Friday, September 30, 2011

2005 Barolo

2005 Casetta Barolo

2005 Casetta Casa Vinicola | DOCG Barolo

I've been racking up '05 Barolo's. Delicious like nothing else, and although the pundits aren't giving this vintage much of a chance, the wines show all the Barolo character I'm looking for, with at least another decade or so to reach their peak.

When it comes to brettanomyces, I'm all for it. Only in the rarest of cases are the wines so stinky that they're rendered undrinkable - I've learned to be patient with it. This one had that characteristic waft of barnyard, and when I tasted, it was on the palate as well. Into the fridge for a night . . . I knew with air, it'd integrate and develop into something quite interesting. And so it did. Deep red in colour, showing lots of earthiness, rose petals, cherry, tar. A simple Barolo, not particularly refined, but fresh and typical. Great drinking after I got it chilled, proving that patience bears great rewards in wine. What was nearly unpalatable the night before transformed indeed into a good drink.

Love the stank.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

2009 Leyda Valley Pinot Noir

2009 Anakena Single Vineyard Leyda Valley Pinot Noir

2009 Anakena Single Vineyard Pinot Noir | DO Leyda Valley | Chile

Single vineyard is a marketing term right? Has to be. What exactly is the single vineyard? Leyda Valley? I like Chilean wines but there's no need for this kind of labelling. Under screwcap, under $15 . . . you see why I'm a bit skeptical. But what does DF know.

Odours of reduction that never really goes away. Dark fruit, lean. Chill it down and drink quickly, please. That's a problem right? This whole reduction thing with screwcaps. TCA is terrible, a scourge, but reduction doesn't seem any better. There's no such thing as a perfect closure, clearly, but it'd be nice if the screwcap pundits would admit that there are issues to their beloved closures as well. What's the solution? Is this because of what's happening in the cellar? Or storage? We'll see, but screwcaps are clearly not the saviour of anything.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

you alcoholics

new world pinot noir                tentacles

No I'm not fucking done yet. Not by a long shot. But when you've been done in by a lame bottle of pinot noir so hard that the room actually begins spinning when you open your eyes, I think you've earned the right to vent a little.

I'm so conflicted about alcohol in wine. Yes, it's a seemingly imbecilic thing to be aggravated about . . . after all, wine is hardly wine without alcohol. It's just that you shouldn't actually be tasting any alcohol in wine. Any wine in fact. I can dare say that no fine wine of the world contains the noticeable burn of alcohol, on both nose and palate. So where does that leave American wine, most recently, the bottle of Santa Rita Hills pinot noir that got me so fucked up?

It was a good afternoon. It was so hot outside, just positively tropical in Toronto. I had the charcoal roaring in the backyard, a few bottles of Anchor Steam and some wines on ice, and save for shorts and an apron, I was all sweaty and gloriously naked. We started with the beer, but with the grilled fish and squid ready, it was time to move onto the wine. I open it all at once to drink together, letting me compare them in one go. Besides, I get bored when there's just one wine on the table. Everything was fine, all cool, enjoying myself . . . until I stood up to check the grill and realized my legs were wobbly.

I had no more than 4 or 5 glasses. And those who've dined with me know that I subscribe to the 2 ounce pour. So what happened? Let's be honest, I'm hardly a lightweight when it comes to alcohol - I'm Chinese, I grew up drinking hard rice spirits. And yet this Californian pinot noir, at a listed 14.7%, did me in. Lights out, just like that. How can this be pleasurable? How can you defend these wines? Let's ignore the fact that I got bombed out my mind for a bit . . . the wine itself tasted terrible. Searing alcohol, completely burnt, macerated fruit, unrecognizable as pinot noir.

Someone help me understand because I just don't get how anyone can enjoy these wines.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2009 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2009 Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills

2009 Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir | AVA Santa Rita Hills

Do Americans think of pinot noir and syrah as being interchangeable? Does labelling varietal really matter to these people? Someone tell me because I can't drink American wines anymore, I just can't. Tried to give it a shot, but no, unless someone else is paying, I give up.

Santa Rita Hills is supposed to be pinot noir country . . . or is it? Climate and soil is important, but all it takes is a winemaker's leaden palate to fuck it all up. I'm making generalizations of course, but please, someone show me a good, true pinot noir out of Santa Barbara county and prove me wrong. Do it, I dare you.

