Showing posts with label BC Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BC Wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Top Wines of 2018

Happy New Year's everyone!

2018 was another year of struggling in my "day job" career at our local airport. Internal company restructuring forced me to move positions in the early Autumn. Although I have now settled into my new position, and have integrated myself well into my new department, there will always be a place in my heart for the position I came from.

With all that said, the true highlight was spending my last few weeks of summer in Europe! We travelled through the Pfalz, Alsace, and the Ahr wine regions, soaking in the view of sun-kissed vineyards, tasting everything we could get our hands on, and indulging in the local dishes that pair so spectacularly with those wines. You can read about my European adventures here and here. Other highlights include attending my first media event, a lunch with winemaker Gerard Bertrand of the Veuve Clicquot champagne house, and my first ever collaboration, a blog post on bcwinetrends.com about one of my favourite wineries in Okanagan region, Moon Curser Vineyards.

Every year since 2013, I've dedicated my first post of the new year to sharing my favourite wines from the previous year. The categories haven't changed as I've decided to keep both the "Social Media Wineries of the Year" and "Wine Bloggers to Follow" lists. There are so many excellent resources out there to learn from!

Top Red Wines of 2018

Sadly, the majority of my top red wines this year came from aging in my cellar, so the actual vintages themselves may not be widely available. However, I do encourage you to try any of these reds should you find any on your local store shelves. Price points range from $30 - $50 CDN, and worth every penny!

1. Domaine Barville "Brotte" 2009: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

2. Campo al Mare Bolgheri 2007: Tuscany, Italy

3. Stargroves Petite Sirah 2008: Paso Robles, California

4. Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc 2014: Okanagan, BC, Canada

Top White Wines of 2018

Riesling dominated my white wine consumption for the year, what with travelling to the heart of Riesling country and all! Three of the top 4 wines are of this versatile varietal, with a sleeper hit from Australia mixing it up. Most of these wines are priced between $20 and $35 CDN, with the St. Urbans-Hof priced around $60 CDN, and so worth it!

1. St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Spatlese Riesling 2011 - Mosel, Germany

2. Tawse Sketches Riesling 2015 - Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

3. Three Sisters Bench White 2016 - Okanagan, BC, Canada

4. Tahbilk Marsanne 2016 - Australia

Top Rose Wines of 2018

I spent a lot more time quaffing on rose this past summer than I have in the past. Rose all day, am I right?! The unofficial king of Rose wines, Cotes du Provence, made an impact on my list; however, the top spots went to the New World for their lush and concentrated offerings. Price points range between $18 and $32 CDN, making these gems affordable any time of year! 

1. Belle Glos Pinot Noir/Blanc Rose 2016 - Sonoma, California

2. Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose 2016 - Okanagan, BC, Canada

3. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rose 2016 - AOP Cotes du Rhone, France

4. S de la Sablette Rose 2016 - AOP Cotes du Provence, France

Top Sparkling Wines of 2018

It was a French sweep this year thanks to my #cremanttourdefrance journey in the late spring/early summer. Although the JL Schwartz cremant is not widely available, the rest are priced between $25 and $65 CDN.

1. Champagne Taittinger - Reims, France

2. Domaine JL Schwartz Cremant d'Alsace Chardonnay - Alsace, France

3. Champagne Pommery Extra Brut - Reims, France

4. Chateau Langlois Cremant de Loire Brut - Loire Valley, France

Top Value Wines of 2018

I fell in love with my top value wine as soon as I tasted it; in fact, it's become one of my go-to white wines when I need a weeknight bottle or a patio sipper in summer! All 4 of these picks are worth tasting if you haven't already done so, and will only cost you $25 CDN or less!

1. Willm Pinot Blanc 2016 - AOP Alsace, France

2. Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon - Barossa Valley, Australia

3. Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling 2016 - Columbia Valley, Washington

4. Bodegas Corihuela 1884 Malbec 2016 - Mendoza, Argentina

Top Food and Wine Pairings of 2018

The Pinot Noir varietal shows up in 3 of the 4 top wines in this category as it is such a food-friendly wine! This year's top pairings isn't very vegetarian-friendly, but the JJ Adenauer and Burrowing Owl wines would work just as well with vegetarian alternatives like a "beyond meat" burger or veggie flatbread. The JJ Adenauer isn't widely available in Canada (just yet, anyways...I've heard rumours...), but the others are worth the splurge at prices between $30 and $60. Your taste buds will not be disappointed!

1. JJ Adenauer Spatburgunder 2017, paired with Pancetta & Onion "Flammkuchen" (flatbread)
Ahr Valley, Germany

2. Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old, paired with Pork Hock over Apricot Press
AOP Champagne, France

3. Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2015, paired with Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Burgers
VQA Okanagan, BC, Canada

4. Famille Perrin "Les Christins" 2015, paired with Sirloin Beef Roast
AOP Vacqueyras, France

Wineries of the Year

This category is dedicated to wineries that not only produce quality wines, but also regularly interact with their social media followers. Make sure to like and follow these wineries, and if you happen to see their wines in your local store, why not pick up a bottle for your next quaff?

1. Dr von Bassermann-Jordan: Pfalz, Germany

2. Champagne Taittinger: Reims, France (link above in Top Sparkling Wines List)

3. Hess Winery: Napa Valley, California

Wine Bloggers to Follow
This is my list of must-read (or watch) bloggers that I've started to follow in the past year. Each blogger on this year's list represents a specific wine region, with a youtube vlogger that focuses on value wines rounding out the list.

1. Grapevine Adventures - Katarina, a native from Sweden, moved to Italy and travels the country, exploring all the food and wine that makes Italy the gastronomic powerhouse that it is today. She also gravitates towards some of the wines and regions "off the beaten path", and I have learned so much more about Italy from her than what I have learned in books and other blogs so far!

2. VinoSocial - Nancy Croisier, a native Washingtonian, shares her passion for Washington wine in all of her blog posts. She also creates recipes that she pairs with the wines she reviews, and they are must-tries in your kitchen! Pair this with a friendly & knowledgeable writer, and you have a recipe for success!

3. Jordan Estate Winery - This is by far the most all-encompassing blog I have ever seen created and run by a winery! Jordan Estate covers it all with categories including "Out and About", "Behind the Scenes", "Photo Essays", and more! Posts are uploaded regularly, with notifications sent out on their social media pages to keep you well-informed.

4. Wine on the Dime - Do you prefer to watch vlogs over reading blogs? Wine on the Dime is by far my favourite vlogger to follow. Stuart shares his passion for finding excellent value wines ($15 USD or less), with a quirky twist here and there. Most of the videos are 5 minutes or less for those who prefer shorter wine tasting videos (like me), and there are many great recommendations with a ton of videos found on his channel!

Let me know what you think if you try out any of these wines, and feel free to share any you loved most in 2018 in the comments. I'm always open to new suggestions!

Cheers!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Food & Wine Pairing with Ex Nihilo Vineyards

Every once in awhile a bottle of wine will come along and stop you in your tracks, take your breath away, and make you want to hug or compliment the winemaker (if you happen to find yourself in their presence). This mind-blowing moment happened to me in late February, when I tasted Ex Nihilo's Merlot at our local Winefest trade show. I still remember it's lush flavour profile of ripe red fruit and smoky undertones, it's smooth mouthfeel and racy finish. It turned out that Jay Paulson, the mastermind behind the bottle, was there and not only did I compliment him, I also hugged him to show my sincerity!


I reunited with Jay in late August for a one-of-a-kind wine tasting in the Ex Nihilo cellars, complete with food pairings. This is what was waiting for me when I arrived:


Meaning "Out of Nothing", the name Ex Nihilo winery was inspired by a sculpture bearing the same name on the Washington, DC, Cathedral. Jay, along with his lifelong friend Jeff and wife Decoa, ventured into Lake Country, BC in 2003, and purchased 10 acres of land in 2004. The first vines were planted in 2007, and the winery officially opened in 2010. A former cattle rancher, Jay was thrown into the chaos of winemaking. With that said, sometimes the greatest things come out of chaos, and the wines crafted by Jay are all an excellent example of that. Although I tasted the majority of the 2015 wine portfolio, I'm providing the notes for my favourite wines of the tasting...or else I'd be writing forever!

The 2015 Chaos Bianco carries notes of apple jelly, honeysuckle, and lime curd framed by spicy acidity and a long, sultry finish. A well-structured blend of 50% Riesling, 25% Gewurztraminer and 25% Pinot Gris, this gem pairs well with mild curries, pasta primavera and light cheeses.


Thanks to cooling lake breezes and shale-like soils similar to Burgundy, Pinot Noir grows very well in Lake Country. The 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve opens with aromas of cherry preserves that carry through to a spicy palate of forest floor and vanilla, due to aging in 30% American oak. The plush mouthfeel continues through the elegant finish. 


And of course, the 2015 Merlot stole my heart with an ever-evolving flavour profile of ripe red fruit, black cherries and a hint of charred cedar. Cocoa tannins and racy acidity round out the smooth, full body, ending in a long, complex finish. I paired the Merlot with a heart of dark chocolate, and it seriously melted my actual heart! The full body of the Merlot complemented the weight of the dark chocolate perfectly, and the succulent mouthfeel married beautifully with the cocoa notes in the chocolate.


If you find yourself in Lake Country, BC, make sure to stop by Ex Nihilo for a tasting and perhaps even a bite at the Chaos Bistro. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

My sincere and humble thank you to Jay Paulson for setting up an amazing afternoon of wine tasting, food pairings, and excellent conversation. This is a day I will cherish as long as I live.

Cheers!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekly Wine-Down July 24-31: All About New World Reds

Now that I've finally created my own Wine Concubine Facebook page, I'm starting a new segment to help drum up some more likes, called the Weekly Wine-Down. Special thanks to Li at the Wining Hour on Twitter for unknowingly helping me with the name!. Each week I will post mini versions of tasting notes based on the wines I tasted, and recommend for your drinking pleasure.

Saturday night was a mini family reunion with my Aunt, Uncle & cousins who live 3 hours north of me. My uncle is also a winelover, who lives by the adage "Life is too short to drink bad wine". After a quick trip to the local farmer's market, we sat down and tasted some impressive red wines from the Okanagan, as well as a Zinfandel from Lodi. Here are the standouts:


1. Burrowing Owl Meritage 2012, Oliver, BC: A pronounced nose of ripe raspberries and dusty earth lead into a body of mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained, well integrated tannins along with notes of juicy blackberries, stewed green bell peppers & forest floor. The finish is long and sultry, with a marked flavour of dried currant. Decant for 1.5-2 hours to allow the complex flavour profile to open up!

2. Blasted Church 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend, Okanagan, BC: Known for their eye-catching labels, all of Blasted Church's wines are great choices for quality, and this one is no exception! A beautiful deep purple colour in the glass with aromas of black fruit and black pepper. The body is well rounded with fresh acidity, ripe tannins and a long, juicy finish. For those of you who prefer red wine over whites, I recommend this for sipping on the patio with a sirloin steak, or grilled Italian sausage!

3. Earthquake Zinfandel 2014, Lodi AVA, California: Aromas of raspberry preserves and a hint of flint will invite you in to taste an intriguing flavour profile of red fruit, black licorice and cocoa powder. The licorice essence lasts well into the long, smooth finish. Fresh acidity and focused tannins round out the body. Due to it's 15% abv alcohol content, this wine is best with grilled red meat, hard cheeses like cheddar, and even dark chocolate! We decanted for 30-45 minutes as well.

Special thanks to my Aunt & Uncle for their amazing hospitality, enjoyment of this blog and for all the love and support they've given me throughout my wine journey. 

This Tuesday is an upcoming wine day featuring a varietal called Albarino. Click here to learn a little more about it (at the 2:00 mark), and stay tuned for tasting notes on Spanish wine next week!

Cheers!

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favourite Wines Tasted in 2015

This year is now coming to a close and although 2015 was relatively quiet in my world of wine, it brought much joy and surprise in other facets of life for me. On April 30, I discovered I was pregnant with my second child and in August, I was delighted to learn my baby is a girl! She will make her big arrival on December 30. She had me craving beer most of the pregnancy, future beer lover?

January 1-April 30 still had me busily exploring the world of wine. Some highlights included starting up a tasting group with fellow wine lovers in the late winter/early spring, visiting Jamaica's Appleton Estate Rum Distillery in February and attending a few local tasting events that focused on great value wines. I also made it back to the Okanagan in August and did some wine touring - thank goodness for spit buckets! 

Even with only 4 months of official tasting, I was able to put together a list of wines and pairings that stood out to me during the year. Here are my top wine picks of 2015!

Top Red Wines

Because my drinkable months occurred during the winter, my top picks favour red wines this year.  In fact, there were very few red wines I didn't enjoy in the first 3 months of 2015! The top two wines are priced in the premium category, while the other 3 are priced between $20 and $35 CDN.

1. Burrowing Owl Meritage 2011 - Oliver, British Columbia, Canada 

2. Joseph Phelps Insignia 1996 - Napa, California


4. Silkscarf Malbec Cabernet 2009 - Summerland, British Columbia, Canada


Top White Wines

Spain took the top 1 and 3 spots and French whites, including a Premier Cru, took 2nd and 4th place. All wines are priced under $40 CDN with the exception of the Burgundy, which is premium priced.

1. Bodegas Muga Blanco 2011 - Rioja, Spain



4. Domaine Fouassier Les Romains 2012 - Sancerre, Loire Valley, France 

Because of my shortened "tasting season" this year, I wasn't able to spend as much time with sweet wines, sparkling wines or rose wines and will therefore not be adding these categories to my list this year. However, I did get to experiment with wine and food a fair bit, and here are my top picks for pairings.

Top Wine and Food Pairings

1. Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer 2013 with Seafood Salad "Louis Style", served in Lettuce Boats

2. Domino Pinot Grigio 2012 with Honey-Lime Marinated Shrimp (v)

3. Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2011 with Slow-Cooked BBQ Ribs (v)

Honourable Mention; Cameron Hughes Della Robbia semi-sweet Italian Rosso with Wagon Wheels (v)
*Don't knock this pairing until you try it! This pairing is great for camping!

Three of my top wines in the food pairing category happen to be value wines at under $20 per bottle, so my Top Values list is shortened to include the wines mentioned above. Australian Shirazes dominate the list, with a semi-sweet Tokaji clinching 3rd spot and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc rounding out the category. 

Top Values




4. Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - Marlborough, New Zealand

This year I'm going to introduce 2 new categories: Top Spirits and Top Beers. You might be surprised at the number of Canadian spirits & beers on each list, but in my opinion Canada is really starting to make their mark on the world of spirits, especially in the world of Whisky. The top beers are courtesy of my husband, who tasted approximately 100 beers in 2015!

Top Spirits

1. Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year Old Rum - St Elizabeth Parrish, Jamaica

2. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye - Gimli, Manitoba, Canada

3. Eau Claire Distillery Three Point Vodka - Turner Valley, Alberta, Calgary

Top Beers

1. Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter - Victoria, BC, Canada


3. Delerium Tremens - Belgium 

4. Granville Island Lions Winter Ale - Vancouver, BC, Canada

5. Erdinger Dunkel - Germany


So what's next for 2016? 

I plan to return to wine school through Fine Vintage Ltd and take their Canadian Wine Scholar Certification course in late 2016/early 2017. Therefore, my main focus will be on Canadian wines. Our major trip this year will be back to the Okanagan, where I will sample my way through the region and soak up as much knowledge as I can to study and prepare for the course. I am also hoping to spend some time in the Niagara region, should we make it back to my parents' place in Ontario.

Other regions I plan to focus on include Champagne, California, Italian food and wine pairings and Rioja, Spain. 

Huge thanks to all those who still follow me despite my long absence from the blog and twitter! May you have a 2016 filled with good food, good friends and great wine. Cheers!















Thursday, May 8, 2014

Playing with Pairings: Okanagan Merlot and BBQ Meats

Spring "officially" began on March 20th, and although the winter season has dragged on into May, we've also seen a few short bursts of Spring-like weather. This has given my husband and I the chance to light up the barbecue and pair our grilled meats with some of the 2011 Merlots and Merlot blends from British Columbia.

The 2011 growing season is said to be one of the coolest on record in the Okanagan. Cool and wet conditions kicked off Spring and continued into the early summer. A late August heat wave allowed more hang time for the grapes to achieve physiological ripeness, and the time frame for harvest lasted a few weeks. According to the BC Wine Institute, Okanagan Merlots typically show a flavour profile that includes raspberries, plums, black cherries, licorice, oranges, coffee, toffee, chocolate, even fruit cake! They are also known to be medium to full-bodied, with moderate to assertive intensity. Here are a few of the standout wines we tasted:

Intrigue Wines is a relatively new winery in the Okanagan, but they are making their name known through their 2011 Merlot, which is consistently sold out on their website. Mellow and smooth, with soft tannins well integrated into the palate of ripe cherries, plum and smoke. Light in body and easy to drink, it will pair well with pizza, grilled chicken and ribs. The wine was also an excellent counterbalance to a Cuban cigar after dinner due to it's smoky finish, according to my husband!

Tinhorn Creek released a Merlot that is also fruit-forward with notes of ripe strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Bright and juicy, with refreshing acidity and a long, vibrant finish. This wine was great on it's own while watching the sun set on the deck, but would also play nicely with grilled chicken salads.

Nk'Mip's 2011 Winemaker's Series Merlot starts with a pronounced nose of plums and cloves, leading into a polished palate of raspberries, cherries and more spice. Well structured and rich with a sultry, smoky finish. This wine is an excellent accompaniment to steak and prime rib. Perhaps the best Canadian Merlot I have ever tasted, and has me back on the proverbial Merlot bandwagon!

Merlot has always been a great sidekick to Cabernet Sauvignon, softening it's bold tannins and adding fruitiness to the palate. This is no exception for Cab-Merlot blends in the Okanagan, and the two varietals continue to compliment eachother - both in bottle and with food.

Sumac Ridge's 2011 Cabernet Merlot has the approachable charm of a Merlot combined with the body and structure of a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes of plum, blackberry and green bell pepper linger on the palate through the long, smooth finish. Excellent on it's own or paired with grilled pork and vegetable kebabs. A fun wine to share with good company over animated conversation.

The Mission Hill Five Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Merlot contains notes of fresh strawberries, blackcurrant leaves and green beans, intertwined with mouthwatering acidity and grippy tannins. This lively, intense wine would be great with everything from grilled bison burgers to venison. Excellent value for money at a price of $20 CDN.

It was interesting to note that most of the Merlot wines we tasted had a smokiness on the palate, which added a beautiful complexity to the wines. They were also very expressive of the varietal, showing the traditional notes of plum and fresh berries. Despite the early season growing challenges, the wines were well structured and married nicely with all the grilled meats we paired with them. If you love Merlot, why not include a bottle, or 2, or 3 from the Okanagan? It will be sure to impress both you and your guests alike. 

Cheers! 


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Pinot Noir Project: A Look at 2010 Vintages in California and BC

Despite all the different varieties of wine I drank this year, I wanted to finish 2013 with my favourite varietal, Pinot Noir. North American wine regions have been known to offer some excellent New World Pinots: Oregon and California are the most popular regions, and both Niagara and the Okanagan are also producing quality wines from this varietal. I decided to focus on the 2010 vintages of Californian and Okanagan Pinot Noirs, to see how rough growing seasons affect the wines. The comparison was done via a 4-wine flight: two Pinots from California to start, and two from BC to finish.

Both California and Okanagan producers were faced with a challenging growing season. Spring arrived late in both regions, with record low temperatures and exceptionally high rainfall in May (BC). Summer finally arrived in California in August, and extremely high temperatures frequently broke records. Winegrowers that chose to expose their grapes by trimming the canopy (leaves) when sunshine levels were low in the spring, were now dealing with opposite conditions and sun burnt grapes. The low temperatures in the Okanagan continued through the summer, and higher than normal rainfall amounts were recorded in the first half of September. The weather finally turned favorable at the end of the month, and a long, dry Autumn settled in to save the crop. Despite the challenging growing season, both California and the Okanagan were able to produce quality wines due to a more meticulous sorting process, ensuring only healthy grapes were fermented. These healthy grapes showed a surprising vibrancy in both colour and flavour profile that translated into the final wines, with elegant structure and earthy tones characteristic of a good Pinot Noir.

The Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve 2010 is surprisingly complex, featuring a vibrant bouquet of rhubarb, red fruit, damp earth and a subtly steely minerality. Well structured with refreshing acidity and fine tannins, this wine is food friendly but also easy drinking on it's own. An ideal match for a summer BBQ, pizza and fun nights with friends.

La Crema's 2010 Monterey Pinot Noir shows even more complexity with a flavour profile that includes strawberries, white pepper, wet leaves and black olives. There is more earthiness in this vintage than it's 2009 counterpart, which was more fruit-forward thanks to the excellent growing season that year. It also contained the same level of acidity and fine tannins that the Kendall Jackson had, with more intensity. This wine is great for a dinner party and for relaxing the mind after a long day!

The Thornhaven 2010 Pinot Noir showed the highest acidity level of the four wines: a crisp, mouth-watering bite that doesn't overpower the structure and lasts well into the long finish. It has a similar flavour profile to the Californians, with aromas of raspberries, white pepper and forest floor. Smooth and seductive with silky tannins, it will pair well with a fireplace on a cold winter's night and when romance is in the cards! This is also a food friendly wine that would make a fine match for pork dishes.

Lake Breeze's Seven Poplars Pinot Noir 2010 was the most fruit-forward of the flight, with juicy notes of strawberries and raspberries. There was a subtle earthiness in both the nose and palate, but not as apparent as in the other wines. The wine also contains light, silky tannins and a lower acidity level than the others, making this Pinot easy to drink in the Spring or Summer and would pair well with chicken and berry salads.

I found that all four Pinot Noirs in the flight contained higher acidity levels and more earthiness than other vintages, which may speak to the damp earth the grapes dealt with for much of the growing season. There was also a subtle minerality in some of these wines that I haven't seen in other Pinot vintages, adding complexity to the palate. Each wine showed a vibrancy in the flavour profile, reflecting the great care each winery took to ensure the best quality of wine despite the growing season's challenges. With all of that said, each wine shone individually and all 4 are approachable, versatile and food-friendly, all at the mid-priced range ($20-$40 CDN) making them great value.

Just because a growing season is labelled as challenging by winemakers and experts, does not mean the wine will necessarily suffer. As long as great care is taken in the vineyards and during the winemaking process, a good wine can still come out of the surviving grapes-just like the Phoenix rising from the ashes!

  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Tale of 2 Wine Regions: Part 3 and Conclusion

One of the most well-known white wine grapes in the world is Riesling. Although it is widely grown in many countries world-wide, it is synonymous with Germany, where the first known mention of it was found, and where it remains the most widely-planted varietal today. Other regions that are known for their Rieslings include the Clare Valley in Australia, Austria, Alsace, and Canada, both the Niagara and Okanagan regions.

With hard wood on it's trunk and hardy fruit, Riesling grapes can withstand frosts and cold temperatures, and are resistant to downy mildew. It ripens late, which make it ideal for late-harvest wines, botrytised sweet wines, and even Icewine. Riesling wines tend to be high in acidity and low in alcohol, with a wide flavour profile that includes blossom, stone fruits, citrus, and even petrol and kerosene with age. One of the most unique characteristics of Riesling is it's aging power; it can last for 20+ years in a cellar.

My husband and I compared Gray Monk's 2011 Riesling with Trimbach's 2010 Riesling. The style of the Trimbach Riesling is similar to the "kabinett" style of German Rieslings: light-bodied, with high acidity and more citrus flavours on the palate. Alsace Rieslings tend to have more body, are higher in alcohol, and show a distinct flinty note. The flavours my husband and I detected were blossom, green apple, honeydew melon and lime.

I found the Gray Monk showed similar characteristics on the nose and palate, but it also had the traditional peach flavour that attracts many to Riesling. It had a little more sweetness (off-dry) and the acidity was more mellow in the mouth. It seemed to be more balanced than the Trimbach, where the acidity in the Alsatian wine seemed to overpower the flavour intensity. This surprised me because the Alsatian was older by a year, and I thought it would have settled more than the Gray Monk, which comes from a colder climate. Both my husband and I preferred the Gray Monk over the Trimbach because of these reasons. In comparison to the standard characteristics of Riesling, the wines were on par with eachother, and we ranked both Rieslings as "good" using the WSET Advanced quality assessment. In fact, all 3 varietals were ranked the same quality throughout the project. And all wines retailed under $30 CDN.

The final "scores", based on personal preference:

Gewurztraminer: Tie. My husband preferred the Sumac Ridge, I preferred the Trimbach.
Pinot Gris: Pfaffenheim 2010
Riesling: Gray Monk 2011
Overall: Tie!

So are there differences between Alsace and Okanagan's noble varieties? I would argue yes. The differences we found were in acidity levels (in 2 of the 3 varietals), body, and flavour characteristics. If you like wines that have mouth-watering acidity and minerality with apple and citrus flavours, Okanagan white wines are a great bet. If you prefer a more mellow, fruit-forward white, Alsace wines are a must-try. These would all vary due to the climatic and soil differences between both regions. However, there really isn't a difference between the wines that were compared when assessing the quality. Try it yourself and see what you prefer, you just may be surprised like we were!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Wine Regions, Part 2

Pinot Gris is likely one of the first of the four Alsatian noble grape varieties wine connoisseurs think of. Although it is the third most planted varietal in Alsace, many consider Alsace to be the benchmark of Pinot Gris wines. Can an Okanagan Pinot Gris hold up against a strong Alsatian contender? My husband and I put it to the test this week.

Also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy and Grauburgunder and Rulander in Germany and Austria, it was once known as Tokay-Pinot Gris in Alsace, but the Tokay part of the name was dropped for good in 2007. The grape was first documented in 1711 when it was found growing wild in a garden in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany. Other legends suggest that the grape was brought to Hungary from France in the 1300s, and returned to Alsace from Hungary in the 1500s. What makes it unique is the colour of the grapes; the skins tend to be grayish-pink in colour unlike other white grapes. Some might say that what makes Pinot Gris unique is a musty, smoky aroma that complements the aromatic flavours of the wine. The grapes generally produce wines that are low in acidity and higher in alcoholic content with flavours of stone fruit, melon and even butter when aged. Pinot Gris is well known for making sweeter, late harvest wines when able to reach full ripeness.


(Photo Courtesy: The Wandering Palate)
I pitted a 2011 Laughingstock Pinot Gris against a bottle of 2011 Pfaffenehim Pinot Gris for this week's battle. We started with the BC wine, the Laughingstock PG. We purchased this bottle directly from the winery in 2012 and it spent the last year of it's life in our cool, humid cellar on it's side. The first thing we both noticed was the mouth-watering acidity of the Laughingstock, which lasts well into the long finish. Both intense and complex, the wine showcases a flavour profile that includes lemon, red apple, tangerine and a hint of honey. This wine seemed a little "angry" at us for not letting it sleep for longer, so I recommend this wine be cellared for 3 more years to mellow out the acidity a little bit. It is a youthful wine, but still of good quality.

The Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris is off-dry, full-bodied and smooth, with a unique and beautiful bouquet of tangerine, candied ginger, orange blossom and honey. Although not as intense as the Laughingstock, the Pfaffenheim is also complex, well balanced, and very expressive of what an Alsatian Pinot Gris is said to be. Both wines were excellent values at $21 CDN each.

I noticed that with both the Gewurz and Pinot Gris tastings, the Okanagan wines showed riper fruit flavours, more mouth-watering acidity and a hint of minerality. Both the Alsatian Gewurz and the Pinot Gris were smoother and a little sweeter. Will these trends follow in the Riesling battle? Stay tuned to find out!


Friday, August 30, 2013

A Tale of Two Wine Regions, Part 1

"So why do Okanagan wineries generally produce whites like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris?" My husband asked me on our annual trip there this past month.

Good question. And coincidentally, those three varietals he mentioned also happen to be 3 of the four Noble Grape varieties of Alsace, France.

Let's face it, the Okanagan isn't known internationally as a major region with high-demand, high-priced wines. But Alsace is located in one of the most well-known wine regions of the world: France. If all three of these varietals produce the majority of the wines made in both regions, can Okanagan whites can be just as good in quality as Alsatian wines? I am hoping to find out, so I made it my late summer project of 2013.

The Purpose: To compare and contrast the flavours and structural elements of the Okanagan aromatic white wines with the quality of the same Alsatian Noble Varieties via 3 blind tastings of each varietal from both regions (6 wines total). Can my husband pick out which wine is from which region?
The Grapes: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris
The blind-tasting "Guinea Pig": My Husband. I won't be tasting blindly (someone has to pour the wine!), but will be taking subjective notes as if I didn't know what each wine was
Timeline: 2-3 weeks, with 3-4 blog entries devoted to the project

Alsace and the Okanagan have a few terroir-related things in common. They are both classified as having continental climates, meaning there is a wide temperature range between the warmest and coldest months of the year (the Okanagan has a much wilder temperature swing). Both regions generally experience hot, dry summers and longer-lasting Autumns, ideal for ensuring the grapes have reached both full and physiological ripeness, and provides ideal conditions for late harvest wines. Both regions are also known to have arid, drier conditions; Alsace is protected from wind and rain thanks to the Vosges Mountains, and the Okanagan lies between 2 mountain ranges, creating an arid, semi-desert micro climate. The soils are extremely varied in Alsace, also due to the Vosges mountains. The Okanagan's vineyards are planted on sandy loam or alluvial gravel soils. This could reflect the differences in the wines between the two regions, as well as other factors like vineyard practices and vinification techniques, which can vary from winery to winery. But if the climate is fairly similar, do the regions produce similar wines?

We started with Gewurztraminer, a wine that enthusiasts tend to either love or hate. Wine snobs generally stick their noses up at Gewurz - the HoseMaster of Wine refers to it as "The first choice of sommeliers everywhere to be left off the by-the-glass list.", among other pretentious comments. However, women tend to love it for it's perfumed bouquet, slight sweetness and approachable, easy-to-drink nature.The German word for “spice", Gewurztraminer wines tend to be full-bodied, with an oily texture, low to medium acidity, and also can be high in alcohol, with aromatic notes of lychee, roses, and naturally, spice. Gewurz wines have proven to be a good match with turkey, spicy dishes like curry, and ladies' nights out. The 2 bottles we compared were Trimbach's 2010 wine (Alsace) against Sumac Ridge's 2012 Gewurz. Since I wasn't able to get both wines of the same vintage, I took into account the fact that Sumac's acidity may be higher and the flavours riper, whereas the Trimbach may be showing more signs of age (golden colour of the wine, smooth texture, etc). Both of the wines were bottled in the well-known "Flutes d'Alsace", a taller, thinner wine bottle with a long neck.

I found the Sumac Ridge Gewurz to have a complex and intense flavour profile of green apple, lychee, pineapple and blossom, along with well-balanced acidity. Although it needs a few years to settle a bit, it is drinkable now. My husband detected notes of nectarine & apple with a hint of minerality and crisp acidity.

The Trimbach Gewurz had the trademark oily texture with a rich, golden colour, smooth texture and flavours of pineapple, apricot and spice. My husband also found the Trimbach to be a thick and oily wine, with a bouquet consisting of green apple, blossom and honey.
We found that both wines had similar flavours; blossom, pineapple, the traditional lychee and green apple. Both wines also showed great body and flavour intensity, as well as intriguing complexity. The Sumac Ridge Gewurz showed a hint of minerality that the Trimbach did not have, and the Trimbach seemed to be more typical of a Gewurz wine with more aromatic flavours and the typical oiliness. When I asked my husband if he could pick out the Alsatian wine, he thought it was the Sumac Ridge.

All in all, my opinion is that Gewurztraminers from both regions have similar flavours and complexity and a few minor differences. But this is just my opinion. Despite the fact that some in the wine industry look the other way when it comes to this varietal, I recommend both of these wines for those who love Gewurz and the elements that make it what it is. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Up next: Trimbach vs Gray Monk: A Ries-slinging (like mud-slinging?) battle



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