Archive for February, 2017

Ask Sid: Opening a Burgundy Imperial?

February 15th, 2017
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opening an imperial wine bottle

Question: What is the best way to open an imperial ? The size and condition of the cork because it’s a 1970 DRC LA TACHE worries me.

Answer: The 1970 red Burgundies are generally under-rated because the large crop size (could have used the saignee technique back then) resulted in less concentration than either 1969 or 1971. But La Tache seems to be superb in expressing the style of every vintage and could be a fresh elegant exquisite treasure in that large format size of 6 litres (or 8 regular 750 ml. size bottles). However, our experience with these big bottle Burgundies is that some of them can show more oxidation than even the smaller sizes. The reason we believe is that the cork does not always seal as tightly at the bottom of it as the neck widens so quickly in that large Burgundy size compared to the straight down Bordeaux neck. Would be better and safer if they used a champagne or port style cork that flares out more at the bottom. In several comparative tastings we did of the same DRC Burgundy wine in sizes up to an Imperial the magnum has usually shown the best freshness. Still you won’t know how your exciting big bottle of 47 year old wine will be until you open it. Anticipation! Each bottle at this stage of aging is different and I have enjoyed some sublime old Imperials. IMHO the best opening procedure is to carefully use The Durand Corkscrew with confidence. Once the cork is out check the wine for any issues including especially how advanced it is. May have to be very careful not to give it too much airing. The big size can be difficult to hold for decanting without disturbing the sediment so go slowly in pouring it out or alternatively I would siphon it off with some plastic or rubber tubing into the magnum decanters. Good luck! Please report back.

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Unsung Seafood Heroes of the Sea

February 13th, 2017


One of the most talented chefs in Canada is Frank Pabst of Blue Water Café + Raw Bar in Vancouver. His accomplishments are many including winning the 2008 Gold Medal Plates Vancouver with an innovative dish of Qualicum Beach scallop and red sea urchin brilliantly blended together into a mousse with a ponzu sauce, wakame seaweed & leek salad lapped by a cucumber vichyssoise foam. Last week attended his 13th annual Unsung Heroes Festival on for the month of February featuring again under-utilized seafood from local sustainable fisheries. Your scribe is always enthusiastic about this event which raises seafood public awareness by featuring these rare exotic items from the sea prepared as interesting varied culinary dishes for sharing. It is amazing how tasty some of these lesser known treasures can be when the chef brings experience and skilled know-how to their preparation. The smoked mackerel and whelks really shone brightly. Sturgeon liver is really delicious when blended with some duck foie gras (added as a secret ingredient not mentioned on the menu) into a creamy textured mousse. Missed the periwinkles and gooseneck barnacles this year which were difficult to harvest due to the recent stormy very cold snowy winter weather. Highly recommend the 2017 menu of 11 different dishes with well-chosen suggested wine pairings as follows:

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Do you have some unsung seafood items being utilized in your region? Please let us know!

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Touchdown Australia!

February 10th, 2017

Australia wine yellow tail superbowl commercial

By Joseph Temple

If you were one of the 111 million people who tuned in to watch Tom Brady and the New England Patriots pull off one of the greatest comebacks in football history at Super Bowl LI, then chances are you also saw the start of another great comeback. Only this one was not on the gridiron but in an eccentric commercial featuring a kangaroo wearing loud yellow sunglasses and supermodel Ellie Gonsalves. Marking the first time in four decades that a wine ad has appeared on the Super Bowl, Yellow Tail, a brand that represents more than half of all Australian wines sold in the United States decided to make a splash this year with a coveted 30-second spot. And while many Aussies felt the entire commercial was an embarrassing portrayal of their country, others praised the winemakers for thinking outside the box with a unique sense of humor that clearly left an impression with viewers.

One of the greatest success stories in the history of both wine and marketing, Yellow Tail (or [yellow tail]) was able to conquer the globe through a combination of low price points, color-coded labeling for its different varietals and (most importantly) by not taking itself too seriously. Launching what became known as the “critter era,” which featured everything from frogs to bobcats on wine labels, this Australian juggernaut defied all conventional wisdom by selling over eight million cases in the United States by its fifth year as an exporter.

Unfortunately for the land Down Under, its wine industry as a whole fell on hard times, making the breakout success of Yellow Tail in the early 2000s seem like a distant memory. As a blogger for The Wall Street Journal writes, “Once among the world’s most sought-after bottles, they [Australian wines] are now some of the hardest to sell.” Dropping an astounding 41% in exports from 2007 to 2013, how did a nation known primarily for its Shiraz that critics like Robert Parker praised in the late 1990s take such a nosedive?

