Friday, December 31, 2010

Is that 7 or 6? - or both!

A few years ago my entire family in North America thought it would be a great idea to have a small family reunion in the Napa Valley. We made our way there from Victoria, BC, Edmonton, Alberta, Detroit, Michigan, and Baltimore Maryland. It was FANTASTIC!!

We enjoyed wonderful wines at some amazing wineries. I had been lucky enough to be connected with a sommelier and wine buyer at a major American restaurant, McCormick and Schmicks. He played a large part in establishing what was an excellent wine list at their over 60 restaurants around the United States. He gave me names of wineries and winemakers that we should see while we were there. Of course my wine saavy relatives came with fabulous wineries to visit too. As a consequence, we had an unbelievable visit. We went to Luna, Robert Sinskey - where your tastings come paired with different amuse bouche, Silverado, Tulocay, an all afternoon amazing wine tasting experience and many others.

On our last night together we stayed at a modern boutique hotel in San Jose. We were recommended a local restaurant with the greatest name, the Cantankerous Fish! Our knowledgeable waiter led us around their remarkable wine list, but in the end sent us toward a zinfandel none of us had had, called 7 Deadly Zins ($24.99 Fort and Foul Bay). This is a wine created by Michael and David at Lodi Vineyards in Lodi, California. It was so great, at least four bottles crossed our table, not to mention the Navan to cap the meal off, but that's a whole other story - the kind of nectar that family stories are created from!

Despite not being a huge Zinfandel fan, wait, this is becoming a trend - Joel Gott from Earls is a Zinfandel too, I was wholly impressed, and continue to be. The 7 Deadly Zins is available at the local BC Liquor store. It is consistently a  good wine, and compliments a great rib eye beautifully.

Last Tuesday, I ventured out to Oyster, a local restaurant sandwiched between Pescatores and Bon Rouge in downtown Victoria, BC. In fact, all three have the same owner, I believe. It was only the second time I had been, the first time being after a few glasses, so it was a different place! The wine list by the glass is good. The bartender and a waitress who was finished her shift and sitting at the bar suggested that we should have Sixth Sense Syrah - and that it was terrific. I had my eye on a Sandhill Merlot - which my buddy actually ordered, but I figured, why not venture out on a recommendation, those who serve usually know! I took their  suggestion and was poured my first glass. Wow - plums, ripe berries, and a great finish. I was impressed. One glass led to many more and my buddy switched immediately over too. The bottle label itself is also great with the back label having a poem on it, what fun!

Here it is from the back label:

I smell with one nose, an ancient black rose,
a memory lingering, briefly exposed.

I see with two eyes, through shadows and lies,
a secret revealing, wrapped in disguise.

I hear with my ears, three fallen tears,
echoing softly, heightening my fears.

I taste with my tongue, my panics begun,
four sides enclosed, melding as one.

I touch with my hands, a sinister plan,
five fingers discerning where I do stand.

I sense with my mind, a thought so unkind,
I’m trapped six feet under in a bottle of wine.

Of course, when I got home, much later that night, I had to check out the wine. I Googled it to see what kind of availability it had in BC. What a surprise when I found out that it was also a Michael and David production out of Lodi Vienyards! So this was their next wine - a rather wonderful attempt at a Syrah, just as good as the aforementioned Zinfandel! Obviously the winemaker is getting it right at Lodi Vineyards! I have not been able to find the wine anywhere in BC yet, but if it is at Oyster, it must be here somewhere. If you can grab a bottle - it is great for sipping or with a mild blue cheese or brie. I guess this one will have to be on the table at the next family reunion!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where is Osoyoos?

BC Wines have only recently received the kinds of accolades they deserve. That being said  - perhaps they deserve more. Rarely will you find them reviewed by the likes of Wine Spectator or any of the big publications. I am sure they have their rules etc, but really, BC produces pound for pound some amazing wines!
In Osoyoos, there are so many other fantastic areas - to be looked at another time, two fantastic wineries are Twisted Tree Vineyards and Young and Wyse Winery. Both are relatively new in the big scheme of things. That being said, Twisted Tree has been around for longer than Young and Wyse. Both wineries have thieir own stories - interesting at that.