I set up this wine for failure by drinking it with the previous Central Otago, but still, it shouldn't have been that bad. Heavy chill as well, but so inky, so dark, jammy, sweet - all those things that stereotype American red wines as caricatures. You can't handle pinot noir as a syrah - you just end up with a wine that is unrecognizable as either. High in alcohol, jam in the mouth, sweet oak. Probably not as bad as it could have been, but this is not what true wine can be. I don't give a fuck what rhetoric American winemakers (and writers) use to justify these types of wines, but they are just undrinkable. Can't do it anymore, just can't. Wine that leaves your head spinning after two glasses? You crazy Americans.


Monday, September 26, 2011

2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir

2010 Thatched Hut Pinot Noir, Central Otago

2010 Thatched Hut Pinot Noir | Central Otago | New Zealand

I shouldn't be, but seeing 2010 vintages on shelves is still a bit jarring, until I remember that the southern hemisphere's harvest is a good half year or more ahead of ours. Central Otago is regarded as the source of the finest pinot noirs out of New Zealand, with the prices to match. It's difficult to find good wines from here under $30, not to mention under $20. Online Colleges have information on culinary and cooking degrees for people who love good food and wine.

I love the wines, as New Zealand reminds me in many ways of Niagara. Both are regions attracting lots of new investment, bringing together the best of traditional viticulture with the newest technologies. With a focus on the grand varietals of France, the best producers are able to produce singular wines which give hope that there is terroir to be found. The wines (obviously different) share some common elements that are so exciting - that freshness, that beautiful purity that is the hallmark of New World wines, but also the linear structure and mineral character found in the best French wines. So much character, and with a few more vintages, hopefully we'll see if there is such a thing as the New Zealand and the Niagara terroir.

So, a more reasonably priced estate level pinot noir of Central Otago. Bottled under stelvin, as expected, and given a hard chill. I like screwcaps, but not when there's reduction. And yes, it's as bad as TCA. Red berries, stemmy, nutty oak - I've found that slight greenness in a lot of NZ pinot noirs, and I quite like it. Dry, austere, lean - balanced, finishes with a bit of spice. Maybe the buildup suggested a bit more, but this wine did what its supposed to do - simple, varietal pinot noir. Yes.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anchor Steam Beer

Anchor Steam Beer

Anchor Brewing Company Anchor Steam Beer

I guess summer is over. Shit. We've had a really nice, hot one, but somehow it always seems to end too quick. We've made a conscious effort to grill more this year, and on each occasion, starting with beer just seems the right thing to do. I can't get to work to get the charcoal going, fanning and stoking the flames, until I have something good to drink. And this was serious beer.

Anchor Brewing Company is in San Francisco, with a history going back to the gold rush in the mid 1800's. They brew a range of different beers, but this one is the only one available in Ontario, I believe. Here, check out their website. No point in me repeating what you can read for yourself.

This is their most well-known beer. A beautiful colour, malty and round in the mouth, smoky. Finishes hoppy, perfectly balanced, just delicious. North American brewers seem to be pushing the hop profile in their beers - many are successful, but like all things, balance is key. It's very satisfying indeed to drink beers that are well made, and show a more sensible character. Lovely.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tasting Tenuta Maggiore

Tenuta MaggioreTenuta Maggiore

Tenuta MaggioreTenuta Maggiore

Tenuta MaggioreTenuta MaggioreTenuta Maggiore

Tenuta MaggioreTenuta Maggiore

Tenuta MaggioreTenuta Maggiore

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Nohkrin Wines to taste wines from Tenuta Maggiore, a producer in the Lombardy region of Italy. Interesting for me, as I had virtually no experience with Lombardy wines; this tasting was going to be my introduction to the region. A representative of the winery was there, as was a local wine writer. Tenuta Maggiore is not yet represented in Ontario.

Lombardy is in north Italy, neighbouring the great regions Piemonte and Barbaresco. The region is known mostly for its most famous city - Milano - rather than its wines. Vinously, the region is noted for its sparkling wines made in the Franciacorta and Oltrepò Pavese areas; red, white and rosé wines are also produced. More background to this region is better described here: Wine Lovers Page, Cellar Tours, Food & Wine.

