Archive for October, 2015

Apple Festivals

October 19th, 2015

Apple Festivals Hidden Rose

The 2015 successful grape harvest in many of the world’s wine districts is encouraging for a stellar vintage. The warmer sunny weather has also been good for ripening of other fruits and vegetables as well. Apples have been picked earlier this year to retain crispness but still with a lovely sweet ripeness. The cooler Fall days Apple Festivals have been in full swing. The 16th annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival (saltspringapplefestival.org) with over 350 organically grown diverse varieties was held on Sunday October 4. They have a marvellous informative glossy poster with some 60+ named hand painted apples on it. I remember the Summerland Red Mac being a recent People’s Choice Award winner. Some amazing names like Burgundy, Mother of New York State, Wealthy, and Millionaire form #1 & #2. The popular University of British Columbia Botanical Garden Apple Festival (botanicalgarden.ubc.ca) with 50,000+ lbs of 70+ varieties were sold to the thousands attending on October 17-18. Many years ago we used to line-up early to get the limited supply of Cox’s Orange Pippin available but now there are also Twenty Ounce Pippin, Lemon Pippins, Newton Pippin and more. The local BC hybrid with the fabulous name of “Ambrosia” is always a favourite eaten freshly picked off the tree and the heritage ones of “Bramley’s Seedling” & “Grimes Golden”. They also show limited amounts of quince and pears.

We just did an apple tasting (without cider) of 13 different lesser known purchased varieties. Our top 3 were the pale green Shizuka with lively firm flavours; the thin skinned refreshingly crisp Mutsu (better than Granny Smith); and our top rated conical Hidden Rose with that green-yellow-white dot skin but the magical aptly named hidden rose juicy sweet secret interior as shown in the photo above.

Lots to learn about apples other than the commercially available often waxed varieties you find in your neighbourhood store. Are you aware of the new non-browning trait of Golden & Granny varieties produced by Arctic Apples (arcticapples.com)? Check out my recommended new book published September 2014 – Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders by Rowan Jacobsen. I must confess that I still love a fresh Gala. What apple variety do you prefer? Is there a local Apple Festival near you?


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The ultimate guide to ordering wine at a restaurant

October 16th, 2015

How to order wine at a restaurant

By Joseph Temple

If you’re new to the world of wine, nothing can be more nerve-racking than having to choose what to drink at a restaurant—especially if you want to impress your date! Should you buy it by the glass or splurge for an entire bottle? How do you know if you’re being gouged? And what are you supposed to be looking for when the waiter gives you the cork? So many perplexing questions… But have no fear—below are some tips to keep in mind the next time you’re dining out. Salut!


Choosing a dish before you order wine at a restaurant

Tip #1 – Know what you’re going to eat first

Because wine and food have such a symbiotic relationship, it’s important to make sure that whatever you select compliments the dishes at your table.  Start by having a look at the menu first and then the wine list to find a pairing that will excite your palate.  If you need any help, just ask the server or sommelier for some suggestions like, “What red would you recommend with this steak?”
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Should you order wine by the bottle or the glass at a restaurant?

Tip #2 – Estimate how much wine you’re going to drink for the evening

With the average bottle being 750 ml, the standard five-ounce pour means that one bottle equals five glasses of wine.  And since most restaurants charge approximately 20% more if you order by the glass, have a good idea of how much you might plan to drink.  If it’s five glasses of the same wine, then definitely purchase the bottle.  But if it’s between 2-4 glasses, try a half bottle.
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Ordering wine by the glass at a restaurant tips

Tip #3 – If you order by the glass

Having the option of purchasing by the glass, it’s no surprise that restaurants are left with a lot of partial bottles by the end of the night. So if you order just one glass, ask the waiter how long the wine has been uncorked.  If it’s been open overnight, you might want to ask for a small sample.
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How to read from a wine list at a restaurant

Tip #4 – Understanding the wine list

Think of that leather-bound list that sits at every table as your own personal wine barometer, telling you how serious the restaurant is about what it selects.  If it looks like it hasn’t been updated in years, be wary about what the staff might recommend.  But if it’s full of detailed tasting notes, then you know you’ve got a place that is really passionate about the wines it has to offer!  Of course, it’s quality and not quantity that matters.  Don’t assume that just because the selection is as thick as a phone book that it automatically means a greater knowledge of wine.
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Finding that sweet spot on the wine list

Tip #5 – Finding that sweet spot

It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that you’re paying a lot more for a bottle of wine when dining out at a restaurant.  On average, it can be up to triple the wholesale price.  So when making a selection, keep in mind that the best value isn’t the least expensive.  Quite the contrary – the lowest priced bottles tend to have the highest mark-ups.  Instead, try to figure out what’s known as the “sweet spot,” usually a third the way up on the price list scale.  Consisting of lesser-known names, they can offer you the best bang for your buck.  According to one winery founder, “It tends to be at the upper end of the average bottle price. To figure it out, estimate the average entree price, then double it. The sweet spot for whites tends to be right around double the entree price. For reds, add on $10 to 20.”
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corkage fee at a restaurant?

