French vs Australian Wine – Which Do You Prefer?

France vs Australia

France vs Australia

The Seasons in the Park Restaurant would like to know too, so they are hosting a tasting featuring wines from both countries on July 2, 6:00pm – 7:30pm.  Here is their tasting announcement.

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A stylistic comparison between wines from the “Old World’ (France) and the “New World” (Australia). Don’t miss this chance to taste the very best of the old master of wine, France, up against the new world upstart, Australia. Wines presented by Jonathan Mergui of Liberty Specialty Wine Imports.  All wines beautifully paired with canapes thoughtfully prepared by Sous Chef Christopher Tse!

  •  2011 Remoissenet, Macon Villages, Bourgogne Blanc
  • 2010 Elderton, Eden Valley Chardonnay
  • 2011 Chusclan, Les Costes, Cotes du Rhone
  • 2011 Stump Jump Red (Southern Rhone Blend)

Tickets are $30 per person (not including tax & gratuity)

Contact Details:

Seasons in the Park Restaurant Queen Elizabeth Park
W 33rd Avenue at Cambie St.
604.874.8008
@seasonsinqepark

Having Dinner with M Michael Chapoutier at Hawksworth Restaurant

M Michael Chapoutier

As I write this, I am less than 4 hours away from enjoying a dinner in the York Room at Hawksworth Restaurant in downtown Vancouver, with Mr. M. Michael Chapoutier!  I of course will be amongst others also enjoying listening to Mr. Chapoutier speaking about his wines that we will be drinking tonight and savouring with with wonderful food from Hawksworth Restaurant.  I am so looking forward to this evening as last summer I visited his winery in the Rhone Valley in France, and walked the Hermitage hill.

In case you are not attending, here is today’s menu!

Winemaker Dinner with M. Michel Chapoutier
Wednesday June 20th, 2012

MENU

Reception
Canapés
tuna ceviche avocado, amaranth
beef bourguignon pickled pearl onion, toast
truffled arancini mozzarella
Marius Blanc
Marius Rouge

1st Course
cured fluke
grapefruit, english pea, horseradish, nasturtium
2010 Schieferkopf Alsace Riesling

2nd Course
bacon wrapped squab bitter greens, saskatoon berry, licorice jus
2010 Mathilda Shiraz

3rd Course
heritage angus flatiron
tokyo turnip, baby leek, mie de pain, green peppercorn consommé
2009 Lady’s Lane Shiraz, 2008 Ergo Sum Shiraz

4th Course
pierre robert apricot in various textures, olive oil pound cake
2010 Schieferkopf Alsace Riesling Lieu dit Fels

5th Course
strawberry vanilla capsule summer red fruits, marcona almond soil
2010 Schieferkopf Alsace Riesling Lieu dit Buehl

My Latest IVSA Wine Highlights and Recommendations

Today was the first Import Vintners & Spirits Association (IVSA) Product Salon since before summer. I was looking forward to see what range of new wines have come in over the summer, and I can tell you about, so you can enjoy some great wines with the fall and winter coming upon us. As usual there was too many wines to try in too little time, so hopefully I found a few gems to pass along to you.

Overall Gems

Dante Robino Bonarda 2009

These two wines have a great price point, and taste great too.  One is from Italy and the other from Argentina.

  • Bodega Dante Robino Bonarda, 2009, Argentina ($17.99). Bonarda is an Italian grape. It was brought to Argentina where it flourishes,but it is not so well known to the North American palate.  This wine was very deep ruby in the glass.  Wow, a very interesting nose with cloves up front and black fruit supporting from behind. Medium plus in body with a round mouthfeel.  Cloves, vanilla and black fruit with a spicy finish.  Long length. This wine has the backbone and fruit to stand up to a heavy meal.
  • Tenuta Maggiore Amphorae, 2009, Italy ($14.95). This Italian red is made from Croatina, Barbera and Shiraz grapes. Lighter ruby red in the glass. Some violets, blackberries on the nose.  Light mouthfeel, bright flavours of cherries and violets.  Quite dry.  A really different, and really nice wine!

A Tale of Two Chenins

The Winery of Good Hope and Domaine de Vaugondy Chenin Blancs

Have you heard of Vouvray, or the Loire Valley in France?  This is classic Chenin Blanc. Have you heard of Steen?  That’s the name of Chenin Blanc from South Africa.  I enjoyed a comparison of these 2 Chenins, which are both sub $20.

