Monday, February 28, 2011

2005 Barolo

2005 Abbona La Pieve Barolo

2005 Marziano Abbona La Pieve, DOCG Barolo

I need to pay more attention to this producer. The first bottle I tasted, a 2005 Ravera, was just absolutely stunning. Brilliantly authentic and pure, just touching all those sensory sweet spots. Just all love.

So would this simpler bottling be as satisfying? Oh yes. Deeply. Such aroma, earth and truffles, minerals and red fruit. So aromatic, so elegant, with a concentrated intensity. Finely structured and grippy, but tannins are very integrated. Certainly very approachable and drinking brilliantly right now. What continues to amaze me with Barolo is how well the alcohol is integrated into the wine. These are all 14% abv and above, but show absolute balance.

True beauty.


1985 Vintage Port


1985 Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port

And onto the grand finale, the bottle I was most worried about. A 25 year old wine with a murky cellaring history (please let this be ex-chateau), why wouldn't I open it in front of guests I'm trying to impress? Fear not. The wine was in perfect condition, DF breathed a sigh of relief.

I had no idea what to expect of the '85's. Such a heralded vintage you almost don't know when to be serving it. Dark colour, very saturated - surprisingly, not as heavy in sediment as the '94 Delaforce. The fruit is so ripe, so concentrated, yet so primary. Slightly dried, but the density of the wine is incredible. Richly textured, with a long, chocolate-tinged finish. Delicious and absolutely caresses the palate. We drank this to end the meal, with a Valentine's Day cake and some traditional sweet Chinese glutinous rice balls.

Always a pleasure and treat to drink old wine. My friend correctly noted that it was tradition to finish a bottle of Vintage Port in one go. I like tradition. It's what separates us from animals.

I dutifully complied.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

2008 Niagara Peninsula

2008 Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay

2008 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Always a pleasure to be drinking LCJ. Our second wine, served with our sea cucumber and steamed fish. I like to open a bottle from the most recent vintage, just to gauge it's development, and gain a useful insight into how long I should put them away for. The 2008's are especially special to me, as this was the first Niagara vintage I tasted from barrel.

Double decanted and chilled, a deep gold colour. The oak is apparent at this point, this creamy, buttery layer on top of the citrus fruit. Not a big issue at this point, as it's such a young wine, but it seems LCJ chardonnay shows a lot of oak in its youth. We'll see how this plays out . . . I tasted these wines in tank, just before bottling, and the mineral aspects of the wine were much more apparent. We'll see.

Fruit is ripe, round on the palate with firm acidity. Harmonious, and finished with a subtle herbal character. Far too young to place judgement at this point - these wines need a good 5 years of bottle age to settle down.

Stood up well to the more assertive flavours of the food we were eating, but even then, still felt a bit too heavy, too viscous. Chinese food really needs a more delicate wine. Still a delicious wine though, if you just can't resist. But you should.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

1997 1er Cru Champagne

1997 Brochet-Hervieux Champagne

1997 Brochet-Hervieux HBH Cuvée Spéciale 1er Cru Brut

As always, I remain absolutely fascinated with Champagne. There's been a lot of interesting debate about terroir in Champagne, whether it's being expressed, whether it even exists. They don't hesitate to label their wines as Grand Cru or Premier Cru . . . so what does it all mean? Is there a perceptible difference between these wines based on the origin of their grapes? Is vineyard character still recognizable irrespective of the blends? And is there such a thing as lieu-dits in Champagne?

All questions I will ask in person, soon enough.

Our first wine of the evening, starting off with a 1997 Vintage Champagne. My first '97, let's see how these are developing. Cork letting go with a soft, satisfied sigh, wine a pale gold colour. Toasty nose, showing the beginning of maturity, some richness. Ripe apple on the palate, showing great flavours of autolysis. Focused, minerally, and very long. Drinking beautifully, very delicious, and wonderful with our first few cold dishes.

Chinese food and Champagne is magical. And if we're going to talk about value, Vintage Champagne is a great one.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Popping open my first


We move onto the wines. Many more courses were served, none of which I documented. Something about keeping a smooth service going and making sure the food got to the table hot.

Opening our first wine of the evening. Very happy that all the wines showed beautifully. Vintage Champagne, Niagara chardonnay, and Vintage Port. No glasses were broken, no wine was spilled, no one got drunk . . . a good night of drinking.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

King of the seas

Sea cucumber

Seafood is king in my house. Meat's alright, yeah? A hard sear, some aromatics, and it's pretty much ready for the table. Seafood needs a bit more of a delicate touch, some finesse. Especially when you handle the king of the seas.

