Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taste - The Main Event

Kathy McAree has been working with an amazing group of volunteers for a few years now to create a premiere wine tasting-food pairing event for Victoria. This year’s Main Event was a testament to the success she has achieved in this respect.

Many of BC’s top wineries were represented at the evening, pouring a wide variety of excellent wines. Additionally, there were some culinary masterpieces created by some of Victoria’s top chefs, pairing beautifully with the wines on offer.

As I entered the Rattenbury designed Crystal Garden, where the food and wine was showcased I was greeted by smiling volunteers offering me a Riedel wine glass to use for tasting for the night.  Next came a terrific smoked chicken Long John with cucumber salad and citrus yogurt from Garrett Schack at Vista 18.



Painted Rock is making some terrific wine and have added a Chardonnay to their arsenal of cult favourite wines. The Red Icon is still my favourite, but John Skinner’s stories about the making of the wine really made them all that much better. Skinner is the proprietor of the winery and has really sparked its success.

As I turned to check out the next food table, I was met by the fabulous meat concoctions of Corey Pelan at the Whole Beast. His offering was neither mainstream, nor everyone’s cup of tea, but, anyone who walked by missed out on a fabulous appetizer. It was perfect with the remnants of that Red Icon in the bottom of my glass.

                         Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Wellman Photography
                         http://www.rwellmanPhotography.com/blog


Of course, there was no rhyme or reason to the order that I covered the room. It was hard not to run into the group from Lure at the Delta Ocean Pointe. They had created a fabulous dessert, so why not, did it really matter when I had chocolate in the evening? The dessert described in a fabulous French accent was a goat cheesecake mousses on a cocoa wafer with sour cherry and a chocolate covered coffee bean for crunch. Absolutely fabulous, and quite frankly the crunch was just perfect against the softness of the mousse.



I backtracked and came to Red Rooster Vineyard, where they are making a dry but very drinkable Gewurtztraminer. It was perfect with Sam’s, from Bistro 28, sablefish tartar with chili lime vinaigrette. A fabulous melding of crisp flavours and freshness.  Around the corner was Mount Boucherie winery producing an absolutely delectable Gamay Noir. They produce some other great ones too, but the Gamay Noir is far and above my favourite of all their wines. I re-traced and wandered by Moonstruck cheese. Perfect to get me going for the next wine. I ventured over to Hillside winery to try their Muscat Ottonel. A great glass of wine, with some elements of sweetness and fruit, but a good dry finish as well.

More dessert was brewing at the Paprika Bistro station where Anna Hunt had dreamed up a spiced chocolate shortbread with chocolate mousse and candied local rhubarb. It was chocolatey, but the rhubarb cut that richness perfectly. Of course the perfect pair for me was one of my favourite BC wines, the Pinot Noir from Blue Mountain. Christine Fawcett was pouring for Blue Mountain and it was just as expected a great glass of wine. She was quick to refer me to her husband at the station right beside hers who was pouring for Blasted Church. This is not a winery that I have spent a great deal of time drinking, but their Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot was the Gold Medal winner as the best red wine at the All Canadian Wine Championships. It was a well deserved accolade. I have been on a search at the liquor store to find myself some of that wine, it is full bodied, with great fruit at the front and some round tannins giving it a smooth finish and a wonderful taste on your tongue. An excellent glass of wine. I had to try it twice!




                         Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Wellman Photography
                         http://www.rwellmanPhotography.com/blog

As I made my way upstairs to the second level, I was impressed to see the winemaker himself, Howard Soon pouring at the Sandhill table. Their Gamay Noir and Pinot Gris were both fantastic, as attested by the lineup for this station! Next it was wonderful fresh Morels at the Forrester’s table from Olympic View Golf club, They paired with some chicken liver pate, which went beautifully with the Gamay Noir!

Seven Stones is located in the Similkameen Valley just before you get to Osoyoos and always produce some excellent wines. I thoroughly enjoyed the Row 128 Merlot. It was full bodied, lots of raspberry and a great finish. Definitely going to pick this one up when I pass by their winery on the way to Osoyoos next month!



Sumac Ridge is a wine I like sometimes and not so much at others. My friends Blagica and Jess were pouring at this station, and I must say the 30th Anniversary Tribute Sparkling was fabulous as was the white Meritage. They went wonderfully with Gord O’Neill’s Porchetta a la Romana from Butchart Gardens kitchens.


I think that Venturi-Schulze produces some quality wine and balsamic and my tasting with Marilyn and Michelle at their station just verified that for me. The Brut Naturel was fabulous and the Brandenburg #3 was unmatched – sweet syrupy yumminess!



The vodka from Victoria Gin was mind numbingly strong in comparison to everything else I was having, but that being said, tasty and one I will seek out for my occasional vodka-soda!

What a fabulous evening of food and drink. As I prepared to leave at the end of the night and the chefs were making their exits, a multitude of local berries was proffered up for those who might want them to take home or to much on while leaving, wonderful sweet juicy raspberries and strawberries, just the perfect capper to the night!

Taste – The Main Event is just that fabulous evening out that Victoria needs in the middle of the Summer. A chance to get in touch with all of the wonderful food and wine we are so lucky to have access to in our beautiful city and province. Well Done Kathy! Well Done volunteers! A wonderful opportunity!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A little taste of Seattle!

Seattle seems to be on e of those cities that is just overlooked generally by the American public. People talk of their culinary and cultural experiences in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, heaven forbid, Las Vegas, but rarely does the Pacific Northwest and Seattle come up. Yet there is so much there. Maybe I should just shut my mouth and keep it to myself and continue to enjoy each and every visit over the border!

Really heading to Seattle is as much about the shopping, for so many different things as it is about Seattle itself. Certainly when you are travelling with an 11 year old, it is more about the shopping and the fun than ever.

Of course there are the two factory outlet malls, the have not and the have. First is the have-not, the original factory outlets in Burlington, Wa. Now really there are a number of great secrets at this one. First of all, LuluLemon. This is the only truly factory outlet LuluLemon I have come across. They have a store in Vancouver, but the pricing is not that much better than in the stores. AT this one, the prices are great, if you are willing to spend some time looking. The Coach and Gap outlets always seem to have deals that are way better than at any of the other outlets, maybe that is me imagining it all, so I can keep the romantic notion of visiting this very unvisited mall!

Of course, if you come to Burlington, you may as well hit up Costco too. And not for the electronics or the massive slabs of meat, which are all terrifically priced, but for the wine!!

Where else can you get the 7 Deadly Zins, a favourite of mine since a visit to the Napa Valley, for $10.99? This wine is $25 in the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor store. Or the Stag’s Leap Artemis for a mere $36? There are deals to be had here. You need to have your LCB guide with you or know the pricing well, but if you want to drink good wine each night, you can, and not pay much!

