Archive for July, 2013


July 29th, 2013


Cheese gets more like wine everyday with the explosion of new regions producing it and the many AOC & DOP (“Protected Designation of Origin”) designations for those such as Parmigiano-Reggiano. Seems to be a local cheese to try in almost every farming district you visit and so many shops are specialized in the sale of a wide variety of product. There are also continuing debates on pasteurized vs. unpasteurized cheeses and quotas that we won’t get into here.

We are lucky to have Les Amis du Fromage ( Vancouver’s busiest and best cheese shop – there are actually two. Long time IWFS member Alice Spurrell with her daughter Allison and their competent crew do a great job. I asked Allison to guest host this week with a few of her “hot” cheeses and tips on storage as follows:

“Top  cheeses:

For our store, we tend to sell less in the way of trendy cheeses as we do traditional cheeses. Our “cheese friends” seem to like to know the history of the cheese and find out a little about where it comes from. It’s just like learning about geography through a love of wine, the same applies to cheese. These are the really big sellers for us in July 2013:

·        Secret de Campostelle – this is one you would appreciate, delicious smooth aged sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees. The taste is a little earthier than Ostari but it is a little less aged that the AOC Ossau Iraty.

·        Caccio di Bosca – this is an aged pecorino (sheep’s milk) from Tuscany made by Il Fortetto. This cheese is aged for a year and is studded with truffles. How can you go wrong!

·        Epoisses – this is one of my favourites, a classic washed rind cheese from Burgundy. Although this isn’t a cheese for everyone due to its strong smell and taste, it seem to be flying out of the store these days.

·        Abbaye de Tamie – is a monastery made cheese from the Savoie in France. This is a typical monastic cheese in style – washed rind, semi firm texture, but the similarities end there. This is  a cheese that I would travel miles for, it has a fabulous earthy taste with a finish of hazelnuts and barnyard! Intense but amazing, and it has been made by the monks since the 11th century

·        Honeybee Goa Gouda – I know it sounds a little odd, but there is something about the touch of honey added to the curd of this cheese, that gives it a really memorable taste. The cheese itself is rich and caramelly from natural aging and the honey is just one more interesting layer.

·        Extra Aged Mimolette – this poor cheese goes though hardship in the US and Canada every few years. Apparently Agriculture and import agents aren’t as keen as we are about those little friends living on the outside of this naturally crusted cheese from the north of France. The bright orange colour and the rich tasting flavour has a group of fans though so they’re  always willing to wait for it to come back in stock

·        Bra Duro – this excellent  DOP designated raw cows’ milk cheese from the area around Bra is a little grassy, earthy with a great tangy finish. Nice with a glass of Prosecco for a summer evening.

·        Extra Mature Farmhouse Cheddar – from England. This is a stock item for many of our customers and we were out of stock for almost 4 months! Now that it’s back in stock everyone is buying it up. This is a great classic British cheddar, tangy, creamy and a little rich. Great with a nice glass of port in the winter or for a picnic lunch during the  great summer weather we’re having.

·        French Butter – does that count as cheese? I think it should J  We have been able to get French butter since January this year it has been a very happy addition to my cheese fridge. It has nice company there with the other Farmstead butters as well as all the French Camembert. Salted, unsalted demi sel – it’s all delicious!”

Allison you left out 3 of my top favs: Comte – at all ages, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and triple cream Brillat Savarin!

“Storage Tips – The way I keep cheese in my fridge in the store is in Cling film. I know some people don’t love that option but if you’ re trying to wrap a huge piece of cheese it is practical. As long as you continue to re-wrap your cheese in fresh saran wrap every time you open it, it should last for weeks in your fridge if it is a firm cheese. Soft cheese last less well once they are open, so that’s why it is always a better idea to buy just what you need for the week and shop more often. Everything tastes better when it hasn’t been hanging around in your fridge. Your fridge will probably smell better too.

