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!

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!

Planning Your Summer Wine Trip?

It’s almost mid-August… What do you mean planning your summer wine trip?  Well I didn’t mean a trip here.  How about the southern hemisphere?  January is prime summer time down under.

Vina Errazuriz, Chile winery

If you are in North America, a trip south to Argentina or Chile is not a far stretch.  Vancouver, BC to Santiago, Chile via Air Canada is $1555 round trip in January.  Toronto, Ontario to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Air Canada is $1503 round trip in January, per person.  Both countries speak Spanish, but you can also get along with English as there are English speaking people in hotels as well as at wineries (from personal experience).

Before you get to any of the countries I mention, I recommend researching out some wineries on the Internet, then contacting the wineries in advance to set up a private tasting. I’ve done this in the past and I had great private tastings, which usually includes a few wines that are not normally poured at public tastings.

Southern hemisphere wine selection

If you feel more comfortable being in an English-speaking environment, try Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.  If you like wines and the environment of British Columbia, then New Zealand may be the destination for you.  A round trip in January from Vancouver to Auckland, New Zealand $2460 via Air Canada per person. If you would like to see the terra rossa soil of the Coonawarra in Australia, and enjoy a big Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, a Vancouver to Sydney, Australia round trip ticket costs around $2123 per person.

The longest flight for Canadians would be to South Africa, but you can experience the Old World wines of the New World.  If you like the structure or finesse of French wines, for example, but also the fruit forwardness of North American wines, South Africa is a good choice. South African wines are designed for food, so make sure you enjoy a braii (a South African bbq) with your South African wines.  A Toronto, Ontario to Capetown, South Africa in January is about $2061 via Air Canada per person.

Some questions you may have for your trip:

  • What wines to enjoy in these southern hemisphere countries?
  • What are the signature grapes of these countries?
  • What are some interesting regions to visit in these countries?

These are all questions that you probably have as you consider your southern hemisphere Summer wine trip.  In upcoming blog articles I will tackle these questions and hopefully help you have a great wine trip!

The flight prices I found on Travelocity.ca.  They can change quickly, so I recommend doing a check on your own. Enjoy your trip planning!

Enjoy Chilean Wine at the BC Hospitality Foundation Dish & Dazzle

On Friday, June 17, 2011, you will be able to sample some fantastic wines from Chile, and help support the BC Hospitality Foundation’s Dish & Dazzle. What is the BC Hospitality Foundation?  The Foundation was formed in 2006 to help wine agent Michael J. Willingham pay for a costly surgery and subsequent rehabilitation following a stroke. Michael’s situation highlighted the need to establish a trust fund that could be used as a last-resort safety net for other industry members in need – who may or may not have benefits, be covered by employment insurance, or require assistance beyond traditional medical benefits. The Foundation benefits will cover people in the industry – food suppliers, hoteliers, media, publicists, retailers, vintners and wine sales representatives (from BCHR website).

The Dish & Dazzle is one of their fundraising efforts. The location will be the fabulous Fairmont Pacific Rim in downtown Vancouver. The schedule will include :

  • wines from 25 Chilean wineries with each pouring up to five different wines at their table,
  • four focus stations highlighting Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Carmenere & organic wine
  • food from 12 fine restaurants,
  • an exciting “sour” themed cocktail competition,
  • live entertainment and
  • silent auction

Dish n’Dazzle, will be a showcase for Vancouver’s dynamic hospitality industry. Restaurants, wineries and premium liquors will be featured in the main “tasting room” and guests will move from station to station in an interactive, informal setting.