Tenuta Maggiore produces quite a large portfolio of wines, from sparkling to still, and from a wide range of varietals. Founded in 1850 by an officer of the Kingdom of Savoy (hence its name), it produces about 5 million bottles a year. With 56 hectares of its own vineyards, they lease and operate another 150 hectares, exporting about 82% of its production. Its main markets are Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, the U.S. and Japan, with Hong Kong and Mainland China on the horizon. The two lines in the portfolio are the Sentito line and the more premium varietal line, proprietarily named (Cielia, La Pianta, Parsilone). Guido was certainly an interesting character, starting off the tasting with No one in the world can compare with our varietal wines.

What I was most interested in tasting were the two sparkling wines, as well as the local varietal croatina, and the nebbiolo. The wines are all priced below $20. As can be expected from this pricepoint tier, regional/varietal specificities are not readily apparent. No surprises there, but I don't see anyone being disappointed by the wines. We tasted mostly young wines, beginning with the sparkling wines, then the Sentito line, then the 3 premium red wines. They were: Pinot Noir Spumante Brut; Moscato Spumante Brut; Sentito Malvasia; Sentito Pinot Grigio; Sentito Cortese; Sentito Pinot Noir; Sentito Barbera; Sentito Croatina; Cielia Nebbiolo; La Pianta Cabernet Sauvignon; Parsilone Croatina. Please email or leave comments if you'd like the tasting note for any of the wines. In the end though, when you deal with these types of wines, who cares whether it's IGT or DOC, or what grape varietal is labelled. That Roman orgy label is all that really matters.

Much appreciation to the Nohkrins for inviting me, and Tenuta Maggiore for showing the wines; new perspective about modern Italian wines is always helpful. And the prosciutto served was delicious.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Tasting with Nohkrin Wines

Nohkrin wines

Earlier this month, DF and Nohkrin Wines presented a trio of wines - a dry white Loire, a red Bordeaux, and a nonvintage Premier Cru Champagne. I love doing these tastings, especially so when participants are open-minded and enthusiastic. We wanted to share not only these wines with everyone, but also discuss about wine agencies and the role they play in the Ontario marketplace. Some people choose to learn more about wine by taking culinary courses via accredited online colleges. Whatever works for you.

Have a look at the posts here, written by some of the participants: Jenn's blog, Jennifer Herd and Valerie's blog, I'm Charming You. A big thanks to Jenn and Rob for hosting us, and to everyone who attended.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

2009 Mercurey Les Varennes

2009 Jean-Francois Protheau Mercurey Les Varennes

2009 Jean-Francois Protheau Les Varennes | AC Mercurey

A little boring, but simply being boring isn't a sin now, is it. Sub-$20 Burgundy is treacherous territory; a terrible place to be for pinot noir winos, one more out of budgetary necessity than anything else. Terrible. Quality can be spotty in Mercurey, and with nearly 80% of vineyards planted with pinot noir, I had settled my expectations for this bottle for what it was - simple red Burgundy, to go with the roast duck we were going to eat for dinner.

This was actually the last wine my cousin would drink in Toronto. We had opened it early in the afternoon, and after an initial taste, decided we needed to chill it down. Pure fruit, that really technical, simple pinot noir profile. Proper and all, but I want a bit more when I buy Burgundy. Too much too ask? Perhaps. But is it too demanding to want some personality, some character? At least the roast duck was absolutely delicious. Chinese deli ftw.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2009 Bandol

2009 Les Hauts de Seignol Bandol

2009 Château Val d'Arenc Le Hauts de Seignol | AC Bandol

What a slap in the face. I didn't know the French could be so shameless; the fact that these people dare to put Bandol on the label is a big wet fart in the face of all the true Bandol wines. Unbelievable. So many cellarmasters over so many generations have worked so hard to make this region and these wines the quality they are today that these examples are almost shocking.

Bandol wines must be made with a minimum of 50% mourvèdre. Such an aggressive varietal, dark and tannic. Nearly undrinkable in its youth, massively structured and impenetrable. With ten years, these wines open up to savoury, leathery notes, with the best examples retaining a lovely freshness and floral character. I adore these wines, as they demand patience . . . at least the true wines do.

Most insulting, however, has to be the tasting note provided by the Vintages Panel. Read and be in awe of the leaden Vintages palate (or corporate bullshit, whatever you like):

This Mourvèdre-dominated wine has a marvellously concentrated nose of black cherry, red fruits, smoke and vanilla...This is archetypical Bandol, and a perfect match for gourmet burgers or grilled steaks...

