Ask Sid: What is “grip”?

July 4th, 2018
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grip wine

Question: The word grip seems to be commonly used at wine tastings and in written notes on wines. What does grip mean?

Answer: Grip is a a positive characteristic of a wine expressing a firm structure. Like a firm handshake grip takes a hold of your palate. It also somewhat compels your attention like a gripping story. It is the opposite of a wine that is too soft or flabby. Good word to use where appropriate.


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Château La Lagune Now More Powerful But Still Outstanding Value

July 3rd, 2018

la lagune wine

Château La Lagune is a long time favourite Bordeaux of this scribe. I became interested in the property during early wine collection years because it was a Third Growth in the prestigious 1855 Classification yet it always sold much cheaper than most other classed growths. Remember well that very Burgundian styled 1961 from very young replanted vines done at the end of the fifties. It was owned since the early sixties by Ayala Champagne and managed by Madame Boyrie with visitors stopping at this first classified growth on the busy D2 road. However the wines were lighter and somewhat hit and miss though enjoyed often the underrated 1966 & 1970. The vines got older and the wines improved with much higher achievements in 1990, 1989, 1986 and especially their outstanding 1982. However during the nineties the wine underachieved.  So it was with great enthusiasm in 2000 to see the new ownership by the Frey family (includes Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle, Château de Corton Andre, shares in Billecart-Salmon Champagne & Château d’Arche) with Caroline Frey managing since 2004. The wine still remains excellent value for the high quality delivered.

Vancouver native Catherine Stewart just returned home as new Chef de Cuisine at Vancouver’s acclaimed CinCin Restaurant. She had been recommended by Chef Joel Robuchon to her previous position of five years as Executive Chef at Château La Lagune. Therefore it seemed like a good idea to see what food courses she would match with a vertical of that property and to get her insights. Accordingly a dinner was held on June 25, 2018 with 9 vintages spotlighting mainly the new regime but with an old cherished winner. Some brief comments:

First Flight: 2010, 2009, and 2008. All showing young very dark intense red colour. 2010 vibrant cool deep fruit so classic. Typical Bordeaux styling but more complex plus powerful intensity than expected from this Château. Some Margaux-like notes. Long aging potential. Very impressive indeed. Contrast the 2009 warmer riper fruit delivering rounder fuller richer softer taste. Some iodine notes and also lovely concentration though less defined terroir but more early approachability. 2008 more typical herbal Merlot Graves-like expression showing through with nice balance but less depth.  Catherine’s insightful choice of Pate en Croute with foie gras & truffle is a perfect pairing. All three wines display the expected vintage characteristics very well plus show to advantage the substantial improvements that are taking place both in the vineyard and the modernized winery. Better selection for the Grand Vin.

Second Flight: 2006, 2005, and 2000. 2006 deep but rim is changing tone. Most minty herbaceous though some admirable open Right Bank-like flavours. 2005 has a much darker colour with outstanding depth of fruit. Impressive style so structured on the nose and palate. Mid-palate completeness and fullness. Excellent future. 2000 still surprisingly youthful red in appearance with an attractive ripe licorice more mature bouquet but no rush. Lovely drinking now though. Expected the traditional La Lamproie a la Bordelais course but preferred instead as the match an excellent fresh local halibut pan seared by Chef Catherine.

Third Flight: 1995, 1983, and 1982. Nineties underperformed and shows here with light looking lean Merlot simpler 1995 with much less concentration. 1983 is bottle variable but this one was corked. Pulled out the plastic wrap in the decanter trick and it cleared the TCA away but also took some of the fleeting beautiful elegance of this favoured weather year in Ludon and all the South Medoc & Graves. Turned into “sweet cabbage” with air bubbles from rapid swirling. 1982 is brilliant indeed after 35 years and still singing marvellously! Some old leather cedar tobacco with that thrilling savoury Margaux/Graves blend of elements. Very 1982. Grilled duck breast worked so well – though Catherine’s other possible choice of lamb would also have been perfect. Her Robuchon take on rich potatoes as a puree of butter brought back fond memories of the original. Pastry training and skills were so prominent too in a remarkable Vacherin with pineapple and mango so delightful with 1982 Château Suduiraut Sauternes. Big welcome back to Vancouver for the knowledgeable and talented Chef Catherine Stewart. What a treat for us diners!

Highly recommend the current vintages of 2015, 2016, and 2017 of Château La Lagune for value. Have you tried the excellent wine from this property recently?


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10 things I learned about the restaurant business by reading Kitchen Confidential!

