Archive for the ‘Wine People’ Category

Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival

April 7, 2011

Oh well. After months of anticipation it came and now it is a fading memory. Like everything else, like life itself. Uh uh, I am very philosophical today. Must be the weather, a blast of sunlight bathing the whole of Metro Vancouver, beautifully bouncing back on the greenandwhite of the north shore mountains. Not to mention the mountains around Pitt Meadows, where I am staying after coming back from months in Lima. How can I afford it? Don’t ask.  The mountains, the sunshine. Simply adorable. Green, white and blue sky.

Back to the subject of interest.

Wine.

Playhouse Wine Festival 2011.

Ok, let’s say, I was busy manning the Badia Cultibuono booth, helping a most charming Italian expert, Emanuela Stucchi, who, in two strokes applied with great subtleness reminded me that I really know next to nada about Chianti. Will mention the wines in a later post. And then, had the great luck to man the booth with a couple of show stoppers, I am talking now about the Schloss Schonbrunn Rieslings. Oh my, what depth, what beautiful acidity, what amazing concentration and length… in fact I have found what I consider to be the best 20 dollar Riesling you can find this part of the world.

The show itself… well, let’s be real. It’s becoming a little bit of a joke. Big is not always good. Especially when it comes to something so sublime a drink as wine.

You still want a name or two? Ok. The South African Pinotage by the name Coffee. 15 bucks of sheer mocchajava aromas and flavors.  Threfeten Merlot 93pointer at around 40 dollars. Humberto Canale Cabernet Franc. (That would be Argentina, dude).

Let’s this show begin.

Of Chablis, Oyster Cebiche, Ocean Floor and Sensorial Glory

April 2, 2010

“I prefer the 2007 Chablis wines to the 08’s. They are more classic, with acidic minerality. 2008, which some favor, shows more fruit. But what makes Chablis different is the electric acidity, unlike that of any other white wine in the world”. I heard those words last night, tasting a flight of Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis wines. Today, enjoying a sip of the 2007  Montmains Premier Cru next to a Royal Miyagi oyster cebiche, I fully understand their meaning. Frederic Brouca, Brocard’s Manager Sommelier for North America, planted the idea in my head, when he saw my card. More precisely, when he heard my accent. “Where is that accent from” asked Frederic, with an accent. “Peruvian. Ok. Taste this. Would this pair well with cebiche?”. As it turned out, Frederic knows his Peruvian cebiche as well as his white wines. I tried to imagine the combination, sipping the Montmains. That intense minerality, like the memory of the soil itself, has connotations of marine scents. Which is not strange at all, given that what makes Chablis’ terroir unique is the presence of billions of marine fossils in the Kimmeridgian subsoil where the vineyards thrive. The acidity exacerbates those “memories” on my palate, tingling with very subtle fruit and a brushstroke of salinity. The finish is long like time itself, memories of ocean floors that have been, of floods, of previous episodes of earth warming. That is what the wine transmits, the vine only acting as a way for the earth expressing itself. “Oysters” I think. “Oyster cebiche.” I have a plan in my mind.

Besides the extremely lean and mean Montmains, Frederic poured a glass of the Boissonneuse, a Chablis of lesser appellation that is yeasty, richer. The lees are stirred on this one, which has also the hallmark acidity but allows the fruit to show more, in a nice balance. A good wine to discover the beauty of Chablis at an affordable price ($36-40). Next in the flight, the Grand Cru Le Clos shines on the nose, a breeze of green apple crushed in a stone mortar. The palate is equally delicious, and had not Frederic told me that this wine spends some time in very old oak vats, I may have not noticed the almost imperceptible trace of wood. Sfumato is the word that comes to mind. The acidity and marine minerality, impeccable. Magnifico. This wine is available in Vancouver in the 80-90 dollar range.

After saying goodbye to Frederic, I walk home with a demi-bouteille of the Motnmains ($25-28), already thinking of the half dozen Royal Miyagis waiting at home. I also think “damn, I wish I could speak French.” Somehow, talking to Frederic about wine, I felt the need for expressing myself in the language of romantic, culinary and enological endeavors. How can you speak in English of la finesse et la mineralite without sounding hopelessly clunky?

