / Rousanne 2010 (This wine really impressed me.)
  • Vina Errazuriz Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Vina Errazuriz Don Maximiano 2008
  • Lapostolle Casa Chardonnay 2011
  • Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Miguel Torres Cordillera Chardonnay 2011
  • Vina Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2010
  • Vina Quintay Clava Pinot Noir 2010
  • Vina San Pedro 1865 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Vina San Pedro Cabo de Hornos 2007
  • Vina Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Vina Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
  • Vina Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2011

    Emiliana selection of wines

  • Sena 2008
  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Carmenere 2010
  • Vina Ventisquero Vertice Syrah Carmenere 2007
  • Veramonte Reserva Pinot Noir 2009
  • Veramonte Neyen Carmenere / Cabernet 2008

Detailed tasting notes will follow, but check out these if you have a chance.  My next post I will give you some quick picks for wines for the rest of the world.  Enjoy!

Its Official – The Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival is On!

Harry Hertscheg speaks to Media.

This afternoon was the official kick off of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Our emcee was Mr. Harry Hertscheg, the Playhouse Wine Fest’s manager. He very eloquently introduced we in the media to this year’s event, with Chile as the host country, and Cabernet as our global grape focus.

Range of Red Wines from the Playhouse Wine Festival

At JOEY‘s downtown, we nibbled on a variety of latin-inspired appetizers and sipped a variety of wines from around the world, that will be poured during the Wine Festival.  Two of the wines were from Chile; a Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and an Errazuriz Carmenere (That’s Chile’s signature red grape by the way!).  I really liked the Sauvignon Blanc.  Leyda Valley is a very cool climate region south of the Casablanca Valley and close to the Chilean coastline.  The Errazuriz Carmenere also is also a nice example of the wine produced by the Carmenere grape.  Soft in the mouth, fruity with capsicum on the nose.

So from now till Sunday there are dinners, seminars, and of course the big International Festival Tasting room.  There are still some tickets available to various events.  Here is the link to tickets for you.

Where can you find me during the wine festival?

  • You’ll Tell Two Friends…: Social Media Symposium
  • Northern Gem, Southern Icon (Concha y Toro winery at Blue Water Cafe)
  • Food & Wine in Balance (Be a food & wine pairing expert)
  • Speaking Frankly about Franc (Learn about Cabernet Franc)

Keep checking into my blog as I will be posting as I attend these events, and sending tweets from my twitter account @mywinepal.

Interested in Going to Chile to try Wine?

I have arranged a 10 day wine and food tour of Chile and Argentina.  The tour will start May 23 and finish on June 1, 2012.  Starting in Santiago we will visit several wineries around Santiago and further south in the premium Colchagua Valley, then cross the Andes and visit several wineries in Mendoza, Argentina, and end up in Buenos Aries, experiencing the city, taking in a tango show, and more.  Here are the details of the wine tour for you.  I am keeping this tour small so that we all get personal attention from the restaurants and wineries we will visit.  Register soon before all the seats have been reserved.

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest – Wineries to Try

It is 1 week till the International Festival Tasting Room opens at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and we will get to try wines from all over the world. But which wineries? Here are a few wineries that I think you should try.

Chile

  • De Martino
  • Miguel Torres (also Spain)
  • Viña Montes
  • MontGras
  • Viña Santa Rita
  • Seña / Viña Arboleda
  • Concha y Toro

The Rest of the World

  • Bodega Catena Zapata (Argentina)
  • Decero (Argentina)
  • Las Perdices (Argentina)
  • Katnook (Australia)
  • Penfolds (Australia)
  • Yalumba (Australia)
  • Le Vieux Pin / La Stella (Canada)
  • Mission Hill Family Estate (Canada)
  • Osoyoos Larose  (Canada)
  • Painted Rock Estate Winery (Canada)
  • Thornhaven Estate (Canada)
  • M. Chapoutier (France)
  • Maison Louis Latour (France)
  • Pfaffenheim (France)
  • Estates of Antinori (Italy)
  • Bisol Desiderio & Figli (Italy)
  • Astrolabe (New Zealand)
  • Wither Hills (New Zealand)
  • Quinta do Crasto (Portugal)
  • Symington Family Estates (Portugal)
  • Taylor Fladgate / Fonseca / Croft Port (Portugal)
  • Lammershoek Winery (South Africa)
  • Bodegas Muga (Spain)
  • Bodegas Olivares (Spain)
  • Caymus Winery (USA)
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (USA)
  • Rodney Strong Vineyards (USA)
  • King Estate (USA)
  • Bergevin Lane (USA)
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle (USA)

There are of course many other wineries to try at the Wine Festival, so if you see something that interests you TRY IT.  Some of the wines at the Festival are brought in ONLY for the Festival, so if you like it, buy it in the wine shop at the back of the tasting room before it sells out.  The complete list of wineries at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival is here.