The first meal was at Applebees, I know, a chain and not known for their amazing food. But we needed nourishment and so in we went. They have Steamed vegetables and a side salad as an option for an entrée – wow are we in the USA? And they were good to boot? The salsa that came with the appies was fresh, as in, I think they may have made it, who knew! We had some wonton tacos with pulled pork, a steak quesadilla fried up and some boneless chicken wings, all white meat and surprisingly not bad. All that along with unsweetened ice tea, a personal favourite for $20 total, how can you go wrong. Great during shopping nourishment!

Of course that was the same night as game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and after a vigorous soccer game, some nourishment was in order again. This time is was Bob’s Burgers and Brew in Tulalip, Wa, near the Premium Factory outlets, the haves! These outlets have Banana Republic to Adidas and Kenneth Cole. Some nice stuff, but the prices were still relatively high. Bob’s was full of Canuck fans cheering on the boys. The mighty cheer that erupted when the goal was scored was so much fun! We indulged in some cut vegetables with Honey mustard dip, and were wholly surprised when enough fresh vegetables for 4 came out on a platter, really are we in the USA? We added on some lightly fried prawns and smiled happily. The wine was a Columbia Crest Merlot, and was fine, but nothing to write home about.

The next morning on the way to the next soccer match, we made a stop at my favourite Seattle coffee place, Café Vita. It took a little bit to remember exactly where it was and to cut up and back through the streets near Key West Arena, but we found it. Café Vita roasts their own beans and have a few outlets in the Seattle area. The one on 5th Street is a small darker place with some effervescent staff who make a wonderful Americano. By all accounts they make a pretty darn good hot chocolate too! They have a full line of Top Pot doughnuts, and marvelous croissants to muffins and loaves. It is worth the trip, and really represents the essence of the coffee culture of the Pacific Northwest.






























Lunch that day after the game and before the third game was at PF Changs. Despite being a chain of Chinese restaurants, they are consistent from place to place and the service is fabulous. Their specialities are many but the Chicken lettuce wraps and the tempura green beans with hot sauce are awesome. We had both for our lunch with some more unsweetened ice tea to wash it all down. They are really very consistent and the food is hot, well made and tastes yummy, how can you go wrong!

After the 3rd game, the plan was to attend the Sounders-Whitecaps game at Qwest field. We headed down a couple of hours early, found a great parking spot in 1st Avenue and went for a walk. We read menus, looked at gem stores and basically enjoyed the warm sun that was beaming down. Thinking a snack was in order we searched for a little place for me to have some wine and for us to share a little cheese. Well we found a little place located in a hotel called BOKA, Kitchen and Bar. They were having Saturday Happy Hour, so we thought why not. Well for $3 or $6 you could have some pretty darn good fare. We opted for the Truffle frites with homemade ketchup and Aioli and the warm nuts and olives, a house favourite. I started with a little Washington number, a Steppe Cellars Rattlesnake Hills 2008 Riesling. I explained to our most helpful waiter that despite our proximity we were privy to very few Washington wines and imagined that beyond an ice wine or two they were not privy to our best, what a pity really! This Riesling was fabulous. It was a little less sweet, but had wonderful overtones of green apple on the nose and just one of those pleasant linger in your mouth finishes. Then the warm roasted almonds, wonderful marinated olives and some of the most perfect frites (and I am an expert on frites!) arrived. How wonderful to compliment the wines. Our table agreed that this patio experience in the sun was starting out fabulously well. I decided to opt for a red wine next to change it up a little and went for the DiStefano Winery from the Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend on the recommendation of our server. What an amazing wine. A little hint of vanilla with some cherry thrown in and a great finish . As I sipped on this one, we decided to order some Harissa beef skewers, a perfect match for the red. These three skewers of tender beef were wonderful and spiced just right. In the mean time, our server seeing that I was enjoying the Washington wines brought along a sample of the Distefano Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and a Kana Winery Tempranillo 2006 from the Yakima Valley. The Sauv Blanc had wonderful honey like sweet undertones with some citrus and apple on the palate. The Tempranillo was a great version, with some good farmy pinot noir qualities to it – and that is a very good thing from a guy who loves a pinot noir. This was a fabulous experience both from the food and the drink perspective and one that will need to be repeated on a future Seattle venture.





Another trip to Café Vita on Sunday rounded out the experience as well as a finishing wine trip to Costco to re-stock the cellar a little. What a wonderful time in Seattle all in all from all perspectives! Plan your next trip!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cheesalicious

Cheese really is one of the world’s most scrumptious foods, especially with a great bottle of wine. Cheese can make a wine taste fabulous and wine can make a cheese taste amazing!
My two favourite cheese shops happen to be on one side of the water and the other. One across the strait in Vancouver and one here in Victoria, literally down the street from me.

Interestingly enough there are some remarkable similarities, or not. Charelli’s on Foul Bay Road in Victoria has aptly named themselves the Cheese Chicks. It is a gaggle of fantastic women who know cheese, love cheese and make buying cheese a wonderfully pleasurable experience. They have a teeny tiny store stacked full of cheese, specialty foods, meats, tapenades, pates, crackers, chips and a whole lot of of other delectables. Carmen who is the ultimate cheese chick runs the show with Nicole and Lauren enchantingly smiling at you and helping in anyway they can. They proclaim to have the best sandwiches in Victoria, and with the quality of the bread, cheese and meat, I have no doubt they very well could. Many a time I have named a wine and the cheese chicks have found the best cheeses to compliment the wine, and rarely are they wrong.


Across the water, interestingly enough we have the cheese hunks. The Benton Brothers, Jonah and Andrew along with friend, Ryan, These men of cheese might get as many visits from female buyers for their hunk status as they do for their cheese and other goods. The Benton Brothers have two locations on Cambie and Kerrisdale with a soon to open location on Granville Island. They are cheese importers and bring in cheese from all over the world. They have been known to provide for restaurants as well as cheese shops in BC. In fact some of the cheese at Charelli’s comes from the Bentons! The Bentons too, have amazing sandwiches at their Cambie location. They smoke their own duck breast, have amazing salamis and cheeses and just today introduced a smoked meat sandwich filled with fabulous cheese curds.

Andrew Benton




The Benton Brothers have chef experience and extensive cheese education in their background, so they can tell you just about anything you want to know about the cheese you are eating, it’s bouquet, the tastes you will experience and can help with wine pairings

Interesting how these two wonderful entities, Charellis and Benton Brothers mirror each other. Perhaps the cheese chicks should visit the cheese hunks for a throw down?!
Either way, you cannot go wrong the cheese menu, the amazing sandwiches and the friendly cheese seducing smiles will keep you coming back for more on either side of the water.

Check them out, you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lost in Cyberspace?

