Archive for the ‘Wine Reviews’ Category

Yabby Yabby at the Playhouse Wine Festival

April 12, 2011

Had these two Chardonnay before the Playhouse Wine Festival, like a year ago, tasting courtesy of Renassaince Wine Merchants’ Alice Walcott. Liked them both then and liked them again a few days ago at the fest. The first of the pair (to the right) is the Yabby Lake Chardonnay, a brilliantly executed wine. Flavorful, crisp and unremittingly Australian in its boldness, self-confidence and flavors. The Cooralook, its little brother (or sister, depending of what you think of Chardonnay’s sexual inclinations) is full, very crisp. I believe the latter to be in the vicinity of 20 bucks and the Yabby Lake Chardonnay around 35. Good stuff.

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A hidden Italian treasure in the heart of Lima

December 14, 2010

My 13th day in Lima and after a wonderful first week of eating great and  drinking better (wine) I fell to the dreaded sickness that afflicts visitors: stomach infection from drinking tap water. Actually, didnt drink it but used tap water ice cubes to make a ceviche, which comes to be the same. Or perhaps worse.

I will leave those laments aside for now and as I recover for my next round of culinary and wine adventures let me tell you about this little place, a bakery-restaurant called Levaggi, which has been around for decades. It sits on a corner of downtown Petit-Thouars avenue, the cross street is Manuel Segura* in the traditional Lince district, a lower middle class neighborhood which has become a must see because of its market and surrounding area packed with affordable, good-quality eateries. Chifas (chinese food restaurants) and ceviche places are everywhere, as well as criolla (peruvian) food and anticucho (spicy meat brochettes) street vendors.

Levaggi started as a bakery only, like many other Italian run bakeries in old Lima. Later they added the restaurant section, which proved to be a great idea. The restaurant is unpretentious in its decoration and retains an air of old times, with its counters and food exhibitors packed with pastries, breads, hams, sausages, home made pasta and bottles of wine. Servings are massive and fairly inexpensive. Although the menu is mostly peruvian, there is a section dedicated solely to Italian dishes. Their basic menu pasta is homemade fettuccini, which you can have with tomato sauce only for 8 soles (approx. 2.50 dollars), accompanied with a basket of bread and butter, dessert and a hot drink. Or you can switch to marinara or pesto sauce for the same price. You can have meat or mushrooms on your sauce or go for ravioli (I recommend the vegetable version, yummy) or other Italian pastas.

Prices for set menus can go up to 25 soles (9 dollars) for fancy dishes or for large servings or generous servings of meat. Worth trying their ossobuco, lomo saltado (peruvian stir fry version) and their butifarras, sandwiches made with house cooked ham.

Wine is a must in an Italian restaurant and they have a modest but competent selection. Nothing outstanding but good enough for this kind of meal. The house wine is an italian Rosso but you can have Chilean Clos de Pirque out of a box. This latter one is pretty good value. Then they have Farnese‘s Merlot, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. They even have a special with two glasses of wine and a set menu for 14 soles. Pretty reasonable, although if you are likely to want more (wine) it is better to go for the half liter caraffe for 15 soles.

There are a few Italian bakery restaurants like this in Lima, all of them worth checking out not only for the food but  also for the experience, to feel that air of the past trapped behind their swing doors, whirling through hanging hams and freshly baked loaves of bread. Look for Cordano, near the main square, Queirolo both their downtown and Pueblo Libre locales or the old Carbone sandwich house, again in old downtown.

*this area is half way between Miraflores district and old Lima downtown

Di Majo Norante

September 18, 2010

What a great winery this is. Located in the Molise region of south central Italy (if you know Italian geography by its boot shape, Molise would be located on the lower part of the calf).  Wines have been made in the area since the times of the Romans. Which is not to say much in a country where wine is as much part of the national identity as Calcio (soccer), funny shaped pasta and bodacious, sultry divas like Gina Llollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale.

