Archive for February, 2020

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Vertical Matched with Fish?

February 17th, 2020

Your scribe is a long time big fan of the Pessac-Leognan property of Château La Mission Haut-Brion (LMHB). Check out the posting on this Blog of December 16 last year on their sister property of Château Haut-Brion (HB). LMHB was owned for most of the 20th century by the Woltner family until acquired in late 1983 by Domaine Clarence Dillon (altready owners of HB). Some of the greatest intense Bordeaux of all time were made by the Woltners including that remarkable run during the dry hot fourties of 45, 47, and especially the explosive truffled outstanding 49! The Dillon family has carried on this great tradition and added to these glories with some treasures including those incredible twin legends of 1989 at both HB & LMHB. LMHB under the Dillon family has evolved in style into a more elegant wine every year consistently receiving high critic scores with more recently 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, and 2016 all approaching 100 perfection. The vineyard is planted with 47/42.7/10.3 of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc on their special gravelly-sandy clay subsoil at density of 10,000 plants /hectare. In Vancouver on February 10, 2020 another mini-vertical of 8 vintages in two flights of LMHB was experienced but uniquely served arguably not to best advantage with a Fishworks restaurant dinner of two white fish courses rather than a more classic pairing. Quite a buzz of anticipation in the room as to how these wines would match up with fish. All LMHB vintages showed surprisingly well probably because both sablefish & sturgeon were well chosen for their weight and cooking methods used rather than a more delicate or assertive fishy oily variety. Interesting and educational for sure but your scribe believes the tannic textures of the LMHB wines would have been enhanced even further by a more usual protein mate. The classy aperitif deserves a mention as Krug Grande Cuvee 163rd edition (currently have released the 168th) is composed of 73% of 2007 vintage (almost equal chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) plus Reserve wines from 11 previous years (back to 1990) adding to the overall complex creamy roundness. A joy!

A few factual notes on the 8 LMHB from the Château plus my impressions:

1999: 567 mm rainfall, 18 days over 30C (86F) Wild weather. “Lively since release and consistently drinkable till 2030”. Nice cocoa full textures with softer tannins. Surprise.

1996: 516 mm rainfall, 23 days over 30C Inconsistent weather. “Very aromatic dominated by Cabernet”. Found it most classic concentrated year with more austere tannins coming around but still a deep youngster. Much better than expected.

1995: 348 mm rainfall, 30 days over 30C Early year. “Powerful nose Equilibrium Unusual softness”. Drinkable perhaps overrated following 4 more modest vintages from 1991-1994 softer solid but simpler.

1990: 291 mm rainfall, 31 days over 30C Abundant healthy crop. “Ripe slightly stewed fruit and tannins drinkable to 2030.” Drinking smooth full riper lush and lovely but not as refined as silky legendary 1989 (tried recently but not served tonight).

1988: 365 mm rainfall, 11 days over 30C Skins thick and rich with beautiful structure. “Nose very typical LMHB rich with taut tannins drinkable to 2030.” Bright look harder cedar nose Bit severe with more acid & structure than attractive fruit presently. This one actually improves with the sablefish.

1986: 386 mm rainfall, 18 days over 30C Cold Spring Hot & Dry summer continuing till end of harvest. “Scent of rather heavy wild game Soft but chunky Can age.” Dark with open bouquet of cigar box and tobacco with some turned earth. Impresses.

1985: 368 mm rainfall, 17 days over 30C Longest drought Late year “Nose violent of licorce and wild game Concentration of tannin Acidity zing Splendid.” Cedar nose Elegant Attractive More Merlot Smoky Quite Graves in character showing.

1983: 477 mm rainfall, 21 days over 30C August hot but humid. Harvest weather beautiful. “Burnt wood, caramel, tobacco, and cocoa powder. Finale slightly dry. Wonderful bottle that is tannic and still strong.” Good red colour Old style earthy mushrooms Entry good but dries on the finish with tannins still there. Needs drinking now. Doesn’t show special advantage of 1983 Graves micro-climate.


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Ask Sid: What is an “ouvree”?

February 12th, 2020
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Question: I notice when reading about Burgundy wines a more frequent reference to the word “ouvree”. What is that?

Answer: It is an old term of measuring how much land could be worked by a vigneron in one day. Now in Burgundy it is being commonly used again as some vineyard holdings have become so small. One hectare (which is 2.471 acres) is equal to 24 ouvrees –  or one ouvree is 1/24 of a hectare. So Domaine Lafon who own 22 ouvrees in Meursault Perrieres have almost one hectare of vineyards there. Another interesting one is Volnay Premier Cru Clos des 60 Ouvrees – a monopole of the Domaine de la Pousse d’Or.