  • The Winery of Good Hope, Chenin Blanc, 2010, South Africa ($13.99). Fairly deep lemon coloured. Light lemony nose.  High acid right up front.  Citrus and pairs on the palate with a vanilla finish and long length.  Medium body.  Something a bit different from a chardonnay if you like a little more acidity.
  • Domaine de Vaugondy, Vouvray, 2010, France ($19.99). Pale lemon with a green tinge. A nice flowery, stone fruit nose. Really high acidity with green flavours. Really needs to be sipped along with food, or let this one age a few years and then try again.  Chenin Blancs can stand aging and get better with time.

A Few Nice French Reds

These next 3 wines range across from the West, South, and East parts of France.  All different grapes with one sure to please you.

  • Henry Fessy “St. Amour”, 2009, France ($24.99). This is a Beaujolais from the eastern part of France (south of Burgundy), made from the Gamay grape.  Pale ruby in colour.  Cherry bon bon nose. Light body and lower tannins.  Cherry flavour. Lighter in body than a Bordeaux, similar in weight to a lighter Pinot Noir. Chilled a bit and served with a cornish hen, a light curry, or some Camembert cheese.
  • Chateau Belles-Graves, 2004, Bordeaux, France ($46.58). If you want to splurge on a red wine, this one would fit the bill. Very elegant, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, coming from the right bank, in the Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC. Pale garnet in colour. Nice aromas of flowers and cherries. Light body with cherry and apple flavours up front, violets showing up mid-palate, and a bit of spice on the finish. Medium tannins with a soft finish.
  • Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres Rouge, 2007, France ($22.31). This is a blended wine from southern France.  Corbieres being straight east of Carcassone. The blend of grapes are Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah. Medium garnet in the glass. Stony, smoky, strawberries on the nose. Medium body, dry with cherries, raspberries and some smokiness/flintiness mid-palate. Medium acidity with softer tanning.  Long length some some black pepper on the finish.  A very well-structured wine.

Anything But Chardonnay

Neudorf Pinot Gris 2010

I know that some people really do not like Chardonnay. So if you belong in this club, OR if you want to try some exciting white wines, try these out.

Domaine Gayda Three Winds Viognier, 2010, France ($13.99). Viognier is an aromatic grape coming out of the Rhone Valley. This wine had nice flowers and peach aromas in the glass.  Spicy cinnamon and peach flavours.  Round with medium acidity. Very enjoyable with a herbal finish.

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Gris, 2010, New Zealand ($29.99). Pale lemon in colour.  Stone fruit along with a nutty/oaky nose. Light bodied, off dry with medium acidity.  Citrus and a bit of spiciness and honey flavours. Elegant.

Canepa Novisimo Sauvignon Blanc, 2o10, Chile ($11.99). This is an unreal price. The Canepa winery was named the Chilean Producer of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2010. New to the Vancouver market. This wine has a nice nose of kiwi fruit, citrus, and a hint of oranges. Medium acidity with herbal and asparagus flavours. Light body. Make it your fun to drink, house white wine.

Juicy Red Wines

To finish off this blog article, here are 2 full fruited red wines.

Lange Twins Winery, Zinfandel, 2009, California ($23.99). The zinfandel grapes for this wine come from certified sustainable Lodi Rules, in Lodi, California. Light ruby in colour.  Ripe raspberry aromas. Lots of vanilla, raspberries and cassis on the palate. Medium body, round mouthfeel, with medium acidity makes this jammy zin easy and ready to drink now.

Santa Julia Magna, 2009, Argentina ($15.99). This wine is made by the Zuccardi family.  I’ve spoken about their “Q” series many times.  Their Santa Julia Magna is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Malbec, and 10% Syrah. Almost opaque budy in colour. Really ripe black fruit, plums, cherries and vanilla aromas. Smooth, full body with cherries and vanilla. Drink now.

Try out one or more of these wines, and comment on this post.  Let me know what you think.  And I’ll keep you posted on the next IVSA. Enjoy!

Rob Feenie and Le Vieux Pin Wines: A Perfect Pairing

What does master chef Rob Feenie have to do with the Le Vieux Pin wines of the South Okanagan?  No, he is not another celebrity opening a winery.  But what he has done, now for the second year, is pair up with the wineries to produce a Feenie’s Blend wine, which is sold at Cactus Club Cafe restaurants!  I had a chance to try the second release of the Feenie’s Blend, red and white, at a recent Le Vieux Pin and La Stella winery new vintage release event.  In addition, I was able to taste a vertical of La Stella’s Allegretto Pie Franco Merlot wines. Let me tell you about the wines I tasted.