A major problem for Australia has been with this demand came excessive vineyard planting, which over time created more wine than the country could sell overseas. Adding to the problem was the decision to put all of its eggs in one basket. For example, in 1994, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon represented approximately 27% of the total production; nearly twenty years later, these three grapes shot up to nearly 60%. So as supply exceeded demand, “branded commodity wines” began to offload their surpluses on the international wine market for as little as 50 cents a liter, a practice that smaller vintners who focus exclusively on fine wines feel has cheapened the industry as a whole.

Another issue has been the Australian dollar, which began a decade long rise beginning in 2001. Fueled by Chinese demand for their minerals and other raw materials, this spike severely hindered the country’s ability to stay competitive internationally, especially with countries like Argentina, Chile and South Africa being able to undercut them at the local wine shop.

However, there are signs that Australia is beginning to turn the corner, as reported by several media outlets. Home to approximately 2100 small vintners, many are hoping that with this Super Bowl ad serving as a catalyst and Yellow Tail as the vanguard, American oenophiles will take the time to rediscover wines from the land Down Under – especially in the mid-range section. While we all can’t afford a bottle of Penfold’s Grange, there are many excellent selections available, from the Margaret River to the Barossa Valley. Hopefully this marks the start of massive renaissance throughout the Lucky Country.


MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Taber, George. A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

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Ask Sid: Horizontal & Vertical?

February 8th, 2017
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difference between horizontal and vertical wine tastings

Question: What do they mean by horizontal or vertical?

Answer: Presume you are referring in connection with wine tasting! They are special words for 2 different ways of assessing a group of wines one against another all having something in common.

1. Horizontal tasting is comparing wines from the same year. Usually (but not necessarily) it has a narrower focus of that SAME vintage from a more restricted region – like 2009 red Burgundy, 2010 red Bordeaux or even more specific 2010 St. Julien. This is an educational tool in helping you evaluate at any point of time the quality of wines in that chosen year from the area selected.

2. Vertical tasting is focusing in on a specific wine and trying several DIFFERENT vintages of it – like Chablis 1er cru Vaillons Cuvee Guy Moreau from say 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. This also is very educational allowing you to assess the overall quality of the producer & property, the similarity of the wines, as well as how the yearly weather conditions have influenced each resulting wine.

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Canadian Culinary Championships 2017

February 6th, 2017

Canadian Culinary Championship 2017

The Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC) 2017 were held on February 2-4 in Kelowna British Columbia. Eleven chefs (listed below) fresh off their winning regional Gold Medal Plates competitions attended. Net proceeds from CCC are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation which supports athletes and programs such as Own The Podium which already has raised nearly $12 million. The CCC consists of 3 main competitions: Mystery Wine Pairing, Black Box, and Grand Finale. Your scribe is a Senior Judge representing British Columbia who appreciated again the culinary challenges presented to the talented chefs and offers a few personal insights from the rigorous competition as follows:

MYSTERY WINE PAIRING: Each chef is presented at the VIP Thursday evening reception with a mystery bottle of wine (with no label or other markings) to study overnight and then shop on a limited budget of only $500 to prepare a dish for 400 people the following evening. The wine turned out to be a very variety focused 2014 Unsworth Pinot Noir Reserve with good acidity that lent itself as a good pairing with diverse dishes and wine compatibility was an important 30% of our final scoring (presentation 20, texture 10, taste 30, wow factor 10). Food ranged through fish crudo, chicken livers, pasta, carpaccio, red meat, pork belly and red beets with mixed success. Your scribe felt some chefs did not place enough emphasis on trying to match the bright well defined sweet cherry fruit shown by the wine in the flavours of their dish.

BLACK BOX: This is a difficult 1 hour task of preparing a dish from 7 surprise ingredients. This year the box contained Newfoundland Salt Cod, Saskatchewan Honey, BC Quail’s Egg, Okanagan Frozen Tart Cherries, Unbaked Focaccia Dough, Whole Savoy Cabbage, Bottle of Ale. Some chefs presented excellent brandade-style dishes sometimes with less than the ideal amount of bread or potatoes available from their access pantry to soak up that excess salt. Ideally of course the recipe would have been more delicious by soaking the cod in water or milk for 24 hours if you had the time. Others didn’t recognize the fish needed any soaking at all and accordingly had marks deducted when they delivered an extremely over salted dish. Creativity accounted for 40% (followed by taste 30, presentation 10, texture 10, wow factor 10). Your individual level of salt tolerance was a factor in your ultimate scoring. Tough!