Well Good Evening!
 I must apologize for virtually being lost in cyberspace. I am never fond of people who write blogs and then do not take the time to upkeep them. I have so many stories I want to and need to write about, I cannot even count them all. It has been a pretty tumultuous last couple of months! In the end, I have decided to leave the profession that I have been in for the last 20 years to pursue something new. I have always felt that life is full of possibilities to be created and we can do anything that we create for ourselves in this life we live. Over the last couple of years, i have found traits in myself that I did not know existed, or at least had been supressed and I have learned about who I am as an individual. i suppose that this blog was a part of that self-discovery, and the feeling that when you think something should happen, JUST DO IT!! NIKE had it right.
So I have spent the last couple of months figuring all of that out, and it has taken more energy than I had anticipated. I am ready to come back to the blog and tell you about my recent favourite wines, restaurants and foodie experiences. I have to apologize to my wine distributor friends, who left with me with some awesome wines and then probably thought, OK what happened? The thoughts about those spec wines are on their way, as are a myriad of other thoughts about the foodie world. Cannot wait to put a few posts up, look for them in the next little while!
Glad to be back, and so at peace with decisions that I have made to forge forward in life!!
Chat soon!
Shrawan

Friday, March 25, 2011

Venturi-Schulze Tantalizes Crossfit Zone - The Art of the Marilyn Story!

Crossfit 102

Saturday, March 19, 2011
7:00 p.m.

The Crossfit Zone (www.crossfitzone.ca) community is just that. A group of great people, who love pushing themselves to that threshold athletically in the gym and aiming always for the best, but who outside of the gym enjoy wonderful camaraderie, fun and good times as well. I wrote a little while ago about Wine 101, hosted at the home of two of the members which ran through seven of the main grape varietals and gave everyone a chance to experience a little of the wine world.

This time, I was privileged enough to host the group. I decided that we instead of tasting across varietals from different countries and vineyards, that we would highlight one winery/vineyard, and thus one winemaker, and would experience different wines from the same vineyard. Who we would highlight was really quite an easy decision. One of the oldest wineries on Vancouver Island, is the family run Venturi-Schulze (www.venturischulze.com). Marilyn Venturi (nee: Schulze) and Giordano Venturi along with Marilyn’s daughter Michelle Schulze, have created a labour of love in the Cowichan Valley. They have exacting standards, grow their grapes without chemicals and do much of the work around the vineyard themselves. They are famous not only for their wonderful wines, but they craft amazing balsamic vinegar, with starter that Giordano brought from his hometown of Modena, Italy in 1970.

Marilyn is the consummate storyteller, and we were so lucky that she was our guide through the wines of the winery for the evening. We started with the Brut Naturel KS Cuvée 2008 (available at Spinnakers Liquor Store in James Bay or direct from winery $35). Marilyn had ensured that she brought proper sparkling wine glasses from home, and explained to us why once we all had a glass in our hands. The wine formed a layer of bubbles at the top of the liquid in the glass. Upon first sip, the bubbles were responsible for a smooth and creamy sensation on the palette. It was like drinking a rich drink, with tiny bubbles that tickled you. Certainly having had a few sparkling wines in my time, this tasted like a very expensive French champagne, and really I am not a huge sparkling fan. It was not sweet and not dry, it was ‘just right’ as the Three Bears would say. Marilyn did explain that the old wives tale that sparkling wine goes to your head faster than non sparkling is actually true. The carbon dioxide causes some sphincter to stay open and for the wine to flow into the stomach faster and thus into the bloodstream faster. Regardless, it was yummy, and my feeling was, let this get to my bloodstream as fast as it wants, it tastes wonderful! Venturi-Schulze does not use any sulphites in their sparkling or any additional sugars. The wine actually ferments in the bottle until ready for drinking. With this wine, we had some pork and beef sliders with Italian seasonings, a garlic aioli, avocado and tomato. It was the haute cuisine, Crossfit version of a burger and beer!!

So onto wine #2. Ah yes, the 2009 Indigo( Spinnakers Liquor Store James Bay or from the winery $27). This was a special wine for the evening. Why, you might ask? Well we had no oysters…the aphrodisiac of choice on the west coast, so instead we had Marilyn bring the Venturi-Schulze version, this wine. Marilyn explained to us all that with some men, and women, this wine brought out the “tiger”, but not for everyone. It seemed that after tasting this one everyone remained around the group, but no accounting for what may have gone on later in the night! This wine had some definite fruit at the front, described by a few people as mandarin oranges. It was not overly sweet, but had enough fruit in it to just make you sing Yummy! It was definitely a favourite in the crowd, hopefully for all the right reasons!!. With this wine we had lasagna cupcakes. Marilyn had indicated before the tasting that the Indigo would be great with Bechamel sauce. The lasagna cupcake was an attempt to infuse that sort of flavour to be paired with the wine. It was layers of wonton wrappers that substituted for the pasta, with marinara and mozzarella, provolone and parmesan cheese, with some spinach too. The final layer was a piping of ricotta and cream cheese with some nutmeg stirred in to give that béchamel type taste. The wine and the cupcake worked well together and really brought the floral qualities of the wine out.

The stories behind the wines from Venturi-Schulze are a wonderful part of trying their wines. Having Marilyn tell the stories makes them all that much more compelling. Even the names of the wines, often random in their nature, are interesting. The third wine was the Felino, which is named for a small town near where Giardano Venturi, the winemaker, grew up. The wine itself is a bright and crisp white. The Pinot Gris in it lend some wonderful fruit overtones. The orange citrus is a wonderful flavour, while the acidity of the grapes blended well with the barbecued ribs that I served with this wine. The ribs disappeared in no time, just like the wine, which was obviously a fan favourite. The ribs had been cooked for a few hours in Phillips Slipstream ale with a little maple syrup and a whole lot of spices. Their slight sweetness and spice blended well with the wine.

Pinot Noirs, as highlighted in Sideways, the movie, have earned a cult following. Generally, my experience is that either people really love them or they just do not care for them all that much. When presented with the Venturi-Schulze version, really, it is hard not to love it. Their pinot noir has the earthiness typical of many pinots, but the fruit forwardness of the wine tantalizes the tongue immediately and the smooth tannins make it a wine that slides down the gullet very easily. Giardano has done a masterful job of taking what was a difficult year of grapes in 2007 and crafting what is an amazing bottle of wine.  The common comment as the wine was poured was: “Oh I can smell the farm”! To me the sign of  a great pinot noir is the farm – you can smell it and then the fruit just takes you away. That is exactly how I felt with this one. It was cherries and blackberries on the tongue, and then melted away beautifully with smooth tannins and a full bodied finish. Obviously well crafted and engineered by the winemaker. With no malolactic fermentation, this really is a wine to behold. I only wish I could get a chance to try the reserve version as well, which sounds absolutely divine. With this pinot, I served some braised beef in Indian spices on a fresh mini-naan bread with a cilantro pesto yogurt sauce. The spices worked well with the smoothness of the grapes and really brought out the sugars and the fruit. Would definitely pair these together again.


