Archive for September, 2014

Ask Sid: What’s the best time to visit a winery?

September 17th, 2014

What's the best time to visit a winery?

Question: What’s the best time to visit a winery?

Answer: Quite a difficult general question. No best time really but lots of different opportunities. Earlier in the day is less busy than later in the afternoon. Weekdays are easier than the weekends – especially crowded long weekends. The month depends a lot on your destination. In the Northern Hemisphere January, February & March are slower in the winery and vineyards so this offers a nice chance to maybe meet the winemaker and walk through the dormant vines to learn more about their specific location. April through August is a popular time. I am often in the European vineyards for update visits during May & June. Remember that August can be vacation shutdown especially in France – and check out their numerous Bank Holidays. September & October are excellent to see the harvest but remember that all the winery staff are extremely busy at this time and many take no visitors. Piedmont super late October early November for the “nebbia” fog and experience the white truffle festival. Popular winery visit times however mean it is more difficult to reserve restaurants and hotels.  November & December slows down but they are looking after the new young grape juice and the Christmas/New Year seasons bring closures. Note that the Southern Hemisphere wineries will be opposite for seasons. Nice to visit southern Italy & Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa during our northern winter months of November through April – their summer including early Fall harvest. Check out the local wine tours offered in your region. I recommend an interesting wine tour blog for some European wineries here.

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Bordeaux Update

September 15th, 2014

Update on Bordeaux
By Jonas Roux (originally posted to Flickr as [1]) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some of my random thoughts after a busy week of events in Vancouver spotlighting Bordeaux:

2014: Stephen Lemaitre Vintex Commercial Director for the Americas is encouraged that estimates of increased crop levels for 2014 over 2013 will help lower present exalted prices. After a lovely Spring and good flowering the weather has been mixed resulting in a catch up year with some recent rains but the forecast for the last 2 weeks of September is sunny and encouraging. Quality levels still to be determined.

2013: Tasting many barrel samples showed whites preferred: Domaine de Chevalier outstanding, Pape Clement, Malartic Lagraviere & Fieuzal also at a high level picked before the heat and rains. Reds suffered from both late budding and flowering, some coulure, rainy Spring and early Summer followed by hot July, August and September but rains forced earlier picking to avoid rot. Harvest of merlots advanced from expected October 8 date and some cab sauv picked in the rain. Sauternes faired much better picking with botrytis between the showers. 2013 reds are lighter but show their terroir well. Bill Blatch of and Christie’s Bordeaux wine consultant says “lovely purity of raspberry fruit in 2013 acting a bit like a light Volnay in Burgundy presently but in 5 years will show OK.”

2012: Reds forwardly with lower acidity showing some successful merlots. Sauternes difficult with 4 top properties declassifying. Again dry whites excellent.

2011:  Current releases show lack of uniformity. Another leaner year that was the opposite of 2013 with a warm Winter hot Spring but cool + wet in July & August delayed ripening and saved by September & October warm up. Bill Blatch says he “was on the beach in February” and “wearing a Panama hat to the office in the Spring”. Lovely whites picked in August earlier than 1893.  Clean amazing pure selection of 2011 Chateau Latour impresses me but it lacks the usual power and concentration. Is it really worth 15 times the price of neighbouring Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste? Bill states that ” If I was starting a wine cellar now I would buy the 2011 vintage”.

Seems like the 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 will be 4 less uniform vintages following 2 outstanding years of 2010 and 2009. Note this is quite a similar pattern to 20 years ago when the disappointing 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 vintages followed that great pair of 1990 & 1989 Bordeaux wines!

