Posts Tagged ‘riesling’

Cellaring on a Budget

August 4, 2010

Contrary to what most people believe, you don’t have to spend large sums of money to get a wine cellar started. In fact –according to expert Michaela Morris– if you have only one or two bottles that you are reserving for future drinking, you already have a cellar. Michaela and Michelle Bouffard are the owners of house wine, a business dedicated to wine education and consulting. In an informative and fun session at the Listel Hotel, they quenched the audience’s thirst for wine tips.

The first thing you should know before you start a cellar is how you like your wines. If you like them fruity and fresh then perhaps cellaring is not a good idea. If you like to taste past those vibrant fresh fruit tones and discover strokes of barn, forest floor and earthy minerality, then ageing wine is for you. Once you decide to start cellaring wines, you need to find a place where the temperature will be relatively stable and unlikely to get too hot. Usually this place could be a basement or if you live in an apartment, a closet which door should be kept shut to fend off temperature variation. Ideally the temperature should be around 12-15C. Lights should be kept off as much as possible and a humidifier comes in handy if the natural air moisture is low.

The Housewine experts xplained that wines you choose to cellar must be the ones you like. Once that point is checked you need to taste the wine and ponder three qualities: acidity, tannin and fruit. If the wine lacks acidity then is not a good candidate for long term cellaring. This is because acidity underpins the fruit flavors of the wine and with low acidity the wine will taste flat and will lack freshness. Tannin is the other element to consider, especially when picking red wines. Tannins are compounds found in the grapes’ skins as well as in seeds and other woody tissues. Tannins have an antiseptic role as well as an anti-oxidative one. These qualities will allow the fruit to remain free of oxidation, showing its flavor through time.

As for the number of bottles you need to purchase to start your cellar,  Michaela recommend to buy three as a minimum. The first one you can open after a couple of years. This is a testing time also, since the wine will show its capacity to age. If it still maintains good level of fruit and acidity and tastes better than the original product, you can keep the other two bottles and open one at year four or three and the last one at year five. However, if the flavors already start to decline it is the moment to drink. Further ageing will disappoint you with lack of flavor and sluggish acidity. Finally, when assessing wines to age, acidity is the main indicator for whites and tannin for reds. In both cases time will turn the color towards brown. Red wine will have a brick red hue; white will become golden or even amber.

Wine Recommendations

Good white varieties to age, due to their natural high acidity include Riesling and Semillon. The first one will develop a diesel-like aroma, with fruit going from the green apple initial to riper apple, stone fruit or even tropical notes. Semillon is known to age well for decades due to its unflagging acidity and develops deliciously toasty flavors. Good choices include Nederburg (12.99), Hattenheimer (22.99) or Markus Molitor Himmelreich (53.99) for Rieslings. Excellent candidates for Semillon or Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends are Poacher’s Blend (12.99), Brokenwood (22.99), Black Hills Alibi (36.99) and Bordeaux’ Chateau Mirambeau (43.99).

Tannic load, as mentioned before, will increase the capacity of a red wine to age gracefully. Little known Xinomavro grape is one of the best Greek varieties for this purpose. Boutari Naoussa Reserve (21.99) will improve greatly with five years in the cellar, enhancing its natural dry cherry and fig flavors. Italy’s Nebbiolo grape always benefits from ageing. Barbaresco by Produttori (42.99) is a great option. Also from Italy, but this time in the south, the Aglianico grape with its fiery tannins gets only better after a few years of rest. Red Cello (14.99) will see its fruit shine and its tannins soften up. Other reds to put away for a couple of years include Volteo Cabernet Tempranillo (19.99), Morande Pionero Pinot Noir (15.99) and Agua de Piedra Cabernet Sauvignon (13.99).

You don’t need to be rich to start a cellar. In a few years you will be more than happy you did.

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.

Warehouse Wines in Washington Act I

March 22, 2010
By Lisa Stefan*

When plans to visit a friend in the Okanagan fell through last week, we found ourselves with a wide open weekend.  Being the kind of people that love to go-go-go, the Sunshine Coast was not going to work for us – it’s too sleepy, Whistler – too busy, and Vegas just a little over budget after the holidays. So with wine on the mind, as usual, I was quick to hop on the internet and search out a weekend get-away for us that met these three criteria: inexpensive, within reasonable driving distance, and something different.

What I found was Washington, our neighbour to the South.  With over 700 wineries and growing, Washington is #2 (behind California) in wine production in all of the United States.  And only 25 minutes North East of Seattle is the small community of Woodinville.  The Woodinville area is home to about 50 small wineries and tasting rooms, and after only a 2.5 hour drive (from Vancouver), we found ourselves in a wine lover’s paradise.

The first on our list were the large production operations of Columbia Winery and Chateau St. Michelle.  Located across the street from one another, how convenient, and with gorgeous grounds, grand tasting rooms, boutique shops and an array of flatbreads, cheese and crackers for purchase – these two wineries were very much what we are used to from our many visits to the Okanagan and Niagara regions in Canada.  There was however, one huge difference…. NO VINEYARDS?!?! That’s right, all of Washington’s wine grapes are grown in the south eastern part of the State, where the climate is much warmer and dryer than the cool and wet North West. So, to pull up to a winery where there were no gorgeous grapes or vineyard vistas was a little foreign to us, but what they lacked in scenery, they certainly made up for in service and selection.