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February 10th, 2020

We often state that regional wines go best when paired with the foods from that same region. That rule generally holds true but some classy aged white & red Burgundies matched up just fine with an Italian dinner in Vancouver on February 4, 2020. Executive Chef Chris Janowski and his brigade from The Italian Kitchen served up some classic Italian dishes that worked so well because ingredients included classic lobster, truffle, Dungeness crab, and hazelnut butter for the whites plus roasted quail, mushrooms, and duck for the reds. We started off with the bubbles of vintage 2012 Paul Bara from Bouzy richly showing off those 7 years on the lees to great advantage. Recommend you collect this well balanced 2012 vintage of Champagne to age following on from those fantastic 2008s your scribe mentioned earlier. The first course crab cannelloni was delicious with the quality producer ETIENNE SAUZET horizontal of three 2007 1er cru PULIGNY-MONTRACHET:

LA GARENNE: 2007 white Burgundy usually show some of the higher acidity of that lighter year. Expected the high elevation up to 380 metres of this just under 10 hectare Premier Cru to emphasize that character with less fat and less ripeness. However first try was forwardly softer than expected but opened up with airing and warming. Would have been even better decanted. Second bottle fresher more stylish and better showing of this terroir.

LES REFERTS: Vineyard half the size delivers that typical rich fat softer spicier notes expected but surprising liveliness though a tad coarser.

LES PERRIERES: Somewhat younger vines than their neighbours but lovely with the best elegance and classy “steely” complexity of these. Matched so well with the hazelnut butter in the dish – a common thread often found particularly in Meursault wines.

Didn’t try on this occasion the Champ-Canet with its great location next to Meursault Perrieres but usually is a step behind the most complete quality fav of their star vineyard Les Combettes. Always enjoy the education of comparing those subtle vineyard differences that come through from tasting the same producer in the same year. Fun.

In the same learning vein your scribe really likes trying verticals of the same wine over several vintages. This was a rare treat to assess 6 consecutive years of CLOS DE LA BUSSIERE Monopole MOREY ST. DENIS PREMIER CRU from the highly respected DOMAINE ROUMIER. It is South of the Village under the Grand Crus of Clos de Tart & Bonnes Mares in a bowl shaped area but on an upslope that drains well. Wonderful matching them with the quail and duck courses in two flights:

2002: Excellent year but first pour was musty unclean. Second repour pure clean full meaty but still rather young. Fine balance and potential.

2001: Surprise! Expressive rich robust savage very animal. Better than expected on both nose and palate from this underrated vintage.

2000: Lighter year but doesn’t show that with a beautiful open so stylish exquisite elegant bouquet. Less body but lovely already delightful now.

1999: Big boy with much more fruit intensity and ripeness. Needs time. Some found a touch of volatile acidity a distracting issue.

1998: Good on its own but balanced though slightly simpler in depth. Shows some use of stems in the fermentation. Better tried with the food.

1997: Solid rich and has come together the best to an enjoyable succulent maturity. Shows by this oldest one that these wines need time to reach their best plateau and there is no rush to drink them up. Stylish with relatively good Burgundy value too.

Amazing how all these red Burgundy wines seem smoother, sweeter, and more delicious when accompanied with the right food matching like for example quail and duck – even if prepared in this Italian way! Excellent experience.


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Ask Sid: What wine was the most important in the last decade?

February 5th, 2020
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wine trend decade 2010s

Question: What wine do you think was the most important during the last decade?

Answer: Tough one. Lots of important influential wines, vintages, and new wine regions have emerged over the last 10 years. If your scribe is forced to pick one it would be Rosé. The younger demographics helped launch the popularity of a “casual” trend that became wide spread and firmly established. Now you see Rosé everywhere even in cans and you might feel OK putting some ice with it in your wine glass. The spotlight on the celebrity couple of Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt with their Chateau Miraval helped a lot. Previously Rosé had been considered by some as a “feminine” choice and restricted to a refreshing Summer drink – but not for use all year long. That has certainly changed. It has become an enjoyable aperitif or a suitable alternative choice to a white or red – especially when group dining. Another important factor is the intriguing shades of pale-pink-red colour it comes in and that enticing statement made in those clear glass bottles. Most important of all is the increase in the different varieties of grapes that can be used in production which are now of very much better quality rather than just from young vines or unripe grapes. There are now some most charming well-made delicious Rosés out there! Try some.

