Archive for July, 2020


July 13th, 2020

We enjoy this time of year with so much fresh produce arriving at your local food markets. Lots of seasonal vegetables (squash blossoms, pea-pods, & baby potatoes) coming into their own and those delectable juicy berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries. Still waiting for the remarkable annual selection of heirloom tomatoes due later in the Summer with our fresh wild salmon run. Good forager searching right now and especially for mushroom hunters for those best wild fresh morels. They come in various colours from light blonde to grey to quite dark with a variation in quality. Some can be quite smoky from recent forest fires. There are so many versatile cooking methods but one of our favs is to saute them first (combo of butter & EVOO) and then finish by adding into a creamy risotto using homemade chicken broth. We prefer longer grain firmer textured Carnaroli rice (or classic versatile faster cooking Vialone Nano) but others may like the shorter grain Arborio. This recipe highlights well their unique rich nutty earthy flavours to best advantage. What wine to match with that dish?

Your scribe spent sometime thinking about a new pairing that might work well with this superb course. Checked Partners by Andre Simon but nothing specific was listed for morels or even a mushroom course. Lots of memories of our past successful matching of morels with a top quality chardonnay of say Hamilton Russell from South Africa, Leeuwin Estate Artist Series from Margaret River in Australia, Kistler Vineyards on Sonoma Mountain in California, and CheckMate Little Pawn in the Okanagan BC. Often have a go-to using Saint-Aubin, Meursault Perrieres, or Corton-Charlemagne. But so much great chardonnay these days being produced from around the world that it is hard to go wrong unless you choose something too sweet, too soft, or too oaky. A wine collector friend persists that only Chateau-Chalon vin jaune from the Savagnin grape in the Jura of eastern France works with morels – and buttered snails. Of course we also have some great memories of mushroom risotto with sparkling wine and especially versatile Champagne. However wanted to have a red wine on this occasion so these whites just didn’t fit. An earthy pinot noir just seemed too easy and brought back vivid memories of many outstanding ones from earlier days. Wanted something different. Thought about Italy because have found their diverse regional wines usually are excellent with Porcini or Matsutake (Pine) and of course Piedmont a must with white truffles. However morels are so distinctive with those smoky quite earthy tones that we wanted to doubly capture in the wine as well. Perhaps an even younger fuller red wine might work well if the morels were accompanying a chicken or a veal chop but we were spotlighting them mainly on their own this time. After racking my brain over several alternative choices finally decided the mature 1983 (better than their 1982) Domaine de Chevalier Rouge from Graves in Bordeaux had those smoked herbs, earthy, more mineral notes and was worth a try. The result was certainly a success with some of those same nuances present in both the wine and the morel risotto dish that when combined together made a more intense complex whole. However still second guessing myself and wonder if maybe an earthy lighter Malbec from Argentina or serious Cabernet Franc from either the Loire or Canada (successful variety in both Ontario & BC) might work just as well. Lots of choices out there to have next time. Maybe go back to my usual quality whites or red Burgundy? What would be your choice?

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Ask Sid: Where to discover the Bourboulenc grape?

July 8th, 2020
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Question: I am drinking some white CNP with several grape varieties in the blend including some Bourboulenc. Where might I get a chance to discover the best expression of that grape by itself?

Answer: Interesting thought. Yes the Bourboulenc (using many other names too) is a late ripening grape with lower pH & fair acidity that is being used more recently in popular Cotes du Rhone blanc mixes as well for better structured wines. However probably the best expression of it can be found in the newer La Clape AOC (starting with vintage 2015) in Languedoc reaching from Narbonne to the Mediterranean over 17 kilometers (ironically 80% out of the total 768 hectares is red) where there now is so much more planted by 25 Estates & 3 Co-ops often used as the majority varietal in their white blends. Do you notice some maritime salty notes from the sea breezes in that wine? Recommend you search out a good example from say from Chateau d’Angles, Chateau de la Negly, or Gerard Bertrand among others. Enjoy the unique experience!

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July 6th, 2020

Côte-Rôtie in the northern Rhone has certainly established itself as one of the most coveted spots in the world for producing high quality distinctive wines. The history goes way back including the oldest house of Vidal-Fleury from 1780. Certainly legendary Joseph Vidal-Fleury (1906-1976) deserves a lot of the early credit for showing that very good classic Côte-Rôtie was possible. Also does Etienne Guigal their winemaker until leaving in 1946 after 22 years there to start his own winery. Since the seventies his son Marcel Guigal has done a really fantastic job of raising the overall quality level of top Côte-Rôtie. A big part of that success story has been due to the key acquisition of the faltering Vidal-Fleury firm in 1985. Earlier Marcel had patiently and cleverly assembled for Guigal over 10+ years some 17 small vineyard holdings of La Landonne in the Côte Brune. The result of these coups are 4 great wines: their regular Côte-Rôtie, an iconic since 1966 La Mouline in Côte Blonde, his new consolidation of La Landonne vineyards from 1978, and the latest from 1985 La Turque in Côte Brune (from Vidal-Fleury).