2000 & 1990: Rain that fell on the 1999 harvest continued till February 2000 raising the water table, Mildew risks in April that smaller properties were able to handle better. Mid June finally some heat and July quite warm “better than the stats showed” says Bill. Vintage saved by the triple 000’s.  1990 warm wet winter gave the vines a fast start and heat wave continued right through giving tasty lush velvety softer styling. Bill Blatch and this blogger conducted a comparison tasting of 2000 and 1990 for the French wine club Les Chevaliers des Vins de France. Both vintages developing nicely. Bill says 2 characteristics of St Estephe on blind tastings for him are “Oriental spice & abrupt tannins”. Croizet Bages 2000 didn’t show too badly against a magnificent magnum of a leaner vintage for cedar-cigar box Mouton Rothschild in 1990 (like the Pichon Lalande) but Bill says Croizet had “vineyard spacing too wide and using a bad rootstock.” Other 2000s: Haut Marbuzet ready, Yon Figeac a L’Evangile wannabe, Rouget very ripe and concentrated even if a bit rustic. Best wine on the table was clearly the rich opulent 1990 L’Evangile followed closely by two other 1990s drinking well:  classy Trotanoy and fleshy alive Sociando Mallet.

“Bordeaux, toujours Bordeaux” – the official song of the Grand Conseil de Bordeaux!

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10 #diy ways to create a truly unique wine rack

September 12th, 2014

ways to create a unique wine rack

By Joseph Temple

Are you looking for a project to do this fall?  Well how about creating the ultimate conversation piece by building a do-it-yourself wine rack?  Below you can find ten inspirational ideas from Pinterest by using recycled materials – many of them might just be gathering dust in your basement or garage.  So get to work and submit the final product to our pin board by clicking here.  Best of luck!


1. Barn wood and railroad spikes

Milk Crate Wine Rack

2. Old Milk Crates

PVC pipes wine rack

3. PVC Pipes

Wine rack made from warped vinyl

4. Vinyl records

Wine Rack made from an ammunition box

5. Reclaimed Ammo Box

Wine rack made from copper pipes and bed springs

6. bed springs & copper pipes

Wine rack made from a film reel

7. vintage film reels

Wine rack made from a fallen tree

8. a fallen tree

Wine rack dresser

9. Repurposed dresser

Wine rack from home piping

10. Picture frame and pipes

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Ask Sid: Pairing wine with duck

September 10th, 2014

How to pair duck with wine
By Sakurai Midori (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: We are preparing some ducks for a special dinner and need your help in choosing the best wine pairing. What do you suggest Sid?

Answer: This is easy. I recommend pinot noir with duck, squab, other game birds and even chicken. Need more information to be more specific. Domestic ducks are milder than wild caught. Classic duck recipes work well with classic Burgundy pinot while modern preparations open the door to more New World choices. Two important issues to consider are your sauce and the accompaniments. Pinot noir delivers appropriate fruit weight with balance and refreshes your palate with the complementing acidity. If the wine is too jammy and alcoholic you may lose some of the complex special flavours of your delicious duck. Lots of good producers out there from Oregon, California, Ontario, BC, Central Otago, Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula and other regions. A good choice is Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery in Chile who produce an amazing range of excellent pinot noir from expensive Ocio to best buy Bicicleta (Bicycle series). My fav is their 20 Barrels Limited Edition from the cooler Casablanca Valley. Enjoy!

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September 8th, 2014

Kiwifruit Presently enjoying a ripe sweet yellow kiwifruit from New Zealand. Wonderful colour and tropical taste loaded with healthy antioxidants of Vitamins B (folic acid) C & E. Also as a lawyer I find the story of kiwifruit fascinating starting from the 1920s when Hayward Wright first planted the Chinese Gooseberry in New Zealand where it thrived resulting in increased world export markets during the 1970s. This original “Hayward” variety had a brown fuzzy skin with a seedier tart green fruit. During the 1980s & 1990s increasing numbers of local growers fragmented the total production and with other countries such as Italy, Chile, Spain, France and South Africa entering into the picture as well there was severe price competition. The problem was that no one had registered a legal trademark for kiwifruit. A new cultivar “Hort16A” was developed in New Zealand and registered in 1996. Local growers in New Zealand got together in 1997 and formed a brand name for marketing called Zespri. In 1998 this new cultivar product was released called “Zespri Gold” which now is the current darling of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. Lovely right now during their June to October season either by itself or in a smoothie with a banana and fruit juice. Try one. I think you will enjoy it.

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