Ask Sid: What is the Influence of Global Warming in Champagne?

June 20th, 2018
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Ask Sid: What is the Influence of Global Warming in Champagne?

Question: What do you see as the major influence of global warming in the Champagne region?

Answer: Well the grapes are getting riper and there is more early picking of them. This will have a major effect ongoing. We see the benefit of warmer temperatures for English Sparkling wines and others around the world produced in cooler regions. IMHO the main change so far is the conscientious examination of grapes for their pH levels which are on the rise. Accordingly most houses that routinely put their bubbles through 100% malolactic fermentation now decide whether or not to do so or even to just do so partially. They want to ensure that their Champagne still retains outstanding bright freshness of balanced acidity levels. Check this technical modification out with the next purchase of your favourite Champagne!

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1966 Bordeaux Horizontal Surprises At 50+ Years

June 18th, 2018

1966 Bordeaux

Bordeaux has seen some hotter weather recently. However 50 years ago the 1966 vintage was more typical of the times with dry cooler Summer conditions. There was the outstanding concentrated 1961s followed by excellent 1962 and 1964 but much more frequent vintage failures like 1963, 1965, 1968, and 1969. Therefore 1966 Bordeaux was received with enthusiasm as Peter A. Sichel reported in his treasured annual Vintage Report as “style of 1962s, lighter than 1964s, but with sounder balance. more finesse and even more quality.” Michael Broadbent called it “An excellent vintage. Stylish, elegant, well balanced. Lean rather than plump, though with good firm flesh…could develop from 4 star into 5 star class.” Tawfiq Khoury staged for the annual KPBS fundraiser in San Diego on November 5, 1986 a tasting of 111 Classed Growth Bordeaux from 1966 in 19 flights commented on by a panel consisting of Michael Broadbent, Bruno Borie and your scribe. Michael called them “Bordeaux style at their best”. He was concerned that leanness would prevail, yet he was encouraged by the vigour and old style quality of the fruit at 20 years of age. I remarked “at least some of these wines of 1966 had enough fruit to match their acidity, and showed the long-distance-runner sinews of the vintage.” The regions of St. Julien and Pauillac performed consistently strong. Among the many properties showing very well at 20 years of age were Latour, Palmer, La Mission Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion, Leoville-Las-Cases, Grand Puy-Lacoste, Gruaud-Larose, Trotanoy, Petrus, Pichon-Lalande, Lafleur, Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Domaine de Chevalier, Beychevelle, Branaire-Ducru and L’Angelus.

On June 5, 2018 at a tasting-dinner in Vancouver at Blue Water eight top properties of 1966 (plus a mystery wine) were assessed at over 50 years of age in three flights of 3 wines each:

1. 1966 Chateau L’Arrosee St. Emilion – Very dark still young red colour. Excellent work over the years by the Rodhain family with this fine property (with a brilliant 1961) sold in 2013 to Domaine Clarence Dillon. Fresh vigour with lots of body to handle the acidity. Classy wine.

2. 1966 Chateau La Gaffeliere St. Emilion – Quite an aged look and nose less clean with a touch of both TCA & VA (often a problem with their 1970). Disappointing bottle.

3. 1966 Chateau Figeac St. Emilion – Good deep tones with best mature nose of first flight combining drinkability with lovely delicacy and complexity.

4. 1966 Chateau Talbot St. Julien – Lighter look with prominent acidity goes better with the mushroom tart. Big sister Gruaud Larose shows much better balance and depth in 1966. Both properties made outstanding 1982s.

5. 1966 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste Pauillac – Medium dark colour with rich full cedar character holding up well and even improving in the glass. So stylish. Underrated property even then. 1970 also delicious.

6. 1964 Chateau Ausone St. Emilion – Mystery wine with a very dark colour. Most complex bouquet of second flight. More Merlot/CF showing than GPL blend of Cab Sauv. A wonderful sweetness here and amazing surprise for this property during the sixties.

7. 1966 Chateau Gruaud Larose St. Julien – Old favourite making superb wine in the early sixties. Very dark deep colour. Big open excellent intense wine. Shows outstanding terroir of St. Julien. Impressive at 50+ years. Buy at auction.

8. 1966 Chateau Beychevelle St. Julien – Much lighter look and very mature edge. Has been drinking well for decades and holding on but needs drinking now as losing fruit. Simpler but enhanced by the beef dish.

9. 1966 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien – A treat to have 3 St. Juliens in this last flight. Colour still dark deep and youthful helped by the acidity. Lively palate from the vintage and gravelly soil. Classic elegance on a continuing plateau.

Mature old style Bordeaux for sure. Drier with more acidity than current releases. All wines need drinking up now but experiencing them gives you a special thrill with a better insight into how balanced Bordeaux has such a marvellous capacity for surprising ageing. Have you tasted a red Bordeaux over 50 years old?