If you have never tasted Carmenere wine before, this would be a good introduction.  Carmenere is a “forgotten” grape, originally from Bordeaux, France, but loves the climate of Chile and has become Chile’s signature red grape!  It has been mistaken in the past in Chile for Merlot.  Carmenere is dark red in colour with cherries and red fruit flavours, spice and sometimes a bit of green pepper.  The tannins are soft, making this wine easy to drink.  It goes well with BBQ so think about buying some carmenere for summer.  Here are some Carmenere that I have reviewed in the past:

  • Vina Santa Rita Pehuen Carmenere 2005 (Chile). Pehuen Carmenere is a premium wine from Vina Santa Rita.  Opaque purple in the glass. Dark fruit nose with a whiff of capsicum. Full bodied but with soft tannins.  Ripe black cherries, vanilla and spice on the palate.  A very long length.  Here is a Carmenere you should try.
  • Vina Errazuriz Max Reserva Carmenere 2007  (Chile). This wine spent 12 months oak aging. 2007 is the first vintage for the vines selected for this wine. It had a deep purple color in the glass. Cassis, smoke, black cherry, and oak on the nose. Black cherries, vanilla and cassis flavours. Smooth tannins. It had a long length, with a spice and red cherry finish. Highly recommended.
  • Montes Alpha Carmenere 2007 (Chile). This wine was deep purple in the glass. Capsicum, back fruit and vanilla aromas. On the palate I tasted red and black cherries, vanilla and a slight hint of capsicum. This wine had a soft, round mouth feel and a long length.
  • Viu Manent Reserva Carmenere 2008 (Chile). Deep purple colour in the glass. Vanilla, black fruits and a slight hint of capsicum on the nose. It was quite round in the mouth, with vanilla and ripe black fruit flavours, and a peppery finish.

In case you didn’t know, the theme country for next year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is Chile, so come out to this event, and get a sneak peek at what you can expect next year, and maybe find a few new favorites for this summer!

Here is the website for tickets for the BC Hospitality Foundation Dish & Dazzle. Enjoy!

My Favorites From the South World Wine Society’s Five Nations Cup 2011

Wednesday, Jan 19 was the South World Wine Society’s 6th Annual Five Nations Cup.  This is a blind wine tasting and humbles everyone in attendance. Five white wines and five red wines were presented to us.

We first went through the white wines, and were told that there were a Chenin Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and 2 Sauvignon Blanc.  One of the sauvignon blanc would be young (a recent vintage), while the other sauvignon blanc would be aged (2003 in this case).  The wines would be from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, or South Africa.  We were missing a white wine from Argentina for this half of the tasting.  Our host for the evening, Mr. Paul Watkin, is past SWWS cellar master and is a manager at Icon Fine Wine and Spirits in Vancouver.   Paul let us all know some of the characteristic aromas and flavours of each of these white grapes, as well as some hints as to style of white wines produced by each of these countries.  After sipping and debating each other at our table, we all stood up and slowly each started to sit down as each wine was revealed but did not match our guess.

The first wine was the Mount Riley Pinot Gris (2008 I think) from New Zealand.  I marked this wine as pale lemon colour. Herbal, lemon a bit of lime and some lychee on the nose.  Medium body, medium acidity, grapefruit and spice flavours with a long finish.  I guessed correctly.

The second wine was the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) from Chile. Pale but bright lemon colour in the glass. Vanilla, waxy, lemon, grassy, and gooseberry aromas. Medium body.  Citrus, slightly vegetal and slightly spicy with medium acidity.  Another correct guess!

The third wine was the Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) from Chile.  This one was the easiest to guess.  The fullest body, most deep lemony coloured, lots of vanilla and apple aromas and flavours.  Nice spice too.  It went really well with a smoked scalloped that was served with the wines.  3 for 3 so far.

The fourth wine was the Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) from Australia. The aged sauvignon blanc!  This wine was medium minus golden colour. Big legs on the sides of the glass.  Honeysuckle, honey, and apricot aromas. Medium minus body, smooth, lower in acidity with a dry finish.  I guessed this one was the Chenin Blanc.

The last white wine was the Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) from South Africa . Light lemon colour.  Smokey, apple, spice, oak, vanilla, and some earthiness on the nose. Bright fruit flavours, but also some smokiness, apple and oak.  Medium length. I originally thought this one could be the aged sauvignon blanc with some oak aging (e.g. a Fume Blanc).