This here, I don't know what the fuck this is, or what it's supposed to be imitating. Cheap, macerated fruit, candied and all that mess. I don't give a shit if it's something out of Australia or whatever, but these small regions are supposed to be the last bastion of true, authentic wines. If they start going, then we really are lost. What a fucking shame.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

casalingo salami

casalingo salumi

I've got a serious, unhealthy obsession with cured pork. Antipasto is a great gift from the Italians, and I'm risking serious heart and kidney disease to show my appreciation. We can't seem to find good chorizo in Toronto, but where one deli fridge door slams shut, another deli counter opens for business. Casalingo salami, so amazing, so spicy, so much texture, so porky. Wow wow wow, I can't get enough. But I'm not telling you where I'm finding this stuff, yeah, being selfish like that.

But who knows, email me nicely and I might let you know the general intersection.


Monday, September 19, 2011

fresh sanma



They're actually selling fresh sanma this year in Toronto, just in time for the last few times we're able to grill outside. Hot charcoal, simply seasoned - quite a difference from the cured pieces from Tokyo, but just as delicious.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

1996 Médoc Cru Bourgeois

1996 Chateau La Gorce, Medoc

1996 Château La Gorce | AC Médoc Cru Bourgeois

As I was rummaging in my cellar for stuff to drink, I thought of this wine. Backstory to this bottle. Not something I thought of very highly, which is probably why I didn't hesitate to pull the cork. And that's how magic happens, when expectations are so low you wonder if pulling the cork is even worth the effort.

I had no idea what to expect, but wanted my cousin to taste some older wines. Cork drew out clean, and looked pristine with no seepage. Saturation holding on, with just a tinge of browning. The wine was just delicious, with graphite minerality, fully integrated oak, and a savoury character only mature claret possesses. Lovely. Elegant, finely structured, and just drinking beautifully.

Just when you think you know a wine . . . up your ass.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

becoming clearer about the 2006's

2006 Le Clos Jordanne chardonnay

2006 Le Clos Jordanne chardonnay

Now that the 2006 Le Clos Jordanne chardonnays have been digested, things are looking a bit clearer, more colourful. Just fabulous all around. Surprises? Many. The chardonnays are holding up brilliantly, fresh, with just a hint of minerality developing. For the Le Clos Jordanne vineyard bottle, I would venture to say that it still needs some bottle age for the oak to fully integrate. An exciting future ahead, although I would probably drink the rest of bottles in the next 5 years.

The producer's reputation holds true. A source in Niagara told me that given a second go, the original winemaker would have planted much more chardonnay than pinot noir. Alas, business interests override all else. We'll see once we taste the rest of the 2006 pinot noirs, but I have a suspicion that he is absolutely correct. All the wines are delicious, but the chardonnays are clearly in a class of their own.

So, onto the 3 single vineyard pinot noirs I have sitting at home: Claystone Terrace, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, and La Petite Vineyard. Who wants to taste with me.


Friday, September 16, 2011

2006 Twenty Mile Bench Chardonnay

2006 Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay

Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay | VQA Twenty Mile Bench

I have these crippling moments of self-doubt and insecurity, tinged with a whiff of depression. I get that this website doesn't mean a whole lot to my readers, and even less in the world of wine. I don't even know how meaningful it is to me. But I continue on because, well, that's how I am. Self-examination has never been a strength of mine, and besides, you're never an accurate judge of yourself.

Wine helps. Whenever I feel a certain dissatisfaction about things, a few glasses of good wine helps reminds me why I fell in love in the first place. That feeling of adventure about a wine I've never tasted before, that mystery when I pull the cork out of an old bottle. Still excites me to no end, something that I'll never lose, God willing. But what am I saying . . . we need to talk about my favourite chardonnay of the night.

Claystone Terrace Vineyard, as the name suggests, is composed of limestone, clay, and silty glacial till. The clay is heavy, bearing wines of great density and masculinity. Or so it's reputed to be. As this wine shows, the wines are incredibly elegant. Gold in colour, with a subtle bouquet that's almost a bit sappy in minerality. Citrus and lemon with just a soft kiss of oak. Ripe, but fresh and very refined. Palate shows great texture and viscosity, with the minerality showing almost earthy tones. Just an incredibly composed wine, showing elegance yet structure, freshness yet depth. Delicious, and the finest of the three. Tristemente, only one more bottle left in the cellar.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

2006 Twenty Mile Bench Chardonnay

2006 Le Clos Jordanne LCJ Vineyard Chardonnay

2006 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

I like this vineyard a lot; most of the fruit for the Le Grand Clos wines are sourced from these vines. There's always a bit apprehension when you taste a wine from your cellar. Will it be damaged, will it be good/bad, will it live up to expectations? All that was in the back of my mind as I poured a few glasses of the LCJ Vineyard chardonnay. Would it be as great as I remembered it to be?