Early wine publications helped as well in promoting how special Côte-Rôtie could be with John Livingstone-Learmonth (with Melvyn C. H. Master) in 1978 on The Wines Of the Rhone and revised editions including his tome The Wines of the Northern Rhone in 2005 providing outstanding background detailed information. Also Robert Parker’s first spotlight on Rhone in 1987 revised & expanded in 1997 hyped Côte-Rôtie by Guigal with many 100 point scores in those earlier days when high scores and especially perfection was much harder to come by. La Mouline from 1976, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1991 plus La Landonne 1985, 1988, and 1990, & La Turque 1985, 1988, and 1990 all received 100 and many more were rated in the high nineties. This got the consumer’s attention and helped push the present prices to the stratosphere. Thankfully there are many other up and coming top Côte-Rôtie wine producers now in the market as well.

What a treat to have a dinner featuring older Côte-Rôtie treasures and actually get a chance to drink them again – rather than just admire their auction prices. This happened for your scribe at Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver on June 30, 2020 with 9 memorable bottles briefly highlighted as follows:

A few laudatory words first about the overall culinary excellence at Blue Water headed by Executive Chef Frank Pabst but also Chef de Cuisine Raimund Hauser (off his talented finalist performance on Firemasters TV) who is producing some classic yet innovative dishes that pair so well with top wines. Even the hors d’oeuvre featured an interesting soft crusted ravioli inspired by Sardinia “culurgiones” and his white fish halibut with bacon, fresh porcini and ramp pistou matched divinely with a red wine! Well done.

1. 2013 RENE ROSTAING CUVEE AMPODIUM – Purple shades showing some stems from whole bunch fermentation of nearly all syrah (less than 1 % viognier) with oak notes almost like young Hermitage in style. Needs more time.

2. 2006 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Red with a paling edge having an open best textbook nose in first flight of three with enticing bacon fat, smoke, black pepper, cloves complexity at first and evolving into more medicinal as it aired. Enjoyment forwardly but no rush.

3. 2003 RENE ROSTAING LA LANDONNE – Deep dark ruby with a herbal most dramatic black currant cassis bouquet – like pure currant juice – and making a ripe syrah concentrated statement.

4. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA MOULINE – What an experience in this second flight to have all three La Las from 2001 to compare their differences – and similarities. This is only 1 hectare on a terrace of very old vines producing 5000-6000 bottles with 11% viognier so lovely, charming, and refined with floral cherry notes plus intense round supple seductive length on the palate. Is that violets? Easy to admire and respect. What a wine.

5. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA LANDONNE – Larger property with 2.1 hectares on clay-limestone soil rich in iron producing 10000-12000 bottles of 100% syrah with no viognier. Darker deeper look but still rather tight closed in at nearly 20 with a powerful structure and big meaty flavours. Opened more earthy with airing and truly impressive. Obviously the low yield quality is there but expect it will improve with more cellaring.

6. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Only .95 hectares on a steep 60-70 degree slope of silico-limestone producing some 5000 bottles with 7% viognier in the blend. More towards La Landonne with a rather deep closed concentrated style again impressive but not totally singing. Logically has harmony in between the charming La Mouline and powerful La Landonne in style with silkier tannins. All three improved with airing in the glass. Recommend wait a few more years for their best. What a flight! Surprised (and delighted) that all three are still somewhat primary wow fruit and have everything there to still develop more tertiary character of earth, spice, floral, and other dimensions coming to show this terroir off to best advantage. Still hard not to enjoy them presently as well – especially La Mouline – if the opportunity arises.

7. 1991 CHAPOUTIER LA MORDOREE – From older best vines on Brune & Blonde near the Chapoutier sign on the hill. Controversial with scores from 86 to 100. This bottle has some black olives and raspberry but seems outclassed here showing rather simpler with softer acidity and a drying finish. Prefer the 2015 or even 2012.

8. 1988 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Wine of the Night! Sensational showing where all the elements have come together in a most impressive bottle. What you can expect and perhaps even more from the 2001s with some patience. Too many complex elements to list but include coffee, chocolate, ripe blackberries, bacon, beautifully seasoned black pepper and dazzling pizzazz. Thrilling.

9. 1983 PAUL JABOULET AINE LES JUMELLES – Quite light elegant and stylish. Less body and complexity but rather good. Gerard Jaboulet always proud of their 1983. Drink now.

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Ask Sid: Where does the Tramontane wind affect grape growing?

July 1st, 2020
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Question: Where does the Tramontane wind affect grape growing?

Answer: In some grape growing regions of Southern France. Tramontane is the locally named wind from the north particularly in the lower north western part of Languedoc & Roussillon. There is also there a moister warm Marin wind coming from the Mediterranean Sea in the south. The more widely known Mistral wind brings somewhat the same influences to the Rhone Valley extending to the more north eastern parts of Languedoc (and even Provence) as the Tramontane does.

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