Trying Wellbrook Winery’s Fruit Wines with Dione’s Chocolates

Dione with her chocolates

It was just last week that I went with a friend to attend the Wellbrook Winery Wine and Chocolate tasting.  The chocolates were hand-made by artisan chocolate maker Dione Costanzo of Dione’s Chocolates from Crescent Beach, BC.  I had not yet been to Wellbrook Winery, but had heard about their wines.  They produce a range of fruit wines, with the fruit coming of course from Beautiful BC.  It was a rather informal affair, where you walked about and chatted with the other attendees, sipping wine, nibbling chocolates, and finding out each other’s favourite pairings.

Our Wine and Chocolate Pairings

  • Kangaroo with fruit compote paired with Wellbrook’s Reserve Blueberry wine.  There is dark chocolate mixed in with the fruit, so this is still a wine and chocolate pairing.  The kangaroo was quite tender, and went very well with the fruit & chocolate compote.  The Reserve Blueberry wine had a bit of smokiness to it, and toned down blueberry flavour.  Quite dry, but without the tannins that you would get in a red grape based wine.  The fruit in the wine with the compote meshed together well.
  • Chicken Mole tart paired with Wellbrook’s Reserve Blueberry wine.  The chocolate in this pairing is in the Mexican mole sauce.  This tart had a wonderful smoky chipotle flavour and medium spice.  I think the consensus amongst the group was that this was the better of the two pairings.  The smokiness of the wine and the chipotle made the magic happen.
  • Wellbrook’s Rhubarb wine paired with Strawberry Delights, and Gourmet bark white chocolate with BC cranberries.  The rhubarb wine was light in body and flavour.  I was expecting this wine to have lots of sourness, but was pleasantly surprised that it was not there.  On the pairings, half of the people liked the strawberry delights and half liked the white chocolate with BC cranberries.  I think the tartness of the cranberries, the creaminess of the white chocolate and the lightness of the rhubarb wine worked well together.
  • Wellbrook winery peach apricot wine

    Wellbrook’s Peach Apricot wine paired with Autumn Spice Ganache, and Gourmet bark milk chocolate with crystalized ginger.  I really enjoyed this wine. It tasted like dried apricots and had a high level of acidity without making you pucker.  It was very fruity and I’d place it as medium bodied. I preferred this wine with the Autumn Spice Ganache.  I liked the sweet spices from the chocolate mingling with the stone fruit flavours, plus the acidity from the wine made the chocolate and spice more flavourful.  The ginger was ok for me, but it did not have enough ginger flavour for me.  I know others mentioned that there was too much ginger for them.

  • Wellbrook’s Ice Apple wine paired with Crescent Beach truffle caramel with sea salt, and green apple truffles.  The ice apple was not as thick and syrupy as a grape-based ice wine, but it still had more body, apple flavour, and sweetness than I would expect from a dry, apple wine. Everyone really liked this wine with Dione’s Crescent Beach truffle.  I think this may be her signature chocolate.  It was also a hit at the previous wine and chocolate tasting I did with her. The green apple truffle was a bit too sour for my taste and did not mesh well enough with the ice apple wine.

At this event, we also had their new wine maker, Mr. Laurent Lafuente, to talk about the fruit wines, and his experiences around the world.  He even gave us a sip of their newly fermenting cranberry wine.  It was quite interesting to taste a wine in mid-ferment.

If you have never been to Wellbrook Winery, they are located at 4626 88th Street, Delta, BC.  I have been told that they have lots of fun tastings and food events during the winter and summer.  Try to get on their email list. And don’t forget Dione’s Chocolates. Probably both are good presents to grown-up friends and family.  Enjoy!

Artisan Chocolate and Wine Pairings at Festival of Chocolate

Dione and her chocolates

Lucky me.  This past week I was able to attend an Artisan Chocolate and wine pairing event at Ocean Park Village Pub in White Rock, BC. Dione’s Chocolates supplied the hand-made chocolates for this event.  This event was actually the coming out party for Dione’s company, and she made a great impression on everyone in attendance.