So from the white wine review, I ended up in 2nd place.  Not bad considering how difficult the whites were to identify.  Hopefully the red wines would be easier.

No such luck.  Paul was going to give us 5 different Bordeaux blends.  That is much more difficult than trying to guess if a wine is a Malbec or a Merlot.  The first red was the Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) from New Zealand. I had marked it as medium red with a purple tint (from the Malbec). Cassis, red cherry, leather, mint and tomato aromas. Juicy red fruit flavour, with vanilla, spice, high acidity and medium tannins.  I guessed correctly.  I thought the high acidity would be from a cooler climate, and New Zealand would be the coolest of the 5 countries.

The second red was the Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) from Chile. A deep core of garnet in the glass.  Some capsicum aroma, along with vanilla, dark plum and milk chocolate.  On the palate it was full bodied.  Vanilla, purple fruit and savory flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. Another correct guess.  The capsicum was my hint that it was Chilean.

The third red was the Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) from South Africa.  Deep garnet in colour.  Iodine and earthy aromas. Mineral, leather and firm tannins.  Quite different from all the other reds.  I guessed that one correctly too.

The fourth red wine was the Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) from Argentina.  I had guessed New Zealand, then changed my mind to Australia, but in the end I found out it was Argentina.  Really hard to guess the origin of this wine.  It was medium garnet coloured.  Sweet vanilla, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Not overly aromatic. Medium body and medium tannins with grippy black fruit flavour.

The fifth red wine was the d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) from Australia. Very dark garnet in colour.  Some capsicum, dry not overly fruity nose with some earthiness.  Vanilla, capsicum and very fruity flavours.  Firm tannins.  I guessed this one was the wine from Argentina.

I ended up in 2nd place for the red wines.  I don’t feel too bad getting 2nd place for both the red and white wines.

How did I rate these wines?

White wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) Australia
  2. Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) Chile
  3. Mt. Riley Pinot Gris (2008) New Zealand
  4. Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) Chile
  5. Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) South Africa

Red wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) Chile
  2. Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) New Zealand
  3. Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) Argentina
  4. d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) Australia
  5. Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) South Africa

One thing that you may notice is that my first choice in both the red and white wines were the OLDEST wines.  Don’t think that you have to drink a wine as soon as you buy it.  Especially true for red wines, and some white wines.  Many of these wines will be available only in private wine shops.  Hope you can get a chance to try some of them. Enjoy!

White Wine, Artichokes, & Fish for Dinner

I love eating fish. There are the local fish that we all know and enjoy like salmon, halibut, ling cod, and red snapper. But there are also fish brought across from South East Asia and Australia. Some fish you might want to try are Milkfish, Barramundi, or Tilapia.  There are many more fish.  Try visiting the T&T Supermarket.

I have a recipe that I like to use with a white fleshed fish. I use halibut, but cod, sole, and other fish can be used. I did mention other Asian fish, and I will in a future blog talk about a nice way to cook tilapia and a wine pairing for it.

Fish with Artichokes

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine (chardonnay, pinot grigio)
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 large fish fillets (halibut or rock cod)
1 18 oz can of marinated artichoke hearts (cut in half)
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil, then add the mushrooms and dried herbs.  After the mushrooms start to soften add the lemon juice, wine and salt.  Simmer for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 deg F.  Place the fillets in an oiled wide Pyrex baking dish.  Do not put the fillets on top of each other.  Cover with the sauce you just made.  Then add the halved artichoke hearts.  Also pour a bit of the artichoke marinade on top, then partly cover the baking dish and put in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (you may have to check if the fish is flaky).  Thicker fillets could take longer.

If you don’t like mushrooms, you can substitute with a small zucchini sliced into rounds.  Finally pour yourself a glass of the white wine that you used in the dish and relax.  Serve with some white rice and a salad.  Simple.

An unoaked or very lightly oaked chardonnay or a pinot grigio would work well.  Greata Ranch Chardonnay from BC, Errazuriz Chardonnay from Chile, Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio, or Dirty Laundry Pinot Gris from BC are some options for you.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and wine pairing.