GRAND FINALE: Unlimited budget and a chance for each chef to show their unique style and talents. Judging was based on taste 40% followed by presentation 20, texture 10, wine compatibility 10 and wow factor 10.  Wide variety of dishes and wine pairings were served as follows:

1. Jesse McCleery of Pilgrimme on Galiano Island BC:  Hay-Baked and Smoked Rutabaga, Onion, Pear, Sourdough, Kelp – Sea Star 2015 Blanc de Noir (also winning best wine competing in regional Gold Medal Plates as so judged by myself with 3 other wine experts).

2. Jinhee Lee of Foreign Concept in Calgary: “Cha Ca La Vong” (“Fry the Fish”) Turmeric Fish Mosaic with Dill – Bartier Bros. 2014 Gewurztraminer Okanagan Valley BC

3. Eric Hanson of Prairie Noodle Shop in Edmonton: Spot Prawn with Plum Preparations – Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner Oliver BC

4. Garrett “Rusty” Thienes of Harvest Eatery and Fresh Market in Regina: Sous Vide Saskatchewan Lamb Belly & Pulse Crust, Herb & Nut “Chimichurri”, Curried Fenugreek Kefir, Pickled Fennel, Carrot Puree, Pate Bon Bon, Crispy Barley – Dirty Laundry 2014 Kay-Syrah Okanagan Valley BC

5. Scott Torgerson of Radisson Hotel Saskatoon & Aroma Resto Bar in Saskatoon: Black Trumpet Crusted Roast Elk & Cactus Lake Beef Tenderloin with Porcini & Sunchoke Foam, Broccoli Puree, Parsnip, Beef Tendon Puff, Pearl Onion, and Micro Cress – See Ya Later Ranch 2015 Unleashed Pinot Noir Okanagan Valley BC

6. Jesse Friesen of Pizzeria Gusto in Winnipeg: Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, Avocado Crema, Pickled Mango, Serrano Chile Hot Sauce, Unagi, Cilantro, Crackling – Quails’ Gate 2015 Dry Riesling Okanagan Valley BC

7. Amanda Ray of O & B Canteen in Toronto: Milk Braised St. Canut Porcelet with Hay Smoked Tamarack Farm Squash & Choucroute -Cave Spring 2015 “The Adam Steps” Riesling Beamsvlle Bench Jordan Ontario

8. Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon in Ottawa: Kerala Spices Infuse Oil Poached Halibut + Fish Curry Crumbs, Woodland Mushroom Aviyal +Lentil Emulsion – Huff Estates 2015 Riesling Off Dry Prince Edward County Ontario

9. Sophie Tabet of Chez Sophie in Montreal: Crispy Veal Sweetbreads, Lobster Ravioli and Bisque, Mushroom Duxelle with Foie Gras & Hay Scented Poultry Jus – Vignoble De L’Orpailleur 2014 White Cuvee Natashquan Quebec

10. Ruth Wigman of Oppidan in St. John’s: Crisp Seasoned Chicken Feet, Sichuan Style Glazed Dumplings, Charred Scallion Puree, Crustacean Reduction, Mixed Pickle – Arrowleaf 2015 Gewurztraminer Okanagan Valley BC

11. Mark Gray of Battery Park Beer Bar & Eatery in Halifax: “Degustation de Cochon” A Tasting of Classic Charcuterie Preparations: Mousse of Liver with Foie Gras, Pate of Shoulder Inlay of Tenderloin with Dried Cherry, Terrine of Belly with Apple & Fennel + Accoutrements of Apple Mostarda, Sourdough Crumb, Fennel Marmalade, and Pork Demi Cracker – “A Crafted Cocktail” of Wild Nova Scotia Apple Kombucha, Ironworks Gin & French Oak, Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Ultimately the scores were added up and the “Olympic” culinary medals presented on the podium to Jinhee Lee GOLD, Joe Thottungal SILVER and Eric Hanson BRONZE. Jinhee Lee is a an amazing inventive creative inspired culinary artist hailing from South Korea who I recommend you follow and she is a most worthy winner of gold. Congratulations to all eleven of you for showing us the high quality culinary skills of our chef talent right across Canada. Check out their restaurants!

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