I want to be delicate with how I phrase this - the wine was delicious, but was not my favourite of the three chardonnays. There's always surprises in tastings like this, but I was a bit stunned to see how sure I was of what was showing best. I really thought I'd love this one, but it just lacked a little bit more of everything: more aroma, more texture, more intensity. Still fresh on the bouquet, with a richness that sometimes sits on top of the fruit. Some overt oak, with a spiciness and minerality on the palate. Elegant, but finishes a bit clumsy, almost as if the lees age/battonage was just a bit too much. I'm glad to see how youthful its showing - hopefully my other bottles will come together a bit more with bottle age.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2006 Niagara Peninsula Chardonnay


2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Here we go, the wines I've been looking forward to for some time now. A new producer who's first commercial vintage was only 2004, the wines have certainly been a huge success. Lots of hype initially, lots of this is the best Niagara wine ever talk, whether it's warranted or not. The wines are stunning, absolutely, but it takes more than a few vintages in the cellar before that kind of judgement can be made. But what do I know.

Opened the night before, double decanted and chilled, the same treatment for all three bottles. We started with the Village Reserve to begin the meal. And it was wonderful. The vintage was a difficult one, but the wine shows great varietal character. Lemon rind and a good degree of richness, a great seam of acidity running through the palate. Good texture, with some oak sweetness on the finish. Still youthful, confirming a suspicion I had that these would be in better shape than the pinot noirs. A very good start.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

checking up on the 2006's



Much has been written about Le Clos Jordanne, by better and more articulate people. I just want to write about what these wines mean to me.

Le Clos Jordanne, as you all know, is one of the most highly-regarded, if not the most highly publicized Niagara wine. A lot of digital ink has been devoted to its story, how the French came with their money, how its just like a Burgundian domaine in both vineyard and production, about how just this past year they changed the winemaker. Right. I'd heard about this producer in mid/late 2007, just in time for its 2005 vintage release. Alas, being in school and in little Waterloo, I had no chance of picking up any bottles. I drove all over Waterloo, even to Kitchener - of the outlets that received an allocation, all had sold out nearly instantly. Funny, imagining the hock-eating tri-city connoisseur, but that's what it was. It wasn't until late 2008, when the 2006 vintage was released, that I finally got my bottles. I picked up all the 2006's with the exception of the Le Grand Clos bottlings for both chardonnay and pinot noir. Something about paying $65+ for any wine that makes my ass chap.

They've been sleeping for nearly 3 years now, and I probably would have left them along longer if I hadn't tasted the 2006 Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir in May. In the glass, it looked orange, saturation fading out. Dried fruits on the nose, with the palate limping along badly. It was clearly time to start drinking. So, a bottle of each cuvée out the cellar, and with perfect timing too - we had family over. The three 2006 chardonnays I had planned for our Saturday barbecue. We'd begin grilling at 4, eating and drinking and talking well into the night.

I've got so much love for Niagara, but you have to have a balanced perspective with wine. Yes, LCJ has got so much potential, but for pundits to proclaim its greatness so soon, with so few vintages in the cellar? A bit premature, wouldn't you say? That's my purpose for this horizontal tasting of the 2006's. Being one of the earlier vintages gives an interesting look at the vineyards, but it should by no means be a definitive portrayal of the producer's true quality. Vines are just too young. So I'm trying to keep a clear perspective, and taking it for what it is - a piece of Niagara history, when dreamers came together and decided there was potential in the rolling hills of the Niagara Escarpment.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Mid-Autumn Festival


And just like that, summer ends. Our Mid-Autumn Festival today. Time to call back home to my grandmother and extended family. Moon looks beautiful. We didn't have a big dinner tonight, nor did we drink. Not in any celebratory mood. But it's good to pause a little and remember that I have a whole big family on the other side of the planet.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

remembering that day

2004 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon

10 years after that Tuesday morning, watching all the video and news reports still brings those feelings back. Shock, disbelief, sadness, anger . . . watching footage of the planes hitting, the towers come down still makes me physically ill. We spent the day at home, watching the news, watching a few of the tv specials about 9/11. It's all still horrific. But what stood out most strongly for me was the sense of humanity shown. At least here, in North America.

