Archive for December, 2019

Top 10 Posts of 2019!

December 31st, 2019

Always interesting for your scribe to see which of my 52 Monday postings on your IWFS Blog makes the Top Ten of the Year. Top postings for 2018 were pretty focused on wine with a write-up on a fantastic Paulee of many white Chassagne-Montrachets hitting #1. However the remainder of the Top 5 last year were all Bordeaux intensive including separate 20 year verticals of both the Right & Left Bank from the 1998 vintage. This year the interest seems to be firmly on wine & food destinations. Though again Bordeaux with their current release of 2016 wines proved topical coming in at # 4, the Top 3 of 2019 supports a desire to learn more about Las Vegas, Bologna, and Portugal – especially dining. The IWFS member does like to travel and is keen on getting insights and recommendations on interesting experiences. Will have to keep this result in mind for 2020. Also it emphasizes a growing interest for member’s to comment on these Blogs and to post their own tips on wine, food, local restaurants, & ideas from their own touring. My personal Top 10 would have included “Perfect 100 Point Wine Scores Should Be Taken With A Grain of Salt”, “Barbaresco: An Exquisite Wine Region”, and  “Chateau Haut-Brion Remarkable Proven At Two Verticals”. Thanks for all your support. Happy New Year and welcome to the decade of the twenties!   

1. Three Dining Recommendations for Las Vegas

2. Bologna: Underrated Food Adventures

3. Portugal Increasing Top Table Wines Available in the Export Market


5. Many Valuable Insights Learned At 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival


7. Top older Bordeaux vintages relative bargains drinking well at maturity

8. Fifth Growth Pauillacs Still Solid Relative Bargains

9. Top California Chardonnay Impress

10. Robert M Parker Delightful in Baltimore!

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Ask Sid: Why Are Cranberries Served With Turkey?

December 24th, 2019
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Question: Why are cranberries popular to be served with the turkey?

Answer: Partly historic tradition going back beyond the US Civil War when cranberries were served with turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner for the soldiers. Now it a combination of factors including the splash of eye-catching red colour on the plate and the refreshing contrast of tart cranberries (or some sugar sweet relishes) with the heavier meat, stuffing & gravy of the turkey.

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The Week Of The Turkey – Especially Soup!

December 23rd, 2019

This is the week where all the turkey farmers celebrate their good marketing work. Did you know that a group of turkeys is called a “rafter”? The USA produces about half the world’s turkeys with Minnesota leading the way (estimated 44+ million) followed by North Carolina plus major contributions from Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri and Virginia. Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and USA lead about 65 countries producing some turkey meat. The Thanksgiving Day (November 28) dinner in America also prominently features turkey (perhaps even more than this holiday season) but not so much in Canada with their Thanksgiving October 14 (USA’s Columbus Day) while it is Canada’s key protein on December 25. In any event it is an expanding year-end market. The low price of frozen birds in supermarkets is a big attraction but favourite portions are becoming increasingly popular year round with breasts, thighs, legs, deli slices and even ground turkey all in demand. The web is full of recipes for how best to prepare and cook your whole turkey – and tips for the varied stuffing or dressing. We prefer the Julia Child deconstructed method for best cooking results and then re-assembled for the table. Do you have one version to share? What about your cranberry accompaniment? Boxing Day and following are the leftovers time to shine with some actually preferring turkey sandwiches to the warm cooked bird itself. Trendy is to make a hearty tasty homemade soup with the whole carcass, leftover stuffing, cranberries, vegetables and everything else plus water or stock all dumped into one big pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for at least an hour (longer tastes even more intense). Take the turkey meat easily away from the bones for adding back to the soup later on and then strain everything left discarding the now well cooked bones, skin, vegetables (maybe those now overcooked Brussels sprouts), stuffing etc. Enjoy!

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Ask Sid: Suggested Wine Treat Or Tradition For the Holiday Season?

December 18th, 2019
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Question: What about a special wine treat for the holidays?

Answer: So many choices. Not going to give you a limited product list. A special treat is to create or continue your own holiday wine traditions. Some personal ideas we use include starting main holiday meals with some festive bubbles. We go for one of our favourite Champagnes which really works well (including the celebration for the arrival of the New Year) but there are now lots of less expensive sparkling alternatives. More of an issue is what glass are you going to use? Consider the possibilities of using as an aperitif throughout this time an alternate choice from among those sweeter wines that have been gathering dust in your storage space – Riesling, Sauternes, Aussie “stickies”, Icewine from Canada, Vin Santo, South Africa Chenin Blanc late harvest and many more. We usually stick to Burgundy serving both white (chardonnay) and red (pinot noir) with the big bird and diverse meal accoutrements but make your own choice. We also like to open a bottle to salute the progress of our local BC wine industry – usually opting for a top pinot noir. Consider doing the same toasting one of your local wine hero producers. Where there is often more time available for family and close friends to spend together it is appropriate to look forward to a traditional digestif. We open and decant a bottle of vintage port (fortunate to have old bottles of fantastic 1966 from both Fonseca & Graham) and provide a small pour of it in a bigger glass to savour and linger over. If there is any left we pour it into a smaller bottle that should keep OK in the frig over the next few days. A safer probably better choice might be a tawny port – say 20 year, older Madeira or the like. Some might prefer a stronger Brandy (Cognac or Armagnac) or fruit styled Eaux de vie. Find what you enjoy. Have fun and cherish your own holiday tradition wine treats!

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Château Haut-Brion A Truly Remarkable Wine Proven at Two Vertical Tastings!