The final wine of the night was the absolute best story. The Brandenburg Number 3 has recently been voted best local after dinner drink by Monday Magazine. Marilyn gave us the entire story behind it, and really given the current movie climate out there it was so a propos. A story of Giardano and his shyness and stuttering, and his amazing afternoon as a youngster sipping the fermented juice destined to make Balsamic vinegar in Modena. He, similarly decided to craft Brandenburg Number 3 in the same way, and he has done so SO successfully. A wonderful nectar full of sugars, yet dry in some senses, that just rolls of the tongue and tantalizes every taste bud.
It was like having a caramel treat, when your mother is not looking. Just that yummy and that decadent, but so accessible. I paired two very diametrically opposed dishes with this wine to showcase its diversity. We had both a chicken curry with Basmati rice simmered for a few hours, with some fresh cilantro and caramelized ginger as well as an orange, fennel, almond biscotti handcrafted in my oven, and providing just that hint of dessert that accents a wine like this o well. Really the wine tastes all that more amazing after you hear Marilyn tell the whole story of its origin, but really, just get a bottle and find that special someone and sit down, and drink the whole thing….it is divine!


That was it for the wine, but Marilyn is so generous that she brought some verjus as well as the infamous Balsamic vinegar for all to taste as well. She crafted , well actually her daughter Michelle Crafted a sorbet from the verjus, which is the not so sweet raw juice of harvested grapes. Wonderful to cook with, and as Marilyn mentioned to de-glaze a pan with, when cooking, well ANYTHING! Even raw, the verjus had a wonderful grape flavour and just that sourness that makes eating a pickle so wonderful. 


The balsamic, made from starter that Giardano brought from Modena in 1970 was amazing. It had a subtle sweetness to it, that would lend it to be distributed wonderfully over some fresh tomatoes with fresh cracked pepper, just as well as it would be over some great real vanilla ice cream. It would be the highlight in either instance. This vinegar is true and wonderful. The true foodie will appreciate just how wonderful it is and how it can accent so much that you create in the kitchen.


So, in the end, what an amazing evening. We had story upon story from Marilyn, wonderful wine, some great food to go along and of course the camaraderie of the Crossfit group. Even Marilyn commented afterwards about the wild Crossfit group, and the nurturing atmosphere created. If you get a chance make an appointment and get up to Venturi-Schulze Vineyard. These guys know what they are doing, do it with love, do it with care and do it because they know what they are doing – absolutely stellar!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just Shiraz you say.....Pity!!

When friends invite you over for a blind shiraz tasting there is only one thing to do, go with wings on! So it went for a BLIND shiraz tasting. It was well-organized and formally conducted. Here were the rules of the game. Everyone had to arrive with a light appetizer and a bottle of shiraz. There were no rules for the shiraz, could be at any price point and could be from any country. The key was, of course, that the shiraz deemed as the best would win a prize. That being said, the one liked least would get a booby prize too!

Each shiraz was secretly brought into the house, absconded and taken to a secret location where it was dressed with a jacket preventing anyone from knowing which wine was which! Once all the wines had arrived, between fabulous cheese plates from , who else the Cheese Chicks at Charellis, the tasting began. Each Shiraz was poured and individually we each rated the shiraz with a number between 0-100 and by making some additional notes.

The shiraz grape can be huge and fruit forward, especially when it comes to the Australian kind, but we had shirazes from France, Argentina, Italy, South Africa and Australia. The complexity of the wines varied as did the heaviness.

In the end, the amazing happened. Every single person chose the same wine as their favourite. From a group of 10 people, this is relatively uncommon. The Shiraz most preferred by the group was the 2008 Nederburg Shiraz. For a wine selling in the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor store for $12.99 that is a big comment. It beat out other shirazes from Australia in the $30-40 range.

The next best wines were all very close in the end. One of the top contenders was The D'Arenberg Wild Pixie 2008 which is a shiraz with a little Rousanne grape mixed in. It sells for $29.99 at the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor store. The wine that seemed to be lieast liked was from an Italian Vineyard and was called the Cusumano. It sells for $17.99 at the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store!

Nevertheless, the fun of the blind tasting and then discovering the wines was fabulous! The cheese was wonderful, and the company was even more terrific. Another excellent wine night!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Impromptu Gatherings - More wines to sample!

I have to admit that when I started writing this blog it was just a way to let friends know about some of the wines I am drinking, what I am enjoying and my suggestions on which wines I think are pretty darn great. When I was contacted by a wine distributor (Philippe Dandurand Wines) I was wholely surprised. When she said she would be happy to drop off some wine for me to sample at my front door, it went from surprise to elation to surprise again! Really, someone wants me to try their wine! Wow~!

When it was suggested that I try two French wines, I was intrigued. Would they be old world, would they be too sophisticated for my self educated palate? They arrived, one red and one white. The red was called FUN and was a Beaujolais by Georges Duboeuf ($13.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) and the white was a Dourthe La Grande Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). I have to say, I was skeptical to begin with. Were these really wines they wanted me to try. Were these just gimmick wines aimed at a particular part of the population? Perhaps it was latent reticence that left me waiting a couple of weeks prior to putting these wines into action. A buddy called on Friday at about 5:00 p.m. and said he wanted to go out for a glass of wine and something to eat. Instead, I said, I have a couple of bottles of wine here, why don’t you join me, I’ll cook and we can chat in my kitchen at the bar!

So over he came. We started with the FUN Beaujolais. We were eating prosciutto, a little French Brie and homemade chicken curry with basmati rice. We both took a little snifter of the wine in our glasses and drew in the aromas. It had a good fruit forward nose to it, with some strawberry and a little plum on the end. On first taste the opening comment was, that it does not fight with your palate, it is an easy to drink wine. There were definite flavours of blackberry, currant, but overwhelmingly there was some strawberry. This was not a huge tannic wine, it was a lighter crisper, fruitier wine with a good finish. It was yummy and I have to say, surprisingly so. Would this be a complex wine to have with a heavy piece of lamb or with prime rib, probably not, though it would do just fine. With curry or spicy food, this is an excellent choice. Who said you cannot have red wine with curry? A good choice for those in your circle who might not be huge red wine fans, but want to be a part of the red wine crowd. I had read some of the online reviews and sure enough it matched up very well.



Next it was onto the white, the Dourthe. The initial nose on this wine is citrus with some good grapefruit and lemon combined.  As soon as the wine hits your tongue you can sense the lemon, but not in a puckery bad way. It is almost as if taking in the best part of the rind, no bitterness, just a great lemony scent and flavour. This is a wine you have a sip of, and then feel that compunction to just have to have another sip. It goes down easily and leave a marvelous aftertaste in your mouth. This wine tastes like far more than its sticker price, which usually means a price increase will eventually hit the BC Liquor store, always seems to happen to the good ones. With a good chill on it, the wine is crisp, has little to no aftertaste and just really goes down well.




I will have to check on what my next assignment is from the wine ladies as I am calling them – so far has been nothing but a pleasure. Check these two very different wines out – you will be pleasantly surprised!