THE RECIPE

Enough of that; to the Cebiche. Shucked the oysters with a New Haven style oyster knife, the only kind that really works. Saved every bit of the liquid, the oyster’s “blood.” I used very little hot pepper, a quarter of a red Thai. I could have used even less, as any excess in the heat will negate the subtleties of the wine. Squeezed half a lime, perhaps a bit more. A few flat (Italian) parsley leaves, chopped very fine. Half a shallot, again, sliced very fine and rinsed in cold water. I waited not; oysters are at their best raw. The cebiche was stupendous. Would the pairing work?

I held the glass of Montmains near my mouth. My nose was aflame with the vapors from the lime, the Thai pepper, the oysters: The sea itself. Like a river that meets the ocean, those aromas blended with the ones coming from the glass. The intense acidity of the wine equaled that of the cebiche, the traces of marine minerality from the Chablis encountered their match in the flavor of the oysters still reverberating on my palate. I thanked God for making Chablis possible.

A bientot.

More Wines of IVSA March 21st

March 30, 2010

The week before IVSA, Alejandro Salinas of Marful Consultants told me about some Garagiste wines from Chile they are importing. So I was curious to taste these new products. Finally, on the evening of the 21st at the Four Seasons Alejandro poured the Polkura 2006 Syrah from the Colchagua Valley. I had to concur with Alejandro’s comments: the Polkura deserves all the recent scores garnered left, right and center. 90 Parker points, 90 Wine Spectator, Gold Medal at Syrah du Monde 2008. Decidedly Languedoc-ish in style (must be the dash of Mourvedre and Grenache Noir), smoky and full flavored, plus a very attractive, classic packaging, this Syrah rivals that other Chilean delicious Syrah, the Montes Alpha. The Polkura will retail in Vancouver at around $29. Don’t miss it. 

Robert Smith of Wine Quest was pouring the increasingly popular Scurati Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007. I already lauded this product but there’s always better things to say about it. This unoaked Nero d’Avola is all about being jammy, plump, intense and satisfying. I am sure Vancouver wine enthusiasts will learn to love Nero d’Avola through this rendition. 24 dollars well spent. When Robert poured me a sip of the Brunello di Montalcino Col d’Orcia (a 2003, 92 Parker pointer) he knew I would love it. He asked me, however, for my thoughts on a market for this wine in the 375ml format (32 dollars). I totally believe people will snatch this one. The demi-bouteille market is decidedly full of room for growth. The nose on this wine is so densely packed with aromas of ripe fruit and tobacco and mineral that one might forget to drink it. On the palate, outstanding balance in the medium plus body and great staying power. 

Enoteca Bacco didn’t have the delicious –and rare- Vigna Pedale Nero di Troia on this edition. Where can you buy this wine? I must find out for the benefit of the reader. Instead, signore Bellantoni poured me some Chateau Mourgues du Gres, the 2008 Costieres de Nimes Les Galets Rouges. 92 Parker points for this 20 dollar bottle don’t come across as an exaggeration at all. One of my favorite reds of the night, seething with the spicy waft and red fruit marmalade of a well achieved Syrah-Grenache blend. All the charm of the appellation plus an Argentinian sweetness in the tannins. 

David Herman Wine & Spirits Merchants’ booth was pretty busy and with all good reason. They were serving the Benegas 2006 Luna Cabernet Sauvignon ($19) and the Benegas Don Tiburcio blend ($22), both hailing from Mendoza. The former confirms previous assessments with its ripe dark fruit, sweet tannin and juicy, peppery full-bodiness. The blend, a passé-touts-graines sort of mélange that includes Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon was a surprise indeed, a very well balanced, smooth blend. These two I knew from before but the surprise was the Paradou Viognier and the Paradou Syrah-Grenache. From Cotes du Ventoux and both at 14.99, these are the little siblings of the well established Pesquie (Les Terraces and Quintessence) line of products. At this price they deliver all the quality you would expect from such a competent winery.  

 Sabrina Hira, of Appellation Wine Marketing briefed me on a set of newcomers to Vancouver, the Decero wines from Mendoza. The fairly recent winery has been making waves from the start and the wines tasted here did not disappoint. The Decero Malbec 2008  ($25.99) keeps in line with the plummy, juicy, slightly rustic style that comes to mind when you think of a good drop to push down barbequed steak, lamb and sausages. An “asado” wine. At the same price, I enjoyed the Decero Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, which starts with a breeze of dark fruit and eucalyptus globulus. Rich and satisfying, I see a good future for this CabSav in Vancouver. The Mini Edicion Petit Verdot was the darling at this booth, a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec. Intense color and fragrant eucalyptus on the nose, medium body and dark fruited closing with a barrage of fine tannins falling on the palate like hail. Not everybody’s cup of tea (??) but surely will have a legion of loyal followers.