My Recommendations to Attend the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

Have you had a chance to check out the wine events coming up at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival?  Did you know that tickets for the events go on sale this Tuesday, January 10?  I’ve checked through the events, and I’d like to give you a few recommendations.  Maybe you will see me at one of these events too.

Theme Country – Chile

Two years ago I travelled down to Chile and visited wineries from the Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, and Colchagua Valleys.  Some of the wineries were Casa Lapostolle, Montgras, Montes, Errazuriz, and Casas del Bosque.   I was impressed with how much the wineries cared for their vineyards and the production of their wines.  One of the nice thing with Chile, is that it is dry due to it’s location on the west coast of South America, and the Andes Mountains on it’s eastern border.  The dry climate, plus topography, and soil factors have made the area a great place to grow grapes.  There is very little, or no, phylloxera louse to attack the grape vines, plus the dryness keeps fungus and mold at bay.  So less pesticides and/or herbicides are needed here.  Many of the wineries in Chile indicate that they are organic or follow organic principles.

Chile’s Natural Advantage

Chile is a wine maker’s paradise.  They get 3 weeks more ripening time than in Bordeaux and 300 + days of sunshine each year.   The cool air from the Andes cools the grapes in the evening so that the grapes mature slowly so that they reach full phenolic ripeness; lots of ripe fruit and a good backbone of acidity. The adjacency to the coast, and the cool Humbolt Current helps produce coastal fog which cools the grapes near the coast, such as from the Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley.

Chilean Grapes

Wide range of Chilean red wines

Cabernet is King is Chile.  With the 300+ days of sunshine, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce very full-bodied, ripe, supple wines.  Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor is one of the top quality wines for this grape.  Merlot and Carmenere come in, in 2nd and 3rd place.  Yet they were thought of both being Merlot for many years.  The grapes were planted together in the same vineyard and the grapes and leaves of both vines look very similar.  It was only fairly recently that the Carmenere grape was identified (it’s a Bordeaux grape btw), and has become a signature grape for Chile. A second signature red grape is coming through the ranks, and that is the Syrah grape.  I think people started to recognize Syrah’s potential in Chile, with Aurelio Montes‘ plantings in the Apalta Region of the Colchagua Valley.  There he produces an ultra premium Montes Folly wine from Syrah.

Most people probably think of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when they think of white wines from Chile.  Probably also the Casablanca Valley, where a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are produced. An upcoming region for Sauvignon Blanc is slightly south of the Casablanca Valley and much closer to the coast is the Leyda Valley.  While the Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Casablanca Valley can be more tropical fruit, from the Leyda Valley, expect more citrus and herbal aromas and flavours.  Have you ever heard of Moscatel of Alexandria?  You might not have, but you probably have tried some Chilean Pisco.  Pisco is produced from the Moscatel grape.  Riesling and Viognier and two grapes with great potential.  I don’t think a particular region is well-known enough for these grapes, but I would hazard to guess that the Riesling grape would be very good in the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys while Viognier would shine in the more inland, warmer regions, like Aconcagua, Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.

Theme Grape – Cabernet

Montes Apalta vineyard

Cabernet is more than just one grape.  Most people know of Cabernet Sauvignon, the highly revered grape from Bordeaux, but there is also another Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, which can also be found in Bordeaux, but is better known in the Loire Valley in France. Cabernet Sauvignon can be found around the world.  California’s Napa Valley produces some famous Cabernet Sauvignon, such as Stag’s Leap, and don’t forget Chile!  Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have quite high tannins giving it great longevity potential in the bottle. The flavour profile is Cabernet Sauvignon according to Wikipedia, “When Cabernet Sauvignon is young, the wines typically exhibit strong fruit flavors of black cherries and plum. The aroma of black currants is one of the most distinctive and characteristic element of Cabernet Sauvignon that is present in virtually every style of the wine across the globe. Styles from various regions and producers may also have aromas of eucalyptus, mint and tobacco. As the wines age they can sometimes develop aromas associated with cedar, cigar boxes and pencil shavings. In general New World examples have more pronounced fruity notes while Old World wines can be more austere with heightened earthy notes“.

Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux is used as a blending grape, offering cedar, tobacco, raspberry, cassis and violets aromas and flavours. It is lower in tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, and also can have a green pepper or leafy character. You can also find Cabernet Franc grown around the world.  Here in BC we have single varietal bottles of Cabernet Franc, such as from Tinhorn Creek.

As an aside, in my Wikipedia check, I see that there are 3 other Cabernets, formed through a hybrid of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape with another grape variety.  They are:

  • Cabernet Dorsa, a 1971 hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Dornfelder, created in Germany
  • Cabernet Gernischt, a Chinese variety similar or perhaps identical to Cabernet Savignon
  • Cabernet Mitos, a 1970 hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Blaufränkisch, created in Germany

I have not had time to check on these other Cabs but will do some further research in the future.

My Recommended Events

  • New World Expressions. This is all about New World Cabernets.  Try Penfolds Bin 707 and other Bins against sought after New World regions of Sonoma and Napa Valley.
  • Celebrate Casa Real. Casa Real is one of Chilean winery, Casa Santa Rita‘s ulta-premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Andres Ilabaca will guide you through a vertical of 8 vintages of this wine.  It is always very interesting to try successive vintages of a wine and see how it is aging over time.
  • Kings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Join Barbara Philip Master of Wine and a panel of leading experts for a comparative tasting of top notch
    Cabernets from around the world.  One of the best ways to tell what style of wine you prefer for a particular grape.
  • Don Melchor: Behind the Blend.  If you know anything about Chilean wine, you would know about Concha y Toro‘s premium Don Melchor. Don Melchor has been regarded as Chile’s first growth of Cabernet Sauvignon and is accredited with bringing the premium wines of Chile to the attention of the world.
  • Any of the 8 sit down or grazing lunches on the weekend of March 3 and 4. I’d personally select the Chilean, New Zealand, or Spanish events.
  • Flavours of the Festival.  If you have the money but not the time to try many of the wines from around the world during the Festival. This sit down brunch at the The Fairmont Waterfront ballroom showcases foods from top BC restaurants paired with Festival wines from around the world.
  • Catena High Altitude at Hy’s. This is a Argentinean delight.  Wonderful wines from premium producer Bodega Catena Zapata from Mendoza, with expertly cooked steak from Hy’s.  Malbec and more!
  • A Star Rises in South Africa! Lammershoek is one of the rising stars of the dynamic South African wine scene. I’ve tried their wines for the first time last year and they are excellent.  Try their Pinotage, the signature red grape from South Africa.
  • West Coast Montes.  Enjoy a dinner with Chilean wine pioneer Aurelio Montes.  I’ve had dinner with him in the past.  He is very interesting and will tell you many stories about his wines.
  • Discover Piedmont at CRUCRU is one of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver.  The food creations will be expertly matched with the wines of one of the most dynamic Barolo producers in Piedmont Italy, Damilano.
  • Classe Italiana. Another choice if you like Italian wine. Wines from Antinori, one of Italy’s most historic and prestigious Tuscan wineries, will be paired with Vancouver’s highly acclaimed and awarded Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill.
  • Excellence of Nature. CinCin Restaurant and Emiliana winery from Chile will showcase a pairing of organic and biodynamic
    wines with local producers of biodynamic products. This five-course meal integrates the best fresh, sustainable ingredients with the magic
    of Alvaro Espinoza’s wines in a harmonious and innovative union.
  • Sandhill Small Lots Dinner. Come celebrate a BC winery.  You will get to try the very limited wines from Sandhill’s Small Lots program. Indulge in the partnership of BC’s iconic winemaker Howard Soon and Gotham Steakhouse Executive Chef Jean-Claude Douguet

All events are available through the Playhouse Box Office
By phone: 604.873.3311
Toll free 1.877.321.3121
Monday to Friday 9:30 am-8:00 pm
Saturday 12:00-4:00 pm

In person at:
Vancouver Playhouse Box Office
601 Hamilton Street (at Dunsmuir)
Vancouver, BC
Monday to Friday 9:00 am-5:00 pm

Online at PlayhouseWinefest.com (excluding brunches, ticket packages and group rates)
Public Events:  Tickets to all public events go on sale Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 9:30 am.