Sea cucumber, braised in a pressure cooker and slowly simmered until they melt in your mouth. Finished with fresh bamboo shoots and a dust of shrimp roe . . . absolute decadence.


Clams and expensive wine

Savoury clams

And with the rest of the clams, quickly done on a very high heat with julienned ginger, green onion, and a splash of the chardonnay we were drinking. No seasoning needed, just a simple concentration of the clams briny, savoury flavour. Cooking with a proper wine doesn't hurt either.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Steamed eggs over clam

Steamed eggs

There, I did it, I perfected it. Steamed eggs hiding the most amazing clams. Dig in to find a surprise in every silky, aromatic mouthful.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting the wines ready


A few weekends ago, we had friends over to celebrate Lunar New Year. Among them was a fellow who has a very impressive (expensive) cellar. He has the odd cases of Champagne, Vintage Port, Burgundy . . . his heart, however, is in Bordeaux. Expensive claret, he don't play around. I've seen Yquem, Mouton, Lafite, Le Pin, Pétrus lying around down there.

My friend is always very generous with his wines - some of the oldest wines I've drank were from his cellar. I vividly remember the '86 La Lagune, the'91 Mouton-Rothschild, the '90 Veuve Clicquot, all master classes in what wine can achieve.

And so I try to return the favour.

It's pointless trying to go toe to toe with someone who's been buying wine longer than I've been alive, especially someone with such deep pockets. So we'll go in another direction entirely. I try to share Niagara wines, wines that they don't normally drink. For this year's dinner, a Niagara chardonnay from possibly one of the top producers in Ontario, and a 1997 Vintage Champagne that was hopefully beginning to mature. The food and wine served, soon . . .


Monday, February 21, 2011

Vintage Port sediment


I don't know what people do with the dregs of decanted Vintage Port, that last 1/2 inch or so of sediment-filled wine. I filter out the large chunks with a fine mesh filter, leaving me with about a glass of dusty wine. Drinks just fine, although I can see how some people might be a bit leery about drinking something with particles floating in it.

In any case, better than pouring it out. Or doing something stupid like spreading it on toast.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

1994 Vintage Port


1994 Delaforce Vintage Port, DOC Douro

Any chance to taste the 1994's is good. Maybe in hindsight not as fine a vintage as '77 or '85, but these are still very, very young wines. Lots and lots of sediment pouring out of the bottle, a clear indication of the amount of concentration in this wine. Drunk in the middle of winter with some lamb, just delicious. We've talked about this before, no, drinking Vintage Port with dinner?

This is still dark in colour, beautifully lustrous and saturated. The purity of the fruit is stunning, slightly dried in nature but very intense. Minerals and a subtle mocha character flooding out of the glass. Refined palate, focused and balanced, elegant and resolved tannins. Dark chocolate and spice.

Almost makes you not want to share.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

2008 Mosel


2008 Markus Molitor Riesling Spätlese, QmP Haus Klosterberg, Mosel

Back to Mosel, forgetting that Toronto's still in the middle of winter. Markus Molitor is a well-regarded producer, but we rarely see it here. Yes, I know it's a huge shame to drink these wines so young, blah blah blah . . . I just wanted to drink it.

And it was delicious.

Tropical fruits, forward, with an underlying minerality. The 2008's are ripe, but they do lack that acidic structure. Very primary at this point, but how can you resist.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Le Screwpull


I got a new toy. A true and proper Screwpull. With a little registered ®. My friend ROKChoi says that he never buys gear that doesn't serve to improve his craft. Agreed. So why do I need another corkscrew? Because I love to drink Port and old wine, that's why.

With bottle age, corks degrade and become fragile. So fragile that they crumble when you draw them with a levered corkscrew. What a Screwpull does is gently pull it in a vertical motion, allowing you to draw out even old, wizened corks intact. I'd broken the corks halfway for the last 3 bottles of Vintage Port I've opened. Flecks and cork crumbs, I can deal with. Half an old cork rattling around in the bottle? Unacceptable.

Welcome to the family.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

2008 Salento


2008 Ampelo Malvasia Nera, IGT Salento, Puglia

This should be a simple solution, a simple choice . . . either use natural cork or screwcap. Simple. I just don't understand these producers who insist on using synthetic corks, plastic or rubber. Why? Cost? Looks? The fact that it sinks into the bottle as soon as you drive a corkscrew in? And of course, the bow on top has to be one of the most ridiculously heavy bottle I've ever come across.