Thinking about Thanksgiving?

It’s time that the harvest is coming in. I keep hearing tweets from various wineries that the grape harvest is well underway.

This coming Monday is Thanksgiving here in Canada. And of course, I am thinking of what bottle of wine to serve with my roast turkey. For many people, turkey or chicken means to open up a bottle of chardonnay, likely oaked, to make it a bit fuller bodied to balance out the heaviness of the bird with gravy. You can’t argue with that, but there are also some red wines too. Before getting into a few reds you might want to serve, here are a few white wine suggestions:

Therapy Vineyards Chardonnay (Okanagan) (the ’07 vintage was pale lemon. Vanilla, apple, and butterscotch aromas. Butterscotch, lees, citrus, and orange peel flavours. Round mouthfeel.)
Vina Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay (Chile) (the ’07 vintage is 100% barrel fermented in French oak for 9-10 months. 1/3 of wine goes through malolactic fermentation to add some extra body and butteriness. Uses native yeasts so it is always a gamble. Full lemony colour. Lots of vanilla, caramel and tropical fruit on the nose. Very aromatic. Medium-full body, with tropical fruit and vanilla flavour. Has some acidity and slight spiciness to balance the creaminess. An excellent wine.)
Matua Judd Estate Chardonnay (New Zealand) (This is a top tier chardonnay from Matua. This ’04 vintage had melon, pear, sweet spices, butter, oak and vanilla aromas. It had a round mouthfeel, with some spice, oak and apple flavours, and a long finish.)
Meyer Family Vineyards Tribute Series Chardonnay 2008, Old Main Road Vineyard (Okanagan) (This vintage is medium lemony gold in colour. Medium intensity nose with citrus, tropical and dried fruit, butter, yeast, vanilla and butter aromas. It is dry with medium acidity and medium plus body. Flavours are citrus, dried fruit, pear, yeast, oak, vanilla and butter. It has a medium length with a green apple finish. Quite elegant.)

Other chardonnays you might want to consider would be from California.  They tend to be more full bodied due to the warmer climate.

Maybe you are curious about trying some red wine with your Thanksgiving turkey. There are a few options. I personally like a slightly chilled pinot noir. Pinot noir has good acidity to cut through the fat in the gravy, but is not so strong with oaky tannins, or too full bodied with fruit flavours that it completely overpowers your turkey dinner. Pinot noir can have aromas and flavours of raspberries, strawberries, violets and some spice. There are many more descriptors possible, but these ones are quite common. I think the summery fruit flavours would be a nice complement to the turkey. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I’m wondering if a Sangiovese which has similar characteristics could also work. Something for me to try. Here are a few pinot noir options for you:
Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir (New Zealand)(The ’05 vintage was medium ruby in appearance, and had smoky and strawberry aromas. On the palate one enjoyed strawberry and black cherry flavours with some spiciness.)
Greata Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir (Okanagan) (Single vineyard. Medium cherry in the glass. Nice colour. Raspberry and vanilla aromas. Raspberry, vanilla and cherry flavours. Full of flavour. Sweet flavour from ripe fruit yet dry.)
Voss Estate Pinot Noir (New Zealand) (The ’02 vintage had a wonderful bouquet with hints of violets, cherry and candy. On the palate there was nice acidity and smooth tannins. Cherry and strawberry flavours.)

Also to finish off this blog, maybe you are thinking bubbles? In Australia, they swear that a sparkling shiraz nicely chilled is good with roast turkey. I’ve tried it before and it did work. The sparkling shiraz took on a bit of sweetness with being chilled down before being served.

Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fair – Day 3

Yesterday was my last day at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fair. I tried many wines from the theme countries of New Zealand and Argentina, and gave you my picks. Today I’ll give you some of my picks for the rest of the world.

