The 2013 BC Icewine Harvest – Info from the BC Wine Institute

Yes it was cold enough to freeze grapes this past week, and ice wine flowed!  Well at least frozen grape juice, but the wonderful ice wine is soon to follow.  The BC Wine Institute issued the following press release about the latest ice wine harvest, and I am passing it along to you.  Enjoy!

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January 18, 2013 (Kelowna, BC)

Tantalus Vineyards ice wine harvest 2013

Tantalus Vineyards ice wine harvest 2013

The Icewine harvest has returned to British Columbia!

After last vintage’s second-earliest start on record on November 19 and 20, 2011 the majority of the Icewine harvest in the Okanagan was on January 11 and 12, 2013. Harvested at minus 8°Celsius or below, the wine made from these frozen grapes must reach quality standards including 35 brix of sugar to be called true Icewine.

While some Icewine was harvested in the early morning hours of  January 1, 2013, the majority of the Icewine harvest continued just a few weeks later from 10:30 PM on January 11, continuing to the early morning hours of January 12, ending at about 5:00 AM. The BC Wine Authority noted that 27 of the 31 potential wineries picked that weekend, collecting approximately 450 tons of frozen grapes. Temperatures during harvest ranged from minus 9°to minus 14° Celsius, and the harvest was spread around the Okanagan Valley, from north to south.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna picked 6.25 tons of Zweigelt for Icewine at the Summerhill Vineyard and Eidse Brothers Vineyard on Friday night, beginning at 12:00 AM in minus 11° weather. The grapes were at 42 brix at pressing – much above the requirement of minimum of 35 brix. Unfortunately, the winery was too late for their Chardonnay Icewine grapes. Summerhill’s CEO Ezra Cipes explained that “deer and birds ate our entire crop of Chardonnay Icewine this year, despite netting the grapes to protect them.” The wildlife also reduced the amount of Zweigelt Icewine available as they ate about three quarters of the potential harvest. Cipes explained that the winery has no deer fencing to protect the grapes and also has a nature preserve on the property – perfect for a family of deer.

Van Westen Vineyards in Naramata began picking their Icewine at 2:00 AM on January 12. With temperatures at -11°, the inner cluster berries were thoroughly frozen. By 4:00 PM that day, the temperature had warmed to -6°and the team was still pressing frozen grapes. The winery picked about 1.7 tons of Icewine overall.

Oliver’s Tinhorn Creek Vineyards picked their Kerner Icewine at 5:00 AM on Saturday, January 12. The winery reports that they also picked their Icewine on the same day in 2012 – January 12.

The Icewine varieties picked are diverse in the Okanagan Valley, ranging from aromatic whites to tannic reds. January 11 and 12 saw the following grapes picked for Icewine, in order for highest tonnage: Riesling (132), Merlot (77), Cabernet Franc (36), Pinot Gris (35), Chardonnay (35), Zweigelt (34), Viognier (33), Pinot Noir (25), Sauvignon Blanc (25), Ehrenfelser (8), Cabernet Sauvignon (4), Kerner (3.5), Oraniensteiner (1.5), Syrah (1), Lemburger (1), Pinot Blanc (1), Pinot Auxerrois (1), Semillon (0.5), and Muscat (0.5).

With the Icewine harvest begun, palates across BC can look forward to new Icewine releases in 2013.

For updates on the harvest, follow @winebcdotcom, #Icewine and #BCwine on Twitter.

About British Columbia Wine Institute

Since 1990, the BCWI has played a pivotal role in taking BC’s wine industry from a vision to an internationally recognized niche region producing premium wines and providing quality wine tourism experiences.

Representing 133 member wineries throughout the province, the BCWI supports and markets the Wines of British Columbia (BC VQA), which gives consumers assurance they are buying a wine that is 100% from BC. The BCWI also markets the Wine Regions of British Columbia; delivers quality trade, media and consumer tastings; and acts as the voice of BC’s wine industry by advocating to government on behalf of its members. Find more at www.winebc.com.

