Enjoy some Port and Cheese for Christmas?

With this cold snap here in Vancouver, it got me to thinking about opening a bottle of port and enjoying some cheeses over a couple of evenings. I thought that you may also enjoy such things, so I am giving you a short list of some ports and some cheeses that you may want to try.

Port is a fortified wine made in Portugal by definition.  It is usually quite sweet and typically made from one or more of the grape types: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cao, and Tinta Barroca. Other countries make a fortified wine and sometimes call it port, just like some countries make sparkling wine and call it champagne.  So when I am talking about port, I am meaning port from Portugal.

I checked out the Everything Wine store website, www.everythingwine.ca to see what port they have in stock in the $25-$50 range (sometimes it is nice to spoil yourself).  Most of the port listed is from Portugal, but there is at least one in the list from Australia (can you spot it?):

Croft Pink Port 750ml Port $29.99
De Bortoli Black Noble 750 mL Port $46.99
Fonseca LBV 2001 Port 750ml Port $38.99
Graham’s The Vancouver Club Reserve Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Graham’s 10 Year old Tawny Port 750 mL Port $39.99
Graham’s 98 Quinta dos Malvedos Port 375 mL Port $36.99
Graham’s 99 Quinta dos Malvedos Port 375 mL Port $36.99
Graham’s Six Grapes Vintage Character Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 750 mL Port $28.99
Hardy’s Whiskers Blake Classic Tawny Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Kopke Colheita LBV 1997 Port 750 mL Port $49.99
Nieport Colheita 1995 Port 375 mL Port $44.99
Quinta de Ventozelo Ten yr old Tawny 375 mL Port $32.99
Quinta Do Crasto 2005 LBV 750ml Port $34.99
Smith Woodhouse LBV Port 750 mL Port $37.99
Taylor Fladgate 10 Yr Tawny Port Port $39.99
Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 750 mL Port $25.99
Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas 1995 Vintage Port 375ml Port $49.99
Ventozelo 1998 Port, LBV 750ml Port $39.99

You may have noticed different terms for the ports: Vintage, Tawny, LBV.  Here is a bit of info about these different styles of port (Note that there are more styles than just these):

Vintage:  This is port that is produced from grapes from one year (vintage) and deemed to be of exceptional quality by the port house.  Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest. About 2% of the total port production is Vintage.

Tawny: is a basic blended port,  which is aged in the barrel before being bottled. This type of port can be aged from 3 to 40 years.  The aging in oak causes the wine to take on a reddish-brown colour and develops a dry nutty flavour with raisin notes.

LBV:  This stands for Late Bottled Vintage. iThis is port that was originally destined for bottling as Vintage Port, but was left in the barrel for longer than had been planned. This type of port is bottled between 4 and 6 years after the vintage. The filtered version of this wine has the advantage of being ready to drink without being decanted, is bottled with a stopper that can be easily re-corked and enjoyed over many tastings.

If you want to try some BC “port”, there is some that you can try from Grey Monk and from Sumac Ridge.

Some ports that I’ve reviewed in the past:

Portugal, Taylor Fladgate, White Port, NV
–  Medium gold colour. Oxidized aroma.  Green, orange marmalade, lemon meringue pie, lime, almond aromas.  Medium low acidity, fuller body and intensity.  Sweet, caramel, citrus, dried fruit, and apricot flavours.

Portugal, Taylor Fladgate, 20 year old Tawny Port, NV – Medium tawny colour.  Pronounced intensity.  Figs, red fruit, dried fruit, red cherry, earthy aromas.  Medium sweet.  Medium plus acidity / body / intensity.  Spices, raisin, red fruit, dried fruit and red cherry flavours.  Elegant.

Portugal, Quinta do Panascal, Fonseca Single Quinta Vintage Port 1991 – Opaque purple colour.  Some deposit in the glass.  Black fruit, dried fruit, orange and oak aromas.  Full bodied, medium sweetness.  Spice, raisin, red fruit, black cherry flavours.  Medium to long length.

Some suggestions for cheese to go with port:
Blue cheeses. Stilton is a traditional pairing with port.  The saltiness and the bitterness of the blue cheese balancing with the sweetness and fruit of the port.
aged cheddar
aged gorgonzola
– experiment with other salty cheeses

I hope this gives you a starting point for your Christmas holiday tipple. Enjoy!

