Archive for July, 2013


July 24th, 2013

BYOB Corkage Fee
So many of us with wine cellars really appreciate a restaurant with a reasonable corkage charge allowing you to Bring Your Own Wine (BYOB). It also helps those ever increasing more casual places that no longer can afford the ever increasing cost of maintaining an inventory of older wines. The Aussies have been the best in encouraging BYOB.

In British Columbia with our restrictive government regulations this idea has been illegal until the recent law change last summer. After less than a year it is still unclear what the corkage policy might be for any given restaurant in Vancouver. However several places are supporting this new initiative and continuing to work to modernize BC’s antiquated liquor laws. The amount of corkage varies widely from $60 at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, $38 at all four of the outstanding restaurants forming The Top Table Group to the more common $20-$ 30 at the majority of spots. Always ask whether there is any special deal for a certain day of the week. For example La Cigale French Bistro has no corkage charge every Tuesday, Versace Pizzeria every Wednesday and even Four Seasons Vancouver offers half price on all their wines on the extensive wine list at their Yew Restaurant every Sunday.

What are some places that allow you to bring your own wine that you would recommend to us?

What do you think is a reasonable charge by a restaurant to allow you to bring in your own wine?


July 22nd, 2013

Best wine serving temperatures

All of us would generally agree that white wines are often served too cold and reds too warm. This is accentuated even more now in mid-Summer (I know Down Under it is mid- Winter) when many whites are appreciated for being thirst quenching cold and reds are suffering from very abnormally hot room temperatures. However it is important that you consciously try to serve your wines within the best temperature ranges for that specific wine to give you the best attributes the wine has to offer. Coldest would be Sparkling, then Champagne, followed by Dessert wines, Roses and light aromatics, most Whites, bigger whites especially Chardonnay & Viognier, then Beaujolais, Dolcetto, & Pinot Noir and lighter reds, most Reds & Fortified all in ascending temperatures. However, in many restaurants the whites reside in the fridge and the reds stand in the dining room – both often not ideal for your wine enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to ask the sommelier or server to take your white wine out of the fridge early and not to transfer it into an ice bucket. Also to please put your red wine into an ice bucket for a few minutes to cool it down. Remember that it is better to serve too cold then too warm as it will warm up with airing in the glass but it will be difficult to cool it down once it is poured. Often very frustrating for a special classy red Burgundy served too warm!

One revelation was having two bottles of the 100 year old vines Santa Rita superb 2005 Pehuen Carmenere Apalta 14.7 alcohol at their winery in Chile. One was served room temperature in a non air conditioned room at lunch on a hot January day (summer) and the other well chilled. What a difference – so much so that the wines seemed completely different. The refreshing fruit and the restrained alcohol was so much more enjoyable drinking from the cold bottle both at first and as it warmed up compared to the really hot wine – in both alcohol and temperature. Lesson learned.

At a tasting of Lucien Le Moine Burgundies during Vinexpo with Mounir Saouma he served all his whites and all his reds at the very same temperature – about 15 degrees Centigrade (or about 59 degrees Fahrenheit). When I asked him about this he told me in his usual indomitable manner that it was a conscious choice as that was the best temperature for all his wines to show their unique terroir. But then Mounir also states that all his wines MUST be decanted to get rid of the natural CO2 from malolactic fermentation that is protecting his wines (because he has no filtration, no racking and no pumping). Remember that decanting and pouring also warms up your wine.

Any tips you have for us on your own experiences of ideal temperatures for any wines would be appreciated. Please share.


July 21st, 2013

Delia Viader born in Argentina  founded Napa Valley Viader in 1986 on the steep rocky slopes of Howell Mountain at over 1200 feet elevation. Their first wine was produced in 1989 with cabernet sauvignon blended with cabernet franc. This was daring at the time and their new wine Dare is using 100% cabernet franc. Delia just hosted in Vancouver a family tasting including her son Alan Director of Operations, daughter Janet Sales & Marketing and daughter in law Mariela Viader Executive Chef  showing 12 vintages back to a surprising lively stylish 1990 (32% cab franc). My favs included a sweet chocolate 1993 with 40% cab franc (bottle of 94 a bit too earthy), riper full rich 97, (98 lighter more herbal), an outstanding 99, more modern style 04 and impressive classic 2009 for the cellar. They know cab sauv will ripen well but the canopy management is important to protect the cab franc in the hot summers to get that distinctive elegant floral lift for the terroir.