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My Tasting Plates Vancouver Kitsilano Edition Favorites

Tasting Plates Kitsilano

This past week was the third Vancouver Foodster Tasting Plates event this year. This event was the “Kitsilano Edition“. If you have never attended one, for Tasting Plates you visit 10 different restaurants/food trucks/other food establishments, sampling some of their tasty treats.

This evening we had 10 vendors to visit:

Some of My Favourite Bites

Chocolate Arts pumpkin praline chocolate

Chocolate Arts Cafe – This one is all about chocolates and sweets. I was very impressed with the quality from C.A.C. They had a:

  • House made cookie enrobed in 70% chocolate with corn flavoured house made ice cream
  • Candied almonds
  • A Peanut mallow bite
  • A seasonal chocolate

Have you ever tried corn ice cream, or how about cheese flavoured ice cream?  If you have been to South America or to South East Asia, you probably tried one of these, but here it is much harder to come across.  I enjoyed the corn flavoured ice cream.  The corn flavour was not overpowering, but you still knew it was corn.  It was nice with the chocolate covered cookie.  The seasonal chocolate was organic pumpkin and praline.  The pumpkin flavour was again subtle and went very well with the 70% dark chocolate coating.  I would recommend going to the C.A.C. and indulging your sweet tooth. Bring out some BC ice wine or late harvest to complete the decadence.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. – They offered 1 slice of your choice from the following pizzas:

  • Bradner Farm Pizza:  Certified organic free range rosemary chicken from Bradner Farm with red onions, house made pesto & oven roasted red bell peppers.
  • Farmers Market Pizza: Topped with a combination of four to five seasonal local or preserved veggies, three herb nut free pesti & Capriny goat’s cheese.
  • Naturally Meaty: Spicy certified organic beef, sulphate free Italian sausage, ripe tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, asiago cheese & fresh herbs.

I tried the Naturally Meaty pizza.  The organic beef was spicy, just like I like it, but a little light on the beef and sausage.  No soggy crust.  The restaurant was open for regular patrons and it was packaged.  It is a very family friendly restaurant, with many tables full of young children.

The Bibo pizza and pasta

The Bibo – The Bibo offered both a pizza selection and a pasta selection.  The items were:

  • Pizzas selection: Margherita, Diavola, Prosciutto, Funghi, and Marinara.
  • Pasta selection: Rigatoni alla Norma, Lasagne al Pesto and Tagliatelle al Ragù.

I went for a slice of the Diavola pizza and the Lasagne al Pesto.  The lasagne was vegetarian and was so tasty with the wonderful basil flavour from the pesto.  I think I liked it more than the pizza and I would definitely try it again.  The Diavola pizza is made with spicy salami.  It was spicy but if you are not spice lover, I think you would still find it at an acceptable heat level.  Not too greasy, and a nice crispy crust. Go traditional and enjoy this with a glass of Tuscan Sangiovese (Chianti) or maybe try a BC Gamay Noir?

Atithi Indian Cuisine – The owners of Atithi really were very nice to us and tried to accommodate people’s tastes.  A friend I was with was given a dal in lieu of one of the dishes she did not sample.  The items to taste were:

  • Lotus roots with shrimp
  • Bengali mustard fish
  • Taro roots with local potato (vegan and veggie)

If you like spice, then this place is for you, but one of the dishes, the Bengali mustard fish, was not spicy; just full of flavour.  I really enjoyed it.  It was made from cod fish.  The taro roots with local potato was a dry dish, no sauce, and again was tasty for me.  The lotus root dish had sauce and would have challenged a few people on the spice level. An off-dry riesling would help quell the fire.

Petes Meats 3 sausages and sauerkraut

Pete’s Meat – Offered to us three distinct sausages with a small side of sauerkraut.  May have been my favourite dish of the night.  The sausages:

  • Lamb Merguez: medium spice with a complex flavor profile north African in origin
  • Sweet Italian: low spice, sweet and savoury our version of this classic
  • Chicken, chipotle, cilantro & lime: (Mexi/Cali, medium spice)

The sausages were all distinctive in taste.  I think my favourite was the Lamb Merguez, but they were all very good.  The sausages were not dry, but had the right mix of meat and fat for me. Maybe try this with a South African Pinotage?