Blue Mountain Winery at Salt Tasting Room

On Monday evening I had the good fortune of being invited to a Blue Mountain Winery tasting at one of Vancouver’s hottest restaurants, Salt Tasting Room, in Gastown. Blue Mountain winery is located in Okanagan Falls and was established in 1991. It’s a family run business and it shows with the care they show with their wines. They are an Estate Winery which means all the grapes they use for their wines come from their vineyard (which they have 80 acres under vines, but only 60 acres producing grapes at the moment).

For those of you who have not been to Salt Tasting Room, they offer a range of cheeses and charcuterie and condiments to their guests. They have a wide range of wines to pair with these food, along with some beers.

This evening we were treated to three white and three red wines, paired with cheeses and charcuterie. The three white wines were the:
– Blue Mountain Brut (a sparkling wine made in the traditional champenoise style)
– Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2008
– Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2007

The Brut is a blend of 47% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay, and 6% Pinot Gris. Pale yellow in colour with a slight bubble around the edge of the glass. Light citrus, slightly sweet and a bit of lees on the nose. The bubble was quite fine, and had lemony, lees, and almond flavour. Quite nice. To this I enjoyed the Schinkenspeck sausage slices from Oyama the Savoury Moon cheese from BC and the Isle of Mull Cheddar from the UK.

The Pinot Blanc is whole cluster pressed and fermented in barrel (47%) and the remainder in tank. This wine had peach and lemon aroma (i was expecting apple, but i love suprises). There was a slight bit of effervesence, lemon and mineral flavours. Another enjoyable wine.

The final white, the Pinot Gris, is similarly fermented as the Pinot Blanc. The result is a wine with light aromas of stone fruit. A round mouthfeel with cherry and stone fruit flavours. Again something I was not expecting was the cherry flavour. Interesting.

For the red wines we were treated to the:
– Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2008
– Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2006

– Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 1997

The Gamay Noir was deep violet/purple in the glass. Very aromatic with dark cherry and cassis? aromas. On the palate it was peppery, black cherry and licorice with low tannins. It was nice with the Mike Vitow’s Corned Beef.

The Reserve Pinot Noir 2006, is a soft pinot noir. Light cherry and violet aromas and flavours. A bit astringent. It went nicely with the Avonlea Cheddar from PEI and the Piccantino and the Lamb Salamis from Oyama.

Our last wine of the night (and my favourite) was the Reserve Pinot Noir 1997. This wine had depth of character and was very defined in it’s flavours, like a laser beam. Deep red colour in the glass. A very interesting nose with cherries and mint. On the palate there was dark cherry, some spice and medium tannins. Long length. Excellent! I quite enjoyed this wine with the Saint Agur blue cheese from France. This is a creamy blue cheese, half way between a Stilton and a Cambazola.

If you have not been to Salt Tasting Room, it is located at 45 Blood Alley in Gastown. Enjoy.

Thornhaven Winery – A small gem

I enjoy discoverng small wineries that are producing quality wines, then letting other people know about them. Thornhaven winery in Summerland, BC is one of those wineries. I came across this winery two years ago doing an Okanagan tasting weekend. Each wine in their portfolio was very well made, full of fruit, but with structure. Two wines stood out for me at the time. The first was their pinot grigio. Most grigios have a variety of citrus, peach, mango flavour with soft acidity, not as much as you would get on a Sauvignon Blanc. Thornhaven’s pinot grigio tasted like a juicy red grapefruit. It was so refreshing and would have been a great pairing with grilled seafood. The other wine I really enjoyed was their Pinot Meunier. This is a red grape, that is used in the Champagne region, in the blend with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to produce Champange. It is fruiter than pinot noir. Thornhaven’s pinot meunier had a nice cherry and red fruit aromas and flavours. There was also some coffee flavour. This wine is hard to find, outside of going to the Thornhaven winery.

The last wine of note, which I have not yet tasted, is their 2006, Gewurztraimer, as it won double gold at the Canadian Wine Awards. I was able to buy a bottle, but am waiting for the right occasion, to open it with friends. For those that haven’t tried Gewurztraimer, think of lychee fruit with some sweet spices. This is known as the spicy grape in Germany. Try pairing it with a light blue cheese, chicken satay, pate, or chinese food. Enjoy!