Before we tried the chocolates which were infused with various fruits and spices, we tried the basic chocolate types.  The white chocolate was buttery, creamy, and caramel flavoured.  I don’t normally like white chocolate as the ones I’ve tried are usually very sweet.  This one was not. Just right and melted on your tongue. The milk chocolate (34% cocoa) was smooth, with caramel, chocolate and a hint of bitterness. While the dark chocolate (60% cocoa) was much drier, with grittiness and earthy flavours.  To start we had something called a cocoa nib, which is the base from which chocolates are made.  They look like clumps of dark sugar crystals. Normally they would not have any sweetness but the ones we tried had a tiny bit added. Dark, smoky flavours and some fibre to them.

The Wine and Chocolate Pairings

  • Wine and chocolate pairings

    Jackson Triggs Merlot with a Crescent Park truffle

  • Inniskillin Pinot Noir with a spicy chipotle ganache in a dark chocolate shell
  • Lindeman’s Bin 50 Shiraz with a hand-rolled lemon coconut truffle
  • Beringer Founders Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 with a seasonal pumpkin spice ganache

We started the evening with the Jackson Triggs Merlot (BC) and Crescent Park truffle. The truffle has a creamy caramel center, wrapped in dark chocolate and sprinkled lightly with coarse sea salt.  A really tasty truffle and went nicely with the fruity merlot. Both were soft and creamy together.  The salt also added another level of complexity.  The Jackson Triggs Merlot had nice vanilla, ripe plums and cherry flavours, medium body and soft tannins. <I do think that merlot goes really well with dark chocolates overall.>

Inniskillin Pinot Noir (BC) with the spicy chipotle ganache was next. Typically you would not think a lighter bodied wine like pinot noir can stand up to the spicy heat of a chipotle smoked chile, but it worked in this pairing. The chocolate was sweet and dark with smoky spicy flavour. Dry with a bit of grittiness.  The Pinot Noir had sweet strawberries, raspberries and violet aromas.  Light body, high acid and violet flavour.  I think the spiciness of the chocolate was balanced nicely with the floweriness of the Pinot Noir.  Maybe the high acidity in the wine also helped?

Lindeman’s Bin 50 Shiraz (Australia) with a hand-rolled lemon coconut truffle was our 3rd pairing. The lemony flavour and toasty coconut were quite interesting with the shiraz. The Shiraz was full of blackberries and juicy black fruits, and had a whiff of milk chocolate on the nose.  Full body with more blackberry, plum and black cherry flavours.  Some spiciness and vanilla.  The lemon of the truffle cut through the lushness of the wine giving it an interesting complementary contrast. I also tried this wine with the chipotle ganache and it enhanced the heat of this chocolate.  I think the spiciness of both the wine and the chocolate were additive.

Pumpkin spice ganache chocolates

Our last wine and chocolate pairing was a Beringer Founders Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (California) with a seasonal pumpkin spice ganache. This chocolate smelled very nice, with the nutmeg and pumpkin aromas.  It was nice and smooth as it melted in your mouth. The Beringer Cabernet was a big wine.  Ripe cassis, oak and vanilla aromas.  Minerality, high acidity and spicy notes on the palate.  Lots of fruit up front and medium tannins. I think you need a big wine to compete with the big flavours of the pumpkin and nutmeg.  I also tried this chocolate with the Shiraz and it was also a good pairing.

If you are in White Rock you may want to visit the Ocean Park Village Pub (weblink).  It was very busy when I was there.

If you want to buy some artisan hand-made chocolates, here is Dione’s Chocolates website. You can also taste her chocolates on Friday, Nov 4 at Wellbrook Winery in Delta, with another wine and chocolate pairing. Enjoy!