That’s all for now from me.  Did you attend Tasting Plates?  If so, what were your favourites?  Leave a comment.

Thanks again to Richard aka @vanfoodster for hosting this event.

Have You Been to Lulu Island Winery? @LuluIslandWine

Living in Vancouver, you may not realize that there are many wineries in Richmond and the Fraser Valley. Lulu Island Winery, located in Richmond, started it’s life as Blossom Winery producing fruit wines, and now has blossomed into Lulu Island winery, producing a wide range of grape and fruit wines. They celebrated their Grand Opening at the new winery July 3, 2009. I attended the Grand Opening and have the review of that great day here.

For my current tasting and tour, I was met by Heather Turnbull from Lulu Island Winery.  We started off viewing part of the vineyards that are behind the winery building.  There were a few different varieties planted.  One for sure was pinot noir, which they think will do well in our cool, maritime climate.   The fermentation room with the gleaming stainless steel tanks were next.  When I was first there in 2009 at the Grand Opening they had 3 tanks.  Now there were around 10 tanks (sorry I did not count the exact amount).  So things are progressing well for Lulu Island winery.  It is nice to see success.

Before moving on to the tasting, the last thing Heather showed me, and talked to me about was the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. During the Olympics, Lulu Island winery was the Chinese Olympic Delegation house “China House“.  Various Chinese products and producers were at the winery, along with athletes, food, and more, to help promote China to everyone celebrating the Olympic Games.  There were a few remnants of the Games left there still; some red lanterns, and a display showing the Chinese athletes’ outfits.  I really enjoyed the Olympics.  I was a volunteer, working at the curling centre.  I did see the Chinese women’s team play against Team Canada.

Now for the wine tasting.  I tasted 11 different wines, but to keep to blogging brevity, I’ll outline a few of my favourites.  Their Gewurztraminer 2009 ($16.97) is light lemon in colour.  Off-dry with lychee and sweet red apple flavours.  Medium- body and medium length.  An easy sipper.  My overall favourite red wine is their Petit Verdot 2009 ($18.95).  Medium purple in colour.  Rich cassis nose.  Rich, ripe cassis and cherry flavours.  Medium body.  Vanilla on the mid palate.  Medium length with a light bit of spice on the finish.  The winemaker’s favorite wine is his Meritage 2009 ($31.95). The Meritage is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It is deep garnet coloured in the glass.  Bright cassis and fruit on the nose.  Lots of cherries on the palate.  Slightly herbal, with vanilla and oak flavours as well.  Medium tannins with a dry cherry finish.  If you like sweeter wines, you may want to try their Iceder ($31.95).  This is a blend of apple cider and ice wine.  This had a medium golden colour.  Nice apple aromas.  Very round mouthfeel and velvety. Good acidity to balance the sugar, making a refreshing apple flavoured wine with a long finish.  Give it a try.

I hope you get a chance to visit Lulu Island winery.  It’s nearby, so try it for a Saturday or Sunday weekend visit.  Enjoy!

5 night Pacific Coastal Cruise With Wine Tasting!

Have you ever been on a cruise, or thought about going on a cruise?  To “get your feet wet“, maybe try this local 5 day Pacific Coast cruise.  The added bonus is that there will be 2 wine tastings (not hosted by me)  as part of the cruise.   Details are below.  Enjoy!

5 night Pacific Coastal Cruise plus special bonus!

Sails on May 17, 2011

Sail from Vancouver, British Columbia – to Victoria, British Columbia – Port Alberni, British Columbia – Astoria, Oregon – Inside Passage – Vancouver, British Columbia

Added Bonus: Barry & Fay, the owners of Expedia Cruiseshipcenters Abbotsford, have paired up with Mike Curran of Lulu Island Winery for a wine & culinary experience. Mike will be bringing his wines on board to conduct 2 private wine tastings (including their fabulous ice wine) and we will be hosting a special luncheon in the Pinnacle Grill, where we will pair up the fabulous cuisine of this highly regarded specialty restaurant with the wines from Lulu Island Winery. The ship is the Statendam, part of Holland America’s fleet. The ship carries about 1200 passengers.