There are quite a few options for storing cheese if you would prefer to not use plastic wrap. Formaticum is a great US company that makes really easy to use cheese paper sheets and bags. You can also use parchment paper although it won’t breath the same as the cheese paper, and some people feel that tin foil is a good option. I’m not sure about that myself, as I’m not sure I like the way tin foil breaks down over time. Basically you want to make sure you put cheese away free of other food crumbs so you don’t speed the growth of mold. Our fridges hold many diverse foods so if you have vegetables in your fridge and they may still have dirt attached to the roots, that dirt can transfer to the cheese if it’s not wrapped properly. If you don’t want to bother with rewrapping the cheese every time you open it, it is a good idea to keep it in a sealable container or zip lock bag.”

Wine and Cheese Pairings is another whole topic. However, you might check out the helpful information at site that lets you search by either the wine or the cheese you are serving.

Please weigh in about cheeses you are enjoying presently and any other tips you have for us on this broad food and wine matching topic.






July 29th, 2013

The Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards 2013 the 24th edition of which I am a long time participating judge have just been released. Full details can be found at
Hawksworth cleaned up for the second straight year repeating as restaurant of the year, Gold for best upscale, and chef David Hawksworth again as Chef of the Year. Wonderful fresh & contemporary food that has lightened up on the butter and cream using Pacific & Asian influences. Congrats!
Silver to Blue Water Cafe, Bronze to Diva at the Met, followed by Cioppino’s and West.
In the Casual category (but as I previously advised in an earlier blog all restaurants in Vancouver are casually orientated rather than upscale) gold was awarded to La Quercia, silver to L’Abattoir, bronze to Wildebeest followed by Vij’s and Chambar. Wildebeest also received best new restaurant.
A special must go for me is Cactus Club Cafe winner of gold for Best Casual Chain with that breathtaking view of their brand new Coal Harbour location under inspiring chef Rob Feenie and competent sommelier Sebastien Le Goff.
Pastry chef of the year was again Thomas Haas.
Seafood is important in Vancouver and gold went to Blue Water Cafe, silver to Yew in the Four Seasons Hotel and bronze to Landmark Hot Pot House followed by Tojo’s and C Restaurant.
Food Carts have become very popular for all of us on the move and gold to Tacofino, silver to Re-Up BBQ and bronze to Vij’s Railway Express.
These are the latest hot spots for dining in Vancouver.
Please post your list of the very best restaurants in your city (with or without added comment). Appreciated!


July 28th, 2013

Not yet a month into 2013 and I already have experienced two 2003 Bordeaux horizontals. The 10 year anniversary retrospective is a traditional one and though perhaps more appropriate for the old style more backward harder tannins higher acidity Bordeaux it still gives a good snapshot of the vintage. Certainly 2003 was very controversial right from the start because of all the hot weather. Remember well the “tropical” storm during Vinexpo on June 24  that in an instant wiped out the black tie dinner of St. Emilion “Millesimes de Collection” set up in two small beautifully decorated outside tents at Chateau La Gaffeliere which was turned into the best wine tasting party in the cellars with only bread and old wines. Tragically this unprecedented European heat wave continued through the summer and in August many people especially in Paris died from it.

This update confirmed my opinion that this is indeed a variable vintage (unlike consistent 2005 & 2009). Certainly it showed the Bordelaise (and Bordelais) that the merlot variety doesn’t like gravel during these now often increasingly hot climate conditions. Seeing much less replanting of merlot on gravelly soil since 2003. The clay soils thrived in 2003 with their ability to retain mositure for the vines – see the success of St Estephe! Also helped at the lower end outlying regions of Bordeaux like Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Bourg, and Fronsac that often don’t get enough heat for sufficient ripening.