At Columbia Winery the knowledgeable tasting bar staff provided us with a full sampling of what was available, waived our tasting fee, and gave us a 30% discount on any purchases – as we came to find, this is an industry standard, as long as we provided a business card, we were completely taken care of – talk about Southern hospitality! Our wine educator even gave us a map of the area and circled a few competitors to check out.  We ended up falling in love with the Semillion Ice Wine, 375 ml for only $20, what a steal!  Flavours of sweet apricot and honey abound, and with great acidity and a clean finish this is an exceptional value ice wine!

Chateau St. Michelle staff was equally friendly and knowledgeable and we were able to taste the entry level wines compared side by side with the Ethos and Eroica wines.  The Chateau has quite the line-up of wines, including collaborations with Antinori and Ernst Loosen.  Our favorites were the entry level dry Riesling which sells for $8.99 and is definitely comparable in terms of value with some of the $15-20 Canadian Rieslings, the 2005 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon $38, and the 2006 and 2007 Limited Release Mourverdre that we tasted side by side and spent at least 20 minutes savouring and comparing the very different noses.  Mesquite bar-b-que on one vs. goat cheese on the other – unique and interesting.

After 2 hours of tasting at only 2 wineries, our palates were tiring, and our stomachs growling, so we stopped in at the Barking Frog restaurant at Willows Lodge for lunch.  Ambiance = A+, service  = A+, food  = A, wine selection  = A, highly recommended and definitely a must visit if you are in the area.  I had the chicken breast served with butternut squash stuffed spinach ravioli, swiss chard and pearl onions in a gorgonzola cream sauce.  Fabulous Gourmet for $16.

Note of Winecouver.  More to come in the second installment of Lisa’s wine explorations South of the border soon.

*Contributing writer Lisa Stefan has a passion for travel, wine, food and all things combining the three! Besides writing Lisa works part time as a wine sales consultant at Everything Wine in North Vancouver.  Lisa completed her Intermediate Certificates through the International Sommelier Guild in 2009.  Full Sommelier Diploma certification, wine travel, wine writing and more wine tasting  are part of her plans for the near future.

ps. Photos: Chicken butternut squash, Lisa Stefan Headshot, Dan Collins

 

Not by Wine Alone….

July 20, 2009

Fish Ceviche for TwoDSC04449

With the summer coming on hard on British Columbians, red wines yield the right of way to a constellation of whites and rosés. Local brews and imports from all over the world offer endless possibilities to the wine enthusiast. What about food? No one should be too excited about oven-roasting a piece of lamb in a day with temperatures well over 25C. Salads and cold dishes are the order of the day. In hot days like these, seafood, preferably slightly cooked or just plain raw acquires an appeal that is hard to match. One of the tastiest seafood dishes is ceviche, basically strips of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with hot peppers.

Although it is made in a variety of styles, depending on the country where it comes from, Peruvian ceviche shows the highest expression of the seafood flavour, due to its minimalist approach. Central American, Ecuadorian and Mexican ceviches call for long marinating periods that go from one to several hours. Recipes include tomato juice, tomato, avocado, olives, green onion, celery, capers, onion and a whole array of other vegetables and even spices. In Peruvian ceviche the fish meets the citrus juice only minutes before serving. Once on the plate, there is only the fuits de mer, the condiments and a few plumes of crisp red onion.

The Recipe

Half a pound of white fish fillet of, preferably sole or basa–ideally halibut- is cut into strips 1 cm long by 1/2 cm thick. Salt, ground black pepper and chopped hot pepper (all to taste) are then combined in a bowl with the fish strips. Put away in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. The heat will depend on how one likes it. For less hot ceviche, jalapeños works well. Habaneros and red Thai peppers are hotter. Avoid using pre-made hot sauces, as they usually have sugar and vinegar and will overpower the delicate flavours of the seafood.

Bring the ceviche mix out and add lime juice. IThis is a crucial step, because many inexperienced cevicheros over-acidify their dish. Every lime or lemon has different intensity of acidity, so it is better to approach this with caution. Add the juice gradually, stirring the mix. When the juice reaches the level of the fish, add no more. Stir, take back to fridge and let marinade for five minutes, if you are into raw fish (think Sushi) or 15 to 20 minutes if you like it “well done”. The citric acid of the juice will “cook” the fish, turning it an opaque white. Bring the marinade out, stir and taste.

This is the moment to adjust the acidity. Add some more juice if necessary. If it tastes excessively acidic do not panic. Remove some juice with a spoon and replace with cold water. Always adjust the salt after you adjust the acidity. You will find that you need more salt than you would normally use. This is because the intensity of acid and heat numb your taste buds. Adjust heat to taste and return to fridge. Cut very thin slices of red onion and dip in cold, salted water for a few minutes. Take a sprig of cilantro, remove stalk and chop leaves only, very finely. Take ceviche marinade out of fridge, mix in cilantro and serve topped with a handful of (well drained) onion slices. Serve accompanied with boiled and cooled potato, sweet potato or cassava root. Tortilla chips are also an option. Pair with chilled white wine. Torrontés from Argentina, German Riesling (off-dry or halbtrocken Kabinett) and Kiwi or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are traditional matches. For the more adventurous, a bubbly, like Italian Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti are interesting choices, specially if the garnish is sweet potato. If you like your cebiche really spicy hot, forget about the wine, as your taste buds won’t sense its delicate flavors. Go for a cold beer.