Do not delay, Call Barry or Fay today to join us on this extraordinary experience.

from $346.79 plus taxes of $202.84

Call Barry @ 604 583 3578 or Fay @ 604 585 2628 or outside of Vancouver 1 800 667 8518

Or

Email at : barry@smartt.com or faydavis@shaw.ca

Want a Champagne Icewine Cocktail?

I was just browsing around on the web and I found this recipe for a champagne with icewine cocktail recipe and thought I’d pass it along to you. Although the recipe is listed as “champagne”, it really should be identified as “sparkling wine” as champagne is only from the Champagne region in France.

Since this is a long weekend, you may want to make some tonight or on Sunday night with friends. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Fusion Royale Champagne Cocktail

By Scott McTaggart, Fusion Grill, Winnipeg
750 ml bottle sparkling wine (suggests Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay)
375 ml bottle icewine (suggests Inniskillin Vidal)
Preserved Bing cherries

Fill champagne flutes 3/4 full of sparkling wine. Add a dash of icewine to each. Drop in a cherry.

Makes 6 servings.

A Visit to Chateau Ste Michelle and Airfield Estates in Washington State

This past weekend I made a short trip across the border to visit a few wineries in Washington State.  One of the days was a visit to Chateau Ste Michelle and Airfield Estates, located in Woodinville, WA.   It was quite a contrast in scale, but the people I spoke to at both wineries were passionate about the wines that they produced.  I like that.  What did I try, and do I have any recommendations for you?  Of course!

Chateau Ste. Michelle

I spent an hour at Chateau Ste. Michelle, being led through a tasting of wines with one of their staff members, Bob.  I appreciate all the time Bob spent with me, considering how busy the tasting room was at that time.  I tried white, red, and dessert wines.

On the white wine side, I thought their Cold Creek Chardonnay 2008 (US$25.99) was very elegant.  The Cold Creek vineyard is the oldest and hottest vineyard owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Columbia Valley.  This wine was medium golden in the glass. Vanilla, oak, lemon and apple aromas.  It was medium body with toasty, lemon and light spice on the palate.  Light acidity to complement the roundness of the wine.  Spice and lemon on the finish.  Would go nicely with some salmon.

An easy drinking white was their Pinot Gris 2008 (US$14.99). Pale lemon in colour.  Lemon, spice and apple aromas.  Crisp acidity, with apple, melon and oak flavour.  Medium body with nice round mouthfeel.

For their red wines, I have a few recommendations.  The Cold Creek Merlot 2007 (US$30) is big and bold.  Deep puple in colour.  Vanilla and cherry on the nose.  Round and smooth on the palate, with tannins kicking in mid palate.  Flavours of ripe black cherries and a hint of chocolate.  Medium length with a very drink finish. Drink now or wait a year.

Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Horse Heaven Hills was also another big wine.  Canoe Ridge is their mid-tier wine level. The grapes for this wine comes from their Horse Heaven Hills vineyard.  Deep purple in colour.  Purple fruit, vanilla, and sweet ripe plum aromas.  Juicy plums and cherry flavours along with vanilla.  Medium body with fine tannins and a dry soft finish.  There was a hint of cedar and some chocolate on the palate as well.  This wine coated my glass.  Very nice.

My last red wine pick is their Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.  Ethos is the top tier wine level from Chateau Ste Michelle.  This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator and 92 points from The Wine Advocate, and is my top wine pick!  The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 3% Syrah. The wine is deep garnet in colour.  A nice nose, with aromas of capsicum, cherry, and meat.  Round on the palate with soft tannins.  Meaty, cassis, black cherry, and chocolate flavours.  The wine went through a very light filtering before being bottled, so don’t be surprised to see a bit of sediment in your glass.