Impromptu Gatherings - Debaters Galore!

The best nights are sometimes the ones when you say to your friends, hey do you want to come over for dinner tonight, an hour before you want them over. You are not really sure what you are going to make, what you are going to serve, but it is still fun to entertain, open great wine, chat and let it fall as it may. A couple of weekends ago that was exactly the case. Was after the High School Regional Debate Championships. The organizers had worked hard all day, it was only fitting to say come on over for a good steak and some great wine. So that is exactly how it went! About an hour after it all ended we were nibbling on prosciutto, brie and readying ourselves from some great New York striploins.  We had some reticent red wine drinkers in the crowd, so we started with an 8th Generation Riesling ($19.99 at Matticks Farm VQA Wines) from Okanagan Falls, BC. I have been waiting to try this wine. I had it on good authority from Chris and Beata Tolley at Twisted Tree Vineyard in Osoyoos that this Riesling was fabulous. I tried to get to the winery last Summer, but it seems as far as I thought I had driven, it was yet further. I found a bottle at Mattick's Farm VQA store in Cordova Bay, so I had to get it and put it in the fridge. This was the perfect opportunity to open it. So I did, and it was just as fantastic as it had been portrayed. It had some huge citrus on the nose, with some orange and watermelon on the tongue. The prominent sugars mean that it rolled onto the tongue easily and ran easily down the throat. A beautiful German style riesling, and with wonderful grapes. Definitely one that is worth searching out if you can find one. From there we did move onto some red wines. Before the steaks went on the BBQ we opened the Cotes du Rhones Villages Perrin and Fils Rasteau from France ($21.99 at Fort and Foul Bay). This was another recommendation of my Fort and Foul Bay Wine expert and once again he did not disappoint. This was a typical Cotes du Rhones. It was earthy with flavours of tobacco, a little smokiness and leathery. It had some good fruit on the tongue with currants shining through everything else. A good wine to begin with, though if I had it to do again, I would have served this one with the steaks – I think it would have matched up well.

Of course, most were craving beef in the rare to medium rare category and thus a great deal of red meat appeared. It was combined with some spinach, garlic lemon mushrooms and salad on the side. One of the guests had brought a bottle of Five Star Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, Washington. I am the only person who enjoys saying Walla Walla? Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla!! This wine was one that he had picked up in his travels, so not sure if it is available in BC. It is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with a little merlot in there for well roundedness. And well rounded it is. It has some great tannins, but not the overpowering Cabernet Suavignon type that can make your mouth pucker when you taste. These ones were balanced and made you feel like you were drinking an excellent wine. The nose has some smoke and perhaps a hint of coffee to it. The initial flavours and cherry like with a little chocolate and espresso on the side. This was an excellent wine. I will have to see if I can find it in BC. Perhaps in Vancouver!

The next wine in the offing was a deep full rich Malbec from Argentine called La Posta ($19.99 at Fort and Foul Bay). I have written about the Bonarda grape version of this wine too, this one is a little fuller. Deep tannins that really speak to you, but a long, ample finish that really has you thinking, this is good! There is some fruit on initial tasting reminiscent of blackberry and cherry. A little oak but really just a savoury tannin that travels like velvet over your tongue.

Since many were still in the mood, we decided to finish the night with something port or late harvest. Somewhere in the annals of my cellar I found a wonderful gift that I had been given. It was a small bottle of De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2003. This was a beautiful finish to the meal offering apricot flavours with some orange marmalade. It is not often that I delve into the Icewine or the late harvest, but this was a terrific end to a great impromptu evening. Some great wines and fabulous friends!





Impromptu Gatherings - Landmark Buddies

Sometimes the best wine nights are the ones that you never planned to have. The ones where good friends invite themselves over, you invite friends over, or just decide you need some company to open some new wine or good wine. It seems to be happening  all the time lately. Is it that I have this intrinsic need to open wine or that my friends have the same need!?

About a year ago, I did a little personal development, or whatever the jargon is for it these days and did some learning through an organization called Landmark Education. I went in skeptical, remained so all the way through and in the end I was blown away. It has been more than a stepping stone, but more like a cliff dive into a different way of living and approaching life. A huge part of the education and technology of the organization are the people you surround yourself with and the support that they give you in creating the things you want for your life. I have been oh so lucky in having quite a number of friends who have been just that support for me. Since it was about a year ago that the transformations began in my life, it was about time to have some of these great supporters over for an evening of some wine, a few nibblies and some great chat. A re-visit of what Landmark is all about, and a re-grounding is always a good thing!

It seemed destined to be a night of carmenere. My wonderful friend at Fort and Foul Bay had come through with another amazing suggestion for a wine, with the Winemaker’s Select Carmenere from Concha Y Toro ($18.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). When he was telling me about it in the store, a couple came up to the display and filled their basket with a dozen bottles proclaiming it was one of the best wines they had sipped lately. I think the comment made was, if I have to take a bottle of wine to someone’s house with me, why would I not take one that is well priced and tastes great!

The four of us sipping that evening, one never drinks, she is always the designated driver, usually vintage orange juice for her, all agreed that this was an excellent and under-priced bottle of wine. It’s nose was full of blackberry, sweet plums and underscored with a little smoke. Upon first taste, the tannic base hits you, lingers and never overcomes you. It just sits in your mouth and tickles your tongue. It is a wine that makes you think, oh wow, this is really yummy. Now, would a first time red wine drinker necessarily think it to be great, probably not. I think the tannins of carmenere, tempranillo and tannat have to grow on you as you drink more wine, but who am I to say – I thought it was quite an amazing wine.

We graduated to another carmenere brought by one of the attendees. So as the conversation wove itself through what was great in our lives and what we were creating next for ourselves, we dove into the Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere ($19.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). Of course same varietal after another only lends itself to comparison. Both wines had a great tannic base and lots of body. While the W Select just sat alluringly on your tongue teasing you, the Carmen’s finish was a little short. Perhaps if we had done them in opposite order, it might have been different, but still a good value wine and yummy all the same. We were sipping with a little cheese, some tandoori pork tenderloin, crudite with spicy salsa, baguette and prosciutto. Quite a variety of yumminess to go with the wine. Really either was happy on its own, but great with the food as well.

It was a fabulous night of amazing conversations, reinforcing of creations and just plain old catching up. We vowed that we needed to do it far more often, and to keep track of how we could help each other get to where we wanted to go. Always great to share great wine with great people!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crossfit Wine 101

To better understand the format: checkout www.crossfitzone.ca!!

JAN       SATURDAY ZONE FUN-NESS!
29th       Author: Shrav    File Under: Fantastic Nights - Zone Class Info

Hey Everyone!
Wine has been considered to be a drink of wellness and camaraderie. A recent wine tasting event at one of the Crossfit members' houses was a definite example of camaraderie, friendship, fun and a whole lot of wellness. This section is usually reserved for short diatribes about moderation and drinking too much and what drinking can do to you, but today's write-up will focus on the benefits of wine.