Feenie’s Blend Wines

Petit Le Vieux Pin Feenies Blend Rouge and Blanc

Petit Le Vieux Pin Feenie’s Blend Blanc 2010 – Slightly warmer year so slightly higher alcohol content compared to the first vintage. This is a blend of several white aromatic varieties. Pale lemon colour. The Muscat really shows through with orange and spices on the nose as well as other citrus fruits. Quite round mouthfeel, with acidity kicking in the mid-palate. Spicy finish with ripe fruits; peaches and oranges. A nice wine.

Petit Le Vieux Pin Feenie’s Blend Rouge 2009 – A Bordeaux blend made with primarily Merlot. Pretty medium garnet colour. Has a bit of chocolate, leather, cherries, and vanilla on the nose. Medium body, fairly dry, with big legs in the glass. Red cherry and a bit of bon bon flavours. Dry finish.

What is Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Series?

Newly released, the Équinoxe series could be viewed as a Reserve level series for Le Vieux Pin, but it is much more than that. It also represents equal day, equal night; Equal Old World, equal New World styles.  Everything in perfect harmony.

Le Vieux Pin’s Latest Releases

Équinoxe Syrah 2008 – This Syrah has a traditional Rhone blending of 5% Viognier to add some flowery notes and colour extraction to the Syrah grapes. This is a single vineyard wine from new, 3 year old, vines. Fairly deep purple garnet in the glass. Lots of leather on the nose and a bit of smokiness and dark fruit. Bursting with blueberry and black currant flavour. Spiciness in the mid-palate, and a long length. Subtle vanilla in the background. A big wine. Nice. Still full of youth, it should be interesting to watch future vintages of this wine.

Le Vieux Pin Equinox Cabernet Franc 2008

Équinoxe Merlot 2008 – Medium garnet in colour. A fair amount of legs to this wine, representing high alcohol content. Restrained nose, even with decanting. I detected light vanilla and cherries, and in general ripe, red fruit.  Medium body, very smooth. Some red fruit and cherries. Towards the mid-palate, a raspberry leafiness, some tannins and spices. Long length to this wine. This wine leaves the back and sides of your tongue watering, which indicates a higher amount of acidity.

Équinoxe Cabernet Franc 2008 – This wine comes from a single row from a single vineyard of 16 year old vines, to produce a single barrel of wine! Medium garnet colour in the glass. Light vanilla, cherries, and a slight hint of cedary notes. Medium body with cherry and cassis flavours.  Tannins kick in quite quickly. A very dry wine.  This wine also has the raspberry leafiness that was also there on the Merlot.

La Stella’s Latest Releases

Before talking about these wines, you may want to know what is “Pie Franco“? “Pie Franco” is a term meaning ungrafted (In French I believe it would be “franc de pied”). Why is this important?  As you may know the phylloxera louse nearly wiped out all vitis vinifera in Europe and needed to be grafted to North American root stock in order for it to survive.  Some people have said that you now never really get the true flavour of these European grapes.  In some parts of the world that have sandy soils, phylloxera cannot survive, so you can plant the vitis vinifera in the ground with it’s own rootstock.  This is what has been done in the South Okanagan with the Merlot I had tasted from La Stella.  Chile is another area famous for planting vitis vinifera vines on their own rootstock.

La Stella Allegretto Merlot 2006

Allegretto: Pie Franco Merlot 2006 – Medium to light garnet in colour. Some earthiness on the nose. Earthiness on the palate as well. Red fruit flavours. Low tannins and medium body.  Just a hint of spices. Dry with a long finish.

Allegretto: Pie Franco Merlot 2007 – A bit deeper in colour, purple red in the glass.  Fresh cherry and vanilla nose, with some white pepper. Medium plus in body. Quite smooth and round on the palate. Restrained cherries on the palate. Mid-palate there is some refreshing acidity and spiciness. Dry finish, and long length. I like this wine.

Allegretto: Pie Franco Merlot 2008 – Light garnet coloured. Raspberry and vanilla aromas and a hint of cassis. Light body with firm tannins. Cherries and raspberry flavours with vanilla in the background. Very dry. Another nice wine.