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10 interesting facts about Richard Nixon and wine

June 17th, 2018

Richard Nixon wine

By Joseph Temple

This year marks the 50th anniversary that Richard Milhous Nixon was elected as the 37th President of the United States.  With a passion for drinking only the finest wines, not since Thomas Jefferson had there been a bigger oenophile occupying the Oval Office.  However, this particular subject remains largely unknown when discussing the Nixon legacy—until now! To learn more, have a look below at ten interesting anecdotes that may or may not change your perception of one of the twentieth century’s most polarizing figures.

1. Nixon’s interest in wine dates back to his days as a lawyer living in New York City after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial election. During this period, he would always have a bottle of his favorite vintage waiting for him whenever he dined at the 21 Club.

2. Nixon was infamous for drinking first-growth Bordeaux (Chateau Margaux was his favorite) while serving his guests vin ordinaire. In some social circles, this became known as “pulling a Nixon.”

3. During one such incident, while entertaining ten congressmen on board Sequoia, the presidential yacht, Nixon ordered his stewards to serve them six-dollar wine while he drank a thirty-dollar bottle of Chateau Margaux, wrapped in a towel.

4. Aide Alexander Butterfield would be given memos from Nixon about vintages he desired — what Butterfield described as “beaver patrol projects.”

5. Nixon would tell Time Magazine in 1972 that “Sometimes, for an important state dinner, I’ll pick a wine. I do know something about wines.”

6. Although he preferred French wines, Nixon was also eager to promote his home state of California. During his visit to China in 1972, he gave premier Chou En-lai a bottle of Schramsberg sparkling wine. After this fact was revealed, the winery was overwhelmed with orders.

7. According to Henry Kissinger, Nixon was known to slur his words and/or become combative and vulgar after two glasses of wine.

8. To celebrate the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, Nixon asked for the best wine he had: a 1957 Lafite-Rothschild to go with his steak. But this time, everyone got to taste the wine!

9. In his diary, H.R. Haldeman wrote, “Usually it’s just served to the P, and the rest of us have some California Beaulieu Vineyard stuff.”

10. In addition to drinking wine, Nixon also consumed vodka, scotch, brandy and rum.


Haldeman, H.R. The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
Sullivan, Charles L. Napa Wine: A History. San Francisco: Board and Bench Publishing, 2008.
Reeves, Richard. President Nixon: Alone in the White House. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Page, Karen and Dornenburg, Andrew. The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
Will-Weber, Mark. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking. Washington DC: Regnery History, 2014.
Woodward, Bob & Bernstein, Carl. The Final Days. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Zraly, Kevin. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2006.

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Ask Sid: Why put stems of pinot noir into the fermentation?

June 13th, 2018
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Ask Sid: Why put stems of pinot noir into the fermentation?

Question: Why do some wineries make pinot noir wine by including the stems of the grapes in the fermentation process?

Answer: Yes this is one of the continuing mysteries of the art of winemaking. Some winemakers like to include some stems and use some whole bunches while others don’t. Possible advantages include not only a lowering of the temperature of the fermentation but more bright freshness, finesse, and floral nuances in the wine with a better rounder texture plus elegance. Contrary views often point to old style rustic green herbal notes not wanted resulting from an over complication of the pure grape juice. As vines get older and global warming contributes to riper stems this topic is heating up once again. However in the Okanagan BC opinions are still divided among winemakers. Henricsson Vineyards in Naramata is including 55% stems in their pinot noir but Matt Mavety at Blue Mountain in Okanagan Falls is not including any stems in his. Consider this and decide for yourself what style you prefer.

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Naramata Winery Tour – IWFS Vancouver Branch

June 12th, 2018

One of the yearly highlights of the activities of the IWFS Vancouver Branch is the intensive wine tour of the Okanagan superbly well organized by active members Larry Burr and his wife Maggie. This year their spotlight was on 15 winery visits in the thriving region of Naramata Bench along picturesque Okanagan Lake just north east of Penticton in British Columbia. So many wine tastings and knowledgeable insights provided during these visits over two and a half days in June with this brief overview:

1. BELLA WINES – Jay Drysdale & Wendy Rose all quality Sparkling built on acidity based on Chardonnay and Gamay in 3 tiers of Vintage, Natural, and Reserve with 2011 on lees 79 months with a creamy texture giving Champagne a run. Interesting two new dry Gamay one 509 Clone pink 4 hour skin contact and 787 Clone red with 5 days.

2. DAYDREAMER WINES – Marcus Ansems MW with Aussie background started with his sold out 2014 Sparkling shiraz and impressive other wines with my fav a perfectly balanced fresh 2016 Viognier so varietal at only 13 alcohol grapes picked at the perfect time.

