Archive for March, 2019

Food & Wine Matchings Shine Brightly At #VIWF2019 @VanWineFest

March 18th, 2019

A highlight yet again this year at the 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival is the support of the restaurants that results in outstanding lunch, brunch, and dinner events. Here is a brief spotlight on only four of them that your scribe attended:

1. “Beauty and the Beest” Dinner at Wildebeest Restaurant on February 25, 2019 featured the Triggs family of Don, Elaine & Sarah all informatively speaking on their wines of Culmina Family Estate Winery showed to advantage matched with appropriate food. Challenging menu prepared by Executive Chef Ian McHale and his brigade with brilliant service of the wines by Wine Director Christina Hartigan. Started comparing their two 2017 Rose of R & D & Saignee with impressive smelt and avocado puree. Really learned great insights into the direction of their chardonnay with earlier picked (Sept. 7) forwardly rich complex 2016 Stan’s Bench using only 60% used French oak & 40% Stainless but using all natural yeasts vs. more oaky Dilemma much later picked at same 23.5 Brix but higher elevation Margaret’s Bench providing structure and more vibrant acidity using 35% new French oak & 35% one year, and 30% Stainless. Both superb but believe 2017 Dilemna will be their best yet by tweaking it with that wild yeast technique used on Stan’s plus using less new oak. Both are dry with 35% malo and cleverly matched with fresh Mutsu apple & celeriac in the course. More interesting matches with rich Merlot with smoked goose plus blackberries preserve, elderberry jus with bison main and two Hypothesis Bordeaux blends, finishing with opulent Riesling capturing the apricot dessert. Well done!


2. Chambar Lunch on February 26 featuring Jon Bonne brought out some of the best of BC wines as shown on the special list assembled for sampling so deftly handled by Sommelier Kelcie Jones and her friendly team. Liked the food choices given for guests. Really enjoyed trying the beetroot starter followed by a ratataouille of succulent vegetables as both dishes paired well with the varied wine selections.


3. Sordo’s Centenary of Barolo Dinner at Boulevard on February 27 was a tour de force indeed. Their whole talented culinary team with Roger Ma cooking and top flight service orchestrated by JP Potters is always so dependable. Charming Elisa Rabino the Sordo Winery Hospitality Director advised that they are the only winery which can boast of 8 different crus of Barolo to show off the distinct terroirs using the same vinification all in big Slavonian casks. Educational to compare with dry aged duck both young 2012s of elegant Ravera from Novello & Perno vineyard showing bigger more backward Monforte d’Alba styling. Real treat to have that more mature outstanding 2004 Gabutti Riserva from Serralunga d’Alba shining brightly with the beef protein course. What a forum to learn more about those complex Piedmont vineyards.


4. Dine Italia Lunch on March 2 at La Terrazza is a Festival institution always of the highest quality by the dynamic “Three Musketeers” of Chef Gennaro Iorio, Manager Iqbal Grewal, and incomparable MC Sommelier Giulio Miceli (ably assisted by Carmen D’Onofrio managing partner of Stile Wines). Another success with 12 top Italian wines over 6 courses. Culinary heaven. One of the many bright stars of the lunch (and the whole Festival) was family member Valentina Abbona Export Manager of Marchesi Di Barolo showing the coveted Cannubi vineyard from young 2014 vintage with lamb rack – especially that 25 year balsamic reduction sauce. Cannubi is special place with a gradual long slope protected by higher hills from storms and strong winds for a unique microclimate. The La Terrazza pasta dish is always a popular feature with their special Ravioli served this year so wine friendly.


Book some restaurants for #VIWF2020 the week of February 24 to 29, 2020 on first opening for ticket sales where diverse French wines will of course be matched to some exciting food courses. Worth checking out!

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Ask Sid: Champagne Bubbles Size?

March 13th, 2019
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Question: Can you tell me what the characteristic of the size of Champagne bubbles is called?