Maestoso: Merlot 2008 – This is La Stella’s flagship wine – the Jewel in the crown. Light ruby in the glass. Quite aromatic compared to the Allegrettos. Nice vanilla and cherry with a leafy edge to the nose. Interesting. Starts off feeling light, but as you aerate it, it gets heavier in your mouth! Vanilla and red cherry flavours with milk chocolate on the finish. Quite round. The tannins are soft.  I highly recommend this wine.

Enjoy these wines at home with friends or family, or go to the Cactus Club Cafe and try a Feenie’s Blend.

Favorite Wines from My France Trip

As I blogged across France, you would have seen my reviews of different wines I enjoyed. I thought that instead of leaving the reviews scattered, it might be nice for you to see my top France trip wine picks in one place. Hopefully some, or all, of these wines are available where you live. Enjoy!

M. Chapoutier Les Arènes, Cornas, 2007. This is another wonderful Syrah from the tiny Cornas appellation. I read on Wikipedia that Cornas is Celtic for “burnt earth”, so similar to the “roasted slope” of Côte-Rôtie. Medium to dark ruby in the glass. A very nice nose with mint, crushed herbs, olives and dark fruit. Full body with blueberry and dark fruit flavours.  Medium acidity and tannins.  Long soft finish.  I really like this wine, and bought a bottle to take home.

Chapoutier Deschants and Petite Ruche wines

M. Chapoutier De l’Orée, Hermitage, 2008. This wine is made from Marsanne grapes grown by 60-70 year old vines. The actual plot for this wine is called “Les Murets” and is composed of very old fluvioglacial alluvial deposits that face east, getting the morning sun. The grapes for this wine are hand harvested. About half the grapes are vinified in large wooden barrels with regular lees stirring and the rest fermented in vats. The wine matures on lees with stirrings for 6 months. Maturation is between 10 and 12 months. Very deep golden honey in colour.  Lemon and honey aromas in the glass. Full body, round mouth feel, with medium acidity and lemon and honey flavours.  Long length. A very elegant wine. This is another wine that can age 30 to 60 years!

M. Chapoutier Deschants (Marsanne), Saint-Joseph, 2009. Deep golden, beautiful colour in the nice.  Very nice nose with peaches and flowers.  Medium plus body and good acidity, and flavours of peaches, orange and citrus.  Also a vein of minerality in this wine.  Very refreshing.  Medium length. I liked this wine a lot.

M. Chapoutier Petite Ruche (Syrah), Crozes-Hermitage, 2009. Deep purple in the glass with lots of cassis aromas.  Medium acidity and body.  Lots of ripe cassis and blueberry flavours.  Dry finish.  Very nice!

Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu and Clos du Bourg 2010 Sec wine

Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec

2010 (€14). Sec means dry so these and the next two wines are dry. This wine was light straw in colour with small bubbles.  Nice lemon and honeycomb aromas with a hint of minty herbal.  Round nice mouthfeel.  Very fruity.  Citrus, flowers, and minerality.  Good acidity.  I really liked this wine.

Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Sec 2010 (€16). Medium lemon colour.  Light citrus and apple aromas. Medium body, small bubbles, round in the mouth but with medium acidity to keep it refreshing.  Some honey, apple, citrus and spice flavours.  A very elegant wine.

Highlights from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest – Day 2

The second day from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is now finished.  A lot of wine again today to taste.  But still probably more than half the wines haven’t yet been tasted.  I did visit many nice wineries and tasted some interesting wines from around the world today.  As I had mentioned in my previous blog article, today I would taste wines from the rest of the world, and then at the end try some Spanish wines I had missed.

Again to keep things brief, here is my 2nd list of recommended wines to try at the #VPIWF.  After the festival is over, I’ll post full tasting notes for these wines and others that I have tried on www.MyWinePal.com. The wines below range from white, red, sparkling, and fortified.