July 1st, 2018

Kitchen Confidential book

By Joseph Temple

Earlier this month, the culinary world lost well-known television personality Anthony Bourdain. The host of CNN’s Parts Unknown, he was described as the Hunter S. Thompson of gastronomy, providing the antithesis to an industry glamorized on TV by photogenic celebrity chefs. “Of all the professions, after all, few people are less suited to be suddenly thrown into the public eye than chefs,” wrote Bourdain.  “We’re used to doing what we do in private, behind closed doors. We’re used to using language that many would find … well … offensive, to say the least.”

Although known as the host of several television shows, Bourdain first rose to stardom in 2000 after writing the book Kitchen Confidential, an extended sequel to a New Yorker article he penned in the late 90s. Speaking in a language known as Kitchenese, the book offers readers a gritty and unfiltered look at a craft that Bourdain felt was being misrepresented in the mass media. A runaway best-seller, those in the trenches could easily relate to the numerous anecdotes—many of them coarse and profane—that he described in his three decades as a chef.

Let us share ten observations he made about the restaurant industry in this classic text! While times may have changed and his opinions are certainly not universal, it’s worth noting what made Kitchen Confidential a must-read for both aspiring chefs and those with an interest in the culinary arts.



1. Never order fish on a Monday!

According to Bourdain, the best restaurants typically order seafood on Thursday for Friday delivery. Hoping to sell the bulk of their inventory on Friday and Saturday—the two busiest nights—whatever isn’t sold (and may be turning) is served the following Monday before the next shipment arrives. “If he has a little left on Sunday, he [the chef] can unload the rest of it then, as seafood salad for brunch, or as a special. Monday? It’s merchandizing night, when whatever is left over from the weekend is used up, and hopefully sold for money.”
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2. Beware of brunch

For many, Sunday brunch is a cherished ritual as diners eagerly line up to fill their plates at the various buffet stations. But not so fast says Bourdain ,who had a much different perspective: “Brunch menus are an open invitation to the cost-conscious chef, a dumping ground for the odd bits left over from Friday and Saturday nights or for the scraps generated in the normal course of business.”
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3. B-Team

Additionally, with restaurants having their starting rotation of line cooks working on Friday and Saturday nights, the walk-ons are directly sent to the bush leagues of dining: brunch service. “Brunch is demoralizing to the serious line cook. Nothing makes an aspiring Escoffier feel more like an army commissary cook … than having to slop out eggs over easy with bacon and eggs Benedict … Brunch is punishment block for the ‘B’ Team cooks.”
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4. Always check the bathroom

When walking into a restaurant for the first time, a good tip is to check the bathroom before sitting down at your table. Why? Because the bathroom serves as a microcosm for the establishment at large when it comes to cleanliness. “If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.”
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5. Save for well-done

If you’re someone who likes his meat well-done, then expect to be eating the absolute worst cut that the chef has pushed to the side in hopes that you enter his restaurant. “Save for well-done” Bourdain explains is food served “to some rube who prefers to eat his meat or fish incinerated into a flavorless, leathery hunk of carbon, who won’t be able t tell if what he’s eating is food or flotsam.”
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6. Recycled bread

So what happens if nobody eats the bread on your table? Does it go in trash? Yes, for some places, but others, not so much. “When it’s busy, and the busboy is crumbling tables,” writes Bourdain, “and he sees a basket full of untouched bread, most times he’s going to use it. This is a fact of life.”
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7. Just say no to hollandaise sauce

Many of us love to pour delicious creamy hollandaise sauce all over our Eggs Benedict. However, when at a restaurant, all bets are off due to it being a magnet for bacteria says Kitchen Confidential. “Hollandaise must be held at a temperature not too hot nor too cold … Unfortunately, this lukewarm holding temperature is also the favorite environment for bacteria to copulate … Nobody I know has ever made hollandaise to order. Most likely, the stuff on your eggs was made hours ago and held on station.”
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8. Keep an eye out for the delivery truck

If you have a keen attention for detail, you’ll always be on the look out for whenever a delivery truck parks behind a restaurant. The reason has to do with the sign—or lack of sign painted on its side. “If you see sinister, unmarked step-vans offloading all three [seafood, meat and produce] at once, or the big tractor trailers from one of the national outfits—you know the ones, ‘Servicing Restaurants and Institutions for Fifty Years’—remember what institutions they’re talking about: cafeterias, schools, prisons.”
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9. Observe your wait staff

When deciphering a menu that is potentially full of booby traps, the waiter or waitress could end up being your best friend. Use this person to your advantage says Bourdain as they can help guide you through some potential murky waters. “If he [the waiter] likes you, maybe he’ll stop you from ordering a piece of fish he knows is going to hurt you … Observe the body language and take note.”
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10. The best night to go out? Tuesday of course!