I don’t know about you, but I love a beautifully packaged product. I hate putting on my table wines with tacky labels. And if that is the wine I have, then it goes in a decanter. But with labels like the ones offered by Di Majo Norante, well,  I have them on my table and discuss and appreciate them with friends. Maybe they can try next a picture of Gina or Claudia on the label of a full bodied wine. Just kidding. But, no, seriously.

Di Majo Norante’s products in Vancouver are available both through LDB and private stores. With prices hovering over the 15-24 dollar range they offer excellent quality for the money. The Sangiovese Terre degli Osci IGT 2008 has merited a 90pt score by Antonio Galloni (www.erobertparker.com) no small achievement for a wine under 15 dollars. Great label, dry and mellow wine, with red fruit and a bit of leather.

Prugnolo is made of Montepulciano grapes. A great match to pasta dishes, meats or cheese. Taut, firm and structured with good balance between acidity and dark fruit. Which sounds like any other wine but trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Price?  22-25 dollars.

Ramitello is a blend of Sangiovese and Aglianico grapes. I think in a post waaay back I said Montepulciano and Aglianico. My mistake. This one has a fullish, mellow body made interesting by that ashey, raw mineral quality of the Aglianico variety.

A visit to the winery’s website www.dimajonorante.com shows that they make a number of other red wines and a selection of whites. Until recently the Contado Aglianico was available in Vancouver. Heard was quite good. I would like to try their renditions of Falanghina, Greco and Fiano. Particularly interesting to me is the Apianae, a sweet white made with Moscato grapes. Hopefully the importers, Stile Enterprises, will bring some of these products to our wine thirsty city.

 

Domaine de Nizas Le Mas 2007

July 28, 2010

What an exceptional wine. Twenty dollars worth of a wild herb, pine, stone -garrigue- nose floating over a full body, soft tannin, brooding palate rendered by a most unlikely blend for a typically Languedoc appellation. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot form this winning triumvirate. Lovely on the nose, ditto en bouche and excellent finale. No wonder why this wine merited a bronze medal by Decanter magazine. Make sure you get your hands on this wine before it disappears. You know, LDB, unpredictable. Products in, success, out. That is one of the shames of having a monopoly on alcohol.

ps. sorry for the picture. its a 2004. couldnt get anything closer to 2007. but it looks very much the same.

Blanquette de Limoux Antech 2008

July 20, 2010

The Languedoc wine tasting was a success, with the Chez Meme Baguette Bistro completely full. The food was delicious and people had a great, festive time. I am glad for my choices of wine, all seven in the flight were greatly enjoyed by all. Of course there were favorites and below I will leave a few notes on each. Looking forward to the next event in August!

Antech Blanquette de Limoux 2008.This sparkling wine came as a great surprise to all attendees. They loved the chalky nose, witness to the limestone/gravel soils of Limoux. Mostly Mauzac grapes, this Blanquette is made in the traditional method, with double fermentaion. The biscuity flavors take the passenger seat and let the lemon stone fruit flavors drive the dry, fun palate saturated with fine, lazy bubbles. Drinks great on its own but will embellish salads, cheese, scallops and other shellfish.

Brought to BC by Terrarosa Imports, this wine should not be missed this summer. Available at Marquis Wine Cellars, Kits Wine Cellar, Everything Wine, Libations, Liberty Wine Merchants and Steamworks for $25.99.

Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.

Salud!

Languedoc Wine Tasting in Burnaby Heights / SOLD OUT. Thank You All!

June 30, 2010

Chez Meme Baguette Bistro and wine apassionado Ivan Loyola (winecouver) announce a soiree of French wine, food and fun.

When: Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: Chez Meme Baguette Bistro

4016 Hastings Street Burnaby, BC V5C (Hastings and Gilmore)

Burnaby, BC

Contact: Tel. 778 322 7701 or 604 299 1141

Languedoc, in Southern France, is one of the most exciting appellations for great wine of distinct character and good value. Come join us to explore whites, reds and roses paired with a sampler of French dishes. Wine apassionado Ivan Loyola will guide you through the regions and wines, while the Bistro staff will give insights into French cuisine. There will be a draw to win a French chef knife and a bottle of wine. Tickets $35. Please RSVP as seats are limited.