Answer: Not sure I fully comprehend your question. There is physics on the release of pressure allowing dissolved carbon dioxide to release bubbles.  Also  “Ostwald Ripening” developed by a German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald relates larger crystals or bubbles to dominate smaller ones in sparkling wine or even in boiling water. Without being so technical it is fun just to study the size of bubbles on pouring a sparkler. Many of us still look for that small steady stream of tiny bubbles for an indication of top quality. Helps to use a consistent pouring procedure to get reliable results. Your scribe pours some into the first glass to swirl around then transfers that one by one into all the other glasses to be used. Keep the last glass for yourself and check that the wine is sound before refilling all the glasses. This “seasons” the glasses and allows you to pour into a wet glass with more consistent pure bubble results IMHO. Try it. Bubbles prominent with an estimate of 49 million per Champagne bottle with apparently a wide range in size from .4 mm to 4 mm – big variation. Characteristic of these bubbles, bead, or pearl (perle in French) on being poured is having them form a “raft” on the top surface. Some sparklers are meant to have fewer bubbles like cremant and petillant style.

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March 11th, 2019

The 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival #VIWF @VanWineFest shone the focus on 53 participating California wineries including many insightful seminars. Some of the highlights were a 10 consecutive vintages vertical but from different producers of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from 2005-2014 moderated by knowledgeable Anthony Gismondi. Some top wines presented such as forwardly delicious 2006 Louis M. Martini Lot 1, classy classic 2007 Beringer Vineyards Reserve, and always dependable intense Padrone from 2009 of Signorello. DJ Kearney wine dynamo and well deserved winner of the 2019 Spirited Industry Professional Award was in fine form moderating 3 seminars: Unexpected California (included Chenin Blanc, Albarino, & Grand Durif), Next Gen California (Pinot Noir, Syrah, & Petite Sirah) and Icons of Napa Valley. Let’s take a closer look at this last one. DJ stated Napa Valley has 56000 acres of grape vines with 20000 of them high reputation Cabernet Sauvignon. Ten Napa Valley wines were presented with insider knowledge supplied by a principal from each winery:

1. 2015 GRGICH HILLS ESTATE Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay by Maryanne Wedner Director of Export. With her 37 years experience Maryann related stories of Mike Grgich starting back in Croatia stomping grapes and trying half water and wine as an “active child”. Later a Zagreb oenology professor told him California was “Paradise” so he embarked via Germany & Canada (including Catholic Boys School in Vancouver) before getting his Visa to USA and a long wine career in California. 40th anniversary of 1973 Ch. Montelena chard winning Paris 1976 tasting in 2016 so used this 2015 vintage first released in Japan using Wente clone mostly planted in 1989 from a small part of their cooler marine influenced Carneros Estate with no malo and no air but battonage by spinning the special barrels every Friday afternoon. Textbook fine example.

2. 2005 TREFETHEN FAMILYVINEYARDS Estate Chardonnay by Jon Ruel CEO. Oak Knoll fruit off their Estate with 9 months in French oak (30% new) plus 30% malo at 13.8. Try in the vineyard to slow down the ripening process to preserve acidity. Mature “evolution on the nose of nutty, hazelnut, marzipan, hay but still dancing with natural acidity in 2005 and sort of fun rich flavours”.

3. 2015 SILVERADO VINEYARDS Estate Grown Mt. George Merlot by Russ Weis President. Cooler Coomsbsville AVA gravelly loam east of Carneros with 16 months in 43% new oak of 78 French & 22 Hungarian results in a big earthy successful 100% Merlot.

4. 2015 DUCKHORN VINEYARDS The Discussion by Brian Bostwick Director of Export. Started in 1978 with 800 cases of cab sauv & famous Three Palms Merlot. Have purchased 300 acres over 30 years. This started in 2006 choosing top fruit from 6 or 7 vineyards in different AVAs for balanced Bordeaux blend (57CS/37M/5CF/1PV) with 18 months in French oak.

5. 2016 WAGNER FAMILY OF WINE CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon by Harvest Duhig Winemaker. Perfectly named Harvest uses her valuable experience in the 8 AVA vineyard sites to produce big dense full ripeness wines. Still enjoying some of their Special Selection vintages.