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February 3rd, 2020

Your scribe is a senior judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships which have been featured previously on this Blog last reported on February 4, 2019 from Kelowna BC. This year they moved everything to a brand new appropriate location of Ottawa Ontario the capital of Canada. Also this is the home forum of last year’s winner from Ottawa/Gatineau of Yannick Lasalle of Les Fougeres and the only two time winner creative Marc Lepine of Atelier. The competition brought together 12 talented chefs from across Canada who already had won their regional event of this Great Kitchen Party. This final held from January 30 to February 1 was very demanding with 3 main events. First starting with a Mystery Wine Pairing (very small budget to choose a menu to match 2017 Closson Chase Vineyard unfiltered Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County Ontario) that brought the use lots of earthy mushrooms, secondly a Black Box challenge using all 7 ingredients (Young elk “eye of the round”, dried plancton, oatmeal, fiddleheads, black kale, parsley root, and haskup berries) and their Grand Finale dish. The overall gold winner was Roger Ma of Boulevard in Vancouver, silver Marc-Andre Jette of Hoogan & Beaufort in Montreal, and Bronze Emily Butcher of Deer + Almond in Winnipeg. However all the chefs did a fantastic job under the pressure cooker conditons of the weekend and the Canadian culinary scene is in good shape. Consider looking up their restaurants on your next visit to their city. Also follow “Putting Canada on the Menu” with Food Day Canada celebrated this year on August 1, 2020. Here are some more details plus photos of the 12 feature final dishes presented by each chef:

Marc-Andre Jette of Hoogan et Beaufort representing Montreal: Blanc de Gris mushroom dish with burn pickle onion, Matsutake gel, smoked thin bread, and Louis d’or cheese

Ian Carswell of Black Tartan Kitchen in Carleton Place for Ottawa/Gatineau: Milkhouse Farm lamb with Neeps and Tatties

Kai Koroll of Block One at 50th Parallel Estate Winery for Kelowna BC: Peace Country Lamb saddle braised cheek chestnut black quince butternut squash bee pollen garum chermoula preserved meyer lemon yogurt

Kyle Puddester of Fork in Mobile Newfoundland: Tasting of wild Newfoundland air dried partridge, liver mousse, parsnip chips and blueberry

Darren Craddock of The Village Bistro on Saskatoon: Local wild boar mosiac sunchoke BC quince, preserved summer apricot gel, boar blood pudding, shaved foie, foraged chanterelle and tapioca crisp

JP Dublado of River Cree Resort & Casino in Edmonton: “Char siu Foie Gras” Ube dumpling cured duck egg yolk Burgundy truffles, pickled chanterelles, calamansi verjus pearls, green tea, and foie gras powder

Keith Pears of soon to open W in Toronto: “West Meets East” of miso rubbed BC Albacore tuna, Ontario sunchoke & apple, warm leek emulsion, pickled pearl onion & local honey plus yuzu oil coloured green with parsley chives

Matt Pennell of Legends in Moncton: Lamb with sous vide Loin from Nova Scotia & spiced slow roasted belly from New Brunswick (also sea buckthorn) plus cured air-dried & shaved Tuna from PEI and baby king mushrooms from Ontario

Emily Butcher of Deer + Almond in Winnipeg: Sablefish & Turnip Cake with Whitefish Roe and Turnip broth served at table

Roger Ma of Boulevard in Vancouver: BC Coastal Terroir of honey mussel “gratinee” foraged bull kelp, uni (freshest ever!), Yukon potato and scallion terrine and amazing Manila clam emulsion

Barry Mooney of Fresh Twenty One in Dartmouth Nova Scotia: St. John River Sturgeon with shoyu koji lacquer, sturgeon boudin blanc, smoked sturgeon, kombu poached daikon, apple parsley puree, sturgeon bone marrowcrisp, tonkotsu cider jus

Jenny Kang of Shokunin in Calgary: “Sea Garden Eden” of ahi tuna, side stripe prawn, cured New Zealand snapper, raw Hokkaido scallop, uni, yuzu kosho Vietnam nuoc cham, fried fennel apple juice

Roger Ma’s dish perfect use of Black Box ingredients

Ingredients of Black Box not disclosed until the box is opened and each chef has to figure what they are and how to use them to make a dish using all 7 of them within a very strict one hour time limit

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