Enjoying Blasted Church – Sip + Savour

Image Courtesy Fairmont Herons Restaurant

Wine and cheese.  Always an enjoyable time when paired together.  Today I looked forward to going to Herons Restaurant in Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in downtown Vancouver to try a flight of wines from Blasted Church winery and a pairing of cheeses from The Farm House Natural Cheeses and cheese from the Kootenays and from Salt Spring Island. You too can enjoy Sip + Savour because it takes place daily from 2pm to 5pm (excluding Sundays) at a cost of just $35.95.

Mark Wendenburg with a bottle of Blasted Church wine

Walking into Herons, I looked for an empty wine glass and a table with some wines to taste.  With my luck, the table I picked had the new wine maker from Blasted Church, Mr. Mark Wendenburg, pouring wine. Mark Wendenburg left Sumac Ridge Winery after working with them for18 years. Mark was a born and raised Penticton, and has travelled around the world, getting trained in Germany, and then making wines in New Zealand and Australia before settling back in the Okanagan. Mark is a very friendly person and I enjoyed speaking with him for a long time about wine making style, terroir, and more.

White Wines

The white wines I tasted were all fresh and fruit forward. Perfect for the summer, which I am told should arrive soon!

Pinot Gris 2010 ($19.99). I was told by Mark that their Pinot Gris always has a bit of Viognier blended in. This vintage had 8% added to the Pinot Gris. Pale lemon in colour.  Light peach and apple aromas.  High acidity but still round mouth feel. Medium body.  Flavours of ripe tropical fruits.

Blasted Church Pinot Gris on ice

Chardonnay Musque 2010 ($17.99). The Chardonnay Musque grape is a unique clone of Chardonnay that was pioneered in the Niagara Peninsula by Château des Charmes’ founder Paul Bosc. It has the Muscat character, which is very aromatic and an aroma of oranges.  This wine was pale lemon in colour. Very aromatic of oranges and flowers. Medium body, dry and medium acidity.  Juicy fruits of lemon and tropical fruit on the palate, also a bit of vanilla.  A nice long, dry finish.

Mixed Blessings 2010 ($17.99). This is the third vintage of this wine, and each vintage is made of a unique blend of white grapes. This vintage was made with Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  Nice aromatic nose. Green and stone fruits.  Off dry with a slight green, herbal flavour.  Light body with medium acidity and light spice to finish. Nice.

Gewurztraminer 2010 ($16.99). Pale lemon in the glass. Flowers and lychee greet your nose. High acidity with flowers,lychee and bonbon flavours.  Light body and has a nice balance of roundness with acidity in your mouth. Another nice wine!

Hatfield’s Fuse 2010 ($17.99). This is a blend of white grapes including Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Light lychee and herbal nose.  Round mouth feel with a nice balance of acidity.  Juicy fruit gum flavour.

Rose and Red Wines

Blasted Church has a wide range of reds from rose and lighter bodied Pinot Noir, up to a full bodied Bordeaux Blend.

Rose 2010 ($17.99). This rose is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Usually I expect a single varietal, like Pinot Noir or Merlot, so I was very interested to taste this rose. Very pale cherry colour. Nice strawberry aromas.  Raspberry leaf, strawberry, and capsicum flavours.  High acidity and spicy on your palate. Light body and long length.  This wine packs a punch with 14.9% alcohol, so beware as you sip this one on the patio.

Pinot Noir 2009 ($24.99). I am a Pinot Noir fan and I think that the Okanagan produces some nice Pinot Noir wines. This wine was a bit Burgundian in style. Pale cherry colour, with a smoky, earthy nose.  Between a light and medium body with more smokiness and earthiness on the palate, along with cherries.  Low tannins with medium acidity. Dry with medium length.

Blasted Church Cabernet Merlot and blue cheese

Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ($25.99). Deep garnet in colour. Ripe, dark fruit, vanilla, capsicum and pencil lead aromas. Medium body round and soft in your mouth with juicy ripe fruits, cherries and vanilla. Also a bit on spiciness on the finish.  Long length.  This wine tastes sweet, but it is just the juiciness of the fruit. Nice.