My Top 5 Wine Blog Posts for 2011

Chinese New Year Golden Rabbit

Wow, a whole year has just zipped by.  I was really busy tasting lots of wines at all the fantastic venues here in Vancouver, as well as across the border at the Taste of Tulalip (which you should sign up to attend next year.  It’s excellent).  Thanks to WordPress for compiling my stats and letting me, and you, know these were my top 5 blog posts.  Which do you think?  The answers are below!

I knew my Chinese New Year post was super popular as I watched my stats leading up to Chinese New Year hit the roof. Stay tuned for my wine selection for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

My #2 post really caught me off guard.  But I’m pleasantly surprised.  Spicebox is an easy to drink whiskey, on the ice, or mixed in a drink.  Check out the post.

Lulu Island Riesling Chardonnay Ice Wine

For #3, I was happy to see Lulu Island Winery, a local winery, located in Richmond, BC.  They produce both grape-based and other fruit-based wines.  They also produce a selection of ice wine, so drop by one weekend to Lulu Island Winery if you live in the Vancouver Lower Mainland. 

#4 should be hot right now too, seeing that it is New Years Eve.  I hope I helped many people figure out which caviar and Champagne they would like to nibble and toast with the family and friends.  Wine is a social drink.

And last, but not least #5, about the Rioja region of Spain.  This article came out before the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Spain was the Theme Country this year, and I think the Vancouver readership had a thirst for knowledge about this region and what to expect at the Festival.  Stay tuned for my articles on Chile, as they are the next Theme Country for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival next year.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

The Chileans are Coming! Preview Notes for You

Flag of Chile

Every year we look forward to our pinnacle wine event, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Next year’s event will be Feb. 27 – March 4, 2012.  What does this have to do with Chile?  Chile is the theme country for the Festival!

A group of Media, myself included, were invited to a preview of the Chilean wines we can expect to see at the Festival, plus give us some background into this long, thin country.

My Experience in Chile

Karl aka MyWinePal at Casa Lapostolle

Two years ago I travelled down to Chile and visited wineries from the Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, and Colchagua Valleys.  Some of the wineries were Casa Lapostolle, Montgras, Montes, Errazuriz, and Casas del Bosque.   I was impressed with how much the wineries cared for their vineyards and the production of their wines.  One of the nice thing with Chile, is that it is dry due to it’s location on the west coast of South America, and the Andes Mountains on it’s eastern border.  The dry climate, plus topography, and soil factors have made the area a great place to grow grapes.  There is very little, or no, phylloxera louse to attack the grape vines, plus the dryness keeps fungus and mold at bay.  So less pesticides and/or herbicides are needed here.  Many of the wineries in Chile indicate that they are organic or follow organic principles.

Chile’s Natural Advantage

Chile is a wine maker’s paradise.  They get 3 weeks more ripening time than in Bordeaux and 300 + days of sunshine each year.   The cool air from the Andes cools the grapes in the evening so that the grapes mature slowly so that they reach full phenolic ripeness; lots of ripe fruit and a good backbone of acidity. The adjacency to the coast, and the cool Humbolt Current helps produce coastal fog which cools the grapes near the coast, such as from the Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley.

What Grapes Grow in Chile?

There is a wide range of red and white grapes grown in Chile.  The top 5 red grapes in order of volume are:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Carmenere
  4. Syrah
  5. Pinot Noir

Montes M, Folly and Purple Angel wines

Cabernet is King is Chile.  With the 300+ days of sunshine, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce very full-bodied, ripe, supple wines.  Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor is one of the top quality wines for this grape.  Merlot and Carmenere come in, in 2nd and 3rd place.  Yet they were thought of both being Merlot for many years.  The grapes were planted together in the same vineyard and the grapes and leaves of both vines look very similar.  It was only fairly recently that the Carmenere grape was identified (it’s a Bordeaux grape btw), and has become a signature grape for Chile. A second signature red grape is coming through the ranks, and that is the Syrah grape.  I think people started to recognize Syrah’s potential in Chile, with Aurelio Montes‘ plantings in the Apalta Region of the Colchagua Valley.  There he produces an ultra premium Montes Folly wine from Syrah.