 The last Malbec of the night hails not from Argentina but from Australia and it is brought to Vancouver by International Cellars. The Bleasdale Second Innings  Malbec ($16) pleases with its rich plummy fruit and sweet, smooth tannins. You will not miss your Argentinian Malbec if you go for this one. From the Upper Galilee, where vineyards now thrive where decades ago tanks exchanged fire, Galil Mountain brings its Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of sweet fruit seethe in the warm nose, followed by a pleasant medium body. This wine is Kosher, tasty and inexpensive: it will set you back only 17 dollars.

 Cheers

Hot Wines from Argentina, IVSA March 2010

March 23, 2010

Pulenta Estate Winery, Mendoza

Thanks to warm weather the IVSA show was not as packed as the last two episodes. Packed is good; one feels the vibrancy of wine lovers pushing to get a taste of the stuff they love. But hey, its nice to get some room too, and probably this is the last IVSA of the year to get just that. As I promised before, most postings these days will be devoted to Argenwines, that is, Argentina wines. Let’s start by one of the very best. Vistalba Corte C Blend. I have been wondering for years why we don’t get Carlos Pulenta wines here in BC. That is Argentina at its best. Small production runs? I don’t know. Thank god, Patagonia Imports brings the Vistalba Corte “C” (corte is Spanish for blend) to Vancouver. Cortes A and B are really spectacular and hopefully, we’ll have them here soon. Lucila Planas of Patagonia Imports treated me to their Xumek Reserve Blend 2006. All adjectives fall short for this soft,  crème-bruleey  textured 14% alcohol blend. Lovely under 30 bucks. Another offering by this importer, the Acequias Oak Malbec , which I tasted in its native Mendoza a couple of years ago, still satisfies with its chocolatey tobacco notes, its concentrated flavors and its excellent price. Not very many Malbecs deliver this quality at 20 bucks.

The surprise of the night was Enoteca Bacco with Natino Bellantoni. I always loved to taste his particular –unique- picks from the land of Garibaldi, Pasta Faggiole and Pizza Napolitana. Verve Negroamaro, Belisario Verdicchio and Nero di Troia are usual staples at this booth. But tonight, Natino poured an unbelievably good Malbec, with all you expect from a good Argentinian varietal plus an Italian touch in the tannin and acidity. The Altavista Malbec Grande Reserve, at 35 dollars, will turn many heads. If that were not enough, Natino challenged me to estimate the price of the 2007 Altavista Atemporal Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah-Petit Verdot blend. It was delicious and I overshot way higher than the humble 22 dollar price tag. This is a wine you don’t want to miss.

Renaissance Wine Merchants had but one Argentinian wine, and they hit right on the nose with their Tapiz Malbec 2008. There is a muddle of inexpensive Malbecs and most of them as are good as you would like them to be. Fruit forward, plummy, aromatic, soft-tannin, they all share the goods. Tapiz is a bit like Maradona; lots of players are really good. Only a few make that special move that nobody else does. At 19 dollars, this a serious contender for best Malbec under 20. With the Playhouse looming ever closer with the Argentinian theme, Red Dog keeps up with their Calafate wines. These wines hail all the way from Patagonia and they want to be noticed. The Calafate Pinot Noir Grande Reserva is probably the first Argentinian Pinot Noir to really challenge the undisputed reigning champions of this segment, the Chilean Pinots. With sweet fruit and confident tannin, this Pinot will make its mark in the Vancouver wine market. The other offering by Cafalate is the Reserva Malbec 2009, a lovely smoothy of chocolate, plum, cigar, double cream cheese and sweet tannin for 18 dollars.