Tip #6 – BYOB?

If you prefer to bring a bottle from your own collection to the restaurant, find out about the corkage fee.  This is the amount they will charge you to uncork it at their establishment.  Call the restaurant ahead of time to see if this is an option and if so, how much it will cost.
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Wine restaurant ritual

Tip #7 – Making sense of the whole three step ritual

Have you ever wondered why the server shows you the bottle before you drink it?  The answer is to confirm that it’s exactly what you ordered.  So be sure to look out for three things – the name of the winery, the grape varietal and the vintage.  On a busy night, they may have taken the wrong bottle by accident so this is your chance to do a QC verification.  Next, comes the cork.  Again, have a close look at the writing on the cork to make sure it corresponds with the information on the bottle.  With the growing number of counterfeit wines, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting exactly what you paid for.  After that, squeeze the cork to make sure it’s solid and inspect it for possible oxidation.  Check to see that the bottom is wet, the sides mostly dry and the top completely dry.  Finally, smell it and take a small sip to make sure there is nothing faulty about the wine.  Occasionally, bottles can spoil so if you suspect anything foul, ask the sommelier and/or another member of your party for a second opinion.
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Sources:

Clarke, Jim (2015, May). How to Find the Sweet Spot on a Wine List. Details. Retrieved from http://www.details.com.
Lorch, Wink, Brook, Stephen and Rand, Margaret. Le Cordon Bleu Wine Essentials: Professional Secrets to Buying, Storing, Serving and Drinking Wine. London: Carroll & Brown Publishers Limited, 2001.
Marshall, Wes. What’s a Wine Lover to Do? New York: Artisan Books, 2010.


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Ask Sid: Port reinvention?

October 14th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Does port need to reinvent itself?
Question: I recently read an article on how the average age of port drinkers is between 50 to 55 and how this fortified drink is struggling to gain a foothold with younger wine drinkers.  Do you think port can reinvent itself or is it doomed to be part of ash heap of wine drinking history?

Answer: Yes you must be referring to that interesting life style article in The Guardian. I like the innovative new ideas expressed there. Port has fallen behind some of the other wine regions in attracting younger consumers and could be revitalized. The Cathiards in Bordeaux are showing Sauternes (with similar issues to Port) in a modern style to be used as an aperitif with Perrier, fresh lime & ice called SO Sauternes. Do you recall one of the early new successful marketing ideas by Pommery with their “POP” of mini “split” Champagne bottles to drink with a straw – even on the dance floor! Chateau Margaux since 2009 now have 4 wines featuring the name “Margaux” all at different price points – Chateau Margaux, Pavillon Rouge, Margaux de Chateau Margaux , and AOC Margaux generic – to encourage the younger wine drinkers to try their brand and eventually move up the purchasing ladder to the Grand Vin. Why even in Sicily they may add cold sparkling mineral water to their traditional big bold reds. Vintage Port will always have a very special place among collectors. However there are lots of other ones out there including ruby, tawny, and white Port that could use a reinvention boost.


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What is a 100 Point Wine?

October 12th, 2015

What is a 100 point wine?

Earlier this month I was in Ann Arbor Michigan for some wonderful wine and food events. We were served some outstanding wines including with a course of roasted Four Story Hills Farm loin of beef four Bordeaux 100 pointers so rated by Robert M. Parker. The wines were so very different even though from the same general wine region that it got me thinking about what it takes for a wine to be entitled to 100 points. I am a miserly marker always looking for that perfect bottle of wine that is usually unattainable. More and more wines these days are helped with their marketing by getting that top 100 score as early futures or on immediate release. Remember that wine is something more than grape juice. Certainly I question whether any wine warrants a perfect score that early on in its evolution. Still in my humble opinion too much emphasis is given mainly to the factor of power with big ripe fruit concentration. For me I look for my ABCDE criteria: Age, Balance (includes structure), Complexity, Delicious Drinkability, and Elegance. I also throw in a dash of terroir typicality. For me subjectively 99 is as good as it gets with 100 still slightly just out of my reach. In fact I now find many wines that were originally rated as low as 89/90 by other media to be underrated and nearer perfection for me than many wines with a higher score. To each her own!

The four 100 point Bordeaux:

1990 Chateau Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse St. Emilion   For this property a once in a lifetime #1 hit with a very dense still somewhat backward Merlot styling showing impressive full powerful fruit rather than any elegance. For me doesn’t approach 100 but deserves the lowest mark in this grouping.