On the surface, it would appear that Friday and Saturday, the two busiest nights for restaurants would be the ideal time to see a seasoned chef at their very best. Not so according to Bourdain: “the food is fresh, but it’s busy, so the chef and cooks can’t pay as much attention to your food as they—and you—might like.” On the other hand, Tuesday is when the fresh product comes in, the chef is well rested from a hectic weekend, and is eager to please his diners. “Weekday diners … are the home team—potential regulars, whom all concerned want to make you happy.”
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Ask Sid: Viognier recommendation?

June 27th, 2018
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Ask Sid: Viognier recommendation?

Question: Would you please give me a Viognier wine recommendation?

Answer: I am not the best person to ask as I usually unfairly compare New World Viognier to the expensive treasures of Chateau Grillet or Condrieu Coteau de Vernon from Domaine Georges Vernay in the Rhone. The unique floral aromas of apricot and peach pit are attractive but the grapes need to be ripe enough to show those luscious elements instead of unripe vegetal notes. However it is tricky one as they should also try to harvest early enough to avoid a tendency of low acidity and with too much resulting alcohol. Yalumba in Australia has done an admirable job of delivering dry lush examples with their reasonably priced Y Series. In British Columbia a Rhone white blend including the Viognier variety with Roussanne & Marsanne is becoming most popular. Try the balanced Ava from Le Vieux Pin, aromatic Afraid of the Dark by Moon Curser Vineyards or Figaro (no Marsanne in the blend) from Terravista Vineyards – winemaker Senka Tennant suggests serving it with roasted tomato-squash soup & crème fraiche. Single variety 2016 “Rachel’s” Viognier is highly recommended from Daydreamer Wines in Naramata. Winemaker Marcus Ansems MW previously used all his Viognier in his signature Syrah but liked this 2016 one with perfectly timed picking “with some tension left” at 13 alcohol for this solo beauty.


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Rosés the Summer 2018 Hot Commodity

June 25th, 2018

what type of rose should I drink

Hard to believe how popular Rosé has become recently. Not only on a relaxing patio during the warmer Summer months but served all year round too. Seems to be presently the go to wine for sure where ever you are. Taking smart advantage of this trend in Vancouver is Jean-Francis Quaglia Chef/Owner of restaurant provincemarinaside.ca & The Wine Bar with his forward thinking wine team. Jean-Francis has fond memories of drinking Tavel several decades ago in his home in the South of France at give away prices but his imported magnums of 2016 Tavel Prieure de Montezargues now cost a pretty penny. They have all the Cotes de Provence hot hits including despite their split Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie’s 2017 Miraval, Domaine de Carteyron: “Cuvee Malyse”, Rimaureso Cru Classe mags, and so popular Sacha Lichine Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel in monster Imperial size!  Also impressive Clos Cibanne Cuvee Prestige Caroline Tibouren and even Domaine Moulin des Costes from Bandol. They have 48 Rosés with 41 served by the glass and 25% off on Sunday. What a statement!

Rosés seem to be coming from everywhere in the world. Italy is expanding with many indigenous grape varieties used from several regions such as Negroamaro in Salice Salentino Puglia to Chiaretto in Bardolino. Rosados from Spain using Tempranillo and Grenache have been around for a while but other countries testing the market include Portugal, New Zealand, Greece, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Chile, and Argentina. On your scribe’s recent trip to Bordeaux there were lots of local Rosés made from Cabernet & Merlot grapes but these varieties are more difficult to get that cherished delicacy from though Clos de Soleil Winery in the Similkameen Valley BC has produced a full bodied fruity Cabernet one. IMHO the first obligation of Rosé is to be fresh, lively and most charming with the better grapes for that style outside of Provence including pinot noir, gamay, and increasingly pinot meunier. Checking out lots of worthy examples from both 2016 & 2017 consistent vintages in British Columbia. Really like the pink Sparkling Mariani Clone 509 gamay 2017 Rosé (90 cases) with 4 hours of skin contact from Jay Drysdale at Bella Wines. My 2 other favourite Rosés so far are Ann Sperling’s delicious 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé with a 24-30 hour soaking at a fresh 11.5 alcohol and Heidi Noble’s 2017 Chic Fille (50 cases from JoieFarm) interesting so charming lees character dry savoury Pinot Meunier with 8.6 total acidity and only 10.5 alcohol. Get hip and check out these outstanding Rosés!


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