If you like Italian wines, Altesino is a nice coice. I particularly liked their Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2004 and their Alte d’Altesi “Super Tuscan” IGT 2003. The Brunello was pale reddish orange. Light strawberry and woody nose. Light body with strawberry and oaky flavours. Medium tannins. The Alte d’Altesi was fuller bodied. Medium garnet. Smoky, earthy, oaky nose. Cherry flavour with very firm tannins.

A South African winery I had not tried before but will now look around for is Alto. South African wines tend to have a different aromatic profile than other New World wines. There is something earthy about many of their wines. Alto’s Rouge 2007 and Shiraz 2006 were wonderful. I was told their Fine Old Vintage Port 2006 was really good, but never got around to trying it. The Rouge 2007 was light/medium garnet in the glass. Capsicum and cherry nose. Cherry, meaty and spicy flavours. Their Shiraz 2006 was deep purple coloured. Sweet black fruit aromas. Firm tannins and bursting with blueberry flavours. Very full bodied. Nice!

Back here in Canada, a must try is Cedar Creek Estate winery’s Platinum Malbec 2007 and their Platinum Syrah 2007. The Platinum Malbec 2007 is their first single varietal release. Medium purple colour. Plum and dark fruit aromas. Rip, black cherries with some green stemminess. Very smooth. Vanilla and medium spice. The Platinum Syrah 2007 had nice blueberries and plum aromas. Quite spicy on the palate with black cherry flavour. Medium tanning and long length.

Another BC wine to try is the Chardonnay 2007 from Church & States Wines. The Chardonnay 2007 is medium lemon colour. Nice apricot nose. Vanilla, sweet spice, pineapple and apricot flavours, with a bit of spice. Lots of flavours coming out the glass the more you swirled it around in your mouth.

If you like biodynamic wines, there is the Cadenizia 2008 from Gemtree Vineyards in Australia. This 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.

My third recommended BC wine is the Mission Hill Family Estate Quatrain 2006. This is a Syrah, Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, and Cab Franc blend from the Black Sage area of the Okanagan. Deep purple coloured. Blueberry and plum nose. Cherry and plum flavour, peppery with firm tannins.

If you are a Pinot Noir lover, try the Freedom Hill Pinot Noir 2006 from Panther Creek in Oregon. The Freedom Hill Pinot Noir 2006 is light cherry coloured. Smoky, strawberry aromas. Earthy, cherry flavours, with a bit of spiciness and low tannins.

There are many more wines for me to write about for you. That will be happening over the next week. Hopefully you would have tried some of these wines and/or purchased some. Enjoy!

Wine for Easter

Spring flowers for EasterEaster is a big holiday for many of us, where we get together with family and enjoy a big Easter dinner. Easter is also leading us into spring. Flowers are already blooming here in Vancouver, and I’m sure it will come soon in the rest of Canada.

Ham, roast chicken or turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and vegetables are traditional dishes for many people’s Easter dinner. But maybe you are wondering what wine(s) to serve? Before starting dinner you may want to consider something sparkling? An easy to sip wine would be an Italian prosecco or a Moscato. These wines tend to be quite reasonably priced. Mionetto Prosecco FrizzanteEmotivo Prosecco, or Batasiolo Moscato D’Asti are three Italian wines you may want to consider.

For the main course, a roasted ham, if you are a red wine person, you could try a Pinot Noir or a Gamay (the most famous being Beaujolais). Serve slightly chilled. Here in North America, you could go with a Pinot Noir from British Columbia, such as the Quails Gate Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir. A Gamay such as Georges Duboeuf Brouilly, France would also be nice. The Gamay would also work with turkey.

Spierhead Chardonnay

What if you prefer white wine? Then I would suggest a riesling. The Kettle Valley Winery Riesling 2008 (BC) has a bit of residual sugar with some apple, flower and citrus aromas, and apple with a bit of petrol flavours, or on the organic side, Kalala Organic Estate Winery Riesling 2008 also from BC. If you prefer a drier riesling, how about the Plantagenet Great Southern Riesling 2008 from Australia? Quite minerally. Light green and petrol aromas. Apple and citrus flavours.

For roast chicken or turkey, there is Pinot Noir, as mentioned earlier. A lightly oaked Chardonnay would also work well. The oakiness and butteriness from some secondary malolactic ferementation would make the Chardonnay nice and round in your mouth to complement the richness of your roast chicken or turkey. If you would like to support Chilean wineries, after the earthquake, you may want to try the Carmen Nativa Vineyards Chardonnay (organic) or the Vina Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay from Chile. The Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay is always a winner for me. From my last tasting notes, I noted 100% barrel fermented in French oak for 9-10 months. 1/3 of wine goes through malolactic fermentation to add some extra body and butteriness. Full lemony colour. Lots of vanilla, caramel and tropical fruit on the nose. Very aromatic. Medium-full body, with tropical fruit and vanilla flavour. Has some acidity and slight spiciness to balance the creaminess. An excellent wine.  A BC selection would be Spierhead Winery Chardonnay 2010. Their chardonnay is creamy with lots of vanilla and tropical fruit aromas and flavours.  Enjoy juicy fruit flavours in your mouth with medium acidity to keep it refreshing.

I hope some of these wines give you ideas for what to serve with your Easter family meal. Enjoy!

Chile Day 6 – Errazuriz

Chile Day 6. Today I visited one of the largest wineries in Chile, Errazuriz. Errazuriz is located in the Aconcagua Valley, north of Santiago. I was first met by Mr. Pedro Olivia Farias in Public Relations who showed me part of the vineyard, plus their winery processing facilities. It was very informative. Pedro showed me the upgrades that Errazuriz has done to the winery, and changes upcoming to make it more sustainable. Gravity fed, using thermal heating from the ground, natural lighting and more. He also provided me a brief history of the Errazuriz winery, which started in the late 1880’s up to today. Today the winery is completely owned by 4 family members. He also described to me the different wineries owned by Errazuriz, which include Arboleda, Sena, and Caliterra, and the different emphasis of each winery. I found out that Canada is the 2nd largest market to Errazuriz, behind the UK. That was quite amazing.

After the tour by Pedro, I was handed over to winemaker, Mr. Rodrigo Zamorano. Rodrigo spent a lot of time with me and went into much depth about the Aconcagua Valley and each of the 9 different wines we sampled together. Errazuriz is the largest winery in the Aconcagua Valley and is the only valley to have a continuous valley up to the Andes. This allows the coastal fogs to reach far in land moderating the temperatures in the Aconcagua Valley. He also mentioned that they started a new vineyard area called Manzanar near the coast in the Aconcagua Valley where they are trying white varietals plus pinot noir. They are just starting to produce wines from this area so time will tell which varietals produce the wines up to their standards.

As i mentioned, I tried 8 different wines, from the Estate Level, Reserve Level, and their top level wine, Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve. To keep this blog brief, I will tell you about one white and one red I enjoyed, and then provide the full tastings notes when i am back in Canada. For the white wine, I enjoyed their 2007 Wild Ferment Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley. This is a 100% barrel fermented wine, using all French oak. One third of the wine went through malolactic fermentation to provide a more round mouthfeel and butteriness. I’ve tried this wine in the past in Vancouver, and enjoyed it this time with the wine maker Rodrigo. The wine had lots of vanilla, caramel and tropical fruit on the nose. Very aromatic. Full bodied, with tropical fruit and vanilla flavours. Very smooth, but still had some acid to balance it. It had a long length with a spicy finish. Rodrigo suggested aging it for a year to integrate more in the bottle, but I thought it was fine already.

For the red wine, I enjoyed the 2007 Max Reserva Carmenere from the Aconcagua Valley. This wine spent 12 months oak aging. 2007 is the first vintage for the vines selected for this wine. It had a deep purple color in the glass. Cassis, smoke, black cherry, and oak on the nose. Black cherries, vanilla and cassis flavours. Smooth tannins. It had a long length, with a spice and red cherry finish. Highly recommended.

That is all for now. Tomorrow is visiting the Maipo Valley. Three wineries in one day. Should be a big day. Saludos!