December 16th, 2019

Your scribe already has received several enquiries as to the best wine tasted during the year 2019. Hopefully it might be still to come during this festive season before the next decade of the “twenty-twenties” arrives. However, presently it is 1989 Château Haut-Brion (H-B) from Pessac-Leognan in Bordeaux France. In fact it could be several wines of this property as shown at two recent vertical tastings one held in February and another in October. My admiration for H-B goes back a long way to the seventies and eighties including the legendary Marvin Overton hosted extensive vertical at his Texas ranch over several days in April 1986. The late Jean-Bernard Delmas brought along directly from the Château their outstanding 1947 “fresh” white in magnum (1919 was also sensational) but the reds shone too with very special bottles of classic 1961, charming 1959 & 1953, structured 1947, monumental 1945 (again superb at the Château in July 2015), 1934, 1929 (better than 1928), and 1924. Older wines 1923, 1921, 1920, 1919, 1918, 1907, and 1899 very mature bottles and not showing as well on this occasion. Remember Saturday June 27, 1998 after several hours researching the historic wine archives at Daniel Lawton’s offices a most memorable intimate dinner at the Château with M/Ms Jean Delmas, H.R.H. Prince Robert of Luxembourg and a close friend from Chicago studying blind the 1982 & 1964 among other treasures. Certainly 1989 is truly outstanding but 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2000 are also great wines. More recently under the continuing astute direction of Prince Robert, deputy managing director of expanding Domaine Clarence Dillon Jean-Philippe Delmas (since 2003), oenologist Jean-Phillpe Masclef and outside consultant Stephane Derenoncourt (from 2004) the property goes from strength to strength. Even the current release vintage 2016 is receiving rave reviews with several 100 point scores using a blend of 56% merlot, 37+ cab sauv and 6+ cab franc in another balanced intense elegant terroir specific winner.

The two 2019 verticals of Château Haut-Brion were as follows:

(A) February 11 : 2002, 1998, 1995, 1986, 1985, 1979, 1978, and 1966.

(B) October 22: 2002, 1999, 1996, 1995, 1989, 1983, 1982, 1976, and 1966.

You will see that 2002, 1995, and 1966 were served at both events but 14 different vintages were compared. Some quoted property ratings and stats plus brief personal impressions:

2002: “A Good Year 336 mm rainfall long and very elegant”. More potential than expected from youngest vintage showing concentrated silky tannic fruit structure. Surprise. Bottles consistent.

1999: “A Good Year wild weather 567 mm rainfall softness delightful”. Lighter easy accessible charming most drinkable with olives and herbs plus some finesse.

1998: “A Very Good Year 537 mm rainfall August exceptionally hot Ripe Smooth Coffee & Cocoa”. Rich full and very stylish has minerals with a full harmony of elements with a long finish.

1996: “A Good Year 516 mm rainfall 23 days above 30C – Vintage of contrasts Grapes sour but wine supple CS/CF better than Merlot”. Tad musty to start Cleared somewhat Some greenness. Disappointed.

1995: “A Very Good Year 348 mm rainfall 30 days above 30C Discernable tannic structure but mellowed Typical burnt aromas of H-B dominate nose”. Cleaner than 1996 has preferred riper merlot fruit with good structure. More serious more depth. Stylish. First bottle less dramatic but showed forwardly tobacco notes.

1989: “A Very Outstanding Year 359 mm rainfall 22 days above 30C Very hot very dry. Aromatic & harmonious quite low acidity Reminiscent of 1959”. Fortunate to try this wine several times this year and always is a consistent beauty of harmony with a subtle yet complex bouquet and refined smooth flavours. Should last a long time with this perfect balance. Amazing to combine such power + finesse together – a difficult thing to do!

1986: “A Good Year 386 mm rainfall 18 days above 30C Very tannic typical Graves burnt nuances & slightly caramelized fruit that will age relatively slowly”. Softer than expected for a tannic vintage with some surprising charm drinking well.

1985: “A Very Good Year” 368 mm rainfall 17 days above 30C Great, velvety and elegant with breeding very distinctive of the estate, long on the palate and great complexity”. Excellent showing with dark colour, impressive feminine nose and delicious palate. So much finesse.

1983: ‘A Good Year 477 mm rainfall 21 days over 30C Supple Round Well-structured Long”. Good micro-climate for Margaux & Graves in 1983 but this bottle was badly corked.

1982: “An Outstanding Year 402 mm rainfall 16 days over 30C Superb vintage Tannins rich supple and mature Finish remarkably full and complex”. A delicious treat as expected but softening now compared to more vibrancy when tasted back in 1998. Perfect plateau of enjoyment.

1979: “A Very Good Year 427 mm rainfall 11 days above 30C Tannin-rich powerful thoroughbred”. Darker than 1978 with higher acidity. Some power but drying and simpler.

1978: “A Good Year 337 mm rainfall 11 days over 30C Very rich, dense and harmonious with remarkable balance full of charm dominated by ripe fruit”. Lighter look than 1979 but charming and aromatic Quite tasty and enjoyable.

1976: “A Good Year 427 mm rainfall 27 days over 30C Gentleness, charm and wealth of diverse fruit aromas Supple”. Big surprise of second tasting from a well stored bottle. Unheralded but fresh charming elegant with finesse. Very H-B elegance and lovely typical “burnt-caramel” of this property. Impressed.

1966: “A Very Good Year 373 mm rainfall 8 days above 30C Vigor and youth Body & Volume”. At 50+ showing the sinewy long distance runner characteristics of this vintage but very good (La Mission Haut-Brion better) Second tasting bottle disappointed with a detracting volative acidity VA issue.

Congrats to Château Haut-Brion! Thanks for that magnificent 1989 – and many others.


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