THE WORKOUT

BUY-IN: Read a little about the seven varietals of wine to be featured at this evenings workout. You will work your way through Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Suavignon. These are the most common wine grapes and produced in wineries all over the world. Of course these days it is not uncommon to find Tannat, Carmenere, Tempranillo, Viognier, Marsanne, Rasusanne, Malbec and so many more, but we will save that for our next workout in the cycle, Wine 102.
The Buy-in should start with 20 reps of glass pulls. Fill a Riedel wine glass 3/4 full of water. With forearms extended and elbow slightly bent lift glass toward lips, touch lips. In order to qualify as a proper rep, glass must be returned to table and not thrown down. Glass breakage results in a re-start. Next will be 20 reps of cheese spreads. You may want to do wrist loosening stretches prior to attempting this exercise. Take a spreading knife in your right hand and practice pushing down as if you were cutting a soft cheese like brie. After taking your imaginary dollop on your spreader, use your free hand to reach straight in front of your body to grasp at a piece of baguette from B-RED by Brad. Spread the dollop on the bread without bending your elbow with the spreader just in front of you. Repeat. Warning on this one, salivary glands may be activated causing slight drooling. A pile of Chalk on the kitchen counter will be useful in catching any moisture escaping your mouth. When you have finished your Buy-in you should be ready for today's WOD. Good Luck with it!

WOD: "Team Winey Cheesy"

Email 14 of your buddies and invite them over to sample some amazing wines brought in by Everything Wine in Langford,BC and cheese from around the world, of course brought to you by Charelli's Cheese Chicks on Foul Bay Road. This is a tough one gang, but if you scale appropriately you should be able to make your way through the evening. Carefull with the Cash-Out, it can be dangerous at times, for some athletes. If you are unsure about how far to go or when to stop consult with one of your coaches. They will guide you in the right direction.

Under the direction of guest coach, Jeannette from Everything Wine Gym and her assistant Alexa, gather a wine glass and stand with it directly in front of you outstretched. You must keep the glass in this position until Alexa has poured the wine.

Once poured, flex your arm at the elbow bringing the wine glass to your nose. Put your nose as far into the wine glass as possible and inhale. This is called getting the "nose" of the wine. Discuss with your team what you smell. Perhaps honey, cherries, grapefruit, grass, barnyard, tobacco, leather, smoke, citrus or nothing!

Once you have found your "nose" take a small sip sucking air around the sip to get an initial taste for the wine. Discuss with your team what you taste initially. Now use the spreader thruster action from your hips to put some cheese on a piece of baguette. Enjoy the flavour, add some duck rillette or a little artichoke dip. Re-sip your wine and note further nuances in the flavour perhaps enhanced by the cheese and bread or made more forward.

This WOD is to practice style and correct movements, not for time. Repeat six times keeping reps at each different wine level about 5-3-1.

Here are the wines you will want to hit for this WOD, not all of you will appreciate all levels, but enjoy all that you can:

Sauvignon Blanc - Cono Sur Organic  2010 - Chile - $15.99 EW
                             Citrus, Grapefruit, Green Apple, Grass



Chardonnay - Terra Incognita 2008 - France - $23.99 EW
                       Light Oak, buttery on tongue, almost no nose, unique chardonnay



Riesling - Gunderloch Fritz 2008 - Germany - $17.99 EW
               Nose of gasoline, flavours of lemongrass, apricot, anise



Pinot Noir - Valmoissine - Louis LaTour 2006 - France - $24.99 EW
                   Nose of farmyard, flavours of fruit, strawberry, a little cherry



Syrah - Esprit de Granit 2007 - France - $34.99 EW or BCL
            Smoky nose with flavours of tobacco, cherry and smoke, oak



Merlot - McManis 2008 - California, USA - $24.99 EW
             Jammy nose with flavours of toffee, blackberry, plum





Cabernet Sauvignon - Langmeil Blacksmith 2006 - Australia - $33.99 EW
                                   Nose of Eucalyptus, flavours of vanilla, smoke, jam





Take rests in between sets and take time to have some of the cheese ranging from Brie to Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiger blue to applewood smoked cheddar.

Cash-Out: Try some choclate dipped strawberries and then if you dare a team excursion to downtown Victoria with Coach Dee and Coach Shannon to celebrate Dubs birthday....and beyond.


POST SCRIPT: This was an amazing evening hosted by two of the Crossfit family. I use that term not loosely at all. It became evident through the evening as everyone chatted comfortably, what a great group of people the gang from Crossfit is. It was like old friends were getting together to enjoy an evening. Jeanette from Everything Wine, had done a great job of picking some very interesting wines, which were fodder for great conversation, and made the cheese plates go quickly. My favourite was the :barnyard" pinot noir. Pinot's do have a reputation of sometimes having a barny nose to them, and this one did, but ultimately the fruit forwardness of the flavour won out, for me, perhaps not for others. There was not a bad wine on the night, all of them, different in character spoke to us differently but in a great way. It truly was a magical evening, and so was the "Cash-out" party - but that is a story in and of itself! Next WOD Wine 102: The Sequel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Should I Eat Today?

I was thinking about how to talk about some of the amazing eateries we have in Victoria, and I thought about the ones I have been to over the last month or two, and really the best way is to just give it to you as a wish list of a perfect day!

You stir in the morning as the alarm blares and think about how you might spend you day off, where will you go and what will you do. Of course you have to first justify your day, so it is off to Crossfit Zone for a little pain and pleasure. What a great gang of coaches and community members - make every second of time spent there worthwhile, and of course every second of time spent there makes the eating and drinking all worthwhile - great symbiosis! So after a WOD ( Workout of the Day) its time to head down to Vic West and perhaps some of Victoria's best croissants at Fol Epi. As you walk up you can smell the fresh bread smell coming from the wood fired ovens, simply divine. The croissant, as well as the strudels, danishes and oh my gosh the baguettes are divine. Cliff Leir, makes them fresh everyday, and if I ate there everyday, I would be the size of a Lear jet! But oh it is worth it every once and a while. A little cold butter, some strawberry jam... fabulous..Of course, now you need some coffee, so for me it's back to town and over to Caffe Artigiano where a creamy latte awaits. The latte with the croissant, one could be in France!

So time for a little shopping downtown. Have to hit up Outlooks for some great Men's clothes, Dale knows his fashion and does a magnificent job of blending classy and trendy. Perhaps a little stop in at Philip Nyren too, where it is slightly more traditional, but fun all the same. Almost lunch time, where to go? Really, my favourite place for lunch has always been Italian Food Imports on Blanshard. They make soup, sandwiches and pasta marvelously. The piece de resistance is the meatball sub. I get cravings during the day sometimes for those meatballs, perfectly spiced with a little cheese, some bread crumbs, and a tantalizing tomato sauce. Inside a whole wheat or white but and then grilled on the press with some cheese, wow! Sometimes I want the soup, always homemade so I get a few meatballs thrown in the bottom of my soup and get the best of both worlds. Really - you have to have a few meatballs. At $0.50 per meat ball, for $5.00 you can eat very very well! Massimo and Maurizo Segato have put it all together well and have created a winner in simplicity and good down home food!