Menu:

Sliced baguette with brie, poached pears and toasted walnuts

Smoked salmon with dill cream cheese wrapped in crepe

Albacore seared tuna with lemon caper mayo light grenache

ratatouille mousse

Confit de Canard (duck)

Lamb shanks sliders

Chocolate dessert

Wines:

Blanquette de Limoux Sparkling

Chateau de la Galiniere Rose

Lulu B Chardonnay

Domaine de Nizas Rouge

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Grenache Syrah

Chateau de Camplezans Syrah

Chapoutier Banyuls

To buy tickets visit the Bistro (604 299 1141) or buy online at

www.localwineevents.com

Fried Rice for the Lazy Single

May 11, 2010

Yawn. My first two days off in a row after 3 weeks of work.  Much needed. One-day breaks dont cut it. My fridge looks scarily empty. And I dont have any desire to shed my pijamas and get out grocery shopping. Bread? none. Meats? Zip. All I see is a couple free range eggs, wilting green onions, a red onion starting to desiccate, garlic, fresh ginger and half a red bell pepper. On the counter the rice cooker sits next to a half full bottle of light soy sauce. Together they look like a postmodern  still life painting. Is it possible that there be some left over rice? Yes! some white, fluffly basmati I made yesterday morning survived to see this day. So, time for brunch.

Drink choices: there is a handful of coffee beans ready for grinding. And with sunlight flooding my second floor kitchen, I look again at the fridge. I know what’s in there. A bottle of J.P Chenet bubbly Rose (15.99 at Everything Wine) and a bottle of Joseph Drathen Mosel Riesling (12.99). No. It’s too early. So the coffee gets brewed, the onions, peppers, green onions chopped and sauteed in vegetable oil with chopped fresh ginger and garlic on medium high heat. When they look tender, a few dashes of soy sauce, a cup and a half of rice joins the fray, so do the eggs and I stir until the latter look ready.

That’s all. Brunch is ready. It took ten minutes. I have no pretense anymore of chefing my meals when Im on my own. Vegetables get cut in chunks, potatoes remain unpeeled, parsley or cilantro keep part of the stems along with the leaves.  There is no precise recipe here. Any vegetable will do. Amounts? trust your instinct. Screw up once, twice, you will be satisfied on your third try.  Damn. I wish I had some oyster mushrooms.

The fried rice tastes really good. Too bad that by the time I serve  it the coffee cup is empty and I have no more roasted beans left. I really need a drink with my rice. And its only 1130 am.

I look at the fridge again. That rose is surely tempting.

ps. both wines would go well with this recipe, cutting through the oily coating of the veggies and eggs. The bubbly is light and fruity; the riesling is a la Mosel, with hightened mineral acidity. Both have a touch of sweetness to meet the sweetness of sauteed onions and red pepper.

Best Value Red Revisited

April 30, 2010

Hill of Arabi, in Yecla. Beautiful as the wines are good.

In the world of wine, there is never quiet; everything is impermanent. Yesterday your fave was that plonk you sublimized because you were in the rigth mood, in Greece, Capri or Chechnya. “I love the smell of plastic explosives and Monastrell in the morning” could be a line for a future  box office smash hit about wine in today’s turbulent world. That was yesterday, perhaps today you go for something you gulped at a tasting, a bottle your shallow pockets can’t afford. Pomerol, Angelo Gaja, Del Forno….the list goes on. Anyway, yesterday (or the day before yesterday or the day before the day before yesterday) I asked my co-worker at Everything Wine, Miss  Casserole B (no names over the net!) to help me find a bottle of good, inexpensive -ok, CHEAP- wine. Im running out of options, you see, I have tried virtually everything decent under 10 bucks available in Vancouver. Except, of course, for those decent wines under ten bucks that I havent tried yet. She pointed at a bottle I always avoid based on the label, one of those that have the feel of “printed at home with an almost empty cartridge” kind of specimen. Really? I asked. Well, why not give it a try. I’m in a financial diet, as it were. Besides, I haven’t been into straight Monastrell for a while. One of those phases we (that means, me AND you) winoholics go through, you know. Castano is an innovative producer from Yecla, Spain. In fact, their 11.99 Castano Monastrell is very good. But this one is their very basic product and judging from the label, a bit suspicious. I took it home, neverthemore, and hey, starting from the appearance, so clear light and shiny, I felt attracted to it. The nose is delectable as is the medium  to light palate. I had it with a plate of  Basmati -God save India- rice and kidney beans cooked in tomato sauce (homemade) and a pinch of cumin.