Last night, we drank a bottle of that most American of wines, a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. It wasn't by design. Just didn't know how else to mark the occasion. I wasn't personally affected by that day. But you don't have to be to feel the horror and profound sadness. My God. Ten years on, it still hurts.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

King Brewery Vienna Lager


King Brewery Vienna Lager

Can it be? Did I happen to stumble upon the greatest lager brewer in Ontario? Calling it Vienna Lager means nothing to me. Because who the fuck cares about a Vienna lager unless we're actually in Vienna. Absolutely delicious beer though. Great roundness, that hoppy character on the finish, beautiful. The glasses are new too, my aunt brought them over for me. I generally don't like drinking anything out of heavy crystal glasses, but these are exquisite. You see that pile of prosciutto and chorizo in the corner? It's my new thing, cured meat and craft beer.


Friday, September 9, 2011

the thick cut of wagyu

DSC_9399 DSC_9447


Our wagyu dinner featured two different cuts, both off the loin. That last piece was an A5 grade cut of wagyu; this is an A4 steak. Nearly an inch and a half thick, quick dark in fact, with that amazing marbling throughout. Cooked very quickly in its own fat again, seasoned simply with sea salt. With such an exquisite protein, you certainly don't mess around and try to be fancy. Because if you can't appreciate the finest piece of beef in the world for what it is . . .

Dark, gamey almost. I cooked it rare, beautifully caramelized on the outside. Look at the video, where you see me slicing it open. Perfection on a plate. Round, intense, tender, silky; perfect in flavour and texture. Until the next time I have the opportunity to eat wagyu again . . . I'll have fond dreams of this meal.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

oh wagyu


DSC_9414 DSC_9421


Can't help myself, look how beautiful these are. A5 grade steaks from Hokkaido wagyu cattle, seared quickly in a hot pan with its own fat. Fragrant and intensely beefy, with the most amazing texture. Silky and round, with fat that just pours out of each bite. You'd think the fat tastes greasy - you'd be wrong. With an almost cleansing quality, even the fat tastes like beef. I can get easily worked up about food, but for the first time, I was speechless.

The definitive beef experience of my life.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pop the top

DSC_9427 DSC_9428


Luckily for me, my friend took photos while we prepped our wagyu dinner. And he got the shot of the Champagne that was causing all the trouble. This was the bottle with the cork that let itself go. You can just see the ring of mold in the bottom photo. Because the minute you start getting a little cocky, the cork puts you in your place.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

King Brewery Pilsner


King Brewery Pilsner

Summer means eating outside, charcoal, and of course, beer. Fine craft beers with so much character you don't know how you ever managed to drink Coor's and Molson. This summer's been a great one for Ontario beers. I've noticed a significant leap in quality, especially in the India pale ales. Just delicious. This isn't bad either.

We forget what true pilsner tastes like. Bitter, hoppy, clean, fresh . . . perfect with grilled food. I love beer, and all the drinking this summer has proven to me that Ontario makes as good of a beer as any American craft brewer. Well done boys.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Tasting 2010 Thirty Bench Wine Makers

2010 Thirty Bench Riesling

Middle of August, we took a day trip to Niagara. Having had bad food poisoning the day before, and thinking of doing a tasting first thing in the morning all of a sudden didn't seem like such a good idea. But you know this wino is all iron stomach and short memory right?

We set off early, but traffic in Toronto this summer has just been an absolute nightmare. Longer than normal drive there, but I went all lead-foot on the throttle as soon as we hit the QEW to make our appointment at Thirty Bench. Fun and all for our guests, but this was an important visit for me - it'd be my first taste of the 2010 rieslings.