Of course i could have opted for Pig too at the corner of Johnson and Blanshard, in their new digs, about 100X bigger than their last location. They do pulled pork beautifully, but they also do fried chicken splendidly, and fries and corn bread and and....very yummy, well worth a visit.

So now to a few of the local foodie type shops. Choux Choux Charcuterie has marvellous different types of sausages that are made onsite, as well as great cured meats including some Oyama Sausage and excellent cheese. The grocery area has marvellous French and other European specialities that are as much fun to browse as to buy. Of course back in Oak Bay, Ottavios, another great little deli/bakery has wonderfule cheese, meats and olives too. They bake some wonderful Italian style breads and have a frozen section with Sliced tuna to duck confit, Salad Dressings from David Feys and fresh pizza dough. Their Italian style grocery area has some marvellous little gems, like sea salts, saffron and so much more.

So now where? So many places to choose from. Let's see, where have I been lately. Paprika Bistro in Estevan. Anna Hunt their young but unbelievably talented chef is doing some amazing work. Her Onglet Steak with mushrooms is out of this world. On their wine menu they have La Posta Bonarda- yummy wine as well as the ever elusive Island born and bred Starling Lane Marechal Foch. This is a most interesting wine, and one that I often will take for friends and family who I might be visiting, to give them a little touch of what the Island is so capable of producing.

Brasserie L'Ecole is another wonderful location and perhaps one of my most favourite restaurants in the city. Their food is well made, well priced and served by knowledgeable staff. Not to say that does not happen at so many other places in this city, we are ultra lucky, it does, I just love Brasserie. The endive salad is my favourite anywhere with big roasted hazelnuts, bacon and yummy apples. The french onion soup is a meal in and of itself and the frites, all dressed with truffle oil, parmesan and garlic are so yummy. The wine list is predominantly French, but there are some great South American and Canadian spanners thrown into the fray too.. I have not even touched on the beers or the fact the menu changes seasonally so you are always getting fresh everything. Definitely check it out.

What a terrific day of food - so many great places and many that I have yet to talk about. Yummy!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's in your coffee?

Well if you are asking - there is nothing in my coffee. I love it black... just the coffee, give me drip, plunged, Americano, or espresso, I want to taste the roast, I want to taste the beans. Does the roast matter you might ask? You just need to get the beans to be a dark colour and then go for it right? Not at all. Ben Cram over at Fernwood Coffee Company that is fronted by the Parsonnage Cafe just off Cook Street takes his coffee bean roasting down to the hundreth of a second. He wants to make sure he produces a consistent flavour each time, but he wants to make sure he is getting the best possible roast for optimum flavour. I bought a home roaster a little while ago, so I needed to find out where I could get green beans to roast. I think that Fernwood produces some of the best beans in town, so I wandered down one day and struck up what proved to be a lengthy conversation with Ben. He showed me his almost brand new roaster that he uses to produce their roasted coffee in bulk. He gave me a few varieties with the promise that I would bring back the roasted beans and we would try them there at the cafe.



I took them home and did just that. I have to admit the roasting process is very precise and you have to be around as beans go from great to burnt in a VERY short amount of time. Once I had done my first batch, I ground it and used them in my Rancillio Silvia, a wonderful home espresso machine - all brass innards! It was actually not bad at all. It took me another two roastings before I was willing to take some beans down to Ben. But I did, as promised and we did two pots of personal drip to compare, same beans. In the end, his roast was a little more refined and its edges a little smoother, but the comparison was actually much better than I had anticipated. I think he might have been, slightly impressed too!

Really a truly great roast for a fabulous espresso comes from a medium roast, rather than anything too dark. I think many people associate strong with dark dark - and that can be the case to some degree, but it can actually be that dark is associated with burnt and that is associated with strong! Fernwood Coffee does a great dark roast with its Strongback Blend, but their espresso blend is quite fantastic. The other master roaster is Geir Oglend up at Drumroaster in Cobble Hill. He has been in the coffee business for years and his understanding of coffee, roasting, machines and pouring is quite unparalleled on the Island! I always try and get into his shop when I am up that way. His son pours an amazing espresso shot and knows what he is doing with milk and frothing. He can make a 1% or skim milk taste like cream with his steam wand - thus making for a terrific latte or cappuccino.



Such is also the case at Caffe Artigiano downtown at the Bedford Hotel. The baristas there are very well trained and use multiple stainless steel vessels to create their steamed milk. Again they can make milk come out like cream. When I crave a latte in town, I usually try and make a quick trip down on a Saturday morning.

I do also like the shots being poured at Discovery Coffee on Oak Bay Avenue, but have to admit that I prefer the espresso to the Americano when I am there, not sure why, almost like the flavour is being diluted. Demitasse Cafe on McNeill in Oak Bay pours a darn good shot as well - though as always it is barista dependent. That being said it has been a while since I have been dissatisfied with my Americano!

So there you go, a few adventures in coffee in the Victoria area, as well as for those of you looking for great beans. By the way Drumroaster and Parsonnage Cafe both do their own cooking and baking and make some fabulous sides for your coffee. The fruit nut scone at Drumroaster and the lemon square at Parsonnage are amazing. Parsonnage also does perhaps the best BLT you have had on fresh bread - it is worth a trip even just for the sandwich. I try and look away from the maple pecan twists at Drumroaster - I am sure there is enough sugar, butter and calories to last me a month in them - but having sampled one they are yummy!

Enjoy your local coffee experiences we are blessed to have so many wonderful spots. Traveling across the country and afar field in BC it is hard to find the quality we enjoy here!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Night of Wine Tasting!

One of my first posts on here was about some great wines I had tried recently, the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy. In the same post, I talked a little about the great wine list at Earls and some of the fabulous wines they have! The blog post was forwarded to the agent for Trinchero Family Estate wines (creators of the Joel Gott Zinfandel and the Show Malbec). She contacted me and wondered whether I would be willing to try a couple of other wines that are created in direct competition to the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red. She had her Island rep drop off two bottles, the Menage a Trois ($17.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) a combination of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produced by Folie A Deux Winery and The Show Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). It all sounded like it needed to be a social gathering with some fun. So, I went out and purchased a bottle of the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy and invited some great friends over to do a "blind" tasting of all four wines.