Recommended wines:

  • Babich East Coast Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
  • Vina Cobos Bramare Malbec 2008 (Argentina)
  • Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard 2009 (Argentina)
  • Decero Cabernet Sauvignon, Remolinos Vineyard 2008 (Argentina)
  • Graffigna Grand Reserve Torrontes 2010 (Argentina)
  • Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2009 (Argentina)
  • Vina Santa Rita Medalla Real Pinot Noir 2008 (Chile)
  • Vina Santa Rita Pehuen Carmenere 2005 (Chile)
  • Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage Red Les Hauts du Fief 2007 (France)
  • Cave de Tain Saint Joseph Red Esprit de Granit 2007 (France)
  • Pfaffenheim Steinert Grand Cru Gewurztraminer 2007 (France)
  • Pierre Sparr Mambourg Pinot Gris 2008 (France)
  • Schloss Reinhartshausen Prinz VVN Preussen Rielsing Off-Dry 2009 (Germany)
  • Ca’ Del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige (Italy)
  • Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
  • Man O’War Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)
  • Fonseca Guimaraens 10 Year Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Vanzeller 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Sogrape Vinhos Callabriga Dao Reserva 2005 (Portugal)
  • Sogrape Vinhos Ferreira 20-Year-Old Duque de Braganca (Portugal)
  • Champagne Lallier Rose (France)
  • Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (France)
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Perpetua 2008 (Canada)
  • Juan Gil Monastrell 2010 (Spain)
  • Bodegas Abanico Mencia 2007 (Spain)
  • Bodgeas Abanico Tinta de Toro Eternum Viti 2008 (Spain)
  • Bodegas Abanico Tinta de Toro Los Colmillos 2008 (Spain)
  • Gonzalez Byass Croft, Pale Cream Sherry (Spain)
  • Zuccardi Series A Torrontes 2010 (Argentina)
  • Bodegas San Valero Monte Ducay Cava Brut (Spain)

That is a lot of recommendations, and a lot of wines to try in one day.  There were many more that are also good, but did not make the list.  I wish I had another day or two so that I could try the rest of the wines from the Festival.

Today’s agenda for me is New Zealand Perfect Parings, Good Gracious Grenache seminar, and Cinq a Sept French wines.  Check back tomorrow for a short article on these.  Enjoy the remainder of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and remember to check out the Vancouver Playhouse and what they have to offer!  Support the arts.

Le Vieux Pin Dinner

On Thursday, May 20, 2010, I was fortunate to attend the Le Vieux Pin Winemaker Dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver. The event was at the Market Restaurant in the hotel and the food was masterfully designed by Executive Chef Wayne Harris in consultation with Jean-Georges. Keeping to the blog format, I will keep my notes brief and will then provide more details in www.MyWinePal.com.

Rasoul Salehi, the Director of the enotecca wineries that owns Le Vieux Pin, led us through a tasting of white, red, and rose wines he has recently produced.  James Cambridge, the wine maker was unable to attend, but Rasoul is a very knowlegable man about wine and very interesting to hear speak.  Rasoul also brought a small barrel of a new wine for Le Vieux Pin, his 2008 Syrah / Viognier. For those that do not know, Syrah is a red grape, while Viognier is a white grape. Both varieties come from the Rhone Valley in France. Syrah is a bold, spicy grape, while viognier is very flowery and aromatic. In the Rhone Valley, one of their traditions is to co-ferment Syrah is a bit of viognier. The viognier helps bring out more colour from the Syrah grape skin and adds more perfume to the wine. I applaud James for trying this in the Okanagan.

This Syrah / Viognier was deep purple in the glass, with aromas of vanilla, blueberry, plum and honeysuckle. On the palate you get ripe plum, black cherry and vanilla. Quite spicy, round in the mouth and long length. When this wine is released to the public it will be in the $32-$35 range. Well worth the price. This wine was paired with homemade, melt in your mouth, gnocchi, with morel mushrooms, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. The black pepper seemed to bring out the fruit in the syrah.

To start the evening we had the 2009 Vaila Pinot Noir Rose, paired with egg caviar. The Pinot Noir grapes were picked at a ripeness that Rasoul felt did not bring out the tannins of the grapes. Some wineries, when they produce rose wines, use fully ripened red grapes, which have partial contact between skin and juice, then some of the juice is bled off to produce the rose wine, but this also allows the tannins to be imparted to the rose. Rasoul by choosing to pick earlier indicated that the tannin level can be minimized, making a smoother rose. This wine had fresh raspberries and medium cherry aromas. More fresh strawberry and red cherry on the palate with low tannins. Good crisp acidity. The egg caviar was a wonderful mixture of salty, creamy and eggy flavours that blended nicely with the rose.

There are many other wines to talk about from this evening: 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Epoque Merlot, 2007 Apogee Merlot, and 2009 LaStella’s Moscato d’Osoyoos, and of course their food pairings. Check on http://www.MyWinePal.com for the full review.

Enjoy!

A new wine and cheese experience

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

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