Didn’t try any 2003 Pomerol or First Growths this month but Parker gave Lafite & Latour perfect 100 scores. Generally less impressed with the regions of Pessac-Leognan (Latour-Martillac quite herbal, light and simple), Margaux (but a dark rich impressive Malescot Saint-Exupery), and St Emilion – some riper though alcoholic ones are OK (atypical Petit-Village easy but drying out). My best wines were all from the Northern Medoc showing star quality from several St Estephe, Pauillac and St Julien chateaux. I preferred the AC Pauillac with Pontet Canet concentrated cedar and cassis so classy with some elegance less commonly found in this vintage. Liked both Pichons with the Lalande showing more smooth chocolate to go along with the usual herbal character of this property and the Baron is really outstandingly powerful and ripely dense. My Pauillac sleepers included Duhart Milon (nearly three quarters cab sauv), Clerc Milon, and D`Armailhac.

Hope you have collected some 2003 Bordeaux to try this year.  Let us know your impressions of this vintage with your own favs and please post your comments below.


July 25th, 2013

The wines of this Jura region are relatively unknown yet are so distinctive always showing their unique terroir. I don’t drink them regularly but one of my favourite pairings during 2012 was a 40 year anniversary bottle of 1972 Vin Jaune D’Arbois from Henri Maire with some hot buttery garlic escargots. We certainly need much more detailed information on this underrated region.

Fortunately there is a credible expert on the region who has come up with an innovative book project for Jura Wines. Check out Wink Lorch on her website of and @WineTravel on Twitter for more information.

Wink posted today on her campaign to fund the production of her book for publication in April 2014. She is using Kickstarter for a fund raising target of 7500 English pounds through individual pledges of various amounts possible from 1 pound to 1500 with various rewards as a result of the amount of your pledge (if average 25 pounds would need 300 people). I believe Wink is very credible and I have pledged my 25 in support and invite you to join in too. The reward is a worthwhile encouragement for a great idea and for 25 pounds delivery of what will be an interesting valuable wine book and 2 PDF Travel Guides. It is also an all or nothing deal so if the budget is not reached you end up paying nothing.  Check out and it is off to an encouraging fast start because right now there already are 74 backers with 2207 pledged towards the 7500 goal with still 27 days to go. Follow the details set out on these postings to become involved in all the excitement.

I worked closely with Wink Lorch as my editor last year on my Monograph “An Appreciation Of The Age Of Wine”  and set out in Author’s Acknowledgements my praise for her laudatory work.

Pleased to receive any feedback you have on sharing your own Jura experiences – either touring or drinking!


July 25th, 2013

Many of us would consider this question of “what to do with left over wine” to be an oxymoron. What left over wine?

However as more bottles are being opened together either for verticals or horizontals and comparisons of the same varieties from different regions there is often more wine left over at the end of the evening then we expected.  What to do with it?

Several systems are on the market to keep oxygen out including the innovative restaurant-wine bar Enomatic wine dispensing machines. Are you the first in your neighborhood to install one in your home or condo? Ha! Ha!  Simpler Vacu Vin and other pump systems to get the air out or using a canister spray of an inert gas containing Nitrogen or Argon are becoming increasingly popular.

I still use an antiquated series of small bottles. 750 ml for left over Grand Format, 500 ml, 375 ml (if you have no half bottles to drink consider immediately on opening a 750 decanting it into a half for subsequent use and drinking the other half), 250 ml, and petite jam jars or even those miniature airline liquor bottles. Fill them as full as possible, stopper them, and refrigerate them for later drinking! Some of those new screw cap bottles work well for this procedure. The cold temperature helps slow down oxidation but try not to keep them in the frig too long. My system still works satisfactorily for me and some young wines actually do show improvement the next day.

Dessert and Fortified wines – especially Madeira – last better but be careful when opening those special older vintage ports which can change after 24 hours or so and still oxidize rather quickly compared to young table wines.

My better half  Joan has a few tips for using your leftover wine:

Freeze in ice cube trays for later use in your marinades or addition to cooking sauces.

Hold some white wine as a helpful household solvent for help in getting those emergency red wine stains out before they set.

Start your own special homemade vinegar blend.

Please post your comments on what works best for you in either preserving or using left over wine.

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