Summing up: Best value red before yesterday was Paiara. Yesterday Lujuria. Today, that place is for La Casona Old Vines Monastrell 2008. Find it. Enjoy it. And dont forget the beans.

Hasta pronto camarada del Vino

ps. I warned you. The label….

ps1. Price 9.99 at Everything Wine North VAncouver (go now! there are 4 bottles left and its friday)

Playhouse Wine Festival 2010: Let’s the Games Begin

April 23, 2010

Wow! the new Vancouver Convention Center is really awesome. Great sweeping views of the North Shore mountains and the Burrard Inlet and spacious, huge hollow rooms that may feel cavernous if it was not by the skillful use of wood bricks covering the walls, giving it a warm maple syrup brown feel to this great indoors. Light years away from the warehouse feeling that the old Convention Center has. The first trade session was packed, with kilometric line ups to pick up tickets and to complete registration.

To the wines. I ignored the siren calls of Italian reds, elegant Champagnes, appealing Oregon whites. I went straight for the theme booths, Argentina and New Zealand. The latter country was very popular and many of its booths were beyond reach. Rant: C’mon Vancouverites. This city has been a wine city for over a decade now. When are you going to learn the most basic etiquette of wine tasting? Blocking spittoons, chatting endlessly with your pals blocking access to tables and wearing perfume are all no, no, no and no.

Ok, I got that out of my system. As a result, a limited tasting of New Zealand with two wines that stand out like two lonely stars in a dark southern sky. The Ostler 2008 Audrey’s Pinot Gris is a complete sensorial assault of pleasure. Starting with the nose. It was so intoxicatingly delicious that it made it hard to follow Jim Jerram, Ostler’s rep telling me about their terroir. Close to Otago but not as far inland, limestone soils and ocean breezes influence Ostler’s vineyards. The nose is intense, thick, a prelude to what is to come. Wow! I said after my first sip. It’s like a lady with curves. Chardonnayish. Jim agreed, with excitement. “Exactly, we make it like a Chardonnay, but on a diet.” A Chardonnay in a weight watchers program. A Chardonnay on a fast bike. There is a feeling of something that grows fatter and fatter on the palate but then whooosh! it’s gone and back to a leaner, trimmed up texture. “It’s the acidity, idiot.”  Brilliantly made, this Pinot Gris has a distinct spectrum of nose, flavors and texture and it may not be your accessible everyday wine at $38 but definitely one of those wine styles that set trends and change paradigms. Bravo for Ostler and thanks Jim and Gord for all the information.

The other white from Kiwi land that made my head turn was -not surprisingly- a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Matua Valley’s Paretai 2009 is as good as it gets for the grassy and minerally sassy style from South Island. At 29.99 this vibrant and fresh SB delivers all the goods one expects from the appellation.

Changing country, I expected a lot more whites from Argentina. The offer is still dominated by Torrontes. In my humble (not) opinion, there should have been a lot more quality Chardonnays. Anyway, less whining and more wining. I found one remarkable white by Bodega Lurton. The 2007 Gran Lurton Corte Friuliano, is a somewhat idyosincratic blend of Sauvignon Vert, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Torrontes, accomplished to notes of high delight. Aromatic on the nose, agile, playful and fruity on the palate, satisfying on the endless aftertaste. As in the case of the Ostler Pinot Gris, this Friuliano may have the limitation of price (29.99) to become popular. Nevertheless, an excellent effort by Lurton, which entry level $13.99 Pinot Gris is a promise of what this winery can do with the variety.

Red wines to follow on next post.