Question: I know you just judged the 2021 British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards and wondered what your thoughts were on the results?
Answer: Well the results speak for themselves. Your scribe has many positive thoughts about the organization of the judging and the results but perhaps 3 main ones would be:
The overall quality of BC wines is much improved. So many deserve your consideration. Liked the change this year to eliminate Bronze medals and just award only the very best wines from 90 wineries with Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Impressed with Wine of the Year 2018 Tantalus Vineyards Old Vines Riesling. Congrats. If given a list of the 800+ wines in the competition beforehand and asked to pick the winner just from knowledge and reputation without a blind tasting this always outstanding wine would have been right there. IMHO this choice is also recognition for improving BC Rieslings as well as the excellent tasting abilities of the 14 judges (yours truly excluded).
A popular successful variety with many entries was Pinot Noir with the most Platinum awards of three. Amazing that all went to Spearhead Winery for their 2019 Cuvee, Golden Retreat, and Saddle Block bottlings. What a fantastic endorsement for Winemaker Grant Stanley and his whole Spearhead team for such quality consistency across vineyards with this variety.
Two respected Grand Cru Classe De Graves in Bordeaux are Domaine de Chevalier (DC) and Smith Haut Lafitte (SHL). Both have some similarities yet with important differences. They are both in Pessac-Leognan, both successful with their whites as well as the reds, and family focused showing even on their bottle labels respectively as “Famille Bernard” and “Daniel et Florence Cathiard”. However some major differences too which include the terroir and the history. DC is hidden in a pine forest hard to locate in SW Leognan with deep clay mostly gravel soils with good drainage above a 3-4 metre water table sometimes subject to hail and frost. SHL is on a plateau in Martillac with deep gravel mixed with glacial sands. DC has been making outstanding underrated wines for a long time starting in 1942 for a 40 year successful reign by Claude Ricard before Olivier Bernard took ownership in 1983. SHL has a shorter history of fine wines though managed by negociant Eschenauer for decades before the Cathiards took over in 1991. Your scribe has visited both properties on numerous occasions and is always impressed by their conscientious current attention to every detail in the vineyard and cellar for producing high quality Bordeaux wines. The Cathiards have produced miracles with their hard work, passion, and dedication over 30 years to raise SHL to this outstanding level. Congrats.
Some of these recollections were brought to mind on October 23 spotlighting DC & SHL for dinner at Vancouver’s Boulevard Restaurant. My brief impressions:
2011 & 2013 DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER BLANC
2011 & 2013 SMITH HAUT LAFITTE BLANC
Interesting how rather weaker red wine vintages can still be good for whites as usually picked earlier and are often helped by less ripeness and more acidity. Certainly the case here. Late September 2013 rains and uneven ripening 2011 reds in Bordeaux didn’t affect dry whites to the same extent.
Different styles with DC having more richness from 6 hectares picked by 35-40 harvesters over 2 hours at sunrise for freshness. On my last visit May 16, 2018 with owner Olivier Bernard & Director Technique Remi Edange they were so impressed with their outstanding 2017. Only making 3-4 barrels of white so manually carry the grapes (around 70% Sauvignon Blanc & 30 Semillon) and empty them not destemmed or crushed into a special air bag press at low pressure for best juice. Start fermentation with one night in a cold 5C room and then 2-3 weeks alcoholic fermentation to retain “energy” and the “new baby is born” maturing 1 1/2 years in oak. Don’t stir the lees that much if the juice is outstanding but Olivier says “battonage is important if there is high acidity”. Beautiful refined classic style. On January 26, 2015 on this Blog there is a profile of his book “The Magic Of the 45th Parallel”. Also on this Blog on May 31, 2018 a reference about his “frustration by all the bottle variation” and his decision from 2015 all whites bottled with quality Diam 30 long cork closures. Smart move. SHL is different with more vineyards and mostly 90% SB, 5 important Sauvignon Gris, and only 5 Semillon. Remember when there was no Semillon at all in the mix. Remarkable improvement this century and white was selling for more than the red earlier on but now quite similar prices. Really like the elegant quality fresh fruit and complex minerals. 2013 vintage preferred over the 2011 for both properties with divided opinions enthusiastically supporting both styles. All drinking beautifully but no rush.
2008 & 2005 DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER ROUGE
2005 & 1995 SMITH HAUT LAFITTE ROUGE
Vintages were all important here. 2008 an underrated rather classic year showing deep colour with lovely developing tobacco notes. Starting to drink well now as it mounts the plateau of long enjoyment with supple rounding tannins plus mid weight balance and 9% Petit Verdot interest. No rush. 1995 the oldest one here is open quite herbaceous though smoother than expected from what can be quite a tannic year. Lovely now. Two 2005 a rare treat from that magical vintage of power and richness for future stunning complex wines. Fun to compare now both properties in 2005 as they are presently reluctant superstars.
DC shows some attractive spicy plums but not jammy at all. So typical graphite floral undergrowth notes with a big black currant statement. Olivier chooses his wood carefully from where the trees grow and tells the coopers exactly what he wants for toasting and not to break the fibre of the oak. He states “I am not selecting for the taste but for the breathing ability and different types of oak work best for me. Check the bio quality of each barrel for micro bugs as one bad barrel could ruin the whole blend and only use them for 5 years.” Olivier reflects back that “the best years were always the warmest – 1929, 1945, 1982, 2009. Therefore I am optimistic with global climate change that we can protect the fruit during the hot summers, not leave too much fruit on the vines, and still wait for picking with outstanding results for 2018 and following years.” Impressive result here for 2005 but needs time to open up and develop further dimensions. Patience is required.