The wine? Like a cheap red Sancerre, all sweaty fruit. Lean on the palate, turning slightly confected on the finish. Typical Italian red from an obscure region right? For every good one you find, you're assured that a shitty one's coming right up behind it.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011



My father is no fun to drink with. No fun at all, so my reaction to his declaration that he could drink me under the table was, well, to laugh. How would such a thing be determined?

With a fiery Chinese spirit, of course.

A true Chinese drink, 五粮液, from the town of 宜宾. As the name suggests, made from 5 different grains. A perfect accompaniment to our Lunar New Year's dinner. Perfumed, floral, rustic, with a sweetness and thick texture on the palate. And despite the (extremely) high alcohol, worked with our seafood heavy hotpot.

As for who won? A 25 year old who casually puts away two bottles of wine per sitting against a sipper who's pushing his late fifties? Please, wtf do you think happened?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gooooo-ey duck


On a cold, snowy early February night, we sat down to celebrate the Lunar New Year . . .


. . . and I bought a geoduck clam . . .


. . . and it was delicious.


Monday, February 14, 2011



I hate Valentine's Day. Something about not getting any and being subjected to a nonstop online kiss-fest all day from people who can't keep their business off of Facebook. And yet inexplicably, I wore red today.

Imbecile, sigh.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter in Toronto


Winter here isn't so bad. Not as bad as people outside of Canada think it is. We were on the phone with relatives in Shanghai - does everyone really think we live in constant sub-zero temperatures here?

This is pretty much as bad as it gets. That Wednesday 2 weeks ago when it was supposed to be snowmageddon. Heavy at times, but nowhere close to the forecast amount of snow. This is when I start missing living in Waterloo, when a snowfall actually meant we got some snow.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Prepping the stemware


I'm having friends over for dinner tonight. Crucial that my stemware is absolutely spot free. I don't take as much care for myself - we're all busy, a few water spots is a necessary evil. But that's an unacceptable flaw for my guests. So, got to get to work. A bit of steam, a few towels - let's polish out those smudges.


Friday, February 11, 2011


How do you prepare 15 dozen of the most delicious tea-steeped eggs for your mother's Church function? Like this.



Thursday, February 10, 2011

DF is so depressed

DF bowtie

I was talking to a friend last week, and of course, the conversation meandered to our mutual desperation to go on vacation. Winter is depressing me out man. My friend referred to it as feeling so blahhh. She wants to go to Cuba. I want to go with her.

But we can't always get what we want. At least . . . at least I can drink myself until I dream that I'm on a beach, drinking mojitos and rum.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tasting, physical and mental

1995 P.S. Baumler Becker-Erben

Does tasting require a competency in a set of physical skills, as well as mental? I've been reading Neal Rosenthal's book Reflections of a Wine Merchant for what seems like the 10th time, and it seems like yes, physical prowess is indeed a requirement for a full appreciation of wine.

So how do you get there? Robert Parker claims he was born with a more sensitive palate (something about literally having more taste-sensing papillae on his tongue) than average, making him a naturally gifted tasted. Sort of the wine-drinker's version of middle aged, Porsche purchasing overcompensation. It's an American thing. But if that were the case, should we be resigned to the fact that people with an average number of papillae will never become good wine tasters? And by implication, that we'll never be able to truly appreciate wine?


Yes, I agree that the palate needs to be trained. Yes, book knowledge is also critical. But this (American) idea that one can simply be born a naturally gifted wine taster? Nonsense. What so many critics and writers are obsessed about, but won't name, is a matter of taste. Simply put, some people (Parker, Trump, certain Indian billionaires), have no taste. While I don't deny that Parker has an experienced palate, I will absolutely deny that he has good taste. Yes, you might have the means to throw a $78 million wedding for your daughter but with 80% of Indians living on less than $2 a day . . . . . enough said.

So the real question is - how do you acquire taste? Money helps. As does a family with a cellar holding old bottles of the usuals (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Mosel, Barolo). But can you really acquire taste if you're self-taught, if you have no prior experience at all with wine? Or does it come naturally, like the man who doesn't need a magazine to tell him what he should be wearing, driving, smoking . . .

I guess we'll find out. No one's a really accurate judge of themselves anyway. Right, Bob?


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chiado Restaurant


It's tough having a limited entertainment budget. I don't get to go out for dinner with friends as much as I'd like to. Of course, frivolous spending at a certain bar doesn't help, but we won't get into that.