Let's start at Twisted Tree. Chris and Beata Tolley are Calgarians. Beata is a CA working away in the corporate world and Chris a Computer Engineer. A few years ago they decided they had had enough of the rat race and the cutthroat Calgary world. They were DINKS and enjoying their lives. They found a small fruit farm in Osoyoos and took the plunge to buy it. Chris of course along the way had earned his designation as a sommelier and had indicated his interest in wine long before. At this point the two of them decided to jump the corporate ship and see where they could get in the wine industry. They decided to attend wine university if New Zealand to see what they could learn. They spent time not only learinng about how to make great wine, what to do to make it happen and make the grapes grow perfectly/ They toured fantastic Australian and New Zealand wineries to learn about the growing techniques and winemaking techniques and sent back a number of bottles to start their wine craft business!

They returned to Osyoss to begin a life there, carving out vines as they removed fruit trees. They aimed to grow grapes that otherwise could not be found in many BC vineyards. They planted some Marsanne, Rousanne, Tannat, Tempranillo, Carmenere and more. They wanted to show that the Osoyoos heat could withstand the different grapes, many common to the South American weather.

They began with many grapes bought from local farmers and created some good wines to start, but as their vines matured and they began to harvest more of their own they began to create wines incrementally better. In fact definitely yummy!

If you have tasted their 2007 Tannat, self proclaimed by Chris as the winemaker as perhaps one of his best wines ever produced you will understand the complexity of the wines they make. They recently began their second label called appropriately 2nd Crossing. You are probably thinking where can I get some, I have not seen it in the stores? You have not seen it, because it has already sold out. More to come in the new year, not to worry. The 2nd label was in no way 2nd rate, in fact it was on the whole a great wine in both the red and white form!

So what should you try - well in all honesty, I cannot think of a bad wine I have had from Twisted Tree. My favourites are the 2007 and 2008 Tannat, the Six Vines, a bordeaux type blend, the Viognier Rousanne, the 2nd Crossing red, and their Merlot. That being said, I have not yet been steered in the wrong direction when it comes to Twisted Tree. Get one, get a few and your palate will thank you.

So the really new winery is Young and Wyse. I spent an hour or so with Michelle Young last summer, and thoroughly enjoyed running through the gammut of wines that they produce. Stephen Wyse is the original winemaker at Burrowing Owl, remember those amazing wines they  produced a few years ago? His mom is Midge Wyse, who owns Burrowing Owl and he has created his own operation, producing some amazing wines. I am constantly amazed by the Merlot, the Shiraz and by their newly released blend.

Really for the pricepoint it is hard to come up yith a pound for pound better wine in BC. Most of these wines are under $20 and they are excellent. Stephen is the self proclaimed black sheep  of the Wyse family and so natuarlly appears on the label of the wine with a black sheep logo over the wording in the logo area.

This couple as well is producing some great red wine in the hot hot Osoyoos gardening area. Both wines bear tasting - run out and grab a bottle and let us know how they go down!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Earls adds to their wine list!

I know I know you are saying to yourself - Earl's Really? Why yes... REALLY!
I have always been a proponent of the fact that Earls has some great people creating their wine list. Pound for pound I have rarely seen a list with that many good whites and reds on it, and guess what - some fantastic BC wines feature! That being said I am not going to talk about the BC ones today.
Earl's prides themselves on consistent quality and excellent value for your money. WHen it comes to wine ( and actually I think food too), I think they accomplish this goal. My usual favourite for a bottle of wine at Earls is the Meomi Pinot Noir ($27.99 Fort and Foul Bay). This is a new world pinot that has body, fruit, and really speaks to you more like a merlot than a pinot noir - it is thoroughly wonderful. Hard to resist really. And... you pay $30 for it at the liquor store and $50 for it at Earls - less than 100% markup - good value too.

Of course through the Winter, you can go to Earls and on Wednesday nights every bottle is $10 less than the menu price - the value just got even better - especially for a wine at a restaurant. It is not the only good wine - so have a great look at some of their reserve wines and their premium ones too.