For dessert wines, I was infatuated with their Eroica Riesling Ice Wine 2006 (US$60 for 375ml bottle). This wine was made in conjunction with Dr. Loosen from Germany. The Riesling grapes were harvested from their Horse Heaven Vineyard on Oct 31, which according to Chateau Ste Michelle is very rare.  This is only the fifth time in their 40 year history that this has occurred.  It scored 93 pts in Wine Spectator. The wine was a medium golden colour in the glass.  Petrol, flowers, lemon nose.  Very pretty. Medium body, with a wonderful lime flavour, petrol, and good acidity to balance the sugar and fruit.  Medium sweetness.  Lovely lime finish.

Airfield Estates Winery

Airfield Estates winery is a family-owned operation.  It has passed through a few generations.  Why “Airfield Estates”?  During WWII the US Military asked the Miller family if they could setup an airbase on their land to train pilots. The airbase continued operations until the mid 1940’s. Shortly after WWII came to an end, the pilots moved off-site and the recently constructed buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only bidder turned out to be H. Lloyd Miller. These unique buildings became the headquarters of the Miller family’s farming operations up to today. You will notice an aeronautical theme to all their wine labels.  They have a Thunderbolt, Lightning, and Mustang wine, which are three different types of fighter aircraft.

A white wine I particularly liked was their Gewurztraminer 2009 (US$14).  Pale lemon with a green tinge in the glass. Lots of lychee and pear aromas.  Some spiciness with pear and lychee flavour.  Medium length.

Another white I liked was their Lightning 2008 (US$18). This is a Rhone-inspired blend, consisting of 50% Viognier, 25% Rousanne, 20% Chardonnay, and 5% Marsanne.  It scored 90 Points on Wine Advocate. Pineapple and vanilla aromas. Medium acidity but still quite a creamy mouthfeel.  Peach and some oak flavours.  Medium length.

On the red side, I enjoyed their Mustang 2008 (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre.  I had not heard of the Counoise grape before.  From Wikipedia: “Counoise is a dark-skinned wine grape grown primarily in the Rhône valley region of France. Counoise adds a peppery note and good acidity to a blended red wine, but does not have much depth of colour or tannin.”  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.

Another red wine of note is their Aviator 2008 (US$30). It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec.  A Bordeaux blend, just missing Carmenere.  Medium garnet in colour.  Capsicum, vanilla, plum and some meatiness on the nose.  Medium plus body.  Round up front, then dry on the finish.  Capsicum, vanilla, and cherry flavours.

If you live in the Vancouver, BC area, it is only a short 2 hour car ride to Woodinville, WA.  There are many wineries in the area for you to explore.  Enjoy!

Lulu Island Winery Grand Opening

 

Today, July 3, 2009 was the grand opening of the Lulu Island Winery in Richmond. There was an official ribbon cutting with federal, provincial, and municipal dignitaries there in abundance. I was there of course for the wine. This winery I believe was previously called Blossom Winery and have now renamed themselves as Lulu Island Winery.

Blossom Winery was well known to me as producing non-grape, fruit wines. But with Lulu Island Winery, they contracted with grape growers in the south Okanagan to produce a range of grape wines. The wines that are currently available from Lulu Island winery are:

Chardonnay $14.95
Gewurztraminer $16.75
Sauvignon Blanc $13.95
Merlot 2008 $18.95
Riesling / Chardonnay Ice wine 2007 $69
Merlot / Pinot Noir Ice wine 2007 $95
Raspberry $15.95
Blueberry $18.95

I did not record a vintage for all the bottles, so only listed the vintages I knew.

On the white wines, I particularly enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc. It was medium lemon in colour, and had a light grapefruit nose. Good acid, with honey and grapefruit flavours. There was only 1 red, which was the Merlot and was also quite nice. This wine was deep purple in the glass. It had oak, vanilla, and black plum aromas. It was medium body , medium tannins, with plum and cherry fruit flavours. Both ice wines were very unctus and can be enjoyed either on their own or maybe with cake or fruit. Finally I quite liked their blueberry wine. Although it was listed as a sweetness of 4, it had good acidity to balance the sugar and keep the wine refreshing. Lots of blueberry aroma and flavour.

Lulu Island Winery is located at 16880 Westminster Highway in Richmond, BC. Their tel is 604-232-9839. A nice place to visit on a weekend for those of you that live in the Vancouver lower mainland.