For those who don’t know yet Winecouver is also a wine scout in Argentina and Uruguay. The first successful effort by yours truly is the impressive Mapema line of wines. Lone Tree Cellars’ Susan Doyle poured Mapema’s first arrivals in Vancouver. The Sauvignon Blanc, at 18 dollars, departs from the classic grassy nose and instead delivers a self-confident blitzkrieg of lime and melon. Wonderful. The Tempranillo-Malbec blend is the perfect sip for those who look beyond the classic Malbec offering. Lighter, less plummy and more strawberriesh, this is a wonderful drink for a lazy mid-afternoon, with or without snacks. But Mapema really shines with the Malbec varietal. From the elegant label and packaging, it delivers all the plummy soft tannin goods you expect from a good Malbec. Plus an unflagging acidity and Bordeaux reminiscent elegance that sets this wine apart in the 20-25 dollar category. Winecouver was not wrong when he approached Pepe Galante, one of the most knowledgeable Argentinian winemakers.

Time to snooze.

More Argentinian wine in the next one.

Ciao

Ivan

Andeluna Wines

October 6, 2009

Argentina keeps surprising the world of wine. Last week Vancouver hosted the andeluna panoramicWines of Argentina event at the Sutton Place Hotel. Wineries from all over the country of Tango, from the hot, arid high elevation vineyards in Salta to the wind-swept pampas of Patagonia’s Neuquen, were present offering their best Malbec, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals and blends. Andeluna Cellars was present at the event, with Mike Kenter, Vice President and Marketing Officer for the US at the booth. So, let’s leave the Wines of Argentina tasting for a later posting and let’s look at Andeluna’s wines instead.

Mike Kenter has been to Argentina a number of times, both in central, Andean bodega_1Mendoza and also in Patagonia, where he combines his wine enthusiasm with fishing trips. He knows the country and loves the wines. When his friend H. Ward Lay of Frito Lay bought property near Mendoza and started producing outstanding wines, enlisting the services of world renowned Michel Rolland and Argentine winemaker Silvio Alberto, Mike joined him on his quest. I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Mike at the Dream Wines headquarters, in Yaletown, courtesy of David Tremblay, to taste some of the best wines Andeluna has to offer today.

Most wineries claim they are on search of excellence for their wines. In the case of Andeluna, after tasting three reds and a Torrontes, this seems to be true. This 2008 Torrontes was arguably one of the best varietals I have tasted. Although this may seem anathema to many, Torrontes appears to be destined to produce rustic wines, lacking finesse or even proper acidity. This was something that I found interesting in Andeluna’s Torrontes, very good acidity, in a lean, unoaked version of the varietal. Its elegance and lingering spice has earned it 87 Parker points, and it is definitely one I favor when compared to other Torrontes I tasted before. This wine will retail for about 18-20 dollars.

The Winemaker’s Selection 2007 Malbec (already available at LDB and private stores) was the second wine in the flight. I had tried it before, and only confirmed what I found previously. This is a serious competitor in the 18-24 dollar bracket. Winemaker Silvio Alberto checked all the elements that a good Malbec should have; none stands out, none is weak. A low 10 tons of grapes per hectare harvested at 4300 feet, results in improved concentration and flavor. Simple, straightforward in its potency, loaded with pure dark fruit and with a good finish, this is a wine worth every cent you pay. No need to look any further for a solid, inexpensive steak wine.

Andeluna also offers a terrific Limited Reserve Malbec. The 2004 vintage is TN_bottle_R_Malbec2produced from vineyards yielding only 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. This is Malbec at its best, and talking to colleagues we all agreed that you may pay 20 or 30 dollars more but you will not get a lot more Malbec (retail price in Vancouver is around 45 dollars). Great palate, chewy, meaty, excellent tannic structure… I could keep piling positive adjectives on this Malbec. The 14.7% alcoholic concentration is not noticeable, as this is very well integrated with the fruit and acidity. Knowing well the wine retail industry in Vancouver, I am convinced that this product will fly off the shelves once it hits the “City of Glass’” retail outlets.

After the Limited Reserve Malbec I believed I could not be further impressed by TN_bottle_R_Passthe last wine in the flight, Andeluna’s flagship Pasionado. This is a Bordeaux style blend that has its individual components aged for 12 months prior to an extra six to eight months once blended. I turned out to completely underestimate the winemaking abilities of Andeluna’s Silvio Alberto. The Pasionado 2004 Grand Reserve shows a restrained nose that promises a lot more. Once on my palate I stopped writing notes. I just could not keep going; I had to focus on what my body, my physical body, was experiencing. Tremendo Vino like they say in the Southern latitudes of Latin America. A tremendous wine, indeed. Incredibly powerful and equally incredibly easy to drink. Certainly Andeluna Cellars is on the right track.