Nothing Sacred 2008 ($39.99). I’m not sure why the name, but the label shows a dead goat with it’s legs up in the air! This is a premium Bordeaux blend comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Each parcel of fruit was processed and vinified separately.  After vinification, the wines went into their finest oak barrels and aged separately until a final blend was determined. Deep garnet in the glass. Ripe dark fruit, vanilla and dark chocolate nose. Full body with cassis, plums, and opulent vanilla flavours.  Dry with medium tannins and soft acid.  Try this wine with a steak on your barbeque this long weekend.

Artisan Cheese

To pair with several of Blasted Church’s wines were artisan cheese by The Farm House Natural Cheeses, plus an Alpindon cheese from the Kootenay’s and a  “Beddis Blue” from Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Salt Spring Island.

Alpindon cheese with Blasted Church Pinot Gris

The Alpindon cheese was paired with the Pinot Gris. This is a hard cheese, slightly creamy and salty, with a bit of crunchiness to it. A bit of pungency but still quite mild for most people. It went nicely with the pinot gris.

I checked up on this cheese via the Internet and found that it is made by the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company in Creston, BC. They describe the Alpindon cheese as “a firm cheese carefully modeled after French Beaufort d’Alpage. Following centuries old tradition this cheese is hand-rubbed and made only with milk from summer pastures. It exhibits a smooth nut flavour, a complex finish, a rich golden interior and a dark textured rind. Additional aging concentrates its flavours, deepens its complexity, and increases the sweet crystals that develop throughout the body of the cheese.”

Variety of Cheeses from Farm House Natural Cheeses

The Farm House Natural Cheeses‘ Farm House cheddar was paired with the Chardonnnay Musque. This cheddar felt medium aged to me with some nice nuttiness, a bit of cheddar sharpness, and low in salt. It is hard for a cheddar not to pair nicely with any wine, and this one matched well. A drop of sweet chutney was added to the cheese so you had some sweet, sharp, nutty, and salty flavours to go with the Chardonnay Musque. I spoke with I believe Debra Amrein-Boyes, who is one of only twelve people in western Canada and the US who has been inducted into the prestigious French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon“.  I was very interested to hear how they made one of their blue cheeses, and her description of their camembert cheese.  They are located in Agassiz, BC, so I hope to make a pilgrimage to their Fromagerie before the summer is out, see her contented cows and try more of her fabulous cheeses.

The last cheese paired was the  “Beddis Blue” from Moonstruck Organic Cheese onSalt Spring Island. Very creamy with a mild bite. A drop of honey made by bees kept on the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, was added to this blue cheese.  It was a very interesting flavour combination.  I’ve never mixed honey and blue cheese, but it works and paired nicely with the fruitiness and acidity in the Cabernet Merlot blend.

If you are a fan of bees and honey, the Fairmont Waterfront hotel does offer their guests a guided Herb Garden & Honeybee Tour. Also if you are a chocolate fan, try the hotel’s honey truffles, the “Bee’s Knees”. The truffles, created in partnership with British Columbia’s legendary chocolatier, Rogers’ Chocolates, are offered in milk and dark chocolate and feature flavour notes of butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon.

Have a great summer, enjoying some wine and cheese on your patio!

Aphrodisiacs and Wine for Valentines

With Valentine’s Day coming up in February, I thought I’d get a head start on this blog about Aphrodisiacs and Wine to help you decide your Valentine’s meal.  There are many different foods that have been touted to have some aphrodisiac component to them.  A few foods:

  • cheese (In European culture, cheese is said by some to resemble the scent of a woman.)
  • arugula (Is also known as “rocket seed”, with mustard warming a person, making better blood flow.)
  • truffles (It is said that sows instinctively seek out truffles, it’s because they give off scents identical to certain substances found in the male boars sexual organs – namely a pheromone “androstenol” with a strong musky smell. Androstenol is also secreted by men’s armpit glands.)
  • chocolate (Chocolate contains both a sedative, which relaxes and lowers inhibitions, and a stimulant to increase activity and the desire for physical contact.)
  • oysters (Oysters being the aphrodisiac, due to their shape similar to a woman’s genitals, but also as they contain zinc which which promotes well being.)
  • asparagus (The asparagus of course visually is a phallic symbol. also because according to traditional Indian medicine, it increases circulation in the genito-urinary system. Chinese traditionalists believe the roots increase compassion and love, so they save the best ones for their friends and family.)
  • chilies (Chilies get a person’s blood rushing, heart pumping, face flushing and pores sweating, providing great physical stimulation.)
  • strawberries (Strawberries gained their reputation as an aphrodisiac due to their large number of tiny seeds symbolizing fertility. In art and literature, the strawberry was usually portrayed as a symbol of sensuality and earthly desire and has been described as fruit nipples.)

Is wine an aphrodisiac?

Of course. Wine relaxes people’s thoughts. A moderate quantity of wine reduces a person’s anxiety and releases their inhibitions. In studies published from the 1994 British scientific journal, Nature, claimed that the intake of alcohol can increase the levels of libido in women. According to this research, alcohol raises the testosterone level of women, which can entice those who lack sexual interest and desire. Port wine is said to be one of the most aphrodisiac alcoholic beverages around. This drink, which originated in Portugal, is said to promote lovemaking especially when served with strawberries (from http://nepspeed82.blogspot.com/2007/05/wine-as-aphrodisiac.html).

Some suggested wine and aphrodisiac food pairings:

  • Wild Mushroom and Truffle Risotto paired with a Viognier or a New Zealand Pinot Noir.
  • Fresh Oysters with Red Wine Shallot Mignonette paired with a California or Chilean sparkling wine.
  • Arugula, Pine Nut & Chevre Pizza matched with a BC, New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon & fresh basil paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon based Rose or a Pinot Noir.

Here are some specific wines that you may want to find either in a government liquor store or a private wine shop:

  • Stags Hollow Viognier, BC, 2010. This Viognier was pale in colour with some sweetness, orange, and flower aromas. Very pretty. Tropical fruit and cinnamon flavours.  Medium body.
  • Perrier Jouet Grand Brut N/V Champagne, France. This is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Pale lemon in colour.  Light lees and toast on the nose. Light body with apples and white fruit.  Small bubbles with lower acidity.  I really enjoyed this one in part due to the lower acidity which made this Champagne very easy to drink on its own.
  • Bastianich Flor Prosecco, Italy ($19.99).  A delightful sparkling wine with melon and lychee aromas. Off dry, light body, with cinnamon, citrus and peach flavours.  Small bubble.  This is such a fun wine.
  • Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand.  Pale lemon in the glass.  Lots of gooseberry on the nose with some herbal on the nose that continued to the palate.  Medium plus acidity with long length.  Really nice flavour.
  • Vina Santa Rita Medalla Real Pinot Noir 2008, Chile. Santa Rita is a premium producer from Chile.  I really enjoy their wines, and spent time visiting them in Chile. Their Medalla Real Pinot Noir is coloured light purple in the glass.  Ripe cassis aromas. Round mouth feel, light boded with an abundance of cassis flavour.  Low tannins.
  • Bartier – Scholefield Rose, BC ($20) is 100% Gamay Noir from the Wise Brothers’ vineyard in Oliver. This wine was medium salmon colour in the glass.  Light, youthful aromas of strawberries, red cherries and other red fruits.  It is dry on the palate with medium plus acidity.  Medium body.  I get fresh summer fruits like raspberries, red currants, strawberries and red cherries, and a lingering watering mouthfeel on the finish.

If you want an extensive list of aphrodisiac foods, I’d suggest following the “Life of Reiley“.  Enjoy the pairings and I hope they bring great enjoyment for you and your significant other!