They have just added two new wines to their list, an Argentinian Malbec, called The Show and a Zinfandel from California by Joel Gott. I am not a huge Zinfandel fan, so my thought was to try the Malbec, even though I have had it before and liked it. When I asked the night manager for a taste, which they would normally not do with a bottle of wine that they do not serve by the glass, he obliged, what a great guy! That actually has been my experience at Earls, they aim to please the customer and will do what it takes, the sign of well trained empowered employees!

When we tasted the Joel Gott Zinfandel, it was a surprise. It had good fruit, but was not overpowering as a Zinfandel can sometimes be - it was an emminently drinkable wine just on its own, let alone with food. We were having a little calamari, steak and spinach salad and really the wine worked with it all. With the fried calamari, I think I was actually craving a tarter white, but that was just me maybe. With the salad, and it sounded like with the steak too, from the rumblings I heard across the table, it really worked. Wow - another great find at Earls. This one was on the menu at $34, and so on a Wednesday it was a paltry $24 - pretty darn good if you are going out for a bite to eat and something to drink.

Definitely check out the Joel Gott Zinfandel at Earls and for that matter the Meiomi Pinot Noir and The Show Malbec, they are all great. More about Earls Wines in the future!

What am I drinking Lately? - California

So I was in the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store a couple of weeks ago and ran into my favourite husband and wife wine experts. As usual, I asked for wine recommendations (he has never steered me wrong in the past!). He was very excited about a hot hot curry they had eaten the night previous and the wine that just seemed to work perfectly with it. Now those of you who have tried to match a spicy hot curry with a wine, will know that this is not an easy feat. I do it all the time, only because really - wine goes with anything, no? That being said he steered me to the Purple Cowboy - Tenacious Red ($19.99 Fort and Foul Bay) from California. With a name like that how can one not buy at least one bottle!!
He also suggested two others, a Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($19.99 Fort and Foul Bay) also out of California and Apothic - California Red 2008 ($16.99 Fort and Foul Bay).

So here is my take on it:

Purple Cowboy - Tenacious Red
This wine was a huge surprise. Some great fruit initially and then a smooth yet luxurious finish to it too. Some raspberries and cherries maybe even a blackberry or two. i have to say for a Californian wine under $20, this really is a yummy wine. I had it with a couple of buddies, some NY striploins, tonnes of french fries and some French brie. Let's just say the wine did not last long in the bottle - always a good sign. Lots of: " This is from where? This is how much?, This is really good!" I wholeheartedly recommend it - it is a yummy wine for your buck.

Apothic - California Red - I have to admit we had this wine on the same night with the same food - and..... with the exact same reaction! This wine is how much? And really it tastes this good? My recommendations from my friends at Fort and Foul Bay are still 100%. The Apothic is a little more complex, but still very fruit forward and has a finish to it, it does not just die in your mouth. The huge vanilla that I tasted certainly reminded me of the Yellow Tail, when I first tasted it, I am not taking that as a positive sign, but hey - you judge for yourself!
I am always impressed with some of these California winemakers who come up with these terrific blends that aliven your mouth. Whether they are trying to create something amazing or whether they are using up grape stock - they are having some good success! Definitely run out and grab a couple of bottles of these wines, you will not be disappointed!

I have not forgotten the Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon - it is just still sitting in my wine rack, lonely and unopened. To be opened soon and of course I will let you know what I think. It was the most expensive of the three coming in still under $20 but only a cent under! It is well rated by those outside rating people (who by the way never seem to ever rate anything from BC!) - so I am eager to see what it tastes like. More soon!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

So it Starts!

I have been thinking about putting together a blog for so long now, that it was just time to DO IT as Nike would say!

These are all my thoughts, no particular expertise - just what I think. People often ask me for my advice on restaurants or wine or great coffee places, perhaps even for a recipe or two here and there... so here you go. Take it for what it is and leave it if it does not appeal to you.

Have fun and enjoy. Life is way too short for bad wine, bad coffee, bad food or for not enjoying all of the above!