2010 was a hot AND dry year, and very exciting for the red wines. If harvested prudently, the whites should be stunning as well. And why should a strong red vintage be mutually exclusive from a white one? Taking a stroll through the vineyard with a glass of riesling was lovely. The merlot vines were going through veraison, the sun was shining bright, and my upset stomach was but a faint memory. We tasted through the entire riesling lineup, beginning with the estate level Winemaker's Riesling, showing lovely citrus with that distinctive linear acidity on the palate. The Wood Post, showing some tropical fruit character. Steel Post, all minerals and tension. Triangle Vineyard a bit closed at this point, but revealing some lanolin minerality, and a delicacy.

Good tasting. Lots of potential. I would have expected a bit more extract, some more degree of ripeness from the perception of what this vintage is like. I'll have a much better idea in a few weeks when I taste more 2010's, in barrel and in bottle. Came back with a few bottles.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

you drizzle it on the greens

Columela Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The Spanish have a saying that one shows one's bravery on the dinner table. I like that. Because sometimes what's most frightening isn't the obscene or the shocking . . . it's simply the unfamiliar.

This was a good test to see what kind of eaters my aunt and cousin were. They hardly eat grilled food, and never at home. So, simple grilled vegetables, dressed off the heat with sea salt, pepper, and the most amazing Columela extra virgin olive oil from Spain. Bitter, vegetal, green, and raw, as delicious as olive oil can be. And they loved it. My aunt knows the trick about eating asparagus. We were warned to arm ourselves with air freshener after using the bathroom.

Lots of bravery shown around the table that night.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

what to drink with wagyu?

1999 Charles Ellner Seduction Brut                2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir

As soon as I put down the phone, I knew I had to get to work and make a list of which wines I needed to pull out of the cellar. My aunt called to ask what I wanted from Japan. As this video suggests, I went way, way, way, outside the box. Nothing too unreasonable of course, I'm not an animal . . . just a few wagyu steaks.

That ingredient would be the focal point of one of the most epic dinners I've ever cooked. I had two close friends over to share in the beef. They brought over a couple varieties of oyster and a slab of toro to start things off. My cousin likes oysters, but doesn't know how to shuck them. Guess that plane ticket over was starting to pay for itself. I pulled a lot of wines from my cellar - for this meal, I wanted to drink Champagne and the first bottle of LCJ pinot noir I bought. Both wines had been sitting for about 3 years or so. With family over, and the most amazing beef, there could not be a better time to drink some hideously expensive (for this poor wino) and rare wines. But first, a bottle of Dai Ginjo sake that my aunt brought over for me.

1999 Charles Ellner Séduction Brut Champagne

So, to start. With dinner, I usually begin putting together a menu around the wines I serve. With these ingredients, the wines must serve the food. Wagyu is so intensely of beef, with the most amazingly silky and rich texture that you really want a wine with high acid and minerality to contrast and balance. Tannins don't work with how fatty wagyu is; nor does overt oak character. What better then, than serving a vintage Champagne. High acid, aromatic, with the most amazing texture that only a mature Champagne can give.

And this wine was perfect. Not to mention that it opened itself. A first for me - it may have been storage or something more sinister, but a ring of mold had formed between the cork and the lip of the bottle. As soon as I took off the wire cage, the cork released itself. Shot vertically right into the lights. I've got video. At least none of the wine came out along with it.

Pale in colour, but beginning to show mature aromas. Rich, with the autolysis developing into a buttery, creamy profile. Lovely, with the fruit remaining fresh and vibrant. Rich texture, long, and as perfect as I could have hoped for with our wagyu. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula

And to end our meal, a few glasses of what I consider to be one of the gems of Niagara pinot noir. I had tasted the 2006 LCJ Grand Clos Pinot Noir at Jackson Triggs in May, and was startled to find it beginning to fall apart. Losing colour, aroma drying out, texture breaking up. The vintage was never a sturdy one to begin with, but this kind of disintegration at only 5 years of age is a bit troubling. Also because I have a couple hundred dollars of it in my cellar. Time to get drinking!

Losing some saturation, turning slightly brown at the rim. Drying red fruits, yes, but with that lovely clay warmth of Niagara. Floral and perfumed, showing leaner on the palate. Minerals still there, although the finish begins to drop off. Perhaps a bit past its prime, but a fascinating look at the evolution of a young wine, a young vineyard. A wine that means a lot to me personally. I've pulled all my other 2006's as well. The pinot noirs from the other vineyards I'm still getting around to tasting, but I opened the chardonnays when we grilled fish outside with my aunt and they were showing fabulously. Notes soon.

Epic all around. Wagyu and Champagne, just all love, all love.