1986 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac   Classic Cab Sauv purity showing developing cedar cigar box bouquet with a harder more balanced structure than the immediately delicious 1982 and long length of flavours just coming into its own. Should soften, become even creamier and more complex with a few more years. Still admire this vintage of Mouton a lot.

1989 Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac Leognan  Always a favourite of mine and again shows spectacularly here. For me it has all of my ABCDE elements in total harmony. Outstanding Pessac signature terroir as well. This is indeed near perfection and drinking so well on the plateau already that I would give it 99 for sure!

1990 Chateau Montrose St. Estephe   Purchased this wine on release and have followed it closely for over 20 years. Massive concentration with outstanding extract that even though lower in acidity has the depth and St. Estephe breeding to age for decades more. Will improve. Continue to cellar or decant ahead and serve it with food. High marks but not yet perfect.

Also enjoyed an informative tour of the amazing Ann Arbor institution Zingerman’s (www.zingermans.com) Deli, Creamery, and Bakery (sour rye yeast bubbling away since 1981) including talks by the inspiring co-owners & founding partners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw. Check out Ari’s books (we use the one on “Good Eating” – How to choose the best bread, cheeses, olive oil, pasta, chocolate, and much more) on “Giving Good Service” and “Good Leading Series” (Part 4 Beliefs in Business slated for release in 2016). Brilliant guys.

Please chime in on whether or not you have tried a 100 point wine and more importantly what criteria you use.


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10 little known facts about christening ships with wine

October 9th, 2015

10 little known facts about christening ships with wine
By Joseph Temple

While today we often associate the ceremony of christening a ship with a bottle of champagne, the practice of smashing bubbly for good luck has only been used for the past 170 years or so. For centuries, long before sparkling wine ever existed, ships and vessels were christened with nature’s holiest drink in hope that the Gods would bless the captain and crew as they began their long voyage across the seas.   And below you can read about ten little-known facts that will shed some light on this historic ritual that has evolved greatly over thousands of years.  Cheers!


Priests christening ships in ancient rome

1. During ancient times, a priest would offer a libation to the Gods in the form of wine.  This was done by pouring it on the ship or in the waters that would soon receive the vessel.
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Christening viking ships with blood

2. Beginning in the tenth century, some ships were christened with the blood of sacrificial victims.  This practice was later seen as extremely barbaric, resulting in red wine being used instead.
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Red wine used to christen ships

3. The church objected to the use of red wine, viewing it as an affront to its sacraments.  Because of these objections, white wine — and later champagne was used for christenings.
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USS Constitution christened with Madeira
4. In 1797, the USS Constitution was christened with a bottle of Madeira – one of the preferred alcoholic beverages of the American Revolution.
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christening ships with champagne

5. By the mid-18th century, France began using champagne, the “aristocrat of wines” to christen its ships.  The practice of using bubbly quickly spread to other countries.
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SS Great Britain christening Prince Albert Queen Victoria

6. In 1843, SS Great Britain, the world’s first modern transatlantic liner, was christened with champagne.  When the first bottle missed the ship, Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert quickly grabbed another bottle and threw it against the bow.
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Was the Titanic christened?

7. It is believed that if the christening bottle doesn’t break or if a ship isn’t christened at all, bad luck will haunt the vessel.  One passenger liner that skipped the ceremony was the Titanic.
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USS Maine christened

8. In 1890, the Maine, America’s first steel battleship, was christened in front of 20,000 people at the U.S. Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York.  This ceremony, however, did not prevent it from sinking after a mysterious explosion in Havana Harbor, leading to the Spanish-American War in 1898.
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Christening ships during prohibition

9. During prohibition from 1920-1933, American war ships were christened with water, juice and apple cider instead of wine.
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Marian Anderson christening a ship
10. In 1942, opera singer Marian Anderson christened the Booker T. Washington, the first U.S. ship to be named after an African-American.
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Sources:

Bernardo, Stephanie. “Rites of Passage.” MotorBoating. May 1981: 66-69. Print.
Crompton, Samuel Willard. The Sinking of the USS Maine: Declaring War Against Spain. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009.
Lennox, Doug. Now You Know: The Book of Answers, Volume 1. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2003.
Tuleja, Ted. Curious Customs. New York: Stonesong Books, 2012.
Soniak, Matt (2012, Sept 26). Why Are Bottles of Champagne Smashed On New Ships? Mental Floss. Retrieved from http://www.mentalfloss.com.
Spignesi, Stephen J. The Titanic for Dummies. Hoboken, Wiley Publishing, 2012.
Williams, Randall and Beard, Ben. This Day in Civil Rights History. Montgomery: NewSouth Books, 2009.


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