These two latter products will be hitting Vancouver wine stores around the third week of November, and there will not be a lot of them. Make sure you grab your bottle.

A Soiree with an Argentinean Winemaker

October 2, 2009

Argentina Tango, the South World Wine Society’s* wine tasting event of Photo-0070September, featured Ms. Celeste Pesce, assistant winemaker of Luca Wines, a small lot production effort led by Laura Catena, scion of the quasi legendary Catena family of Argentina.

When I first arrived at the Sculpture Room of the Listel Hotel, I saw familiar faces, wine lovers who attend the Society’s events with regularity, the members of the exec committee, but couldn’t find the lecturer. I saw a bunch of women, attractive, well dressed, chatting near the bar, but I couldn’t tell if Celeste was one of them. They looked too vancouverite to be her, so I went around the room, not asking my fellow members, so as to guess, just by the looks, who Celeste was.

I figured I should be able to tell. This lady got her degree in enology in Udine at the age of 26. She became assistant winemaker to Laura Catena at 29. Is talent like that written on the face? Which of these women could be her? I also considered her ancestry. Pesce, meaning fish, is an Italian last name. So I figured she would have that mediterranean dark, that voluptous look of the daughters of Botticelli, Garibaldi and Sophia Loren. I placed my eyes on a woman whose dark hair, full and supple, made me think that was Celeste.

I was walking toward her when a red-haired, jeans clad thin girl, with a boyish glint in her blue eyes gave me the amplitude of her smile, with a few strands of hair reaching over her eyes and down to her freckle-covered cheeks. “Tu eres Ivan, el Peruano?”. I could not conceal my amazement. This was Celeste, asking me in Spanish and with a very slight Argentinean accent, if I was who I am. She must’ve heard from other members of the exec committe that there was a Latino on board. She looked decidedly Irish, or at least, she looked as she came from the British Islands. I learned later that her mother side is Swiss. So on we went with our Spanish, animated chat. It’s a great feeling when you can speak your mother tongue. I sat next to Celeste and listened to her as she walked us through the eight La Posta and Luca wines of the night.

Celeste was quite candid about her life. Everyone was surprised to hear that she grew up in a farm in Santa Fe, a town north of Buenos Aires, milking cows and driving tractors. While studying agriculture in Mendoza she discovered her love for wine. “The faculty of agriculture was very wine and viticulture oriented, so it really caught my attention. But what really gave me the final push was to study at the Univessita degli Studi in Udine”. She also had a life-changing experience when she went back to the roots of her family, in Italy. She fell in love with the history of wines, the evolution of winemaking and winedrinking. She could relate to this very well, as in her own home in Argentina they have a lot of immigrants from Italy and Spain, and a vigorous wine culture.

Celeste’s job at Luca is to work with the chief winemaker, Luis Reginato. They work with the growers in the vineyards and then focus on the vinification and blending. The production is rather small, no more than a thousand cases for their Chardonnay and Laborde Syrah, and barely two thousand for their highly esteemed Malbec.

The audience fully enjoyed the night, the wines, the food, and most of all, Celeste’s natural ability to engage people. To tell stories about winemaking, about her childhood, or just anecdotes that happen to those who fly around the world promoting their wines.

When it came the time to vote the favorite three wines of the night, the majority chose the La Posta Pizzella Malbec. Close second came the Luca Malbec followed by the Luca Chardonnay. Celeste’s favorite was the Luca Laborde Syrah, and so was mine. This Syrah is produced from clones selected in France and Argentina. Supple, impressive, deep, this wine left me thinking, wondering, about the sun touching the leaves and bunches day after day, the cold nights, the bunches invisible, hanging on the vines in the dark. It made my mind wander and imagine the winemakers, their labor in the bodega, in the vineyard, their dreams. But enough of my favorite wine. All the wines poured that night score high points with the most prestigious wine critics.

Below the list of wines served at the event:

Catena Chardonnay 2007-88 pts. Wine Spectator**
– La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda 2007-89 pts. Wine Advocate
La Posta Cocina Blend 2007-90 pts. Wine Advocate
– La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2008-89 pts. Wine Advocate.
Luca Chardonnay 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Malbec 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Syrah Labourde Double Select 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate

*The South World Wine Society will be hosting their popular “Big Reds” event on November 5th. More information and registration at www.southworldwine.com
**The wines in bold are available at Everything Wine, North Vancouver Store.