A Good Time for Ice Wine

With snow falling here in Vancouver, I thought I’d talk a bit about Ice Wine. Ice wine’s origin is in Germany where it is called Eiswein. Eiswein production began in the late 1700s and more fully in the 1800s in Germany. The first Canadian ice wine was made in BC by Walter Hainle in 1973 at the Hainle Vineyards.

How is ice wine made? The short answer is the wine is made from frozen grapes, but of course there is more to it than that. The grapes are typically a white varietal, such as Riesling or Vidal, but you can now find some red ice wines, from Pinot Noir and other grapes. Riesling is the traditional grape for ice wine due to its high level of acidity. This high level of acidity is important to balance the high sugar content from the concentrated grape juice. The high acidity made the ice wine refreshing instead of cloyingly sweet (imagine drinking maple syrup).

There are rules for when a grape can be picked for ice wine. As I mentioned the grapes have to be frozen before being picked, but the temperature at the time of picking has to be at least -8 degrees Celsius. Any warmer and you legally cannot call the wine, ice wine. Grapes harvested at say -6 degrees Celsius can be called Late Harvest. Late Harvest wine tastes very much like ice wine, but is less aromatic and sweet. Some people prefer Late Harvest, plus the price of Late Harvest is usually half the price of the same size of Ice Wine.

Ice Wine and Late Harvest are more expensive than a traditional bottle of still wine, but it takes many more grapes to produce these wines. Whereas it could take one bunch of grapes for a bottle of wine, it may take 8-10 bunches of grapes for one bottle of ice wine or late harvest wine. Imagine how hard these grapes are when they are being pressed. As the water in the grape is frozen, just a small amount of concentrated grape syrup is left. I think of it like someone trying to squeeze water from marbles. Very hard!

Some wineries in the BC Okanagan that produce ice wine:
Mission Hill (their 2006 Reserve Riesling Ice Wine won the International Wine Challenge in London in Sept 08 as the Worlds Top Ice Wine)
Quail’s Gate (their 2006 Reisling Ice Wine won a Bronze Medal – Canadian Wine Awards 2007)
Gray Monk Estate Winery (Kerner ice wine – a white grape)
Summerhill Estate Winery (Pinot noir, zweigelt, chardonnay, and riesling ice wines)

And last but not least, every January, there is an Ice Wine Festival at Sun Peaks Resort in the Okanagan! The next festival will be January 13 – 18, 2009. You can try a wide range of ice wines, together with learning about ice wines, join in some wine dinners, and if you have any energy left, go skiing. You can contact Sun Peaks Resort at 1-800-807-3257 about the Ice Wine Festival, or go to the Ice Wine Festival website http://www.owfs.com/festivals/winter_festival.html

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

An abbreviated list of wines for the holidays

Isn’t technology lovely? Sometimes you spend a long time writing a long blog about wines for the holidays and it doesn’t get saved! Well that just happened to me, so please enjoy this very short version of my wine recommendations.

Wines to take to a host/hostess. Try a wine they would not normally buy but would enjoy. Try a champagne (from France. Try Bollinger, Lanson, Krug, or Taittinger), or a sparkling wine (e.g. a cremant from France, a prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or a New World sparkling, such as Gloria Ferrer from Napa Valley, or Lindauer from New Zealand).

An ice wine could also be a nice gift. Riesling ice wines are the best in my opinion as the high acidity of this grape complements the sweetness from the grape. Mission Hill and Quails Gate in the BC Okanagan have nice ice wines.

With dinner, assuming you have a turkey feast, try a lightly oaked chardonnay, or a lighter bodied pinot noir. On the chardonnay side try a wine from Deloach in California, Mission Hill Reserve from the Okanagan, or Evans and Tate from Australia. For a pinot noir, try Quails Gate or Mission Hill from the Okanagan, or Villa Maria or Kim Crawford from New Zealand.

People also like fortified / dessert wines. Buller makes a nice Muscat (Australia). You may try a port from Portugal, such as from Quinta do Portal. A full bodied Oloroso Sherry from Spain from Gonzalez Byass.

Enjoy the wines and enjoy the holidays!