6. 2015 JACKSON FAMILY WINES FREEMARK ABBEY Cabernet Sauvignon by Thomas Price Master Sommelier National Wine Educator. Founded in 1886 by Josephine Tychson first woman to build and operate a winery in California. In 1996 became part of the Jackson Family. Ted Edwards winemaker here since 1985 with 33 years experience. Try for “expression of upfront tannins that will integrate silky & opulent providing pleasure in the textures but will always age”. Here 75.1CS/9.9M/7.3PV/6.1CF/1.6Malbec from 11 sites with 88% French (33.4 new) & 12% American (1% new).

7. 2014 ST. SUPERY ESTATE VINEYARDS & WINERY Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon by Brooke Shenk Winemaker since 1986. Pope Valley in northern Napa east of Calistoga. 30 year vines certified Napa Green in 2008. Big powerful very robust style.

8. 2014 BERINGER VINEYARDS Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon by Gillian Balance Master Sommelier Treasury Wine Estates Portfolio Ambassador. Lots of history over 140+ years with winemakers of Ed Sbragia. Laurie Hook and now Mark Beringer. Original land purchase for $14500 amazing. Use 62% Howell Mountain fruit on volcanic soils above the fog from Bancroft Ranch & Steinhauer plus St. Helena, Chabot, and Mt. Veeder. Here 97% CS plus 2PV & 1 Malbec with 20 months in French oak (82% new Nevers). Impressive.

9. 2014 ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kolon Vineyard by Mark de Vere MW. Triple selected fruit cold soaked fermentation and extended maceration in French oak of 93%CS/6CF/1PV. Mark gave a lot of credit to Robert who knew the region from moving there in 1937 and founding his winery in 1966. Robert’s insight was key that To Kolon (Greek “the beautiful”) vineyard was “the sweet spot for Napa cab because ripe but still bright fresh fruit too with evening winds and soils that drain well.” Still drinking their memorable complex 1974 & 1991 killer vintages and here is another winner. Mark says this is “powerful & gentle that you can drink now but will age well too. Flows across the palate and fills the mid-palate with that special Mondavi 6% cab franc.” Recommend you cellar some.

10 2012 LOUIS M. MARTINI WINERY Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon by Scott Kozel VP of Premium Winemaking. Best fruit chosen for this 100% cab sauv is expensive with 2014 Lot 1 selling presently at Ontario LCBO for $234.35 per bottle and the 2015 released at the Winery for $175 US. Classy vineyards used for this from 45% iconic Stagecoach “carved out of the rocks where there is lots of wildlife but no flowers” in Atlas Peak plus 21% Stag’s Leap and balance Spring Mountain & Silverado Bench with 21 months in 90+% French oak. Scott says they look for “density plush fruit style wine that you can approach early but will age well”. Cult wine!

Congrats to the whole team at @VanWineFest and especially all the volunteers for another outstanding Wine Festival. Look forward to France spotlight in 2020 February 22 to March 1.

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Ask Sid: USA State producing the most wine?

March 6th, 2019
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what is the greatest wine producing state

Question: Which of the 50 states of USA produces the most wine and what percentage of the total?

Answer: Yes an easy one to answer as California easily reigns. However the second part is a bit more surprising as 85% of the wine made in the USA comes from California.

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Many Valuable Insights Learned At 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 4th, 2019

Another success for Canada’s premier wine show at the 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival (@VanWineFest & #VIWF) February 23 to March 3, 2019 featuring 160 wineries from 16 countries each with a representative winery principal in attendance. Many tasting events, seminars, trade day conferences, lunches, dinners, and fund raising Bacchanalia Dinner + Auction. Almost 1500 wines to try and taste with the theme region this year being 53 California wineries. Your scribe has an endurance record of actively participating in all 41 of these Festivals. Great memories. Remember well that first one back in February 1979 featuring only the Robert Mondavi winery with Michael Mondavi leading a component solutions tasting of acids, tannins, and other important elements followed by barrel samples of the 1978 vintage matched with their 1977 Fume Blanc, 1976 Pinot Noir, and 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon. Fun to reminisce about those while tasting the same varieties but from 2017 Fume Blanc and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 40 years later with winemaker Genevieve Janssens & Mark de Vere MW. Even better wines now!