Interesting that recently Ray Signorello hosted during the Vancouver International Wine Festival tastings of his Estate cab as well as a vertical of his Padrone back to the original one in 97 (containing 16.5% merlot). Ray has now decided from 09 onwards to use no merlot in either his Signorello Estate or Padrone cabs. Will blend in cab franc if it is a good year for it and it helps the quality for longer aging.

I congratulated Delia for deciding so early on for her property that cab sauv and cab franc worked best in the blend. Asked Alan if he was thinking of now using merlot to add roundness and softer middle texture but he says he can get that already through his cab sauv because of the very steep vineyards. Viader remains in good family hands and it looks like another 20 years of traditional excellent quality!

What are your thoughts about the best grape varieties for red blends you have tried from Napa?


July 20th, 2013

Living in Canada we are dominated by liquor board monopolies. Always amazed on my travels to check out the better prices and the better accessibility of wines elsewhere.

In France the taxes are high but still lots of wines available and often you can find quality bargains at rock bottom prices. In Bordeaux wine is for sale everywhere including spiral staircase show piece L’Intendant across from the Grand Theatre. In Paris wine for sale at many outlets including Nicolas and the now over 10 year old Lavinia with their vast selection on Blvd. de la Madeleine. Lots of the usual traditional wine shops but I continue to be surprised by the increasing expansion of wine departments in other stores. The three “Grands Magasins” carry wine – Au Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, and Bon Marche (including 1852 Gruaud Larose for 27,000E a bottle displayed among the new release First Growths) – but also now a better selection at the popular grocery chains of Franprix, Carrefour, and Monoprix (really enjoyed their NV Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne for outstanding value of 22.50E). Another “electronics” shop with great wine prices but a limited inventory that I used both last year and this year is C Discount on the Left Bank in the 7th at 63 rue de Bac ( just down from another wine store Ryst Dupeyron at #79). Henry de Valbert NV Champagne from Mareuil-sur-Ay very drinkable and discounted to 12.64E a bottle, aged 2004 La Chablisienne 1er cru Cote de Lechet Chablis 14.94E and the enjoyable fruit of vintage 2009 Nuits-Saint-Georges Vieilles Vignes Domaine de Gramont 20.40E.

I raise this question of where do you buy most of your wine? What are some of the most important factors for you in making your choice: Proximity to home or office, very competitive pricing, knowledgeable service staff, wide wine choice availability, access to the display of product,  easy parking, good facilities and storage temperature ….?

We all know now that when buying older wine at auction the buyer beware – “caveat emptor” – principle certainly applies.

Where do you recommend we shop for wine when we are visiting your city?


July 18th, 2013

Fortunate to have enjoyed a February 2013 vertical of the best vintages back to 1982 of Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron second growth Pauillac.

Property with a long history realizing substantial improvements since the eighties under AXA first under the guidance of the indomitable Jean-Michel Cazes and now Christian Seely. Wonderful terroir expressed in the wines from those great gravelly vineyards next to Chateau Latour and the stricter selection for their Grand Vin.

Even torridly hot 2003 is successful in a riper more forwardly softer style because of their older vines with deep roots in that gravel having the same beneficial effect as the more moisture retaining clay soils of St. Estephe.

1996 Highest cabernet sauvignon at 80% but much lighter colour with prominent acidity. Needs time?

1995 Darker than 96 with much richer fuller fruit. A surprising delight!

1988 Herbal greener stemmy notes but a more elegant balanced character.

1986 Shows the opposite styling to 1982 with those more backward and tougher hard old style tannins.

1982 In that same sweet attractive 2003 style but more rustic as the selection then not as rigorous as now.

Clearly my top three:

2000 Less severe modern style still showing some oak. Admire the intensity and structure here. Still needs cellar time.

1990 Wonderful cedar-cigar developing bouquet with a palate of  almost overripe concentrated fruit. Very impressive!

1989 My winner! Love the balance, elegance and the deliciousness! Deserves that Wine Spectator 1992 Wine of the Year selection. Hope you have some of the 1989 tucked away for a special treat to see what this chateau does spectacularly!

What is the best vintage of Pichon Baron for you?

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