For white grapes, the top 5 varieties are:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Moscatel of Alexandria
  4. Riesling
  5. Viognier

Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc and Reserva Chardonnay

Most people probably think of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when they think of white wines from Chile.  Probably also the Casablanca Valley, where a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are produced. An upcoming region for Sauvignon Blanc is slightly south of the Casablanca Valley and much closer to the coast is the Leyda Valley.  While the Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Casablanca Valley can be more tropical fruit, from the Leyda Valley, expect more citrus and herbal aromas and flavours.  Have you ever heard of Moscatel of Alexandria?  You might not have, but you probably have tried some Chilean Pisco.  Pisco is produced from the Moscatel grape.  Riesling and Viognier and two grapes with great potential.  I don’t think a particular region is well-known enough for these grapes, but I would hazard to guess that the Riesling grape would be very good in the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys while Viognier would shine in the more inland, warmer regions, like Aconcagua, Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.

Wines We Tasted at the Media Preview

Montgras Santa Carolina and Undurraga Sauvignon Blancs

We enjoyed 3 Sauvignon Blancs and a range of single varietals and red blends.  The three Sauvignon Blancs:

  • Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Leyda Valley). Light straw colour with a green tinge. Gooseberry and sweet honey nose. Light body with medium plus acidity.  Gooseberry and citrus flavours.  Medium length. My favorite of the these 3 wines.
  •  Vina Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Leyda Valley). Light lemon colour with herbal, asparagus and mint on the nose.  Round mouth feel with light body. Herbal, citrus and green apple fruit flavours with some minerality on the palate.  Quite sour on the finish.
  • Undurraga Terroir Hunter Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Leyda Valley). 2008 was a later harvest than the other years, resulting in riper more tropical fruit flavours.  This wine was light lemon/green in colour.  Tropical fruit, lees and oak on the nose.  Light body,  round mouth feel but also has a good backbone of acidity. Oaky, smoky, citrus flavours.  Long length.

Wide range of Chilean red wines

Our red wines included single varietal Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and blends.  The wines are:

  • Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2009 (Casablanca Valley). Medium ruby, Vanilla and cherry aromas. Medium body, dry, but full fruit, cherry flavours.  Vanilla in the back ground and some spiciness and raspberry leaf.  Slightly sweet cherry finish.
  • Emiliana Vineyards COYAM 2007 (Colchagua Valley). This is a biodynamic wine, which goes beyond organic wine making principles. Opaque garnet in the glass with ripe black fruit, vanilla, dark chocolate and cherrie aromas.  Full body, very round, with milk chocolate and ripe cherry flavours.  Some spice, raspberry leaf and vanilla on the finish.  A very high quality, balanced wine. You can read about biodynamic wines at this link.
  • Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere Syrah 2008 (Maule Valley). This blend is 75% Carmenere and 25% Syrah.  Deep ruby colour.  Meaty sausage and ripe cherry aromas. Full body, round with minerality.  Cherries, blueberries and vanilla flavours.   Medium plus acidity gives this wine bright flavours.
  • Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2009 (Apalta Valley).  Some dustiness on the nose, along with ripe cherries, capsicum and vanilla.  Medium minus body with high acidity and soft tannins.  Dark chocolate and cherry flavours with a mineral streak running through the wine. Not mouth filling but very pleasant sensation in your mouth.
  • Vina Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Carmenere 2010 (Colchagua Valley). The nose on this wine was a little closed, but I did get some nutmeg and cherry aromas. But on the palate, nutmeg, cedar and dark fruit flavours jump out.  Round mouth feel, dry with some spiciness.
  • Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). Deep garnet in colour with cedar and ripe fruit aromas. Full body, rich feeling ,with  ripe dark fruit flavours and vanilla.  Dry with soft tannins and cedar on the finish.  This is a real good value wine at $19.99 a bottle. Also try their Medalla Real Pinot Noir!
  • Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). This wine I think is starting to show it’s age as there is a slightly brownish tinge to an otherwise garnet colour in the glass. Some dark fruit on the nose.  Medium body, light mouth feel, with juicy black fruit flavour.  An elegant wine.
  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet 2009 (Maipo Valley). Deep dark core with a ruby rim in the glass. Vanilla, dark fruit and oak/cedar aromas. Full body, round mouth feel with soft tannins.  Light vanilla with some mintiness.
  • Vina Chocalan Gran Reserva Blend 2009 (Maipo Valley). This is a blend of 6 grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.  Opaque garnet in the glass. Nice cedar, allspice and vanilla on the nose. Very round in your mouth with soft tannins. Allspice, cedar and ripe black fruit flavours.  Nice texture.  A favorite wine of many of the media I spoke with.

If these wines have enticed you, you may want to buy advance tickets to the Playhouse Wine Festival.  Here is my link to the tickets.  Enjoy and Salud!