So many wine (and food) educational opportunities to be explored every year. Kept busy trying to fit in seminars featuring insightful comments from winery principals on panels so ably moderated by local wine experts including always outstanding presenter Anthony Gismondi, James Nevison, Mark Shipway, and dynamo DJ Kearney so well deserving of the 2019 Spirited Industry Professional Award. Out-of-town stars bring a different perspective and two of the best this year were wine writers Paul Wagner & Jon Bonne. A brief summary of some of their words of wisdom:

Paul Wagner moderated an intriguing “Pinot’s Siren Call of Seduction” of 9 different pinot noirs. He opened his delightful seminar presenting The Adolescent Bacchus painting of over 500 years old from the Italian Caravaggio holding a large wine glass appropriate for this variety as his inspiration. He cleverly challenged each of the winery principals for their own individual creative influence for making top quality pinot noir. Here is a brief summary but you had to be there to experience it all:

1. Matt Dumayne winemaker Free Form from Okanagan Crush Pad: Respect for the land especially that big Rock on the property there.

2. Darryl Brooker president Mission Hill Family Estate: Greyhound Races always chasing the rabbit but the key challenge of never quite catching it.

3. Ross Baker winemaker Quails’ Gate Winery: Passion!

4. Jean-Charles Boisset Proprietor Boisset Collection: a unique complex Birth of Venus painting of Venus de Milo he drew and someone else painted based on his wife Gina Gallo – a real toast to femininity!

5. Shirley Brooks VP Sales & Marketing Elk Cove Vineyards Oregon: Love of underwater diving with an internal journey hearing myself breathing but sharing the fascinating experience with other divers.

6. Thomas Price MS National Wine Educator Jackson Family of Wines: All about Layers using a Prince song “Forever in My Life” video to demo.

7. Randy Fabian Sales Manager Americas Yealands Family Wines: Ocean & cold winds of New Zealand vineyard in the middle of nowhere for something different.

8. Justin Seidenfeld Director of Winemaking Rodney Strong Vineyards: Collector of old unique watches of 1300 components requiring precise hand work and lens like quality pinot noir.

9. Scott Kozel VP Premium Winemaking Gallo Signature Series: Lilith 1994 sculpture by Kiki Smith provides comfort but discomfort up close with imperfections like uncomfortable moments of pinot noir.

Keynote Speaker Jon Bonne played an important role including an interesting Wine Industry Symposium on Canada’s Place in Key Wine Markets plus other events. Yet another insightful delivery was his “Lessons From California” most helpful for other wine regions seeking to grow – including of course British Columbia now at just about 11000 acres with 370 wineries of which 280 are grape using. Jon suggested it is now a glorious time perhaps the best ever for California wines and he wouldn’t have said so 10 years ago as he found the wines then with big flavours but high alcohol not suiting his European palate. He believes the new young winemakers emerging don’t like that style either with more change coming. 4 important lessons:

A. With the generational shift coming there is a shared set of values that needs to show a sense of place in their wines and not just high scores. California grew and will continue to grow by small producers taking a risk.

B. Consumers embrace quickly what is new and cool with social media such as Instagram showing a rapid rate of change in the global wine market of what people are actually drinking.

C. Never place all your bets on the obvious. BC doesn’t want or need 280 BC wineries all making Chardonnay. Go for the 7% solution of new varieties like Gruner Veltliner in Santa Barbara County or Albarino, Verdelho, or Dolcetto. Take risks for something unique. Don’t want 600 Washington State Syrahs using the same winemaking techniques.

D. Innovation takes time searching for answers that don’t come quickly. Pointed out the long term path of success by Ridge & Calera who persevered. Never let anyone tell you your wine has to be a certain way as there is always room to experiment.

Highly recommend you plan to attend @VanWineFest #VIWF2020 for the 42nd edition running from Saturday February 22 to Sunday March 1, 2020 in Vancouver. Put it in your diaries now. Plan to travel to BC for your vacation at that time. What an opportunity to try some amazing wines from Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Provence, Rhone, South-West France, and many more. Also a most interesting way to learn some more valuable insights into the fascinating world of wine and food. Enjoy.


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