SHL is similar but rather closed with concentrated pure cassis with refined tannins. Seems lusher in texture and though more oak polished has beguiling nuances including chocolate. Recall jogging through the vineyards with Daniel Cathiard and his pointing out to me the highest mound where the choicest fruit grows. Suggested making a small Cathiard Cuvee out of it alone but he wisely said “it was needed in the mix to make something memorable like our outstanding 2005”. Was he ever right! Quite a trio with 2009 & 2010 all top level. Another long-term beauty to still cellar with confident optimism. More detailed profile on SHL on this Blog August 3, 2015 linked below.
Finished dinner with 1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes from the Meslier Family, the first of an outstanding trio with the best acidity. Botrytis and balance working together. Delicious. Memories back to tasting with Olivier & Remi at DC in 2018 the remains of a wonderful Imperial of 2008 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes they had just served at an event. Olivier strongly recommends “drinking your Sauternes before the dessert arrives as it is too late with dessert.” Your scribe followed this smart tip and it worked marvellously for the rich wine before the strawberry cheesecake!
Answer: So many talented knowledgeable sommeliers working in Canada – and around the world! Difficult times for them presently with the continuing pandemic issues affecting hospitality. Impossible to give you a definitive answer. However, your question is most topical because the two day competition (including tests and service skills) by Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) and Wine Growers British Columbia (WGBC) for Best Sommelier of Canada was just held this week in Penticton BC. The declared winner last night was Pier-Alexis Souliere, MS from Quebec City. Congrats to him and all the amazing candidates from across the country. Pier-Alexis Souliere will represent Canada in February 2022 at the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) in Chile for Best Sommelier of the Americas. He previously ranked 9th out of the Top 50 at the last World Competition held in Antwerp, Belgium in 2019 won by Marc Almert from Germany (16th person to hold that title). Good luck for 2023.
On reflection during these continuing most difficult Covid times looking back positively on some of my food joys of Summer 2021. SEASONAL. What a glorious word and worthy concept – “depending on, or varying with the season”. Sustainable, organic, biodynamic, and all the other current buzz words are important too but don’t forget to take advantage of what is fresh and currently available in your marketplace by the seasons. Tried to pick a Top 5 out of so many foods that we enjoyed this Summer and early Fall. Here’s a brief overview:
5. LETTUCES: Growing your own is fun and productive. Fav was Arugula.
4. VEGETABLES: So many enjoyed but favs were thin green beans, red beets, fennel, and sweet corn on the cob freshly picked!
3. FRUITS: Most Summer fruits are a special treat. Picking and consuming wild blackberries topped our list but was closely followed by blueberries, cherries, and succulent juicy peaches. Local Strawberries are our usual chart topper but seemed less successful this year under the more trying weather conditions.
2. SEAFOOD: Cherish the wild salmon catch every year with Chinook, Sockeye and Coho slightly more available than lately. Halibut and Brill (or Petrale) Sole are wonderful.
1. HEIRLOOM TOMATOES: Clear winner for us. Longer season this year with the last crop of smaller sizes just purchased yesterday at the Sunday Kits Farmer’s Market. Still love those deep red delicious Black Krim ones. Wrote here more than 7 years ago now in September 2014 about these and other varieties. Are tomatoes really a fruit? Yes apparently so because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant. Almost sweet and juicy enough to qualify as well. However your scribe continues to use them as a vegetable for a starter course salad. Perfect on their own but even better with a complement of ripe avocado, best burrata, green Castelvetrano olives and high quality fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil. So good.
Excited to turn the page to later Fall produce and already buying and enjoying so many different seasonal goodies. The highlights are of course studying the different fresh apples (reported to be 7500 varieties around the world) from sweeter Fuji to quite tart sour Granny Smith. Always so many to taste from best early on Ambrosia to better lasting Honeycrisp. Another joy is the many types of Winter Squash (there are Summer Squashes too) with our fav still being bell shaped Butternut (pale outside and orange inside not to be confused with dark green outer skin Buttercup). Explore.
What were some of the seasonal Summer foods near your home that brought you some culinary joy in 2021?
Question: Do you think that wine prices will increase?
Answer: Difficult question to predict future supply with so many more regions competing globally with quality wines yet often with variable weather risks for less crop production each year. Also global climate change remains an issue for some established vineyards yet providing new optimism for previously marginal regions. Certainly prices and demand for top wines (check the rising prices of 1er Cru & Grand Cru Burgundy) continue to skyrocket. Why even in the October 9-10, 2021 Wall Street Journal had Lettie Teague On Wine liking the lowest AC 2019 Bourgogne Blanc now at $100/bottle by Domaine Leflaive. However, there should always be an adequate continuing supply at the lower price range – especially “plonk” from somewhere. Have you noticed the increase in your grocery bill? Apple is cutting iPhone 13 production due to global chip shortage. Yes inflationary pressures plus many supply chain issues from product to labour are contributing to a likely wine price increase. Prepare. Check out these two topical articles: