Friday, April 27, 2018

The Expressions of Pinot Noir Through the Okanagan Wine Region

When I started my wine education journey, I was in love with Pinot Noir. Almost every wine I purchased was Pinot Noir. But as I began to learn about Burgundian wine, I realized that I couldn't afford most everything outside of AOC Bourgogne. I became frustrated and abandoned my love for Pinot Noir. In fact, I was so frustrated that I almost wrote a blog post about why Burgundy turned me off of Pinot altogether!

Some of the people I discuss wine with on Twitter (aka my "Tweeps") have been drinking a lot of Pinot Noir lately, much of it from New World regions like New Zealand and California. Their tasting notes inspired me to revisit more affordable Pinots, and where better for me to start than my personal favourite, the Okanagan region of Canada!

There are 7 sub-regions within the Okanagan Valley: Osoyoos, The Golden Mile Bench, Oliver, Okanagan Falls, The Naramata Bench, Peachland/Summerland, and Kelowna/Lake Country. Each sub-region reflects different nuances with respect to climate and terroir; therefore, the flavour profiles of Pinots from each sub-regions will likely express themselves differently. I set out to discover how each Pinot Noir expresses itself within most of these sub-regions. 


Located close to one of the only desert micro-climates in Canada, I was intrigued to see how the "diva grape" would fare in a terroir consisting of deep, sandy soils fed by glacial meltwater deposits. I was pleasantly surprised! Approachable yet complex and elegant in style, Burrowing Owl's 2015 Pinot Noir opens with notes of wild strawberry, dusted with hints of fresh herbs and baking spice. A silky smooth body leads into a bright cranberry finish. The wine was an amazing pairing with mushroom and garlic burgers with caramelized onions and wilted spinach!






Tasting notes contributed by Julian Park, BCWineTrends.com:
"This medium-bodied Pinot is as smooth as velvet. The estate Pinot Noir features delicate hints of ripe cherries and raspberries, vanilla bean, and the minerality distinctive to the high-altitude Okanagan Falls vineyard. Finished in Tuscan concrete tanks creating a textured savoury mouthfeel. My favourite pairing is with BBQ salmon. 13.5% alcohol."

3. Naramata Bench - Bench 1775 Pinot Noir 2014


A soil composition of lime-rich silt and cooling lake breezes on the Naramata Bench create an ideal climate and terroir for early ripening red grapes like Pinot Noir. Bench 1775 uses this to their advantage by crafting a refreshing and juicy Pinot, abundant with red fruit flavours and silky, fine-grained tannins. A small amount of Syrah (6.4%) adds in a spicy element, which you'll find from mid-palate through the lively finish. I enjoyed this Pinot on it's own, and plan to enjoy it again and again in the future!


4. Kelowna - Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015



Tasting notes contributed by Julian Park, BCWineTrends.com: 

"Alcohol 12.5%, pH: 3.68, TA: 5.3g/L. Hand harvested in October from Dijon clones 114, 777, and 828; sorted and co-fermented in small lots. After a gentle pressing, the wine was aged in large format barrels. This is a bold Pinot Noir, the result of the hot 2015 East Kelowna summer. Aromas of violets and jammy plum and flavours of ripe raspberries and spicy black cherries. The texture is silky." 

5. Lake Country - Ex Nihilo Pinot Noir 2016




The soil in the Ex Nihilo vineyards contain limestone with some shale, ideal for the growth of Pinot Noir grapes. Ex Nihilo's 2016 PN offering boasts complex aromas of red fruit, forest floor, and a hint of asparagus. These flavours continue into the palate, along with silky smooth tannins and refreshing acidity with a hint of zip. This acidity stays bright through the fresh raspberry finish. This wine is extremely food friendly and would be an excellent pairing with tapenade-stuffed pork tenderloin, among other earthy style dishes. I sampled this beauty at the winery last August. Click here to learn more about Ex Nihilo Vineyards, winemaker Jay Paulson, and their wine portfolio.

It was very interesting to discover that each sub-region shows a slightly different flavour profile on their Pinot Noirs, but the structural consistency and quality remains very high throughout the Okanagan wine region. Price points range between $30 and $40 CDN, but worth the slight splurge!
It's nice to know that I can still taste some excellent Pinot Noirs close to home with some great QPR.

So what's next for the Wine Concubine? I tasted a wide variety of red wines from the Southern Rhone throughout the past month when my dad came to visit. I'll be sharing our notes, and revealing our surprise favourite of the tasting. Stay tuned!

Cheers!















Monday, March 26, 2018

A Food and Champagne Pairing with Veuve Clicquot

It was a cloudy and cold day in Calgary when six wine writers gathered at the Yellow Door Bistro to pair some of Veuve Clicquot's most food-friendly champagnes with gastronomic lunch delights. The dreary weather outside did not affect the air of excitement at our table as we were joined by Veuve's passionate, vibrant winemaker, Bertrand Varoquier.


Born and raised in Reims, Bertrand was naturally drawn to Champagne. He graduated with a degree in Oenology at the Universite Reims Champagne Ardenne in 2002 and has since worked as a winemaker in the Loire Valley, Chablis (Burgundy), as well as two other Champagne houses. He started at Veuve Clicquot in 2013, with a focus on red wine vinification. Stout beers like Guinness are his drink of choice when he is not drinking wine, and he travels 6-8 weeks out of the year to share both is passion as well as the spirit of the house all over the world! To learn more about Veuve Clicquot's history and vinification methods, click here.


First Course: Pork Hock & Apricot Press, with Veuve Clicquot Extra Old Extra Brut


A creamy, rich mouthfeel is what sets the Extra Old Extra Brut champagne apart from the others in Veuve Clicquot's line. Prominent notes of toasted brioche, toasted almonds and a hint of lemon zest make this champagne extremely food-friendly. The succulent acidity married really well with the richness of the pork hock and the apricot press enhanced the subtle fruit flavours in the champagne nicely. This was easily my favourite pairing of the luncheon, and I can't wait to try out some different food pairings with the Extra Old Extra Brut in the future!

Second Course: Poached B.C. Sablefish, West Coast Oyster Veloute with VC Vintage Brut 2008


The 2008 harvest was considered one of the best growing seasons for the "delicate diva" grape, Pinot Noir, creating Veuve Cliquot's 65th vintage champagne in house history. A blend of 61% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier brings forth a delicate palate of green apple, lemon zest, almonds mid-palate and just a hint of the yeasty flavours the house is known for. This vintage is best paired with delicately-flavoured foods such as scallops, whitefish and crab. Unfortunately, this pairing was my least favourite of the luncheon. The veloute sauce was very heavy, and drowned out the delicate body and flavours of the champagne. I ended up saving my glass for after the main course so I could truly appreciate the beautiful flavour profile on its own.

Third Course: Whipped Almond Panna Cotta, Rhubarb Ravioli with Veuve Clicquot Rich


Veuve Clicqot has a new, cocktail-style champagne that they crafted last year in 2017. The focus of Rich (pronounced "REEsh") is to enjoy a more fresh, lighter style of champagne. The best way to enjoy Rich is to serve over ice, infused with mixology-style garnishes such as pineapple, ginger, and bell pepper. Rich is ideal for hot summer days, patio parties, and would be a great accompaniment for a romantic picnic lunch! This gem paired wonderfully with the dessert, with the stone fruit notes complementing the strawberry and rhubarb flavours. The acidity of the champagne played nicely with the rich flavours of the dish, and cleansed the palate perfectly. I left the luncheon well satisfied, with the lingering tastes and memories burned into my memory! Click here to learn more about Veuve Clicquot Rich.

Luncheons like these also bring together a network of like-minded people, and I was pleased to connect with fellow wine writers Peter Vetsch, and Raymond Lamontagne. Peter's blog is titled Pop & Pour, click here to read his well-written tasting notes, as well as the other local wine events he has attended.

Special thanks to Jordan Cameron at Moet-Hennessy, Christy and all the staff at Hotel Arts/Yellow Door Bistro, and especially to Bertrand Varoquier of Veuve Clicquot for bringing some much needed sunshine into my life during this long, cold winter!

Cheers everyone!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Bubbly Side of Prosecco

It's a little belated, but Happy New Year's, everyone! I hope that 2018 has started well for you all!

I continue to maintain (and embrace) the Ketogenic way of eating. In case you missed the back story, you can find it in this post. Many people have asked me how I maintain ketosis as a wine lover/wine blogger? I have done some research on the net grams of carbs of all wines. I will have to restrict my consumption of sweet and red wines, but this infograph shows the most keto-friendly options:

Photo Courtesy of ruled.me

As you can see, sparkling white wines are the most keto-friendly! This means that I'll be focusing a LOT of time on Prosecco, Cremants (the non-Champagne sparkling wines of France), and other New World bubblies to keep on track. There may also be a future post on Pinot Blanc later this year comparing Alsatian wines vs New World!

Let's start with Prosecco. I spent last Autumn tasting and learning more about Prosecco and the region it comes from in Italy. Nestled high on the hills of Valdobbiadene in the NE corner of Italy, the Glera grape, formerly known as Prosecco, is grown here. Prosecco's bubbles are made in a method called "Charmat"; this means that the second fermentation occurs in a sealed tank, instead of in the bottle like Champagne. This creates a sparkling wine that shines with floral and light stone fruit aromas and flavours.

The Villa Sandi "Il Fresco" Prosecco DOC is abundant with white blossom on the nose, and carries a flavour profile full of fresh gala apples, underripe pineapple, and an intriguing candied grapefruit finish. Delicate and fresh, with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. Great value for the price, I paid under $20 for this gem! 


The Val D'Oca Prosecco Superiore DOCG shows a more playful side of Prosecco, with zippy acidity, delicate but lively mousse, and notes of pear, navel oranges, and a hint of white peach on the finish. Beautifully crafted and a real crowd-pleaser!


The Desiderio Jeio Brut Prosecco DOCG is more elegant in style, with flavours of lemon zest, green apple, and a bright, citrus finish. An intriguing hint of fresh white bread mid-palate adds depth, creating a food-friendly bubbly that pairs well with lighter dishes like chicken and salads.


Finally, the Col de Salici Prosecco Superiore DOCG reflects the traditional flavour profile of Prosecco, along with added complexity from notes of fresh almonds and a steely backbone. Crisp and clean acidity combined with creamy mousse on the palate creates elegance and a Prosecco with finesse!

What I loved about the Prosecco tasting is its lively, fresh style, and the QPR compared to other sparkling wines. I did find, however, that Prosecco is pretty straightforward across the board. There didn't seem to be a lot of nuances that made each bottle unique. With that said, Prosecco is easy to enjoy and you're guaranteed consistency in most of the bottles you buy!

So what's next? I am moving my proverbial "Bubbly Train" back north to France to taste my way through the Cremants (French sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region) of Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley. Stay tuned for more bubbly fun from the Wine Concubine!

Cheers! 



Friday, January 5, 2018

My Top Wines of 2017


Yep, this pretty much sums up my year. After suffering a grand mal seizure on April 29, I spent the rest of the spring undergoing medical tests, and was diagnosed with Epilepsy in late June. Here in Alberta, the law states that you must be seizure-free for 6 months after the original one before you can drive again. This meant I struggled for months trying to find a way to and from work, which caused me a ton of stress. On top of that, I was offered a layoff package at the same time I was doing all the medical tests. I love my day job and shed lots of tears, along with countless panic attacks. Luckily, the package was voluntary and I am still in my position, although I now fear that the tables may turn at work again.

With that said, I have taken these lemons and made lemonade, so to speak! In order to ensure I never have another seizure, I switched over to the Ketogenic lifestyle, which was used to treat seizure disorders in the 1920s and 1930s before anti-seizure meds were developed. If you're not familiar with it, here is some information on Keto, and the health benefits attached to it. What it does mean is that in order to stay in my net carbs range, (total carbs - fiber) I do have to cut down on the wine drinking. However, with only 1.9g of net carbs per glass, I turned to Prosecco in the fall! I love the floral aromas, and can imbibe a little more as the price point is much lower than Champagne (not that there's anything wrong with Champagne!) Stay tuned for a blog post on my Prosecco tastings in 2018!

When it comes to the wine world, 2017 became the year of the Winemaker for me. I toured and tasted my way through the Lake Chelan, WA wine region, as well as the Osoyoos & Oliver "Golden Mile" VQA of the Okanagan. I received my first ever bottle sample, and had private tours and tastings of Tsillan Cellars, Moon Curser Vineyards and Ex Nihilo Winery. This really helped me through an otherwise stressful time in my life. And of course, tasting lots of wines helped too!

Each year I release a list of the top wines I've tasted in 2017. Just as in previous years, I'm changing up the lists. I'm adding a category named "Social Media Wineries of the Year", dedicated to the wineries that regularly engage and communicate with their followers. I'm also adding a "Wine Blogger of the Year" category with my recommendations on some of my favourite wine blogs that I follow.

Top Red Wines of 2017

This year was all about high-priced red blends, with the exception of this beautiful Cab Sauv from Napa. Price points in CDN range between $45 and $70, but are so worth the splurge!

1. Chateau Cantemerle 2010: AOC Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

2. Domaine de Nalys 2008: AOC Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

3. Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: Napa Valley, California

4. Laughingstock Winery Portfolio 2007: Naramata Bench, Okanagan, BC


Top White Wines of 2017

Napa Valley takes the top white of the year, ending France's reign from past years. Germany nabs 2nd place, France makes its usual appearance, and Greece rounds out the list. All of these wines are priced at under $50, with Stag's Leap's Viognier priced around $30 CDN!

1. Stag's Leap Viognier 2014: Napa Valley, California

2. Dr Zenzen Auslese Riesling 2006: Mosel, Germany

3. Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer 2014: AOC Alsace, France

4. Domaine Sigalas Santorini 2012: Santorini, Greece


Top Value Wines of 2017

This year is all about the easy-to-find bottles, at or under the $20 price mark. Chile continues to dominate this category from years past - don't pass the Chilean section the next time you are in your local wine store, I promise you won't be disappointed!

1. Chateau Laulerie Malbec 2015: AOC Bergerac, France

2. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: DO Puente Alto, Chile

3. 14 Hands Pinot Gris 2014: Columbia Valley AVA, Washington

4. Cono Sur Bicycleta Viognier 2016: Colchagua, Chile


Top Wine and Food Pairings 2017

1. Ex Nihilo Merlot with Dark Chocolate (Lake Country, Okanagan, BC)

2. Gerard Bertrand "La Clape" 2013 with Braised Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce (AOC Languedoc, France)

3. Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2012 with Grilled Lamb Chops (Rioja, Spain)

4. King Estates Pinot Gris 2013 with Shrimp & Bacon Scampi (Eugene, Oregon)


Social Media Wineries of the Year

1. Cono Sur Vineyards and Winery - Chile

2. Bodega Vivanco - Rioja, Spain

3. Moon Curser Vineyards - Osoyoos, BC

4. Mezzacorona Wine - Trentino, Italy


Top Wine Blogs to Follow

1. The Corkscrew Concierge - Kat, a lawyer based out of Houston, does a tremendous job with wine tasting notes, wine and food pairings, and dining recommendations.

2. Tuscan Vines - John Fodera takes you on a wine-fueled journey through Italy, with detailed, yet comprehensible tasting notes. He also provides gourmet recipes to pair with the Italian gems he reviews!

3. Wine and Cheese Friday - Looking for that perfect wine and cheese pairing? Maria has a recommendation for you! She provides tasting notes on both wine and cheese, and offers a wine and cheese day calendar that you can add to your google account or Outlook calendar, so you don't miss a day to celebrate!

4. BC Wine Trends - Julian Park is THE #1 source for information on wines from his home region, in my opinion. BC Wine Trends includes local wine region news, wine & winery statistics, and recommendations on Okanagan wines.


So what's next for this year? I've decided to name 2018 as my "Year of Cremant", pillaging all my local wine stores for as many as I can find. Why not, the price is right! There are also possibilities for more wine tasting travels, and potentially returning to wine school to obtain my level 1 Sommelier certificate!

Finally, I'd like to thank you all for following my wine journey throughout 2017 and from past years as well. I wish you all the greatest success, joy, health and happiness in 2018.

Cheers!









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