There were three couples and three singles, so 9 people tasting in total. We had our local "cheese chick" from Charelli's on Foul Bay Road match some cheese for us, but really that is a story in and of itself. I emailed the self-proclaimed cheese chicks at Charellis where I usually get my cheese and a fabulous baguette produced by Brad from B-RED, the pastry chef at Zambris. I wanted them to match some cheeses so that we could get the most out of the wines. I got an email back saying that they knew the wines and would usually be happy to help, but that they were on a well-deserved vacation after Christmas. I asked for at least some suggestions of names of cheeses that I could perhaps find elsewhere, but I got no answer back on the email.

I arrived home on Thursday evening and there was a paper bag hanging from the inside of my mail slot. I took it down and opened it up to find, yes you guessed it, four different cheeses individually wrapped and labelled (Montasio, Etorki, Roquefort and Tomme de Savoie). They had gone in on their holidays, chose the cheese and then delivered them to my door. It really is what makes Victoria the great city it is to live in, but more than anything it speaks to Charelli's, their community mindedness and their willing to do what it takes for their customers, they are fabulous people!!

So now I had wine, I had cheese, and I had great guests to help me taste the wine. I set about to create a few food items too, so that everyone had some nourishment for the difficult tasting process! Some braised 12 hour curried beef, pork tenderloin salsa, chipotle chicken cucumber bites, and then some nuts etc to graze on. We were ready! I placed each of the wines in a paper bag and labelled them and taped them off, so no one new which wine was which. We did three different tastings. We compared the Menage a Trois vs the Apothic and The Show Cabernet Sauvignon vs The Purple Cowboy - Tenacious Red. The final tasting was to compare all four wines and to pick an overall favourite.

The results of the tastings were actually very interesting. Each wine definitely had its own character. The first competition was between Purple Cowboy and the Show Cabernet Sauvignon. The Purple Cowboy had a terrific fruit nose to it, with ripe berries coming through strongly. The first sip was fruit forward, with jammy tones, though the finish was a little disappointing. The Show Cabernet Sauvignon had a smoky nose to it with some oak to it as well. The first sip had cherries to it as well as tobacco. There was a real drinkability to both wines, but consensus had it that The Show ranked higher than the Purple Cowboy. That being said, there was a little Purple Cowboy left in the bottle that I drank the next day, and on its own with out any comparisons, with some pork tenderloin salsa, it was very yummy - so it is all relative really!

The second competition was between the Menage a Trois and the Apothic. The Menage a Trois had a wonderful fruity bouquet. Again there were ripe berries as well as some vanilla. The first sip was full of vanilla, and a very sweet body. The wine almost came across as too sweet, perhaps accentuated by the vanilla. The Apothic was also vanilla forward in bouquet and initial taste, but had almost a chocolate finish to it. It is a dark and rich wine with good sugars! The Apothic won out as the best of the two, somewhat based in being the less sweet of the two, and having an excellent finish too. Again, the last of the Menage a Trois, I had the next day with that same Pork Tenderloin salsa, and the wine came across as a smooth, and fruit forward wine - on its own it is a fine sip!

Overall the group felt that The Show Cabernet Sauvignon and the Apothic were the two most favoured wines. The other two were good too, and really each wine had its own style and expression!

It was a very fun evening, with thanks going to Trinchero Family Estate Wines for providing two of the wines and of course the cheese chicks at Charellis for going above and beyond!

Another great night of wine...YUM!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Great Wine and Great Friends!

There are times when you need to take yourself out and enjoy a night out with good friends. It was time, and of course in order to partake in a great bottle of wine at a reasonable price, we went to, you guessed it, Earls again. It seems like I keep talking about Earls, they pay me no premium, well a small one, but more to come on that later! They have some great wines on their list and they are very reasonably priced. So last week, Earls Victoria had a contest asking what two of their three new wines on their menu were. Well Duh! I reviewed two of them so the Joel Gott Zinfandel and The Show Malbec earned me a $20 gift certificate!  We really wanted to try the Stag's Leap Petite Syrah 2006. So of course we did. WOW... that's all I can say. A beautiful bouquet smelling sweet and like an excellent wine, a dark jammy colour and then the flavour... wow. On initial contact like cherries, then some raspberries and finishing smooth and with the beauty of a very expensive red. I tell you to say it quite understately it is fantastic. Of course, save your pennies, take out a small loan, ask for gift cards for your birthday, but have this wine. If I were smart and my friends were as smart as me, we would go on a Wednesday night and save an additional $10, but it was not to be. The wine is not available in the liquor store as a petite syrah, so I looked it up at the winery in California. Online it sells at $38 USD, so at $63 on the menu and $53 on a a Wednesday, really it is hard to go wrong, it really is a memorable wine!
Have it with Steak, chicken fingers or even pizza - you will enjoy it!

Now I have to tell you we were very lucky!
One of the Earls staffers, who I have gotten to know over tha last little while came over and recommended the Fuller's Red Blend - the Rascal Down Under. It is one that comes from Barossa Valley Estates in Australia, and is made exclusively for Earls. Barossa Valley Estates has for many years won many accolades for their red blends. Well, I have to admit, it was hard after drinking a bottle of the petite syrah to drink a different wine, but it was surprisingly good, like wow, on a Wednesday the bottle is less than $30!!
Another great one to add to the collection.
You might have to get to Earls' in your neighbourhood soon. It will be worth it. They did not pay me anything to say all of that, it was just my experience... and a great one!
Check it out yourself!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Advice from Strangers!

Checking out wines at any liquor store is so much fun. I love zipping into the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store to see my favourite husband and wife wine advisors, or ducking into the Hillside Liquor Store to see the manager there - it is just oh so much fun. Of course, fortunately or unfortunately, it usually results in buying a few bottles, but, ah c'est la vie!

It is not very often that I will run into someone, who is happy to give their wine favourite(s) or  just listen to some of mine. Well was it not terrific that when I dropped by the Fort and Foul Bay store tonight, I ran into just that person. She was looking at a Roux Pere & Fils Pinot Noir ($19.99 Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) at the back of the store, so I asked whether she knew the wine. She then asked whether I liked Pinot Noirs! I had to stifle a smile - do I like Pinot Noirs? Is it going to snow tomorrow? HAHA!

She suggested it in the 2008 vintage with this one being the 2009 - so I had to take a bottle. Finding a really good old world Pinot Noir is not easy, and usually not cheap either! This one was reasonable and old world. And, as I sit here typing and sipping, it is an excellent Pinot Noir! Love it when that sort of thing happens.



Of course I made a suggestion to her as well. I suggested a unique wine, that I actually first had at Cactus Club downtown with a few friends, it is the Galil Mountain Merlot ($17.99 Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) from of all places, Israel. The group of us who were at the Cactus Club that day, did order a case, but in the end a third of the box was not good, not sure if that is the winemaker or the shipping from Israel. Hopefully, the merlot works out well for her!



Always feel free to leave your wine impressions of the wines I enjoy in the comment section, as I think the process of wine tasting is really a friendly and cooperative one. As well, if you have suggestions, please make them - how great is it to get free wine advice from fellow consumers! It made my night tonight!

Looking forward to enjoying some great new wines in the new year!