3. LAKE BREEZE VINEYARDS – South African Garron Elmes since 1995 with food wines showing so well with lunch especially recently bottled 2017 their iconic Pinot Blanc all bright freshness.

4. JOIE FARM – Heidi Noble brilliant joie de vie in focusing on cool climate lower alcohol aromatic beauties. Always prize their Riesling en Famille with hot year 2015 using several pickings capturing acid and phenolics for special petrol, ginger, lemon-lime and mint. All wines truly special.

5. VAN WESTEN VINEYARDS – Rob Van Westen using a “V” theme in naming his wines like 2016 Vivacious of Pinot Blanc with a splash of Pinot Gris in 293 cases showing dry crisp pear, green apple, nectarine, melon and citrus for a halibut course. Pulling out last cherry orchards and pondering whether to plant some Gamay there.

6. POPLAR GROVE WINERY – Dinner at Vanilla Pod with Principal Tony Holler now joined by experienced Ingo Grady showing their big selling Pinot Gris and other drinkable mouth watering whites and signature Cabernet Franc red with even older 2005 displaying open varietal character.

7. FOXTROT VINEYARDS – Winemaker Gustav Allender leading the Pinot Noir explosion in Naramata since their first vintage of 2004 (2 bottles left in their cellar) now with 2015 Evalina’s Block of young vines and 75 cases of more earthy sturdy 2015 Raisin D’Etre of clone 828 in 9th vintage from 13 year old vines, and more savoury closed 2015 Estate Foxtrot older vines clone 115 planted 1993 full of future potential. Outstanding.

8. LA FRENZ WINERY – Jeff Martin came from Australia in 1994 first with Quails’ Gate and now with a large portfolio of La Frenz wines highlighted by 400 cases of 2016 Ensemble Reserve White $29 of 71% sauvignon blanc & 29 semillon with creamy 10 months on the lees.

9. RED ROOSTER WINERY – Lunch with Winemaker Karen Gillis since 2007 with a magical touch in producing quality wines for good value across the range. She will get to nurture over the next 2 years some 4000 bottles of Sparkling from the Peller takeover of Gray Monk so true excitement to follow that development.

10. TERRAVISTA VINEYARDS – Success story of Senka & Bob Tennant with 7th vintage of 2017 Fandango opulent blend of Albarino & Verdejo and Figaro blend of Rousanne & Viognier. Also varietal nervy 2017 Albarino (4th vintage) and 2017 Viognier. Only red 2015 Syrah with 8% Rousanne quickly sold out but watch for upcoming release in November of an even better balanced 2016.

11. HOWLING BLUFF – Luke Smith terroir driven award winning Pinot Noirs continue to impress with 2015 of only 133 cases with clones 667 & 777 using French oak (4o% new) coming around bright and variety driven. Discovered some unique unlabelled 2009 son Daniel Smith Port out of pinot noir that is intriguing to check out.

12. PERSEUS WINERY – CEO Rob Ingram & winemaker Jason Parkes have their winery close to Penticton and their Lt. Gov. award winning 2013 Invictus is full rich and powerful composed of 42 cab franc, 38 merlot, 13 cab sauv, and 7 malbec.

13. HENRICSSON VINEYARDS – Peter & Kajsa have really brilliantly taken over the old Erickson Vineyard who supplied pinot noir grapes to Foxtrot. Admirable hands on winemaking using enquiring minds looking only for the best results. Grafted over successfully the old Pinot Gris vines to Pinot Noir. Oxidize the vibrant Kajsa Chardonnay juice for 6 days so doesn’t later quickly oxidize as wine in the bottle. Only wild yeast Pinot Noir using 90% old “suitcase” European clone planted in 1990 and 10% own rooted clone 459 with 55% stems inclusion with 20% new oak. Popular cherry fruit 2015 regular and second one structured stylish 2015 Deux Hivers with longer 20 months in oak both recommended.

14. ROCHE WINES – Dylan & Penelope Riche moved from Bordeaux to Penticton in 2011. Have 4 acres planted 1997/1998 and 2 more just planted plus another 15 acres Kozier near Laughing Stock/Red Rooster. Two pinot gris with bright crisp 2016 in screwcap and 2015 riper grapes finished in cork. Similarly 2016 pinot noir mostly 777 in screwcap and 2015 more traditional one in cork. Delightful 2016 pink Rose from Zweigelt only 40 minutes on skins and 2017 fragrant Arome at 12.2 from Schoenberger.

15. UPPER BENCH WINERY & CREAMERY – Gavin Miller with 7 acres for 7 varieties just grafting pinot blanc vines over to cab franc. Clear visible from afar large graphic labels. Excellent cheeses made by Shana Miller. Everyone thrilled with their special lunch stop of super salad and artisan pizza from high temperature outdoor oven.

What a wonderful tour. Encourage everyone to take advantage of the next one in 2019.


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