Dinner with a friend, for the first time in months. Good chance to catch up, at what some regard as one of the finest Portuguese restaurants in Toronto, Chiado. And they certainly uphold that fine dining reputation when you step in. Waiters in pressed white shirts and black vests, aprons. Soft, muted lighting, very refined. Nice tablecloths. Clientele ranging from middle-aged professional types to the elderly who still dress their finest for dinner. A little stuffy for this wine consultant, but we were there for the food.

And it was wonderful.

Fresh ingredients, simply cooked, no fuss. Pure flavour of the sea. To start, we shared grilled squid, tiger shrimp, and sardines. Delicious on all counts, and they were kind enough to divide them into two separate plates. The squid, just grilled perfectly - tender, fresh, and unbelievably delicious with that subtle layer of lemon juice. Shrimps showing how wonderful they can be if cooked on fire, with lovely slices of spicy pepper. And the sardines. Deboned, which is not really necessary, but just a dream come true.

Then, the fish. I had a dorado, what the French call dorade, what is also known as sea bream. Grilled whole, just like in the south of France. Fond, fond memories of eating this fish during my time in Nice. Plate of vegetables on the side, less successful - the butter was not working for me. My buddy had pan-roasted skate wing over risotto. Crumbly, tender, perfect in texture and flavour. Wonderful.

For Portuguese food, definitely went for a Portuguese wine. Extensive list, and I went for a wine I've never heard of before, discovering a new region. From Sado, a 2008 Casa Ermelinda Freitas Branco, DOC Palmela. Fresh citrus, minerals, with a lovely rich texture. Must have some sur lie aging, something to plump up the body. Delicious with the fish.

Wonderfully authentic cuisine, a maestro at the grill. Expensive though, which somewhat dampens the experience. Yes, the ingredients are fresh and quality is high, but for what the food is - this is not fine dining, and prices should not reflect that. Service is exemplary, discreet yet very attentive to details. Shame. I mean, even for two young men with healthy appetites, $140 per person (wine, tax, and gratuity included) is pushing it.


Monday, February 7, 2011

CSN Stores, once more


As a CSN Stores preferred blogger, I want to find good value. For you, and you, and you. So once more, I want to tell you about CSN Stores. A very impressive range of products, everything from Alessi pieces to wine accessories, to yes, even an L shaped desk.

How can you say no to that? Take a look, now. Lovers of kitchen tools and toys, this is for you.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the bone

Rib steak

This here is nearly 2 pounds of beef. A chunk of the most incredible rib steak, dry-aged and marbled. And it was all for me. You know, I tried doing a vegetarian diet, in an effort to boost my workouts. I lasted all of 3 days on tofu and greens.

Beef, baby. With a few glasses of old Rioja . . . happiness.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Getting ready

DF bowtie

Tonight's a big night - dinner with the family to properly welcome in the New Year. And of course I have a raging hangover right now from last night. A bottle of Sado, grilled squid, sardines, and nuzzling up to perfumed necks and arms don't go well together. Tylenol and caffeine. Got some errands to run beforehand, before yet another long night of drinking.

What do you call someone who hemorrhages what little money he has? A good time? A fool?


Friday, February 4, 2011

2006 Nahe

2006 Kruger-Rumpf Riesling Spatlese

2006 Kruger-Rumpf Riesling Spätlese, QmP Münsterer Dautenpflänzer, Nahe

I've never been disappointed with a Nahe riesling. Not even mildly. Vintages needs to get on this and start bringing more in; these wines are extraordinary.

Not a big fan of the 2006's, from here, Mosel, or Rheingau. Sort of flabby, a bit plush. But this one has the raciness I want, desperately needed in a good riesling. Doesn't have the intensity or absolute depth in texture or body, but this is a delicious wine. Linear minerality, perfectly ripe fruit, balanced and harmonious. The purity is stunning, the acidity perfectly framing the fine sweetness. Very, very long.

And very, very good.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Red fish

It's our New Year. Best wishes to everyone, as we say goodbye to the Year of the Tiger.

I'm a Tiger, 1986. Your birth year is supposed to be a big year, an important one. Mine? It was neither good nor bad. We'll get another shot at it in 12 years.

Dinner tonight with the family, lots of exciting things on the table. And lots of drinking too.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2000 Rioja Gran Reserva

2000 Burgo Viejo Gran Reserva

2000 Burgo Viejo Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Old(er) Rioja in the winter is a great treat. I love these wines so much - elegant and fine, terroir-specific, and wonderful with food. And what a wine this was. Complex, perfectly integrated . . . still youthful, energetic. Like a warm hug.

There's nothing quite like mature Rioja. Nothing quite like it.