Archive for March, 2019

Ask Sid: Famous deceased French winemaker who made two top white wines from different regions?

March 27th, 2019
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Question: Seeking out the name of a famous deceased French winemaker who made two top white wines from different regions. Who would that be?

Answer: Suspect you must be thinking of Didier Dagueneau who died in a plane crash in 2008. He had a cult following for his Pouilly Fume Sauvignon Blanc named Silex from the Loire Valley and also Les Jardins de Babylone made from Petit Manseng in Jurancon (at the foot of the Pyrennes in Southwest France).

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Okanagan Joins World Wide Selection of Quality Chardonnay

March 25th, 2019

Arguably the Chardonnay grape variety has been the most successful one in adapting to the different growing conditions around the world. These days many wine regions are proud to show off their own local style ranging from quaffable light unoaked ones to ripe heavily toasted examples and everything in between. Traditionally we looked for guidance from the Kimmeridgean chalky soils of Chablis & Cote des Blancs of Champagne to the limestone of Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune. Now pockets of preferred growing conditions with differences for producing quality Chardonnay are found around the globe. Ontario has plentiful calciferous bedded limestone soils and British Columbia is finding bands of it in their geologically complex blocks. Writer John Schreiner in his blog on February 22, 2019 gave a bullish 100 point score to the expensive $110 CheckMate Little Pawn 2015 single vineyard stating “it is impossible to find anything negative about this wine.” This chardonnay is outstanding but your scribe believes a score of 100 should be rarely used & extremely difficult to obtain only with very enthusiastic positives from un-matched complexity in the wine. Nonetheless it seems Okanagan Chardonnay has finally come of age. This statement was affirmed by a blind tasting of top Chardonnays all from the respected 2016 vintage well organized by the BC Wine Appreciation Society ( held on March 18, 2019. There were 10 Chardonnays 2016 in competition with a few comments from me below and served blind in the following order:

1. POPLAR GROVE RESERVE $26: Group Rank 5. 63% Osoyoos & 37% Naramata estate fruit harvested October 5 whole cluster into fully oaked Burgundian barrels aged on lees for 10 months producing 275 cases at 13.3. Open big apple stylish aromas plus vanilla with solid full rich creamy rather softer flavours. Expressive.

2. LITTLE FARM PIED DE CUVE $31: Group Rank 10. Only one from Similkameen Valley organically farmed Mulberry Tree Vineyard early harvested August 29-September 3, unfined & unfiltered at 12.5 alcohol. Left a bucket of foot crushed grapes fermenting for a week in the vineyard with native yeasts before the main harvest began. Older neutral French oak on the lees for about 10 months. Showed lots of sweet applesauce on the nose with a dramatically different big lees unique style not fully appreciated by this group.

3. TINHORN CREEK OLDFIELD RESERVE $35: Group Rank 6. Harvested September 24 from younger 6 year old vines from Golden Mile Bench on sandy gravel soil at 13.5. Natural ferment in French oak with 1/3 each of new, second fill, & neutral with longest time of 17 months for 286 cases. Liked the vibrant citrus and varietal character with good balance. Well done.

4. LIQUIDITY RESERVE: Group Rank 7. Expensive now as the winner of Chardonnay du Monde 2018 with only 152 cases made at 13.5 from 3.5 short tons per acre off 22 year old Allendale property in Okanagan Falls harvested late September. Intense closed in nose but has lovely stone fruit with pineapple finishing with some length.

5. LA FRENZ RESERVE $25+: Group Rank 3. Best blocks from Freedom 75 Vineyard (fine sandy loam + clay) on the Naramata Bench fermented 80% French oak (25% new) & 20% cement eggs at 13.3. Interesting cloves with spice notes but some bathroom-like talc powder too. Unclean bottle or glass? Unusual. Neighbour’s glass at another table from a different bottle shows much cleaner and the group overall liked it.

6. PAINTED ROCK $30+: Group Rank 8. Three micro-harvests Of Estate grown fruit over 3 weeks gives special attention to detail in capturing it at best balanced ripeness. Opened nicely as it warmed and aired showing richness with some minerals though highest alcohol comes through on the finish at 14.8. Likeable.

7. CEDARCREEK PLATINUM BLOCK 5 $35: Group Rank 4 (#1 for your scribe). Home vineyard block 5 uses French oak barriques & puncheons for 10 months for 378 cases at 13.7. This has multi-dimension fruit complexity on both the nose and the palate with intriguing minerals. The structure is tremendous with outstanding lift & vibrancy from their distinct natural higher yet balanced acidity. No rush to enjoy. This will make a great bottle for a $35 steal! Congrats.

8. NK’MIP CELLARS QWAM QWMT $30: Group Rank 2. Early harvest September 9 start but finish on October 4 with whole cluster pressed into French oak (38% new) for ferment. Big open sweet pineapple candy in a good way. Very tropical butterscotch chardonnay. Perhaps a bit obvious and softer rather than subtle but still attractive.

9. MEYER FAMILY McLEAN CREEK ROAD VINEYARD $33: Group Rank 9. Planted in 1994 in Okanagan Falls on alluvial glacial soils with gravel & sandy loams with 2 different facing slopes. Use French oak 18% new and 11 months sur lees without stirring. One of BC’s very best premium producers of chardonnay (and pinot noir) but unfortunately hit by an off bottle here. Dank and cellar aromas with a “filter paper” taste disappoint. Tried another bottle that was more typical and showed the wine deserves to be in the first ranked grouping. Tough atypical result from bottle variation.

10. QUAILS’ GATE ROSEMARY’S BLOCK $45: Group Rank 1 (#2 for your scribe). 340+ cases of this whole cluster pressed old + new French oak fermented 11 months regular stirring (battonage) of lees full malo at 13.5. Also make their Stewart Family Reserve of both Chardonnay & Pinot Noir that are worthy to collect. Banana notes on the aromas here but also peaches, other stone fruits, with toasted nuts. Impressive rich buttery statement yet refined and elegant too. Very good indeed.

An excellent showing by top BC 2016 chardonnay all from the Okanagan except for a differently styled one from Similkameen. Prices here ranged from $30 to $50 Canadian representing very fair value in the world market. Recommend checking out the many new chardonnay examples from BC. Have you tried any? Your thoughts?

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Ask Sid: What is Pet-Nat Wine?

March 20th, 2019
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pet nat wine

Question: Noticed someone in a wine shop wearing a T-shirt with a neat “PET-NAT” logo on it. What is that?

Answer: A trendy way of making natural wines in a petillant fizzy style.  Derived from the old French method used for  “PETillant-NATurel”. In some markets including the UK these wines have been dubbed “hipster bubbles”. Bottled before the fermentation is complete so contains some natural carbon dioxide from the continued fermentation in the bottle of the remaining sugar. They have become quite popular particularly for those supporting the natural wine movement and looking for a lower alcohol sparkling with less residual sugar. Fun!

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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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